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Anna Powers Tracy
August 6th, 2020

eCommerce SEO: How to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Store

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For eCommerce retailers, “if you build it, they will come” isn’t a customer-attracting strategy; it’s a mantra that will cause brands to languish in Google’s search results. In order to truly maximize their online traffic and compete in the marketplace in 2020, brands need a strong, proactive eCommerce SEO approach.

While businesses can’t game Google’s algorithm, they can control how well their websites are optimized. Read on for our eCommerce SEO primer, which will help you and your team understand where to spend your time so your products show up in high-intent searches from customers who are ready to buy right now.

Why SEO Matters for eCommerce

The most recent research is in: The vast majority of shoppers — 87%, to be exact — start their product search using digital channels. And if you’re not showing up where the shoppers are, then your potential customers are likely purchasing from your competitors.

Search is a massive opportunity for brand awareness and product discovery. If people don’t know that your brand exists, an online search for “spicy artisanal chocolate,” or whatever you’re selling, can surface your products and introduce them to potential customers.

For eCommerce retailers, “if you build it, they will come” isn’t a customer-attracting strategy; it’s a mantra that will cause brands to languish in Google’s search results.

Another avenue for visibility has also opened up to brands since Google Shopping updated its program in April 2020 to allow free listings and commission-free “Buy on Google” posts.

If your products don’t have a presence on Google Shopping and aren’t showing up on the first page of Google (or in the top three organic results, which are proven to be the most clicked), then your brand is in a digital no-man’s land. And as we already mentioned, it’s extremely rare for a site to stumble into those hotly contested spots on a search results page. You need to put in the work in order to reap the rewards.

The world of search-driven product discovery is vast, so this article will primarily focus on organic SEO, not Google Shopping. For comprehensive information about the latter, read our complete guide on how to use Google Shopping. You can also read Google’s official documentation on the subject.

eCommerce Keyword Research: How to Choose Your Keywords

One of the first steps in increasing your visibility is keyword research, which is a time-consuming but critical element of the best eCommerce SEO. In the simplest terms, keyword research is the act of figuring out what search terms people are using, or would use, to find your product.

The sweet spot is keywords that are both easy to rank for and illustrate what we call in the industry “high user intent.” In other words, folks searching for these phrases are ready to buy, and they’re looking for results that match what you offer.

So how do you find these magical terms? Below are some free tools that can support your research.

Google Keyword Planner

Google’s Keyword Planner does just that: It helps you plan which keywords you should use, based on data harvested from its search engine and advertising products, including Google Shopping. The catch? You must set up a free Google Ads account to access this information.

Don’t take shortcuts with your keyword research! Accurate keyword targeting is a foundational exercise for the rest of your SEO, so getting it right is worth your time.

It’s worth it though, as the data includes approximate MSV, or monthly search volume (the number of people using a given search term), that you can filter by location, in case you’re targeting a specific region or country. Google offers its own suggestions for choosing keywords, and Ahrefs, an SEO software company, publishes an extensive free guide on how to use the Keyword Planner.

Ubersuggest

For users of the Chrome browser, the plugin Ubersuggest automatically shows actionable keyword information for any Google search. A quick Google of “bow tie dog collar” reveals volume, competition, related terms, and other keyword suggestions. (There’s a market for “glitter bow tie dog collars”? Who knew!)

Ubersuggest also offers a standalone site for non-Chrome users. Overall, it’s a solid tool that should be part of your repertoire, and a good entry point for many beginners.

Amazon

For many US shoppers, Amazon has surpassed Google as the most popular destination to start a product search. As a result, there is a wealth of information about how people search for products that you can learn from their database — even if you never plan to sell on Amazon.

Spending a little time in Amazon’s search bar will yield rich keywords that you can implement in your own eCommerce search engine optimization on Google, since Amazon helpfully auto-populates your search with suggested search terms that others have used.

Generally speaking, these are the terms your customers are using across the internet — on Amazon and Google — to search for products. You can also click through the products that are returned in the search results, to see exactly what headlines and copy are being used to market the product. For more details, check out this article from Wordstream.

Pro Tip: Don’t take shortcuts with your keyword research! Even if you have 657 product pages to optimize, you can tackle them in batches of 10, starting with your most trafficked pages first. Accurate keyword targeting is a foundational exercise for the rest of your SEO, so getting it right is worth your time.

On-Page SEO for eCommerce: Optimization and Keyword Targeting

Once you have the keywords you’re targeting, what are you going to do with them? This is more of an art than a science, since you’ll need to incorporate your keywords into your headlines, product descriptions, and other copy in a natural, user-friendly way. An SEO-savvy copywriter can help you with this, but here are some of the primary areas to be aware of.

Title Tag & Meta Description

The title tag is an important ranking factor that Google takes into consideration when deciding whether to display your product as the most relevant search result. It’s also the primary copy that searchers see when considering results. The keyword phrase you want the page to rank for should be used here.

