The Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO in 2021

Find out how to optimise your ecommerce site to have your product and category pages rank on search engine results pages.

by Gus Van der Walt

SEO

| 11 min
Blog feature image: Ultimate Guide to Ecommerce SEO

SEO is vital to your online store’s success, but it is often overlooked or not implemented correctly. We have worked with several e-commerce websites over the years, which has helped us gain experience and an understanding of how to optimize an e-commerce website.

Considering that the ecommerce space generated sales to the amount of 4.2 trillion U.S. dollars worldwide in 2020, it’s essential to optimize your store to ensure you can grow. Our guide below explains how to do just that.

Table of Contents

Some ecommerce statistics

  • 66% of time spent with online retailers is on mobile.
  • 44% of online shoppers began using a search engine, while 13% of consumers said that a blog post had inspired a purchase.
  • 70% of online transactions occur on a mobile device.

The above statistics highlight the importance of ecommerce SEO. It’s essential to recognize you are potentially losing many sales by not optimizing your website with SEO.

Let’s look at how we can get your store optimized.

Step 1: Understanding the type of keywords that you will be using.

Unlike most sites, your store will rely on transactional-based keywords. These are terms or a combination of words that your customers use when they are ready to buy a product. These words indicate an intention to purchase.

Examples of these terms would be:

  • Buy Nike shoes
  • Nike shoes on discount
  • Purchase Nike shoes
  • Where to buy Nike shoes
  • Cheapest Nike shoes
  • Nike shoes for sale
  • Nike shoes for sale near me

Tip 1: Transactional-based keywords should be used on your product and product category pages. You want to make sure your product categories (think of a shopping aisle in a store) are optimized for these types of searches.

How to find transactional keywords:

If we head over to Ubersuggest to start our keyword research phase and type in “Nike shoes,” we see a particular set of results. The results focus on who the shoes are for.

If we add “for sale” to the search query, we can see a different set of terms returned.

Once you have the key terms you think are relevant to your products, head over to Google and make sure that your browser is in incognito mode. Start doing searches with the search terms you have selected.

Using the same examples above, we see a different set of Nike shoes and Nike shoes for sale on the search results pages (SERPs).

The search for “Nike shoes” shows different results for the search for “Nike shoes for sale.”

That is because Google and other search engines focus on intention.

What does this mean? It’s not enough to use keyword research tools alone; you need to understand the returned results when searching. For example, the Google results for a search for “Nike shoes” would be harder to rank for, and the search intent is not quite at the purchase stage. This term would be better used on the home page or brand page for an ecommerce store selling Nike shoes.

However, the “Nike shoes for sale term” would be better used on the relevant product category page and product pages, as the search intent for this search term is transactional. You want your online users to be delivered the search results they are actually looking for, so the key terms on your pages need to match search intent.

Step 2: Generating unique content for ecommerce websites

One of the biggest challenges that online stores face is content and how to avoid thin pages. Thin pages are pages on a website with little to no content that typically doesn’t rank in searches.

For example, we see a host of commerce websites that don’t have content on their product category pages or have little content on their product pages. The problem that arises here is that these “money pages” with thin content don’t ever see the first page of a Google search. We know that the e-commerce space is competitive, so we need to ensure we get your site well optimized for search.

Optimizing product category pages

Product category pages are used to segment products on an ecommerce store by their attributes. For example, a “lifestyle” shoe for “women” on the Nike store would only display shoes that match the attributes and are then assigned to that category.

More often than not, product category pages are ignored when it comes to content marketing. However, these pages are just as important as the product pages themselves; ensuring they are optimized allows you to cast a wider net.

Let’s use the Nike shoe example again. If you have product categories for Men’s Nike Running shoes and Women’s Nike Running shoes, you would have different Nike running shoes for women or men within each category. But how do you rank for the broader term like “Nike running shoes for Men”?

This is where optimizing each product category page can help. Ensuring that there is content about the category on the page and including the focus search term will likely help you see it rank better than your competitor who doesn’t focus on optimizing their category pages.

Product category content quick wins
  1. Include a paragraph or two explaining the category. The content does not need to be an essay. Remember, the intention is to make a sale at the end of the day. Two hundred words work as long as you clearly define the category and what a user can expect to find on the page.
  2. Include product descriptions on the category page. Having just a product image and title filter on the category page isn’t enough. If you include the product description, you help increase the content volume to make sense and enhance the user experience.

In summary – don’t neglect your product category pages!

Optimizing product pages

Product pages are tough to optimize because the content is given to you by the supplier half of the time. Again, using Nike shoes as an example, you would probably just use the content that has been supplied. And, if no content is supplied, you either don’t use content or simply copy and paste content from another site.

The challenge that arises from the above scenarios is what is called duplicate content. While you won’t be penalized or negatively impacted for using content from another site on yours, the competition gets a little more intense if you do. Why? With 1000 pages across the internet housing the same product page content, why should a search engine rank your product page above the other 999 pages?

Getting around the product page content challenge.

The first step is to remember that your audience can’t touch, taste, smell, or try an online product. They can see photos of it, but that is where the user experience ends. So, the content that exists on a product page needs to explain the product in detail: the more detail, the better.

In the case of a shoe, describe the fit, the color options, and who the product is best suited for. In the case of tech products, what can the product do, or how can it be paired with other products on your website.

