- Website architecture is vital to ecommerce SEO success; it defines your site’s hierarchy, which helps search engines understand your content.
- Website navigation, url structure and breadcrumbs reinforce your website’s hierarchy.
- People search differently online than they do in a physical store, so don’t limit yourself to a brick and mortar mindset when you choose ecommerce categories.
- Fix duplicate, overlapping and unnecessarily broad categories that cripples ecommerce SEO performance.
- Think beyond products and categories and develop engaging content that guides customers through every stage of the purchase funnel.
THE VALUE OF AN ECOMMERCE SEO STRATEGY
Winning at ecommerce SEO is a big challenge. Amazon devours 37.7% of all online ecommerce sales. Direct to consumer (D2C) disruptors keep stealing market share. On top of that, established players that saw the value of organic search early on have had years to improve their SEO execution.
The good news?
Although large brands are rapidly shifting more of their digital marketing budget to SEO, the vast majority of websites (even among the Fortune 1000) are still painfully underinvested in search engine optimization. This means you can absolutely overtake them with a holistic enterprise SEO program.
The best ecommerce SEO strategy combines website structure, technical SEO, keyword research, content strategy, on-page SEO and link building with incredible user experience to deliver unmatched results.
Our advanced ecommerce SEO guide reveals the most effective strategies, tips and techniques you can use to massively move the needle on your organic search traffic and get results like this:
Business impact of ecommerce SEO
If you pay attention to quarterly earnings calls, then you may have noticed SEO performance is a frequent talking point (maybe even among your own competitors). Organic search has become such an important sales channel that it’s grabbed the attention of C-suites and investors.
Here are just a few examples from 2019:
- Analysts grilled Groupon over SEO headwinds that dragged down profits.
- Jerome Squire Griffith, CEO at Lands’ End, said they’re putting a very heavy emphasis on ecommerce SEO.
- Seth Moore, Chief Strategy Officer at Overstock, said that SEO “is the growth engine for the company going forward.” He also stated that improved organic rankings made their ad spend more efficient.
You might’ve heard another multi-billion dollar brand by the name of Chewy. Their strong organic search strategy was a key reason for its $3.35 billion acquisition by PetSmart.
If your leadership is focused on ecommerce, then SEO matters. It can represent a game-changing opportunity for enterprise companies to scale more profitably, improve margins and grow revenue. In fact, Terakeet delivers traffic to our customers at 25¢ on the dollar compared to paid advertising channels.
Terakeet delivers traffic to our customers at 25¢ on the dollar compared to paid advertising channels.
Read on to learn what it takes to drive maximum website traffic through more sophisticated and effective ecommerce SEO.
ECOMMERCE SITE STRUCTURE
Want to understand how a business is structured? Look at the organizational chart. Similarly, site architecture is like an org chart for your website: it communicates hierarchy as well as the relationships between various pages.
Website architecture is a fundamental part of an effective ecommerce SEO strategy because it organizes and prioritizes your content for search engines. As a result, you’ll rank better for valuable category keywords that drive users to the products they want to buy.
Define your content hierarchy
A disorganized site structure hampers your ranking potential. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical to define your site’s hierarchy before you invest countless hours optimizing category pages and building links.
Ecommerce sites generally use a flat site structures like this:
A flat website architecture ensures that most of your content lives within 3 clicks from the homepage. This type of structure enables users to find your product pages more quickly. It also ensures that PageRank flows more efficiently through your site.
To create your site structure:
- First, make a list of all the products on your website.
- Organize the products into topics.
- Then, sort each topic grouping from broader to more narrow.
Pro Tip: Users search differently online than they do in a physical store. So don’t limit yourself to a brick and mortar mindset when you organize your products. For instance, someone searching for bed sheets won’t Google “bedding and bath,” so you might want to split up the overused “bedding & bath” category.
After you establish the content hierarchy within your site structure, you’ll need to communicate that structure to search engines. Let’s take a look at the four elements that work together to reinforce ecommerce site structure.
