With a well-structured ecommerce SEO plan, you can successfully optimize your online store to increase website traffic, attract more shoppers, and generate more sales.
To help you learn how to optimize ecommerce websites and reap these benefits, we created this step-by-step guide and ecommerce SEO checklist.
The guide and checklist offer step-by-step directions to:
- Lay the foundation for strong ecommerce SEO
- Get to know your industry and audience
- Conduct keyword research
- Optimize each page of your on-site content
- Build authority for your site and brand
- Check your site for SEO problems and errors
Lay the Foundation for Strong Ecommerce SEO
A successful ecommerce SEO strategy starts by laying a strong foundation that will support all of your other SEO efforts. When you launch your store or work to improve your current online shop, go through the following steps to improve technical SEO and make your website more appealing to search engines.
- Use a mobile-friendly, responsive website design. With more and more online traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, it’s imperative to use a mobile-friendly, responsive design for your website. It provides a better experience for users, and it also helps your website rank higher in search.
- Install an SSL certificate. On an ecommerce site, users may enter sensitive information such as their contact and payment details. It’s essential that you have an SSL certificate on your site to add an extra layer of security. An SSL certificate is also a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, making it an important detail for both user security and helping your site show up in search results.
- Check your site loading speed. Users are quick to leave a website if it takes too long to load. Search engines are also more likely to give better rankings to a website that loads quickly, so ensure that your site is set up and optimized to load quickly.
- Install Google Analytics. Understanding how users engage with your site will help you create more strategic plans for improvements related to site design, keyword use, content, and site structure. Install Google Analytics so you can start collecting data and getting insights right away.
- Create a Google Webmaster account. A Google Webmaster account will give you access to tools that help you learn about your site as well as manage things such as crawler access, sitemaps, and URL preferences. Create a Google Webmaster account as soon as you set up your site so you can configure these settings.
- Create a sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing. A sitemap is an outline of your website. Its primary purpose is to help search engines review and understand the content on your site. Create a sitemap and submit it to Bing and Google so the search engines can view and begin to rank your site.
Get to Know Your Industry and Target Audience
To create a strong ecommerce SEO strategy, you need to know about your industry and your target audience. Understanding your industry and target audience allows you to conduct better research and identify the best marketing opportunities.
- Create a buyer persona. Begin to get to know your audience by creating a buyer persona that dives deep into the demographic and psychographic details of your ideal audience. Knowing these details will help you identify the keywords most likely to attract your target buyers.
How to Create a Buyer Persona: Use this buyer persona template to create a comprehensive profile of your ideal customer.
- Outline the buyer’s journey. Once you create a detailed description of your ideal buyer, outline the path they take on their way to buy from your ecommerce shop. When you understand what your ideal buyer is going through during the awareness, consideration, and decision phases, you’ll be able to identify the keywords they use at each step of the journey. You’ll also have a clear understanding of their questions, aspirations, and needs.
How to Outline the Buyer’s Journey: Use this customer journey mapping template to lay out your ideal buyer’s journey from start to finish.
- Create a list of competitors. Assessing your competitive landscape helps you get insights to create a better ecommerce SEO When you know your competitors, you can perform better keyword research. You can see how competitors attract audiences and discover where you can compete, where you can’t, and where there are opportunities to outperform others in your industry.
How to Create a List of Competitors: Use Alexa’s Audience Overlap Tool to find competitors in your industry who share your target audience. Use the information to analyze successful traffic sources, keywords, or backlinks for your closest competitors.
Conduct Keyword Research
Once you have a good idea about who your target audience is and how your brand stacks up in your industry, you can start conducting keyword research. The knowledge about your audience’s interests and buying process will help you identify top keywords for targeting qualified buyers
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. And, knowing how your competitors stack up to others in your industry will help you find the best keywords for competing with them.
- Look for both head keywords and long-tail keywords. Head keywords are highly competitive, broad terms that have a high search volume. Long-tail keywords have a lower search volume but higher conversion rates. Include both types of keywords in your strategy to create a well-rounded SEO plan.
- Look for related keywords. Start your search by looking for phrases and terms related to the top search phrases in your industry. Look for variations of terms that your target audience uses to find products and solutions like yours.