Aim to have the content created as if a person in a store spoke to a sales consultant. Help the user feel that in-store experience.

Step 3: Implementing schema markup

What is schema? Schema markup is an HTML markup that clearly defines a product or piece of information. The purpose is to highlight the product information.

The purpose of schema on an online store is to provide search engines with the specifics related to each product, such as:

  • The name of the product;
  • The product description;
  • The price of the product;
  • How much of the product is in stock;
  • And what the product rating is.

This information or structure helps search engines better understand your product and ensures they can correctly index the product. By this, we mean, Google can include your product pages in the correct set of search results. IProduct can rank for product-based results and product-based featured snippets.

Schema is critical because it helps ensure that your products and website are correctly interpreted and indexed. It helps define your brand, the other brands that you sell, and your products.

When it comes to an e-commerce website, the types of schema that you need to implement include:

  • Product schema
  • Contact schema
  • Blog schema
  • Breadcrumb schema
  • Sitelink search
  • Organization schema

For more information on schema, head over to this useful blog on structured data for ecommerce sites.

Step 4: Canonize duplicate content

Do you allow for product sorting from low to high or by size or color on your online store? Do your products have color variations?

If you answered “yes,” there’s a chance that you are serving duplicate content. Why? When a user sorts by price or selects a blue variant of your product, the page URL typically changes.

You would have two URLs with the same content that is present in a slightly different way or in the same way, which is not suitable for SEO.

Why?

You are serving duplicate content (i.e., two pages with the same content) and increasing your site’s size by having multiple URLs with the same content, without adding any value that impacts your crawl budget.

The above can confuse search engines, and they wouldn’t know how to determine which page to rank. You could find that your product category page that’s filtered by price low to high is ranking, while the product category page that is not filtered isn’t ranking. This can impact your site’s online user experience and its potential to rank on the first search results page.

How do we fix this?

Duplicate URLs are fixed by adding a canonical URL that points to the primary (or main) version. A canonical tag is a simple tag that tells search engines that a URL is the URL that needs to be indexed to attain value.

Let’s take the category page and the filtering options as an example: we want to include a canonical tag on the filtered versions that point to the original unfiltered page. Doing so will ensure that search engines index the right content and understand which content and pages they need to index versus those they don’t need to focus on.

Step 5: Add testimonials and reviews

One of the best forms of marketing is word of mouth. Think about that for a second. If your friend recommends a product, you are more likely to buy that product versus one that no one has recommended to you.

The same applies to your online store. Having product reviews on each product page increases the chances of a sale. We call this “social proofing.” Product reviews are pivotal to increasing sales and building trust between your brand and your customers.

The side benefit of product reviews on each of your pages further helps ensure that each product page on your site is unique versus your competitors. It also helps expand the amount of content on your site.

How do you get reviews or testimonials?

Ask for them for starters. If a customer loved your product, create a space to leave a review and ask them for one.

Another quick way to get reviews is to incentivize your customer. Offer them a discount on their next purchase if they leave a review for their last purchase.

Step 6: Optimize for site speed and user experience

79% of smartphone users have purchased online using their mobile devices in the last six months. Scary, isn’t it? Mobile is the fastest-growing device that consumers use to conduct almost all their online activities. The above statistic highlights the importance of site speed and user experience.

That statistic and Google’s Core Web Vitals are why you need to focus your efforts on, ensuring your store is fast and that the user experience is sound.

Let’s look at a few more statistics
  • In 2018, brands lost approximately $75 billion due to poor customer service.
  • 58% of global customers think nothing of ending a relationship with a business that does not meet their expectations. In comparison, 90% of customers worldwide base their choice of a brand on their customer support experience.

Mobile is now one of the top devices that drive traffic and sales. If you have a slow website, and your mobile experience is lacking, you can lose a lot of sales revenue to the competition with a faster mobile experience.

Optimizing images

To speed up your site, start by looking at images. Why? Product websites have a ton of photos, and often, these images are large. To ensure images aren’t the culprit for a slow website, make sure they are small in file size. Try to keep each product image below 300KB in file size.

Images also don’t need to be 2000 pixels by 3000 pixels in dimension size. Reduce this as much as possible to fit your needs and ensure that your audience can see the image. It is about finding a balance between size and speed.

Enable browser and image caching

Caching is a temporary storage of your page and content done by the browser for faster viewing in the future. Think of it as your product page, and the contents of it have been temporarily stored on your customer’s browser.

Ensuring that you have browser cache enabled can dramatically improve your site’s speed and load times when a customer comes back to your website.

Not sure how your site performs? Head over to our testing tool here to provide you with a snapshot of your overall SEO performance, including site speed.

Additional resources

There are more factors that you need to take into account when optimizing an online store for search. These are the standard practices for SEO, so we have included links to additional resources below to help you navigate them.

We hope that this guide will help optimize your online store but, if you are stuck, get in touch with us to help get your site optimized and generate sales.

Gus Van der Walt | Senior SEO Strategist

Gus van der Walt is a Senior SEO strategist here at SiteCare, LLC. Gus has been growing traffic and visibility for 10+ years. In his spare time, Gus can be found researching new SEO tactics or snapping photos of Cape Town.

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