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E-commerce SEO: The Ultimate Guide to Diversifying Your Traffic Sources

Branden Schmidt May 21, 2021

ecommerce SEO

For those who are new to the e-commerce space, you may already be familiar with how demanding it can be to have your product show up at the top of the Google search engine results page (SERP).

E-commerce SEO can help those who are looking to move into the number one position for their desired keyword by focusing on building content related to what your audience is searching for. Paid advertising on Google might give you some recognition at the top of the SERP, but spending money to gain this traffic doesn’t offer much in terms of stability.

In this guide, we will cover some useful tips and ideas to help you improve your e-commerce SEO strategy and gain more traffic without having to rely on paid advertising (at least not completely). Here are some of the main topics we will discuss in this post:

  • Creating a content marketing strategy for your e-commerce business
  • How to structure your site’s content
  • On-page SEO for e-commerce sites
  • Expanding your reach on social media to help your rankings
  • The importance of building backlinks for your e-commerce site
  • How video content can help you move up on SERPs
  • Tips for optimizing page load speeds 
  • Local SEO for e-commerce sites

The first step for e-commerce brands and direct-to-consumer (DTC) sellers alike is to build a presence with your own website. In doing so, you are given the runway to reach your target audience without any outside factors disturbing your audience’s journey through your sales funnel. Sure, there are tons of e-commerce businesses doing great selling on Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, but when you use these platforms alone, you are leaving behind all the added benefits of building direct organic traffic for your products. You can gain organic traffic on Amazon, and many sellers have great success doing so, but we will primarily focus on building SEO content for DTC and e-commerce store owners in this guide.

After you have your e-commerce store setup, whether it uses WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin, a Shopify storefront, or a personalized shopping cart experience on your own branded domain site, you can begin the process of building your SEO content to gain organic traffic.

Creating a Content Marketing Strategy for Your E-commerce Business

For any e-commerce business, finding traffic the cheapest way possible is the name of the game. This is why SEO can play an important role in building your brand without spending a ton of money on paid advertising.

When optimized correctly, no matter in which niche you happen to be selling, you can gain the traffic you desire without the added cost per click. SEO-optimized e-commerce websites can benefit from ongoing free traffic with a much higher conversion rate (compared to PPC advertising alone) when you capture your audience’s attention at the right moment of their buying journey. Before you can gain this free organic search traffic on your e-commerce website, you should first understand how to plan your content strategy based on the keywords and long-tail keywords that you will be targeting.

The Difference Between Short-tail and Long-tail Keywords for E-commerce Websites

Keyword research is at the core of building an optimized SEO strategy for your e-commerce business. Identifying your main seed keywords based on the products you are selling will help you understand which long-tail keywords you might want to try and rank for.

Short-tail keyword example: Stand-up desk
Long-tail keyword example: Best stand-up desk for under $500

As you can see in the example above, the product being sold (stand-up desk) is the seed keyword, and the long-tail keyword has some additional intent. Long-tail keywords will usually be geared toward something specific about the product (best, and under $500 in the example above) and will give you insight into which solution your SEO-driven content should provide your reader.

A few tools and resources you can use to identify long-tail keywords for any type of product you are attempting to rank on Google include:

Keyword Tool Dominator
Google Keyword Planner
Amazon suggests

Now, this is not an exhaustive list of all the keyword planning tools available on the market, but these will at least give you a head start in the right direction. We like to use Ahrefs for our content marketing strategy, but you can use just about any of the tools mentioned above. When it comes to locating your target long-tail keywords, it’s best to group your main seed keywords according to their category and intent. Some keywords will have an information search intent, while other keywords will have a buying intent. Group your main seed keywords into their respective categories to have a better idea of how you should plan out your content. Here’s an example:

ecommerce SEO data sheet

Once you have started to categorize your main seed keywords, you can start digging deeper into your keyword research to find content ideas related to your products on which to build. We won’t go into a long discussion about how to perform keyword research in its entirety, as we still have a lot to cover in this guide, but for more information on keyword research, be sure to read our article entitled our keyword research strategy series part one.

