The advent of the mobile consumer heralded a new age for business as we know it, transforming the commercial landscape and compelling retailers to rethink every aspect of their approach to sales, marketing, and consumer interaction. For many up-and-coming businesses today, ecommerce is no longer a seen as a novelty, but a necessity, and the market grows more competitive with each passing day. As such, if you want your ecommerce site to stand out from the crowd and stay one step ahead of your competitors, you need to be sure that your SEO is on point.
Search engine optimization is the practice of tailoring your content to a set of parameters that are deemed favorable by search engines, such as Google. The value of this is that solid SEO means your website will be ranked higher in relevant search results, making it easier for your target audience to find.
Your final ranking is influenced by a vast number of factors, which can make the whole process of SEO auditing seem pretty daunting at first. Fortunately, the key elements of a good SEO strategy are easy to pin down, and there are even a number of handy tools available to help you tackle each aspect as you come to it.
To make things even simpler, we’ve put together a simple SEO checklist so you can refine your content according to current best practice, and set your ecommerce website on the path to success.
The best way to begin building trust with your audience is to cultivate a sense of familiarity with your brand. Happily, the same can be said for search engines. By ensuring that your branding is displayed consistently, not only on your homepage, but throughout your site, you allow visitors, including search engine crawlers, to quickly identify pages as belonging to your website.
For search engines to be able to rank your site, they first need to be able to index it. To do this, the search engines use bots to ‘crawl’ your website, evaluating it on a wide range of factors. The more difficult your website is to index, the worse your rank will become, as the crawlers may not be able to finish their job.
To avoid these errors, you can use the Google Search Console to test how well crawlers are able to navigate your content. The first thing you will need to do is verify your domain via the Search Console, after which you will be able to see useful data regarding your website’s performance, and even highlight pages of particular importance.
In order to tailor your SEO strategy efficiently, you will need a clear picture of your target consumer base. This in turn will enable you to optimize your choice of keywords and the tone of your content accordingly.
Of course, the world of online sales is extremely competitive, so even with popular keywords and great content, your website could still struggle if it is in direct competition with an established brand. As such, you will also need to carry out research into your competitors.
Sometimes it can be more valuable to prioritize a less popular keyword or phrase. For example, your first choice may already be heavily associated with an existing site that your business cannot currently compete with.
At the heart of every SEO master plan lie carefully selected keywords. All of your content, whether on your homepage, product pages, or elsewhere, should be designed to improve the SEO ranking of your website as a whole.
To do this, you need to include words and phrases that are relevant to your content, and to your website’s purpose, while also being the sort of words and phrases people might type into a search engine when looking for a a website like yours.
To make this a bit less daunting, tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner can help you determine how successful particular words and phrases might be by analyzing their search volume statistics. You could also try these 10 Free Keyword Research Tools.
Remember, there are plenty of places to add a little extra text to make your search results more attractive to users, and increase your clickthrough rate. This includes adding alt text to images, and taking some time to refine your meta descriptions and title tags, as this affects what shows up in search results.
Inbound links from sites that are ranked well can also boost your website’s success, providing the linked content is relevant. A link from a blog post about woolly socks might be considered genuine if you sold footwear, or indeed, wool, but less so if you offered singing lessons, for example.
To be proactive about securing valuable inbound links, you can reach out to trusted sites and offer to provide a guest article, and potentially host one in exchange. As CEO Chris Dreyer of Rankings.io told Forbes, “If you could only focus on one off-site activity, it should be building links.” However, with all links, whether inbound or outbound, it is important to keep in mind your keywords, and how they relate to the target content.
At first glance, it might seem like the trick is to throw every possible keyword into the bottom of each page, and hope for the best, but that is certainly not the case. Search engines are equipped to deal with tactics such as ‘keyword stuffing’ and the use of invisible text or links. In fact, these strategies are more likely to lower a website’s rank, as the content will be deemed less valuable to the user.
As such, you should focus on strategic placement of a variety of related keywords in headings, subheadings, and wherever they can be naturally worked into your content.
Purpose-built content management systems, such as Shopify, are incredibly useful tools for any online merchant looking for an easy way to create an online store. These systems allow you to create a coherent structure for your ecommerce site, without all the work of manually creating individual product pages.
Not only does this save a huge amount of work, it also means you can completely overhaul the design of your website without disrupting sales. This could be anything from adding a seasonal background, to trying out a whole new layout for the site.
A good CMS will often come with a number of helpful tools to facilitate your SEO efforts. These can include optimization for mobile devices, the generation of canonical URLs and meta keywords, and access to vital analytical data.
While your goal as an online store is, of course, to sell your product or service, this does not mean that blogging isn’t for you. Not only does a well-maintained blog enable you to engage more with your customers, but it also makes your website seem alive.
As far as SEO is concerned, the benefit is twofold. Regular, valuable content that is relevant to the site as a whole makes your website more likely to rank higher than one that is rarely updated. In addition, every new post is an opportunity to add in a few more carefully placed keywords, and both internal and external links.
Google alone processes around 3.5 billion searches per day, and currently holds over 80 percent of the global search engine market share, according to live figures from Net Market Share. What this tells us is that it is extremely important to ensure that your SEO strategy is tailored to Google’s guidelines.
However, users of other search engines still account for a large percentage of the population, and by extension, your potential consumer base. As such, it is best practice to keep refining your SEO to improve your ranking across all search engines, and maximize your website’s reach.
Whether you are branching out into ecommerce or starting an online business from scratch, your success will be underpinned by the strength of your SEO strategy. Maintaining great SEO is an ongoing task, and staying up to date with changes in best practice is vital if you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste.
Fortunately, the core principles tend to stay the same, so it is largely a case of constantly refining your content, which, if you are engaging with the ever-changing needs of the online consumer, you should be doing anyway.
Ultimately, the best SEO strategy is organic, growing and changing with your business, and the needs of your consumers. That said, if you keep our checklist in mind whenever you create new content, the process will soon become instinctive, allowing you to devote your time and energy to other things, such as all that extra web traffic.
Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.
Patrick Foster is an ecommerce expert, coach and freelance writer for his blog, Ecommercetips.org. He has lots of experience in the field, including SEO and content marketing for online stores.