Do you want to drive more targeted traffic to your eCommerce store without having to pay for clicks?
Then you need to implement an eCommerce SEO strategy to make that dream a reality. Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to tweaking your on-page and off-page content to cater to search engine algorithms.
When done correctly, you can secure a top-ranking spot on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Ideally, you want to penetrate the top 5 results to increase your online visibility and generate the most organic traffic.
Why does this matter for eCommerce sites?
It does because 43% of all eCommerce traffic comes from organic Google search results. Not only that, but 23.6% of eCommerce orders come from organic visitors from search engines.
With a top-ranking spot on Google and landing pages designed to convert, you’ll enjoy loads of new potential customers and sales, which is why eCommerce SEO is well worth the effort.
Yet, there’s quite a bit to know if you want your eCommerce website to reach the top of the SERPs. Quite a bit goes into developing an SEO strategy, and there’s no shortage of fierce competition out there.
Luckily, our extensive guide is here to teach you everything you need to know. Stick around to discover how to build a winning eCommerce SEO campaign.
What Makes eCommerce SEO Unique?
There’s a reason why eCommerce SEO has its own specialized category – and that’s because there are many factors that make it different from traditional SEO.
Everything from the keyword research you’ll conduct to the backlinks you’ll go after will have an eCommerce twist to them.
For instance, instead of searching for informational keywords to rank for, you’ll want to target product searches and transactional searches (i.e., ‘coffee filters’ is a product search, and ‘buy coffee filters’ is a transactional search).
Not only that, but there are many on-page SEO tweaks you’ll need to make to your online store that are unique to eCommerce.
Your internal site structure, category pages, internal link structure, and user experience are all factors you’ll need to tweak to find success with eCommerce SEO.
There’s also a difference in the types of searches your potential customers will make.
Most of the time, the organic search results will appear at the top for informational keyword searches. Occasionally, there may be a featured snippet or knowledge bar on the side, but that’s about it.
As a quick example, if we search for ‘encyclopedia’ on Google, a snippet appears defining the term, and then it goes straight to the organic results.
Product searches are very different, as their SERPs tend to be more populated with shopping features.
For instance, when we type ‘buy coffee filters’ into Google, the top of the page (called position zero) is occupied with a SERP feature called shopping results.
It’s a carousel of coffee filters for sale from websites like Amazon and Target. Each item features a picture and a price, which is convenient for shoppers.
Below the shopping results, another SERP feature pops up before we reach the organic results.
This one is called the local pack, and it features a Google Map showing all the local stores where you can buy coffee filters. Beneath that, we finally reach the organic search results.
As you can see, searchers have quite a bit to scroll through before they reach the organic listings. That’s why it’s even more crucial to rank in a top spot for eCommerce SEO to ensure you get the most visibility.
Keyword Research for eCommerce Websites
Every type of SEO strategy starts with keyword research, and eCommerce SEO is no exception.
Why is that?
It’s because your keyword research serves as the foundation for all your SEO tactics.
Without a list of keywords that your target audience regularly searches for, you won’t be able to do the following:
- Create content. You’ll need to use your keywords in your blogs, videos, infographics, and any other type of content you plan on releasing.
- Make on-page SEO tweaks. To rank on search engines, your keywords need to appear in your content and your title tags, meta descriptions, product pages, product descriptions, and more.
- Make technical SEO tweaks. Even your technical SEO requires target keywords, as you’ll need to use them in your URLs and site architecture.
- Off-page SEO. You also need to have a list of relevant keywords when listing your sites in directories and making social media posts.
These are all reasons why your eCommerce SEO strategy MUST begin with keyword research.
Not only that, but all your SEO efforts will live or die by the quality of your keywords.
If you choose irrelevant keywords, your content could wind up in front of the wrong audience, which won’t lead to much traffic generation – and what little traffic you do get won’t be interested in your products.
Beyond that, you need to target the right types of keywords to bring in potential customers looking to make a purchase.
