For any business selling products online, ensuring your ecommerce website is optimized for organic search should be a top priority. Tapping into this surging online consumer demand requires brands have an discoverable, optimized ecommerce site.
Beyond expanding your customer reach worldwide, an ecommerce website can also offset declining in-person store traffic. And with web analytics, you gain invaluable insights into customer demographics and behavior patterns.
Whether launching a new online store from scratch or looking to improve an existing one, applying SEO best practices is critical. Excelling at ecommerce SEO brings in qualified organic traffic that converts to sales. It also builds lasting brand awareness and trust in search engines.
What is Ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO refers to optimizing an online retail website to rank better in search engines for relevant product queries. The goal is to make the ecommerce site more visible and discoverable to searchers who have commercial purchase intent.
Unlike content-centric SEO focused on topics, ecommerce SEO concentrates on optimizing for commercial buyer keywords and crafting a search-friendly site architecture. The priority is converting organic traffic into customers rather than attracting broad informational traffic.
Effective ecommerce SEO requires understanding search engine algorithms, buyer intent, and implementing optimizations strategically. With over 30 million online stores competing, it takes work to differentiate your ecommerce site. But by applying core SEO best practices systematically, you can drive qualified traffic to grow your business.
Core Elements of Ecommerce SEO Success
Optimizing an ecommerce website for maximum search visibility involves many interconnected aspects:
- Conducting keyword research to identify high-converting commercial queries aligned with your products.
- Optimizing on-page elements like product titles, descriptions and image file names to target those buyer keywords.
- Crafting targeted site content like category pages to rank for commercial terms.
- Generating backlinks via content marketing campaigns targeting your niche.
- Tracking key organic metrics like revenue and return on ad spend.
- Ensuring excellent technical SEO through site speed optimizations, a clean architecture, and more.
This guide will explore each of these core elements central to ecommerce SEO success. By methodically improving on each area, your online store can build search visibility, traffic, and conversions over time. Let's get started with one of the most important foundations - keyword research.
1. How to Perform Ecommerce Keyword Research
Following a structured keyword research process is crucial for identifying the most valuable commercial queries to target through ecommerce SEO. Here are the key steps:
Brainstorm seed keywords
Creating an initial list of target keywords provides the foundation to then expand your research. Ways to brainstorm include:
- List your core products and services using varied keyword formats such as:
- Single root keywords ("shoes")
- Long tail keyword phrases ("colorful running shoes for women")
- Question keywords ("where to buy affordable dress shoes")
- Consider seasonality and trends for your products to include relevant keywords like "snow shovels" in winter.
- Include misspellings and synonyms for your products that users may search for like "sneakers", "boots".
- Use Google Autocomplete and Related Searches when searching your products to find additional keyword ideas.
- Check Google Trends for rising and trending searches related to your product niche for new keyword opportunities.
- Browse competitor sites and advertisements for keywords they are targeting successfully.
- Leverage keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner for suggested keywords.
- Evaluate past site search queries and terms driving traffic.
Creating a comprehensive initial seed keyword list ensures you have a strong starting point before then expanding into tools. Include all variations of product names, customer language, and niche keywords. Cast a wide initial net to inform your research.
Leverage keyword research tools
Once you have an initial keyword list, you can significantly expand your research using dedicated SEO tools:
- Input your target seed keywords into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz Keyword Explorer.
- The tools will automatically suggest additional keyword ideas related to your seeds using their extensive databases.
- You can filter these suggestions by metrics like search volume and keyword difficulty to focus on viable high-potential keywords.
- Look for long tail keyword opportunities that may have sufficient search volume but low competition. These are ideal targets.
- Export the keyword suggestions into a spreadsheet for further analysis and organization.
- Use the keyword research tools to retrieve data like monthly searches, CPC paid advertising cost, and keyword difficulty.
- Combine keywords into groups around topics and products to determine clusters to target.
Leveraging tools like Ahrefs provides massive keyword idea expansion along with the pivotal data to identify the best options to focus your SEO efforts on. The suggested keywords form the basis for further analysis.
Analyze keywords by intent
Once you have a large keyword list from your research, you need to analyze terms by the intent behind them:
- Review each keyword and determine whether it indicates informational research intent or commercial purchase intent.
