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SEO (search engine optimisation) is a key pillar of many successful eCommerce businesses’ digital marketing strategy.

By designing, structuring, and optimising your website in a way that’s appealing to Google, you can make more sales via increasing website traffic and providing a great user experience for your customers.

In this article, we’ll outline the core principles of eCommerce SEO, and provide you with a series of useful tips that you can use on your website.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization, and involves optimising your online content – usually your website – to improve its visibility on search engines.

While there are many search engines on the internet, the one that SEOs are primarily concerned with is Google, as it has the highest market share by far. Approximately 86% of online searches are made through Google.

It’s estimated that Google’s algorithm has over 200 ranking factors, which means there’s a lot of work to keep SEOs busy! Don’t be put off by that number though; only a small number of those ranking factors make up the bulk of the impact.

With that in mind, some of the key areas of website optimisation that SEOs focus on are:

  • Keyword research – finding the best keywords to rank for
  • Content quality – optimising text, titles, images, and other on-page content
  • User experience – making the website easy to navigate and accessible to all
  • Backlinks – securing third-party links to increase the website’s authority
  • Mobile optimisation – ensuring the website works properly on mobile devices
  • Technical SEO – addressing issues with crawlability and indexing, broken links and site speed

Why is SEO important for eCommerce businesses?

By ranking higher for a wide range of search terms, eCommerce businesses can draw in more traffic to their website. With increased traffic, businesses have more opportunities to make sales, increase brand awareness, and accumulate customer data for marketing and outreach purposes.

But bringing in additional traffic is not the only purpose SEO serves. A side-effect of optimising your website for SEO is a natural improvement in your customer experience.

Remember; Google’s number one priority is to remain the number one search engine on the market. The most effective way to achieve that goal is to offer relevant, helpful, and safe content for its users, and to direct them towards that content in the most efficient way possible.

So, Google algorithms are designed to reward websites that serve the user’s needs. By designing your website in the manner Google is looking for, you should naturally see better results from your website because it’s meeting the needs of your customers.

Our best practices for eCommerce SEO

Now we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to look at some best practices for eCommerce SEO. We mentioned eCommerce specifically because – unlike other forms of SEO – you’re actively trying to sell products on your website, rather than generating enquiries or trying to earn ad revenue.

That said, the principles of eCommerce SEO are the same as other industries and niches. It’s all about getting your pages – ideally your product pages – to the top of Google. Let’s take a deeper look at the key areas of eCommerce SEO you should prioritise.

Keyword research

Keyword research is the foundation of any SEO strategy. It involves researching appropriate searches and phrases that you want your website to rank for, with the goal of bringing in more traffic to your website.

Crucially, good keyword research doesn’t just result in more traffic; it ensures that users who come to your website have the intent necessary to convert.

Keyword research should be a continuous process, and involves several steps and tools if you wish to conduct keyword research to best practice.

Firstly, you should have a brainstorming session – ideally with colleagues across the business – to come up with a shortlist of words and phrases that you’d like to rank for. With that shortlist, you can then come up with a larger list of related keywords to go after, such as variations of specific search terms.

With a list of keywords at the ready, you can then start using keyword research tools to confirm whether they’d be worth pursuing. Most of these tools have a free version, but if you’re serious about SEO, it’s worth investing for the paid version for unlimited access. Popular keyword research tools include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Ubersuggest.

These tools with help you determine which keywords to go after based on the following factors:

  • Monthly Search Volume – How many searches does your keyword get per month?
  • Competitor Analysis – Do your competitors rank for those keywords?
  • Difficulty – How hard will your keyword be to rank for?

It’s important to carefully consider these factors before optimising your website for your chosen keywords. For example, if a keyword is considered difficult to rank for, it may not be worth pursuing if you’re early on in your SEO journey because it’ll be extremely hard to rank for.

Additionally, higher search volume doesn’t necessarily mean better, as it will likely be harder to rank for. It’s often best to go for lower volume keywords that are easier to attain. You can chase more difficult keywords as your online presence grows.

Finally, if your competitors are ranking for your chosen keywords – and your tool does not deem them difficult to rank for – these can be prioritised for a competitive advantage!

Content quality and optimisation

One of the most important ranking factors for SEO is the quality of your content. For most SEOs, adding, improving, and optimising content for keywords is where they’ll be spending most of their time.

The best way to define the quality of your content is to first consider its intent. If we take a product page, for example, the intent of that page should be to provide everything a user needs to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to purchase your product.

From there, we can work backwards. Is your write up thorough without being overly descriptive? Is it written well, with no spelling or grammatical errors? Are the photographs high quality, and do they accurately reflect the true nature of the product? Is essential info such as sizing guides and returns & shipping policies prevalent? Are FAQs about the product answered? Is it easy for a customer to make a purchase if they wish to do so?

We can use a similar method to approach other types of website content, too. Your blogs, for example, should be informative, original, and broken down into digestible chunks to make it easier to read. Images should add value and be of high quality.

