eCommerce SEO Best Practices in 2021 (You Can Do Today)

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum
February 5, 2020
2 min read
eCommerce SEO Best Practices in 2021 (You Can Do Today)

In this article

In the big sea of ecommerce stores, it is difficult to make yourself noticed. That's why ecommerce seo is so important.

Mastering search engine optimization, or SEO, is key to allowing customers to find your brand online. It is crucial to the visibility of your e-commerce brand in the online space, and also to your success, that customers can find you -- especially when the average person makes up to 1,200 searches per month.

Why is it so important to care about search results?

Just think how often your own online purchases start with a quick Google search - either to compare prices, check out reviews, or just look at pictures - and you'll understand why search engines and SEO are important.

And it's not just you - a study by nChannel found that 44% of online shoppers begin their shopping by using a search engine. SEMrush found that 37.5% of all online traffic came from searches.

Since many online shoppers are using search to find what they need, a good SEO strategy is extremely important in making your brand visible to them.

Let's dive in.

Ecommerce SEO 2020: SEO Best Practices For Your Online Store (That You Can Actually Do) - Click to Jump to section

1. What Is SEO and How It Works in Ecommerce

Essentially, SEO is a way of writing and structuring words and content on your site that allows your business and products to become more visible on search engines results. You can think of search engines as a store directory in a mall, except this mall represents the entire world wide web. That’s a lot of stores, competing all around the world. SEO can help your store stand out by being the most helpful to customers and most visible to searching customers.

If you are a small to medium business owner, you may be running your business on Shopify or Amazon. While all of the tips we share in this article will be helpful for you, there are a couple of features to note specifically for these platforms.

Shopify SEO

Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world, and for good reason. Their user interface allows businesses to have control over various aspects of SEO, making it much simpler if you happen to be using their platform.

shopify seo mukha yoga product descriptions shopify keyword research seo

Without having to deal with HTML coding, retailers can edit product titles, descriptions, and much more to improve SEO in Shopify itself.

Further reading: If you wish to read more about Shopify SEO, particularly how to drive traffic to your Shopify store then check out our 6 Evergreen Strategies To Drive Traffic To Your Shopify Store here.

Amazon SEO

What’s unique about e-commerce platform giant Amazon and is also what you need to master SEO in Amazon is their A9 algorithm.

In an in-depth article on Amazon SEO, we highlighted two main factors the company focuses on when it comes to SEO:

Relevance – Keywords that you use in your product listing has to be relevant to the actual product you are selling. The more relevant your product is, the more likely the user will buy it.

Performance – The more sales that you make, the more money that Amazon makes as well. Products that generate more sales will be prioritized and pushed to the top of search results.

In addition to that, Amazon retailers need to take note of backend keywords. These are keywords that only Amazon will see and use to categorize your products.

ecommerce seo - rank higher on amazon search amazon backend keywords guidelines seo

From SellerLift: Amazon Backend Keywords – the hidden Amazon SEO boost

Here are some tips on how to improve Amazon SEO by optimizing backend keywords:

  • Since it isn’t customer-facing, you can include super relevant terms that didn’t naturally fit into the title or description
  • Choose the most important keywords to fit under 250 characters
  • Don’t waste any characters on punctuation or plural variations of the same keyword
  • Don’t duplicate keywords that are already used in the title or description
  • You can use this chance to include keywords with grammatical or spelling errors

2. eCommerce Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation of every eCommerce SEO campaign. Think of it like the way books are labeled in a library. Every book is organized by categories and it makes both the librarians’ job of organizing books as well as the reader’s tasking of finding the right book easier.

Keyword research allows search engines to know what your products are about so they can display it when someone is searching for that same product category.

Target The Right Keywords And Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase.

If your company specializes in sweaters, using ‘sweaters’ as a keyword is not going to be helpful because it’s so generic. A search with ‘sweaters’ will return with thousands upon thousands of results, and the first page will be dominated by big brands like Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara.

ecommerce seo - long tail keywords sweaters google search example seo keyword

But if you specialize in sweaters made from sustainable wool, then a long-tail keyword like ‘sustainable wool sweaters’ would give your brand a better chance at ranking higher.

Targeting the right keywords, especially long-tail keywords, will help you get higher quality visitors who have a higher chance of making a purchase. For example, customers who have done some research and know exactly what they want are more likely to use detailed long-tail keywords like “sustainable wool sweaters” than someone who simply searches for “sweaters”.