URL structure is vital to strong ecommerce SEO performance because it establishes hierarchy and content relationships. Each folder and subfolder in your URL provides search engines with more context around what’s on the page, and how the URL relates to the overall website. Take a look at the following URL from Macy’s:
Even if you never heard of Macy’s, you could infer several things from the above URL:
- Macy’s is an ecommerce brand.
- They sell men’s clothing.
- They have a collection of men’s dress shirts within their men’s clothing section.
Breadcrumbs serve three main purposes. They’re a visual “you are here” indicator to help users understand their virtual location within a large ecommerce website. They’re also a navigational tool so customers can easily return to a parent category page. More importantly for SEO, breadcrumbs provide search engines with deeper context about your site’s hierarchy.
When you implement breadcrumbs, it’s crucial that they mimic your URL structure. For example, this is the breadcrumb trail from Macy’s men’s dress shirts category page:
Macy’s | Men | Dress Shirts
Website navigation is another way to communicate your site structure to search engines. Navigation should be hierarchical and intuitive, and it should align with your URL structure and breadcrumb paths. Start with your broadest departments, such as “men” or “women.” Then, drill down to more specific categories like “handbags & wallets,” or “button-down shirts.”
Ultimately, you want to communicate the breadth of products you sell. But you should also showcase your most popular categories and subcategories with the fewest number of middle-man pages possible. We’ll talk more about navigation later on.
Internal links are another important element within your ecommerce SEO strategy. They indicate topical relevance between pages which adds more context. They also help search engines understand which of your pages are more popular or useful. These internal linking best practices will make your SEO much more efficient.
Anatomy of an ecommerce website
If site structure is your org chart, then your pages are like your site’s employees that fit into the chart. The homepage branches into category pages, which branch into product pages or other resources.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of pages that compose an ecommerce website.
Your homepage is the most important page in your ecommerce SEO strategy because it’s a primary point of entry for both users and search engines. Your homepage describes the purpose of your website. Even if you sell a wide variety of items, it’s critical to reinforce to Google exactly why you’re relevant to searchers.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to include seasonal announcements as well as sales and top deals. But you should also link to your most important category pages directly from your homepage.
Ecommerce category pages
Think of your category pages like the grocery store aisles of your website. Categories direct shoppers to general sections so they can find the products they want to purchase. And because users often search for general categories rather than specific products (“womens flannel shirts” vs “talbots long sleeve red plaid button down shirt”), category pages represent a huge opportunity to capture traffic from new visitors who may not know about your brand.
Ecommerce product pages
Product pages target more specific keywords, so there’s a major opportunity to win traffic from conversion-ready visitors who already know what they want. Look for ways to enhance your product pages to differentiate your brand from the competition while optimizing for long-tail keywords.
ECOMMERCE SEO KEYWORD RESEARCH
Keyword research is the foundation of any SEO strategy. Let’s go over some ecommerce SEO best practices about choosing search terms before we talk about how to do keyword research.
Volume, search intent and user experience
Your main category keywords are likely to be obvious based on the product groupings you created. However, it’s very important to consider search intent and search volume when you map each URL to a keyphrase.
Let’s say you’re the SEO manager at a national office supplies retailer. Maybe you organized some of your products into a few simple categories, like supplies, furniture and copying. Those are fine categories, but they’re not great SEO categories.
They’re too broad, so the search intent won’t match your products. Think about those terms from a purely search-related perspective. The search engine results for “furniture” are dominated by large furniture retailers, and copying is highly definitional.
Instead, narrow down your list of keywords so they’re still broad, but they represent queries that your customers would actually search while looking for your products. For instance, you could go with “office supplies,” “office furniture,” and “printers, scanners and copiers.”
Those broad departmental categories would then branch into more specific categories and subcategories, like these:
Generally, you’ll want to choose keywords with the most search volume and the strongest alignment with search intent for your categories. At the same time, they should make sense as high-level categories for each product grouping.
Breaking the rules
You’re bound to encounter a few scenarios in which user experience overrides SEO. That’s absolutely fine — as long as it’s the exception to the rule.
A perfect example of this is the above-mentioned category “printers, copiers and scanners.” This phrase has zero search volume. Yet, “electronics” and “technology” are far too broad and ambiguous to represent the products in that category. Further, customers looking for a new printer may not think to look in the technology section of your site. While “copying” fits the category, we already ruled it out based on misaligned search intent.
