Search engine optimization should be one of your top priorities when managing your eCommerce websites. An effective SEO strategy can earn you a spot among the top positions on Google, helping you increase your website’s traffic and brand awareness and ultimately, landing you more conversions (we’ve discussed SEO benefits for eCommerce here).
The first step towards building a solid search engine optimization foundation is to make a strategic plan and of course, learn the SEO basics. In this article, we’ve created a complete eCommerce SEO checklist to help you nail it for your store. You’ll be able to move down this list, checking off tasks one by one.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a well-optimized eCommerce website, which will help you increase the amount of natural traffic to your site and allow you to focus on other areas of improvement.
So, without further ado, let’s go over the steps you can take today to improve your rankings! Here’s our eCommerce SEO checklist:
1. Create a Robots.txt File
A Robots.txt file allows Google to crawl (find and display) your pages. While you want the majority of your pages to be searchable online, some pages (like the checkout page) are better left undocumented.
You’ll be adding a robots.txt file to your sitemap, if you don’t already have one. Most frequently, you can find these on your own site at /robots.txt. You’ll just need admin privileges to log in.
Once there, add pages like “Your Cart” or “Checkout Successful” to the file. These will then stay off the search pages, and increase the speed of your site.
2. Submit Your Sitemap to Google
A sitemap is a simple way you can make your website easier for Google to read. It’s like a guide that helps them crawl your pages with more efficiency. We won’t get into all the technical details here since you don’t need to understand all of the ins and outs of a sitemap in order to submit it.
All you have to do is to use a sitemap tool to generate one for your site and then submit it using their sitemap tool. You can also do this with other search engines like Yahoo and Bing.
3. Conduct Keyword Research
Keyword research is the heart and soul of search engine optimization. Keywords are how search engines understand that a certain search result is discussing a specific topic. For example, when you type in a question on Google, the search engine will try to find the best match to your query. What you type is matched against popular articles or pages that include these keywords. Basically, keywords help Google deliver accurate results to searchers.
But what exactly is a keyword? Well, a keyword is a phrase or word that summarizes a page of content. On pages with good SEO, the keyword will be within the title, so you’ll be able to work out what keyword(s) a page is targeting. Some examples of keywords for eCommerce would be:
- White Sneakers
- Noise-Canceling Earphones
- Pearl Earrings
- Healthy Dog Snacks
- Cheap Fitness Tracker
- Leather Cardholder
Depending on your niche and the type of product, there might not be search volume for the keywords you’d like to address. If you’re launching a very innovative product, like a pair of flying boots, people might not know to look for it just yet.
This is why it is so important to conduct keyword research. This will help you determine whether you should invest time and energy into search engine optimization or if it’s better to give another marketing strategy a go.
How to do keyword research for your online store
Although there are plenty of paid tools you can use for keyword research, one reliable free option is Google Keyword Planner. This site will give you all the information you need to see which keywords have a high search volume and low competition. It’s also a great place to get some longtail keywords to use in your website content.
Specialized websites like ahrefs, KWfinder, Semrush and Ubersuggest are also good tools to get keyword data, either by typing in your main keyword to get related topics or by analyzing your competitors’ websites.
After conducting your research, select only relevant keywords that are related to your business, and focus mainly on the ones that will bring you more organic traffic and potential customers.
4. Filter Your Keywords
You don’t want to use all of the keywords you find in your research. Not all keywords are good keywords. To pair down your list, there are a few things to consider:
The first thing you need to check is whether or not people are looking for your product or service online. If there’s no search volume for your product, you won’t get much traffic from Google, even if you rank well for that keyword.
Something else to pay attention to when it comes to search volume is local vs. global search volume. Let’s say you did some keyword research for “product X” and the local search volume is 10 searches per month, while the global volume is 5,000/month.
If you have an eCommerce store that ships products only within the US, that keyword might not be as interesting to you. But if you ship worldwide, you should give that keyword a go!
This is another important thing to factor in, but that might be hard to judge as a non-SEO expert.
Keyword difficulty is a number that shows how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword. Some keywords are harder to rank for, usually because there is already so much content around that topic, or the topic is so broad that only super reliable or “authority websites” rank for it.
Each keyword research tool has a different scale, but usually the ones that are closest to zero are the easiest to rank for.
Often, the broader the keyword is, the harder it is to rank. This is why it’s so important to look for long tail keywords, especially if your website is new and isn’t considered an authority in your niche quite yet.
Long Tail Keywords
The easiest way to go is to choose long tail keywords. If you sell silver jewelry, and you try to rank for “silver earrings” you probably won’t make it to the first page – unless you have a very strong website. The keyword is too broad and you’ll be competing against Amazon, Target, Kohls, Nordstrom, and other powerful and well-known brands for the top positions.
What you can do is look for long tail keywords. These are more specific keywords, which means they often have less search volume but are usually less competitive.