- Tag keywords in your spreadsheet based on clear intent signals like:
- Informational - "how to", "what is", "is [product] better"
- Commercial - "buy", "shop", "cheap", "best [product] deals"
- Focus keyword targeting for product and category pages mainly on commercial intent keywords, as those bring valuable ecommerce traffic.
- Cluster informational keywords separately to utilize later on for blog content that attracts early stage research traffic.
- Refer back to Google results for questionable keywords to confirm intent based on the types of results displayed.
- Consider running paid ads for a small keyword sample to gauge intent and value based on ad performance.
Segmenting keywords by intent ensures you derive the most value by matching intent to appropriate pages on your site. Focus product pages on commercial terms while utilizing informational keywords to bring traffic into your funnel.
Dig into keyword details
Conducting further keyword analysis uncovers additional targeting opportunities:
- Search and analyze the SERP results for your priority keywords to confirm commercial intent and evaluate how competitive they will be to rank for.
- For broad single-word keywords, try adding additional modifiers to make them more specific. For example "men's running shoes under $100".
- Analyze the ranking sites for each keyword - are certain competitors dominating or gaps where you can edge in?
- Use Google Autocomplete and related searches to find additional long tail variations.
- Check Google Trends for seasonality and spikes for keywords to capitalize on.
- See if competitors are bidding on keywords as part of paid ad campaigns using Keyword Planner.
- Use tools like Ahrefs to analyze historical search volume trends.
This in-depth investigation provides added context to refine your keyword list further. You may uncover weaknesses to capitalize on or identify new niche long tail opportunities through this expanded analysis.
With your thoroughly researched keyword list, the next step is organization:
- Sort keywords into groups or tiers based on criteria like commercial intent, search volume, competitiveness, and revenue potential.
- Designate the highest-potential, most aligned keywords as Tier 1 targets for immediate optimization focus.
- Label long tail keywords with lower volume but still commercial value as Tier 2 targets for ongoing focus.
- Separate informational keywords for optimization through blog content pages instead.
- Map keywords to the relevant site pages they naturally align with, whether category, product description, or specific landing pages.
- Populate a spreadsheet or use keyword tracking software to house keywords, notes, page mapping, priority tiers, and other data.
- Set goals for keyword targets by page or groups aligned with revenue projections.
Methodically organizing keywords streamlines the optimization process, providing clear direction on what terms to target where - whether through on-page optimization or content creation. Documenting everything in an accessible tracking system keeps keyword data aligned with strategy.
2. Optimizing On-Page Elements for Ecommerce SEO
Once you've identified key buyer keywords through research, optimize product and category pages on-site to target those commercial terms. Focus on:
Product Page Titles
Optimized title tags help product pages gain visibility for commercial queries:
- Include your target product keyword and/or brand name prominently near the beginning of the title. This establishes page relevancy.
- Keep titles concise at under 60 characters while accurately describing the key product details shoppers care about.
- For variations of the same product, use distinguishing details like color, style, size, or material to differentiate titles.
- Add urgency cues like "Limited Time Offer" or "Free Shipping" to titles when applicable to increase click-through rate.
- Avoid excessive repetition of the product name itself within the title. Once is sufficient.
- Use compelling wording and emotional triggers like "Hot New Release" or "Finally in Stock" when relevant.
- Place important keywords and descriptors closer to the start of the title rather than the end.
Well-optimized titles signal to search engines the relevance of a product page for valuable commercial keywords. Titles influence click-through rate as well.
Well-written product descriptions help convert searchers into buyers while also strengthening SEO through keyword integration:
- Summarize the product's benefits, capabilities, and features using relevant keyword synonyms and semantic matches throughout the text.
- Include product specifications and technical details under keyword-optimized headings like "Size", "Materials", "Dimensions".
- Break up dense text with formatting like bullet points and short paragraphs for easy skimming.
- List complementary or related products with links to enable cross-navigation to boost time on site.
- Align descriptions with target keywords by using the exact keyword phrases within the description where possible.
- Check character limits for your ecommerce platform and write descriptions tailored for the allowed length.
- Add persuasive messaging and emojis/visuals when possible to enhance and differentiate the description.
- A/B test different description variations and designs to determine impact on engagement and conversions.
Keyword-rich, benefit-focused product descriptions optimize for both search engines and users. Compelling descriptions can boost conversion rates while also attracting keyword-driven organic traffic.