Target keywords throughout the conversion funnel
When you choose keywords for your ecommerce SEO strategy, think about the entire buyer’s journey. A typical conversion funnel can be broken into three levels:
Awareness is the research phase when potential customers are searching for a solution to their problem. Since people often ask questions during this phase, they tend to use long-tail keywords in their search queries.
Imagine an office manager who’s frustrated because they frequently run out of printer ink cartridges. This might cause her to search for information about refillable ink cartridges:
- How much does it cost to get ink cartridges refilled?
- Do refillable ink cartridges work?
- Is it easy to refill printer ink cartridges?
Maybe this office manager learned from one of your blog posts that refillable cartridges aren’t reliable, so she decides she wants a laser printer. During the consideration phase, she’ll probably search for reviews or brand comparison articles.
In the decision stage of the purchase funnel, your customer realizes she wants an HP brand printer, but she’s not sure which model. At this point she’ll probably visit specific product pages to evaluate pricing and technical specs.
Each phase within the funnel includes people with different needs, behaviors and search intent. Therefore, your website should have pages that target keywords at each phase of the funnel, including ToFu, MoFu and BoFu.
Once you publish your content, you’ll need to boost conversions, so read our 41 point checklist all about ecommerce conversion rate optimization.
Keyword research tools for ecommerce SEO
With your list of category and subcategory keyword ideas in hand, it’s time to refine and expand that list using keyword research SEO tools:
Use whichever tool you’re familiar with. However, it’s crucial you have access to reliable search volume data which indicates the market potential for each keyword.
To complement search volume and search intent, you can cross reference Google Ads cost per click (CPC). This metric reveals how competitive a keyword is. It could also reflect your biggest opportunity when comparing SEO vs PPC. If certain keywords are too expensive to produce decent ROI on the PPC end, consider ranking for those keywords organically.
If you’re struggling to rank for high competition terms, check our out post about how to maximize traffic with long-tail keywords.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS FOR ECOMMERCE SEO
Most brands know their direct competitors inside and out. However, in the world of organic search, you need to do competitive analysis differently.
Since a full-funnel content strategy targets many types of queries, your competitors may shift significantly from one category to the next. In fact, you may be competing against websites you’ve never even heard of before.
So, to begin, identify your ecommerce website competitors and note which keywords they rank for. If they’re on top of their SEO game, chances are they’ve already done the heavy lifting when it comes to keyword research. Run their domains through your favorite SEO tool to pick off any search terms you may have missed.
A deep dive into their content and backlink profiles will reveal volumes about their ecommerce SEO strategy.
But, as mentioned before, don’t limit your scope to ecommerce business rivals. Extend your competitive analysis to other sites vying for your keywords in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This may include news sites, online magazines, blogs, consumer review websites, etc.
Amazon’s revenue topped $232 billion in 2018, making it a huge part of the online retail world. And since approximately half of all online product searches start on Amazon now, it’s also a valuable source of keyword data.
Study your keywords on Amazon to uncover what’s working – and what isn’t. Then, use that information to inform your keyword research. Tools like Ahrefs and KeywordTool.io let you analyze Amazon keywords specifically.
If Amazon is already part of your omnichannel strategy, then you have access to a wealth of keyword data. Dive in and note your top-converting keywords!
Don’t miss our post all about how users search differently on Google vs Amazon.
YouTube is an incredibly popular vertical search engine that’s loaded with valuable ecommerce SEO keywords. This may not be the main driver of your keyword decisions. However, it offers a glimpse into your audience’s interests as well as their search behavior—especially for informational queries. A few tools that you can use include:
TECHNICAL ECOMMERCE SEO
Technical SEO is just as impactful to your ecommerce SEO program’s success as keyword research and on-page optimization are. Nobody wants to waste hundreds of hours on keyword research and content production only to realize half of their pages aren’t indexed because of a basic technical error.
Let’s walk through the most important steps to uncover technical SEO issues on an ecommerce website.
