What is SEO and why does it matter for your online shop?
SEO, the Search Engine Optimization, is a digital marketing technique that encompasses all the best practices, which will help you rank better than your competitors in the search engine results pages and get more organic traffic. And in the e-commerce field, SEO is what delivers the highest ROI (return on investment). So while you should in no way stop spending on social media and PPC ads, you should start thinking more about SEO, as its campaigns yield long-term results and gradual, but stable improvements. And in the e-commerce case, this could mean millions of dollars.
Step 1: Research and Planning
SEO as every other marketing initiative is all about research. And here you not only need to know your client but also his or her intent and behavior online. SEO may start with developing a buyer persona, but especially on the e-commerce scene, it ends with a sophisticated and detailed keyword and competitor research. And only then, you start planning.
Keyword Research for E-commerce
When conducting keyword research, you are first looking for the keywords the users and prospective clients will use to find your shop and get to your homepage. However, for an e-commerce website, you need to go a step further and find pages, which you can map to each product category and section. Imagine you are drafting an SEO strategy for a clothing shop. Surely, you would like users to get to your site when looking for “trendy clothes”, but you would also want them to be redirected to you when their search is more detailed (“blue dress”, “high-waist jeans”, etc.). And lastly, before you think you’re done, you better focus on one more category of keywords and those are the keywords for blogging content. Here you can take advantage of the so-called “long-tail keywords”, which are searches with informational intent like “how to dress for a job interview” and “what are the biggest fashion trends this fall”. Employing those keywords undoubtedly will help you stand out from your competitors.
Surely, keywords tell a lot about the users and the online environment you aim to fit in. They don’t tell the whole story though. That is why, once you’ve analyzed them, you better look at your competition. Look at the keywords your competitors rank for, the links they rely on, the topics they discuss, and the way they have structured their sites. If something works well for them, it will probably work well for you. So find out the best practices they follow and try to include them in your strategy.
Once you are done with the keyword and competitor research, you better revisit your website architecture. And for e-commerce this is crucial. Creating the right navigation structure and choosing the appropriate product and category sections for the menus may make a huge difference and a very distinctive user experience. So, put yourself in the shoes of your prospective clients, arm yourself with the keywords you’ve discovered, and set up an easy to use architecture, which doesn’t bury pages more than 3 clicks away from the home one.
While you are still on the planning stage, you need to conduct another analysis, a technical one. Here you are focusing on the overall quality of your site. Are all the pages working properly? Are the internal links active? Is your content unique? Are meta descriptions and titles present on each and every page? Is the loading speed okay? And what about the mobile user experience? Find the answers to all these questions and you will have a pretty good picture of the technical conditions of your site. And for an e-commerce shop, something as simple as a product page loading for more than 3 seconds may drive users to the competitor.
Step 2: SEO Best Practices Implementation
Research is done. You have a good perspective on where your site is and why and it’s time to start taking actionable steps.
On-page optimization always starts with adding unique and high-quality titles, meta descriptions, headings, image names, etc. Those need to include the appropriate keywords you’ve found in the research, but not be overstuffed, as too many keywords will look unnatural. Another sections to optimize are the URLs and the content itself. Each page needs at least 200 words of unique content to be indexed. So make sure your pages are well-optimized and the positive results will for sure follow.
Internal Linking Structure
Internal linking seems simple but unimportant. However, it turns out it could be more than beneficial, as you are the one choosing the anchor text and setting the authority. Still, you do not need to overdo this. Use internal linkage, but only when and where it looks and feels natural. When optimizing your e-commerce website, adding links to product pages from the blog articles is both natural and helpful.
Step 3: Build Your Position
Your website is now fit for the web and well-optimized, but SEO is a continuous effort and the only way to do better than your competitors is to keep on implementing good SEO initiatives and to build and sustain your positions.
A key assumption many e-commerce site owners make is that their site needs product and category pages only. And here they go wrong. Of course, you need to focus on the product pages, as here is where conversion will happen, but if you want to affect people on the awareness and consideration stage, you will need other content. Content, which intrigues. Content, which adds value. And to extract the most you can with content marketing, you need to create a well-thought strategy and a calendar, which will translate everything into actionable steps, exact dates, and responsible assignees.
Building links is among the most popular SEO practices, which may end up being extremely difficult in the e-commerce case, especially if your site lacks value-adding content and relies on the products to sell only. However, to rank well you do need some links. So start planning a regular link building campaign. Find a set of sites you want to get links from. Those could be sites linking to your competitors or sites with authority in your field. Offer them guest posts and invest in creating good material to contribute. This may take a lot more effort than the actions described above. But only a couple of links from authoritative sites may improve your ranking way more than everything else done together.
Wrapping It All Up
The goal of your e-commerce site is clear: to generate sales and profit. The goal of your SEO campaign is also clear: to increase those sales and improve margins. And this all could happen through more conversions and satisfied customers, which enjoy using your site now and in the long-run. Investing in SEO is not a mere pursuit of quick results, but a journey to a more successful business.