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ecommerce seo checklist - step by step guide for small businessesIn this week’s article, we’re going to go through a step-by-step guide with our eCommerce SEO checklist that will help small businesses get more customers with SEO and sell their products and services online. Sometimes you can spend months – maybe even years – designing and building your eCommerce site. But what if you still get little-to-no traffic? This guide will help you increase traffic and grow your online sales. This is Part 1 of 2 in a series about online stores. You can read Part 2 on eCommerce Website SEO Tips here.

As a small business, there may be times when even your target audience doesn’t know exactly what they are searching for. “What I’m really looking to buy is a merino wool jumper.” Now, we all know that there are potentially thousands of variations of styles, sizes, colours and percentage of merino out there for sale.

They will definitely appreciate the way you anticipated their ‘search intent’ if you happen to sell the product they are looking for.

However, the reality is that you need to optimise your eCommerce website properly for SEO to target the best potential purchasers for your business. With so many DIY options like Shopify, GoDaddy and Squarespace etc, it’s difficult to know how to get started.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for eCommerce SEO – and a lot of these mentioned above do tend to be style over substance, unfortunately. We at OMG have a number of existing clients who have been so frustrated with the ‘solution’ they were sold with design agencies saying they had their best interests at heart simply was expensive and didn’t allow for good solid SEO when they tried to optimise their site fully.

Up until this point, you’ve likely had a pretty basic relationship with your eCommerce website. You’ve uploaded product photos whenever you offer new products. You’ve added copy to each product page. Maybe you’ve launched a few category pages yourself.

And, up until now, that’s worked for your business.

Now you’re reading this article having visited strong eCommerce sites like ASOS, Country Road and Witchery etc that are all structured around solid SEO.

Are you starting to reconsider anything yet for your small business? Online Marketing Group will help you with solid, affordable SEO for your existing eCommerce site or create a new, high-performing eCommerce website.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this eCommerce SEO checklist guide.

Why Is SEO So Important For eCommerce?

ecommerce seo checklist guide - small business websitesAcquiring new customers can be really hard for small businesses, especially if you’re not being found by search engines. For your eCommerce site to succeed, you obviously need customers. The issue is, getting customers’ attention is expensive.

If you’re looking into online ads to grow your business – then it’s honestly going to cost you a lot of money! Wordstream data points to it costing on average $10 per actionable click, that is to say, it costs far lower for users to just click onto your site and not take any action, but for them to actually purchase an item and ‘buy now,’ it’s really expensive!

However, if you decide on SEO as the best fit for you, you get Free (yes, Free!) organic traffic by helping your site show up in the SERPs.

That’s how important Search is. Particularly when you consider that over 30% of shoppers head to Google when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Below is OMG’s checklist of key steps to take to let your SEO-optimised eCommerce site dominate search results.

  1. Internal Search

Ensure you optimise your site for internal search – those searches made within your website. There is nothing as frustrating for most would-be purchasers than doing a search within a site and getting ‘no results’ back when you know that what you are looking for exists. Similarly, there is nothing that will have users heading for the back button (probably to one of your direct competitors!) faster than if your site’s internal search function is poorly designed. You should make allowances for the fact that people will misspell items and use synonyms, so ensure that you go beyond exact matches within your site’s internal search engine.

  1. Keyword Research

Every 60 seconds, nearly 4 million Google searches are performed! That’s staggering. Do you want to hear something even more crazy? The average consumer processes over 100,000 digital words on a daily basis.

So, with this amazing amount of information, how do you make sure customers can find you in search engines?

To attract the right consumers for your business, you must create a targeted keyword list.

Creating targeted, search-intent-based keyword lists is an important step in developing a strong eCommerce SEO strategy.

Before we go deeper into how to do keyword research, I’d like to cover a few different types of keywords: short-tail/head and long-tail.

You’re Probably Asking Yourself: “What’s the Difference Between Short-Tail and Long-Tail Keywords When It Comes to eCommerce?”

Short-tail keywords (or head terms) are short, broader terms that users are likely to type into search engines. For example, ‘bedsheets.’ These terms can drive a large amount of traffic, but not necessarily traffic that converts well.

Long-tail keywords are longer and usually a more specific version of the head term.

For example, ‘bed sheets with a high thread count,’ or ‘buy bed sheets with a high thread count. Long-tail keywords typically drive lower traffic volumes/impressions, you’ll tend to see a higher number of clicks and conversions compared to head terms.

For more evidence:

Research indicates that short-tail terms receive 11 times more traffic, however, the average conversion rates for the long-tail keywords were 4.15% higher than the short-tail.

Here’s How to Find Long-Tail Keyword Search Terms for eCommerce Websites:

Step One:

Pool your keyword terms based on the main seed word.