So if you target long-tail keywords, you are more likely to end up with higher quality lead with a higher chance of making a purchase.

To add on to it, shorter keywords tend to also be dominated by bigger and more well-established brands, so it’s unlikely you’ll get much visibility competing with those same keywords. Paying to advertise long-tail keywords will thus be cheaper because they have way less competition than more popular short keywords.

Top Keyword Tools

In Jan 2019, Robbie Richards asked 133 marketing experts to rank the best keyword tools. Here are the top 10:

  1. SEMrush
  2. Google Keyword Planner
  3. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool
  4. Keyword
  5. Search Console
  6. AnswerThePublic
  7. Buzzsumo tied with Google Trends
  8. Moz
  9. Ubersuggest and Longtail PRO
  10. KWFinder

These tools will help you with determining what keywords and long-tail keywords you should focus on.

3. Site Architecture For Ecommerce SEO

Search engines like Google determine a website’s ranking using bots, or crawlers to crawl through billions of websites multiple times daily. They then parse that data through many complex algorithms based on different factors.

Understanding how they collect data on your website is key to making it rank more positively.

Basically, search engine crawlers will navigate through a website by following all the links on it. They do so to establish, amongst other things, how your website is structured, what it is your website is about, and which pages are important.

One of the key factors established by crawling is link equity. Once known as “link juice”, link equity is a search engine ranking factor that describes the authority and value of links. The more backlinks a webpage has, the more link equity it has. A homepage, for instance, tends to have the most link equity because it has the most backlinks.

Webpages that link directly to a page with high link equity, e.g. your homepage benefits from that and ends up sharing some of that equity.

Therefore, it’s important to understand how your webpages are linked through your website architecture and their link equity.

Website architecture is the structure that your website is organized in. It shows you how your webpages are linked to each other and important for determining your customers’ user experience.

There are generally two different types of website architecture: flat and deep.

ecommerce site architecture examples from Gorilla 360 ecommerce seo

(Sample diagram from Gorilla 360)

A flat structure has many many categories, allowing customers to reach a product page within a couple of clicks. A deep structure, in contrast, will require more clicks as they have to navigate through fewer main categories but more sub-categories before finding what they need.

Allowing all your pages to be accessed with minimal clicks is great for both your visitors as well as search engines. The easier search engines can find information on your website, the better your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) will be.

Additionally, a flat structure means that you have more pages that are connected via the homepage. Link equity from the homepage is shared between all links branching out from it, and then further divided as the structure goes deeper. Thus webpages of a flat structure will have better link equity by being more closely connected to the homepage.

Organize Your Category Pages

To make your site architecture a bit flatter, first, take a look at how many clicks it takes for your customer to reach your products.

If the structure of your eCommerce store is Products > Gender > Type of apparel (e.g. Shirts, Jackets, etc.) > Individual products, that will take 4 clicks. You could simplify that by separating your products into male and female categories from your homepage.

seo best practices

Adidas, a brand with many different product categories and lines, have done a great job by making their architecture as flat as possible. They first categorize their products by gender but also allow you to click on more specific sub-categories by hovering over it. They also categorize by types of sports and brands, so customers looking for different things can narrow down their search right away from the homepage.

Implement Internal Linking Early On

Once you have streamlined your website architecture, it’s time to check that all your webpages have internal links.

Internal links are those that connect pages on the same domain together, and they serve a few purposes. They help visitors (and search engine crawlers) navigate through your website to find what they need, and also help with sharing link equity.

One key reason why internal links are so important is that search engine bots crawl through your website by following links. That means that if any webpage doesn’t have internal (or external) links, the web crawlers will not be able to find them.

So if you have a webpage that cannot be accessed via a link, but only through a search box function or a form, it is essentially invisible to search engine bots. This will also mean that those pages will not have any link equity, and will not show up on SERPs.

Search engine bots also use internal links as a way of determining which pages are more valuable. Pages that get a lot of links to, like the homepage, are regarded by the web crawlers as more important. So, ensure that pages you want to prioritize are being linked to more often.

4. On-page Seo For Ecommerce Sites

The next steps after organizing your webpages and internal links are to address your on-page SEO. On-page SEO refers to improving content and source code for individual web pages so they will rank higher on SERPs.

