If you own and operate an ecommerce site, smart SEO is all about increasing profits and giving your rankings a turbo boost.

Online businesses have a twofold priority when it comes to SEO: establish on-site tactics that Google and Bing applaud, and develop a loyal and reputable list of inbound and outbound links.

Ideally, ecommerce sites should carefully consider key SEO tactics like URL structure and usability long before they actually launch. If you do need to restructure an existing site, it’s trickier business for sure, but certainly not a lost cause. Regardless, the following tips can help your business vastly improve SEO results over time.

Remember: patience is needed as search engines don’t always pick up on changes right away.

Site Structure and Content

1) URLs

It’s beyond important that you choose a URL naming structure that is closely aligned with your keyword strategy. If you are targeting “discount shoes” as your primary keyword, and your URL lists something like “franksstore.com”, there is an immediate disconnect. The more concise and descriptive your URLs are, the better your SEO results. It’s still immensely important to land an appropriate domain.

2) Navigation

Just as your domain name is important, so too is the way you structure your navigation. Be very methodical about plotting out the most intuitive and descriptive site structure.

Categories need to be clear, with sub-categories equally descriptive when needed. If you don’t adapt naming structures and user-friendly navigation, your site pages will compete against each other and damage your rankings, rather than assist.

Remember that changing URL names and structures is incredibly difficult after you’ve launched, and the bots have crawled your site. It can take months to undo the damage inconsistent or poorly named URLs can cause, so the more you plan these out ahead of time, the happier you’ll be with your rankings.

On-Site Content

3) Keywords

These puppies are also hyper-critical to your SEO success! Don’t just go with your gut assumption, use resources like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to validate the popularity of those you select. Then, use your keywords across your site’s content – in URLs, product descriptions, About Us pages, and meta-data galore.

Don’t go overboard on articles, descriptions, and blogs, but make sure you’ve committed to dispersing your keywords generously across your site.

4) Write Effective Product Text

Your products are the heart of your site’s success, so hire a writer to craft intelligent, concise, and highly polished descriptions for everything you sell. As mentioned above, you’ll also want to ensure keywords are used throughout!

5) Meta Data

Don’t forget to update your site’s meta data – components like your headline and title tag are still very applicable to a great ranking. Keywords are again necessary throughout, as is guaranteeing clarity, correct grammar, and descriptive text.

6) Duplicate Content

Content that’s duplicated anywhere on your site is considered a major no-no by search engines, and these mishaps will negatively affect your ranking. These occur when the site’s structure is confusing, and when no one is organizing the top-level architecture.

Big offenders include printer-friendly content versions, session IDs, and content published under multiple categories. If you absolutely need to include duplicate content, have your developer implement robot exclusions (i.e., tell search engine bots not to crawl these pages) for the less important duplicates.

7) Load Times

If you have a slow loading homepage or landing page, you may also feel your rankings sink. All your main pages should be well optimized, and that goes for mobile sites as well.

Off-Site SEO

8) Smart Link Building

As you amass your collection of link building partners, remember that who your partners link to is as critical as who you choose to link to as well. As an example, if you link to an otherwise reputable website or ecommerce destination that in turn links to sites Google has red-listed, you could very well be penalized. It’s therefore imperative you choose wisely when procuring inbound and outbound links.

9) Make Friends with the Media

Ecommerce site owners do well with smart content marketing strategies, and at the top of this list is befriending the best bloggers and news sites in your industry. Every niche has prominent authors, reviewers, and related experts. Reach out regularly to these folks with quality content and link requests. Make sure your correspondence is polite and polished, because these publications are worth their weight in SEO gold!

Fall in Love with Data

10) Analytics

Your Google Analytics account is another SEO gem. Understanding where your site is failing, and addressing those issues efficiently, can actually help you increase your ranking. For example, if a site has a monster bounce rate – meaning a high percentage of visitors that exit the site seconds after arriving – chances are SEO results are not optimal either. The better your analytics help you to convert customers, the more search engines will reward you too.

