Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
SEO is similar in all industries and for all types of companies, but there are things that differ based on whether you own a franchise, a blog, a B2B versus a B2C company, and finally, an ecommerce website. Once you have a basic understanding of how SEO works, it’s important that you understand how it pertains to the type of company you own, and which practices best fulfill your goals. Creating a checklist is a great way to do this.
Ecommerce SEO Checklist: 16 Things in 2016
Retail ecommerce has become an increasingly profitable industry with extraordinary opportunity for profit. When it comes to SEO, there are many things to keep in mind that are specific to ecommerce websites. Below is a checklist to help you get started:
1. Minimize load time. Nothing is more annoying to a customer shopping online than a website that just won’t load. More importantly, Google’s algorithm accounts for site speed, and a delayed site could be hurting your rankings. Believe it or not, this is in the control of the webmaster. Make sure that you are removing any unnecessary plugins, decreasing HTTP requests, and using external CSS files. You might also consider upgrading your website hosting (note: the fastest hosting comes at a cost).
2. Create something interactive and engaging. This might sound obvious, but it’s not as easy as you think. You want to put a lot of effort into making sure that you have an attractive website design, polls and surveys to get people to participate, interactive infographics, and a short and easy way for someone to sign up to make a purchase. Makeup giant Sephora does a great job of this by employing quizlets and virtual try-ons of their products:
3. Think mobile. This is not optional. Mobile optimization is an absolute must, because more searches are being completed on mobile devices than desktops. With the conversion rate of mobile searches being so much higher than that of desktop searches, it’s just plain unwise to have an ecommerce website that isn’t mobile-ready. Accounting the mobile gold rush means creating mobile responsive ads, have a mobile responsive site, and making sure you have visible, clickable information and products. Learn more here.
4. Remember social media, and consider Pinterest. By now, most companies know that powerhouse platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are crucial when it comes to gaining clicks and visibility for businesses. But for ecommerce websites, Pinterest is an important resource that often gets overlooked. With a growing 100 million active users, the platform, Pinterest generates over 400% more in revenue per click than Twitter and 27% more per click than Facebook. That’s a lot of potential for driving sales (but don’t skip the third checklist item, because about 75% of Pinterest traffic comes from mobile users).
5. Optimize title and description tags. Optimizing these tags with a keyword helps tell the search engine bots what your website is about, and that’s crucial when it comes time to rank and index a site. It’s also just as important to make sure you aren’t promoting keywords that people aren’t actually searching for.
6. Put your products on your homepage. Your homepage is a huge factor for how search engines analyze your site and give you a PageRank (not to mention it’s the first thing customers see). Good ecommerce SEO means having a product no more than two or three clicks away from your homepage, and highlighting special offers and deal on the homepage as well.
7. Keep page volume low. Also along the lines of keeping products only a few clicks away is site depth. A customer should always be able to get back to the homepage within 2-3 clicks. Try and structure your site with clear, broad categories, and avoid death by subcategory indexing.
8. Start a blog and guest posting strategy. Now is the perfect time to create a guest posting strategy as well as a blog in order to gain backlinks and increase visibility. Doing so usually involves hiring a writer to pitch different websites and write content related to your niche. Adding a blog component to your website is also an excellent when to assert yourself as an authority within your industry, as well as share ideas, experiences, tips, and more with your clientele.
9. Have lots of product reviews. You want to give your customers an outlet to discuss your product or service. Prospective customers look for the past experiences and opinions of your business and Google likes to see the interaction, so if you’re getting good reviews, it’s a win-win-win situation. Plus, it never hurts to bolster the reputation of your brand.
10. Create a product compare option. This is one practice that works particularly well for ecommerce websites, because it poses suggestions to consumers. It’s obviously great if your users are able to look at your products and compare them with others, but it’s also great for SEO because it generates so many internal links.
11. Apply rich snippets. Rich snippets are little graphics, videos, or extra pieces of information that show up on a search engine results page. These work well because it helps to differentiate your results from the rest, and it allows search engines as well as users to see what your website is about without having to actually click because it gives a preview.
12. Use CMS systems. Companies are still ignoring content management systems (CMS) that work well and improve performance for ecommerce sites. CMS systems make it easy to update your products as well as add content about them onto your site pages. The most popular CMS system for Ecommerce sites is Magento, which has nearly 21% of the world’s top 100,000 ecommerce sites built on their platform. You can learn more about CMS and how to get started here.
13. Optimize all your images for search. Make sure that the search engine bots know what your photos represent by putting alt tags in the images. It might not seem like much, but it does make a huge difference when it comes time for Google to analyze your site. It shows that every part of your site is important and gives weight to images.
14. Have an XML or HTML sitemap. This is crucial if you have a large Ecommerce site (more than 100 items) because it will automatically update whenever you need to revise or change your products. Having to go through and manually update pages would be a tremendous waste of time you could spend improving other marketing/ecommerce strategies.
15. Keep URLs readable. You won’t have to worry about the optimization of your ecommerce site if no one wants to click on the link that leads to it. Plumping URLs with keywords that can quickly indicate to the user what the link is about is a huge part of generating traffic. Refer to the image below:
16. Write unique product descriptions. Duplicate content is punishable by search engines, which is why you can’t use the same product descriptions over and over again. It’s also why can’t and shouldn’t use manufacturer descriptions of products. An ecommerce best practice is to write a couple hundred unique words for every product description. It’ll help your rankings by keeping content original.
Many of the items included in the checklist will work for other types of businesses just as well as they work for Ecommerce sites. Still, it’s important that you put these things on your as a top priority for your 2016 SEO practices, because ecommerce will only continue to become more competitive.