Image File Names
Optimizing product image filenames enhances SEO while maintaining organization:
- Include the target product keyword first followed by additional descriptors like color, style, material. For example: "black-leather-jacket.jpg".
- Use brief but descriptive naming with hyphens rather than underscores or camel case. Keep under 60 characters.
- For product variations, incorporate defining details like "dark-wash-slim-fit-jeans.png" or "cherry-wood-dining-table.jpeg".
- Place the most important and targeted keywords first in the filename rather than later.
- Be consistent with formatting across all product images for better manageability.
- Avoid using generic names like "image1.jpg" or the product SKU code only.
- Check image file names used by top-ranking competitors for ideas on effective conventions.
- Use tools like Screaming Frog to audit existing image filenames and identify areas to optimize.
Concise, keyword-rich image filenames strengthen the association between your visual assets and target product terms, helping boost rankings.
Category pages are pivotal content hubs for targeting buyer-driven keywords. Best practices include:
- Incorporate the main category keywords into the page title tag and H1 header tag prominently.
- Construct a silo-based site architecture with nested subcategory pages and layered navigation filters.
- Include extensive category guides, comparisons between subcategories, and product recommendations focused on keywords throughout.
- Interlink related categories and complementary products within category content to establish relevance.
- Optimize category banners, images, and videos by using category keywords in filenames and alt text.
- Leverage schema markup like ProductCategory to better classify the page's purpose for search engines.
- Insert calls-to-action to sort, filter, or browse products to guide visitors to actual product purchase pages.
- Refresh stale category content and expand thin categories to strengthen as keyword-focused pillars.
Robust category pages optimized for commercial queries attract qualified traffic that converts higher once on-site. Prioritize category pages in ecommerce SEO strategies.
Tuning each page's content to focus on commercial keywords signals search engines the relevance of that page for those high-intent queries. Optimizing these critical on-page elements boosts rankings for each corresponding keyword.
3. Creating Targeted Ecommerce Content for SEO
Publishing keyword-focused content on your ecommerce site is crucial for attracting organic traffic from relevant product-related searches. Follow these best practices:
In-depth comparison articles attract informational organic traffic while converting readers into buyers:
- Develop posts that directly compare your top selling products or product lines head-to-head. For example, "Brand X vs Brand Y Full Comparison".
- Target keyword opportunities around comparing specific product models, brands, or variations.
- Visually structure comparisons in tables or charts for easy scanning of key factors.
- For each product, link out to its corresponding category or product page to enable quick purchase access.
- Follow an objective structure evaluating pros/cons, key differences, and ranking each product across factors.
- Close with definitive recommendations tied to reader needs rather than just pushing your own products.
- Promote new comparison posts through email, social, and retargeting ads to current visitors.
- Repurpose evergreen comparison content into additional formats like videos and slides.
Fact-based comparison content attracts pre-purchase research traffic which you can then convert into customers based on helpful advice.
"Best of" articles
In-depth "best of" articles attract visitors ready to purchase while establishing your expertise:
- Craft posts following the format "The Best [Product Category] for [Purpose]" like "The Best Digital Cameras for Travel".
- Target keywords around determining, reviewing or finding the best models or brands of a product type.
- Provide balanced overviews of the top options including pros, cons, key features, images and specs.
- Rank products across specific factors tied to the reader's needs before revealing your #1 pick.
- Precede product reviews with a buying guide section focused on key considerations for that purchase decision.
- Link out to each recommended product page for easy access and conversion.
- Promote new "best of" content across social media, email lists, paid ads, and outreach.
- Update stale "best of" posts that need refreshed recommendations or new options added.
By positioning your brand as an authority on the "best" products, these articles attract qualified traffic during the evaluation stage.
Staying on top of emerging product trends through new content attracts timely traffic and establishes authority:
- Write posts about rising trends in your product niche spotlighted by current keyword research data.
- Target time-sensitive keywords like "hot new [electronics] for 2022" or "upcoming [fashion] trends".
- Get ahead of newly trending keywords before competitors also jump on creating content.
- Provide broad overview of the trends before tying related products in your catalog back to the trends.
- Update category pages and product descriptions to also reference emerging trends you now rank for organically.
