This is a quick guide for anyone starting with SEO for their ecommerce store.
So if you're looking to acquire traffic from organic search, do everything in this article and you will have the basics locked in.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your site for organic search, or to improve the visibility of your website in search engines like Google and Bing.
SEO is a critical part of growing an ecommerce website because, unlike paid channels such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads, organic traffic is free and allows you to lower your customer acquisition costs.
Free traffic! Who doesn’t want that?
So let’s get started...
Verify your domain and submit your sitemap
First things first, make sure your domain is verified in Google Search Console.
Google Search Console is an invaluable tool that gives you great insights into keywords that are driving traffic to your website.
So create an account and add your domain to it.
Also, you’ll want to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console once it is verified. If you’re using Shopify, you can read how to submit your sitemap here. It’s super easy! If you’re on another platform, just follow the steps here.
Get started with keyword research
The first part of SEO is working out what keywords your home, product and collection pages can potentially rank for on page #1 of Google.
This is called keyword research.
Keyword research for ecommerce involves identifying keywords that have commercial intent and are relevant to your business and what you sell.
Think about your products and put yourself in the shoes of your prospective customers trying to find your products using a search engine!
Always do keyword research on a page by page basis. If one of your products is red salsa dancing shoes (which would be undeniably awesome), then that product page will require different keyword research than your black boots product page.
Prioritise your important pages
Your home page. Your bestselling products. Your tastiest collection pages.
These are the pages we want to identify keywords for first!
In my experience, being really focused will get the best results.
If you are using Google Analytics (highly recommended), go to Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages to get an overview of your most valuable pages.
Keyword research tools
To start your keyword research, first you need superpowers. Here are some great keyword research tools to get keyword inspiration:
- Ahrefs (my favourite)
- SEM Rush
- Moz Keyword Explorer
Let’s get some keywords!
From here, start using a keyword research tool to find:
- A primary keyword (this is called a head keyword)
- Long-tail variations of that keyword (explained below)
And do this for each of the pages you’re prioritising one-by-one!
An important tactic when conducting keyword research for ecommerce is targeting long-tail keywords.
What are long-tail keywords?
Well most people start with hyper-competitive keywords that are virtually impossible to rank for.
They’re short-tail -- AKA really simple keywords that contain only one or two words.
See this search engine results page (SERP) for the search query ‘t-shirt’ as an example:
If ‘t-shirt’ was a keyword you were interested in ranking for, you would have to compete against Uniqlo, ASOS and Cottonon. Fair to say these brands are well-resourced and might be hard to outrank.
Focus on targeting more lengthy, specific keywords that are hyper-relevant to your collection and product pages.
So in addition to the head keyword you target, make sure you have long-tail variations to get you ranking faster.
On-Page SEO basics
The next step is adding content to your website that matches the keywords you have identified in your keyword research.
Let’s dive into on-page SEO optimisation tactics, which essentially means adding your target keywords in your content to the relevant pages.
At the very minimum, if you do the following it will definitely help your store grow its organic traffic over the next 3-6 months.
Titles, Meta Descriptions & URLs
Your SEO title and meta description is your first chance to impress Google and users viewing a search engine results page.
In this example from the Iconic, the title is the blue link and the meta description is the black text description below:
For Shopify store owners, customising these is super easy. At the bottom of every page in the Store Admin you have a section to add an SEO Title, Meta Description and URL handle.
Make sure to add your target keywords to your title, meta description and URL handle.
As a general rule of thumb, keep your titles under 70 characters and meta descriptions under 160 characters. Shopify says 320 for the meta description but that means it will be truncated (cut off) on some devices.
H1s and Descriptions
Your H1 is your header! For ecommerce sites, it will be at the top of your product or collection page.
Here’s an example of a H1 from Threadheads on a collection page below:
In Shopify you can set your H1s and descriptions easily in the top of any page in the Store Admin:
The absolute best thing you can do is add lots of valuable and relevant marketing copy to your product page descriptions. Answer common objections, provide useful information and include your target keywords to help visitors on your website and also allow Google to understand what your page is about.
The final on-page optimisation you can do is ensuring all your images have alt text.
Alt text allows people with vision impairment and search engines to interpret images.
If you don’t have many products in your store you can add alt text manually to every product image (and every other image) in your store.
Otherwise there are some nifty apps you can use to do this for your entire catalog.
Make sure you’re #1 for your brand name
If you Google your brand name right now, where do you rank?
I have an article that goes into depth on this subject for Google Ads, but it’s even more crucial to get ranking #1 for your name in organic Google search too.
Here's an example from us below where we occupy the paid and organic positions for the term heapsgood:
If you advertise on Facebook or do any other form of top of funnel marketing that drives cold traffic to your website, people will be looking for you in search engines in the days following!
So constantly monitor how you’re ranking for your brand name and aim to get to #1 as your first SEO objective.
In this article, I didn’t cover link building, which is an important part of ecommerce SEO. But it really is another topic that deserves an entire article of its own.
If you want to learn more about SEO for your ecommerce business including link building strategies, here are some of the best resources on the web:
How is your store ranking in Google? If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know in the comments below!