If you focus on informational keywords, such as ‘how-to’ phrases, you’ll attract the wrong type of user. For the most part, your goal with eCommerce SEO is to attract customers that are ready to buy instead of educating your audience.
That’s not to say that informational keywords don’t have their place in eCommerce. For instance, if you’re selling expensive products that tend to have longer sales cycles, you’ll want to target informational keywords to educate your audience before convincing them that they need your products.
A majority of the time, though, you should target product keywords and transactional keywords.
As a result, your keyword research efforts should center around product-focused keywords that your target audience searches for regularly.
How do you find those types of keywords?
There are quite a few ways, so let’s take a look at each one.
Using Amazon and Google Suggest
A fantastic way to uncover relevant keywords is to use the suggestion feature of both Google and Amazon.
Whenever you start to type words into Amazon or Google, a list of suggested keywords will pop up. The good news is that these are targeted keywords that users search for on a regular basis, so you can use them for your SEO tactics.
While Amazon is technically your competitor, as the largest eCommerce platform in the world, they’re a goldmine for product keywords. That means you can use their massive investment into SEO for your benefit.
Here’s how to use Amazon’s suggested feature to uncover relevant keywords for your audience.
Simply go to Amazon.com, and start to enter keywords that describe your products. After entering a few letters, Amazon will spit out a list of relevant, targeted long-tail keywords that you can use.
Why does that matter?
It does because long-tail keywords have a habit of converting better than short-tail keywords, and they also have much less competition.
You can use this strategy for every product on your website, so don’t be shy about putting Amazon’s suggestion feature to use.
You can also repeat the same technique on Google search, as it also has an auto-complete suggestion feature containing valuable keywords.
Google is unique in that it lists keyword suggestions in two locations.
Besides the autocomplete feature in the search bar, Google also lists related keywords at the bottom of the page in a section called Related Searches. The long-tail keywords that you’ll find here are equally as valuable as the ones generated by the search bar, so you can use them, too.
The Keyword Tool Dominator for Amazon
Besides autocomplete, you can use the Keyword Tool Dominator to uncover product keywords from Amazon.
All you have to do is enter a keyword into it, and it will generate an extensive list of relevant long-tail keywords related to your products.
Why use this tool over autocomplete?
You should use them both in tandem to see the best results. In general, though, the Keyword Tool Dominator will provide more keyword ideas than the autocomplete feature. For instance, the average autocomplete list consists of around 8 keyword ideas, while the Keyword Tool Dominator can generate up to 100 at a time.
As such, this tool will make extensive keyword research go a lot quicker.
The autocomplete feature can work if you only need to find a few keywords. Yet, if you’re searching for 100s of keywords for all your products, using the Keyword Tool Dominator will drastically speed up the process.
The tool also gives you some unique options for filtering your results, including the following:
- The ability to add phrases that the keyword must contain or not contain
- Minimum and maximum word count
- Minimum and maximum rank
- A toggle for if the keyword ranks in the Top 10 or not
- Whether the keyword is a precise match, normal match, or broad match
- The country and marketplace
- The Amazon department
As you can see, you can get incredibly specific with what type of keywords you want to see, which is why this keyword research tool is so valuable.
Amazon’s category pages
Another page you should take out of Amazon’s book is how they format their product categories.
This is an area that many SEOs overlook due to the belief that category pages don’t convert as well as product pages. While that is generally true, they still generate sales, so you shouldn’t ignore them.
The fact is that most eCommerce websites use random keywords to optimize their category pages. The thinking is that as long as they have keywords in the content, it won’t matter what they are.
This isn’t true, and many eCommerce sites end up costing themselves sales as a result.
That’s why you should conduct in-depth keyword research for your category pages to give them a logical structure. Your customers will appreciate organized categories with appropriate keywords, as it will make browsing your eCommerce site far easier.
Search engine algorithms will also rank you higher if your category pages contain the right keywords, so it’s worth putting in the time to do the research.
What’s the best way to find keywords for your category pages?
Once again, you should turn to Amazon. They have a fantastic structure for their product categories, and you can use their keywords for inspiration.
