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Home > Digital Marketing Blog > How to Optimize Your eCommerce Website for Search Engines

How to Optimize Your eCommerce Website for Search Engines

How to Optimize Your eCommerce Website for Search Engines
July 14, 2019

How to Optimize Your eCommerce Website for Search Engines

Jul 14, 2019
Padmaja Patil
Padmaja is a passionate digital marketer with content creation and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) skills.

The world has witnessed how the digital revolution has impacted and changed the lives of people. Today almost everything happens online. The news you read, the money you send or receive, the learning, the entertainment, etc. The major one among them is the eCommerce. The way eCommerce has rooted itself in people’s lives is commendable. The reason behind is pretty obvious. It’s the ease and the comfort it offers. Today, eCommerce is not only about the giants Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, etc. E-commerce has spread its wings into almost all possible fields that include fashion, beauty, travel, electronics, home & furnishing, grocery, books, health, and the list goes on. Why is the eCommerce growing at such a fast pace? The answer to this is “us - the people”. Here are a few facts, Statista’s statistics state that, in 2017, the worldwide retail eCommerce sales amount was 2.3 trillion US dollars and is projected to grow 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021. Another Statista’s statistics tell us about the frequency of online shopping worldwide, 20% of people shop online once a week, 24% once in every two weeks and 31% once a month as of October 2018.

According to the law of supply and demand, “Where there is demand, there will be supply”. As a result of this, to fulfill the demands of people, a large number of eCommerce companies are emerging with great products and services to offer. But to survive and thrive in this fierce competition with peers is a challenge in itself. As a businessman with a great idea, you spend money and build your eCommerce website but how do you reach people? How do you build trust so that they can buy your products? How do you compete with your already established peers? To find answers to these questions, you have to first understand the behavior of online shoppers. According to Business Insider, approximately 39% of the eCommerce traffic comes from search. The point to be considered here is, to purchase a product, the first place majority of the people worldwide go to is Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. But how many of them will go past the first page of the results or in some cases past the first 3 or 4 websites on the first page? If you are aware of digital marketing strategies, it wouldn't have taken long for you to connect the dots. If not, no worries. Yes, this brings us to SEO - Search Engine Optimization. Optimization of your eCommerce website is the key to bring more genuine traffic to your website by ranking higher on the SERPs.

Have an eCommerce website or planning to get one but have no idea how to optimize your eCommerce website for search engines? Going forward, most of the optimization techniques are covered which can help you kick start.

1. Keyword Optimization

Keywords are the key elements and one of the vital components of SEO strategies. Simply put, keywords are the word/phrases users use to look for something in the search engines. When those keywords are incorporated into your eCommerce website in an effective way, it gives the search engines one of the reasons to pick up your website and put it in front of your target audience. But before you plan to incorporate the keywords into your eCommerce website and how, You need to do research on what keywords your target audiences are using.

To start your research, you can make use of tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMRush, etc. These tools provide you the data showing the relevant keywords, their average monthly searches, competition, and many other details.

Below is the image of a sample keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner

Another way to carry on the keyword research is to check for the keywords that your competitors are using. If their eCommerce is an established one, it gives you a fair idea of what keywords are working like a charm. Once you have a list of keywords, it is important that you target the keywords that have high search volumes but comparatively lower competition. This boosts to generate traffic to the website quickly.

Another approach is to research and include long-tail keywords to optimize your eCommerce website. Long-tail keywords are generally 3+ words. Long-tail keywords have lower competition as they are very specific and aim at the demographics rather than aiming to appeal to a large audience. Conversion or sales are higher when audience search with long-tail keywords because they know exactly what they are looking for. Do target the long-tail keywords wherever applicable for keyword optimization.

Once you have the keywords for each page of your eCommerce website, be it for the home page, the categories page, the products page, the blog page, etc, the inclusion of the right keywords at the right places is very important. Below are the places listed where you can include the keywords for effective SEO

  1. Include the keywords in the URL, page title, headers, subheaders, paragraphs
  2. Include the keywords in the product title and description
  3. Include the keywords in the meta title and meta description
  4. Include the keywords in the image file name and the ALT tags
  5. Include the keywords in the video description

2. Work on the Website Architecture

Website architecture plays a very vital role in a website’s usability, sales, and rankings. A well planned and structured websites rank higher than a complex website with pages having no proper links to each other. Considering the overwhelming number of pages eCommerce websites have, building an architecture that connects relevant pages properly is crucial. Proper planning and implementation of the website architecture also eases the effort of adding new product pages in the future, keeping the foundation strong. The flow from the home page to the requested pages should be easy to understand for both the user and Google, basically a flat website architecture. Through internal links, this flow passes the authority from the home page to the product pages.