So, when looking to improve the content of your website, whether that be a home page, category page, product page, blog, contact page, or something else, first consider what the intent is, and make improvements from there.

While you’re crafting new content and improving existing content, you should also think about the keywords you want to rank for. By placing those keywords organically throughout your website, you’ve a better chance of sending Google the right signals.

User experience

The user experience (UX) is another vital component of eCommerce SEO. When we talk about the user experience, we’re referring to the ease of which visitors can engage with, interact with, and navigate through your website.

Google gathers a lot of data about how users interact with your website, including how long they spend there, how often they visit, which links they click, and much more. It uses all of this information to determine – in part – where to rank your website.

Content quality is an important part of the user experience, as users will engage more with well produced content. But there are many elements of website design that come together to create a solid user experience:

  • Navigation
  • Content structure
  • Readability
  • Load times
  • Interactivity
  • Consistency
  • Accessibility
  • Error handling

Perfecting each of the above will naturally result in users spending more time on your website, and returning to it in the future. These signals send a powerful message to Google; that your website deserves to be on top.

Backlinks

A backlink is an external link from another website to your website. They’re seen by Google as an endorsement or recommendation, indicating that your content is valuable, relevant, and worth sharing.

Backlinks are a crucial pillar of SEO. The more backlinks you have, the more authority Google deems you to have within your niche or industry. This means Google has the confidence to rank your website higher.

That said, it’s worth noting that not all backlinks are equal. For example, a backlink from a reputable source such as a government website or respectable publication is going to be more impactful than a backlink from a newly created website.

Furthermore, the fact that backlinks are widely sought after means that there are some shady practices to watch out for.

There are thousands of websites that have been created with the sole purpose of selling backlinks, and once you start to invest in SEO, you’ll quickly notice your inbox filling up with people hoping to sell you backlinks. Don’t fall for this, as backlinks from these ‘backlink farms’ will do more harm than good.

The best way to generate genuine, good-quality backlinks is to simply create great content and share it with your audience. If people find value in your content, they’ll naturally want to share it.

Another great way to get backlinks is to offer guest posts on reputable websites within your niche. You can offer to write them an article on the condition that you’ll place a backlink within the article leading to your website. This can be time-consuming, but potentially worth it if the third-party website is authoritative.

The quickest – and most expensive – way to achieve backlinks is to pay reputable websites for mentions and backlinks in their content. This might be in the form of a review, listicle, or comparison piece. You can think of this sort of backlink as a sponsorship.

By all means, feel free to reach out to agencies that can generate backlinks for you through proper means. Just never accept an offer that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is.

Mobile optimisation

Mobile optimisation refers to the process of optimising your web pages so they work well on mobile devices. With over 92% of internet users accessing the internet through mobile, it’s more important than it’s ever been to ensure your website works well on smaller screens.

Unsurprisingly, Google actually uses a mobile-first approach to ranking your web pages. Previously, Google would crawl the desktop versions of your website first, followed by the mobile version. It would take both into account, but weigh the desktop higher.

As of 2021 this weighting was reversed, with mobile versions of websites now being the main version Google considers when ranking a website.

Thankfully, the vast majority of modern website builders and templates are responsive by default. When using these responsive templates to build your website, the front-end will dynamically format to fit whichever screen it’s being viewed on. While you may need to tweak some elements for mobile – such as fonts, menus, footers, and some images, a lot of the optimisation is, thankfully, covered automatically.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO involves optimising the technical aspects of a website to increase visibility and performance on Google. It focuses on improving the website’s infrastructure and addressing factors that affect crawling, indexing, and overall search engine accessibility.

While technical SEO might sound frightening to somebody with no technical background, there’s lots of work you can do to improve your technical performance without needing a tonne of experience.

Examples of easy technical SEO tasks include fixing broken links, improving URL structures (to make them clear and logical), creating a good-quality sitemap, and improving your internal linking structure.

If you’ve little technical experience and don’t have the time to learn, you may need to seek help on some of the more complex technical SEO problems, such as incorporating schema markup, improving crawlability, and deploying robot meta directives.

Need more time to spend on your digital marketing?

SEO can be hugely beneficial to eCommerce businesses. By spending time and effort on making your website the best it can be, you’ll naturally send the right signals to the search engines and, in turn, be rewarded for your efforts via increased organic traffic.

The problem is, many eCommerce businesses simply don’t have the time to think about an SEO strategy, or even digital marketing more generally. That’s where we can help.

At James and James, we specialise in eCommerce fulfilment, taking care of storage, picking, packing, and shipping for all your online orders. With a network of eCommerce fulfilment centres across the world, we’re perfectly positioned to help you grow.

Order fulfilment takes a lot of time and energy for businesses who do everything in-house. But there’s another way. Speak to us about how we can put time pack in your pocket, and provide you with the tools and service you need to truly take your eCommerce business to new heights.

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