Finding category page keywords
Start by selecting ‘All’ to see every category on the website. While that’s probably far too broad, the subcategories are where this tactic starts to shine.
There are dozens of subcategories on Amazon, so you can get as specific as possible with your niche.
Another technique is to click on the ‘Full Store Directory’ under ‘All’ to see a complete list of all Amazon’s departments and subcategories on one page.
Let’s consider an example where you sell gardening tools. Start by clicking on the Home, Garden & Tools departments to find category keywords. That will take you to a list of subcategories, including Garden & Outdoor. Once you click on that, you’ll see a list of more subcategories, including Gardening Tools.
Bingo! Once you click on it, you’ll see a list of category keywords for their gardening tools in the sidebar, which includes the following:
- Gardening axes
- Bonsai tools
- Bulb planters
- Hand edgers
- Cultivators & tillers
These are all excellent product category keywords that you can use on your eCommerce site, so feel free to use them. Besides Amazon, there are plenty of other eCommerce businesses you can use to uncover category keywords – including your direct competitors.
As an example, if you sell garden tools and want to find more category keywords than the ones you found on Amazon, you can turn to websites like Home Depot and Lowe’s, which have plenty of category keywords for gardening tools that you can use.
Using a keyword planner tool
Another way to find suitable keywords for your niche is to use our free Google keyword planner tool.
It’s an SEO tool that not only helps you find keywords but also provides essential metrics for them, such as search volume and keyword difficulty.
In fact, you can use this tool to vet all the keywords that you find using other methods like Google and Amazon suggest.
Here’s an example of how it works.
Going with the gardening tools example, you find the long-tail keyword ‘garden axe’ from Amazon’s Gardening Tools category page.
From there, you input the keyword into the planner tool, complete the CAPTCHA, and then view the results. Besides the keyword garden axe, the tool will also generate a list of related keywords that you can use.
In this case, it provided us with 49 other results in addition to the original query.
You’ll get to view the following metrics for each keyword:
This number refers to how many people are actively searching for the keyword. For the keyword garden axe, it has a search volume of 140, which is decent.
In general, you should use keywords that have a search volume of 100 – 1,000 searches per month for the effort to be worth your while.
This metric is for PPC (pay-per-click) ad campaigns, as it lets you know the cost-per-click of the keyword on Google Ads. Garden axe has a relatively low CPC at $0.39.
What’s a good CPC?
It will depend on the types of ads you run and how much traffic you generate as a result. The golden rule tends to be a 5:1 ratio of profit to ad cost.
In other words, you’ll want to make 5 times more in revenue than it costs to create the ad.
So in the case of a CPC of $0.39, if you can make $1.95 off each click, then you’re in the green.
This is another PPC metric that refers to how competitive the ad placement is for the keyword online. Garden axe has a competition score of 1, which isn’t too bad.
In fact, its low competition is reflected in its meager CPC.
That’s because keywords with high competition cost more per bid due to the increased demand. As a result, high-competition keywords will have higher CPCs, and they’ll also be more difficult to rank in a top position.
To stay on the safe side, do your best to find keywords that have decent search volume but not much in the way of competition.
This displays how many results show up for the keyword on Google. Garden axe has 35,400,000, which is a ton.
That means there are thousands upon thousands of web pages containing the keyword garden axe.
We can also assume that a great deal of those web pages are selling garden axes and gardening tools, making them your competitors.
The good news?
Despite the vast number of results, the keyword difficulty is still relatively low. That means you won’t have that hard of a time ranking in a top spot if you’re thorough enough with your optimization.
Also referred to as a KD (keyword difficulty) score, this metric refers to how difficult it will be to rank in one of the top spots due to the number of competitors.
If this number is too high, it’s best to try another keyword.
That’s because it’s a sign that many other websites are using high-level SEO tactics to rank for the keyword. It could also mean that the top spot is occupied by an enterprise-level website that has hundreds of thousands of high-authority backlinks (think sites like Facebook, Amazon, and Wikipedia).