- Promote trend content across social media and influencer outreach for awareness and links.
- Leverage trends like new colors or styles for limited product launches and promotions.
Publishing content timed around rising product trends and releases keeps your brand top of mind as an expert. Ensure content maps back to your own offerings.
Securing backlinks to your online store from relevant external sites strengthens keyword rankings and overall authority. A structured approach to content marketing and outreach is key:
Developing quality resources that sites will want to link to can earn high-value backlinks:
- Produce comprehensive, in-depth guides and ebooks related to your product niche rather than just your products. Target informational keywords and intent.
- Create special tools like calculators, quizzes, configurators relevant to your market that sites could feature or embed.
- Identify overlapping niches and produce co-branded assets by collaborating with complementary brands.
- Promote assets through email, social media, PR pitches, influencer outreach and ads to gain awareness.
- Research sites and journalists covering your space to pitch for inclusion of your resources.
- Use your blog, YouTube channel, and owned social networks to distribute and promote your assets.
- Repurpose evergreen guides and tools into fresh formats like videos, slide decks, and webinars.
- Gate assets behind opt-ins to build your remarketing and email lists for additional promotion.
Developing "magnet" content assets that others voluntarily link to is a proven tactic for earning high-quality backlinks at scale.
Pitch guest posts
Proactively pitching guest articles to niche sites taps into quality linking opportunities:
- Identify quality blogs, magazines, niche sites, and publications that cover topics related to your ecommerce offerings.
- Craft unique pitches for contributed articles that provide value for each publication's audience while organically linking back to your relevant pages.
- Secure ongoing paid or unpaid guest posting opportunities on reputable third-party sites ideal to be associated with.
- Produce helpful, non-promotional guest posts that readers and the publisher would engage with. Avoid overly self-promotional guest posts.
- Ensure contributed articles use anchor text links sparingly, vary link placement, and use natural phrasing like your brand name.
- Focus on building relationships with editors and take their feedback to improve quality over time, leading to more placements.
- Promote your guest posts through your own channels after the articles go live to maximize visibility.
Leveraging guest posting in moderation on reputable niche sites provides a pipeline for earning quality links and referral traffic. Take a relationship-based rather than transactional approach.
Earn press mentions
Proactive PR outreach to relevant journalists, analysts, and publishers is an opportunity to secure valuable backlinks:
- Distribute press releases to targeted media contacts showcasing new products, niche trends, or notable company updates or achievements.
- Follow up personally via email or phone with high-authority writers and journalists that cover your niche.
- Offer yourself as an expert source for relevant stories, providing helpful data, statistics, or quotes that reporters could include with attribution.
- Build relationships over time with media contacts to become known as a trusted source for your niche rather than just a source of promotional pitches.
- Promote press mentions achieved through your own channels to maximize exposure and traffic.
- Monitor the content of influencers and reporters covering your space to identify new PR hook opportunities.
Cultivating interest from reputable publishers leverages their audience and reach while securing valuable backlinks. Focus on becoming a steady reliable resource versus one-off placement opportunities.
Monitor and outreach
Ongoing monitoring for new quality linking opportunities paired with targeted outreach is crucial:
- Use backlink analysis tools like Ahrefs to identify new sites and pages relevant to your brand that may be worth pursuing for links.
- Proactively contact webmasters directly to make natural requests or suggestions for inclusion of your links where relevant.
- Build relationships over time through helpfulness like link giveaways rather than one-off outreach demands.
- Provide assets like guest posts, data, images or other resources that make link inclusion easy for publishers.
- Familiarize yourself with sites' editorial guidelines and only pitch relevant inclusion ideas. Personalize all outreach.
- Follow up any placements with gratitude, link backs, and social promotion. Ask for additional opportunities.
- Monitor successes in Google Search Console and analytics, double down on what moves the needle.
Pairing technology to surface opportunities with human outreach enables earning links at scale. But cultivation over time and adding value win over pushy demands.
5. Tracking Ecommerce SEO Performance
Monitoring key metrics is crucial for measuring the ROI of ecommerce SEO efforts and identifying areas for further optimization. Critical KPIs to track include:
Monitoring organic traffic data informs SEO impact and identifies optimization opportunities:
- Set up Google Analytics goals to track key conversions like product page visits, add to carts, purchases.
