Setting up an eCommerce website means pursuing a different set of SEO techniques and best practices than for service-based businesses or informational websites. Shopping sites require a unique search optimization strategy that is designed specifically for this style of online business.
To make sure your online business is best optimized for search engines, read through these tips to improve your online sales strategy. Our tips are meant to give you the best starting point for setting up an eCommerce site and to help you learn how to improve your SEO at the same time.
- Create intuitive categories and product taxonomy
One technique for creating a good eCommerce site means starting with the best foundation. Websites should be tailored to their purpose with the needs of site visitors in mind.
If you are in the early stages of setting up your eCommerce business, then improve search engine optimization by designing your site’s structure to be intuitive and user friendly. Think broadly about what types of products you will offer and drill down from there. Understand the most important variables your target shoppers will consider when beginning their online shopping at the start of the search funnel (by product type, gender, preferred brand, etc.) – create category pages that cater to these needs.
Avoid having too many sub-categories. Doing so will make your site more difficult to navigate and categories that are too similar may run the risk of competing against each other for SEO rankings. To help with even deeper navigation, instead consider faceted navigation or canonicalized product page variants.
- Canonicalize products and variants
For eCommerce sites, it’s often necessary to have products appear in multiple categories – for example having a sweater in the categories “Women’s Tops,” “On Sale Products,” and “Fall Apparel,” all at once.
To avoid having these pages appear as duplicates to search engines, create unique URLs that are canonicalized to one main product URL.
Likewise, it is common to use URL parameters for user selected product variants such as colors and sizes. In these situations, the best practice for eCommerce sites is to canonicalize these URLs to the main product page to prevent search engines from being confused.
- Set up eCommerce tracking
Having an analytics tool to track site traffic and user navigation will help you better understand how people interact with your site. If you are using Google Analytics then consider enabling Ecommerce Reports and adding the necessary code to your site to complete the set-up. These reports will give you metrics for transactions, revenue, conversion rate, average order value, and more.
With insights from eCommerce tracking you can go beyond just understanding site traffic to instead seeing how your actual products are performing in terms of revenue and sales. From here you can customize your SEO and eCommerce techniques to better suit products that are doing well.
- Improve internal linking with related products
Add a section for related products or items that other customers also bought. Placing a related products section on each product page will help users more easily discover related items and will help search engines by interlinking related pages. This tip also has the effect of improving time spent on your site while helping pass authority between pages which can help search engine crawlers find and index pages.
- Target longtail keywords for your shoppers
Optimize the meta title tags and on-page content for each of your products with keywords that are tailored to that specific product. Reserve more competitive, higher-traffic keywords for your category pages and give products keywords that are both detailed and accurate. Understand which nouns, adjectives and variables people use when searching for your products and include them in your product title tags and descriptions. Search behavior differs from industry-to-industry, and good keywords will match with how you expect your audience to search.
This will prevent similar products from competing against each other and will improve rankings and click-through-rate for searches by people who know exactly what they want to buy.
- Create non-duplicate content that actually informs
This eCommerce site tip is good for SEO in general and has the benefit of helping inch visitors closer to making a purchase.
Give your products E-A-T friendly content that is tailored to each product and emphasizes its unique characteristics (along with your target keywords). Pages with duplicate content tend to perform worse in search and they won’t have content that can inform shoppers about the specific ins-and-outs of each item.
For product variants that are canonicalized, duplicate content is less of a concern.
- Make your site HTTPS
Search engines prioritize security for web pages where conversions and purchases happen. Google has pushed to have the web move toward complete security with the adoption of HTTPS encryption by default. Since 2014 encryption has been a ranking factor on Google which has admitted it is one of the less important ranking signals.
This is especially helpful for eCommerce sites where shoppers will have to enter credit card information and shipping addresses to complete their purchase. Making your site secure is a way to signal to shoppers that you’re up to date on security standards, while also giving yourself an edge in SEO.
- Create a sitemap to ensure all your pages get indexed
Sitemaps are pages or files that contain a list of all the URLs you want search engines to index. There a different types of sitemaps, but common ones include HTML based pages visible to users or XML sitemaps which are usually not meant to be seen. Whatever type of sitemap you use, it should be easily available to search engine crawlers.
Although sitemaps are not necessary for indexing – since crawlers can still crawl your site page-by-page – they do make it easier for search engines to find pages on your site as well as help your site get indexed more frequently. Its recommended that you submit sitemaps to Google to encourage even more frequent crawling.
Keep your sitemaps updated by adding new products immediately as well as by deleting products that you no longer sell or pages that no longer exist. This will improve crawling efficiency by ensuring Google does not waste time crawling irrelevant URLs.
- Redirect broken links/404ed pages to the closest product equivalents
Search engines attribute ranking authority and keyword rankings to individual URLs. When a page becomes a 404 these rankings are lost unless they are passed on to another page via a redirect.
When a product is no longer available, a permanent 301 redirect should be put in place to pass that page’s associated keyword rankings on to the closest relevant product or category. The more closely related the destination of the redirect, the more likely it is that search engines will preserve rankings for the original keywords.
The added benefit of this is that redirecting shoppers to a closely related product means they are more likely to find a product they want, instead of being met with a dead end.
These SEO tips for eCommerce sites are just a few of the techniques needed to learn how to make your site search engine ready. Once your site is setup and running, you can continue to implement and maintain these strategies to make sure your business can perform competitively.