After you have your list of long-tail keywords categorized, you will need to find out what the value of these keywords is for you and your brand. To find this, we like to use Ahrefs as it provides data on how competitive your target keywords are, and suggests other topic ideas for which you might also be able to rank.

ecommerce SEO ahrefs dashboard

Within Ahrefs, you can find tons of information related to your keywords based on several different search criteria. Some of the most important metrics you will want to pay attention to when building your content strategy include the following:

Search Volume

The search volume for a given keyword or long-tail keyword is based on monthly searches performed for your inquiry within Google. You can partition your search even further based on geographical location and other factors that will help you locate the value a given search term provides to your brand.

Keyword Difficulty

On the main dashboard in Ahrefs, you are given a keyword difficulty number, which informs you how difficult it may be to rank for your given search term. This information is valuable for smaller businesses, as it will give you an idea of how competitive your target keyword is compared to other sites currently ranked for the same term.

After you have located your target keywords, you will want to list content ideas based on users’ intent. You can also use Ahrefs to locate similar keywords based on having the same terms and also ranking for other content ideas closely related to your given keyword. After you have all your content topics segmented into clusters based on search intent, you will then start the process of structuring this content to be added to your site. This is an important step in building your e-commerce SEO strategy, so it is best to use the preferred layout that Google favors.

How to Structure Your E-commerce Content

Your site’s architecture (how you organize your content) is important for all e-commerce sites. This is because most e-commerce brands have thousands of product pages and a bunch of product variations that usually require multiple pages for the same products.

Structure your site’s content in a way that benefits the end-user and allows them to move smoothly through your sales funnel. As an e-commerce site owner, your goal is to ensure that users can quickly identify key pages of content and the relationships between the different pages on your site. It is also worth noting that bad user flow within your site can hurt your SEO rankings. Here’s an example of how your site’s content layout should look:

ecommerce SEO website layout

Here is an example of how your site’s layout should not look:

ecommerce SEO poor site layout

As you can see from the example above, the product pages have been buried by other pages unrelated to the items you are selling. This is something you should try to avoid, as it not only hurts the user experience but also increases the likelihood that the user will bounce from your site. Your main objective should be to make the user flow through the site seamlessly to avoid any sudden drop-offs or loss of interest.

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Buyer

Before you begin adding pages of content to your website, you should first map out the general structure of how your site will look. A few things you should consider before you begin adding drop-down menus and other site-related navigation bars are to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which search queries do consumers use before they get to your site?
  • Which search queries do consumers use once they’re on your site?
  • Which pages on your website get the most traffic?
  • What are your top-converting pages?

Having this information mapped out before you start structuring the content on your website will help you get a better idea of how you can improve your content flow. By this time, you should also have a clear understanding of what your buyer personas look like. Creating an avatar for your ideal customer allows you to focus on content that is closely related to what your target audience is searching for, and gives you a foundation to help nurture them through your sales funnel.

On-page SEO for E-commerce Sites

After you have figured out the basic structure of your content, the next step is to optimize your category and product pages. For most e-commerce sites, these two page types will generate the majority of sales for your business, so it’s worth making sure you optimize them correctly.

Optimize Your Title Tags

Page title tags (also known as page titles) offer huge SEO potential based on the direct impact they have on your page’s click-through rate (CTR). These titles inform people and search engines of what the page is all about. You will recognize them as blue clickable titles shown on SERPs.

An optimized title tag is between 50–60 characters long, descriptive, and uses your target keywords within the title itself. Remember to think about search intent. Many e-commerce sites choose to add their company names at the beginning or end of the title tag. Remember that not all of your target audience will be familiar with your brand (at least not yet, that is), so try to avoid using your brand within these titles. A better strategy to gain valuable traffic to your site is to use keyword modifiers to gain a large amount of long-tail traffic on your desired page. A few terms that people use when searching for products on Google include:

  • Best
  • Review
  • Deals
  • Cheap
  • Free shipping
  • Online

So your title tag should be something like this: The Best Stand-Up Desk for Under $500

Description Tag

The description tag for your webpage is the little description found in the metadata for a given page. This tag was very important for increasing your SEO rankings in the past, but it is not as important to Google for ranking your page today. This tag is important in terms of improving your CTR, so it is worth optimizing the best you can.

ecommerce SEO google description

Your description tag should use similar magnet words, similar to the title tags mentioned above, that attract the user to click on your post. The difference between them is that, with a description tag, you have more room to include longer phrases about what your page contains.

