26 Actionable Ecommerce SEO Tips for Every Online Retailer

Your entire site’s SEO work can be destroyed by not doing the basics right.

NEVER skimp on the essentials!

Whether you are new to SEO and want to make sure you are doing everything correctly, or you need a refresh, I’m going to make it easy for you.

All you need to do is carve out a few minutes of your day and tackle one of the 26 SEO tips below.

Are you ready?

Let’s do this

1. Check your robots.txt

Your robots.txt file has the ability to completely stop all organic traffic arriving to your site.

A simple:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

And BOOM, you’re organic traffic will implode before levelling off at around zero. Now obviously this is something that doesn’t just change on its own but you should always know who has access to change it.

Your Robots.txt also has multiple other reasons to use it as an online retailer, these include…

  • Protect Google from accessing your admin area
  • Prevent duplicate content by blocking Google from certain areas of your site
  • Stops Google trying to access user accounts sections of the site

Extra Reading:

 

2. Set up structured data on product pages

One of the most powerful features available for ecommerce is using structured data on product pages, these can include:

  1. Reviews/Rating
  2. Stock data
  3. Price (incl. Currency)
  4. Name of Seller
  5. Condition of Product

Ecommerce Structured Data

John Lewis is a great example of ecommerce using structured data on their product pages, from the above example you can see they show the aggregate of 12 reviews with totals 4.8 rating (automatically shows 5* still) and also displays the price of £99.95.

An option they could add would be to include stock status – John Lewis stock most of the products and have a stock system that seems to result with constant stock, so having “In Stock” on their rich snippet could further increase their CTR.

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3. Tweak Your Meta Descriptions for Increased CTR

Meta descriptions get a lot of flack in the SEO industry, any SEO worth their salt knows that they don’t influence rankings. However, they can play a massive role in your CTR – so don’t pass them up lightly.

Especially near the top of the SERPs, ensuring you have a great meta description can improve your traffic without any movements in rankings.

Meta_CTR

Your meta descriptions need to be:

  • Descriptive – The meta description introduces the user to your page, you need to ensure the user knows what they will be seeing once they click, with ecommerce words like “shop” and “buy” can be used to great effect to ensure the user knows you are selling.
  • Persuasive – Some form of call-to-action is needed and some form of encouragement, online retailers can use phrases like “Free shipping over $50” or whatever threshold you have.
  • The correct length – Make sure they aren’t too long so get cut off, or too short to get your point across. 156 characters is the optimal length.

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4. Set up Google Webmaster Tools (And actually look at it)

When was the last time you looked at your webmaster tools?  If you’re anything like me it comes in bursts where you’ll check it everyday and then somehow forget for a month.

If you haven’t already got WMT set up, do it now.

Now you’ve got it, set up regular reminders to check it, monitor your crawl errors, the HTML improvements, and particularly any notable drops in impressions.

The example below show’s impression drop as the year starts – it ranks for a lot of New Year’s related queries.

WMT_overview

It’s very important you keep up on reviewing your WMT – you can quickly fix any duplicate title tags, diagnose server & robots.txt issues amongst a wealth of other features.

Read the extra reading for some detailed analysis of how to use it.

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5. Add reviews to your product pages

In my eyes this should be standard practice in online retail, but alas I’m still coming across many examples of this not happening.

It won’t take long to see this in practice, most of the big retailers do this in one way or another, Amazon perhaps being one of the best and well known examples (see below).

Reviews_Product_Pages

Reviews act as social proof to your potential customers to give more assurance that the product is for them.

Retailers often question that negative reviews may decrease sales, in reality most negative reviews can actually help sales as they are often left by people who bought the wrong product for their needs in the first place.

Remember point 2? Structured Data? Reviews can feed into your rich snippets and increase click throughs to your site.

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6. Re-optimise the title tags of your category pages

You finished your keyword research, you create your perfect title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags on page copy and everything. Happy days, you can forget about that now right?

Wrong!

Searches change, trends come & go – make sure you go back over and check your research. This isn’t a weekly or monthly task, but consider every 6 months to quickly run back over them.

google_trends

A current trend in the UK is beards, hipsters are bringing them back – even Rand Fishkin is getting on the action. If you are a gifting retailer, getting a few beard grooming kits in place for Christmas just gone would have been a great idea.

Is this trend going to continue? In January it was still it’s 2nd highest, so get ahead of the rest and get some beard grooming kits in!

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7. Subscribe to key blogs to keep up to date with the latest SEO changes

For anyone that has been in the SEO industry for a while, even just 2 years, they will tell you that the rules change regularly.

When I started in SEO, directories had just been outlawed and guest posting was just taking off, yet already guest posting has been crucified by Google. Note: Guest posting done RIGHT still works. Anything that becomes spammy will be hit by Google. 

mozcast

The best way to keep up to date with the changes in trends and algorithm updates from Google is to follow the best blogs in the industry.

Below you will see the bare essentials list of blogs to follow to ensure you don’t miss a trick from Google.

