If you have an ecommerce store, then chances are that SEO will be close to the top of your priority list. After all, getting traffic – and more importantly, high intent traffic to your website plays an important role in driving sales and the success of your store.
Tackling SEO for ecommerce websites, particularly those with thousands of individual products can be a challenge especially when you add in elements like filters, faceted navigation and infinite scroll – so if you are looking to put your best foot forward and get ahead of your ecommerce SEO, we’ve put together a handy checklist for you below to help you improve your SEO performance and drive those all important sales to your website.
Here are the top things that you need to review to ensure that your ecommerce website has the best possible chance at SEO performance:
- Crawl & Indexation
Effective crawl and indexation is one of the most important elements of an ecommerce SEO strategy as if your website or its content isn’t in Google’s index then it won’t be found by users who are searching. Ensuring that your website is indexed and then checking that Google can effectively crawl your pages is important to ensuring that your content is available to Google and has the best possible chance of returning in the search results. To help with this you can use the following:
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a really effective way to check on the indexation of your website and it has a super easy to use interface which can show you how your website is being indexed in the eyes of Google.
The “Page indexing” functionality shows how many pages are indexed and any potential indexation issues for the website, this can include pages which are excluded by “noindex” tags, pages which are canonicalised any other potential indexation issues.
The report can be a great way of understanding any potential indexation issues or evaluating why pages haven’t appeared within Google’s index – in particular, the “Crawled – currently not indexed” column highlights pages which Google has accessed but not indexed as it has chosen to exclude these pages from the index – this is often valuable insight for an ecommerce store as in many cases product variations such as colours, flavours, sizes etc… can be seen as duplication so by reviewing this you can identify the best way to index this content.
Log File Analysis
Log File Analysis is a great way to evaluate how Google is actually crawling your website and to identify any potential pain points or areas that Google can’t crawl (alternately also looking at which pages Google is crawling too frequently) – it can also help you identify if you have any orphaned content or content which has become unlinked from your main website and could therefore be problematic.
To do a thorough log file analysis we recommend at least 2-4 weeks of log files and to do them over several months to really understand how Google is crawling your website. Spider data is useful, but log files will really allow you to see what’s going on.
In addition to log file analysis we’d also recommend undertaking a crawl analysis to evaluate how Google is crawling and indexing the website through an external tool such as Screaming Frog. By undertaking crawl analysis you can emulate the Google crawl, understanding how it reaches different pages and also the internal link value and structure of these pages – this approach can also help to identify any dead ends or issues where the Googlebot might not be able to get through.
Crawl analysis through a tool like Screaming Frog will help you to understand how effectively your website is being crawled and if there are any potential crawl issues which could be hampering your website from being effectively indexed and returned within the search results. It can also give you a good insight into the website’s crawl behaviours and if there’s any updates that you need to make to the internal linking to help improve the crawl path.
2. Page Titles & Headings
Page titles and headings are a hugely important part of your on-site SEO as they play an important role in signposting what content is on your website and what the content is about – think of them as a synopsis of the page. If you are trying to rank for “SEO agency” on Google then having a page title “SEO agency” with the heading “SEO agency” will definitely help to showcase to Google that that page exists on your website.
Page titles and headings should be clear and only focus on 1-2 keywords max – and there’s no harm in creating new pages for products that have reasonable search volume – in fact this is a great approach, especially when it comes to having a super-targeted page for specific categories or products. Undertaking fresh keyword research to identify where there is the opportunity to target new pages, and also undertaking research to evaluate if you are targeting the right keywords (i.e. should it be a cashmere “hat” or “beanie” based on product and search volume) will allow you to maximise the reach of your website and also ensure that you are gaining as much visibility as possible for your brand.
3. Page Copy
Page copy is incredibly important as it tells Google and the user about your products, brands or even your services. Ensure your copy is unique but also make it as helpful as possible – put yourselves in the shoes of the user to understand what it is that the user is looking for – have you answered their questions? Have you given them the chance to compare products? Have you given a guide to help them buy a particular product? These are all questions that the user will likely have so ensure that you are on hand to help them out.
As Google says in section 3.2 of the Page Quality Rater Guidelines, the “quality of the MC (main content) is one of the most important considerations for PQ (page quality) rating. Put simply, content is king and the quality of the content that you are putting onto your website, in addition to the reputation of the writer and the website that it’s published on, all play a key role in ensuring that your website is seen as trustworthy in Google’s eyes.
Google recently updated its Page Quality Rater Guidance to introduce the concept of E-E-A-T and at the centre of it all, was trust. Well-written content which is factually accurate and links out to good sources is a key component of trust on a website, so take the time to invest in creating effective content which is well-researched and factually backed, to ensure that you are giving yourself the best possible chance of adhering to strong on-page E-E-A-T.
