Ahh, the mystifying world of SEO. Few marketing channels are as misunderstood, yet few marketing channels offer such a high ROI. If you aren’t optimizing your ecommerce website and you’re too embarrassed to ask (it’s okay, we don’t judge here), this helpful cheat sheet will give you 6 steps to get started.
But first, let’s go over the ecommerce SEO basics.
What is SEO? SEO stands for search engine optimization, or the process by which search engines (you’re probably most familiar with Google) crawl, index, and deliver the internet to your fingertips when you type in a search query.
Why should ecommerce marketers care about SEO? To put it simply, if people can’t find your site, they can’t buy your products. Marketers consistently agree that SEO offers the highest ROI of any other marketing channel, and it makes sense. You don’t have to pay for organic traffic, you just have to understand it.
The good news? Google rewards the same things that make your customers happy. No need to overthink your SEO strategy. Once you understand a few basic things, you’ll realize that SEO is more about creating happy users than anything else.
1. Start Under the Hood
You probably know a little bit about keywords, so you might think we’d start there. But the best keyword strategy in the world means nothing if Google can’t crawl your website correctly. Here are some places to start.
Ecommerce stores collect sensitive customer data. Keeping that information secure is priority number one. HTTPS encryption keeps data safe by securing the connection between the server and the user. Secure data makes Google happy, so happy in fact, that the search giant has directly stated secure sites get a slight boost in rankings.
The process required to get this certification is rather involved, but worth it all around.
Check Your Site Speed
Slow sites suck. Your customers hate them, and Google penalizes them. Site speed audit tools are awesome for this - a personal favorite is Lighthouse, an open-source tool offered as a browser extension for Google Chrome. There are a lot of things that could slow down your site, and most will depend on how you’ve set things up, so utilizing an audit tool is a great way to get the right information for your site.
2. Look At Your Existing Traffic
Before you can form a goal, you need to know where you’re starting from. Understanding how customers are getting to your site is the first step to making it easier for them. If you’re using Drip, your first step is to make sure you’ve set up your Drip account properly. Once you’ve done that, it’s off to the races.
Set Up Google Analytics
For insights into everything from traffic sources to the types of devices your customers are using to access your site, you’ll want to set up Google Analytics. GA works the same way Drip does: install a snippet of code onto your site, and you’ll instantly have access to a ton of customer data. While GA no longer gives you the exact keywords that are bringing people to your site, it will show you how much of your current traffic is coming from organic search, among other helpful insights.
Find and Befriend A Search Tool
To understand which keywords your customers are using to find your site, as well as which keywords you could be optimizing your products around, you’ll want to utilize a tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush. Once you’ve picked your weapon, you can begin the battle for the search engine results page (SERP). Start by plugging in each page on your site and making a list of the search terms each page is currently ranking for.
Make note of any similarities between keywords, as well as anything that surprises you. For example, if your store sells artisanal hot dog pokers and you’ve been referring to them as “pig pokies,” customers who are searching for “fancy hot dog poker” will likely never find you. That won’t do, pig.
3. Keyword Research
So, you should now have an idea of the keywords bringing traffic to your site, and you’ve found and befriended a kick-butt search tool. Go you! Now it’s time to start building your plan.
Start With Competitive Research
Few ecommerce stores are lucky enough to not have competitors. If your competitors aren’t killing the SEO game, you have a couple of options. One is to head to a larger competitor website (cough, cough - Amazon) to see how they categorize and market the products they’re selling. Here’s a great tip: to see other ways people are searching for products, type things into the search bar, and make note of what is automatically suggested. If you type “dog food,” are people searching “senior dog food?” “Dog food for seniors?”
Another great place to check is Wikipedia. Just hear me out. Entering a product or category on your site into Wikipedia can give you good insight into sub-categories and synonyms that can be helpful as you think about your keyword strategy. Take our lovely hypothetical gourmet hot dog poker store: typing hot dog into Wikipedia immediately brings up suggestions for things like “frankfurter” and “sausage.” Understanding how people search on other sites can give you great insights into your site architecture.
Find Your Head Keyword
The point of all this research is to give you an idea of the head keyword that best serves your purposes. Head keywords are the main keywords you’re building your SEO strategy around. This can be tricky, but doing enough research should give you a good gut feeling as to what makes sense for your store. In the case of our gourmet hot dog poker store, our head term would be “hot dog poker.”
Find Your Long Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are the more specific variations of your head term. So, if we’re staying with this ridiculous hot dog poker example, we might look at “gourmet hot dog poker,” or “hot dog poker for small children,” or even “hot dog poker shaped like a pig.” Long-tail keywords will also include any variations you’ve identified, such as “sausage cooker” or “frankfurter stick.”
4. Optimizing Your Ecommerce Site
Many ecommerce sites use a templated approach when it comes to their site content, from product descriptions to technical stuff like page titles and meta descriptions. It makes sense, but the more you can get away from this, the better. Not only does Google not like duplicate content, but targeted site content is also the easiest way to help your customers find you. If you can’t write unique content for every single product and page on your site, at least try and prioritize the top pages (you can find these in Google Analytics).
The Anatomy of A Product Description
As you sit down to write your sparkly new product description, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Always include your head target keyword.
Include relevant long-tail keywords, including synonyms.
Don’t write for the robots - everything needs to be readable and useful to your customers first and foremost.
Don’t be annoying. Tell people what they came to your site to find out, and keep it succinct.
5. Content Marketing for Ecommerce Sites
Like SEO, the most successful content marketing is done with the end goal of helping users solve a problem or achieve a goal. Your customers are using your product for something, and that’s where you begin your content marketing plan. In the case of the hot dog poker, we’re cooking beef products. How exactly do you cook a hot dog?
Your content should help empower your customers to use and succeed with your product.
Revisit Your Keyword Research
Anyone who has ever used Google has probably asked a silly question like “how do I do laundry” or “how do I cook a hot dog.” If you’re a laundry detergent or hot dog poker company, you can use content to solve these problems for people, while promoting your product as the solution. Helping people and selling your product is a win for all parties involved, and we love parties. Revisit your keywords to see if you can gain insight into the problems your customers are using your products to solve. From there, you can start to come up with content ideas.
Steal Things (Just Kidding, Sorta)
It’s not stealing, it’s competitive research! Type “how do I cook a hot dog” into Google, and look at the first result. What’s good about it? What’s unclear? The more you understand what content already exists, the more you’ll begin to see where the opportunities are. Can you make a more helpful piece of content? A more niche piece of content for the underserved gourmet hot dog lovers?
6. Backlink Smarter, Not Harder
Backlinks, or the number of sites linking back to your site, represent an invisible indication of trustworthiness to the robots at Google. Once your site is up to snuff and your content machine is humming along, you can start to seek them out. For ecommerce sites specifically, there are a few places to start.
If you carry a product that’s made by someone else, make sure you’re featured somewhere on their site as a supplier. It’s an easy, mutually beneficial way to start building backlinks to your site. Plus, it’s helpful to customers who want to know where to buy your manufacturer’s products. Wins all around!
If you have companies and customers using your products, backlinking can provide the same mutually beneficial uplift to both of your sites. Consider coming up with a strategy to pursue these links with your customers.
So there you have it, ecommerce SEO basics for your store. Feeling good? Hungry for a hot dog? Me too. For more insights into your ecommerce store and your customer’s behavior, sign up for your free trial of Drip.