A Beginners’ Guide to eCommerce SEO

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With the world amid the Covid-19 pandemic, online marketplaces have geared up to fuel the rising demands of shoppers. A major development is that businesses and brands have increasingly taken to eCommerce.

The problem is that not all the advice out there is worth taking. Because eCommerce SEO isn’t a cheap, one-time activity. It is a long-term process that requires patience and a good amount of investment towards the right metrics.

But the truth is that most users do not go past the first page on Google. There are a lot of moving parts to take care of – from how to optimise your eCommerce web design to how to create your email opt-ins. And there is no shortage of advice on how to increase your site’s visibility and sales conversions.

So, if you are investing in SEO, you need to be sure that you do it correctly right from the get-go. If you are feeling daunted by the process, here is a beginners’ guide to eCommerce SEO to help you out!

A Beginners’ Guide to eCommerce SEO

#1 A quick run-through on eCommerce SEO

First off, eCommerce SEO simply refers to SEO for online marketplaces. The primary objective of your eCommerce SEO strategy should be to increase your eCommerce business’s awareness and drive more organic traffic towards your website.

As you know, there is a lot of noise in the eCommerce space. And unlike SEO for blogs or social media, eCommerce SEO is a combination of on-page and off-page strategies. So, it is advised that you optimise your site for your specific niche right from the start.

Keep on reading to learn how you can do that and use the following checklist to serve as your harpoon for scaling through the intense competition.

#2 It starts with one thing – Keyword Research

All SEO campaigns begin with keyword research. It goes beyond assuming what keywords to target and which to avoid; you need to consider incorporating customer behaviour and industry trends into your research.

There are two ways of conducting keyword research: high-volume keywords and low-volume keywords.

#1 High volume keywords

High volume keywords are those that already generate a ton of traffic. They get more search queries and are used by almost everyone looking for products like yours in your industry.

They are great for the ToFu (Top of Funnel) stage, in which people are simply browsing without a purchase intent. They will seldom buy a hand glove simply by typing “gloves online.”

In this stage, people don’t want to get into the specifics. They simply want to know what their options are and click on any site that’s ranking first. That’s why the chance of getting a qualified lead is low here. Still, high-volume keywords are extremely expensive because everyone is competing for them.

Why?

Mainly because they are easy to type and more likely to get seen and generate clicks. But if you are a small business, you might struggle to keep up with the giants in your industry. The Amazons and Ikeas of the world are already investing a tonne of money to stay at the top in this space.

#2 Low volume keywords

Low volume keywords are tricky to get right but a small business SEO best friend. They are cheaper to buy, bring you qualified leads and are perfect for BoFu (Bottom of Funnel) leads – people browsing with an intent to purchase.

Such buyers won’t look for common keywords. They know what they want and look for extremely specific keywords. And you need to be optimised for them if you want to make a sale.

So, let’s say, you are a business that sells shoes. The first thing that comes to mind is shoes. Although a good keyword, it is so common that it will increase your competition and make it difficult for you to rank in your industry.

Akin to how your business focuses on its core competencies and value propositions to differentiate itself, you need to apply the same logic to your keyword research, as well.

Therefore, you will need to get specific with your shoe selling business to find your keywords.

What kind of shoes do you sell? Are they boots? If yes, what kind of boots? Are there any unique styles, such as Chukka or Chelsea? Where can people wear your boots? Are there any particular occasions or events that you like to target? How long do your boots last an average customer? What are they made of? Is there any sustainability aspect involved in your supply chain?

When you filter your search using these questions and more, you will be left with a super-specific unique value proposition for your shoes. And that will be your targeted keyword.

In this case, a keyword like ‘vegan wedge sole boots for work’ can be an excellent and relevant search term for your business.

Additionally, you have a higher chance of getting ranked in the SERPs with low volume keywords. Once done, you can opt for high volume, competitive keywords or generic terms to maintain your position.

Note that low volume keywords are great but they receive fewer clicks and your visibility will be lower than when you use high volume ones.

#3 Long-tail and short-tail keywords: Understand the difference

Going after lucrative keywords is one thing, and relevance is another. You can attain rankings for as many keywords you like, but there is a threshold beyond which diminishing returns start to kick in.

A better approach is to settle for a well-selected group of targeted phrases. Keep those with poor traction and dropping search volume at bay.

To determine a well-selected group of words, you must first understand the difference between long-tail and short-tail phrases. Let’s take a look at them.

#1 Short-tail keywords

Short-tail phrases are less specific as they only contain one or two words. In the shoe example, these could be generic terms such as shoes and boots. These keywords tend to attract high search volume, and everyone wants to rank for them.

For example, if you sell custom meals for dogs, your short-tail keywords would be ‘dog meals’ or ‘pet food’ or ‘dog food.’ This will bring you clicks from everyone looking for any kind of dog food – be it wet or dry; customised or non-customised.

But as mentioned before, their high search volume and non-specificity also means lower conversions – which is against your eCommerce SEO goal.

