Ecommerce

E-Commerce SEO Best Practices for 2018 (Guaranteed to Boost Sales)

When looking for new products or goods online, 36% of people start with a search engine like Google.

That number has increased 8% in the last year alone, and it’s continually trending upwards.

Meanwhile, fewer and fewer people are heading directly to a brand website as their first stop.

Optimizing your E-commerce store for search engines is critical to landing new customers and loyal buyers.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best practices of E-commerce SEO in 2018 to help you rank your products on SERPs and get your brand in front of the customers you want.

Let’s jump in!

What is E-commerce SEO?

E-commerce SEO — is it any different than traditional SEO?

Yes and no.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the marketing practice by which you use tacticmagentos to increase your visibility on organic search results.

The goal of SEO is to generate more organic traffic and sales for your business.

In e-commerce specifically, it’s simply doing the same thing (focusing on organic visits) with the following goals:

  1. Driving more traffic to your product pages and online store
  2. Building organic sales that you don’t have to spend ad money to get
  3. Creating better organic brand awareness on keywords/products

You might be thinking something like this: “My sales are fine, and many people find me organically already. Why do I need to put time and effort into e-commerce SEO?”

Well, it’s extremely important to focus on because ranking your product pages or store content on the first page of Google takes work. Lots of it.

If you rank on the second, third, or even fourth page of Google, you won’t generate much traffic (if any at all).

Meaning you have to nail the best practices for many e-commerce SEO factors.

If you aren’t doing any SEO but you’re driving organic traffic, then you are likely shooting far below your potential.

Now, let’s discuss the best practices to guarantee more sales for your store.

E-commerce Title Tags

Your title tag on a given product or category page on your website looks like this in organic search results:

Title tags for e-commerce are the HTML codes that develop clickable titles/headlines for organic search results.

Title tags serve a few key functions when it comes to SEO impact. Title tags are great for providing relevance and increasing your organic click-through rate by appealing to customers searching for products.

For instance, the title tag above came up after a search for red basketball shoes.

The closer that your title tag relates to the keyword searched, the more likely users are to click.

One company was able to generate a 62% increase in organic traffic by updating their title tags for SEO.

Title tags are a critical piece of on-page SEO for e-commerce.

Depending on what e-commerce platform you use, you should be able to easily edit your title tag for products, category pages, and more.

For example, on Shopify, you can find this in the search listing preview for your products:

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So, how do you optimize it?

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when crafting a title tag for your store:

  • Place target keywords at the forefront title tags.
  • Include LSI keywords if applicable/natural.
  • Limit your length to 50-60 characters.
  • Create unique titles for every single product page/category. Never duplicate.
  • Consider utilizing your brand name at the end to develop better brand awareness.

E-commerce Meta Description Tags

Like your title tags, a meta description tag is an HTML code that helps explain the content of your page to users on a search engine. Unlike the title tag, you can’t click on the meta description text.

This appears on organic search results as a paragraph description just below the title tag:

While inserting keywords and context into your meta description is great, it doesn’t directly boost SEO.

So, why is it important? Because it creates the context for the user and helps dramatically increase CTR.

In fact, one brand found a 48% increase in organic clicks by improving their metadata.

Optimizing your meta description to improve CTR takes testing and great copywriting.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Always include your main keyword or keyword variations. They show up highlighted in bold to attract more attention.
  • Focus on compelling descriptions that generate clicks.
  • Avoid clickbait since it can increase your bounce rate. A high bounce rate is a bad signal that could harm your ranking potential.

Like your title tag, you should be able to edit your meta description where you edit on-page data. The exact location will depend on your platform.

For Example, here’s what the page looks like where you can edit your title tags and meta descriptions with BigCommerce:

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Search Engine Friendly URLs

If you search for anything on Google, you’ll likely notice URL strings immediately:

Why? Because they display a company’s brand name. And since they’re highlighted in green, they draw your attention.

Do they actually make an impact for e-commerce sites? Absolutely.

A poor URL structure is confusing for searchers who are looking for your products and for search engines that are scanning your pages.

For example, when you analyze the following two SERP results, which product category page URL looks more appealing to click?