Need some examples? Here’s a list of easier-to-rank for long tail keywords that you might use instead of sterling silver earrings:
- ladies silver hoop earrings
- solid silver stud earrings
- plain silver stud earrings
- ethnic silver earrings
- chunky sterling silver hoops
- sterling silver lightning bolt earrings
- small thick silver hoop earrings
- sterling silver conch hoop
- gold plated silver earrings
- nickel free silver earrings
- sterling silver hypoallergenic
- 925 sterling silver hypoallergenic
When doing your keyword research, you’ll also need to filter your keywords by intent. While looking for “silver jewelry” within my preferred research tool, I found keywords like “pandora silver hoops” and “allergic to sterling silver.”
Unless you’re Pandora, you probably won’t rank for “pandora silver hoops” so this keyword is not going to be a good one for you. In the second example (“allergic to sterling silver”), the user is not looking for a product, but for solutions or information about their allergy. This keyword probably won’t work for your product page, but could work for your blog if you wrote an article about what to do if you have an allergy to sterling silver.
You have to get the intent right otherwise you’ll waste time and money creating pages and articles that won’t rank. You could write an awesome and extensive article about the history of silver jewelry but if the intent of the user is commercial (wants to buy silver jewelry), you’ll never rank well… no matter how good your content is.
Once you apply this filter, you’ll end up with a promising list of keywords that will help you rank better and more quickly.
5. Create Supporting Content
Just because you’re an eCommerce shop it doesn’t mean you can’t have a blog. In fact, we recommend you have a blog and use it to incorporate some of the informational keywords you find in your research.
Content marketing is a great way to attract new users to your website and turn them into leads. Using the example of the silver jewelry again, if you write an article around the keyword “allergy to sterling silver” and showcase certain products you have that do not trigger an allergic reaction within that article, you might get yourself a new customer – or at least a new lead.
In addition to that, any supporting content you create will also help to increase your authority in your niche and help your commercial pages rank better.
6. Optimize Your On-Page SEO
Your pages should aim to be as user-friendly as possible. Considering that over 80% of users skim read content, you want to make their experience as easy as it can be. From your web page’s design to the quality of the content you upload, you should improve whatever you can on-page.
The first thing you want to do is include your chosen keyword in the H1 heading of a page. This acts as the title of the page and is the first thing Google will crawl. But make sure you use unique page titles and that you optimize your page SEO for one keyword only.
Next, include headings throughout the page. This will direct the reader’s eye, as well as give you an opportunity to drop in another keyword for Google to find.
Also, make sure you keep your paragraphs short and sweet. You don’t want to overwhelm readers and make them bounce.
Finally, set your font at 16px or more, don’t use crazy contrasting or bright colors, and make sure your text doesn’t overlap your images. Basically, make sure your website content is easy to read. Adding info boxes, buttons, and calls to action will help keep people engaged and on the page longer.
On a side note, don’t waste too much time thinking about your page’s meta description. These days, Google will usually pull the most relevant part of the text as a meta description in the search results. The SEO title is the most important thing when you’re using your SEO tool, and it should contain your main keyword – ideally in the beginning of the title.
At studycrumb, you can find many free tools to help you with your content writing, such as plagiarism checker, URL shortener, readability checker, and many others.
7. Add Some Text and FAQs
Even if you have a simple product page or an overview page with several products, you should optimize that page for the chosen keyword. It’s not enough to have your product title. You need to add some description text, and whenever possible, some FAQs.
Adding these elements will enrich your product pages and it will also help you rank for frequently asked questions about that specific topic.
8. Optimize Your Product Images
Your product images are often a user’s first impression of your products. Therefore, you want to make sure they’re high quality and showcase your products from different angles. Perhaps just as importantly, you want to make sure they’re optimized for Google.
Be sure to use the chosen keyword as your file name before you upload it to your site (e.g. 925 sterling silver hypoallergenic image). Similarly, when filling in the Alt Title (or Alt Text), you want to make sure to describe the image for visually impaired users while at the same time including some of your most important keywords.
9. Optimize Your URLs
Your URLs should have your keyword in it. No page should be named “product 12345.” The URL is an important part of your optimization, so make sure you do it right.
If your product’s keyword is “vintage green bankers desk lamp” your URL might be something like yourstore.com/vintage-green-bankers-desk-lamp or even yourstore.com/lamps/vintage-green-bankers-desk.
10. Check for Over-Optimization
Once upon a time, Google was less intelligent and as a result, there was a lot of really bad keyword-stuffed content out there. Those days are gone, thank goodness. Text with tons of keyword repetition is not only awful to read, it will actually get you nowhere with Google.
Google’s algorithm knows the difference between over-optimization and natural language, so if every sentence on your sales page starts with “The vintage green bankers desk lamp is…” chances are you’re going to be buried in Google’s sandbox.