For example, under ‘sheet sets’ and ‘bedding sets,’ write down all of the related terms that come to mind e.g. sheets sets, Egyptian cotton sheet sets, flannel sheet set, high thread count sheets etc.

Step Two:

Choose one example, say, flannel sheet set and enter the term into Google or other search engine.

Look carefully at the treasure you can find in Google search’s autosuggestion.

And, there’s more under ‘People Also Ask’ section in Google search results, e.g.:

People also ask

  • Is flannelette the same as brushed cotton?
  • What is flannel sheet set?
  • What is a good count for flannel sheets?
  • What is better than flannel sheets?

Step Three:

When you’re optimising a product description on your site, go deeper into the keyword research process or engage an SEO Professional to understand the search intent behind each keyword.

Search through Google’s page results. This is where many people get eCommerce SEO wrong. It’s one of the biggest issues with SEO and eCommerce. While you may want to rank for ‘flannel sheet set,’ you realistically don’t stand a chance in outranking the behemoths like Amazon, Myer or Kmart if you don’t have Jeff Bezos level budgets and time to invest. Let’s face it…no small business has!

This is why step four is so important.

Step Four:

After you’ve drawn out your keyword pools, start categorising your keywords based on informational keywords that would make for good blog articles, as well as purchase intent keywords that will drive conversions.

For example, a fashion company selling shoes that provides its users with informational content that ties together their product line. There’s not only the launch of a new style of women’s platform – but they tie it all in with why it’s ideal to wear for those summer festivals in fields.

To Help Build These Keyword Pools, Here Are Some Great Free Keyword Tools:

Google Autosuggest: Simply type in your keyword search term and wait for Google’s autosuggest to populate in a drop-down.

Google Related Search Suggestions: Once you type in your keyword search term in the search box, scroll down for related searches. You can pair product names with informational content.

SEMrush: You do get more with the paid version of SEMrush, but the free version is still pretty good to see where your competitors are being ranked. Just add the domain and simply click over to ‘Organic Research.’

  1. Site Architecture

Take note if you have an existing eCommerce website or are about to have one designed: if you’ve been looking for an excuse to revamp your website, this may well be it.

Site architecture (how you organise your site) is essential for all eCommerce sites. Primarily due to the fact that most eCommerce sites have thousands of product pages.

The site architecture enables you to map out the user flow of your website, so you can design the navigation with them in mind.

As the website owner, you want the user to be able to easily and effortlessly find key pages, while also quickly seeing the relationships between the pages.

example of bad site architectureHere’s an example of what your site architecture should not look like:

Creating a poor user flow experience with your site architecture can hurt your SEO. It’s also extremely bad practice for the user experience (UX) of your website.

Taking this bad site architecture illustrated example, you can see that the pages are too ‘deep.’ This means that the authority of the links is diluted when you reach your category and product pages.

As a general rule: it should only take the user at most three clicks to navigate back to your homepage…and these days, one click or two is preferable. The fewer clicks it takes for your customers (or potential customers) to find what they’re looking for and navigate there, the better their user experience will be.

example of good site architectureHere’s an example of what your site architecture should look like:

Let’s use Country Road as an example. As you land on their homepage, you select from the top navigation whether you’re looking for men’s, women’s, children’s etc clothing or homewares. Once you click on men’s, for example, it takes you to what’s new and gives you a more detailed navigation (nav) on the left hand side.

If I’m looking for clothing, I’ll click ‘clothing’ in the left hand nav bar and the drop-down menu offers me ‘all clothing’ or a list of categories e.g. ‘casual shirts,’ ‘polo shirts,’ ‘chinos,’ etc.

It only took three clicks for Country Road to get me to their product pages and then I can drill down further into which exact products I’m after. This is ideal for the user experience as well as making it easy for Google to index the content.

Before Designing Your Navigation & Site Structure, Consider This Mind-Mapping Process

Step One:

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What search queries do consumers use to get to your site?
  • What internal search queries do consumers use once they’re on your site?
  • Which pages on your site get the most traffic? (For this you can use either Google Analytics or Google Search Console).
  • What are your top exit pages with the highest bounce rates?

Step Two:

Decide if the drop-down menus are features that you want to incorporate in your nav bar.

If you choose to go ahead with the drop-down menu (as most sites do) make sure your web developer is using HTML.

This is a common mistake when working on eCommerce sites. Search engines cannot find your navigation unless it’s coded using HTML. Also, it’s critical that you don’t go crazy with your links. Best practice advises 100 links per page max, but for small businesses you’ll likely have far fewer than that.

