That’s a lofty headline to open with, isn’t it? But running an SEO agency for the past 5 years in London has given me the opportunity to share what I’ve learned from doing SEO for e-commerce sites.
How did this brand grow sales by 300% in just five months? Let’s break down our Ecommerce SEO strategy:
#1 – Keyword research
Keyword research will always be that crucial first step. Every journey needs a map, every invention needs a blueprint, and every successful e-commerce campaign needs keywords. Good keywords tend to be product-focused, which gives you the chance to learn the intent behind the search term.
Why does that intent matter so much? It matters because keywords feed into multiple things: site architecture, content optimisation prioritisation, and overall content strategy. In other words, spending more time on this activity upfront will not only save you time/money later down the line, but will also give you a better insight into your customers.
For example, if we’re working on an existing e-commerce store, the keywords we would look to prioritise are the keywords ranking on pages 2 – 5. This offers us the opportunity to improve the webpages, gain organic SEO momentum, and gather pace towards that all-important page 1 ranking!
Key attributes we’re looking at capturing during keyword research include:
- Search volume
- Search intent (information, navigation, pre-purchase, purchase)
The beauty of running an SEO campaign is that you should rank for keywords that you didn’t even know about if you’re creating great content. You can add these keywords to your list or treat them as an added bonus.
To identify keywords you can use Ahrefs, SEMRush, and even Amazon suggestion/categories, as well as Google console and other keyword tools. Want faster answers and information? No problem! You can enter your top competitors’ site and analyze the keywords they are ranking for!
#2 – Technical SEO
I liken technical SEO to getting a deep and thorough house clean – once it’s done you shouldn’t need to do it again unless a drastic change occurs. Otherwise, once every 6 months, or even longer is fine.
During the technical SEO process, in addition to the usual technical SEO issues (e.g. speed, 404s, redirect chains, indexation issues, etc) it’s important to ensure the site’s architecture lends itself well to search engines. User navigation and website architecture is an essential part of an e-commerce store, as they tend to be larger than blog and service-based sites.
Considering giving your website a ‘deep clean’? Here’s some technical SEO tips:
- Break up products into specific pages
- Avoid duplicate product pages
- If you do have duplicate product pages, use canonical tags to tell Google the parent page
- Use product schema to structure your content and make it easier for Google to read
- Make sure users can reach every page in 3 or fewer clicks
- Include breadcrumbs at the top of product and category pages to help the user map their journey
Unlike targeted campaigns like PPC, good SEO has a global net impact to the overall website. What does that mean? It means that as your SEO improves you should start seeing gains across multiple categories and pages that you weren’t specifically focused on.
In the past 5 years of running SEO campaigns for clients, I’ve seen the quickest wins coming from Technical SEO for larger sites. It can happen in the blink of an eye, and the benefits are exponential, so take this activity seriously, especially if you’ve got hundreds or thousands of products.
#3 – Content SEO Optimisation (on-page)
This is a large (but rewarding if done right) part of the work when it comes to SEO for e-commerce sites. SEO optimising your category and product pages helps to make a search engine’s life easier by giving them as much information as possible.
So, how do you help search engines and SEO optimise your category and product pages?
- Write enticing meta titles and descriptions to increase search CTR (example USPs: healthy, save X hours, all-natural, organic, free shipping, etc)
- Write unique product content (min 200-300 words to begin with and review)
- Sprinkle the keyword(s) into your product content
- Get users to leave product reviews (this also helps to increase word count)
When it comes to writing the category and product content, I’d recommend doing some research on the latent semantic indexing keywords (LSI), which are essentially keywords that are closely linked to the keyword.
For instance, if the page is a coffee grinder product page, then a simple Amazon search for coffee grinder will show you a bunch of LSI terms that you can consider integrating into your content e.g. Electric Coffee Grinder, Stainless Steel Blade and Portable & Compact for Coffee Beans.
Once again, a little effort here offers a new world of possibilities to engage, guide, and convert new business.
#4 Link building – love it or hate it, it’s important!
That’s right. Link building is STILL essential, and it isn’t going anywhere. Getting websites to mention you (link to you) is still a crucial part of SEO. Using websites that Google already trusts to link to your website will help to build Google’s trust in your brand, and thereby, improve rankings.
