SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways for ecommerce businesses to build brand awareness and generate more website visits. But how do you get started with SEO? And how do you know how well you’re doing and what you should improve? That’s exactly what this guide will teach you.
In this article, we’ll go over things you should add to your ecommerce SEO checklist in order to develop a strong marketing strategy for your business. This should provide you with a brief but comprehensive list of things to get you started with improving SEO for your ecommerce website.
1. Can Google bots crawl and index your website?
The number one thing you need to ensure is that Google can find and crawl your website correctly - otherwise, it won’t show up in search results. In order to crawl and index your website effectively, Google’s crawlers need a clear map. This is where your sitemap.xml and robots.txt files come in handy.
An XML sitemap is a file that maps out your most important pages, telling the search engine to prioritise them, while not placing as much emphasis on things like old blog posts from several years ago.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a robots.txt file in your root directory. It works hand in hand with your sitemap.xml file to ensure your website can be crawled effectively and that the information Google’s bots find is indexed accurately.
Your robots.txt file is essentially a list of instructions for crawler bots. While you can also submit your XML sitemap directly to Google, it’s enough to have your robots.txt file point to it. Your robots.txt file can also include a list of pages you don’t want to be crawled and showing up in search results, such as your checkout page and WordPress admin page, which is very useful.
2. Are your site architecture and linking up to par?
Having a relatively flat structure to your website makes it easier for Google bots to crawl your website, but it also makes for a better user experience.
You should link to all your most important pages from your homepage and they, in turn, should link to their most relevant subpages. In order to keep things as simple, you should be able to navigate between any two pages on your website in three clicks or less.
Additionally, internally linking to other pages within your website helps Google crawlers understand the structure of your website and the links between different topics. Make sure you use keywords in hyperlinks and remove broken or outdated links periodically.
3. Have you included structured data?
Structured data is a way to organise the data on your website in a way that Google can understand. The “language” used to do this is called schema markup. It essentially tells the search engine what type of content lives on a page - is it a product page, a how-to-article, or maybe a review?
Adding structured data to your website makes for a richer listing for your website in the SERP (search engine results page). This way, when people google something that brings your website up, the listing might include star ratings, extra navigational links to different pages on your website, example products, and more.
All of this makes it more likely that the searcher will click to visit your website. Structured data can even help you land the coveted spot as the featured snippet at the top of search results. You can find out more about schema markup here.
4. Is your website mobile-friendly?
It’s hardly surprising to say that smartphones have changed the way we do almost everything - online shopping included. And Google has taken notice, which means that if your website isn’t optimised for mobile, it won’t appear in the SERP.
Making sure your website is optimised for mobile means, among other things, that your website copy is readable on mobile, that images scale properly and that your links are large enough to click. Luckily, Google has a dedicated tool for testing your website’s mobile-friendliness.
5. Is your website loading fast enough?
Your website speed is another technical element that can have a large impact on both your user experience and the way Google ranks your website in the SERP. If a website takes longer than a second or two to load, many people will navigate away instantly. Your website’s loading time also plays a key part in making sure your website is mobile-friendly.
Some ways to increase your website’s loading speed include:
- Using a fast DNS system
- Reducing redirects on your website
- Reducing the size of image files
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great SEO tool for optimising your website’s load time.
SEO Content & On-Page SEO
6. Are you targeting the right keywords?
In order to show up in the SERP, your website needs to provide answers to the questions your potential customers are asking also known as a search query. This is where keyword research comes in.
Doing keyword research helps you provide the best possible user experience to your website visitors. It’s also essential for optimising not only your blog posts and product pages but also your home page, contact page, FAQ section, and metadata (more on this later).
Your keyword research can help you recognise good opportunities for SEO writing in order for you to become a trusted authority on your chosen topic in Google’s eyes.
For more information on finding and using keywords relevant to your business, check out our dedicated guide to doing keyword research.
7. Do all of your pages have 250+ words of original content?
In order for your website to rank high in the SERP, all of your web pages have to be populated with enough original content.
For ecommerce sites with hundreds of product pages, this can be daunting. It can be tempting to simply copy product descriptions from your manufacturers, but Google recognises and penalises duplicate content. If you have a lot of duplicate content like this on your website, it’s a good idea to start with creating original content for the product descriptions of your top sellers and work from there.
Things like category pages are often left pretty empty but these too need original content. 300 words is a good number to aim for, and this is only a few paragraphs that can live at the bottom of the page, underneath links to individual products.
When it comes to product pages, your “body copy” should focus on the unique aspects of the product and the problems it solves for the buyer. Some things other things you might add include:
- Details about fast delivery
- Bundle deals and other discounts
- An enticing call to action
- Answering common questions
On category pages, you can include more information about the products within the category. You can also make comparisons between different products to help your customer choose the right one. When it comes to the products featured on the category page, make sure their descriptions are coded as text rather than embedded as an image so that search engines can crawl these bits of copy.
8. Have you optimised your metadata?
Your metadata includes things like meta descriptions, page titles, and URLs. These should all be the optimal length and include relevant keywords. You can use a free SERP optimiser tool to make sure your site title and meta description display correctly in search results. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Each page should have one H1 (title) tag - this is the page title that appears in search results. It should include your primary keyword.
- Your URL should also include your primary keyword and be on the shorter side, with hyphens separating words.
- H2, H3 etc. tags are for your subheaders and sub-sub headers. These are great places to add your secondary keywords.
- Make sure to add descriptive, keyword-optimised title tags to images, as Google can’t crawl these effectively. Keyword-optimising is important here because many people rely largely on image results when shopping online.
9. Are you actively building backlinks?
Having reputable, popular websites link back to pages on your website tells Google you’re a trustworthy authority within your niche. Links like this are called backlinks, and while it can be a lot of work to gain them, they’re highly valuable.
By following other SEO best practices listed here, you make it more likely that you gain backlinks organically as people discover your website on Google. However, you can also work on building backlinks deliberately.
There are lots of great strategies out there for getting more backlinks, but here are just a few:
- Emailing websites with broken or outdated links and suggesting they link to your content instead.
- Find mentions of your website online and ask the webmaster to link to your website if they haven’t done so already.
- Emailing websites that have already linked to your content and telling them about another piece of content they might find helpful.
The Bottom Line
Hopefully today’s ecommerce SEO checklist has given you a good idea of where to start building your SEO strategy. If you’d like to learn more about search engine optimisation and why it’s important, you should also check out our dedicated guide to SEO for ecommerce businesses.
If you’d like some help building your ecommerce SEO strategy, you’ve come to the right place. At Clear Click, our mission is to help small to medium-sized businesses secure their place in fiercely competitive fields like ecommerce. If you’d like to find out more about working with us, book your free, no-strings consultation call with us.