Ecommerce SEO Guide: SEO Best Practices for Ecommerce Websites

by Mark Macdonald

Last updated on October 15th, 2018

on-site-ecommerce-seo-what-is

If you want to get more traffic and sales to your ecommerce website, then on-page SEO is a critical first step.

There’s a multitude of how-to articles and tutorials on the web offering general SEO advice, but far fewer that specifically address the needs of ecommerce entrepreneurs.

Today, we’d like to give you a basic understanding of on-site search engine optimization for ecommerce. It will be enough to get you started, make sure you’re sending all the right signals to Google, and set you up for SEO success.

Let’s dive in.

What is Ecommerce SEO? Definition

Ecommerce SEO is the process of making your online store more visible in the search engine results pages (SERPs). When people search for products that you sell, you want to rank as highly as possible so you get more traffic.

You can get traffic from paid search, but SEO costs much less. Plus, ad blockers and ad blindness can reduce the effectiveness of paid search, so you’ll want to optimize for search regardless.

Ecommerce SEO usually involves optimizing your headlines, product descriptions, meta data, internal link structure, and navigational structure for search and user experience. Each product you sell should have a dedicated page designed to draw traffic from search engines.

However, you don’t want to forget about static, non-product-oriented pages on your site, such as the following:

  • Homepage
  • About page
  • F.A.Q. page
  • Blog articles
  • Help center answers
  • Contact page

Create a list of keywords for those pages as well as related keywords. Tools like Ubersuggest make it easy to search for one long-tail keyword and find semantic keywords that go well with it.

Why SEO For Ecommerce Matters

What do consumers do when they need a product or service? Many perform Google searches. They’re looking for options, tips, comparisons, and other information to help them make informed decisions.

If your website doesn’t appear in the SERPs, you lose critical access to qualified and interested ecommerce customers. Your products might have a space on the web, but are they findable?

That’s where ecommerce SEO comes in. It provides you with a way to reach your target audience without paying for ads. Once you get people to your site, you can delight them with your high-quality products, intriguing copy, and motivating calls to action.

If you only optimize your website for people, you do your company a disservice. SEO for ecommerce addresses the first hurdle to acquiring new customers: getting people to your site.

How to Develop an Ecommerce SEO Strategy

Ecommerce SEO might seem like a huge task, especially if you already have a website populated with tons of products. Yes, it might take time, but you can speed up the process with a solid strategy.

  • Prioritize pages: Which pages on your site get the most traffic? Start with them. Additionally, if you want people to focus on a specific or flagship product, optimize for that product first.
  • Create a workflow: SEO requires you to meet lots of specific requirements. Choosing keywords, adding meta data, naming your images correctly, adding image alternate attributes, and incorporating related keywords all fall under this category.
  • Check out the competition: Your ecommerce SEO strategy should be designed to outwit the competition. Look at your top competitors’ sites and check out their SEO efforts. Identify ways to make yours better.
  • Follow through with CRO: Conversion rate optimization (CRO) should follow SEO. We’ll talk about that more later on.

Keep reading for more detailed instructions for an effective ecommerce SEO strategy.

Ecommerce SEO Checklist: Best Practices for Your Ecommerce SEO Strategy

Let’s look at some of the best tips for ecommerce sites that are lacking in the SEO space. If you want people to find your products more easily, you need an ecommerce SEO strategy, and checking each item off your list will make your strategy more effective.

Use the Right Keywords

on-site-ecommerce-seo-right-keywords

Yes, keywords still matter. You don’t want to overload your product titles and descriptions with these keywords, but they need to be present in the copy.

Mention your primary keyword in your product headline, description, meta description, image alternate attributes, and subheadlines. Sprinkle latent semantic index (LSI) keywords throughout. These are related keywords that help Google understand your page in context.

Analyze the Keyword Search Volume, CPC, and User Intent

Before you use a keyword, do some research on it. Know how often people search for it (keyword search volume), how competitive it is in the paid advertising space (cost-per-click, or CPC), and what people are looking for when they use that keyword.

Let’s break it down further.

Search volume tells you how much interest a particular keyword inspires in consumers. A high search volume indicates greater popularity, which means you’ll get more active searches for that keyword.