Let’s cover the main areas you should optimize for when it comes to on-page SEO:

Optimize Your Titles, Meta Data, Images, And H1s

Use search results from your keyword research to see what are the most popular hits. From there, you can get a sense of the kind of content your target audience tends to go for. You want to optimize your page titles in a similar fashion to those top hits.

Always remember that even though you want to rank high on SERPs, your content has to appeal to your potential customers!

Titles & Meta Descriptions: What Customers Click On

Your website meta description is the next most important factor as it allows search engines and visitors to get a first impression of your brand. It is a short block of text that shows up below your webpage title on a SERP.

Having a concise description that entices your visitors will draw visitors in and improve your click-through rate. It should be less than 160 characters and include at least one keyword that is connected to your page title.

H1 Header: On-Page Title

Next, you want to ensure that your page headers are in order, especially the h1.

From an SEO standpoint, the h1 informs search engine crawler bots that it is the main page header, and includes the keyword that the page wants to rank for. Hence, you should refrain from having multiple h1s on a single page and also try to use a long-tail keyword.

From a reader’s perspective, it serves as the title of the page, and let them know what they are about to read. It should be visually strong to grab your readers’ attention and tell them what your page is about while having a copy that makes them want to read on.

Images: Remember to Write Alt Text

Adding alt text allows search engines to categorize an image correctly. Insert your long-tail keywords here so search engines will know what that product is about.

Good quality images help improve conversion rates in a couple of ways. Images the size of 1000 by 1000 pixels are great when customers zoom in to look at the product details. Also, high-quality images of the product from various angles will help customers visualize the product.

However, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Images that are too large will slow down page loading times. The key is finding a balance between being able to view an image with clarity but small enough it doesn’t take too long to load.

Optimize Your Category Descriptions And Product Descriptions

Category descriptions don’t get enough attention when it comes to SEO because people tend to think of categories as simply a means to make your website information neat. Categories are important for SEO because they have a good chance of ranking high for their keywords. The homepage links to different categories and keywords, like men’s and women's clothing.

Categories, on the other hand, are more specific as they are the main page that links to all items that are more similar. The men’s clothing category will rank higher for men’s clothing than the home page will because all their downstream links are related to men’s clothing. This will allow that category page to show up higher on SERPs when visitors search for men’s clothing.

This works especially well for blog categories since it’s likely your blog will include a wide range of topics. Without categories, the bots will see that your blog has a wide range of topics and won’t deem it specialized enough. Having category descriptions for your blog also helps readers know what to look for and how to read more of a particular topic.

In an article about writing effective product descriptions that sell, you need to describe the benefits your customer will experience instead of focusing too much on the qualities of the product.

For instance, being able to keep warm while being outdoors in winter is a benefit of a winter coat, while it is made of 100% merino wool is product quality. Since the benefit is something tied to an emotional experience rather than a factual description of your product, it is more likely to resonate with your customer and thus will be more beneficial in increasing conversion rates.

Optimize Your URLs

Your eCommerce website URL is almost like the signage to your store. It needs to showcase your brand, but also be easy to remember.

So keep it as short as possible so it is easy to remember.  Numbers and symbols are difficult to remember, so avoid them when possible.

While .com is the go-to when it comes to being “legit”, it can be expensive to obtain. Moreover, other top-level domains (TLDs) can help potential customers guess what your business is from the URL alone. For example, some media companies might choose to use .tv, while fitness companies can use the .fit TLD.

5: Content Marketing and Link Building For eCommerce Shops

Finally, we touch on how to improve your SEO strategy through content marketing and link building.

Content is key when it comes to SEO. After all, content is what gets customers to interact with your brand, and it is what keeps them coming back. Search engines like Google evaluate sites with good content as being more trustworthy and authoritative.

Link building represents the relationship between your brand and other players in the field. If you have a strong link building game, search engines will view your brand as being authoritative as well, and rank you more favorably. There are many techniques and tricks to link building, but we've highlighted five you can start working on today.

1. Find Backlinks To Your Competition

Backlinks are inbound links from other websites that link to your website. They improve your website by giving you link authority as well as referral traffic.

There are a few crucial things to note when you build backlinks:

  1. Aim to get inbound links from high-quality authority sites. It is seen as a stamp of approval from these more authoritative sites.
  2. Always strive to get backlinks from sites that have never linked to you before. This will give you more value than a site that has already linked to you.
  3. Links attached to anchor text (ie ‘build backlinks’) are much better than links attached to irrelevant text (ie ‘an article we wrote’).
  4. Focus on having quality links to similar content than having many random or unrelated links.

