Create keyword rich product categories and product descriptions
Make sure that keyword research is at the heart of how you structure your product categories.
Keyword research for ecommerce is a fine art. Start simple and broad, and get more and more specific as you hone in on product categories, and then the products themselves. If you are serious about running an ecommerce business, investing in some paid keyword research tools probably isn’t a bad idea — but there are free ones like Keywordtool.io that will take you part of the way there (and don’t forget to snoop on Amazon for keyword ideas). Think about keywords in terms of themes and niche vocabulary — repetition and phrase stuffing is not cool.
Include top level categories based on your primary and secondary keyword research (are people looking for waterproof/cheap/women’s/organic etc)? Organize these top level categories with landing pages full of unique copy and images that are relevant to your niche.
Never use the boring (probably duplicate) manufacturer’s product descriptions. This is bad for both search engines and people; instead, write interesting and informative product descriptions that focus on benefits and features.
Rank the home page, link out to product categories
To get organic search traffic through to your site, focus on ranking your online shop’s home page for general keywords. You can do this by making sure all the niche-relevant terms are mentioned on the home page prominently, as well as by link-building to build site authority.
Make sure that you link to all your main categories from the home page so that you pass enough link juice throughout your store. You could do this by including a short paragraph outlining each category on the home page and then linking out to them in the copy (or use a sidebar or visual organizers).
The success of this SEO tactic depends on how many subcategories you have, and how much link authority has built up on your home page. Too much outbound linking from your home page could dilute your link factor. If you have a lot of individual product categories, link out to the broader category landing pages instead.
Review acquisition & localization strategy
Customer reviews are important trust signals to both Google and customers, so make leaving product reviews on your site easy. It’s a good idea to get onto all the major review sites to help capture traffic from “your store name + reviews” search queries.
Reviews definitely impact click through rate and purchase intent in localized Google searches; good product reviews are crucial for local SEO. If your product is regional, or you want to start in a certain area, local SEO should be a big part of your strategy. Utilize local business directories, Google MyBusiness and local review sites to maximize your local digital footprint.
(If you get bad reviews, make sure you respond to them quickly to diffuse the situation and potentially turn the review around. If a product keeps getting negative reviews, consider axing it).
Many ecommerce stores suffer from duplicate content and a bad URL structure — this can lead to under-optimized or poorly-performing product pages.
The potential for an online store to rank for key products can be much improved by optimizing the product page titles and image alt texts with relevant keywords. Don’t forget the importance of utilizing all your SEO real estate: never neglect your image alt texts. But as well as optimizing content, think about how your UX (user-experience) is working for you. Engagement metrics like dwell time will have a massive impact on conversions, so invest in frequent site design and development updates to make the experience for customers as smooth as possible.
URLs are important for site organization, so try to include relevant keywords in the URL to guide users and bots. Numerous URLS created by store search functions and filters should be made to point to the main product category using the rel= “canonical” tag, otherwise, you may be facing duplicate content issues.
Use redirects when a product or category expires — even a link back to the homepage is better than a 404 if someone has bookmarked your product.
Search marketing strategy
Reaching out to relevant bloggers and content creators is a great way to grow your market share, build natural links, and increase product awareness.
Here are some great ways to get bloggers involved:
Exchange products for honest product reviews on blogs
Get featured in blogger gift guides like “Top 10 Presents for Dad this Christmas”
Contribute to blogging conversations by making expert product recommendations (this should not be about just dropping a link)
Tell a good PR story (Did you help a charity this month? Where are your products made?) & outreach this to bloggers and other online content creators
Make sure your content/product is relevant before contacting bloggers and writers
Be open & honest about your intentions- being upfront is important and will help in the long-run
Follow up with an email if you don’t hear back at first — bloggers are busy and things can get missed.
Having your own on-site blog is a great SEO tactic. First of all, people are more likely to link to you if you are creating great content; secondly, getting a back link to a blog is easier than linking to a commercial page.
It’s not about letting your blog overpower the store, but about having the blog as an easy place to start a conversation with your customers, engage them with great content, and get guest bloggers involved. It’s a place where you can shout about your product, as well as discuss issues close to your customers’ hearts. A great blog creates brand loyalty…as well as positive brand mentions and links!
Social media & mobile
Instagram and Pinterest are great for ecommerce SEO, especially if you are operating in a visual niche. Make sure all your pins and pictures are optimized with keywords and link back to your products. Reach out to social media influencers, follow relevant boards, and see how other retailers are doing it. YouTube can also be a great way to drive traffic to your site, as Google will show video results in SERPs. Being social media savvy pays off.
The whole point of a competition isn’t the winning…but the winning of links. Competitions and giveaways which involve sharing a link or a picture on social media are a great way to gain lots of social signals.
Make the point of the contest funny and quirky; user-generated content is a great tactic to use as it gets people involved and all you need to do is to ask them for a selfie or a quick mention. People love to share their experiences online, so make it about them. You can also get people to enter a contest through a newsletter sign up. The prize has to be something that gets people excited and involved, but you would be surprised how little people can get excited about! Just make sure you get the marketing right so that the contest picks up links and mentions for your brand.
Leverage the power of Amazon & marketplaces
Amazon has huge search engine coverage so leverage the power of Amazon if you can. Feature your products on Amazon as a seller, or set yourself up as an Amazon affiliate. With Amazon’s huge digital footprint, you are guaranteed to make money immediately; especially if you can undercut the competition.
If you are not going down the Amazon route, it can still be a useful tool for market research. Research Amazon and other big online sellers like Ebay to see what keywords they use to organize their stores. Learn SEO lessons from the big players and feed their SEO successes into your online store’s SEO strategy.
As an Amazon seller, it’s always a good idea to start building your own brand by opening your own store on your domain. There are loads of different ecommerce web development options to choose from — you could use WordPress plugins, go custom with Magento, use an easy store builder like Shopify, or sell exclusively via social (Facebook and Pinterest are probably your best bet).
Conversely, private ecommerce merchants should definitely embrace the power of marketplaces — they are a great way to make sales and money, fast. Whether you choose Amazon or prefer the quirky vibe on Etsy — setting yourself up as a marketplace seller is easy and painless.
SEO is a dynamic and holistic mix of digital marketing strategies — it’s not just about keywords and links. Interested in selling products online? What do you think is the most important marketing strategy you will use (besides SEO)?
Patrick Foster: Writer, Business Owner, and Entrepreneur
I create and share content for entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking to improve their marketing strategies. I’m particularly interested in content marketing and the effective use of storytelling to drive engagement… and of course — SEO!