How to Find Related Keywords: Use Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool to find related keyword opportunities.
- See what keywords your competitors rank for. Perform a competitor keyword analysis to see what organic and paid search phrases are driving traffic to your competitors. From this research, identify keyword gaps that you should target.
How to See What Keywords Your Competitors Rank For: Use Alexa’s Competitive Keyword Matrix to view keywords for up to 10 of your competitors. Use the keyword gap filter to show keywords that are driving traffic to your competitors but not to your site to find keyword opportunities.
- Qualify each keyword. Decide which keywords to target by considering both the competitiveness and popularity of the keyword. Look for low-competition keywords that have a strong search volume. Don’t use keywords that will be too difficult to rank for or have a very low amount of search volume.
How to Qualify Keywords: Use Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool to get information about potential keywords. Each keyword is assigned a score for how popular and how competitive it is.
Optimize Each Page of Your On-Site Content
Once you know what keywords you want to target, use ecommerce SEO tactics to optimize each page of your website. Use the following best practices for SEO to improve the on-page elements of your website, so each page will have a higher chance of ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
- Assign one primary keyword to each page. Each page on your website should target one keyword. Assigning the same keyword to more than one page on your site confuses search engines, so each keyword should only be assigned to one page on your site.
- Assign two to four LSI keywords to each page. In addition to one primary keyword, also assign three to four LSI or latent semantic keywords to each page. LSI keywords are terms that are closely related to the primary keyword. They provide extra context to the page and help search engines understand what the content is about.
How to Find LSI Keywords: Use this guide and learn how to find LSI keywords that are related to your target keyword phrase.
- Write 300 or more words for each page of content. Search engines need content to understand and rank pages. So for strong ecommerce SEO, add at least 300 words of content on each of your pages. Also, don’t just write the content for search engines; write high-quality content that will be helpful for readers too.
- Use the primary keyword on its assigned page to create a 2-3% keyword density. To avoid keyword stuffing, use the primary keyword about two or three times for every 100 words on the page.
- Use each LSI keyword once on its assigned page. Use each of your assigned LSI keywords on the page at least once to add additional context to the page.
- Use the primary keyword in the page and meta title on its assigned page. Create a page and meta title that includes the assigned primary keyword. For even better SEO benefits, use the primary keyword toward the beginning of the title.
- Use the primary keyword in the meta description on its assigned page. Include the primary keyword near the beginning of the SEO meta description for the page. This helps search engines understand the page and also gives searchers an idea of what the content is about as this copy appears on SERPs.
- Use the primary keyword in one subheading on its assigned page. Include the primary keyword at least once in a subheading on the page.
- Use the primary keyword in one image alt tag on its assigned page. Add an image to each page (search engines like pages that have at least one image), and use the primary keyword in the image alt tag.
- Use the primary keyword in the image file name on its assigned page. Use the primary keyword in the image file name to add another connection between the page content and the primary keyword.
- Use the primary keyword in the URL on its assigned page. Create an SEO-friendly URL or permalink that appeals to search engines by using the target keyword and removing any other words. A short URL is more pleasing to both search engines and users, so when possible, only include the keyword in the URL.
- Optimize URL structures. Pay attention to the keyword URL slug as well as the full URL link structure. Use a consistent, intuitive URL structure throughout the site. This could mean adding categories to URL structures for products that fit within that category (e.g., www.phonecasess.com/apple/dolphin-phone-case) and avoiding including numbers or codes in URL structures that don’t mean anything to users (e.g., www.phonecasess.com/v32/i-ph21/dolphin-phone-case).
- Create content for product pages. As noted above, pages are more likely to rank if they include 300 or more words on the page. So don’t just include a product name and photo on your product pages. Add blurbs of copy that describe the features and benefits of the offering to help search engines rank the page and users understand your products.
- Create content for category pages. Don’t overlook category pages. They provide a great opportunity to drive search traffic and inform shoppers, so add useful, SEO-optimized copy to product category pages.
- Create a blog content calendar. Blog posts also provide an opportunity to support a strong ecommerce SEO plan while engaging and educating your audience. Develop a blog calendar and publish posts that act as buyer’s guides and helpful evergreen content.