Below is the image depicting a flat website architecture.

3. Add Internal Links

Adding internal links through anchor texts to connect the product pages is also a great way to grab the attention of Google and enhance the chances of ranking higher. You can target your keywords as anchor text for internal links but they should be used only in relevance. Overusing the same anchor text and stuffing the page with many internal links may put you through the scanner. So use the links wisely and get the benefit of it.

Adding internal links also aid in the usability making people reach the desired product pages quickly and easily, increasing the dwell time, which, in turn, is a ranking factor.

Using bread crumbs is another strategic way of providing internal links along with easy navigation.

4. Consider Page Load Speed

Page load speed is another important SEO ranking factor. Page load speed not only on the desktop/laptop monitor but on all the screen sizes, especially the mobile screen, is been given much importance. Various studies have concluded to the fact that the website that fails to load within 3 seconds faces abandonment. To keep the page speed time low optimize the page by compressing CSS, HTML, JavaScript files, compress image file without compromising on the quality using tools like Photoshop, leverage browser caching, invest on a CDN(Content Delivery Network), etc.

Use tools like GTMetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights, etc to regularly monitor your websites load time and the page load time.

This is how a GTMetrix tool looks like. To check the website speed, all you have to do is enter the website URL and click the “Analyze” button.

5. Generate sitemap.xml

The file sitemap.xml contains the list of all the page URLs of the website. The generation and submission of sitemap.xml file allow the search engine crawlers to crawl your website and index the pages more effectively especially when its an eCommerce website having a huge number of pages. With this file, the search engines can also get the meta-information on the frequency at which the pages are edited, when the pages were last edited, which pages are more prioritized than others, etc. Screaming frog, XML sitemaps, etc tools can be made use of to generate the sitemap.xml file. You can make it available to the crawler by adding it to the robots.txt file or by submitting it to the search console. Ultimately, indexed pages are the ones that are pulled out when a search query triggers and sitemaps are a great way to do it.

Here’s a snippet of a sample sitemap.xml

6. Optimization of the Product Pages

When writing a description for the product, come up with the unique, detailed and compelling content. Include keywords in the description. Add high-quality images possibly from various angles, a video featuring the product. Allow customer reviews on the product pages. The reviews are a great way to keep the page active and engaging. Reviews keep the content on the page growing with more and more long-tail keywords added by the customers. Reviews also help other prospective customers in taking their decisions and as they hang around for a longer duration of time, the bounce rate reduces, the popularity of page increases, indicating search engine to consider it during the relevant search.

Here’s is an example of how detailed a product is described along with the information on the rating and reviews by the eCommerce giant Amazon

Another optimization of the product page is to keep the out of stock product page alive by showing an “Out of stock” message or providing links to other similar product pages. Removing the page as show users a 404 error and will be considered a broken link by the crawler which is not a good sign of SEO.

7. Social Media Integration

Social sharing is another ranking factor that Google considers. As more and more people share the products page among social media, the page authority increases. Thus the addition of social media signals on your pages is a must. Add the buttons of popular social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc or where you feel you can find the majority of your target audience. Apart from SEO, this will also increase the awareness about the products on your website and potentially the sales.

You can also work towards creating your brand page on social media websites. Posting creative, interesting and informational content regularly on social media will help increase more and more people to follow your brand building trust and increasing the traffic to the website which is a good signal to the search engine. Know more about the top ways of doing the eCommerce social media the right way.

8. Search Engine Friendly URL

The intent to create such a URL is that its easy to read by both humans and the search engines. Also, that’s the first thing that gets noticed even before the user clicks on it to get to the page. Having a great site hierarchy is a job half done in constructing the URLs. For SEO, try to include the primary keyword in the URL. Avoid redundant words and special characters in the URL. Try creating the URLs in such a way that it makes sense for the user as to what the page is all about.

9. Google Merchant Center

You would have noticed a list of products along with the price and the link displayed on the search results page when a user enters a particular product name. Below is the snippet that shows the same.

This is a great and the fastest way to get noticed when a user does a product search that belongs to your niche. Getting in front of the user at the right moment increases sales. To get the inventory of your products listed, you have to register and create an account on the Google Merchant Center. Once an account is created, you can upload the details of your product along with the high-quality images. Make sure that you provide a working link and the products are in stock when the user visits through this link. You can even create a schedule to update the data feed automatically.