Don’t worry about repeating your target keyword over and over. Instead, write a description that is easy to read and understand. If you’re writing an article, there’s no need to add your main keyword in every heading. Look for synonyms and other ways to write your target keyword and above all, just write enjoyable content designed for humans to read.
Long story short: over-optimization is dead, and it will take you down if you succumb to it.
11. Check for Duplicate Content
Duplicate content will kill your rankings. This is true for duplicate content copied from other websites, but also from your own. No page should have the exact same content as another. Even if your products are very similar, you need to make sure their descriptions are written differently, using different text.
If you have someone writing your copy or content for your blog, make sure you use a plagiarism detector to detect any potential issues with duplicate content. Also, if your website has too many pages, try to do some research and see if you find the same text in multiple spots. If you do, change it immediately.
12. Work on Your Internal Links and Product Pairing
On your product pages, you should always link to other relevant products. By using a data-driven marketing service like Verfacto, you’ll be able to look at the data to see which products are most commonly bought together. Information like this is vital to upselling on your website.
With product pairing, you’ll be able to boost your AOV, while also providing links between pages that demonstrate to Google how your products connect. You’ll be increasing your revenue while also improving your on-page SEO!
13. Install an SSL certificate
This is basic. You need to have an SSL certificate on your website. Not having it will harm your rankings and prevent users from getting onto your website.
You know that privacy warning that pops up sometimes that says “Your connection is not private?” You know, the one that makes you scared to visit a website? That happens when a website doesn’t have an SSL certificate in place. You don’t want users to be afraid to access your eCommerce store, so make sure your SSL certificate is valid and working.
14. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
The number of people using their smartphones to browse the internet is growing everyday. In fact, mobile internet traffic corresponds to 56.89% of the total global online traffic – which is why Google prioritizes the mobile version of your website over the desktop version.
If your page is not properly built to run smoothly and fast on mobile, your rankings won’t get much better. Therefore, you need to ensure you have all of your technical issues fixed (especially Core Web Vitals) for mobile.
One way to check for issues is by using Google Search Console. It will tell you what errors you currently have on your website and send you updates via email if future problems are found.
15. Improve Page Loading Speed
Page loading speed is a big component of search engine optimization nowadays. Your website should load fast, especially on mobile. No one wants to wait, and Google doesn’t want to rank a page that takes forever to load, as this doesn’t make their customers happy.
FYI – an ideal loading speed to aim for is between 1-2 seconds.
16. Make Sure You Set Proper Redirects
Did you do any changes on your pages or update your URL structure? If so, you might have some broken links (404). In other words, your old pages might be indexed by Google, but when the user lands on your website, the page doesn’t exist anymore.
A “Not Found” page doesn’t do your SEO efforts any favors, and is harmful for your rankings. Sooner or later, Google will realize that page is not there anymore and it will remove it from the search results (rather than update it to the new page). This is why creating proper redirects is so important; to make sure the old URL sends the user to the new page.
If you have your eCommerce website on WordPress, there’s a good SEO plugin called RankMath SEO that can help you with this.
17. Register Your Business on Directory Listings
If you can, add your business to Google My Business and create other listings on websites like Foursquare, Yelp, HotFrog, YellowPages and more. They give you some high-quality backlinks that show your business is legit.
In addition to backlinking, these sites can also help direct traffic to your website. Typically, it’s free to add your business to these websites, so there’s no excuse not to do it.
18. Connect to Data Tracking and Management
No matter how many people come onto your website, if you’re not recording and using their data to improve it, you’re wasting your business’ time and money.
At a base level, you should connect to the free services of Google Search Console and Google Analytics. These sites will give you a basic understanding of what is going on across your site, like how many people are entering your site, and what your most popular pages are.
If you want to take data to the next level and boost your revenue, opt for a more comprehensive data-management tool. Verfacto is a data-driven marketing tool that can recommend actionable insights from your data. These are the steps you can follow to boost sales, smooth out the UX sales funnel, and even produce better-personalized marketing campaigns.
19. Share Your Posts and Products on Social Media
Social media is not technically SEO, but it can help you boost your traffic and improve your reach. Having social media profiles will give your eCommerce website some foundation and sharing your posts on social media can increase your potential audience pool.
That being said, there are social media platforms that do work like search engines – for instance, Pinterest and YouTube. If used properly, these platforms could help drive thousands of new users per month! More traffic is a positive sign to search engines. So, don’t miss out any opportunity to get some visitors from other sources.
SEO is one of the most important steps toward creating and sustaining your eCommerce website. By following the steps in our eCommerce SEO checklist, you can really put your business on the right track. Over time, you should see your website’s organic traffic increase!
If you want to make the most of this increased traffic, be sure to try Verfacto’s one-month free trial. It’s the fastest way to unlock the actionable steps you need to improve your eCommerce business and ensure its longevity.