Step Three:

Use the short-tail keyword terms mentioned above to decide what you want to name your category pages.

Ideally, it’s best to use the short-tail keyword term in your page title, header, and include it in the top 200-word paragraph.

Step Four:

If you site uses filters (most eCommerce sites with 20 products or more on a page do), bear in mind your URL parameters. Bizarre URL parameters can cause duplicate content. For example, your URL parameter should look clean like this: organically-grown-linen-shirt?colour=green.

Using another example from Country Road, their URL is clean; it describes the unique product and the selected colour option.

Step Five:

Add breadcrumbs to your product pages to give users and search engines another opportunity to see where your product fits into your site.

Another great thing about breadcrumbs is that Google will occasionally display your breadcrumbs instead of your URL.

If you’re into clean, well-organised designs (and I don’t just mean a site that’s filled with whitespace or excluding imagery), creating structured site architecture might just be what you’re looking for.

For example: structuring your navigation logically, locating pages where you’d expect to find them, and using a URL structure that follows your navigation.

  1. Technical SEO

If you have an online store with a payment gateway (an eCommerce website), technical SEO will always be something that your SEO Pro will need to stay on top of.

Technical SEO is no longer merely about sitemaps and meta tags.

Nowadays, as the overlap between technical SEO and on-page SEO continues to merge, it’s even easier to create a website with clean URLs, logical internal linking and without any stacked redirects.

If you find that your website is lacking in the technical SEO area, you’ll be surprised at just how far a few simple updates can go – so contact Online Marketing Group today to enhance your technical SEO.

Using canonical tags or updating homepage internal links for the correct content, you’ll realise that technical SEO can improve just about any website.

Let’s get into some of the technical SEO suggestions that will augment your site to 5-star in no time.

Step One:

Implement Schema Markup

It would be so much easier if Google resolved our ‘my site isn’t getting found’ dilemma. With rich snippets or schema markup, you can actually highlight certain pieces of information for Google and other search engines that you want to stand out.

There are two types of schema markup that are important to add to your eCommerce site. Each of these has their own attributes.

  1. Product schema markup:

This requires the product name and price. There are also other features you can add such as image, description, URL, and brand name.

  1. Review schema markup:

This requires two types of markup: i) aggregate ratings and ii) individual review.

To implement the first kind, you need: Overall rating value, rating count, best rating and worst rating.

To implement the second kind, you’ll need: Reviewer, review date, review value, best rating, worst rating and review body.

This will probably go over the heads of most small business owners, so you can use the Schema App or the structured data testing tool, or you can ask your SEO company for help.

This will ensure you’ve set up your structured data properly and everything is working as it should.

Step Two:

Clean up URLs

Try to visualise the pages of your website. Now, think about how much of it your users actually navigate to. For a lot of us, the discrepancy between pretty, clean URL structures and dynamic URLs is quite large.

It’s not really that surprising, considering how quickly we assign a sentimental value to our URL structure, while forgetting about best practice for our site.

Having a disorganised URL structure, though, can cause major pain points for your consumers, especially when you have hundreds of product pages and categories.

Here are a few handy tips to follow when creating your URL structure:

  • Swap dynamic URLs for clean URLs
  • Ditch the parameters (e.g. ?productId=50763526&cp)
  • Never use spaces or underscores, use dashes instead
  • Use all lower-case letters
  • Add targeted keywords
  • Keep it short and sweet

Step Three:

Redirect 404 pages

404 errors are a nightmare for your site and your users. There’s no other issue that will get your potential customers clicking back to where they came from as fast and running to the competition than ‘Page Not Found.’

It would really benefit you to do a spring clean of your site and redirect your broken pages. After all, Google now also ranks you on your user experience.

If a product/category is no longer available and you delete that page, your potential consumer might receive a 404 error. Not good! Redirecting users with a permanent 301 redirect is the best option to avoid this.

The 301 redirect still passes on around 90% of the authority you’re after in SEO. So, if your old product was ranking well for a specific keyword term, 90% of that will carry over to the new page.

Temporary 302 redirects are not a great solution, however, as they send 0% of the authority to the new page.

If you do end up with a large amount of 404 errors, you should ideally create your own custom 404 page. Often, something using humour can work well and creates a better user experience, as well as containing a link to the previous page the user was on.

ecommerce seo checklist guide - 404 error wombat in snowFor my favourite example, here’s a 404 error page from an Australian alpine ski club when their snow cameras are offline in the summer months.

If you have expired products that might be back in stock later on, you can leave those pages up. It’s best not to delete, unpublish, or redirect those pages. You can simply update the copy to tell consumers when the product will be back in stock. You can also offer an email option for the consumers to be notified when the product is back in stock etc.

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