10. Optimization for Mobile

According to Statista’s report, 67.2% of eCommerce shopping is done via mobile devices and is expected to grow to 72.9% by 2021. This piece of information should be taken seriously. The eCommerce website should be built in such a way that it should work flawlessly on all the screen sizes. Fitting the various screen size doesn't mean squeezing the layout, all the elements on the page need to be worked separately to fit the smaller screen space. The layouts should properly fit and the buttons/links should be noticeable and clickable. The website and the page load speeds should also be taken care of. Google, on its part, has made it clear that websites which aren’t optimized for mobiles are not picked up after Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm release.

11. Keep the Website User-friendly and Engaging

Incorporating various options to retain the users on the website for a longer time increases the dwell time and decreases the bounce rate. These factors are considered by Google to rank the pages. One of the ways to increase the dwell time of the visitor is to add a very detailed description of the product along with very high-quality images. Allowing customer ratings and reviews is another way. Addition of live chat also aids the purpose of retaining visitors. Inclusion of internal search serves as a great option to help users find the right products without much effort also increasing the dwell time. Provide navigation links to switch between the pages easily.

12. Do Not Ignore Blogs

Google always keeps track of the pages that are frequently updated. One of the ways to do this is adding blog posts to your eCommerce website consistently. This is a win-win situation as they add value to the website and also work in favor of SEO. Blogs are also a great way to get your customers to visit your website frequently. By knowing which blogs are trending, you can make use of the opportunity and add relevant internal links to it. You can also target long-tail keywords to include them in the blog posts to get fetched by the search engines.

13. Keep a Check on the Site Errors

When a user visits your website, you should make sure that he/she has a flawless experience by making sure that the website loads, no links are broken, no pages display errors. This is necessary to keep your customer happy and compel them to visit your website time and again. The same applies to Google. When the search engine crawlers come across errors like 404 - page not found, 500 - internal server error, broken internal or external links, broken scripts, CSS errors, image file missing, etc if they are not taken care of, crawlers stop indexing such pages thinking that the website isn’t active and has gone stale. This affects the ranking of your eCommerce website. It's a bit overwhelming to check each page considering the size of an eCommerce website. Fortunately, you don’t have to take the burden of going through each and every page, every now and then. All you have to do is use tools like Screaming Frog, SEMRush, etc. The tools provide you with a detailed report of the errors, you can use the time saved by these tools in fixing the errors as soon as possible so that you don’t lose the chance of ranking higher.

14. Define Canonical Pages

Canonicalization matters more when it comes to eCommerce websites as compared to others because of the sheer number of similar products. When products are listed on the website, usually the product variants are listed as well. For example, a same dress with varying colors, this will help users to pick the color they like or same page for different languages, etc. As this is a useful feature for the users/customers, this imposes some serious issues when thought in terms of SEO. Such as duplicate content, as these are the same products with a very minimal change in the URL. Think of an eCommerce website with hundreds and thousands of such products and the duplicate content that needs to be crawled by the search engines(each URL variant is considered as a page by the crawler). This definitely causes some serious SEO trouble affecting the ranking ability. Secondly, the search engine can pick a product which you didn’t want visitors to look first.

To solve these problems, you can make use of the canonical tags(rel = “canonical”), which is a way of informing the search engine crawlers about the master page and that is the one that needs to be picked when search results are displayed. Here’s an example

15. Secure your website with HTTPS

This is another important aspect that not only affects your website security but also your website ranking. According to Blue Corona, 40% of the page one organic search results are https. In an interview by Bruce Clay, Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Master Trends Analyst, speaks about “https can be seen as a tie-breaker between otherwise equal sites”. Google Chrome, most widely used web browsers in the world, issues a warning when users visit non-secure sites. The warning gives users a sense of insecurity and may cause them to leave the site impacting the sales, increasing the bounce rates and hence the ranking.

Here’s an example of a non-secure fashion eCommerce website when opened in Chrome browser.

Securing your website is a great way to increase your chances to show up in the SERP’s and they also help the website to load faster.

Conclusion

While there are no hard-set SEO rules to rank number one on the SERP, working on the factors listed above increases your chance considerably. It’s not an easy thing that can be done and the results are seen overnight. Understanding and implementing them in your eCommerce website takes time and patience. Optimize your eCommerce website by working on each and every point listed above to the fullest of your potential, make use of the SEO tools available in the market, and the good results will be inevitable. This is not a one-time effort to be put in and relax for the thing to work endlessly. Optimizing your eCommerce website requires constant effort. As and when there are changes to the website, you need to revisit most of these factors. You should also be informed about Google’s search engine algorithm updates which can prove to be a game-changer if ignored.

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