Contributor Tali Rose is the Director of Marketing for Pure SEO.
OPINION: By now, it’s old news that eCommerce is growing faster than ever. If you still need convincing, e-commerce has a 61% penetration rate in New Zealand, with a whopping 2.13 million Kiwis buying online in 2020, 306,000 doing so for the first time.
The close of 2021 saw this trend only continue, with online retail searches and spending down 24.2 percent year-over-year (Statista) and some retailers in a recent Stuff article describing the growth as “explosive”.
It is not only the number of buyers that grows, but also the sellers. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, and others have made it possible for businesses and enthusiasts of all sizes to sell their products online. With that proliferation comes stiff competition to be found by the right people and generate sales.
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In an e-commerce context, paid digital advertising is a given: sales revenue is allocated, through various formulas, to ad spend. But unless you have unlimited budgets, you can’t overlook eCommerce SEO: the practice of optimizing an online store to increase organic shopping traffic through search engines.
In other words, you’ll want to capture as many of those retail searches that have a 24.2 percent lift that are looking for what you’re selling as possible.
The basic principles of search engine optimization apply to e-commerce. But there are specific considerations that online store owners need to be aware of.
Any marketing strategy begins with understanding the needs and behaviors of your target audience, as the basis for any activity. When it comes to keyword research, it refers to the semantics your potential buyers use to search, and more specifically in e-commerce, it means understanding buyer intent.
When looking at potential keywords, it’s important to understand if people are using them to find information about what you’re selling or looking to buy. This will affect where you decide to ‘land’ on your website by targeting specific keywords for each page. For example, your product pages will typically target transactional keywords, while your blog posts will target informational ones.
Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that can help you identify keywords with a high competition value, which is a clue that they tend to drive sales. If not, you can try typing that word into the search to see if any transaction or information pages appear.
One word of caution here is to be specific and not target keywords that are slightly off topic to what you’re selling, even if they are effective at generating sales. If someone is looking to buy matcha green tea bags, for example, but you only sell Japanese green tea, targeting them is more likely to result in a bounce than a sale – that’s when a person comes to your site and leaves without look at no other. pages is also wasted effort on your part as a distraction from your transactional keywords.
Establish and maintain a good foundation
Site architecture refers to how your site pages are organized within your online store, starting from the home page at the pointed top and cascading down through category pages to individual product pages. .
Maintaining a logical flow is important to the experience of any website. However, since eCommerce sites tend to have so many pages, a good structure is vital not only for shoppers, but also for search engines.
Even small eCommerce sites fall into this scenario. If you offer three product categories and three or four products within each, that’s already 18 pages once you add the home page, shipping and refund policy, FAQ, contact, etc. And it doesn’t even include your blog’s home page (if you have one) and all the individual article pages. It adds up quickly.
Try to stick to a main navigation with main category elements and nested subcategories within each, and resist the urge to place products or subcategories at the top of your site navigation. Those can be promoted within the content area of the home page, for example. A good rule of thumb is that any product should be no more than three clicks away from the home page.
Having a clear hierarchical structure allows search engines to understand how all the pages relate to each other, and as your catalog grows, you can simply add new pages in the right places.
Find and destroy duplicate content
Duplicate content is a common pitfall for eCommerce sites, and sometimes owners don’t know it. This is when the same content appears on more than one page, and thanks to Google’s Panda algorithm, it will directly reduce your search performance.
It can happen for various reasons. For example, repetitive content (more than 100 words), such as a general company disclaimer that is repeated on every product page. Or when multiple products within a category are similar enough that the descriptions are nearly the same, save for a word or two. In the worst case, product descriptions can be copied from another site that sells the same thing, or from the manufacturer’s site.
But sometimes you can’t avoid duplicate content. Ecommerce sites with product filter menus can automatically generate a new link with each filter selection. As the page reloads with a new link reflecting the filter, the products reappear with their images and descriptions, counting towards the content of the page. Since products match more than one filter, this creates duplicate content on dozens of virtual pages.
When duplicate content is outside of your editorial control, you can manage it effectively by adding canonical tags to duplicate content. These point out to search engines where the original content lives to avoid penalizing the search algorithm. If your ecommerce platform doesn’t do this automatically, it’s a chore for your website developer.
Don’t forget the basics
Last but not least, the usual content SEO best practices also apply to eCommerce sites, with a few special considerations. For example, product page titles (the words that appear in the browser tab) should contain keywords at the front, and it’s even better if they mention the appeal of the product.
Your website links (URLs) should clearly reflect your catalog architecture so that it is obvious to shoppers that they are looking for product ‘x’, which is part of category ‘y’, helping them and Search engines target your location within your product offerings. These are the names you give to categories and products on your eCommerce platform, so avoid using a model number as your product name, for example.
Finally, video is a great way to showcase your products, if you have access to optimize it so it doesn’t slow down your site. Not only will it help shoppers visualize their purchase in a virtual shopping environment, it will keep them on your product page longer, increasing their engagement with your content. This is where visitors become buyers, so engagement is important.
The democratization of electronic commerce can be a double-edged sword of opportunity and frustration. It takes time to build momentum, so keep moving forward – regularly measure your results as you make changes along the way and adapt.
If you want to learn more about how to generate organic traffic for your online store, you can download Pure SEO’s Ecommerce SEO Guide for free from the website.