The Blogs:

8. Give structure to your blog – Create an editorial calendar

So you’ve heard the stats… (Hat Tip: Hubspot)

  • 55% more visitors
  • 97% more  inbound links
  • 434% more  indexed pages

It’s all well and good having it, but what happens 6 months down the line where your blog gets next to no traffic, no sales and just a handful of shares.

Creating structure of your content plan with your blog is essential and an editorial calendar is the best place to start.

editorial-calendar-sample

Image Credit: onDemand CMO

Your editorial calendar will allow you to focus on what you are doing, what you need for each post, where you are going to promote it – everything.

Improve your blog with a editorial calendar today.

Extra Reading & Tool:

 

9. Add 300+ words of content to your category pages

Your category pages are your bread and butter, the dream of thousands of visitors landing on these pages are often a distant dream for small online retailers.

With the massive national brands dominating the big search terms, smaller retailers can pick up some much better (defined by higher converting) traffic by looking at longer tail queries.

long_tail_category_pages

By adding more copy onto your category pages – it will help you rank for these longer tail keywords that the larger companies blissfully ignore in favour of the most traffic.

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10. Map out your target keywords & landing pages

Haphazard keyword research & title tag writing is common place in many in-house SEO teams (I’ve been a culprit in the past).

Keyword mapping helps you plan out your keywords to prevent you accidentally optimising two pages for the same keyword.

It also allows you to find where you could create some additional categories that you could create to attract some extra long tail traffic.

KeywordMap

Keyword mapping is key for your ecommerce success. Don’t start it and let it slip. Build it, review it quarterly and rock your SEO.

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11. Add ALT tags to your images

Ecommerce sites have ridiculously high number of images.

Say you have 1,000 products on your site, with 3 photos per product. That’s 3,000 images before any banners, homepage images, blog images or anything.

this-is-an-alt-tagTo utilise the ALT tags effectively you need to create a dynamic way of producing the tags.

If you can create a script to automatically create ALT tags to show file name (minus hyphens) similar to the above example, you’ll be onto a winner on your product pages.

Extra Reading:

 

12. Fix your 404 errors

404 errors will rarely negatively affect your rankings, Google says so. However, they do affect your users journey around your site.

If someone lands on a 404 page or navigates to one, the chances are they will exit your site, and fast.

404_errors

So keep on top of them! If you see one pop up, fix it, you’re customers will thank you. 

[Tweet “#SEOTip 12. Fix your 404 errors”]

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13. Re-word your product descriptions to sell the product better

So far, you’ve got unique product descriptions – congratulations you are in the top 50% of retailers for your product page copy.

Now it’s time to take it to the next level – creating product descriptions that not only sell the product but sell the lifestyle around the product.

ao_product_description

Think beyond the technical specifications of the product and its basic functionality.

What does the customer want this for? What do they want from it?

AO does this incredibly well – from the above example you can see:

  • “will add a touch of class” & “contemporary, high quality design” – makes you feel exclusive, like owning this will raise your status
  • “ideal for a large family or entertaining” – Specific to your needs
  • “It’s super quiet too with a ring of a bell” – Like they are talking to you, the casual approach draws you in

This sort of product copy is worth every cent you spend on it! Don’t skimp!

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14. Add internal links from your home page to your targeted categories / products

Internal links can sometimes be more effective than external links!

That’s right, allowing Google to crawl your target pages through internal linking can be more effective than average link building to those pages.

And what page on your site gets crawled the most? Normally… the home page, it has the most links, often the most traffic, and is the basis of your company.

wayfair_homepage

Adding internal links on your homepage to deep pages in your structure will send crawlers deeper down your site and increase both crawlers visits to those pages as well as your users visits.

This is great for if you are launching a new brand or category on your site and want to give it a large degree of exposure to Google & your visitors.

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15. Start using breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs create you even more internal links! 

Breadcrumbs improve the user journey around your site as well as helps Google navigate around your site.

asos_breadcrumbs

Most large retailers have them (go check them out) – most ecommerce platforms have these as standard or easily included with a plugin. If they don’t, change platforms.

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16. Add in some post-sale viral mechanics to boost social shares

Incorporating post-sale viral mechanics is rare but effective! The best examples of this include Amazon & Ebuyer.

The chances are you have already seen this when you bought something from Amazon.

amazon_share

The above example shows when you add something to your wishlist (but something very similar also displays on purchase).

And who wouldn’t love to gloat they’ve just bought a brand new Kindle – which shares the product page – more shares = more exposure.

Extra Reading:

 

17. Check & fix duplicate content issues on your product pages

Duplicate content is a major issue affecting many online retailers and many don’t even know it’s a problem.