CPC tells you how much people pay per click when they buy advertising based on a specific keyword. A high CPC indicates increased competition. If your target keyword is extremely competitive, consider finding a long-tail alternative.

Finally, user intent describes what people want to find when they type a specific keyword into Google’s search bar. Let’s say, for instance, that someone types “shower” and hits Enter.

Does that person want information about shower installation, shower repair, baby showers, bridal showers, or something else entirely? If you can’t determine the user intent behind a keyword, add other words to the search string for clarity.

Conduct Competitor Research

If you have no clue where to start with on-site optimization for your ecommerce site, then your competitors are your best bet. Larger competitors, in particular, have probably already put in the legwork for optimizing their websites, and you can learn many of their secrets on their websites themselves.

Keywords are the thing you need to focus on. Particularly, you’ll want to analyze the keywords on their homepages as well as their top product pages.

How can you tell if a website is optimizing for a particular keyword? You can start by using the Moz browser extension to see the SEO title and description your competitors use in their title tags.

on-site-ecommerce-seo-competitor-research-title-description

You can also use tools like SEMrush to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for on both organic and paid search.

on-site-ecommerce-seo-competitor-research-keywords

Don’t stop your research with keywords. Check out your competitors’ landing pages too, so you can see how they use the specified keywords to optimize those pages.

Focus on Homepage SEO

The homepage is typically where most businesses focus their SEO budget and energy. While it is definitely one of the top pages of your website to optimize, it is by no means the only one you should focus on.

That said, you do want to optimize your homepage well. The key things you want to add and optimize are include the following.

Homepage Title Tag

The SEO title tag is one of the most important element of on-site search optimization. It should include your business name along with the main keyword phrase you are targeting. You should write this title tag in less than 70 characters and in a way that is appealing to search visitors, as they will see it in search results.

Homepage Meta Description

While this is not important as far as keyword rankings, the meta description for your homepage is a 160-character description of your business that will also show up in search beneath the title tag. Write it in a way that encourages people to want to visit your website.

Homepage Content

The content on your homepage should help visitors learn more about your business and the products you have to offer in a clear and concise way. Avoid overloading visitors with too much information. Consider featuring your top few products on the homepage and your unique selling proposition.

Cluttered homepages can confuse visitors as well as search engines. For instances, maybe you sell products in many different categories. Google will struggle to identify what you sell and who you’re targeting with your products, so get specific about what your site offers.

Simplify Your Site Architecture

As you are adding products and categories to your store, remember that site architecture plays an important role in search optimization. Particularly, you want to have a distinct hierarchy of navigation, from your homepage to product categories to the products listed within them.

Search engine bots will discover your pages and products on your website based on a clear internal linking structure that is easy to follow — and not too deep.

The rule of thumb for search engines and visitors is to make sure people can reach everything within three clicks. From the homepage, they should only have to make a maximum of three clicks to get to any product on your website.

Internal Linking

Internal links serve two main purposes:

  • Boosting ecommerce SEO by showing how pages are related to one another
  • Increasing time on site by encouraging visitors to further explore your site

Linking to related products or to information-rich blog articles can help improve ecommerce SEO and make your site more tempting for deep dives.

Optimize Product Pages

Product pages are the lifeblood of your business, so you will want to focus a lot of your energy on optimizing them. Many ecommerce store owners simply write a few lines of text about each product and throw up an image or video.

You need more information on your product pages so Google can find them. Here are the specific things you want to work on.

Product Name

The name of your product is important. In most cases, it’s also used in the SEO title and URL of your product page. This is why you may want to consider adding a common search term or keyword phrase to your products.

For example, if you are selling T-shirts, be sure to include “T-shirt” or “tee” in the product name. That way, the keyword also ends up in the SEO title and URL.

on-site-ecommerce-seo-product-name-tshirt

As an added bonus, when people share your product on Facebook or Pinterest, that keyword will be in the title of the shared post.

Image Optimization

Images are an important part of your product page. Stand in your customer’s shoes for a moment. Are you more likely to buy a product from a site that clearly depicts the product from as many angles as possible, from a site that has no image at all, or from one that is small and illegible?

Not only are images important for your customers, but they are important for search optimization.

To properly optimize your images for search, start with the filename. Don’t add images named IMG0010.jpg to your product pages. Instead, use the product name and main keyword, such as eastcoast-skinny-jeans.jpg.