That’s why it’s best to stick to keywords that have lower difficulty scores to A) make your life easier and B) increase your chances of securing a top spot on the SERPs.
Garden axe has a modest score of 19, so we can still go for it. (For reference, anything above 70 is considered high).
Our keyword planner provides a line graph representing the interest in the keyword over time.
If it’s trending up, then the keyword is gaining in popularity and will likely generate a ton of traffic. If it’s trending down, then the keyword is losing momentum.
It’s essentially a pocket view of Google Trends, another free tool you can use to bolster your digital marketing strategy (along with Google Search Console and Google Analytics).
Garden axe peaked in popularity a while ago, but the trend is rising again, which is a good sign.
Most keywords rise and fall in popularity over time, which is why being able to see a line graph of their trends is so valuable.
For instance, you could wind up with a dud without checking a keyword’s trend. Let’s say you find a stellar keyword relevant to your audience with a sky-high search volume and a very low difficulty score.
Time to double down and create tons of content for it, right?
Well, not yet.
By taking a quick look at its trend graph, you notice that it peaked in popularity a few weeks ago and is currently on a nosedive.
That means that the high search volume that you planned on generating a ton of traffic is about to disappear. What’s even worse is that you’re about to spend a ton of resources creating content for a keyword that’s about to become irrelevant.
That’s why checking the trend for a keyword is so crucial, so make sure you do so for every keyword on your website.
Using Wikipedia to find keywords
Lastly, Wikipedia is another fantastic resource for finding keywords.
Why is that?
Much like Google and Amazon, Wikipedia is impeccably organized with keywords and categories, all of which are SEO-friendly.
That means you can take advantage of their massive keyword database for your benefit.
Of course, you should run any keywords you find through our keyword planner to ensure that they have a desirable search volume, low difficulty score, and an upward search trend.
As a bonus, finding keywords related to your niche on Wikipedia is very easy.
All you have to do is enter a keyword that describes your products. To keep things simple, we’ll stick with the gardening tools example.
By entering gardening tools into Wikipedia, we’re directed to a web page discussing hand tools and power tools, complete with a ton of relevant keywords, including the following:
- Leaf Blowers
Beyond that, each one of these keywords links to another web page that can provide more ideas for you.
Using Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, and our keyword planner tool in tandem is a reliable and effective way to uncover eCommerce keywords.
eCommerce Site Architecture
By now, you should have an extensive list of keywords to use in your eCommerce SEO strategy.
You now have what you need to flesh out the rest of your SEO campaign, including your site structure.
Your website’s structure/architecture refers to how all your web pages connect and relate to one another. A logical site structure is a critical ranking factor for any SEO strategy, but it’s doubly important for eCommerce.
That’s because your eCommerce site is bound to have many more pages than your average website due to the products you sell.
It’s common for an eCommerce website to have hundreds or even thousands of pages, depending on how many products they sell. For instance, Amazon has millions of landing pages for its products, which is why an airtight site architecture is a must for them to operate.
You’ll want to create a layout that makes it effortless for your customers to find what they’re looking for on your website.
That’s another reason why well-thought-out category pages (and keywords) are so crucial for eCommerce SEO.
How to implement a logical site structure
The SEO best practice for site architecture is to keep every web page within three clicks or less from your homepage.
You can think of your homepage as the central hub for all your product and landing pages. That’s because the further you navigate away from your homepage, the more your authority begins to deteriorate.
In a nutshell, ‘authority’ in search engine terms refers to how much Google trusts and values your content. You obtain authority through backlinks, which is a link on an external site that ‘points back’ to your website.
An example would be a link on a guest blog post that directs to your eCommerce website. The more trustworthy sites that you have linking to your website, the more Google will trust you and view you as authoritative.
It’s similar to citing sources and references at the end of a research paper.
The catch is that most of your backlinks will point to your homepage. As a result, your homepage will contain the most authority out of any other page on your website. Therefore, the further you drift from your homepage, the more your authority will deteriorate.
