The world of ecommerce may not be as easy to conquer as it once was, but plenty of opportunity still exists in that realm. If you’ve decided to pursue this opportunity, maybe you’ve already built out a great looking online store — one that you would look forward to shopping at yourself — and have stocked it with an array of irresistible products.
You know that, where ecommerce is concerned, traffic is almost always the deciding factor in whether or not a store thrives or withers on the vine. So, you will not only have set aside an advertising budget, but also have planned to attract as much organic traffic as possible through well thought out, sound organic initiatives — a process that starts with focused SEO research and continues with an adherence to sound best practices for ecommerce success.
It may seem that your efforts in researching effective keywords and maximizing the success of your other SEO pursuits — both on page and off page — would mirror the same principles that apply to pretty much any other website seeking to drive traffic. While there are certainly plenty of similarities, there are also some substantial distinctions to be made in performing and implementing SEO research for an ecommerce site.
All Sites Need Traffic in Order to Be Effective
Even the most aesthetically pleasing and content-rich site can’t really be considered a success unless it’s drawing traffic and solving a need for those visitors that come its way. While paid traffic in the form of advertising is, beyond question, the fastest and often most predictable way to drive this traffic, the incremental organic traffic that can result from a sound SEO campaign is so potentially substantial that it’s awfully hard to ignore.
Performing diligent SEO research is the first step in mining this potential and, whether that research is for an ecommerce site or otherwise, it can yield several important benefits.
Effective SEO research helps put you in the mindset of your potential visitors.
Proper keyword research adds objectivity to your content creation initiatives. It’s not enough to rely on your own experience — plus a little guesswork — to derive a list of keywords that you want to rank for and then start writing accordingly. You may be surprised at the search terms your potential visitors prefer to use and, if you’ve guessed wrong, your SEO efforts won’t pay off. It’s important to be informed.
Also, the implications of guessing wrong are multi-faceted. Not only will you be less likely to draw visitors that will be interested in your products and content, but those visitors will beat a hasty retreat from your site if it doesn’t match their expectations. This abrupt departure — measured by Google in both dwell time and bounce rate — will likely harm your SEO standing and make it difficult for your content to rank highly on the search results pages.
SEO Research Can Save You Time and Frustration
Regardless of your site’s purpose, it’s understandable that most of us would want to go right after the most powerful, heavily trafficked keywords. After all, the more traffic they’re good for, the more traffic they should attract to a site, right?
True, but some of these keywords will be out of reach, as far as competition is concerned. To put this into perspective, a company like Ikea has seemingly endless financial resources to put toward SEO. Most site owners, on the other hand, don’t.
Proper SEO research will not only reveal which keywords are effective, but also which keywords are reasonably attainable to rank for. Regardless of a keyword’s value, if you can’t compete for it, it will do you no good.
SEO Research for eCommerce Differs from General SEO Research in a Very Important Respect
Let’s say you go through a variety of SEO resources — more on those resources a little later — and come up with a list of keywords that not only pull significant traffic but are also logistically within your grasp. It may take some concerted effort on content creation, but you can get there.
If your objective is to drive traffic to a blog, these keywords may be sufficiently effective based solely on their traffic appeal and popularity. On the other hand, if you’re doing SEO research for an ecommerce site, there’s another factor to take into consideration — buyer intent.
If the goal is to sell products, drawing just any traffic won’t be sufficient. While all sites require qualified traffic to be successful, ecommerce sites require that traffic to not only be interested in the store’s subject matter, but also be far enough into the buyer journey to be ready, or nearly ready, to make a purchase.
That requires more keyword specificity, in the form of long-tail keywords. These are keyword phrases that are more detailed — phrases that are far more likely to be used by someone serious about buying and not just having a general interest in what the site is about.
Even the briefest of keyword research centered on a popular topic will usually result in several keywords that are heavily searched, but searched by whom? Most general keywords signify little or no buyer intent, whereas long-tail keywords do.
Take for example the topic of classic car engines. This is a popular topic, but many people who enter this search term into a browser aren’t likely to be potential buyers. They could very well just be taking a virtual walk down nostalgia street while rekindling their love of some of the beloved powerplants of the past — Chevy’s 327 small block, Ford’s stout 390 FE and so on.
Getting more specific, in the form of a term like “engines for classic cars”, may attract more qualified traffic, but it’s not optimal. Some of that traffic may still be searching the topic with an historical perspective.
Go one step further, with a search term like “complete engine packages for classic cars” and you’re there. The term clearly signifies buyer intent. Of course, arriving at a conclusion like this will require effective SEO research, as opposed to guesswork and experience.
Those keywords must also be presented in a manner that takes the user experience into consideration. Sacrificing readability in favor of a more hardcore “sell” mode via a congested array of buyer intent keywords may lead to an elevated bounce rate, which will tell Google that visitors aren’t happy with what it has offered in its results.
Similarly, poorly written content — for example, in the form of awkward or grammatically incorrect product descriptions — may dissuade visitors, even if the products themselves are compelling. Product descriptions are one of the true missed SEO opportunities where ecommerce sites are concerned. Far too many sites rely on the manufacturers’ descriptions, to which multiple ecommerce sites almost always have the same access to and simply duplicate. As a result, many sites use the exact same wording for the exact same product, so Google won’t know which site to send traffic to.
Following are some good resources for effective SEO research for ecommerce sites.
This one seems obvious, as Google is still the largest search engine in existence, used in well over 90% of all searches as recently as April of 2022.