If you have alternative views of your product, include keywords that people would use if they were searching for those images in search.

on-site-ecommerce-seo-image-optimization

Also, when you add your images to your product page, include the product name and keyword in the ALT text for the image.

The result? Your images now have a chance of appearing in Google Image Search as shown in the image above, or in the main search results page as a part of the additional media showing.

Video

Help your customer feel more confident about their purchases by also adding video to your product page. The video can be basic information about your product (like a commercial), a how-to video on ways to use the product to get results, or testimonials from people who have used the product.

Publishing videos offsite on networks like YouTube can be a great way to attract and educate potential customers about your products.

Educational DIY videos, for example, can show people how to create something amazing by incorporating your products. Once they get into the idea of working on that project, they’ll be more likely to buy your related products.

Customer Reviews

Reviews are another way to boost customer confidence in your product, so if you have a good product, be sure to allow them.

Bad reviews aren’t always a bad thing either. Think about it – if you have a higher priced item that has great reviews, and a lower priced item with so-so reviews, then people will be more likely to choose the higher priced item, resulting in greater sales for your business.

FAQ Content

Do people ask questions about your products? Of course they do. Having product-specific FAQ content on your product pages is a key to conversions.

If customers have questions that you don’t answer, they’ll go somewhere else to find those answers — and likely buy from the source that answers the questions.

Having a general FAQ page on your website is also a good idea. Answering basic questions about your website’s security, shipping, and return policies can increase buyer confidence, leading to more sales.

Use Responsive Design

on-site-ecommerce-seo-responsive-design

People do considerable shopping on mobile these days. Using a responsive design for your ecommerce website can not only lead to better user experience, but also improved search results. Google’s mobile-first index uses mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.

Reduce Page Load Speed

Page load speed is also a ranking signal, both for desktop and mobile. The faster your pages load, the better Google will rank you.

How do you decrease page load speed? Focus on subtracting as many unnecessary elements from your page as possible. For instance, a huge background image that’s mostly covered by a white body column might not be necessary. Similarly, remove any plugins or add-ons that don’t contribute to your ecommerce business’s bottom line.

Image Size and Dimension

The larger your images, the longer a browser takes to load them. If you reduce an image’s size from 1,000×1,000 pixels to 500×500 pixels, you’ve reduced its “weight” by half. You can also save your images as lower-quality JPG (JPEG)s with a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Just click “File” and “Save as…”

on-site-ecommerce-seo-image-size-dimension-save-as

You’ll have the option to save your image as a JPG (JPEG) at a quality level between zero and 12.

on-site-ecommerce-seo-image-size-dimension-quality-level

Simply moving the arrow from a 12 to an eight can drastically reduce the file size. In this case, the image went from 125K to 82.4K.

Create Backlinks for Ecommerce SEO

Backlinks are another ranking signal Google uses to determine where your pages belong in the SERPs. The more backlinks you have from high-quality sites, the more authoritative your site becomes.

Building backlinks for ecommerce sites doesn’t have to be difficult. Guest posting on blogs related to your niche is one easy, white-hat way to build links. Simply email the owners of the blogs you’re interested in and offer them three or more ideas for potential guest posts.

Best Ecommerce SEO Tools

If you want your ecommerce SEO strategy to work, you need the right tools. The following are some of the most helpful websites for finding ways to improve your on-page and off-page SEO for greater visibility in the search engines.

Ubersuggest

I mentioned Ubersuggest briefly above. This is a highly beneficial tool for isolating the best keywords to target for your ecommerce site and for finding related keywords to help boost your rankings.

Simply type in a keyword related to your product. The tool will scrape various sources on the web for information about related keywords, CPC, search volume, and more.

Ahrefs

Use Ahrefs to optimize and track your ecommerce SEO strategy. It’s great for finding backlinks to your site as well as to your competitors’ sites. If someone has linked to your competitor, you might be able to snag a link to your own site by emailing that person and establishing a rapport. Offer to link to his or her site, then suggest one of your high-quality posts that they’re audience might be interested in.