That’s why you don’t want any page to be more than 4 pages away from your homepage to retain its authority. From page 5 and beyond, your authority will begin to wane, so be wary.
It’s also essential that your old pages redirect to new pages for your content to stay fresh and rankable on search engines.
Avoid orphan pages
A notorious no-no for any type of SEO is to have orphan pages on your website.
An orphan page is one that has no internal links pointing to it, thus making it nearly impossible for someone to visit.
Search engines like Google use your internal linking structure as a guide for understanding your website, and orphan pages throw off their algorithms. Beyond that, an orphan page stands next to no chance of ranking if it does get crawled and indexed.
That’s because links are an integral part of SEO, as they convey authority, relevance, and quality to a web page. Without them, your orphan page will have extremely low domain authority, so it likely won’t show up on page one of Google (if it shows up in the results at all).
When designing your site architecture, ensure that every page has at least one internal link pointing to it (preferably more than that). Also, if possible, each page should include one or more relevant and authoritative external links somewhere in its content.
How can you find out if you have any existing orphan pages?
All you need is a website crawler like Screaming Frog and a complete list of your site’s web pages. Run a crawl for all pages that have zero inbound links, and analyze the results of the audit.
That will quickly point out any orphan pages you may have, and resolving them is as simple as adding an internal link to them on your homepage.
Two problems facing eCommerce site structure: thin content and duplicate content
eCommerce SEO strategies tend to hit two snags, pages that have what Google considers thin content and pages that are considered duplicate content.
The primary issue is that both problems come with the territory of an eCommerce website. Since you likely sell products that come in different sizes and colors, you’ll likely have many product pages where the only changes are the colors and sizes – with no change to the copy, price, or even the product name in some cases.
As far as thin content goes, simpler products are likely to have brief descriptions, which can lead Google to flag the page as having thin content.
Google generally considers any page with less than 300 words to be thin content. Their thinking is that for a web page to add value; it needs to provide more information than 300 words.
That’s why most blog posts have a lengthier word count of about 1,000 – 2,500 words.
For an eCommerce site, some product filter pages and product attribute pages may only list a few items. Also, it’ll be tough to include lengthier product descriptions for simple products (think paper clips), which can be challenging for eCommerce store owners.
Fixing the problems
Here’s how you can fix both issues.
Adding blog content to your eCommerce store is a great remedy for the thin content issue. By simply including links to your blog posts on each page (complete with a few lines from each post as a preview), you can drastically bump up the word count to avoid thin content.
You can also add more detail to your product descriptions (if possible), as well as add:
- Product specifications
- Pricing information
- Customer reviews
- Related items that people also search for
These are all candid ways to not only add to the word count of each page but also to make enhancements to your store.
Adding specs can provide helpful information for users looking for precise sizes (such as nails and screws). Customer reviews can help convince prospects to part with their hard-earned dollars, and a related items carousel can improve your average ticket size.
Next, there’s solving the duplicate content issue.
For product pages that only serve to show different attributes, such as color and size, you can use canonical tags to designate one ‘master’ version of each product that shows up on search engines.
For instance, if you offer a shoe in seven different colors, including every single page on the SERPs will lead to duplicate content. Therefore, you mark the base shoe (probably in black) with a canonical tag. That will tell Google that this is the version that you want to appear in the search engine results pages.
For the other six colors, you mark them with a noindex tag, which will cause Google to ignore them.
Technical SEO for Ecommerce Sites
Now let’s get into the technical tweaks you need to make to optimize your site for search engines.
Technical factors that affect SEO include:
- Broken links
- 404 Not Found pages
- No XML sitemap
- Improper indexing
- Slow page speed
- Not optimized for mobile devices
- Not enough schema markup
Site speed is among the most important technical SEO factors, as nothing will encourage a user to leave your site more than poor loading times.
To discover if you have any technical issues, you can use our free in-depth SEO audit tool.
Content Marketing for eCommerce SEO
Since you have a list of keywords, a well-structured site, and have made technical tweaks, it’s time to start releasing content to rise through the ranks on Google and other search engines.