Conduct a site crawl
The first step in conducting a technical SEO audit is to do a site crawl. Popular website crawling tools include ContentKing and Screaming Frog. These tools crawl your site the same way a search engine spider would – link by link and page by page.
However, a search engine crawler won’t tell you when it hits a 404 page or a redirect chain. Crawling tools, on the other hand, are diagnostic.
They’ll tell you every critical or non-critical crawling error they hit as they move through your site. Examples include: server errors, URL errors, duplicate content issues, redirect chains and errors with canonical or indexing tags.
If your website’s crawlability is more of a maze than a map, a site crawl will uncover the dead ends. What’s more, a tool like DeepCrawl ingests log file data. That means you’ll know exactly which files search engine bots access. More importantly, you’ll know which ones they don’t.
Eliminate duplicate content
Duplicate content is terrible for ecommerce SEO. Yet, It’s common for online stores to have duplicate content issues in one form or another. You may have nearly identical product pages differing only by color. Maybe you have multiple sites for different languages, or a separate mobile site. In some cases, improperly implemented filters, facets and navigation are to blame.
These issues confuse search engines, dilute PageRank and siphon your organic traffic.
If you uncover duplicate content, work with your web infrastructure team to remove or consolidate pages whenever possible. Otherwise, be sure to use canonical tags to identify the main source URL to Google.
Improve, remove or consolidate thin content
Think 100 pages with sparse content will help your ecommerce SEO performance better than a handful of helpful, detailed pages? Think again.
Thin content can have a drastic impact on the SEO health of your entire domain. For one client who experienced site-wide thin content issues, Terakeet removed 85% of the site’s URLs while improving the rest. The result? In just eight months, the site’s organic traffic increased by 425%.
As thin content is identified, create a spreadsheet of the pages that are uncovered and begin auditing/organizing each one. Can the page be deleted and redirected? Or should it stay, but the content be fleshed out? Add these to your timeline, prioritized by each page’s importance within the site architecture you’ve mapped out.
Faceted navigation and filters
All ecommerce sites use some combination of filters or faceted navigation to help customers find what they want. Shoppers use faceted navigation to drill down into more specific products as they narrow their search.
Each facet is a subset of the previous selection. For example, a user looking for smart TVs might use faceted navigation like this:
- Categories > Electronics > TVs > Smart TVs
This is slightly different than filtering, which excludes items that fall outside of specified criteria. Additionally, you can apply filters globally and turn them on or off independently. Here are a few common filters that ecommerce sites use:
- Available for Pickup
It’s also common for ecommerce sites to combine filters and facets for a seamless user experience. For example, imagine a potential customer wants a 75”-inch Vizio smart TV for under $2,000. The customer could use faceted navigation to reach the Smart TVs category page. Then, they could apply size and pricing filters to narrow down the results.
Facets and filters provide users with a simple and easy-to-use navigation system to sort through a vast number of products. Just make sure you don’t cripple your SEO by creating multiple similar category pages as part of your faceted navigation.
Optimize internal linking structure
Internal linking is vital to ecommerce SEO success. It helps users discover your products, and enables search engines to understand which pages are your most important. It’s also very difficult to build external links directly to product pages. So internal links can pass PageRank from your homepage and content pages to your product pages.
The guiding principle for internal links is to be relevant. In other words, does the internal link help your shopper either find what they are looking for, or discover helpful related content.
Build internal link funnels that guide folks reading your content to your product and service pages. Additionally, it makes sense to add links to related products and services. You’ll boost your ecommerce SEO while also potentially increasing your average order value (AOV).
Don’t overdo it with adding internal links. Just focus on where it makes sense to the reader and potentially enhances their experience. If you add too many links to your pages, you’ll end up being spammy.
Consider these ecommerce SEO tips for internal linking your golden rules:
- Include your most important categories in your navigation.
- Link to key products and categories from supporting blog content.
- Don’t use too many links within your content.
- Use exact match and long-tail keywords in your anchor text (for internal links).
- Fix broken links.
A fat footer, on the other hand, acts as an additional navigational tool by providing a map of the priority pages on your website. This is different from your menu, which may only showcase the broadest categories and subcategories due to its tight focus on shopping behavior.