But how do you figure out who to get a backlink from?

Answer: Through your competitors.

Chances are, your competitors will have some backlinks established. Maybe they have guest posted on a blog or have been featured by a media outlet. If you approach them, there’s a decent chance they will be open to backlink to you too.

We recommend you use tools like Moz’s Link Explorer or ahrefs’ Site Explorer to find backlinks to your competitor’s website. You can see who is backlinking to them, and how those websites rank.

Based on that info, you can approach the same blog that your competitor has written for, or ask if they want to feature your company.

2. Submit Guest Blog Posts

Guest blogging on other websites is a great way to build backlinks. Ideally, you want to find websites that have a better ranking than you, so you can earn some link authority. Being able to guest post on a high-quality site is almost like getting a testimonial from them. After all, they trust your brand’s content quality enough to allow you to write for them!

Guest blogging on quality sites rewards you with referral traffic, which consists of visitors who read your article and want to check you out. This is also great if you can get high-quality backlinks as they will have a much larger customer base.

The important thing to note is the quality of such content and its relevance to your products. Avoid duplicate content or anything that will not add value to the blog you are posting on. When you produce great content, they will be very happy to continue the partnership and let you post more.

If you submit guest blog posts on a site that is similar to yours in nature and keywords, then you’ll get stronger link authority. For example, a digital marketing company scoring a guest post on Hubspot will mean a great deal due to the similar nature of business as well as the high link equity of Hubspot.

3. Resource Page Link Building

Following the same logic of backlinks and link authority, resource page link building is another good way to boost your SEO.

Resource page link building refers to the act of adding backlinks to your site on a resource page that curates lists of external websites. An example of this would be our curated list of 79 referral programs. Having a great list helps us build link authority, as resource pages are generally seen as being more credible. On the other hand, it also helps the companies we backlinked as well.

A 2016 survey on link building found that resource pages were the 2nd most popular link building strategy.

You can choose to be the one who curates the resource page, or the one who submits your content to other resource pages.

4. Get On The Manufacturer's Website

If your company has products made by a manufacturer, you can request to have them display your company on their website and provide a backlink to yours. For example, say your company has a monthly subscription box selling sneakers from a few brands. If they agree to display your company as one of their clients on their website, it will help to improve your link authority.

5. Create Linkworthy Content

Ultimately, you will need quality content on your own blog and website.

Readers who like your guest posts on other sites will want to read more from your own blog. Having consistent high-quality content marketing will help you draw readers who are searching for your keywords, thus building up link equity and boost your SEO rankings.

One key point to note when creating your content strategy is to focus on your cornerstone content. This is content that defines your brand and that you want all your readers to read first. You want to ensure that your cornerstone content is extremely visible on your blog page, and has the most link equity compared to other articles.

That being said, you are strongly advised to avoid keyword stuffing for your cornerstone articles or any article, actually. Your content has to flow naturally and provide value to your readers, not be a vessel where you pack as many keywords you want to rank for in it, hoping search engines will rank it well. Google has become really good at filtering out keyword-stuffed articles, and so it is still best to focus on creating quality content that readers will enjoy.

If you are stuck on what to write, it’s always a good option to look at what’s already out there. Based on your keyword searches, you will know what other brands out there are writing, and what people want to read.

Ensure that your content is at least on par with that, and always strive to bring some of your own experience and knowledge to the table. This ensures you’re not churning out duplicate content, but content that is unique to your perspective and experience.

Ecommerce SEO 2021: SEO Best Practices For Your Online Store (That You Can Actually Do)

Rand Fishkin, founder of inbound/SEO company Moz once described five ways business owners can avoid paying high fees and ad costs for customers:

  1. Inbound marketing is a hack for bringing in traffic
  2. Content, content, content: create (useful!) content
  3. The rise of social is not the end of Search
  4. Converting customers means listening, testing and re-testing
  5. Build trust by keeping it real

If you're looking for a way to grow your current customer base, investing time into building content, backlinks and SEO will be exactly what you need.

Samuel Hum
Samuel Hum

As a finalist in Esquire's Best Dressed Real Man contest, Samuel is ReferralCandy's fashion eCommerce expert and resident sartorialist. He is obsessed with human behavior, social psychology, and handstands. He is also the lead calisthenics trainer at Weightless.

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