Blogging is one of the most popular content types for SEO for a few reasons.
First, blog posts are excellent ways to use the keywords you found in your research. Besides using them in your headings, copy, and conclusion – you can base entire posts around keyword topics. Search engines will pick up on this, and they’ll start to rank your content higher for your target keywords.
Next, blogs can drive lots of traffic to your site from users that are interested in your products, which is great for your conversion rates and click-through rates.
Also, companies who blog get 97% more links, so blogging is excellent for link-building as well.
Pro blogging tips
If you want to find success with your blogs, you’ll need to know a few best practices.
43% of users admit to skimming blog posts before reading them, so you’ll want to make your blog posts scannable.
How do you do that?
You do it by making appropriate use of headings. There are different-sized headers, and both readers and search engines pay attention to them.
The H1 heading is your main title, and it should be succinct and on topic. From there, H2 headings comprise each subtopic, and H3, H4, and so on further embellish each point.
When formatted correctly, it will be effortless for users to scan your article and get an idea of what it’s about. At the same time, crawlers will use your headings to do the same thing, so using them appropriately is crucial.
Also, you should make your blogs as readable as possible.
That means using short sentences and brief paragraphs that don’t contain more than three sentences consecutively.
Finding content topics
Your list of keywords is a goldmine for creating high-quality content. For instance, going with the garden axe example from before, you could create a blog post, video, or infographic called 10 Ways to Use a Garden Axe.
Now your prospects can learn exciting new ways to use one of your products, which is what you want.
Another great way to develop content topics is to uncover problems plaguing your target audience and offer your products as a solution.
An example would be framing unwanted weeds in your garden as a pain point, and your garden axe as the ultimate solution.
eCommerce Link Building
As stated before, Google gives the most credence to websites that have trustworthy backlinks pointing to them.
The thinking is if a credible website chooses to link to your website, you must be credible as a result.
That’s why link-building is a core aspect of any SEO strategy. The more authoritative backlinks you can acquire, the higher you’ll rank on Google.
Here’s a look at some of the most common link-building strategies that you can start using today.
Guest posting is one of the most common ways to acquire backlinks, and it’s a win-win for both parties.
First, you find a related blog in your niche and reach out to them about doing a guest post. To sweeten the pot, you can offer them a guest post (and a backlink) on your blog in return. You can run a competitor keyword analysis on Ahrefs to find a list of other blogs in your niche.
The website Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) is an excellent resource for backlinks. The website sends out emails a few times a day containing tons of queries from reporters. They’re looking for experts to interview for stories they’re writing online, which is amazing for building backlinks.
Responding to the query usually means providing your expertise on a subject for a quote they’ll use in their story. Whenever you respond, don’t forget to ask for a backlink in exchange for your quote.
Another effective link-building tactic is to scour the web for broken links on pages you can replace.
For example, if you find a broken link for a blog on gardening axes, you could replace it with your post 10 Ways to Use a Garden Axe. Reach out to the website owner and let them know you have a replacement for their broken link.
This benefits both the website owner and you, as you fix a broken link while acquiring a valuable backlink.
How do you find broken links?
You can easily find them by using a tool like Dead Link Checker.
Concluding Thoughts: eCommerce SEO
eCommerce SEO certainly has unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s not doable.
A robust eCommerce SEO strategy can propel you to the top of the search rankings even if you only run a small Shopify store.
That’s why it’s worth following this guide to implement an SEO campaign for your eCommerce store.
Are you seeking expert help for your eCommerce SEO strategy?
Then you need to check out our in-depth eCommerce digital marketing services at The HOTH, which includes HOTH X, our fully managed SEO services.
It’s a more informative blog. Thank you for sharing this.
Great post on eCommerce SEO strategies! As you rightly pointed out, the world of eCommerce is incredibly competitive and businesses need to be proactive in order to stand out from the crowd. Your suggestions on optimising category/product pages, creating quality content, and building high-quality backlinks are all effective tactics for improving SEO rankings.