ScreamingFrog

ScreamingFrog is great for finding problems on your site, such as broken links, missing meta descriptions, and duplicate content. When you identify those problems, create redirects or add missing content so you don’t get penalized in the search engines. The free version offers plenty of useful tools, but if you have more than 500 URL extensions, you might want to upgrade to premium.

MOZ

MOZ is the ideal tool when you want to track and find keywords, find link-building opportunities, and analyze competitors’ page metrics. There are free and paid versions, so you can decide how much power you need to fuel your ecommerce SEO campaign.

Why You Should Combine SEO With CRO

I briefly touched on CRO above, but what do conversion rates have to do with SEO? The answer is that they’re two stages a consumer must go through to purchase your ecommerce products.

If people can’t find your site (SEO), they can’t convert on your offers. Similarly, if you haven’t optimized for conversions, all the visitors in the world won’t bring you sales.

Combining SEO with CRO gives you a powerful set of strategies to help you drive conversions and generate sales. Ecommerce has become increasingly competitive, so you need ways to get more people to your site and through the sales funnel.

Start by analyzing your site carefully with heatmap, scrollmap and confetti reports. View how people engage with your site so you can optimize each page for conversions. As long as you’ve optimized for SEO as well, you can generate consistent traffic and convert a higher percentage of them.

Conclusion

on-site-ecommerce-seo-conclusion

Many ecommerce business owners want to jump straight to increasing conversions. That’s the right mindset, but you’re a step ahead.

You have to get people to your site before you can convert them on your offers. Beginning with ecommerce SEO sets you up for success.

Let’s take a look at our checklist for ecommerce SEO:

  • Pick the right keywords
  • Conduct competitor research
  • Focus on homepage SEO
  • Simplify your site architecture
  • Optimize product pages
  • Use responsive design
  • Reduce page load speed
  • Create backlinks

If you follow those steps, your ecommerce site will rank better in the search engines and generate more prospects for your CRO efforts.

29 Comments

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Mark Macdonald

Mark Macdonald is the Content Manager at Shopify - a fully hosted ecommerce shopping cart platform preferred by over 60,000 stores worldwide. For more SEO tips check out Shopify’s free Ecommerce SEO 101 video series.

29 COMMENTS

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  1. Alisa says:
    September 28, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    Good post!

  2. Mariah Ajaz says:
    April 3, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Great post.!! I am a beginner and your post really helped me… Reviews are great for catching customers attention..

  3. Roseanne says:
    November 17, 2016 at 1:55 am

    You actually make it seem really easy with your presentation however I find this topic
    to be really something which I believe I’d never understand.

    It seems too complex and very vast for me. I’m having a look ahead to your subsequent
    post, I’ll attempt to get the hang of it!

  4. Anonymous says:
    August 2, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Hi
    Thanks for coming up with this detailed and informative post! Loved it!

  5. Anonymous says:
    April 8, 2016 at 7:56 am

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I am glad that
    you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Martin Roy says:
    February 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Mark do you think that home page keywords should be used in product pages? Because sometimes Homepage includes the keywords of brand name and when you have your brand name in product pages, it may happen that search engine start giving importance to all of your website pages.

  7. Martin Roy says:
    February 20, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Mark you discussed about adding more and more images for product description, so, that customers can get clear picture and view of the product but do you think that this will increase the size of the web page which can result in problems in search engine optimization?

  8. Bretton says:
    February 20, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you Mark for sharing such useful information about on-site search engine optimization. I think with the passage of time on-site search engine optimization is becoming more and more important. It is often helpful for you to get idea about keywords from your competitors but sometimes it can create difficult situation especially when you are not having too much things in common. Your competitor can have more variety of products so he will use more keywords in order to expand his searches and getting more people landing on the website through search engines on different internal pages of the website. So, you have to be quite sensible while selecting the keywords for website from your competitors by keeping in mind your own products and services and comparing it with the competitors’ products.

  9. David says:
    December 3, 2015 at 2:58 am

    This article was really good. I had some doubts regarding on-site optimization and now everything is clear for me. From what I have read here, I understood that e-commerce websites have evolved a lot and now we should keep updating our e-commerce websites till it reaches the perfect spot to compete with other business websites.