Fat footers can boost both usability and crawlability by providing easy access to the other pages your customer might need. For instance, you might include deep links here to your top selling product pages probably wouldn’t make the cut for your main navigation.
The XML sitemap is the “cheat sheet” that you give to Google for indexing purposes. It contains every page on your site that you want the search engine to crawl. You can optimize your sitemap in several ways.
- Prioritize your highest-quality pages (though Google might not follow your guidelines).
- Organize the sitemap into sub-sitemaps, such as posts, pages and authors etc.
- Keep “junk” like 404s, duplicate pages, or gated pages out of your sitemap.
Robots meta tags (or meta directives)
Google retired support for the noindex directive in the robots.txt file on September 1, 2019. So if you want to keep your pages out of the index, you’ll need to use Robots meta tags instead. You can check out Google’s post about it here to learn more.
Robots meta directives are page-level instructions for web crawlers like Googlebot. You can use them to control whether Googlebot follows the links on a page or shows the URL in the SERPs. Robots meta tags also give you more control over snippets and image previews.
Run a mobile-friendly test to discover ways to better optimize your ecommerce site for your mobile visitors. Check your web analytics data to understand the percentage of mobile visitors you get, as well as their bounce rate and conversion rate. In certain cases, ecommerce sites are already attracting the majority of their visitors on mobile. In addition, Google has been rolling out mobile-first indexing, so don’t ignore mobile optimization.
Improve site speed & page load time
Your website’s speed is also a key factor in how well it ranks. That’s because page speed drastically impacts usability and user satisfaction. A slow site coupled with a poor signal conjures nightmares of dial-up internet..
Find out everything you need to know about improving page load speed here.
ON-PAGE SEO FOR ECOMMERCE WEBSITES
In order to optimize your content, you need to do a content audit and map each URL to the right keywords. Every. Single. URL.
I realize that sounds like a daunting task—and it is. But it’s also vital to your SEO program’s success. Keyword-to-page mapping ensures that each URL targets the best keyword with the optimal combination of high search volume and appropriate search intent. It also guarantees that no two URLs target the same term.
Below, we’ll cover some of the basics. But, if you want the more advanced stuff, check out our post about on-page SEO factors.
Check for keyword cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization occurs when several pages on your site target the same keyword. In the most basic sense, keyword cannibalization represents a wasted opportunity to target additional search queries, since Google typically won’t rank both pages for the same keyword. Worse, any backlinks earned are likely to be split between similar pages, which dilutes PageRank. Furthermore, Google might display the less qualified page in the SERP.
The two most common causes of keyword cannibalization are misused faceted navigation and bloated content strategies that don’t consider SEO.
Optimize ecommerce page titles
Once you’ve assigned keywords to your pages, you can get to the fun part—optimizing each page. We’ll begin with the title tag and meta description since that’s what potential customers will see in the search results.
Page titles are one of the strongest on-page SEO ranking factors, so obviously you’ll want to include your priority keywords. But titles also need to stand out in the SERPs and encourage clicks, so keep them useful, informational and descriptive.
Don’t just throw in the product name and your brand and call it a day. Juice up your ecommerce title tags to increase your click-through rate (CTR). Use enticing adjectives or emphasize customer pain points that your content solves.
PRO TIP: Analyze the title tags in the top 10 results for each query and look for commonalities. Is there a pattern to their structure? Do they always use the keyword first, or in the middle of the title? Do competitors include synonyms or an alternative phrasing?
Write click-worthy meta descriptions
To be clear, the meta description is not considered a ranking signal. Instead, its main purpose is to compel searchers to click through to the page. In this way, consider it the “ad copy” for your organic listings. However, you should still include your target keywords in the meta description because those words will be bolded in the search results.
Paul Haahr, a software engineer at Google, presented a slide on live experiments during an SMX presentation. The data revealed that the click-through rate (CTR) of your organic listings can impact your ranking within the SERPs. A higher CTR for a given query would indicate higher relevance to Google, while a lower CTR would do the opposite. Studies have shown, as well, that an increase in CTR leads to a higher ranking on average.
