eCommerce SEO Checklist: 8 Steps to Improve Your Rankings
The eCommerce website landscape is competitive. To ensure your website is visible to your target market, you must rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs). Because if people are looking to buy and they cannot find you, they will not buy from you.
I like one funny example that may seem irrelevant to eCommerce but perfectly illustrates the importance of SEO. In 2020, Warner Bros. launched a promo for a movie about the comic book character Harley Quinn. They named it “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” which sounds indie and hip, but with the strong keyword “Harley Quinn” stuck at the end of the title.
As a result, the first-weekend box office was $33 million instead of the projected $55 million. The entire promotional campaign was limping, but insiders cited the title as one of the main reasons. People just couldn’t find the movie online! And therefore, the film was renamed “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.”
So yeah, your product must be top-notch and engaging, but first, it must reach users. Our SEO checklist will cover everything you need to know to rank your website higher. So, let’s get started on boosting your visibility!
What Is SEO Rankings and How It Affects Your Business
Search engine optimization (SEO) means optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). A higher SEO ranking means your website is more visible to potential customers and likely to be clicked on.
For example, in 2022, 27.6% of traffic in the European eCommerce industry came from search engines. Therefore, neglecting to invest in a strong SEO strategy means missing out on a significant chunk of traffic.
The metric is formed by many factors that can be divided into blocks:
- The relevance and quality of your content
- The user experience on your website
- The authority and popularity of your site
Thus, achieving high digits requires a multi-faceted approach. To understand what factors go into this, we’ll outline them in the following sections and discuss steps you can take.
Check out the tips below to learn how to optimize your site and convert visitors into buyers or look for a local SEO agency to optimize your website.
1. Keyword Research
A keyword is what users type into the search bar. It can be a phrase or wording, but above all, it’s a core element of SEO, as search engines initiate 68% of online experiences. And without proper keyword research, all your efforts may be wasted.
In general, there are many pitfalls. For example, some keywords may be too competitive, making it difficult for your website to rank for them. To understand the process, let’s discuss some tips and tools.
- Use proper research tools: The most popular are Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz. These tools can help you identify relevant keywords, search volume, competition, and more.
- Look for long-tail keywords: For example, “women’s running shoes” is a general keyword, whereas “best-running shoes for women with flat feet” is a long-tail one. Such keywords are often less competitive and more specific to your target audience.
- Analyze your competitors: Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs allow you to analyze competitors’ websites and see what keywords they rank for. Then, analyze and identify gaps in their strategies that you can exploit.
- Consider user intent: For example, are they looking to buy a product, learn more about it, or find related services? It’ll help you choose keywords that are more likely to convert visitors into customers.
As a result, you should collect a detailed table of relevant keywords with characteristics such as keyword difficulty, volume, traffic potential, etc. This is what you will use to optimize your website content.
2. Content Marketing
When search engines crawl a website, they search for fresh, relevant, high quality content to index. Thus, regular posting signals that the website is active and relevant.
How to do it effectively?
- Know your audience: Research your audience’s pain points, questions, and preferences to create valuable and relatable content. Sometimes, it can be a smart idea to boost your social media presence and therefore reach a wider audience of ecommerce customers.
- Create high-quality content: Produce well-researched, informative, and visually appealing content using a mix of text, images, and videos.
- Be consistent: Stick to a content publishing schedule to engage your audience and demonstrate your website’s relevance to search engines. Thus, find a reliable content strategist who can deal with the content plan.
- Promote your content: Share it on socials, collaborate with industry influencers, and use email marketing.
- Update content: Track your blog posts’ positions in search results and occasionally update links, statistics, other data, or whole texts to stay competitive and relevant.
One of the great examples is an outdoor things retailer, Patagonia. Instead of writing articles on gear and sports, their blog offers insightful pieces on conservation, nature, and adventure culture.
But more is needed. Optimization also means competent work with keywords and link building. Let’s talk about the latter in a little more detail.
3. eCommerce Link Building
Link building means acquiring links from other websites pointing to your site. Search engines like Google view them as votes of confidence for your website’s content. So the more you have, the better your website’s authority and ranking.