The data that’s most critical to monitor includes the aforementioned bounce rates, unique visitors, length of visits, page load times, and conversions.

Google Analytics also has special features specifically for ecommerce sites. Go here to make sure ecommerce tracking is triggered and correctly implemented. This can do wonders for helping you upgrade your site and adeptly track how well you are converting customers.

11) Respond to Trends Slowly

As you analyze your data, never be quick to make sweeping changes across your entire site, or you can easily do more harm than good. Test changes in sections of your site to confirm success rates whenever possible, and always publish changes in small batches. Never ever adopt a tactic sitewide unless you know it will be hugely advantageous.

12) Watch Your Competitors

If you don’t have your finger on the the pulse of your competitors’ SEO tactics, you’re missing out. They may very well be implementing some ideas better than you are currently, but that’s an easy fix if you’re watching their progress. Don’t let your competitors outdo you in SEO!

Over to You

Yes, it’s true that SEO is a comprehensive and challenging part of any ecommerce business, but it can literally be the awesome sauce that catapults you to ridiculous success.

Be methodical, analytical, and hyper-organized with your approach, and you can expect to see steadily higher rankings, and reap the related benefits. Good luck in your mission! And please let us you know your thoughts in the comments.

Impressions

hey Tina

I have a small network of about 300 niche blogs and aged domain names… haven’t dabbled with eCommerce sites yet. However, your tips work for any web property. I prefer to use Clicky instead of Google Analytics though. Not sure why, but I cannot let them keep an eye on my empire 🙂

John Gibb

Nice post, Tina. However, the tips that you mentioned in your article are pretty basic one and it is as important for every website, not just for eCommerce though. Google has entirely changed its algorithm and SEO has also changed in this regard. So a website owner needs to make sure if the direction of such elements are going in a right way – and don’t forget ‘CONTENT’ now. Because without content you can’t do anything.

Hi Sabih,

You’re spot on about the content. It’s essential. My advice about SEO is always to think about the customer first, the search engines later. Write for humans, not robots. Why? Because that’s the direction we’re heading in. With Hummingbird, Google is aiming for “conversational search”, and that boils down to how people use language.

Hi Olle,

I totally agree with you on this. If organic marketers and markers focus on customers then eventually they will be valued by search engines. The best strategy is to produce good content that values keeping in mind the essential SEO elements that google and guru’s advised. After the hummingbird update, I see the emerging trend of long-tail keywords.

I’ll apply this tips on my site. I think this is an exceptional basic. It can make a site more valuable. Speceially this point.

8) Smart Link Building

While a bit basic Tina I am sure it helps many who still do NOT do these things… The one I did not find was “going mobile” or something to do with directing some resources to that ease-of-use, interface, etc. Keep up the good work!

Hi Sabih,

Yes, long-tail keywords are very valuable. Focus on creating cornerstone content – articles, videos, podcasts etc. – that is “evergreen”, i.e. they will always be useful to your target audience. You can create a content landing page where you gather your most useful and valuable articles, and then you optimize that page for search engines. In my experience, this works really well (extra tip: make sure to include an opt-in for your newsletter/autoresponder and you will capture your most engaged readers and customers.)

Hi Woodstock! Yes, some of these tips may be basic to you, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t actually apply them to their site. You’re raising an important point about “going mobile”. Investing in a solid mobile responsive design is essential.

Agree with you, Olle. With content you can do so many things like you mentioned but the thing that needs to be kept it in mind is that now you have to do things SMARTLY.

I personally don’t agree about the disconnect between the keywords you want to target and your brand. There can always be a disconnect. Today’s SEO is all about building your brand; keywords are playing a smaller and smaller part in Google’s algorithms. Google has brought out an update that specifically penalises keyword-rich domains (although admittedly it has not affected a huge number of sites). With regards to using keywords on the site, ecommerce site owners should also bear in mind that they can be penalised for over-optimisation. The most important thing is to make the content natural and user-focused, NEVER write for the search engines.

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