Here are a few examples of phrases you can use in your description tag to get more clicks:

Save X% off ____ this summer.
All of our ____ are on sale now through the holidays.
Get free shipping on all ____ orders when you use coupon xyz at checkout.
Click here to see all our exclusive deals on the best _____.
Here is a great selection of ____ that you are sure to love.

Category and Product Page Content

This is one of the hardest parts to get right for e-commerce SEO. Sure, you want to write high-quality content that captivates your audience, but unlike a lengthy blog post, you need to keep your conversion rates in mind.

Some of the most important on-page SEO tactics to use on your e-commerce pages include content length, keyword density, and latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords. Let’s break down each of these to uncover the best approach to optimizing your category and product page content.

Content Length

You should aim for at least 1000 words for each page of content on your site. Studies have shown that longer content tends to rank better than short-form content on search engines. The reason for this is that Google wants a good understanding of what your content is all about before serving your page to the user. The more content you provide, the better you look in Google’s eyes to provide answers to users’ search queries. In-depth product page content also helps customers understand what they’re about to buy from your store, so the more descriptive you are within your content, the better.

Yes, it might be impossible for you to write over 1000 words for every page or product on your site, but we recommend writing in-depth product descriptions at the very least. You could even combine your products into a post on your top 10–50 products within a given category (birthday gift ideas, for example).

Keyword Density

After you’ve written an in-depth product description, it’s time to make sure that you’ve used your target keyword at least three to five times in your content. We don’t recommend keyword stuffing, as Google has become quite good at tracking this. If you do use your target keyword more than this amount, make sure it makes sense and is in line with the context you are describing. Try to include your keyword a handful of times to help Google understand what your page is all about.

LSI Keywords

LSI keywords are words and phrases that closely tie into your main seed keywords. These words should be used throughout your content when they are related to your page and product descriptions. One way to locate these LSI keywords is to use Amazon’s product search page.

ecommerce SEO LSI keyword research

As you can see from the example above, a few LSI keywords for the seed stand-up desk include workstation, home office, economic, and electric. You should try to include these keywords within your content as long as they make sense and are in line with the context of your product pages and content.

Other factors that play a role in your on-page SEO include the following:

E-commerce Website URLs

Building a clear correlation between your URL length and keywords will also help your page rankings. Ranking research indicates that short URLs rank higher than longer URLs targeting the same keyword on Google’s first page due to Google favoring a clear-cut URL. Because of the fact that you run an e-commerce site, your URLs will most likely be longer than those of other content-only related sites.

Your URL will usually include categories and subcategories within the URL itself; for example

This doesn’t mean you want your URLs to exceed 50 characters either. The reason for this is that long URLs confuse Google and dilute the impact of these keywords within your URL. On the subject of using SEO-friendly terms in your URL—you also want to make your URL keyword-rich.

Optimize CTAs on Your Product Pages

Inspire visitors to take action on your site by engaging calls to action (CTAs) that provide benefits for your users. Ahrefs site explorer can help you do exactly that by finding on-page SEO ideas based on the top competitors for your desired keywords.

Internal Links: Linking to High-Priority Pages

One of the benefits of e-commerce SEO is that internal linking has most likely already been done for you. That’s because your site’s navigation usually generates many natural internal links on your site. This type of internal linking is an e-commerce SEO best practice, so if your site isn’t already set up this way, it would be wise to do so. More specifically, you want to internally link authoritative pages to your high-priority product and category pages.

We won’t spend much time on technical SEO in this guide, as we still have other factors to cover to improve your e-commerce sites’ SEO outside of on-page improvements. Stepping away from the on-page updates you can make to your site, let’s take a look at how social media can help you improve your rankings from organic search traffic.

