Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of those things that can often be overlooked during the exhausting process of designing and building a new e-commerce site.
It’s completely understandable as it’s challenging enough to create something that looks good and does everything it should – from showcasing your products to checkout and payment. As this is all part of the user experience they are (with good reason) prioritised with time and resource.
SEO practices on the other hand (if done well) usually go unnoticed by the user and because of it, can often be dismissed when building a site. This is always to the detriment of the business, because SEO can deliver fantastic return on investment.
The good news is that many of the SEO essentials you should be doing aren’t that hard, so long as you’re prepared to commit time upfront.
To prove the point, I’ve highlighted 5 easy SEO essentials that you can implement for your e-commerce site so you can compete with the best!
1. Keyword Research
Before you do anything, it’s important to do your keyword research and to do it well. It influences so much of what you do going forward which means getting it right is crucial.
The most important factors when selecting keywords are keyword volume, competition, intent, relevance and value.
Each has a multitude of reasons for their significance but in summary, you want to be targeting keywords which have sufficient demand and search volume, that are attainable with respect to competitor sites and that lead to conversion without breaking the bank.
Traditionally Google Keyword Planner was the go-to resource to help with your keyword research but with the increasing nuance that exists in SEO, tools like SEMrush offer additional features which are really helpful. Things like the Keyword Difficulty (KD) is a quick measure that indicates how challenging it’s going to be to compete organically for that keyword whilst the SERP features can tell you whether there’s a Knowledge Panel/Local Pack etc to target which can provide strong returns.
Using SEMrush and taking a quick look at the keyword “coffee beans” you can see the type of result you can get with the features mentioned above.
The other advantage of SEMrush is its ability to identify long tail keywords (which make up 70% of all search queries) that Google Keyword Planner often misses. In my “coffee beans” keyword query I quickly found the following long tail keywords offering a great number of opportunities worth considering. The reason these are helpful is that they are usually a lot less competitive than traditional keywords and can definitely yield great results.
Using these tools, you can identify what keywords you want to target that have volume, are attainable and offer meaningful returns.
2. Keyword Optimisation
The next step once you have your collection of keywords is to implement them into your site so Google can recognise them in a crawl and decide where your site should feature on a results page. This takes a bit of editorial judgement as you don’t want to overload your page and fall into the trap of keyword stuffing for which you’ll be penalised.
There are however, places where you will want to strategically insert them which includes page titles, headers, meta descriptions, alt tags and internal linking. When you start looking carefully through competitor sites you’ll begin to realise how commonplace this is.
Take for example that page 1 results for the search “how to grind coffee beans”
I’ve removed the SERP features to save space but you can see the Top 3 results are almost identical to the query itself.
You should also of course, include them in the body of your copy but should limit the occurrences to a maximum of once every 200 words as best practice.
Another place you should feature them, with particular reference to e-commerce sites, is in product descriptions. Despite being an onerous task, these should be fleshed out and be as descriptive as possible to add to their organic SEO potential and help with conversions too.
3. Local SEO
Local SEO is something that should never be overlooked for e-commerce especially if your business happens to have brick and mortar store(s) as well. In that respect, given the fact that a large majority of your most loyal customers will be locals, doing your best to capture as many of those as you can is critical.
There are several fundamental things you can do straight off the bat to make sure you give yourself the best chance at this.
The first is setting up a Google My Business account. If you want to have any chance of competing on the local map space, you simply need to register your business (which is very easy to do).
The next is going through your site and making sure your name, address and phone contact (NAP) details are there and consistent across the board. Google loves consistency which will add authority to those particulars.
Another thing to do is to build citations on strong platforms and online directories like FourSquare, Superpages, Yelp and whatever else is applicable to your business. These also greatly contribute to your Local SEO strength and also, of course, give you another platform to be discovered on.
4. Content Marketing
Another useful SEO tip to follow is to embrace content marketing by way of a ‘Blog’ or a ‘News’ section. This is particularly useful when chasing long tail keywords that would otherwise be harder to optimise for.
From the coffee bean example, take for instance the long tail keyword “how to store coffee beans”. Now if you’re a coffee bean seller, you might not ordinarily have detailed information about how to store the coffee beans you are selling. With a blog/news section on your site, you could easily create a dedicated article optimised to this topic.
You could similarly produce articles for “freezing coffee beans”, “where do coffee beans come from”, “espresso beans vs coffee beans” etc.
If you manage to rank well through your blog for such long tail keywords, your site could capture a huge amount of traffic which it otherwise wouldn’t have. This is not only great for brand awareness but opens up the opportunity to convert interest into intent.
5. Social Media
Social media is included not as an instruction to use social media (which you absolutely should and is a whole topic in itself) but to ensure your site is configured to be shared across the social media platforms that are relevant to your audience.
The basics of this include making sure your pages have social share buttons but also to make sure your Open Graph tags are optimised correctly.
For those who aren’t sure what Open Graph tags are, they are essentially tags that allow social media platforms to display graphics and text when shared. You’ve probably noticed it more when this hasn’t been done properly and you’ve attempted to share a link on your own Facebook page only to find a missing or inappropriate image has been attached.
This describes a poor user experience and would put most people off sharing your pages. Given how important social signals are increasingly becoming with respect to SEO it’s vital that your Open Graph tags are set up correctly from the outset.
Make sure your e-commerce site is SEO ready!
So there you have it! 5 easy ways to make sure your site is SEO ready. It’s something you do have to maintain and keep on top of but getting beyond the setup is a big part of the job done!
About the author: Yohei Guy is a copywriter, SEO and content marketing expert working for one of Auckland’s leading digital marketing agencies, Digital Hothouse in New Zealand. Outside of work, Yohei enjoys cinema, the arts and the outdoors. Connect with Yohei on LinkedIn or with Digital Hothouse on Twitter and keep up to date with all the latest digital marketing news and trends in NZ and across the world.