Are you drawn to the first one that’s simple and contains just the keyword, or do you like the long-string URL with dozens of random number combinations?

Probably the first one.

Absolute URLs like the first SERP page are what Google prefers.

When optimizing URL structure, platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce even pack tools to streamline the process:

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Here are some best practices to follow when creating your URL structure:

  • Place your target keyword in the URL.
  • Keep URLs as short and clean as possible.
  • Stick with absolute URLs rather than dynamic or date-based URLs.
  • Consistency is key. Stick with the same format on your entire store.

Category / Product Content

Content is king, right? Absolutely.

According to HubSpot, the more content you produce in both B2B and B2C (e-commerce, too), the more sales leads you to drive.

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It’s no secret that producing great content can help you build everything from brand awareness to real sales for your products.

But when it comes to category pages or product pages, what do you do?

Do you write a long-form blog post? Not necessarily.

Category and product pages are tricky. You don’t want to have thin content and struggle to rank organically, but you don’t want to bombard buyers with tons of writing just for the sake of search engines.

This factor is potentially the most important aspect of optimization on your product pages. According to one study, “Detailed product information ranks above reviews, price in a decision to buy.”

Great product information not only educates the user and fulfills their number-one need, but it also gives search engines context on your page.

You can see one of the best examples of stellar e-commerce product page content from Bolthouse Farms:

Keeping the product description short and sweet allows the potential buyer to understand what the product is without reading a full article.

LSI keywords are sprinkled in the description and among the side panel, too, which provides extra context on related searches.

Similarly, Surf Station has stellar category pages:

Each category page uses visuals to showcase the entire product offering within that category.

A rich description compels you to continue shopping with them.

And potential conversion roadblocks and pain points are demolished by a list of value propositions — all while containing LSI keywords to capture more topics.

When crafting your own product and category pages, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Prioritize your top product and category pages first. Find your top pages in Google Analytics and make those a priority:
  • Research LSI keywords to sprinkle in your copy with a tool like LSIGraph. Just plug in your product or category keyword to generate ideas:
  • Include your target head keyword as the title of the page.
  • Optimize meta descriptions.
  • Keep it short, sweet, and informative. Make it enjoyable to read.
    Mobile-Friendly E-commerce Optimization

Mobile, mobile mobile.

I’m sure you’ve seen the hype of mobile optimization just about everywhere.

But the truth is that it’s not just hype anymore. Mobile is dominating online traffic now.

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It’s rising every year and showing no signs of stopping.

Recently, Google announced that their mobile-first index was rolling out, too.

What does it mean? In a nutshell, the mobile-first index means that Google will be indexing your mobile site first — before your desktop.

This means that your mobile site has to be on-point to continue to thrive on organic SERPs.

If people are landing on your mobile site and bouncing due to bad speeds and horrible UI, you can bet that your rankings will take a hit.

If your website isn’t mobile optimized and responsive, that should be priority number one for your mobile optimization.

On top of that, mobile page speed is critical for success.

According to Google benchmarks, the average mobile site in every industry is far too slow:

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What’s the problem with being just a few seconds slower than the “best practice” for speed?

Bounce rates that go through the roof:

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If users have a bad mobile experience, the majority of them won’t return.

Dwell time, the “actual length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the SERPs,” is a factor in SEO. So, having bad page speeds and a bad mobile site that causes bounces is a surefire way to sabotage SEO efforts.

Lush is a great example of a mobile e-commerce site that’s mobile friendly and well optimized for speed and dwell time.

It loads in just a few seconds, so it’s perfectly fit for a small mobile screen. And it contains the header and first CTA without the visitor having to scroll:

At the top, there’s a menu that allows you to quickly find products by category:

When clicking and viewing product pages, you see a product headline, a quick description, and customer reviews at the forefront:

Without even scrolling, you can add the product directly to your cart or even chat with a live representative right on your mobile device.

Lush is a prime example of mobile-friendly optimization for e-commerce.

