As opposed to websites that mostly rank in niche markets, meaning less competition, e-commerce websites focus on main keywords like ‘men’s shoes’ or ‘headphones’. These keyword rankings are dominated by e-commerce websites like Amazon, ASOS and Zalando for ‘men’s shoes’ and Sennheiser, Bose, Best Buy and various other high-authority websites rank for ‘headphones’. Pretty impossible to rank well for, wouldn’t you say? Luckily, the main keywords are not all that’s left in the e-commerce world! Here’s some tactics for gaining powerful SERP positions for your e-commerce website.
1. Avoid your biggest competition when starting out
While your high volume keywords are obviously the most valuable when you’ve got high rankings, getting to that point is incredibly difficult and you’ll spend more on SEO than you’ll gain out of it for a long, long time. It’s best to start with keywords that don’t have a lot of competition. Now, how to go about finding these keywords?
☑ Research your main keywords
While your main keywords are not interesting to rank for (yet), they can be used to explore less competitive variants. For example, let’s take the keyword ‘insoles’, which has a monthly search volume of around 8100 in the UK, but has very high levels of competition as well. After having run it through keyword planner once, I quickly found out that there are quite a few alternative names for insoles like ‘orthopedic shoes’ and ‘orthotics’, which also has a high search volume. Along with this, high volume keywords like ‘plantar fasciitis’, ‘heel pain’ and various similar search results are also very interesting. Let’s put these keywords into the Keyword Planner as well in order to find related suggestions to these relevant keywords.
After which I was left with 4799 keyword suggestions. It’s probably best to add a filter to it, otherwise you’ll be doing keyword research until the end of days.
After having filtered out keywords with a monthly search volume of 40 or less and setting the ideas filter from ‘broadly related ideas’ to ‘closely related ideas’. And while the ‘competition’ column is not my favourite to accurately check competition levels, I also put a filter on the indexed competition value leaving only keywords with a competition index of 94 or less. I exported the 230 keywords that were left afterwards.
☑ Analyze competition levels through Majestic Keyword Checker
While Google Keyword Planner does show competition levels, I prefer using Majestic’s Keyword Checker as it doesn’t define competition levels as simply as ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Keyword Checker is great, as it shows how often your keyword (exact match or broad match) is used in anchors, page titles. You get this data for both domains and URLs.
☑ Find your low competition keywords
After exporting the data, you’ve now got both Google’s data on search volume and Majestic’s more insightful data on competition levels. After having combined both exports for a clearer image, I used Majestic’s competition data combined with Keyword Checker search volume to filter out the last of the high-competition keywords.
As you can see, keywords like ‘foot pain’ have a lot of competition and should not (yet) be used on your website. What stands out is that high-volume keywords like ‘pain in arch of foot’, ‘pain on side of foot’, ‘pain in back of heel’ don’t have a lot of competition. Those are the keywords you should focus on for your pages as an e-commerce website. Depending on your websites current authority, make a selection of interesting keywords. When you’re just starting out your website, try to start at low competition keywords and gradually work your way up as your website’s authority increases.
Congratulations, you’ve done keyword research for one page on your e-commerce site, just a couple to go! You’ll have to do this for all your shop pages in order to optimize your website fully. This is a long process, however, so my recommendation is to start with pages that already gain conversions and work your way down the ladder.
2. On-page optimizations very important for e-commerce
Does your current e-commerce website rely on templates for on-page optimizations like page titles and meta descriptions? While this is (sort of) fine for product pages that don’t have high-volume keywords, I still wouldn’t recommend it. As many e-commerce websites have tons of pages, its torture to cross them off one by one. I still recommend it though, in order to avoid duplicate content and keyword cannibalization between pages. If you are one of the unlucky ones that has a lot of pages, you should dive into your Analytics account in order to find out which of your pages are your most important organic pages and start from there. These pointers might give you a hand:
☑ Optimizing meta descriptions
Duplicate content in meta descriptions isn’t the end of the world, but meta descriptions (and page titles, to an extent) are important for CTR, which is an important ranking factor. Meta descriptions are used to summarize the content on a web page. Using your page’s main keyword(s) in your meta descriptions is strongly suggested, as Google highlights keywords in the meta descriptions.