Try initially inputting some search terms that you feel confident your prospective customers would use. A lot of times, you’ll be right, and the search results will reflect this. Even when you aren’t, Google will generally provide some long-tail keyword phrases via its autocomplete function to examine more closely. Since this function uses search volume as a primary consideration, you can be confident that the resulting terms will be sufficiently popular, although you will want to use a third-party keyword tool — such as Ubersuggest, Ahrefs or SEMrush, to get a better idea just how well a keyword performs, as well as how attainable it is to rank for. More on these keyword tools just a little later.
Google’s “People Also Ask” is additionally a great resource for coming up with alternative keyword phrases, as is the Related Searches section at the bottom of the results page.
It remains the undisputed king of ecommerce sites, averaging more than $350 million dollars in sales EACH DAY. It’s also a treasure trove of potential knowledge, but not necessarily in the sense of gaining intelligence that will allow you to compete directly with this gargantuan site.
It’s more about getting insight as to some of the best current SEO practices. Arguably, no site has more resources available to ensure that it stays at the top of the heap than does Amazon, and a lot of those resources go towards continuous testing. As a result, Amazon’s site construction and navigation practices will always be top notch.
Pay close attention to how Amazon’s categories are organized. Regardless of the product involved, it will always mirror pure buyer intent and should provide plenty of insight for your own site organization efforts. How you organize your ecommerce site categories can have a profound effect on its appeal for both prospects and Google alike.
Answer the Public and Quora
Answer the Public has long been a great resource for SEO research and its value for ecommerce sites is beyond question. You can find the questions your prospects are most likely to ask, so that you can fashion your product descriptions and blog content accordingly.
When navigating the Quora landscape, you may have to sift through plenty of trivial and non-sensical questions, but if your ecommerce site’s niche is relatively mainstream, you can often find plenty of inquiries that signify buyer intent. With broader categories, these Quora inquiries can also serve as a guide for blog content creation.
Third Party SEO Tools
Tools like Ubersuggest offer a lot, free of charge. In one place, you can get keyword ideas, check keyword volume for your proposed keywords and see how other search terms have fared in the real world. Start by typing in broader head terms into Ubersuggest’s search bar and you’ll get plenty of ideas, including a list of the actual questions people are asking that pertain to the search term.
One of the most underutilized aspects of Ubersuggest is the insight it provides on what sites are linking to particular content. This is a very important aspect of SEO: when reputable sources start linking to your ecommerce site — even if that link goes to an ecommerce blog and not directly to a particular product description — it can really accelerate growth.
Also, the insight you’ll gain as far as the difficulty of ranking for specific attractive keywords can tell you whether or not your SEO efforts would be likely to pay off anytime soon. If those keywords are attainable, you’ll know your efforts are worthwhile and, if they aren’t, you can alter your strategy to go after less popular, but still effective keyword alternatives.
Better still, Ubersuggest, as well as some of the other SEO tools out there, can crawl your ecommerce site and unearth issues that may keep it from maximizing its true potential. These findings can include items you might not normally think of, such as load time, duplicate meta descriptions and more.
Here are some best practices for eCommerce SEO. Some of these are all too often overlooked or underestimated, but they matter nevertheless.
Optimize for Mobile
Where ecommerce is concerned, images matter a lot. Naturally, they’re going to be a lot smaller on a mobile device, which may lead one to believe that mobile devices — and by proxy, mobile responsiveness — don’t play that important a part for ecommerce sites.
Google, as you can imagine, is aware of this, and puts a high premium on an ecommerce site’s mobile responsiveness.
Put Effort into Your Product Descriptions
As we’ve noted, all too often ecommerce sellers rely on manufacturers’ product descriptions. Because of this, there may be literally hundreds of duplicate product descriptions for a popular product strewn about the internet.
Forge your own path and create persuasive, keyword-rich product descriptions. Not only will you not have to share SEO power with countless other websites, but you may well be able to improve on what’s already been done in your niche.
Be Mindful of Your Ecommerce Site’s Load Time
In the world of ecommerce, visuals matter. A lot. It’s understandable that you’d want to use the best, most high-resolution image to sell your products, but there’s a happy medium that needs to be attained. With high resolution images come substantial file sizes — assuming the images haven’t been compressed — and that file size can easily lead to a slow loading website that Google won’t like and will punish accordingly.
A number of website platforms will automatically compress photos to maximize load time, but this isn’t something you’ll want to leave to chance. If the platform you use doesn’t do this, you’ll want to either use a plug in that will compress your images, or at the very least, start with images that are no larger than necessary.
Use your SEO research to create a master list of keyword phrases to go after and organize the keywords so that they’re in proper relation to each other. This will make for a more organized and efficient strategy than just conducting more frequent individual keyword searches.
Once this list has been established, create a content calendar that will guide your efforts over the longer term — ideally for a month or so.
Keep Your URL Structure Logical (and Concise)
Your individual product URLs should be as clean and descriptive as possible — ideally with no unnecessary characters. As an example, check out how this Harbor Freight URL tells you exactly what to expect before the product page even loads. This makes it easier for Google to discover the product and direct traffic accordingly.
The more content and product pages an ecommerce site has, the more important it is to include breadcrumbs. While some website owners/managers prefer a cleaner, more minimalistic look, prospects prefer knowing exactly where they are on a site, so that they can more easily navigate back and forth when viewing individual product pages.
Since product categories play a huge part in just what breadcrumbs a prospect will see, this also means it’s even more important to make sure your ecommerce categories are laid out in a logical fashion.
Detailed and focused SEO research, combined with an adherence to sound on-site SEO principles, can have a profound effect on an ecommerce site’s ultimate ranking potential.
For those of you who have tried your hand in the ecommerce realm, let us know what website changes have produced the best results. We’d love to hear from you.