Expanding Your Reach on Social Media to Help Your Rankings

One way you can improve your e-commerce SEO outside of what you can optimize on your site is to build a solid social media following. Because Google favors content that is shared across multiple platforms and not just your website content alone, it’s important to build a social media presence to gain authority and recognition for your brand.

The more users share your content with family and friends across various social media platforms, the more Google will recognize your products, thus increasing the likelihood of gaining rank within the SERP. Not only does this provide Google with evidence that your products are trusted by others, but you can also gain referrals and direct traffic this way, which Google also really likes.

Social media is also a great place to discover content ideas and gain insight into your target audience’s thoughts, desires, dreams, and fears. When selling physical products online, it’s not always possible to hang out with your target audience in real life. Social media gives you a platform to add a personal touch to your brand strategy and to build quality relationships with the exact audience you are looking to target. Learning new words and phrases that your potential customers are using is also a great way to discover new content ideas that will attract attention to your e-commerce site.

Importance of Building Backlinks for Your E-commerce Site

Building backlinks to your e-commerce site might not be as straightforward as building links to a content site, for example, but it’s still an important part of optimizing your site to move up in the rankings. One way to discover possible backlink opportunities is to use Ahref’s site explorer to discover which types of websites link to your competitors.

ecommerce SEO backlinks

To do this, input your competition’s URL into the site explorer search bar, and click on backlinks. From here, you will navigate over to the link type drop-down menu and select do follow. This gives you a list of referring domains that have been linked to your competitors’ website and set the link to do follow. The reason this link type is important is that you want to generate these types of links to your site, as no follow links will not give you the type of results you are looking for when improving your SEO rankings. The fact that these referring domains have been linked to your competitors’ sites means they might be open to linking to your e-commerce store as well.

Once you have gathered a list of referring domains that have linked to your competitors, begin your outreach to these site owners to ask if they wouldn’t mind linking to your piece of content or post based on the value their audience might gain from it.

Other ways you could gain backlinks to your e-commerce site include guest posts, sponsored posts, and content collaborations. You might not want to reach out to your direct competitors when building content collaborations, but other products and brands within sub-niches on which your product is based are great resources to use when spreading your reach within your given niche.

How Video Content Can Help You Move Up on SERPs

As an e-commerce site owner, you should already have an understanding of how important your product images are to building your brand’s reputation. Outdated and low-quality images may harm your brand image, so it is important to optimize your images as part of your SEO strategy. Producing how-to video guides and product reviews in video format can also improve your e-commerce site’s SEO.

Now you might be asking yourself, “How will product videos help me improve my SEO rankings?”

This is a common question we get when we talk about producing more video content, and the simple answer to this question is through captivating your audience. Where traffic might scrub through images similar to those who power scroll through their Instagram feed, video, on the other hand, captures users’ attention for longer. Just wait a minute; hear us out on this.

Including video content within your product pages gives your site a boost in time on page, which Google definitely tracks for users of your site. Where a user might skim through your product description, video content will capture this attention for much longer and therefore increase your time on page metric and lower your bounce rate. The bounce rate is calculated based on the time a user spends on your page before leaving the site or moving on to another piece of content on your site. Adding video content not only kills two birds with one stone but also gives your traffic more insight into the product they are researching on your site. This might even give you the extra push to move them from the research stage into the buyers’ mindset, having now seen the real product in more detail.

Tips for Optimizing Your Page Load Speeds

Google favors page load speeds over the improvements we have covered previously. This ties in with the overall UX of your site, and thus, the faster your pages load for the end-user, the better overall experience your user will have when navigating your site. Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm. Site speed isn’t just important for e-commerce SEO; it also has a direct impact on your bottom line.

Here are three common reasons that e-commerce site pages load slowly:

Over-stuffed E-commerce Platforms

Some e-commerce platforms are inherently slow due to over-stuffed coding. Unlike a blogging CMS like WordPress, you cannot install a plugin to improve your site speed.

Large Image File Sizes

High-resolution product images are awesome for your customers, but they can make your page load extremely slowly. Keep in mind that if your image files are too large to fit the space provided on your page, the website itself will take more time to properly load the image in its entirety.

