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eCommerce SEO: 7 Steps to Success

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Think about the last time you bought a backpack online. If you didn’t have a specific brand in mind, you probably searched for terms like "best backpack for hiking" or "women’s backpacks", bringing up a list of websites which carried the type of backpack you were looking for. Stop and consider for a moment how many of these searches occur every day. Now imagine if your eCommerce store could land in the top few results for even a small fraction of those searches.

The aim of search engine optimization, or SEO, is to garner more organic site visits by landing at the top of search results. Eighty-seven percent of people turn to search engines first when they have a question or need, and 93 percent of all online experiences start with a search engine.

Developing an effective SEO strategy will enable your eCommerce site to rank as high as possible for valuable keywords, a crucial step to getting your online store in front of potential shoppers.

Importance of SEO in eCommerce

Tapping into the billions of organic searches customers place each day has massive potential for your eCommerce brand. Forty-seven percent of people start their online shopping journey with a Google search, and 37 percent of all traffic to eCommerce sites comes from search engines. 

Being at the top of those search results matters to your bottom line. According to online ad network Chitika, page 1 of Google results generates 92 percent of all traffic from the average search, and the top listing receives 33 percent of overall traffic. For comparison, the second position of Google results only gets 18 percent of the traffic available.

Here are seven ways to get your eCommerce SEO efforts up and running.

1. Keyword Research

The first step in a customer’s SEO journey is a keyword search. Getting a handle on what people type in when they are looking for your offerings is critical. It can be tough to know which keywords to use beyond the most obvious terms. Luckily, there are many SEO tools you can use to discover new keywords. 

Google Suggest is completely free and a great starting point. Begin typing a search query but stop before you complete it. You’ll notice Google will attempt to autocomplete your search with the most common phrases people use. You can do the same thing on Amazon, which can be an even better resource for eCommerce merchants as it delivers more product-specific suggestions. Paid SEO tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs are affordable options for engaging in more detailed keyword research.

You should also pay attention to keywords your competitors might be using. Figure out how they categorize their products, and take notice of their product descriptions and where they show up in search engine results.

When using these tools, you should look past the keywords themselves to understand user intent. It’s not enough to know what people are searching for — you need to understand why they’re searching so you can provide them with the content they want. 

As an eCommerce merchant, you’ll likely prioritize purchase-related keywords. But don’t neglect keywords related to your business that reflect informational user needs, as these keywords will often have more search volume. Producing high quality content that meets the associated user needs is an excellent way to introduce potential customers to your brand and bring them into your marketing funnel.

After you’ve started attracting organic traffic, you can use Google Search Console to track changes to your site traffic and even set up alerts. This is especially helpful when testing out new keywords to see how they perform. You can also use Google Analytics to create custom reports and dashboards.

Drive qualified traffic to your site through SEO

2. Content Marketing

You need to develop deep trust with your buyer before they even think about making a purchase. The best way to do this is to provide useful and valuable content. This could mean writing blog posts which explain how to use your product most effectively, offering workshops and webinars, or organizing meetups and starting communities online. To pinpoint exactly what kind of content will resonate most with your users, you need to do some competitive research.

As indicated above, the first step is thinking of a specific need most of your users have. Next, create a list of top-performing content related to that need. Remember, several keywords can represent the user need, so ensure your list includes a variety of sources. Find out what your target customers are reading and examine common phrases people use to find what they want. Once you gather a suitable list of competitor sites, examine the similarities and differences in their content.

Are there particular topics they continue to write about? Is their content around the same length? Do they use video or custom images? Consider making some changes to your existing content and tailoring new copy based on what you find.

Brainstorm ways you can stand out from the crowd as well. Do the top sites have a gap your content can fill? Produce content that demonstrates thought leadership, as this will help convince users that your products are backed by expertise.

Try out a few different ways to incorporate these strategies and continue to track your progress. Every once in a while, redo your analysis. New terms and content trends frequently pop up which should be incorporated into your content. You should also publish new content consistently on your eCommerce site and promote your content on social media.

3. On-Page SEO

Optimizing your on-page SEO is another key consideration for your site. All media have meta descriptions and alt text labels which play into the search algorithm. Spend the most time optimizing the SEO of product category pages and product pages, which are the most valuable.

Many eCommerce platforms already force you to fill in some standard SEO attributes. Even so, double check your site has canonical tags, sitemap.xml and robots.txt files, title tags with your store’s name, as well as social media linking and sharing options. Additionally, you should add relevant keywords to your site’s meta descriptions, alt text, file names, and title tags. Choose URLs that fall within 50-60 characters, contain your keywords, and are easy to read. 