Here are a few best practices for improving your mobile store:

  • Speed: Focus on improving your mobile store site speed. The best practice is three seconds.
  • Mobile-friendly / responsive: At the least, your mobile store should be mobile-friendly and responsive.
  • Dwell time: To improve dwell time, cater to the mobile user experience. Limit heavy page elements, improve functionality, and reduce big blocks of text to make reading easier.

Schema Markup (Rich Snippets)

Schema, otherwise known as rich snippets, can seem somewhat complex to a new e-commerce store.

Rich snippets are SERP features that show your schema / structured data markup in a user-friendly experience.

Schema markup and structured data for e-commerce SEO are HTML codes that communicate information about your product like pricing, reviews, images, and more.

Search engines read all of this structured data and showcase it on search results to add more detail and depth to your typical meta descriptions.

For example, here is a result without schema markup:

And here’s one with it:

Notice that the schema markup contains reviews, while the result without it doesn’t.

This isn’t limited to reviews, though. Product page markup can include tons of different elements, such as:

  • Ratings
  • Branding
  • Pricing
  • Availability (stock)

Presenting this information to searches on the SERP might entice them to visit your site instead of another one. And more visitors to your site means more chances to drive sales.

By using Google’s guide, you can set up structured data on all of your product pages to improve CTR and organic performance. Ultimately, this can aid your e-commerce SEO game plan.

Dealing with Expired E-Commerce Products and Links for SEO

Products expire all of the time. And we’re not just talking about products that are out of stock. This includes products that you’ve stopped producing and selling on your store.

These products will likely create a 404 error page where the link used to be:

Simply removing the page from your site won’t stop it from showing up on search results or being externally linked to on another website.

But if people are landing on this 404 page, you’re missing out on sales and interested visitors.

Instead, best practices call for a permanent 301 redirect to bring traffic to a new page with the new version or similar products.

This transfers all of the SEO juice you accumulated.

Depending on what e-commerce platform you use, you can download apps (or plugins for WordPress) to help you 301 redirect your links:

Be sure to redirect expired pages on your site to updated products or category pages related to your expired products.

E-commerce Conversion Rate Optimization: User Experience and Beyond

Conversion rate optimization is a critical step for taking advantage of the traffic you generate from organic search.

If your e-commerce SEO is on point, that’s just the first step.

Now, you need to ensure that traffic buys from you.

When it comes to e-commerce, cart abandonment rates are high. Very high.

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Why? Many of the top reasons (according to Statista) are fixable with a bit of conversion rate optimization:

  • Expensive shipping
  • Lack of free shipping
  • Unaware of shipping costs
  • Slow shipping
  • Bad site navigation

Do you see a trend here? Shipping and site experience are key factors in converting users on your store. They are the cornerstone of e-commerce CRO.

According to Adobe, 38% of users will leave a site if the UX is bad. Meanwhile, improving UX can increase sales by nearly 200%.

User experience and conversion rate optimization in e-commerce are two peas in a pod. With that in mind, you have to make the discovery and buying process as smooth as possible. From UX to cart abandonment rates, optimization is key.

There is possibly no better conversion-optimized website than Rothy’s. Even if you’ve never enjoyed shoes or you aren’t a woman interested in women’s shoes, exploring the site is enjoyable.

When you land on the home page, the site instantly greets you with a simple design that gives you two easy options: menu or shop all.

This is helpful because too many choices can be paralyzing for shoppers.

At the top of Rothy’s home page, a dynamic and changing ticker displays instant value that reassures users that they won’t experience common pain points.

As you scroll down, the options are again consolidated into product styles that are elegant and simple:

Clicking on individual products opens the product page directly in the window without directing you to another page that might take ten more seconds to load and result in a bounce.

The flow of the site and buying process is virtually unparalleled.

And for the icing on the cake, value is communicated at every single step:

That’s e-commerce conversion optimization.

Here are some best practices that you can follow to ensure that you convert all of your organic traffic:

  • Site speed: Make your site faster and prioritize ease of use.
  • Navigation: Give fewer, simpler options to find products. Too many choices can cause friction.
  • Simplify checkout pages and focus on value: To avoid high cart abandonment rates, always address pain points before consumers have to ask about them.