There are different link building strategies that eCommerce businesses can utilize:
- “Best product” and “Where to buy” pages: These pages provide helpful information to consumers and can attract links from other websites that want to share your content.
- Utilizing linkable assets: These content or tools (infographics, videos, etc.) are so useful or interesting that other websites naturally want to link to them. Plus, the probability of linking gets high especially when you have a strong database of knowledge, so be aware of that.
- Unlinked mentions: Capitalize on unlinked mentions by contacting website owners who mention your brand or products and ask them to add a link to your site. When you do cold outreach, improve email deliverability to get results.
- Niche edits backlinks: This means adding links to your site in existing content on other websites within your niche.
- Guest posts: Write guest posts for relevant websites in your industry, including links to your site.
Remember that link building, like other SEO practices, is a long-term process that may take time to see results. But some things can directly improve your ranking.
4. Site Structure and Navigation
One of the first things you must consider is creating a logical and clear hierarchy. This involves grouping products into categories and subcategories and arranging them in a way that makes sense to users.
- The website structure affects user behavior, directly influencing the conversion rate.
- It helps distribute link equity appropriately, benefiting SEO efforts.
- A clear website structure speeds up indexing by search robots.
History knows different types of structures, but the most modern and complex websites, like Amazon, use a Hierarchical (tree-like) type when all pages are thematically grouped into categories and subcategories and linked to the main page.
In the case of eCommerce, it is mostly about categorizing products and creating category pages. This process varies slightly across different eCommerce platforms, each with its unique features and requirements. The category pages, central to this strategy, provide an overview of products or services and must be optimized to cater to the specific dynamics of these platforms.
- Include targeted keywords in category page titles and descriptions
- Use header tags to make it easier for search engines to understand the hierarchy
- Make content relevant, unique, and informative
- Use interlinking with other categories
Speaking of interlinking. This can be done through the filter section. The feature is helpful for customers and improves optimization by making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages.
For example, Wayfair added links to subcategories with relevant keywords in its filters, increasing the likelihood of ranking for related searches.
Now that you understand the structure, let’s discuss the optimization of product pages in more detail.
5. Product Pages Optimization
Ideally, you want the customer to go directly from the search to the product and purchase. This is called getting relevant traffic and must be one of the goals of your marketing strategy. For this to happen, you should work on on-page optimization to gain a higher rank on every product and boost it to the top of search results.
Here are some elements that can be optimized to improve SEO and user experience.
- Title tags and meta descriptions: The title tag appears as the clickable headline in search results, and the meta description is a summary under it. Make these unique, include relevant keywords, and provide a product description with a compelling call-to-action (CTA).
- Header tags: These define the headings (H1) and subheadings (H2-H6) on a product page. Use a clear H1 tag with a target keyword. Use H2 and H3 tags – to break up content into sections.
- Product descriptions: Search engines read product descriptions; thus, these are SEO-friendly content. Write unique and detailed texts with relevant keywords, and keep paragraphs short and scannable. This product page from the IKEA website is a good example.
- Images and alt tags: Use descriptive file names with relevant keywords. Also, images contain alternative text descriptions for users who cannot see them, often used for SEO purposes. Alt tags should be short and to the point.
- Internal linking: Linking to other pages within the website helps search engines understand the structure and the importance of different pages. Link to the most relevant product pages and use descriptive anchor text with proper keywords.
All this improves not only the SEO ranking but also the customer experience. As for the latter, let’s talk about what can turn out to be the most annoying experience with your website.
6. Mobile Optimization
It’s very simple. 43.4% of total e-commerce retail sales in 2023 will be sales from mobile platforms. These are huge numbers, literally trillions of dollars in the US alone.
Given this, search engines have started prioritizing mobile-friendly websites. Hence, optimizing a website for mobile devices improves SEO ranking and user experience. But, again, convenience, simplicity, and speed should be the leading indicators.
- Responsive design: Ensure your website adapts to different screen sizes, providing a great user experience on desktop, mobile, and tablet devices.