Write long, useful descriptions on your product and product category pages. Google picks up on these, especially if they are beneficial to the user. Companies with huge product catalogs may find this overwhelming, but they should simply tackle their most popular products first. As soon as those start to rank higher, other pages will follow. Writing more content also gives you opportunities to include more keywords, which can influence SEO performance, but be sure you’re not engaging in "keyword stuffing". This is the practice of including keywords in an artificial way that will alienate readers and search engines alike.

4. Technical SEO

Technical SEO gives your site a foundation to build additional SEO efforts on. You can start your technical SEO journey with an audit for your site’s accessibility. This can be done within your company, or you can hire an outside agency. Concentrate on the critical SEO fixes which will increase your web traffic and rankings.

One significant aspect of an audit is load time. People get impatient quickly, and pages with load times of more than 10 seconds lead to higher bounce rates, meaning less of your content will be consumed.

Navigation also affects people’s attention span. Make sure potential customers can find what they need easily and quickly. Use menus, search functionality, and inbound links to get your prospects where they need to go.

Do some testing to ensure your site is mobile-friendly as well. Not only does this influence visitor satisfaction, it also affects Google’s algorithm. The need for a mobile-first site is undeniable, as nearly 75 percent of internet users are expected to search exclusively via mobile by 2025, a percentage which will only continue to grow. Simplify your copy by using bulleted lists, callouts, and short paragraphs so it’s easy to read on any mobile device.

5.Site Architecture

Beyond technical SEO, your eCommerce site needs to be structured to provide a fantastic user experience. eCommerce stores are constantly adding and removing products or product categories. Your site should be flexible enough to promote new products without having to rearrange fundamental elements for every product launch. Adding hundreds of new products or product categories should not impact site speed or the overall mobile experience.

Build your site in a way that makes these changes simple and scales with your business. Keeping your site intuitive also encourages users to keep browsing and makes it easier for web crawlers to access and interpret.

Grow Your Business with SEO on Magento

6. Local SEO

Local SEO is particularly effective for brick-and-mortar businesses. A remarkable 50 percent of users who completed a local search on their smartphones visited a store the same day.

Google’s algorithm has three main local ranking factors: authority, location, and relevance. Local SEO favors companies that are well-known and have user reviews. Start by searching for your business and make sure the business hours, name, and address are correct. Next, encourage your customers to leave reviews paired with photos of your products. Consider setting up a Google My Business profile to fast-track Google indexing and improve visibility in local listings.

Google’s search algorithm prioritizes businesses that are physically closer to users. Make sure your location is searchable and emphasize your proximity to other established businesses. Contemplate what search terms people might type to find your business as well, and start using those key terms on your site to land higher in search rankings.

7. Link Building

Backlinks were a traditional way to build up the credibility of your site. The more external sites you got to link back to your site, the better. People began buying backlinks via link farming to get more traffic to their site. 

After a while, Google started to punish those practices and instead rewarded sites with organic backlinks. eCommerce sites can get more organic backlinks by engaging with the press, asking customers for product reviews, and, most importantly, publishing great content.

Publishing quality content users find beneficial will naturally encourage backlinking, so while authentic backlinks can increase your traffic, user-friendly content is a more effective way to make your SEO skyrocket.

Be careful not to engage with low quality sites. SEO algorithms will penalize you and referral traffic will not be advantageous. Look at all the sites that link to you — are any of them crowded with ads? Do they contain disingenuous keywords?

While social media links do not count towards SEO, posts that share your mission, values, and products increase brand awareness, inspiring backlinks as well.

Jump Start Your eCommerce SEO with Magento

You might think your product is good enough to sell itself. While the quality of your product absolutely makes a difference in customer retention and loyalty, it will not necessarily drive acquisition. To attract the maximum amount of organic traffic, your entire site needs to serve your SEO goals, and you need an eCommerce platform capable of supporting them.

Magento Commerce is a leader in intelligent eCommerce. Not only is Magento Commerce designed to get shoppers exactly what they want, it provides potential customers with personalized content and curated product recommendations. Magento scales with your company as it grows, connecting you to a community of other Magento users who can cross-promote to your business. All of these features go hand-in-hand with improved search rankings.

See how Magento Commerce can transform your eCommerce business — and boost your search performance — with a free demo.

eCommerce SEO: 7 Steps to Success