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The Complete Guide to Ecommerce SEO

Ecommerce SEO is the process of driving organic traffic from search engines to an online store. 

This in-depth guide covers everything you need to know about search engine optimization for ecommerce sites, including its importance, quick tips, and tools for success. You’ll also see some long-term strategies that will help your ecommerce site grow organically over time.

Why Ecommerce SEO Is So Important

According to a recent study from Statista, search engines are the top source for buyers across the globe looking for products online. 40% of online shoppers find products via search engines compared to just 21% that go directly to a brand’s website. 

In short, there’s a greater chance that people will use Google, Yahoo, or Bing to find a product than navigating to your site. For smaller ecommerce retailers that don’t have the same brand awareness as companies like Nike or Gucci, the chances of buyers going straight to your website to buy something drop significantly. 

Without ecommerce SEO, you’re only able to reach customers if they know about your brand’s existence. This typically requires a significant investment in advertisements and social media. While there’s nothing wrong with using ads to drive ecommerce sales, your sales will plummet as soon as those ads stop running. 

Ecommerce SEO is different. 

By prioritizing search engine optimization, you can scale your site traffic organically without spending money on ads. The higher your products rank on search engines for a given search, the more traffic you’ll get. This traffic leads to exponential growth.

The great part about ecommerce SEO is that you can drastically increase your sales revenue without increasing your conversion rates. Even if your conversion rates stay the same, you can 10x your sales if you 10x your traffic. It’s simple math.

Ecommerce SEO tactics stay with your site forever. Unlike ads that hurt your bottom line the second you stop running them, ecommerce SEO is a long-term investment in the success of your online store. 

This also exposes your brand to a much wider audience. You can sell to anyone who searches for related keywords via search engines. These people don’t need to have any prior knowledge of your brand and its existence. 

Shoppers don’t need to follow you on social media or subscribe to your email list for you to target them, which reduces your customer acquisition costs. All they need to do is search for what you’re selling on Google. 

To illustrate the power of ecommerce SEO, let’s look at a real-life case study from an ecommerce retailer that sells herbs and spices—Savory Spice

The brand partnered with a digital marketing company that came up with a 12-month strategy for SEO. They focused on keyword research, site structure, URL tweaks, on-site SEO, backlinks, technical SEO, and other best practices.

Within months, they already noticed significant results. Savory Spice got 184.9k organic clicks in October compared to 72.3k organic clicks in October of the previous year. That’s a 156% increase!

These trends continued as the site’s organic traffic reached 964.4k in the second half of the year—up 107% from the same period year-over-year.

Even after the SEO project ended, Savory Spice’s organic search traffic continued to scale each month:

  • January — 206.9k
  • February — 213.5k
  • March — 227.9k
  • April — 264.9k

This case study shows that an investment in ecommerce SEO pays off both in the short term and long run. The benefits of ecommerce SEO continue even after you pause certain initiatives. 

Quick Tips to Improve Ecommerce SEO Today

Having a quality SEO tool at your disposal is a must for any ecommerce search optimization campaign—and Ahrefs is the best option on the market. 

Screenshot of Ahrefs home page

Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolkit. It offers keyword research tools, competitive analysis features, site audit capabilities, and more. You can even use Ahrefs to learn about what type of content is performing best in your particular industry. 

This type of information is invaluable for ecommerce sites.

Ahrefs also makes it easy for you to track your ranking progress over time. So you can quickly see whether or not your SEO efforts are actually working. 

Plans start at just $99 per month. You’ll get two months free if you sign up for an annual subscription. 

While ecommerce SEO might seem complex or intimidating if you’re a beginner, these quick tips below will help you build momentum and get started right away. You can implement these tactics immediately and reap the benefits quickly. 

Tip #1 — Conduct Keyword Research

Keyword research is the backbone of any ecommerce SEO strategy. It helps you figure out which keywords people are searching for and which ones are worth pursuing.

Ahrefs makes this process easy, even if you’re a complete beginner. Simply enter your target keyword, and the software handles the rest. You’ll see a report that looks like this:

Screenshot of Ahrefs results page for a search of the keyword "healthy juices"

Focus on search volume and keyword difficulty. The key here is to find a balance between both.

For example, if a search term has 50,000 monthly searches and a 97 difficulty rating, it’s probably not worth your efforts. Even if the keyword is highly specific to your brand and industry, there’s a slim chance you’ll be able to rank for it. 

Instead, you can focus on the low-hanging fruit. These are keywords with a lower search volume and lower difficulty score. You’ll have a much greater chance of ranking for these search terms. 

Ahrefs will also show you all related terms and additional keyword ideas that you can use as inspiration. 

Tip #2 — Optimize Your Product Descriptions

Once you have a list of keywords that you want to target, you must find ways to weave those terms into your product descriptions. This is one of the best ways to improve the way your products appear in search results. 

Write long product descriptions and use your target keyword at least three to five times within the content. Aim for 500-1,000+ words whenever possible. 

This gives you an opportunity to target multiple related keywords on a single page. 

For example, let’s say you’re selling kitchen appliances online. One of your best-selling products is a pressure cooker. 