Slow Hosting and Servers

When it comes to your web hosting, the saying goes that you often get what you pay for. A slow hosting plan can place extra strain on your site’s maximum speed.You might not notice these negative impacts until it’s too late, but all three of these issues can be addressed with some proper planning. If you do happen to come across these issues when improving your page load speeds, here’s how to fix it:

Upgrade Your Hosting

We can’t recommend one specific hosting provider because your decision will depend on your preferences and needs (for example, the level of support, pricing, security, etc.). Here is a general guide on finding the right host based on your needs and cost requirements.

Invest in a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to boost your site’s loading speed. The basis of a CDN is to provide high availability and performance by distributing the requested content relative to your end-user. Using this system also makes your site more secure from hackers and security attacks.

Optimize Image File Size with Compression

This is huge for e-commerce product pages, as most of the time, they will include one, if not multiple, product images on a single page. Make sure that, when you export images, they’re optimized for the web. We recommend using TinyPNG before uploading any images to your site to keep the image file sizes to a minimum.

ecommerce SEO tinypng

This compression tool not only keeps your image file sizes small, but the compression it uses on your images does not change the overall image quality to an extent that would be noticeable to the average user’s eye. Now that we have covered a broad spectrum of key improvements you can make to your e-commerce site’s SEO, we should cover your site’s local SEO strategy.

Local SEO for E-commerce Sites

Local SEO for an e-commerce website refers to optimizing your business and products for location-specific search queries. Local SEO is usually preferred by those with physical stores, but as Google searches tend to favor local information, it is a helpful addition to those with a local SEO strategy in place.

Here are ideas to help you increase your chances of appearing in a local search result:

Create a Google My Business Listing

If you haven’t set up a Google My Business page just yet, you are missing out on a huge visibility opportunity for your brand in local search results. Make sure you claim your business, and fill out all the Google My Business sections to help increase your pages’ organic traffic.

Build Local Citations

One of the main Google My Business ranking factors is the level of influence in your local area, which you can build through local citations. These are online mentions of your company and location, and we recommend you look out for niche-specific directories in your area—you will want to aim for mentions from the most authoritative business listings for your site, as this helps add more credibility to your business within a given location.

E-commerce SEO: Final Remarks and Other Best Practices

Thinking outside the box will help you set your e-commerce brand apart from the competition. Using tools such as Google Analytics and Ahrefs can help you paint a picture of which direction you should focus on while building your SEO strategy. A few other worthy mentions when it comes to building your e-commerce SEO strategy include:

Encouraging Your Customers to Review Your Products

Your online reputation management counts. For e-commerce sites, this means that product reviews are extremely important, as they also count as a ranking signal.

One idea to gain these reviews is to send a follow-up email after a customer has received your product and request a review. Another great way to do this is to create a small pop-up on your site that encourages users to leave a review without too much effort on their part (such as using a simple survey box with preset answers).

When it comes to building your e-commerce SEO strategy, there is no one-size-fits-all. Only you can determine the improvements you can make to your e-commerce site to increase your rankings based on several factors we have shortlisted in this guide.

We hope that you have gained a ton of value when it comes to optimizing your e-commerce SEO strategy, and hope that no matter which part of this guide best suits where you are in your journey, you now have a better understanding of things you might need to spend some time improving.

If you have an e-commerce business that is fully optimized using some of the techniques listed in this guide, you may want to consider making an exit while we are still in the Season of the Seller. For the first time in our marketplace, we are experiencing a market that favors sellers.

What does this mean for you as an e-commerce business owner?

We are seeing some of the largest sale prices and listing multiples we’ve ever seen before, and these numbers are only projected to continue rising. Now that you have optimized your business using some of the updates mentioned in this guide, why not cash in on all the hard work you put into the business and roll it into your next passion project? If a large cash offer for your e-commerce business sounds like something that could positively impact your life, it’s time to get a valuation for your business.

Take a few minutes to fill out our valuation tool.

Once you’ve done that, schedule your exit planning call with one of our business analysts. This is one of the best ways to prepare your business for a profitable exit outside of optimizing your SEO strategy, as we have detailed in this guide.

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