However, we aren’t looking for low-quality links at quantity like directories and low-quality sites that have nothing to do with your niche. One poor link can damage your reputation faster than the time it’s taken me to write this sentence.
There are multiple tools (Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush) that will help to tell you how authoritative your website is. Domain authority is an important metric, as this should help to dictate the ambitions of your campaign in the first 12 months and beyond.
For instance, we’re in the middle of launching a new side-project and will be feeding domain authority from another site. Of course, in the early days, the authority will be quite low, so it’s important that we a) get the authority of the site up fast and b) focus on lower difficulty keywords.
There are countless examples of websites that are well established, have good authority from accidental/targeted PR, and aren’t doing anything with it. These businesses have a swarm of SEO income at the fingertips, and aren’t putting in the small effort required to snatch it!
For e-commerce, it’s hard getting a site to link to a product or category page (money pages), the links are generally going to go to the homepage and blog content, but you can then feed that authority across to the money pages.
Looking for an impactful way to get more links to your website? Well, here’s six!
- Guest post: A tried and tested link building strategy. Reach out to relevant websites (blogs, magazines) and pitch to write for them. These sites are getting pitched left, right and centre, so focus on building a relationship with them prior to this, and make sure what you’re pitching is something that’ll showcase your expertise. SEO agencies already have relationships built up in multiple niches and can do this at scale, similar to an influencer campaign.
- Blogger giveaway campaign: depending on the cost of your product, run a giveaway to bloggers in your niche. Ask them to write about their experience (linking to your product) and share it on socials. This strategy works well for new product launches, or making a big splash across multiple social channels, as well as SEO.
- Share earth-shattering content: data research studies, unique stories and authoritative content presented visually is content that performs well when shared. The idea here is to ideate a topic in your area, write a high quality piece, present it well with effective designs and share it. For an outreach like this, I’d recommend at least having 200 target websites. Don’t expect tons of links. You don’t need that many right now. A handful of high quality ones can really move the needle.
- Respond to journalist requests: you can use hashtags on twitter like #journorequest or #prrequest to identify people looking for an opinion on a particular topic. It’s quick and easy and if they cite your opinion you will get linked to in return.
- HARO: This is a widely used free service where journalists put out requests for experts. You simply choose the category relevant to you and respond to the request. Over the years I’ve found HARO to be a little hit or miss, but with patience you can find some great gems. In fact, we’re going to have someone in our team look at the daily requests for our side project, and then ask one of our writers to respond!
- PR: I had to add this in here. If you’ve got a sizable budget, running a campaign with a PR agency / freelancer can massively drive your authority as the PR lands features, mentions and stories about your brand.
#5 – Blogging (and internal linking to category and product pages)
What I love about blogging for e-commerce websites is the fact that you can move your brand forwards, be seen as a thought leader in the space, and reap the SEO benefits at the same time.
Let’s look at a few things you should consider when blogging for e-commerce sites:
- Where a target keyword’s search intent is “information”, a blog post serves the user best.
- Internally linking from your blog posts to relevant categories and products sends internal authority to those pages and gives search engines more context.
- Scale conversations by creating content around questions your sales/customer services team receives prior to the purchase being made.
- Can you create post-purchase support content that helps your buyers use the product/service better to grow referrals? For example, advice around implementation, maintenance and other areas your customers could use help with.
- If you sell wholesale, why not add an entire section on your blog dedicated to wholesale keywords and topics!
- Customer success stories get you conversions. I love non-salesy authentic stories about how customers have overcome a challenge or solved a problem using a product. Why? Because the focus is where it should be. The customer is the hero, not the product. This type of content is easily shareable across socials, and sways any future customers considering the purchase.
Ultimately, content that keeps users engaged and on your site for longer sends positive metrics back to Google, thus validating the ranking. And let’s face it, if you make Google happy, you’re on the right track!
Quick tip: Content that doesn’t rank, or contain links pointing to it, offers no value. It could actually be hurting your website organically and therefore could be time to do a content prune!
Lastly, SEO is an iterative process. It’s why SEO is such an exciting process! You learn, get better and improve overtime. With this in mind, it’s best to implement, rather than spending weeks on keyword research.
If nothing else. I hope that you’ve found this post about applying SEO for e-commerce sites useful, and most importantly, find at least one thing you could implement in your e-commerce site. You may find that one small step is the beginning of an exciting period of growth!