If your SEO is lucky and good, you could potentially rank your pages for both your target keywords and a whole host of related search terms.

The meta description is the copy that appears on the search results page below the title tag. While the copy here isn’t a ranking factor, it’s important to repeat your primary keyword here so it’s clear to the searcher that the page is relevant to their query.

Headlines and Subheads (H1 through H6)

The H1 headline for the page typically explains what the page is about, so Google’s algorithm weighs the keywords here more heavily than other usages on the page. The same is true of subheads (H2, H3, etc.), to lesser degrees. A best practice is to use your primary keyword in the H1, and secondary variations in other H tags.

Subheads are also a great opportunity to organize your page into something visually more skimmable for the user.

On-Page Copy

According to Backlinko’s exhaustive guide to eCommerce SEO, the perfect page has over 1000 words of copy and uses the target keyword phrase and its variations three to five times. Why so high? Google likes when brands provide rich, detailed information for the user, and sites that offer that are likely to succeed.

This is by no means a requirement however, and you absolutely should not fill the page with empty copy just to hit that number. Instead, focus on what information would provide value for your shopper and let their needs lead the way.

Internal links

A smart internal linking strategy creates a path for your shoppers, guiding them to where you want them to go: related or popular product recommendations, and add-ons or up-sells. Internal links also increase time spent on site (a small ranking factor) and increase your keyword density. The anchor text you choose for internal links should reflect the keyword goals of that page. For instance, if you use “little black dress” to link to, well, a little black dress, then Google understands what that page is about.

Pro Tip: If your SEO is lucky and good, you could potentially rank your pages for both your target keywords and a whole host of related search terms. This is called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which you can help along by proactively researching related keywords and incorporating them into your on-page SEO. This should also happen naturally, if you provide genuinely relevant and useful information about the topic.

7 Technical SEO Considerations for eCommerce Sites

In addition to on-page optimization, there are broader technical considerations that impact your overall site health. In general, Shopify and other eCommerce platforms account for these best practices when setting up your storefront, so some of these items are likely taken care of for you.

That said, you should at least be aware of these optimizable elements, and you can audit your store with a free SEO tool like Screaming Frog (although a paid version is well worth the money).

Sitemap

Many eCommerce platforms, including Shopify, generate a sitemap for you, which is like a blueprint that shows Google the architecture of your site. This is a must-have.

Optimized URLs

URLs need to be relatively short and contain your target keywords. It pays to put in some thought about their structure and maintain consistency throughout your site. You can find more detailed information here.

Duplicate Content

Google won’t ding you for having duplicate content on your site necessarily, but it can still affect your rankings. When there are multiple pages that are virtually the same, Google’s algorithm is “unsure” of which should be ranking for the target keywords. Often this results in the less ideal page ranking higher, or all pages cancel each other out.

A major contributor to this problem is copy-and-paste product descriptions for similar items, auto-generated URLs for category and product pages that duplicate content, and templated content that repeats on every page.

Broken Links

Broken links are literal dead-ends, for both your customers and the Google crawler that reads your site. Find them and prune them.

Navigation

Google wants your navigation to be uncomplicated and user-friendly, and prevailing wisdom says that pages should not live more than three clicks away from the home page. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it can help guide the structure of your site and you can build new pages with this in mind.

Structured Data

This is the HTML markup on your page that allows Google to identify information that it can display as Rich Snippets in search results. Structured data is also referred to as schema markup, and the primary schema considerations for eCommerce are product, reviews and ratings, price, product availability, and video.

Pro Tip: Technical SEO requires constant maintenance, and the considerations go much deeper than this list. If possible, it’s smart to train someone on your team to monitor these considerations. For a deeper list of technical SEO suggestions, check out Search Engine Journal’s post.

How Reviews Can Improve Your SEO

If you’ve ticked through this list of eCommerce search engine optimization suggestions, then you’ve done a lot of work. Our final suggestion is to encourage and gather product reviews to support those aforementioned Rich Snippets — and it involves having your customers do most of the work for you.

Product reviews are perhaps the most valuable form of user-generated content (UGC) because they’re a form of keyword rich, authentic social proof, and they demonstrate why a potential customer should buy what you’re selling. When generated consistently, reviews also provide a steady stream of new content that will be crawled by Google and serve as a positive ranking factor for your site and product pages.

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So that Google can connect the dots, you want these reviews displayed on your owned website. A platform like Yotpo makes this simple by creating a dedicated SEO page that publishes all your reviews in easily crawlable HTML. Yotpo also incorporates Rich Snippets into your product pages, so that Google shows product reviews directly in your organic listings.

Pro Tip: Whatever reviews provider you choose, make sure it has an integration with Google Shopping so that your reviews show up in those product listings as well. Our research shows that can improve click through rates by up to 17%!

Optimizing your site for search traffic is no small feat, but it’s an effort that can pay off with long term customer acquisition. To learn more about how to get started with Yotpo to improve your organic SEO performance, click here.

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