Ecommerce SEO: The Complete Beginners Guide

Want consistent, high-quality traffic you don’t have to pay for? You need ecommerce SEO. If outranking your competitors and getting more traffic is top of mind, take a look at our comprehensive guide on the whats, whys and hows of optimising your ecommerce website for search.

Why is Ecommerce SEO important?

Whether you’re just getting started with a new website or improving an existing site, it’s never too soon to step up your SEO game. According to Advanced Web Ranking CTR study, websites ranked number one in Jan 2019 received an average click-through-rate of 35.36%, position two 17.52% and position three 10.75%. From an SEO point of view, this shows the value of being in the top 3 and how little traffic you can expect from the lower positions.

google ctr rates

For us, ecommerce SEO is all about ensuring that your category and product pages appear in the top 10 results, if not positions one, two or three. It’s fair to say that if you don’t have a strong SEO strategy in place, you’ll be losing out on impressions, clicks and worst of all - sales.

Step One: Keyword Research

First things first - context. Most people get ecommerce SEO wrong, they focus on ranking for the super competitive, high volume search terms without taking a wider market view. Take the term ‘bed linen’ - average monthly searches 9,900. Look’s promising. Now let’s take a look at the top search results below - how do you feel about outranking them? If it’s looking like a long and potentially impossible journey to the top, it best to start by focusing on individual product and category rankings for less competitive terms.

google search results

Keyword research will inform every SEO related task that you will do on your website; without keywords it will be impossible for you to optimise your categories and products. The process can be broken down into two basic steps:

1. List all the pages on your site

You can get a complete inventory of the pages on your website by using your sitemap.  A plugin such as Scraper for Chrome will scrape the list of URLS for you. If you’re starting from scratch - scrape a competitors site.

2. Find and map appropriate keywords to each page

When it comes to keywords I would suggest using Google’s free Keyword Tool to start. This will enable you to quickly identify lists of potential keywords based around category and product themes. Avoid broad, highly competitive keywords such as “printers” as they are not specific enough for people looking for, for example, a “colour laser printer”. According to Moz, popular terms like “printers” make up less than 30% of searches and with the remaining 70% in long tail search.

After using the Keyword Tool and theming your keywords, I would suggest going back to Google and reviewing their search autocomplete feature. Google not only suggests relevant queries, but at the bottom of the page suggests related searches. This can prove extremely insightful when you have a limited list of keywords to work with.

The same also applies to one of your biggest competitors, Amazon. Selling a huge and diverse range of product, Amazon suggest is a goldmine for product focused keywords. You can head over to Amazon and manually search or, use the Keyword Tool Dominator to scrape Amazon’s search suggestions.

Last but not least, when it comes to mapping out your keywords, avoid keyword cannibalization. Keyword cannibalization occurs when multiple pages of the same website are trying to rank for the same keyword. The search engine will get confused and not know which page to promote.

Step Two: Ecommerce Site Architecture

How the pages and categories on your site are organised and structured will affect how you rank in the search engine results. The aim is to make it easy for visitors and search engines to find items in your store with minimal effort.

If you’re just starting out, spending the time to define a clear category structure will be extremely beneficial. Try to future proof you structure so that as you add and remove products, you do not have to restructure your site every time.

If you’re reviewing your existing ecommerce structure with SEO in mind, start from the top and work your way down methodically. Use your keyword research and take a view of competitors to clearly define a structure that gets the user to a product and conversion in as few a clicks as possible.

It’s important to note at this point that ecommerce websites can suffer from thin content when category trees become too stretched. Where possible avoid categories with just one or two products, these provide very little SEO value and may be better merged with another.

Step Three: On Page SEO for Ecommerce

You’ve nailed your keyword research and site structure, now it’s time to get stuck into optimisation.

Hopefully you’re using an ecommerce platform like Shopify or Magento that already include some built-in SEO features. As a minimum you want to make sure you have in place:

  • Website sitemap.xml
  • Robots.txt
  • URL canonicalisation
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Alt Tags
  • Custom URLs

1. Optimising for Google

Title tags and meta descriptions are Google-facing and so, in the first instance you are looking to appeal to the search engine by using your target keyword(s) in the copy. Step two is to convince the user to click. Talk to the user and keep in human, using modifiers like free shipping, deals etc. have been known to give you a boost as Google is suspected of using clickthrough rate as a ranking factor.

2. Great URLs

In a digital first world, users are quick to clock on to spammy looking links. Keep your URLs real and concise, after all it’s all about relevancy and accessibility. Here are some top tips from Rand Fishkin and the Moz team:

  • Use your keyword in the URL but avoid keyword stuffing
  • Short URLs are better than long URLs
  • Match your URL and page title as closely as possible
  • Avoid stop words like “and” “the” and “a”

3. Engaging product descriptions

Engaging, relevant and unique product descriptions are key for ecommerce SEO success. Not only do they tell users more about the product they’re viewing, but they help Google understand what the page is about.

Avoid copying product descriptions from manufacturer websites and instead try to write the product descriptions yourself. If your product range is huge; start with the most important pages. A note on this, if you’re also selling on Amazon - avoid using the same product descriptions on both platforms - which version do you think will win in a battle to the top?

Need help with ecommerce SEO?

We’ve only scratched the surface of what is required to truly optimise your ecommerce site for search. If you’re ready to take control of your visibility and want help with next steps, give us call today.


Catherine Durham

Catherine Durham

Marketing Director (Dip DigM)

Catherine Durham has a masters in Digital Marketing and a wealth of experience in optimisation and strategy development for ecommerce retailers. Her specialisms include SEO, paid search, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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