So, what do you do then? Well, you can start looking at long-tail keywords.

#2 Long-tail keywords

Long-tail ones are more descriptive than short-tail ones. These are keywords that allow users to get more specific in their shopping endeavours.

Drawing from the shoe example, the phrase ‘vegan wedge sole boots for work’ can be referred to as long-tail because it describes the shoes with a good amount of detail.

A thing to note is that long-tail keywords can also mean a process or query. For example, “Can I wear wedge sole boots at construction sites?” could be a long-tail search query. So, you can use it for Q&As, zero-rank searches, or in your blog posts and other forms of content.

Similarly, instead of trying to rank for ‘dog meals’ – which most of your competition would be – you can optimise your site for ‘custom meals for obese dogs’ if you are into that segment.

These keywords often have less competition due to fewer overall searches. Thanks to their specific nature, long-tail keywords, if phrased appropriately, can give you that competitive edge over your rivals.

What’s more, these tend to garner higher conversions because you only get clicks from qualified leads and BoFu buyers.

All things considered, it is best to have a balance of both long-tail and short-tail keywords. The short-tail ones can increase your visibility and the long-tail ones can improve your sales figures.

#4 Learn more about your competition and target audience’s search intent

Having a balanced set of keywords, although essential, is not sufficient. You need to look at the bigger picture by considering the competition and search intent. And there are quite a lot of tools for studying the competitiveness (and volume) of any query or term.

Volume and competition go hand-in-hand. As volume increases, so does competitiveness. This is why high-volume phrases that are common have lower conversions (as is mentioned above). And while they help you get seen, they actually cost a lot of money.

In that case, you need to take a step back and look at your buyer’s search intent. Let’s dive into the specifics.

Search intent refers to the reason why a user is performing a search. According to Yoast, a few common search intents that you must know are:

● Informational intent – The user is browsing for information
● Navigational intent – The user is looking to find specific brands
● Transactional intent – The user is looking to buy
● Commercial investigation – The user wants to buy but needs more information to get convinced

Your users are going to come looking for one of these intents. Once you know what they are after (and why), your SEO strategy can be more targeted and effective.

For instance, if your current SEO campaign’s ultimate goal isn’t to convert buyers but to educate them more on your products and services to improve your credibility in the market, you can tap into buyers with ‘commercial investigation’ as their search intent.

You can draw them in through a high volume keyword and get them to share their data for your promotional newsletters to generate a qualified lead for the future.

But this is just an oversimplification of the process. Search intent-based eCommerce SEO strategies require some serious elbow grease as it is subjective and demands an understanding of hidden contexts and nuances.

#5 Site structure and content optimization

A successful eCommerce SEO strategy is 50% keyword research and 50% application of your research. You need to develop your website with a logical site structure, enhance user experience, improve information architecture, and support your eCommerce SEO strategy with a strong foundation of content.

So, once you are done with keywords and competitive analysis, you need to focus on improving your on-page SEO and content. Let’s start with the basics.

#1 Fixing your URL structure

This is a ranking signal as it can make or break your website rankings. URL structure involves altering the IP address according to categories and content pages. Ideally, go for one target keyword per URL and remember that the golden rule of fixing your URL structure is by KISS (Keeping It Short & Simple).

#2 Writing your page title

This is what the search engine detects when users type a few phrases to search for something. Make sure the page title is relevant. A good way to do this is by summarising your page information in one line. For instance, the title of this article accurately summarises and justifies the content on the page, making it easier for search engines to find it.

#3 Focus on your meta descriptions

Meta descriptions help increase SEO value and the UX. They are what users see when deciding to click on your link. They are also what search engines see when deciding to rank you higher. The more relevant your meta descriptions to the search terms, the higher your chances of ranking at the top.

#4 Improve site security

HTTP and HTTPS are both ranking signals but only the latter has higher chances of ranking because it assures the search engines that the site is safe for the user. So, fix this aspect before running your campaign!

#5 Improve page load speed

Slower sites have a high bounce rate and a lower SEO value. Optimise images by using compression software and reduce the number of redirects on your website to make sure you are in good stead.

Remember, site architecture also involves your content publications. So, get rid of any duplicate content. If search engines happen to detect any, your page will rank lower in the SERPs. Not only that but both your page on which the original content appears and your website could receive a penalty.

In addition to that, make sure to have rich, keyword-optimised category pages and product pages’ content. If you have a designated blog section, work out the keyword intensity (avoid keyword stuffing) and have a seamless internal link structure.

Finally, offer backlinks to other sites to add to the overall quality and credibility of your eCommerce site as well as enhance its SEO value.

#6 Parting words

The above checklist is a framework and is by no means inclusive. But if you want a successful campaign, these should be included in the foundation of your SEO strategy. The crux is to have all your website elements, including navigation, user-friendliness and content well-aligned. Do this, and you have cracked the code for a stellar eCommerce site with actionable SEO.

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