Product page duplications are the most common in ecommerce and can be caused in a few ways

  • Multiple products that are the same just with a colour or size different
  • Using the generic manufacturer description (HINT: So are a lot of people, including the manufacturer!)
  • Copying someone else’s product description (or them copying you)

You can do this for years, trickling a long with minimal organic traffic to your product pages, or even start to grow it with link building but one day, Google finds out and BOOM…

DupPanda1

Ironically hit by a Panda update (hit mid-week where the arrow is pointing) and losing over 50% of your traffic overnight.

It will happen, you will not grow & you will get hit. Write unique product descriptions!

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18. Learn how to deal with out of stock products

Knowing how to deal with out of stock or distontinued products has been a bone of contention for a long time in ecommerce.

The “perfect” solution is rarely seen around the web, but if anyone is close it’s Asos. –

out_of_stock_asos

What they have:

  • Clear “out of stock” message – the user knows the product is not available
  • “Shop more” messages – clever internal linking and direction for the user
  • Related Products – Great from the users point of view, very helpful.

Extra Reading:

 

19. Create a detailed buying guide for a category on your site

Buying guides are designed to help educate a potential customer enough to convert them into a paying customer.

They can be written for almost anything, from wallpaper, to prom dresses, to perfume – anything.

buying_guide_JL

Design is crucial to creating a quality buying guide, it needs to be easily digestible and can utilise multiple forms of content from images, text, videos and more.

The key is to teach the user what they should be looking for, and direct them to places to help find the best product for them (ideally from your site too).

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20. Geo Target your site in WMT

Launching international sites can be an extremely lucrative venture.

Providing you can ship your products to those countries, launching additional sites geo-targeted to those countries can lead to a massive influx of traffic.

geotarget

Now you might be thinking that translations are expensive (and they are), but the chances are whatever the language your site is now, that language will also be the native / first language in other countries.

Example: English is easily replicated across, USA, UK, Canada & Australia. If you have a site in one of these countries, it is extremely easy to replicate across the others.

Set them up, geo-locate the sites. Watch your international traffic dramatically rise.

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21. Add a relevant video to your product pages

If you haven’t considered adding videos to your product pages then you must be crazy.

Videos are a great selling tool, it can allow the user to see the product in real world situations and can sometimes lead to much higher conversions.

video_asos

Asos use great short catwalk videos to show how their clothes flow, look when moving etc., they also give the sizes of the models so you can gauge your own body against them for the perfect fit, potentially decreasing returns from buying the wrong.

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22. Speed up your site

The faster the site the higher the conversion.

It’s simple logic, it’s human nature to not like waiting, and while patience may be a virtue, but we still want things now. 

CR speed

Image Credit: Econsultancy

There are many optimisation techniques to improve your site, some include:

  • Using images only at the size of your display (you can also gain this by compression of the images)
  • Use JPEGs rather than PNGs
  • Utilising a CDN to host your images
  • Leverage browser caching

And many more.

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23. Add social sharing buttons to your product pages

Having social sharing buttons on your product pages are a pretty basic part of the arsenal of SEO techniques for an ecommerce site.

For most platforms this come as standard but ensuring you have them can lead to small boosts in exposure for your products. 

ASOS_Tweet

A bonus aspect to include is a custom sharing phrase to the default shares, you can see Asos tries to get a response on the sharer’s social media by asking questions.

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24. Change your site architecture

What’s your site architecture like? Don’t know? Well it could be stopping  you getting traffic.

A flat site architecture doesn’t mean to have all your URLs like this:

example.com/category
example.com/sub-category
example.com/another-sub-category

It mean’s having the fewest clicks from the homepage to your products as possible. Looking like this:

flattened-to-3-levels-deep

Image Credit – Moz

This allows Google to crawl your entire site much easier and much quicker, ensuring you get the maximum amount of indexation as possible and therefore rank for as many long tail keywords as you can.

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25. Make your URLs SEO Friendly

URLs are a ranking signal, one of the 200+, and ensuring your keywords are present in the URL are key.

exampleshop.com/cat123
exampleshop.com/cat123/cat456
vs
exampleshop.com/home-decor
exampleshop.com/home-decor/cushions

Quite simply, get your keywords in your URLs – Google reads these and it will help you rank.

Also, users read these and it will give them confidence with what they are going to be looking at.

Extra Reading:

 

26. Add related products to your product pages

Related products combines some more internal linking (that I’ve been banging on about all through the article) as well as some extra useful up-selling & conversion increasing features.

Displaying and linking to other products that the user may like to purchase instead of what they are looking at gives the user choice, which leads to them being able to make an educated decision on your site.

related_products

Displaying products that other customers have bought when purchasing the product is a great up-selling technique, and can lead to much higher AOVs.

The SEO benefit is from an increase in internal links, the above example shows John Lewis linking between similar products, also products that were also bought with the one you are looking at, as well as the brand itself. 

Extra Reading:

 

Here’s The Next Step…

Now I have a quick question for you:

Do you want more?

More SEO tips for your ecommerce site?

Some highly actionable link building strategies that you can implement in minutes?

How about, a complete step by step guide to outreach that could land you over 100 links to a single piece of content in one month?

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