So, when optimizing your title tag and meta description, place just as much emphasis on enticing clicks as you do the inclusion of your keywords.
Optimize H1 tags
H1 tags one of the top Google ranking factors, so you’ll want to make sure they include your keywords. However, they’re also the heading your user will read before they check out the rest of your content.
Therefore, it’s critical to write the H1 text in a way that describes the page content and compels site visitors to keep scrolling. Your H1 should also be similar to your title tag so users understand they’re on the same page. But it can be helpful to vary your phrasing or include synonyms.
As I mentioned previously when we talked about site structure, an intelligent url structure acts as a filing system to organize your content. The most important tip from Google? Be consistent. But when it comes to ecommerce SEO, there’s a lot more you can do to move the needle.
Here are three guiding principles to help you optimize your URLs:
Make your URLs short, yet descriptive. This keeps them focused on your target keyword phrase, which improves ecommerce SEO performance.
Do you use a content management system (CMS) that pumps out gobbledygook URLs? Collaborate with your web infrastructure team to make them more customizable. For example, the following are actual URLs from Fortune 500 retailers:
They may be product-specific information, such as product ID and style numbers—but it’s just not user-friendly. Instead, URLs should be easy for both search engines and humans to understand, like the following:
Ecommerce category page optimization
Ecommerce category page SEO is vital because these are some of your most important landing pages. Too many ecommerce sites use templates that limit custom text fields in favor of product thumbnails and image carousels. This makes it difficult for the page to rank for competitive search queries.
Even among global retailers, it’s common to find category pages that are:
- Misaligned with the way shoppers think
- Not optimized to specific keywords
- Focused on the wrong keywords (or too many keywords)
- Lacking direct external backlinks
- Duplicative due to improperly implemented navigation
- And much more…
The solution? Work with your web infrastructure team to accommodate the addition of descriptive copy.
Add keywords into your ecommerce category pages naturally within copy and subheadings, and steer clear of keyword stuffing at all costs. Write interesting, marketing-friendly, engaging content that provides a better user experience. You’ll improve your site’s search rankings while concurrently differentiating your brand from others.
Ecommerce product page optimization
Your product pages attract bottom-of-the-funnel traffic, so they’re worth their weight in gold. In fact, they’re so crucial that we wrote an entire SEO guide for ecommerce product pages. If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick overview:
Craft copy that’s distinctly compelling from a branding perspective, while also keyword optimized for search.
Unfortunately, product page templates usually limit the amount of space for important product descriptions.For large retail websites that sell many brands, such copy is often supplied by the brand itself. This means a large chunk of your copy could also appear on thousands of other sites!
The product page is just too valuable to leave it to chance. Collaborate with your web infrastructure team so you can proactively add great content to the page. Whether copy, images or video, build a fantastic user experience that isn’t even in the same league as your competition.
Use schema markup for reviews
Schema markup is website code that allows the search engines to display rich snippets of information directly in the SERP. Snippets can reveal specific product information and store locations, as well as ratings and reviews to entice users to click through to your site.
One of the most valuable forms of schema for ecommerce SEO is review markup. This code helps product pages stand out in the search results by displaying their online reviews. If your products consistently get five-star reviews, then review markup is a great way to showcase that and encourage click-throughs.
Google has specific guidelines for different structured data types, so be sure to understand the rules before you implement the code on your site. If you run into trouble and need help building your structured data, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
When you have your rich snippets in place, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to validate that they are formatted properly.
Include image alt text
Adding descriptive, keyword-rich alt text to your images isn’t just good for ecommerce SEO. It’s also great for accessibility. Alt text is a tag on the image that describes the image to vision-impaired users who rely on screen readers.
Since search engines can’t see pictures either, they rely on the alt text to glean valuable information about the image and your page. Adding a keyword or two to your alt text description is a useful way to reinforce the relevance of the page for a particular query. And it also boosts the likelihood that the image will appear in a Google Image search for the keyword.
Write keyword-focused subheadings
Subheads are a logical place for your keywords because they help Google understand the architecture of your page. Hierarchically, this works as you would expect, with the H1 tag being given more weight than H2, and so on. Subheads are also an ideal place to work in long-tail keywords.