  10. Jassi says:
    August 31, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Simply Awesome .These Ideas are working for my ecommerce project. My Client is very happy for my work .. Really Appreciate My Work. 🙂 Thanks a lot for sharing these tricks. Keep Sharing

  11. Raj says:
    March 7, 2014 at 4:52 am

    Ecommerce websites have evolved, like how man evolved from apes! From oscommerce to magento’s latest edition of 1.8 it has been a very long journey for the ecommerce experts enlighteneditdevelopment.com/.

    We have seen the good and the bad both, the lack of search engine friendliness, browser compatibility issues, issues with payment and shipping methods! The current edition of magento has overcome all and is a best possible solution for medium and large enterprises, having said that not all can handle magento, only experts like Enlightened It Development can do that.

  12. Greg Smith@Search Simplicity says:
    December 1, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Content management is the process through which you can add new optimized content to your site. These methods can assist them to rank high in search outcomes and as a result offer greater probabilities to appeal to buyers and make larger product sales of their merchandise. SEM, search engine marketing is mainly about content that you have uploaded on your website.

  13. Ariel says:
    November 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you for the fabulous article! I really appreciated the in-depth information on optimizing images, a lot of articles glance over this useful bit.

  14. Akshay Pillay says:
    November 8, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Really great post Mark. Your suggestions were helpful.

  15. Sophie says:
    November 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Great post Mark, thanks.
    I agree with your comments about FAQ pages and have recently read that these are even more important now with the latest algorithm updates; Google is now more able to match long tail and voice search queries, therefore if the specific question and answer is on your site, this will do wonders for your SEO.

  16. October 16, 2013 at 1:18 am

    Very useful article about ecommerce website SEO – On page SEO is an important factor for every website. Thanks for sharing and update more….

  17. October 15, 2013 at 12:43 am

    Really great post here. thank you for sharing.

  18. robin says:
    October 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    SEO turning into content marketing and Guest blogging only , one can gain Quality Back links only investing valuable time and spreading positiveness in websites not spams. Using Call to action Images and well designed landing pages will be returning huge effect in seo for ecommerce.

  19. QTriangle says:
    September 27, 2013 at 5:39 am

    You provided a great information.

  20. September 27, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Great Tips. Websites can allow People to post their Questions on Social networks rather than FAQ Page. Place an option for users to tag every product with their own keywords. It increases website searches for broad inquiries.

  21. September 15, 2013 at 5:47 am

    Hey Mark, A question about meta tags now? A lot of people are saying that meta tags are dead now and Google no longer takes meta tags into account while ranking websites.

    • Mark Macdonald says:
      September 16, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Hi Cheryl,

      Correct. Google no longer considers meta tags. Hope that helps.

      • Matt says:
        September 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        You need to be more specific. There are several types of meta tags that are search engines absolutely obey.

        Meta Description
        Meta Robots
        etc.

        What the commenter was most likely talking about was the meta keywords tag.

        It is true that search engines do not use a pages defined meta keywords.

  22. P ONeill says:
    September 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Hi Mark,

    I enjoyed this article, some of the basics are usually the best tips. However, stating that
    “The SEO title tag is the most important element of on-site search optimization” is erroneous, surely?. There are so many factors which are far more important that page titles. Anything within site architecture which affects crawlability for one thing.

    There are plenty of examples of sites which rank for search terms that aren’t in (or even relevant to) their titles.

    It’s all good advice here, I just think that was an overly sweeping statement!

    Thanks,

    Paddy

    • Mark Macdonald says:
      September 13, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Hey Paddy. Thanks for your comment. I agree I should have worded that more carefully. When talking about on page elements you need to optimize, titles tags are definitely one of the most critical – but yes they need to be backed by the right content and proper site architecture. I’ve updated the post. Cheers.

  23. September 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Actually i am web designer. accoring to seo is there any changes are required in designing ecommerce seo..

  24. Julie says:
    September 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I love the FAQ suggestion as a way to create content that not only ranks in search but also removes objections from people looking to buy from you!

    • Mark Macdonald says:
      September 12, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks Julie. Agreed. Taking every question your customers ask you and publicly answering them on your website is a great way to create content that contains the keywords and language your customers use (and search with).

  25. Tom says:
    September 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

    We’ve had good success using Google’s keyword research tool to discover the keywords our customers are using to search for our products and then making sure those keywords are present in our title tags and on our product descriptions. Great post!

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