4. About Us / Clear & Satisying Website Information
In the Page Quality Rater Guidelines one of the things that Google encourages raters to do is to look at a company’s “About Us” page to find out more about the company and the people who are behind the content on the website. Customer service is also an important aspect – particularly for an ecommerce website – and when it talks about “clear & satisfying website information” that means ensuring that a user can contact you if they need to – do you have a clear way for users to contact you? (either through a clear Contact Us page on the website or through a phone number in the top right hand corner) – are they able to get in touch if they need help or to return a product? Being able to offer effective customer service plays an important element in the trust of an ecommerce store, so ensuring that you offer “clear and satisfying website information” isn’t important only to Google, but also to your users.
5. Returns & Shipping Information
Which brings me onto the next point about returns and shipping information. While this is a staple on many ecommerce websites, ensuring that your returns & shipping information is clear and easily digestible is an important part of giving the user what they need.
Do you offer international shipping? Let your users know. What is your returns process like? By showcasing the information to Google and users you are not only giving them the “helpful” information that they need, you are also helping to build trust in your brand. Make sure this information is displayed clearly and easily accessible from both the main navigation of your website and also on specific product pages – pop outs can also help to detract users away from their user journey and this can also play an important role in boosting conversion rate.
6. Internal Linking
In our opinion one of the most under-rated SEO optimisation opportunities, internal linking, plays a key role in telling Google about your most important pages and ensuring that the Googlebot can effectively crawl through your pages, in addition to linking your content together semantically so that Google can understand what your pages are about and any supplementary content that you might have around them.
Internal linking is important to creating content clusters and pillar posts which help to group together your content themes – allowing Google to see that you have a depth of knowledge and trust about a particular topic when it comes to ranking you for it. Additionally, given that ecommerce websites often contain such a large amount of pages, internal linking can help to indicate which of these pages are most important, so if you are selling garden benches for example, linking different content such as bench buying guides, product launches and brand information into your key garden benches page, plays an important role in helping you to showcase your expertise around garden benches.
You can utilise Screaming Frog and other tools to help you gather a list of pages where there are internal linking opportunities – often blog content or category pages where you mention particular products, brands or categories but don’t link – and utilise this to pull together a linking strategy to help boost your internal navigation and link signals.
7. Schema Mark-up
Another invaluable SEO technique for ecommerce stores is the use and implementation of Schema and structured data mark-up, particularly product mark-up across products that are for sale in your store. The utilisation of schema helps Google to understand what is on your page and the implementation of key schema such as product mark-up and FAQ mark-up can also help you to pull key information about your products and services through to the search results.
FAQ schema is one of the most popular types of schema implementation and involves marking up questions or FAQ content on your pages. Including FAQs across category and product pages is a great way to give users additional information about your product or category range while also providing effective “helpful content”, by marking these up with FAQs you can also give Google the opportunity to present them within the search results as such:
By allowing you to see the FAQs within the search result you can get an understanding of the level of experience of a particular brand and their expertise.
Product schema is another great option if you are an ecommerce store or if you are selling a product online and in addition to giving valuable information to the user, this can also help to advise Google around important information pertaining to your products, this can include:
By implementing schema correctly, Google can pull this information through into the SERPs which can allow it to be displayed effectively and help to encourage users through to your website – especially if you are competitively priced and they have a price in mind.
Schema implementation can be relatively straightforward but it plays an important role in helping Google and users to understand more about your website and can be a real value add.
9. Site Speed
Site speed plays an important role in your user experience and as such it plays a very important role and how effective the SEO on your website is. Google has for many years spoken about how important site speed is and in many cases it used to be true that if a website took over three seconds to load 50% of users would leave, this obviously isn’t ideal if you’re looking to attract and retain users on your website.
If you aren’t sure how your site speed currently performs then you can use the Google page speed insights tool to really understand how your website stacks up and a number of different speed metrics. The pagespeed insights tool also explains how your website performs on the core web vitals test, this is an important metric to Google and they have an algorithm update which specifically looks at how well websites perform against the core web vitals – we’ll talk about this a little bit more in next section.
Ultimately site speed plays a key role in user satisfaction so it’s important that you try and make your website as fast as possible so you’re delivering a good user experience as well as adhering to Google’s guidelines.
10. Core Web Vitals
Core web vitals playing important role in understanding how Google sees your website from a user experience perspective. There are three key considerations – LCP – that is how long it takes the largest element on your website to load CLS – that is looking at any images or areas of content on the website which is subject to shift when the user moves throughout the page and FID – that’s looking at how long it takes for the website to load from the first point of load.