Accommodate for voice search
Voice search is on the rise in a major way. Comscore predicts that half of all web searches will be made using voice search by 2020. According to OC&C Strategy Consultants, voice-based shopping is projected to balloon to $40 billion in retail sales in the US by 2022.
How can you adapt your ecommerce SEO strategy to capitalize on this search engine optimization trend?
According to their “Evaluation Of Search Speech Guidelines,” Google prefers concise, clear answers to voice search queries. Voice searches often take the form of sentences, so long-tail keywords dovetail nicely with them.
How can you know which questions your customers frequently ask? Here’s a few tools to identify the most commonly asked questions online across forums, Amazon, Reddit, Quora and Q&A websites:
ECOMMERCE SEO LINK BUILDING STRATEGIES
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce may be great for on-site SEO, but that’s only half the battle. The rest of the work takes place off site in the form of earning backlinks from relevant, trusted websites.
While link building is incredibly time consuming without the right technology, it’s nonetheless critical to move the needle on search engine rankings, traffic and, ultimately, revenue.
Off-page SEO for ecommerce sites
Off-page SEO is another pillar of ecommerce search engine optimization. Ultimately, you’ll want to capture several types of backlinks to maximize ranking potential and maintain a natural link profile:
- Branded homepage links
- Deep links to supporting content like blog posts
- Direct category page links
A diverse backlink profile reduces risk because it dilutes the footprint of your link building program. But it also supports your overall SEO strategy by sending three different types of link signals to search engines.
Homepage links pass value down through your site architecture. Deep links pointing to blog posts help them rank for long-tail keywords. What’s more, internal links from those posts pass PageRank and contextual relevance to your category pages. Finally, direct category page links send the strongest signals to search engines, but they’re often harder to earn naturally.
Let’s dive into some strategies you can use to earn better backlinks for massive ecommerce SEO returns.
Piggybacking on competitor backlinks
Your competitors’ backlinks are a garden of low-hanging fruit. Tools like Moz Link Explorer, Ahrefs, Majestic or SEMRush all allow you to discover and harvest your competition’s top backlinks.
Scavenging competitors’ links helps you uncover websites that are willing to link to companies or products similar to yours. Additionally, your competitors’ backlink profile may turn up a category of link sources that you hadn’t considered.
Reclaiming broken competitor links
It’s common for ecommerce websites to remove products and categories when inventory changes. As a result, any links pointing to those pages will return a 4XX error unless redirects are put in place.
Use tools like Ahrefs Broken Link Checker or BrokenLinkCheck.com to quickly find opportunities. Then, reach out to and ask them to link to a similar page on your site instead. Since broken links create a poor experience for blog readers, most website owners will appreciate the heads-up.
Leveraging strategic partners for ecommerce link building.
As an ecommerce business, you probably have valuable relationships with strategic partners and vendors you can leverage for quick SEO gains. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to acquire high-quality, relevant industry links.
However, your relationship doesn’t guarantee you free advertising on their site. Instead, give them a compelling reason to link to you. For example, you might offer to contribute expert content to your partner’s blog. Or, you could provide a testimonial with a link back to your homepage.
Become an expert author
Your ecommerce business has broad industry expertise, so it makes perfect sense to author content on other websites. By turning yourself or someone at your company into a voice of authority within your industry, you can leverage a wealth of unique knowledge to provide genuinely useful content.
When you write for an industry publication, they typically include a link back to your website in the byline. If those sites have a high domain rank, then you’ll build a collection of valuable backlinks while also boosting brand awareness.
If it’s a publication that tends to rank well in the search engines, you’ll be able to piggyback off their domain’s SEO equity when your content ranks on their site.
This style of thought leadership isn’t just great for links. It’s also a crucial way to position your company as a key player in your industry. Plus, you can extend your reach by getting in front of readers on these third-party platforms who weren’t aware of your brand, or simply didn’t have it top of mind.
Collaborate with influencers
When it comes to link building, ecommerce websites are often a perfect fit for micro influencers.