For optimizing your meta descriptions, I suggest the following:
- Keep your meta description between 120-160 characters
- Google might use content from your page to create a dynamic meta description, which might show more characters
- Put your CTA, USP, keywords and other interesting information in the first 120 characters
- This is because meta descriptions on smartphones are shorter
- Add one or two variations to your keyword (don’t make it spammy though)
- For example: ‘office rental’ and ‘cheap office space’.
- Add in checkmarks or other symbols to make your meta description stand out and to highlight your USP’s
As you can see in the example above, GastroDeals uses a checkmark to highlight one of their USP’s and adds in a CTA right afterwards.
☑ Optimizing page titles
Page titles are used to create an impression of your pages’ content to Google, while also being of use for CTR in SERP results if you’ve optimized them. Page titles are incredibly important for your pages and should not be duplicate in most, if not all cases. As your website might have a lot of pages, (partially) duplicate page titles for your least important pages isn’t the end of the world. Your most important pages should be unique in every way though!
When optimizing your page titles, keep the following in mind:
- Not too long, not too short (40-60 characters
- Too short and Google might not even show your page in the SERP
- Too long and it will be truncated
- Definitely use your main keyword and brand name
in your page title
- If it fits, also try to put in a secondary keyword, but avoid keyword spam
- Make sure your page title is relevant to your
- If you’re selling luxury items, adding the word ‘cheap’ will be misleading
☑ Optimizing headers
Header tags are used to provide keyword hierarchy on your pages and provide a better user experience, as your content would be easier to read. Section your headers based on relevant keywords and use your main keyword as your first header. Your headers should be optimized on every single page. Some pointers to optimizing your header tags include:
- Use your most important keyword for your page
- Do not use multiple <H1> tags
- Your <H1> should be the first header on your page
- Use any relevant keywords to the main keyword
- For example: If your main keyword is ‘bluetooth headphones’. <H2> could be ‘How do Bluetooth headphones work’ or ‘how to connect my phone to my headphone’.
- Elaborating on your <H2>? Use <H3> (hierarchy, people!)
- Only use relevant headers on your page
Your headers need to be relevant to the main keyword.
☑ Optimizing content
Content, content content.. You’ve heard it a lot, probably. It’s a bit different for e-commerce websites, as you probably have a lot of pages without any content at all, which isn’t great. Pages without content are far harder for Google to understand, even if the rest of your on-page is optimized. Always try to write a little bit of unique content for both your category pages and product pages.
Some SEOs say “you need this many words of content on your page to start ranking well”, which I don’t think is exactly right. While a certain amount of words can be a decent guideline, it all depends on the importance of the page for your website and what the competition does for the same keyword. If your competition all has 500+ words of keyword-rich content, you most likely will have trouble ranking with 100/200 words of content. When writing your content, take the following into consideration:
- Write relevant content for your target audience, not for Google
- Avoid jargon
- Don’t overuse your main keyword in your content, that’s called spam and won’t be appreciated
- Use (optimized) images to substantiate your content
- Incorporate your keywords into your content in a natural way
- Analyze your competition for potential content ideas
- Entertain, inspire, inform your readers
- There’s a lot of different ways to make your content interesting, many websites don’t use any of them, don’t make the same mistake.
☑ Consider adding rich snippets to your website
99 times out of 100, I will advise you to use rich snippets to make your pages stand out in search results. The reason for this is because schema markups are amazing ways to increase CTR, especially if your competition doesn’t use them. Rich snippets are mostly used for product pages, as they allow for various properties:
- AggregateRating (reviews)
- You should probably turn this off if your reviews are less than stellar
- Price and currency
- Product name / product image / product description
Google has various pointers on how to implement all the different structured data possibilities. You’ll also find a lot of different structured data markups, I recommend browsing through the options, you might find one that’s also relevant for your website.