A number of years ago Google introduced an algorithm update which was designed to ensure that websites performed well on the core web vitals test. The main purpose behind this algorithm was to encourage webmasters to create websites that drove a good user experience, had decent page speed and also ensured that when a user moved throughout the website the experience was seamless.
Although initially the majority of websites failed the core web vitals test, we are starting to see more and more websites take this seriously and as such, a higher percentage of websites pass this test than ever before. As a result, if you are building a new e-commerce store or you’re simply looking to upgrade your existing e-commerce store, then looking into core web vitals and how you can optimise to pass this test is an important SEO consideration
11. Image SEO
Image SEO is an important but often overlooked facet of effective SEO performance. This involves looking at the imagery in on your website and understanding how we could optimise this to appear within the Google image search and can be particularly useful if the product that you’re selling is driven by great image or if users are often searching for images on your website subject or topic.
To optimise for image SEO, one of the most important elements is the image alt text, this piece of code that often sits behind the image is the one descriptor that enables you to tell Google what that image is about. remember Google doesn’t always understand what an image is so we need to tell it in plain text form. The image alt text is a great way to tell Google what the image is about so make sure that you make your alt text as keyword rich and clear and concise as possible.
Another way that you can improve your Image SEO is through the naming of the images that you upload to your website. This doesn’t often have a huge impact but it can add to your Image SEO optimisation. As a result, when you’re uploading an image to the website we do recommend that you name the image with a keyword friendly format that again is clearly descriptive in plain text form of what is inside the image.
Sitemaps play an important role in helping Google to understand the structure of our website which can be very important when it comes to delivering an effective crawl. By creating an XML sitemap we are able to submit the sitemap to Google Search console and have Google effectively crawl the sitemap that we have created.
Submitting an XML sitemap to Google can also help us to identify where there are pages within the sitemap that haven’t been indexed or even pages in the sitemap which shouldn’t be indexed – this is really valuable in enabling us to give Google a really effective crawl and making sure that we maximise our crawl budget.
A sitemap will usually be created dynamically by the webmaster or the website itself and if you have an e-commerce store where you are frequently changing products or products might be going in and out stock, we would recommend setting up a dynamic type which refreshes at midnight each day, to ensure that the information that you’re sending to Google is relevant and correct.
The robots.txt file on a website is one of the most important files that you can have to give guidance to Google and how you want it to crawl your website. within this file you can give guidance to the Googlebot to understand how it needs to crawl your website, this can include files and folders that you would like it to avoid crawling, or it can include areas of the website that you would like to block from the crawl altogether.
This particular file is very valuable for e-commerce stores who may have a filtering system in place such as faceted navigation – in this instance Google will naturally crawl every link that is created and that could be thousands and thousands of variations of a product such as size, colour, shape etc… and this could lead to a significant waste and crawl budget and it may also mean that Google doesn’t reach the most important pages on your website as frequently as it should. In this instance we would recommend implementing a robots.txt file to ensure that Google is crawling the right areas of your website and to prevent it from wasting crawl budget in areas that you would prefer it to avoid.
14. Product Information
Your product information pages are some of the most important pages that you’ll have on an e-commerce website. these pages give your users the information that they need to understand what type of product you’re selling, what the particular features of that product are and also important elements like what that product is made of and what size it is available in.
It’s important to be clear and concise with your product information and to make sure that you make as much information available as possible to the user to help them to make an informed decision. At the end of the day we want the user to purchase the products when they are on our website, rather than going to a competitor, so it’s important that we are giving them all of the information that they need to make an informed purchase.
Where possible try and make your product descriptions unique as this can help to add value to the user and avoid the duplication of many other retailers who will be selling the same products. Although we do understand that in many instances it’s difficult to do this and in some cases you will need to use the manufacturer’s copy on your website. If this is the case then try to add a unique element to your website in another way, this could be looking at implementing FAQs or pulling in some USPs of using your shop against a competitor.
We mentioned FAQs in the last point as one of the most important ways to add unique content onto your website, but more than this they have the ability to answer your user’s questions and easily match your user purpose and intent, this is an important element in Google’s quality rater guidelines and something that you should be looking to add to your e-commerce store.
If you aren’t sure where to start with FAQs then looking at the types of questions that people are searching for using keyword research tools to understand conversational queries is a great place to start. In addition, you could look at the people also ask section at the bottom of the Google Search results to get an idea of what other users have been searching for related to your specific product or category group.
Once you have an idea of the questions that people are asking, you can then start to generate great copy that answers those questions directly and put it into faq format to fit into the website. We also recommend implementing FAQ schema which can help Google to understand that your content is in FAQ format and also that it’s answering a user’s question which is always super valuable to the content of the page.