You’d likely want to include related keywords like:

  • Stainless steel
  • Slow cooker
  • 6 quart, 8 quart, etc.
  • Automatic
  • Programmable
  • Timer
  • Soups and stews
  • Recipes
  • Dishwasher safe

These are all terms that people would be searching for in addition to “pressure cooker.” That’s why they need to be added to your product description. 

Tip #3 — Create a Logical Site Structure

Ecommerce site structure is crucial for SEO. This refers to the way pages are organized on your site.

Optimizing your site structure kills two birds with one stone. First, it improves the user experience—as site visitors will have an easier time navigating your site. Second, it helps search engines crawl your site to find products in your store and identify your most important pages. 

Many ecommerce sites lose control of site structure as they add or remove products and categories over time. Focusing on simplicity is the best approach here. 

Here’s the golden rule. Every page should be three clicks or fewer from your home page.

A well-optimized ecommerce site structure looks something like this:

Homepage > Product Category > Subcategory > Product

Now let’s replace those with actual products and categories:

Homepage > Sneakers > Training > Adidas Running Sneakers

Homepage > Sneakers > Basketball > Jordan 11s

Homepage > Formal > Oxford > Black Leather Toe Cap

You get the idea.

Tip #4 — Use Keyword-Rich URLs

Research shows that shorter URLs typically rank higher on Google compared to longer URLs.

Ecommerce sites usually have a disadvantage here because the URL structure will include your categories and subcategories. For example: https://yourstore.com/category/subcategory/productname/

If your URLs are going to be longer, make sure you’re using keywords to your advantage. 

For example, let’s continue using an example of an ecommerce site that sells sneakers and footwear. On the backend of your inventory, you might have all of your products labeled with SKU or product ID. But those shouldn’t be used in your URLs.

Let’s compare two examples:

https://yourstore.com/categoryID.7649872

vs.

https://yourstore.com/running-sneakers

The second URL is much better for SEO purposes. Nobody will be searching for your backend category ID strings via search engines.

Long-Term Strategies For Ecommerce SEO

Lots of SEO tactics require some time, patience, and extra effort. You won’t see the benefits of these strategies overnight, but they’ll pay off months and years down the road. 

Strategy #1 — Run Technical Audits

Technical SEO can be a bit of a mystery for many ecommerce site owners. It involves site and server optimizations that specifically target search engine crawlers—improving the way your site is indexed in search results. 

This is another instance where it helps to have an SEO tool at your disposal. 

With Ahrefs, you can use the site audit feature to see what’s going on under the hood of your site. 

Screenshot of Ahrefs site audit reports page

The cool part about the site audit reports from Ahrefs is that they’re really detailed. Not only does the report identify SEO issues, but it also gives you recommendations on how to fix certain errors. 

With that said, some of the resolutions aren’t always straightforward. If you’re not super technical, you might need to work with a developer to fix some of the SEO issues found in your audits.

Not all technical fixes can be solved overnight. You should also be running these reports on a regular basis, as new issues can pop up at any time.

Strategy #2 — Link Building

Link building is the process of getting other sites to link out to your site. The best backlinks come from sites in your industry with high domain authority. 

Search engines like Google use your backlink profile to rank your site accordingly. As you continue to build more backlinks, you’ll see your ranking in the SERPs increase.

But building quality backlinks takes time and effort. There are lots of different approaches to this strategy, including:

  • Guest blogging
  • Cold outreach
  • Broken link building
  • Unlinked brand mentions
  • Lost link reclamation
  • Stealing competitor links

Ahrefs is a great resource to use for any link-building strategy. You can use the site explorer tool to research backlinks of your competitors. 

Screenshot of backlinks results page for the website teenspring.com

Then you can reverse engineer those backlinks to create a target list for your outreach and other campaigns. This is definitely more of an advanced SEO strategy but will ultimately help you create a backlink profile that edges out your competitors.

Just be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort on link building before you notice any results.

Strategy #3 — Blogging

Many people don’t associate blogs with ecommerce sites. But blogging is one of the best ways to increase your organic traffic over time. 

It’s a great way for you to target long-tail keywords that go beyond your product pages. You can use your blogs as a way to gain traffic from people who aren’t necessarily shopping right now but simply browsing for information.

Blogs are great for SEO because they get readers to stay on your pages for an extended period of time, which Google recognizes in its algorithm. 

A blog post is also highly shareable, so there’s a chance that your readers will re-post the blog on social media or email it to their friends. This likely wouldn’t be the case with a product page. 

The downside of blogging is that it takes time to see results. You won’t see an increase in organic traffic tomorrow or next week if you publish a blog tonight. 

But if you stick with a plan of publishing at least two or three blogs per week for the next year, you’ll see those efforts paying dividends in the future. 

Next Steps

You can’t effectively run SEO campaigns without an SEO tool at your disposal. Ahrefs covers all of your ecommerce SEO needs, and you can use it to help you with the tips and strategies covered in this guide. 

Using an ecommerce platform that’s already optimized for SEO is crucial for success. Most of the heavy lifting is already handled for you. Check out our guide on the best ecommerce platforms to see if your solution made the cut.


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