- Analyze organic traffic reports to determine overall volumes over time, plus the landing pages and keywords driving traffic.
- Segment organic traffic to identify best-performing categories, products, blogs for further investment.
- Compare traffic driven by priority keywords versus secondary targets and expand content for high-potential terms.
- Set up segments in Analytics to isolate traffic from keyword ad campaigns or specific content assets.
- Check search impression and CTR data in Search Console to make sure rankings and click-throughs are stable.
- Make optimizations like title and description changes on pages seeing declining traffic.
- Forward Analytics data to Data Studio for easy visualization of trends and sharing insights across teams.
Regularly analyzing organic traffic equips you to double down on what works while rectifying pages that underperform. Traffic lifts indicate SEO success.
Monitoring organic revenue growth provides tangible ROI measurement for SEO:
- Implement Google Analytics ecommerce tracking to connect your platform for importing purchase data.
- Under Acquisition reports, view total revenue generated that is attributed to organic search.
- Calculate organic revenue per visitor to determine monetization efficiency. Aim for increases over time.
- Analyze revenue by landing pages and keywords to identify top-converting entry points.
- Make data-driven keyword bid adjustments based on revenue realized from each term.
- Set custom revenue goals in Analytics and monitor progress over time tied to SEO initiatives like new content.
- Pull monthly site revenue reports and highlight the percentage attributed to SEO vs. other channels.
- Compare SEO revenue to costs of tools, content production, etc. to showcase ROI.
Monitoring organic revenue paints a clear monetary picture of SEO success. The data directs smart investments towards high-revenue SEO opportunities.
Monitoring online orders generated from organic traffic is key for understanding SEO's sales impact:
- Connect Google Analytics to your ecommerce platform to automatically track purchases coming from organic search.
- Analyze conversion funnel reports to see where visitors from keywords are dropping off so you can optimize those pages.
- Enable Enhanced Ecommerce in Analytics to see granular on-site behavior data from product views to purchases.
- Tie conversion metrics back to keywords using Attribution modeling to identify the highest converting traffic sources.
- Look at conversion rates by landing page and optimize pages scoring lower for better on-site experience.
- Check Search Console to ensure pages with heavy transactions are indexed properly.
- Make sure technical site speed, stability and mobile experience don't cause conversion fallout.
Analyzing organic conversions empowers focusing SEO efforts on the keywords, landing pages, and content inspiring the most desired actions. More organic conversions signal SEO success.
6. Ensuring Excellent Technical SEO
Technical site optimizations build a solid SEO foundation for ecommerce success. Focus on:
Fast site speed improves organic conversions and search rankings:
- Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and WebPageTest to measure current site speed and diagnose technical bottlenecks.
- Set a target page load time of under 2 seconds and size under 2MB. The faster the better.
- Address core web vitals like LCP, FID, and CLS to improve user experience.
- Implement advanced speed optimizations like HTTP/2, code splitting, CDNs as warranted based on traffic.
- Test speed regularly on mobile networks and devices using tools like Search Console's mobile-friendliness test.
- Monitor real visitor site speed metrics in Google Analytics to detect deterioration over time.
- Avoid excessive page weight from large images, videos, iframes, ads which can cripple mobile speed.
With site speed a ranking factor, fast performance delivers both SEO benefits and better on-site experience leading to more conversions.
With mobile driving over half of ecommerce traffic, ensuring excellent mobile SEO and UX is critical:
- Implement a responsive design with CSS media queries to adapt layout and sizing for all devices.
- Size tap targets, spacing, text, buttons appropriately for touch screens. Follow mobile heuristics.
- Avoid interstitials and minimize need to pinch/zoom. Eliminate horizontal scrolling.
- Enhance mobile page speed through image compression, lazy loading, and other optimizations.
- Consider implementing AMP or PWAs to boost mobile performance through caching and push notifications.
- Ensure the checkout process remains simple and streamlined on mobile.
- Confirm mobile site is crawlable by search engines and submitting mobile sitemaps.
- Test regularly on mobile devices directly rather than just emulators to catch rendering issues.
With over half of shopping activity now on smartphones, mobile optimization is mandatory to stay competitive in ecommerce SEO and UX.
Search-friendly URL structure improves click-throughs and preserves link equity:
- Include target product or category keywords naturally in URLs as appropriate.