- Page speed: Optimize your website’s loading time to minimize bounce rates. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help you identify areas for improvement.
- Mobile-friendly checkout process: Streamlined checkout process for mobile devices boosts conversion rates and minimizes cart abandonment.
- Easy-to-use navigation: Simplify navigation for mobile users, allowing them to find what they need with ease and accessibility quickly.
Now let’s look at some examples.
Zappos, an online seller of shoes and clothing, prioritizes easy navigation for users by pushing the menu, main elements, and search button at the top for convenience.
Another good example is Pipsnacks. The company maintains the vibrant colors and textures of its desktop site on mobile, featuring large, clickable product images that lead to respective pages.
Now it seems as if we have covered every possible aspect of SEO. Only one point is left, which applies to businesses with physical locations.
7. Local SEO
Regarding SEO ranking, there are several steps you can take.
- Claim your Google My Business listing: Provide accurate and up-to-date information. Also, encourage customers to leave reviews on your listing.
- Use location-based keywords: Include special keywords, such as “New York” or “NYC,” into your website’s meta tags, titles, descriptions, and content.
- Build local citations and backlinks: List your business’s NAP (name, address, and phone number) in local directories like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Yellow Pages, contact local bloggers, journalists, and businesses for potential collaborations.
- Use local structured data markup: It is a type of code that helps search engines understand the content of a webpage. In addition, it improves local SEO by providing detailed business information like address, phone number, and hours.
Overall, local SEO is the easiest practical improvement to implement immediately. As well as what we want to discuss next.
8. Broken Pages and Duplicates
Broken pages are pages that no longer exist or have been moved without redirecting the original URL to a new one. It harms SEO ranking, affects user behavior and website safety which may result in a dropping bounce rate and time on site.
- Tools such as Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs can help you identify broken pages.
- After that, the most effective solution is to redirect the original URL to the new one.
A duplicate page is a page with the same content as another that confuses search engines. Algorithms may not know which page to rank higher and may end up ranking neither.
- To identify such pages, use the same tools as for the broken ones.
- After that, you can fix this issue by either rewriting the content on one of the pages or setting up a canonical tag, telling search engines which page to rank higher.
In general, this problem is quantitative. One or two broken pages will not affect SEO ranking, but their accumulation can have negative consequences. Therefore, such hygienic procedures are essential, especially after site restructuring or other significant manipulations.
We hope this eCommerce SEO checklist has provided valuable insights and practical tips to improve your website’s SEO rankings. Of course, a higher ranking means more traffic, customers, and sales. But remember, the process of optimizing your website is ongoing, and it’s essential to continually monitor and adjust your strategies to stay ahead of the competition. So, take action now, implement these tips, and watch your eCommerce business grow.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is eCommerce SEO?
eCommerce SEO is the practice of improving an online store's visibility in search engine rankings. This includes optimizing various elements like product descriptions, meta tags, URLs, and site structure, which in turn helps attract more organic traffic to the site and improve sales.
What are the key steps in an eCommerce SEO checklist?
The checklist typically includes eight steps: keyword research, site structure optimization, on-page SEO, technical SEO, mobile optimization, user experience enhancement, content marketing, and link building. Each step plays a critical role in improving the site's search engine rankings.
How does keyword research benefit eCommerce SEO?
Keyword research helps identify the words and phrases potential customers use when searching for products or services similar to yours. By optimizing your product titles, descriptions, and other site content around these keywords, you can increase your site's visibility in search results, driving more traffic and potential sales.
What is link building and how does it contribute to SEO?
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. These inbound links are a major factor in how search engines rank web pages. High-quality and relevant backlinks can significantly improve your site's authority and SEO ranking.
Why is mobile optimization crucial for eCommerce SEO?
With an increasing number of consumers using mobile devices for online shopping, having a mobile-optimized website is essential. Search engines like Google prioritize mobile-friendly sites in their rankings. Besides, a well-optimized mobile site provides a better user experience, reducing bounce rates and encouraging purchases.