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What is ecommerce SEO?

With platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce, it takes mere minutes to set up an ecommerce store today. However, getting an online store set up to receive and process orders is just one part of the equation. The other part is making sure that you’re driving customers to your ecommerce store so that they can make those purchases.

And that’s done through e commerce SEO.

What Does e commerce SEO Mean?

There are a few different ways to look at eCommerce SEO. Some may consider it in terms of enhancing product listings. Others may think of it more in terms of matching keywords with the terms the target demographic is most likely to use. As a technical SEO agency, we view eCommerce SEO as any non-paid activity that maximises the visibility of an online retail store across the organic search engine results pages, or SERPs.  

In the world of ecommerce, the SERPs are everything. Why? Well, with 40% of all online product searches beginning on search engines (as opposed to specific shopping platforms), the search engine results pages are your biggest opportunity to seen. Fail to develop an eCommerce SEO strategy that ensures you rank in a prominent position, and you’re losing quality leads to your competitors.

SEO vs. eCommerce SEO 

You may be wondering how e commerce SEO differs from regular SEO. It’s a good question and one that we field often as a technical SEO agency. There are certainly a lot of overlaps, but broadly speaking, there are two big differences. 

1. Search intent

The first difference comes in the number of search intent categories we need to consider when building an ecommerce SEO strategy. It’s mostly agreed that there are four different types of search intent: 

1. Informational: The user is searching for broad information  

2. Commercial: The user is searching for a particular solution 

3. Navigational: The user is searching for more specific information 

4. Transactional: The user is searching with the goal of making a purchase 

With SEO for content-based websites, we can rule out transactional search intent because the website doesn’t sell anything. And in many cases, we may be able to rule out commercial search intent, too. With eCommerce SEO, we need to consider everything in order to make as many conversions as possible. 

This makes SEO for ecommerce websites a bit of a challenging area. We obviously want to focus on transactional keywords. After all, they’re the ones that are going to directly help your site to make a sale. But as we all know, the success of any online store doesn’t just depend on one time sales; it depends on relationship building that brings customers back for more. Repeat customers. 

We’ll discuss this in more detail later. But for now, it’s important to know that a good SEO strategy for an eCommerce website must consider both sales and relationships simultaneously, unlike a strategy for a content site that’s usually purely relationship-based. 

2. Site structure

The second big difference between the two types of SEO is in site structure. As a technical SEO agency, we’re here to tell you that site structure is always important for any website. It’s how you’re going to give your visitors a good on-site experience. But, on balance it’s perhaps a little more critical for eCommerce websites.  

The reason is that search engines aren’t perfect. And the deeper your site structure, the more likely that there’ll be a few pages that are missed out. Google – the biggest search engine in the world – even notes that there are some ‘URLS that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process’. For content-based sites, this usually isn’t too big a deal because site navigation doesn’t tend to go all that deeply. 

With eCommerce sites, things are different. In retail, there are parent categories – health, beauty, clothing, for example – followed by sub-categories – shampoo, conditioner, colour, treatments – and then individual product listings. The natural site structure of eCommerce can go quite deep, so it’s massively important to have an organised hierarchy and solid navigation that makes it easy for Google to index pages. 

How Does e commerce SEO Work? 

E commerce SEO works in much the same way as standard search engine optimisation. Search engines like Google crawl your online store to gather data that helps them generate an idea about what your store sells, where it’s based, who it’s for, the problems its products can help to solve, and so on. An algorithm is then used to connect that store with relevant user searches. The closer the link between the two, the higher the store will rank for searches containing particular keywords and phrases.

How to Build an eCommerce Marketing Strategy

SEO for an eCommerce website has a natural starting point: Keywords.  

There is an almost never ending list of techniques that can be used to determine the most relevant keywords for any SEO strategy. However, in e commerce SEO, we’re really looking at two vital factors: search volume, and cost per click for PPC advertisements. You must factor these two considerations into your eCommerce marketing strategy. 

  • Search volume is just that; it’s how often a specific term has been searched for. As a very broad example, say your eCommerce store sold jackets. But users are more likely to search for ‘coats’. When you understand what people are searching for, it becomes easier to incorporate the right terms into your site.  
  • Cost per click, or CPC, is something we normally look at when we’re using paid methods like PPC, rather than organic SEO. But it’s actually a very good way to see which keywords are hardest to rank for due to their high competition, and where there are keyword gaps that you could dominate the rankings for.  

Armed with the right keywords, you can start to populate your product descriptions, headlines, meta descriptions, URLs, and image ALT text with the terms that are most likely to get your eCommerce site in front of the people wanting to buy your products.  

A word of warning when it comes to product descriptions, however. Search engines, especially Google, don’t just dislike duplicate content but may also penalise websites that go down this road. With eCommerce sites, you may be reselling goods and simply copy and paste the manufacturer’s description. Or you may be selling your own goods across multiple channels, in which case you might be tempted to use the same information everywhere to save time. Don’t do it. Always use unique content to avoid penalties.  

Now, going back to the idea that your SEO strategy for an ecommerce website must cover all four types of search intent, it becomes easy to see how keywords aren’t just important for product listings themselves, but for pretty much every single part of your eCommerce website.  

Some users will be ready to buy. Others won’t. But in failing to engage with these not-quite-qualified leads, you could be losing out on potential future sales. So eCommerce SEO can’t just be sales-focused; it’s got to support the buyer journey, too. Store owners must be able to extend optimised content beyond product listings, through: 

  • Homepage content 
  • About page 
  • FAQs 
  • Blog posts 
  • Buying guides 
  • Product comparisons 

It’s important that keywords are dispersed through these supplementary pages, attracting and engaging with leads who are all at different stages of the process.  

A Good Technical SEO Agency Goes Beyond Keywords 

As with SEO for content-based sites, SEO for eCommerce sites is about much more than just keywords. To get the most from your optimisation efforts, it’s important to know what search engines look for – what they reward with visibility – and what they don’t.  

While search engine algorithms are notoriously secretive, as a technical SEO agency, we’re confident that there are more than 200 distinct factors that Google takes into account for determining rank.  

Some elements that are particularly important when carrying out SEO for ecommerce websites include: 

  • Responsiveness: Mobile commerce is on the rise. Customers want to be able to buy from any connected device, wherever and whenever. It’s becoming more and more important for eCommerce sites to display optimally on smaller screens. 
  • Load speed: slow load speed can affect sales as search engines prioritise fast-loading pages. Sadly, eCommerce sites, with their high number of product images, are some of the biggest offenders for frustratingly snail-like speeds.  
  • Authority: While it’s relatively easy to get links pointed at your content-based site, it’s often harder to do with eCommerce. However, links are an important ranking factor, helping search engines to determine how authoritative your store is.  

Of course, that’s just a few of the many elements of e commerce SEO that can affect your position in the SERPs. For a closer look at SEO ranking factors, and to learn more about maximising your store’s visibility online, you need a technical SEO agency. Contact the Focus on Digital team today.