- Link to internal pages. As you create content on your site, show how each page is connected to each other by using internal links. Link to important pages using the page’s assigned primary keyword as the anchor text to help users navigate your site and help search crawlers understand your content.
- Add Schema Markup to each page. To present rich results on SERPs, add Schema Markup to your website pages. The code helps your products attract more clicks on SERPs, as the results feature additional information such as photos, reviews, and pricing.
Build Authority for Your Site and Brand
Technical and on-page SEO aren’t enough to build a full ecommerce SEO plan. You also need to take steps to improve off-page SEO
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. Use off-page SEO techniques to build authority for your brand by building links back to your site and growing customer recognition.
- Set up social media accounts for your store. A social media presence not only gives credibility to your store but also they help you build digital authority for your site. Each profile you create allows you to link back to your website. These links send signals to search engines telling them that your website is an established, known brand.
- Set up directory listings. Like the links on your social profiles, links on business directory listings can also send positive signals about your website to search engines. Create relevant profiles on business directories and listing sites that are high quality and relative to your industry.
- Find sites linking to your competitors. To get ideas about where you can gain links back to your site, research your competitors. Find websites that link to your competitors to identify opportunities for where your website can gain links as well.
- Find guest blogging opportunities. Another way to gain links back to your site is by guest posting on other websites. Put together a guest blogging strategy that helps you get in front of your target shoppers and gain links back to your site.
- Get customer reviews. Customer reviews help shoppers decide what products are right for them, but they do even more than that. Product pages with a large number of reviews can actually perform better in search. So as a part of your ecommerce SEO plan, focus on getting customers to leave reviews and ratings on your product pages.
Run an Ecommerce SEO Audit to Check for Issues
Once you complete all of the steps in this ecommerce SEO checklist, take steps to complete an ecommerce SEO audit to help ensure that you didn’t miss any opportunities or leave any gaps in your strategy.
- Check for keyword cannibalization. As mentioned above, you only want one page on your site assigned to each keyword. If you optimize two pages for the same keyword, search engines will have a difficult time telling which one is more important and, therefore, not rank either page. So review your content to ensure that each keyword is only targeted on one page.
- Check for duplicate content issues. Like keyword double use, you want to avoid using the same content on your site twice. Search engines will struggle to rank your content if it is used in multiple places across your site and may even penalize your site for it. Duplicate content isn’t always intentional, so check your site to ensure that there are no issues.
- Check the on-page SEO for each page. Make sure you didn’t miss any on-page SEO opportunities on pages of content on your site. Check on-page SEO on all of your pages to verify each optimization tactic is complete.
How to Check On-Page SEO: Use Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker to audit each page of content on your site.
- Set important pages so they are no more than three clicks from your homepage. Complex sitemaps that have deep-linked pages can be confusing for search engines. Search engines prefer sites that have an intuitive linking structure that users can navigate with a few clicks. Structure your site to please search engines by organizing your pages so that no important page is more than three clicks from your homepage.
- Fix any crawler errors. Make sure there aren’t any meta tag SEO errors that are causing pages of your site to be inaccessible to search crawlers. Run a scan to ensure that search crawlers are able to scan and crawl all of the relevant pages on your site.
Get a Comprehensive Look at Your Site’s SEO Status
To quickly check your SEO and get a good look at the status of dozens of SEO elements on your site, use Alexa’s SEO Audit.
The audit includes a list of details about what is missing on your site and how you can take steps to address gaps and errors. This is a fast, easy, and helpful way to assess your SEO and outline concrete steps to improve and optimize it.
Create a Powerful Ecommerce SEO Strategy From Top to Bottom
If you go through the steps of this checklist, you can optimize your site or identify the ecommerce SEO services you need to help show up more frequently in search, drive more traffic, attract more shoppers, and increase your online sales.
Then, get extra help for executing your ecommerce SEO strategy by signing up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan. It includes the comprehensive SEO Audit that allows you to check your SEO status from top to bottom. You’ll also get access to all of the other Alexa keyword and marketing research tools mentioned in this post. Sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan today.