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2016-04

eCommerce SEO: 10 Tips To Search Engine Optimisation Success

by Rick Elenbaas
 | 
22 April 2016


SEO can appear to be something of a black art to the uninitiated. Here's what you need to know to optimise your eCommerce site.


Anyone paying even a modicum of attention to the rapidly evolving state of retail in Australia will know that eCommerce is booming. This boom is naturally focusing more marketers on the importance of organic search as a channel from a traffic, customer and revenue acquisition perspective. 

So how exactly should an online marketer utilise SEO to sustain growth and traffic to an eCommerce site?
 

1. Get a great developer

 

The number one tip I have for any aspiring eCommerce entrepreneur is to hire the best eCommerce development team you can. They should have an understanding of SEO or at least an appreciation of the importance of an SEO friendly website is an absolute must. Having seen firsthand the impact of great development with SEO in mind (and no SEO at all) on clients eCommerce programs, I cannot overstate this point. 


2. Get the basics right


Although this is beginning to change, SEO is not often included in the default settings of most eCommerce platforms. This sometimes make the basics look not so basic, which means you will likely need to roll out some customisation (which is where the great developer comes in). 

Ideally, on every page you generated on your site, you should be able to create:

  • A descriptive (preferably short) URL structure featuring keywords targeted to the primary page theme.
  • A unique descriptive page title featuring keywords targeted to the primary page theme.
  • A unique descriptive meta description featuring keywords targeted to the primary page theme and including 1-2 benefits and/or calls to action.
  • A unique descriptive < h1 > tag featuring keywords targeted to the primary page theme.
  • Descriptive image alt tags that accurately describe the image ideally matching the primary page theme.
  • Descriptive, unique and compelling body copy that matches the primary page theme and adds to the users shopping experience.
  • Keyword rich contextual internal links to other relevant pages (think similar products, categories etc.).
  • Unique descriptive Open graph tags (Whilst not directly influencing SEO, having unique OG tags per page will make sure that when your content is shared in social media the snippet will be more likely to attract the click).

3. Ace your site structure and URL logic


I’m firmly of the opinion that it makes sense to silo content into taxonomies defined from keyword research, which will then flow into URL formation.

An example of how this could play out is illustrated below for an imaginary online camera store’s e-commerce SEO templates (note the brilliantly manicured URLs due to having an imaginary great dev team):

  • Category; e.g.: happysnaps.com.au/camerasBrand; e.g: happysnaps.com.au/canonBrand + category e.g.: happysnaps.com.au/canon-camerasSub Category e.g.: happysnaps.com.au/digital-slr-camerasBrand + Sub Category e.g.: happysnaps.com.au/canon-digital-slr-camerasProduct pages e.g.: happysnaps.com.au/canon-eos-100d

Ultimately, while there isn’t a perfect structure for every site it makes sense to carefully think through how products are grouped together and to validate your decisions with keyword research (preferably gleaned from paid search data).


4. Publish unique and (preferably) great content


Publishing unique or “semi” unique content is critical to achieve enduring page one rankings. Whilst the mantra of “content is king” has been drummed into us by Google since they started publishing and policing the SERPs, the importance of content cannot be understated for eCommerce sites. 

Areas where eCommerce sites can come un-stuck with content include:

  • Duplicating product descriptions; Whilst tedious, rewriting manufacturer supplied descriptions and injecting some personality into the content will set you up to win.
  • Publishing pages with ultra-thin/duplicate content; think very similar templates where the only thing that is changing is the Page title, Meta Data and H1. Pages like this are bait for Google_Panda.
  • A high ratio of pages with common/duplicate elements can be problematic and trap a site in rankings purgatory.
  • Publishing templates that don’t allow for the customisation of key SEO elements (see point 2). Ideally every template should be editable allowing for the customisation of key elements to balance keyword targeting with marketing elements (think Calls to action and benefit statements)
  • Publishing boring content that doesn't engage with the end user. Great copy that resonates with the end user will sell more product and help SEO. Think copy that pops like woot.com rather than dull product specs.

5. Avoid Duplicate Page Content


Adding canonical tags to your URLs can help search engines to understand that there is only a single version of a page’s URL (the canonical version) and that this versions should be indexed no matter what other URL versions are available.

They are extremely helpful in the indexation of category pages on your eCommerce website where parameters for sorting and filtering are added to the end of the base category URLs to create different ordering of products on a category page (like colour, size etc.).

This avoids nasty duplicate page issues where sometimes only the blue XXL version of that sweater is indexed and from which the filtering and sorting options are not available for the users once he lands on this page from a search engine’s index.

6. Don’t skimp on design, UX and images


While I’m not convinced that design is a core ranking factor (and can ultimately be algorithmically graded), a site’s design aesthetics can have a dramatic impact on things like:

  • Bounce rate and time on site. I believe these are used for click stream analysis and could be used as a proxy for “relevance” and may affect rankings.
  • Conversion rate, which is the absolute imperative focus of all eCommerce objectives. Keep the path to conversion as short for your user as possible. Offer them the option to buy as guest without having to create an account and incorporate a smooth working shopping cart.

7. Make your site fast


The time it takes your site to load is a ranking factor. The faster your site, the better the user experience, the higher it will rank in search engines. Site speed it is also a conversion factor. Aim for two seconds as a page load benchmark and task your developers to achieve this. Anything above this should be treated as work in progress.


8. Don’t forget Mobile


Mobile first is an often heard credo, but ask yourself the question: Will your mobile customers use your website differently from desktop users? Especially with some luxury products, users will first perform thorough research before they make a purchase. It is good to know at what stage in the buying process they switch from mobile to desktop or visa versa.

 

9. Get great SEO advice


While there is a large (and increasing) number of SEO providers in Australia investing in the best possible consulting can, and should, return a significant ROI. Attributes to look for when hiring internal or external talent include:

  • Ecommerce SEO experience. Ideally you want to hire someone who has eCommerce SEO experience and can refer to examples in the wild of sites they’ve optimised.
  • Creativity
  • Actionable strategy and tactics. Look for consultants that can layout an actionable roadmap. In essence SEO is about getting things done, with a view to building organic traffic and ultimately revenue and profit (rather than quoting sound bites from the SEO echo chamber).
  • A collaborative approach. SEO isn't a siloed pursuit. To yield the best possible results, you need your SEO team actively collaborating with your development, design, marketing, social and PR teams.

10. Get a great developer


Yes it’s that important.

To learn more about how to improve your eCommerce SEO search results get a quote today or call 1300 725 628.

 

50 search marketing tips

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About the author
Rick Elenbaas
SEO Operations Manager

Rick Elenbaas is the SEO Operations Manager for Salmat with more than four years of digital agency experience, working for strong brands in competitive markets across Australia. Specialising in technical SEO operations, Rick is passionate about continuously improving and automating processes to accelerate the optimisation and organic growth of his client's websites. He has also strong web analytic abilities and advanced knowledge of web based technologies, including Wordpress.

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