16. Clear Titles & Headings
Clear targeting plays an important role in helping Google to understand what your e-commerce pages are about, this means ensuring that all product and category pages are clearly labeled with clear titles and clear headings telling the user what is on that page. We generally recommend that you only focus each page with one or two maximum keywords to ensure that those pages are seen as super relevant for that term and additionally this helps Google to understand that you are relevant for that term and may help you to perform better in the search results.
If you aren’t sure where to start with titles and headings then undertaking keyword research to understand what uses are searching for and the types of search volumes around those keywords can help you to choose the right keyword for that page. In many instances we see the e-commerce pages are set up to target the wrong keyword and in this instance they could be missing out on a great deal of opportunity. An example of this could be targeting a cashmere sweaters page with the keyword cashmere knitwear – on review we might find the cashmere sweaters has a higher search volume than cashmere knitwear, but as we have chosen to target it with the latter we are missing out on the opportunity to capitalise on that search volume. This is a great example of a situation where looking at how we are targeting the page and page title is important to ensure that we’re maximising the visibility for our website.
17. Product Information
Most e-commerce stores will have a mega nav or a main menu with very clean navigation and this allows Google to understand what the main pages on that website are and when it usually lands on the homepage, it helps to direct Google through the website to ensure that it lands on some of the most important pages on the site first.
This is one of the main reasons why having a good main navigation is so important – and much time and detail should be put into researching the right pages to go into the navigation, to ensure that you’re really maximising the opportunity here both from the user and an internal link equity perspective.
If you aren’t sure where to start with evaluating your navigation and your crawl, then a great place to start is with a log file analysis. Log file analysis allows you to understand how Google is crawling through your website and to identify which pages are most frequently called and which pages perhaps aren’t getting much of a visit at all. Once you’ve undertaken a log analysis you can have a really good idea of where you might need to improve the internal navigation of your website. If some of the most important pages aren’t being reached very frequently or there are a number of pages which are being repeatedly crawled perhaps indicating that Google is stuck on those pages, then updating your main navigation will help to ensure that Google can continue one it’s way and that the appropriate pages on your website are getting indexed as they should be.
18. Internal Linking
Internal linking plays a very important role in allowing Google to move through your website. Connecting your pages together and allowing the Googlebot to move effectively throughout the website without getting stuck in a particular area or without missing out on key pages plays an important role in ensuring that your website is effectively crawled and indexed giving it the best possible chance to return well within the search results. Internal linking also helps Google to understand what the most important pages on your website are, and building an effective internal linking structure can help to send positive page signals to ensure that Google understands which pages they need to consider as most significant on your website.
Last but not least we have the concept of expertise authority and trust, these words are perhaps some of the most mentioned words when we talk about SEO and the three of the most important elements when it comes to Google evaluating how your website performs in the search results. Google has told us time and time again how important it is for websites to showcase expertise, authority and trust through everything that they do both on-site and off-site and it’s no different for e-commerce stores which are often held to a higher standard due to the transactional nature of the website.
E-A-T can come in a number of different formats and there’s a number of things that you can do on your website to really push and exude these key signals, but in general on e-commerce stores there’s two areas that we focus on the most, these are the About Us page and the Contact Us page – as they both showcase important information to the user and to Google regarding who is behind the website and how they can be contacted if an issue arises.
Your About Us page should do what it says on the tin and that is it should tell people about you, it should tell people about your brand, your background, your expertise and why they can trust to make a purchase from you. This is also a place to talk about any achievements, awards, accreditations or other recommendations that you’ve had that can help to add to that trust side of the business. It’s also nice to include a meet the team page so that people can understand the names and faces behind the brand that they are purchasing from.
Your Contact Us page is also important – this provides your customers with the ability to connect with you if there’s a problem with the order or if they need to ask a question and this plays an important role in matching user purpose and intent and allowing the users to make an informed decision before they make their purchase. It gives them peace of mind if they do make the purchase and there’s an issue with it that they are able to resolve it quickly and easily so having a clearly visible contact us page with a number of ways to communicate with you effectively is always a bonus here. From an SEO perspective this is a big tick in both the authority and the trust boxes as it helps to build trust with the user knowing that they can communicate with you if there is an issue.
SEO is hugely important for e-commerce websites but in order to get the most out of your website it’s important to follow the right guidance and to understand what you need to do to get the most out of the search engine results. So if you are working with an e-commerce store or if you’re planning to launch one in the near future, take time to invest in understanding how you can get SEO to work for you and it will pay off in the long run.Iif you’d like to know more about how we can help you with your SEO for an e-commerce store then please get in touch!