Customers are the number one thing that your e-commerce store needs to survive. While you might be able to count on repeat business, you also must bring in new traffic. Did you know that only about one out of every ten people who visit your online shop make a purchase?
This means that you need a lot of search engine traffic in order to get those very important buyers. There’s a lot more to e-commerce SEO than meets the eye since you can’t just place items on your site in the hope that people will find them. You need to use the very best techniques, many of which are explained below.
Let’s start with a basic overview of SEO. In order to utilise the methods that we describe below, you need to have a complete understanding of what SEO, or search engine optimisation, really is.
To simplify it, SEO is the process of adding elements to your website in order to help search engines not only find it and crawl it with their bots but also to enhance your ranking so that your site shows up on the first page of results.
Without smart and game changing SEO tactics, not only will no one be able to find your website (as it will appear very low in the rankings, if at all), but you won’t get new customers that your business needs in order to properly compete.
There are two main types of SEO techniques that people use. They are called on-page and off-page. On-page SEO consists of the elements that you add to your website in order to make it search engine friendly.
Off-page involves using link building services and things like social media in order to “spread the word” about your site. You see, the more off-page backlinks and things that exist, the more the search engines will see your site as an “expert” in its field. This is true even of e-commerce stores that sell items. You want to be seen as the premier place for people to make those purchases.
On the other hand, there’s on-page SEO. This consists of things like using alt tags (which we’ll get into later), good photographs, and plenty of keywords on your site. You’ve probably heard of many of these methods before, only in the realm of standard website SEO.
There’s a reason for that – standard SEO techniques apply to e-commerce sites. The only difference is that instead of instructing someone about your topic, you’re trying to sell them items. The overall makeup is a bit different as far as website form is concerned, but the ideas are the same.
In order for your e-commerce site to rise through the rankings and end up on that coveted first page of results, there are some things that you need to do. They include using the methods described below, all of which are patented on-page and off-page SEO techniques.
If you set them up properly, your site’s traffic will increase exponentially. Are you ready? Let’s begin.
When you load a photo into your e-commerce shop, regardless of the platform that you use, you’ll see something called an alt tag. This appears on the main photo upload page, although they aren’t shown to the consumers. What do we mean by this?
Basically, alt tags appear in the code on your website. They don’t pop up on the visible parts of the page itself. When you use them properly and embed plenty of keywords in them, they’ll tell the search engine bots exactly what you’re selling.
Along with optimising your product images, remember to set up the alt tags to be as specific as possible, although they don’t need to be a full sentence. For example, something like “green cashmere v-neck jumper” will suffice.
Did you know that recently Google has started punishing websites that aren’t secure? They have. This has led to a glut of secure socket layer site upgrades. Even non-stores have jumped on board in order to avoid hurting their SEO rankings.
The same is true for e-commerce stores, only this is slightly more important because you need to ensure that your customer’s payment information isn’t stolen. (Yes, this can happen thanks to hackers, but the HTTPS in front of your URL instills a lot of trust.)
Basically, you need to secure your site if you don’t want Google to punish you in the rankings, although you should have one in the first place since you’re running a shop.
This is one of those things that involves both good SEO and customer use. You need a website that’s responsive because over half of all people surf the internet (and purchase things) from their mobile phones.
Many members of the younger generation don’t even have a computer – they use tablets and phones, both of which connect to the internet. A responsive website is one that changes its appearance based on the device that it’s on. This means that the screen will adjust so that everything can be viewed, no matter how small the screen.
Many search engines, including the king of them all – Google – will reward responsive sites (their bots can see the code) with good results rankings. On top of this, you’ll make your customers happy because they’ll be able to shop your site while on their phones.
Breadcrumbs show your site’s structure. For example, if you sell clothing for both men and women, you might have a menu structure that breaks it down by category. It will look like this: clothing>men>sweaters.
Those three things are the breadcrumbs that lead people – and search engines – down the trail to the items that they need. If you make sure that these breadcrumbs are visible on the site and not just embedded in the code, then you’ll end up with higher search engine rankings, because they show that you spent some time setting up your e-commerce store in a coherent manner.
Like the responsiveness issue, load times matter quite a bit. Search engines monitor how long it takes your site to load. If it takes more than a few seconds (about the average amount of time that many people are willing to wait), then you could be punished in those crucial search engine results.
On top of this, you’ll lose customers, because as we already mentioned, many people aren’t going to stick around to see if your site will load. They’ll immediately go elsewhere to buy that item.
One of the best ways to ensure that you have a fast load time is by shrinking down the file size on your photos. You can do this without compromising their quality. The best thing to do is to check your site’s load time with one of the many online tools and then make any suggested adjustments.
You can easily have a sitemap created as you design and add products to your website. Most platforms will automatically create one for you. In order to “upload” the sitemap to them, you just need to log into your Google tools (which are free for the record) and go through the necessary steps. How does a sitemap help?
Well, it ensures that the search engine will crawl every page on your site. It also proves to them that your e-commerce site is designed in a logical manner, instead of being a meandering list of products that are nested in ways that make no sense. The more organised and tidy your site, and thus site map, are, the higher your search engine ranking will be.
The search engines reward people who have taken the time to set things up in a logical manner.
This one is obvious but needs to be gone over here. Your product listings need to consist of keywords that are highly searchable. Consider the example described above in the alt tags example. The words “men’s green cashmere v-neck sweater” are considered to be searchable keywords, long tail ones at that.
Long tail keywords are long strings of words (hence the name) that people tend to look for. They came about due to the rise in services like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, where users would ask these virtual assistants to find things for them.
In this example, they would say, “Cortana, find me a men’s green cashmere v-neck sweater” and if your SEO is set up correctly, then the assistant will pull up some search results that include your e-commerce store near the top of the list.
As you can see, there are many different factors involved in setting up good SEO procedures for your e-commerce store. They involve using both on-page and off-page SEO, as well as doing things that will make the overall user experience better, such as responsiveness and fast load times.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram can also help grow your ecommerce business.
The more of these methods that you use, the better your SEO rankings will be.
Sameer Panjwani is the Founder & CEO of Mondovo, an online marketing toolset that helps you track your rankings, monitor your site stats, and research your competitors.