- Keep URLs concise, separating words with hyphens rather than underscores or camel case.
- Set up 301 redirects for any changed or outdated URLs to pass link/traffic value.
- Avoid overuse of long parameter strings, numbers, and session IDs which create orphan pages.
- For product SKUs, include descriptive elements like product names along with ID numbers.
- Consider subdirectories like /category/ or /brand/ for additional context in URLs.
- Implement canonical tags and consolidation for duplicate parameters/pagination URLs.
- Update internal site links if URLs ever need changed to avoid breaking redirects.
Optimizing URLs provides clarity for search engines on important ecommerce pages while future-proofing changes. Keep URLs short, keyword-rich and visitor-friendly.
A clean, semantic site structure improves crawlability and SEO:
- Organize products, categories, and content into logical keyword-focused silos. Avoid overly deep nesting.
- Implement rel="canonical" tags on duplicate URLs like paginated product pages.
- Ensure pagination navigation uses rel="next" and rel="prev" properly.
- Optimize internal site search results to return the most relevant, high-converting pages.
- Place important pages like product category hubs closer to the home page for easier crawling.
- Follow consistent taxonomy and naming conventions across products and categories.
- Eliminate orphaned old product and category pages by setting up redirects.
Structuring your ecommerce site intuitively for both users and crawlers avoids issues with indexing, duplicate content, and findability.
Ensuring search engines can properly crawl and index all site pages is imperative for SEO success:
- Fix any indexing errors reported in Google Search Console like broken pages or blocked resources.
- Avoid excessive use of IP filtering, password protection, or blocking that might restrict bots.
- Submit XML sitemaps detailing all site URLs and supplemental sitemaps for images, videos etc.
- Leverage product feeds for comparison shopping engines to maximize reach.
- Implement proper robots.txt directives and optimize the file for search bots.
- Check for server-side blocking of user-agents, captcha requirements, or throttling limiting crawl budget.
- Monitor Search Console impressions to ensure all new pages get indexed quickly after launch.
Proactively maintaining unencumbered crawl access ensures search engines can fully index and rank new ecommerce content. Eliminate technical barriers.
The Recipe for Ecommerce SEO Success
Executing an effective ecommerce SEO strategy requires diligence across a range of interconnected efforts. But brands that invest the time into optimization reap the rewards through increased organic revenue, new customer acquisition, and enhanced brand visibility.
The key ingredients for ecommerce SEO success include:
- In-depth keyword research providing a blueprint for content and optimization
- Immersive, keyword-focused content like category pages and blogs
- Technical optimizations for speed and mobile experience
- Backlink building through creator outreach and content promotion
- Tracking key organic KPIs like revenue and conversions
Approaching SEO systematically rather than Quick fixes produces lasting results. And staying up-to-date on algorithm changes ensures you don't get left behind by Google. But the proven fundamentals still pave the path to organic growth.
The payoff for all the investment into ecommerce SEO is tangible - more qualified website traffic, lower customer acquisition costs, and a stronger brand presence. For online retailers, focusing on SEO is not optional - it's essential to compete and thrive in the digital economy.
What are the most important ecommerce SEO factors?
The core foundations are conducting keyword research, optimizing product and category pages on-site, generating backlinks through outreach, and tracking key organic metrics in analytics. Focus on these areas first.
How can I tell if my ecommerce SEO efforts are succeeding?
Key indicators of progress are increases in organic traffic, conversions, and revenue over time. You also want to see improved keyword rankings and clicks in Search Console. Steady growth across these signals typically means your SEO is working.
How often should I create new site content?
Aim for at least 2-3 new blog posts per month as well as continuously adding fresh product category guides, comparison articles, and other content focusing on priority keywords. Ongoing new content keeps search engines engaged.
How do I track the ROI of ecommerce SEO efforts?
Connect your analytics platform to your ecommerce store to attribute revenue value to organic traffic and monitor over time. Calculate efficiency metrics like organic revenue per visitor. Measure SEO return against costs.
What SEO mistakes commonly hurt ecommerce sites?
Avoiding common pitfalls like slow site speed, a cluttered architecture, neglecting mobile optimization, keyword stuffing, and buying links helps protect your success. Keeping SEO fundamentals refined avoids easily preventable mistakes.