To be successful with influencers, though, you want to go beyond the basics. Get creative, and find new content ideas that will genuinely thrill their audiences.
Influencer marketing has evolved way beyond the Kardashians of the world. In fact, smaller influencers within your niche are much more likely to have an audience that is passionately engaged and will convert on your site. As you evaluate potential bloggers, pay close attention to the blog’s engagement, posting frequency, relevance and overall quality.
As an SEO manager, one of your biggest obstacles is likely your ability to execute strategic outreach at scale.
Terakeet has a database (called Chorus) of more than 9 million online publishers and influencers. The depth of the database enables us to precisely target niches in just about any vertical.
Promotions aren’t just a great way to get your customers engaged and talking—they’re also an excellent addition to your link building strategy. With a little creativity, you can get people talking about the promotion even if they’re not participating.
For example, you don’t have to be a Taco Bell fan to be intrigued by The Bell, a new resort Taco Bell opened as an off-the-wall promotional stunt. The more exciting or intriguing or outrageous or fun your promotion? The greater likelihood the industry press will pick up on it and link to you, as well.
There are plenty of buzz-worthy options that don’t involve building a five-star resort, too.
ECOMMERCE CONTENT MARKETING
Not everything about ecommerce SEO is directly transactional. Great content marketing keeps customers engaged throughout the entire conversion funnel, not just when their ready to buy. More importantly, ecommerce content marketing overcomes a major challenge: people rarely link to product category pages on their own.
On the other hand, it’s much easier to build links to content pages like blog posts, articles, resources, stories, lookbooks and helpful tools. Even better, they often attract natural mentions!
Let’s imagine you’re the creative director for beauty brands such as Clinique, MAC, Bobbi Brown and Smashbox. How might you develop a blog strategy around content?
Your ideal customer isn’t just interested in shopping for makeup. They also crave information about new techniques and beauty inspiration. So your content marketing efforts could include:
- A “top products for dry skin” blog post
- Videos sharing skin care tips
- Product comparison graphics
- Before and after photos
- And much more…
One of the many benefits of content marketing is that it highlights your brand’s expertise on the topics your target audience cares. That’s not just great for prospective customers, but also SEO.
User-Generated Content (UGC)
UGC pages are a repository for content created directly by your customers. You can leverage such content in countless ways, from aggregating customer reviews and soliciting customer stories to providing a dynamically-updated social media feed. You can also hold regular, content-driven contests and showcase the results.
Target brand masterfully leverages UGC through their #targetstyle Instagram campaign. Customers simply post photos of themselves wearing Target clothes and tag Target for a chance to be featured. This strategy has SO many benefits:
- Influencers participate to grow their own audience, which expands Target’s brand reach.
- Those influencers might mention and link to Target from their blog, which improves SEO.
- Potential customers get to see how that amazing red dress might look in the real world.
By strategically empowering your audience to create UGC, you can encourage a whole new stream of content that supports your brand – and your ecommerce SEO. UGC is also more naturally social, leading to increased online sharing.
Still not convinced? According to a study of 200,000 ecommerce stores, users who interact with UGC are 161% more likely to convert!
COMMUNICATE ECOMMERCE SEO SUCCESS
As SEO managers, we’re hyper-focused on rankings and traffic. But, we also need to be able to communicate our results in a way that resonates with the VP of Digital Marketing or the CMO. They don’t track the same KPIs and goals that we do as SEOs.
The C-suite is concerned with high-level business objectives like improving margins, increasing customer lifetime value, maximizing market share and reducing risk. If you can prove SEO converts visitors at a 25% lower CAC than paid advertising, they’ll ask how they can double your budget.
Let’s work together to craft a compelling argument to expand your SEO budget. Contact our team to get started.
Ecommerce SEO is the application of keyword research, content strategy, on-page and off-page optimization, technical SEO and UX improvements to capture search market share and in order to sell more products.
In short, Terakeet delivers new customers at 25¢ on the dollar compared to paid advertising channels. More about SEO ROI.
Ecommerce SEO is a long-term partnership, rather than a finite checklist of fixes and improvements. The timeline to measurable results depends largely on how quickly technical recommendations and content improvements are implemented.