Amazon in the E-Commerce Marketplace

You already have an established e-commerce site that’s driving sales.

Why on earth would you turn to Amazon and lose a percentage of your profits?

Because nearly half of product-based searches start with Amazon. If you aren’t on Amazon and your competitor is, you can kiss that sale goodbye.

Prime members on Amazon spend a whopping $1,300 a year on the platform. Getting a single customer to spend that much on your own store is near impossible unless your products average hundreds of dollars a piece.

Think about it this way:

Let’s say I’m your typical customer. I want to find a product that your store offers.

So, I start with Amazon. I find the product for a good price, but I still want to browse. I head to Google and find your site. It’s also a good price, but shipping and returns aren’t as clear, and I’ve never purchased on your site before.

Amazon has been loyal to me, and I’ve never heard of your brand.

So I go back to Amazon and buy from your competition for the same price with free shipping and returns.

Yeah, that’s daily life for the majority of online shoppers.

Amazon virtually dominates e-commerce sales:

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49% on a single e-commerce store.

People love Amazon, and there’s no denying it. The data doesn’t lie.

Plus, brand building isn’t required for selling on Amazon. If someone searches on Google for a product, they’ll naturally choose brands they know over brands they aren’t familiar with.

If they haven’t heard of you, you’ll lose the sale to a competitor.

But on Amazon, anything goes. It’s almost as if your brand is an extension of Amazon. Check out the top reasons why people like to buy from Amazon:

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Didn’t see “brand” in there, did you?

If you’re selling on Amazon, the most important factors that go into buying decisions are pricing, reviews, shipping, and Amazon recommendations. Brand recognition is virtually irrelevant.

It’s wise to have both an e-commerce and Amazon storefront. Amazon packs so much traffic and buying power that you can’t ignore it.

If you choose not to have an Amazon presence, you should mimic the benefits of Amazon on products that your competitors are selling on Amazon. Things like free and easy shipping and returns.

If shoppers can’t find similar benefits and they don’t know your brand well, the chances are good that they’ll purchase from your competition on Amazon who likely has good reviews too.

Top E-Commerce Website Platforms for SEO

When deciding to host an E-commerce store on the web, you have a bunch of different options, and each packs powerful SEO tools to help you boost rankings.

Here are the top E-commerce website platforms for SEO.

BigCommerce: BC is a top online store platform, and for good reason. It has integrations, SEO capabilities, and the ability to integrate your store on multiple channels like Amazon and Facebook with the click of a button.

Shopify: Like BC, Shopify is a top player for E-commerce. With more advanced SEO options, it’s a great choice for growing stores.

Magento: Magento is another popular E-commerce platform that thrives on Adobe software, which gives you next-level tools and to drive more sales. Magento’s seo related features also provides a nice advantage over other platforms.

Volusion: Volusion has some of the most picture-perfect and optimized site themes out there. Plus, their marketing and SEO tools are great for helping you rank organically.

WooCommerce: WooCommerce directly integrates with WordPress to give you great CMS and online store features.

3dcart: 3dcart allows you to build an online store or simply add a shopping cart feature to an existing website. It also has basic SEO features.

Weebly: Weebly is a popular website building tool with great E-commerce functionality. Weebly integrates with popular shipping carriers and packs tons of SEO tools in the process.

Conclusion

SEO is a huge factor in E-commerce success.

Ranking your website, product pages, and content on the first page of Google will help you secure more organic traffic.

Beyond that, it helps you build brand awareness, which is a big factor in driving sales from organic search results.

Instead of only paying for ads to drive traffic and sales, you can do it organically through powerful SEO.

Turn your efforts to the following key areas of E-commerce SEO that can give you the most bang for your buck:

  • Title tags
  • Meta description tags
  • URLs
  • Category / product content optimization
  • Mobile optimization
  • Schema
  • 301 redirects for expired products
  • CRO for your E-commerce store
  • Amazon
  • Picking the right E-commerce platform for your goals

Focus on these best practices, and you’ll drive more organic sales than ever before.

If you feel like you might need professional help to grow your revenue and increase online sales? Check out our e-commerce seo services and partner with a company with a proven history of success.

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