Maximizing the performance of your website on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is especially critical for e-commerce sites whose business relies on internet traffic. What are the best practices for optimizing SEO for e-commerce sites, with a goal of boosting traffic, increasing sales, and improving organic search performance?
35% of all e-commerce transactions begin with a Google search, underscoring the importance of an effective SEO strategy for any e-commerce site. The position you achieve on search engine results is also critical to your success. The top result on Google for searches achieves a massive 37% Click-Through rate, and this rate drops off rapidly the lower you go. The second result only gets a 12.5% CTR, and third place less than 10% CTR. Depending on your industry and your competition, getting the top spot may be unfeasible, but every gain in ranking results in a higher CTR and more organic search traffic to your web store.
Before you get started working on the technical SEO aspects of your page, you’re going to need to do your research. What keywords do you want to rank with, and what are your competitors doing successfully? You want to identify keywords that are relevant to your brand and the products you are selling, with a focus on identifying keywords for your main pages and those of your products. You want to find a balance between how broad and competitive the keywords you choose are, and how relevant they are to your pages. The more broad the keywords, the harder it will be to rank and improve for smaller e-commerce sites. It may seem logical to focus on broad terms like “sneakers” if you have an e-commerce site that sells shoes, but that’s not necessarily the case. Long-tail keyword searches, which are those that contain multiple words and are specific, make up 70% of all Google searches. That leaves only 30% to short, broad and specific terms like “sneakers”. Once you have identified the keywords you are going to target, you can start optimizing your pages to rank on those keywords. Be careful of keyword cannibalization as well, as you don’t want to confuse search engines about which page they should show for any given keyword.
Reviewing the SEO performance of your competitors can also have a strong effect on your own strategy. You can identify the keywords they are using, and how well they rank, and you may decide to ignore certain keywords and phrases that are simply too saturated and put your efforts into others that have less competition. Reviewing your competitors can also help you identify the sources of their backlinks, giving you a list of target sites to attempt to get backlinks from yourself.
On-page and off-page SEO tactics for e-commerce websites are not going to differ from those from different kinds of websites. You’re going to need to optimize your pages for the keywords you are trying to rank with, use SEO-friendly URLs, properly use Title and Description Meta tags, and various other techniques outlined in our two guides. One specific thing to take note of is your site architecture. Creating a flat architecture means limiting the number of clicks required to get from your main page to your product pages. A simple and effective flat architecture will follow the pattern of Home Page -> Category -> Sub Category (if necessary) -> Product Page. Limiting the number of clicks necessary to reach a product page will maximize the amount your home page helps in ranking your product pages. A flat architecture is also easier and more intuitive for potential customers, limiting your bounce rate and increasing your conversion rate.
A successful e-commerce site is going to need a strong and polished presence on social media. While the effect that social media posts have on SERP performance has been debated, what is undeniable is that social media drives traffic and in turn sales. The more likes and shares that your posts have, the more this shows that people are interested in your products. This helps build your visibility and brand awareness, as well as building trust and confidence with potential customers. You might be surprised to learn that the most important social media platform for improving SEO is Google+. According to Forbes, “Google has been explicit that social signals play a role in its algorithm. Twitter and Facebook matter some, but many of the search results from both networks are restricted. Therefore, the network that carries the most weight is Google+.” That doesn’t mean you should put less effort into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like. While these may not have as strong of an effect on technical SEO (if any), they are still critical for brand awareness and driving traffic.
Reviews are also very important to the success of an e-commerce site. Simply adding existing reviews to your e-commerce store can improve your conversion rate from anywhere between 17% to 76%. It’s also been identified that 77% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase. You can maximize the number of reviews you receive by offering discounts for reviews, and by doing follow-up e-mail marketing with clients. A simple way to do this is to reach out to a client asking how their purchase went, how they like the item they received, and if they’d be willing to write a review. Reviews are also excellent ways to improve your SEO performance, as each review is content, and content is king.
One more thing to keep in mind is the mobile version of your website, and specifically how easy it is to use. 60% of mobile users have made e-commerce purchases from their devices, which is a statistic that is only likely to grow further. Site speed factors into your SEO performance, and it also has an effect on your conversion rates. You can get a quick analysis of your speed at this handy tool from Pingdom. More important than speed in terms of e-commerce conversion is site architecture as mentioned above as well as transparency. 30% of potential buyers abandon the purchase because there are too many steps or its too complicated, and a whopping 60% abandon the purchase because of extra fees like shipping that are only revealed later on in the sales process. You can review all the reasons for abandoned shopping carts and statistics from the Baymard Institute.
E-commerce’s role in the global economy has been rapidly expanding for decades, and is not expected to stop. While the competition can be intimidating, by following these proven best practices you can ensure that your store will perform at its best. If you have any questions or are looking for advice, feel free to contact us and ask!