☑ Optimizing images
The optimization of images often gets underestimated, while it’s not that hard and e-commerce websites might even get a decent amount of leads out of optimized images. A lot of websites disallow image files in the robots.txt, which is truly a waste. For example, when searching for ‘stairlift’ in Google, the first result will be an advert, while the second result is a list of images pertaining to ‘stairlift’.
As a stair lift is something you’d do research for before you purchase it, a potential customer might be persuaded through an image of one of your stair lifts. Image search also shows the domain name the image originated from. Due to so many people underestimating the use of optimized images, a lot of websites don’t do anything with them while Google has been increasing its understanding of images and how they fit in your whole marketing package. Obviously images are not only for image search, they also help highlight your content while at the same time giving your readers an easier time with the reading of your article.
While optimizing your images, keep this in mind:
- Avoid stock photo’s (everyone uses them, be original)
your file name
- Don’t use ‘image.png’ for an image of the Himalayan mountains, use ‘himalayan-mountain.png’, as your file name. It uses the keywords.
optimize your alt text (just like your file name)
- Title tag, while helpful as a CTA, is not a ranking factor
- Use the right format for your image
- Scale your image to optimize page speed
- Consider adding product image to your structured data
Quite a lot of points to take into consideration, isn’t it? That should be an indication for you that image search could be more important than you currently think, especially as Google has been- and will be, working to improve image search and how they index and read images.
3. URL structure
The right URL structure can make a world of difference. But what is the ‘right’ URL structure for your Ecommerce shop? The days of keyword stuffing in your URL’s are over, but there are several ways in which your URL structure has an impact on your rankings. Keep the following in mind when setting up your URL structure:
☑ Logical and hierarchical URL structure
Your URL structure needs to be established based on logical and hierarchical order. It obviously starts with your root domain and should branch out from there to underlying relevant pages. Keeping your URL’s as simple and compelling as possible is also a key point. For example; your website focusses on selling barbecues and barbecue-related items. An example of a clear and hierarchical URL structure would be as follows:
As you can see in the example(.com) above, the subjects of the URL’s are clear as day when scanning them. The root domain links to both /barbecues/ and /barbecue-menu/. This shows Google that these are the most important pages after the root domain. Because your meat-based barbecue menu is more relevant to /barbecue-menu/ than your homepage, make the URL structure logical and hierarchical by putting it under that page.
Sorting out the right URL structure for your website is one of the first things you should be focussing on. Why? Because it will save you a lot of time and hassle in the future. If your URL structure is solid from the start, any new pages you add can simply be added to the structure.
☑ Make sure your URL’s are as short as they can be while staying relevant
While the length of URL’s is not a direct ranking factor for Google, it indirectly is. Short and clean URL’s are more easily readable by users and crawlers. Some reasons why a short and clean URL structure is important:
- Increased readability
- Potential increase in CTR (ranking factor)
- You’d sooner share content with a clean short URL than a messy one where you’re not sure what it’s about
Matching your URL to be relevant to the main keyword on your page is suggested, even though it’s not necessary to have them be a perfect match. As your URL might one day function as an anchor text (naked URL), a short and readable URL is definitely recommended.
☑ Avoid duplicate content
While you might not imagine your URL structure creating duplicate content for you, it’s a definite possibility. “How does this happen?”, you might ask. The answer is quite simple; you might not have thought of other URL versions of your page. The 7 URL versions of your page you should take note of:
- Non-www URL (or inversely – the www page)
- Non-https URL
- Non-slash (or inversely – the version of your page with slash)
- Non-www and non-https
- Non-www and non-slash
- Non-https and non-slash
- Non-www, non-https and non-slash
So one URL has the chance of being duplicated 7 times! That’s quite a bit of keyword cannibalisation you’ve got there. Pick one URL and stick with it, redirect any other URL’s to your chosen URL. It’s incredible how often I’ve seen websites that have been live for months forget to redirect some of the URL versions to the main URL. The duplicate content this creates is extensive, so make sure to double-check!
Are you planning on starting an e-commerce web sites in the future? Keep the pointers explained in this article in the back of your mind for future reference and good luck on your way to e-commerce success!
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