SEO for Ecommerce Product Pages (How to Rank & Convert)
Aug 2, 2019|Read time: 20 min.
- A well-optimized product page pulls in bottom-of-the-funnel consumers who already know exactly what they want.
- Use your chosen keyword(s) in URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, and product descriptions.
- Get visual with product images and videos.
- Enhance the digital customer experience with reviews, product suggestions, and mobile optimization.
It’s common for ecommerce websites to devote a large portion of their on-site SEO strategy to optimizing the home page, category pages, and priority content pages. In fact, they often devote so many resources to these high-funnel pages that ecommerce product page SEO becomes an afterthought.
The rationale is that products are usually perfect examples of long-tail keywords unto themselves. And it takes less effort to get them to rank naturally for their own product name.
While true, this line of thinking creates a wasted opportunity. A well-optimized product page pulls in precisely-targeted, conversion-ready, bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) traffic. That sort of traffic, the kind where your customer already knows exactly what they want, is worth its weight in gold.
Yet, it’s not quite “set it and forget it” easy. Here’s how to make sure your product pages pull in all the high-value organic traffic they should.
SEO for ecommerce product pages: the basics
I’ll cover the basics before we dive into the more technical components. If you need a high-level overview of SEO, read our executive’s guide to search engine optimization.
Ecommerce product page keyword research
People frequently underestimate the difficulty of ecommerce product page optimization because the keyword research tends to be pretty straightforward. However, this is where doing your due diligence really pays off.
You’ll short-change yourself on lower volume keyword opportunities if you assume your product is relevant for one, and only one, search query. In fact, we wrote an entire post on the massive value of long-tail keywords.
Don’t assume the product name will yield the best results and auto-populate your title tags. Instead, do keyword research on that product and build a seed list with every possible name your customer might use when they search for the product. You might be surprised to learn that people search for your product using many distinct search queries. If those keywords have significant search volume, they should be part of your optimization strategy for that page.
Even if you incorporate different versions of the product name into your keyword strategy, you’ll likely still have room to hit additional long-tail queries for that product page.
Product page keyword examples
For example, an international furniture retailer like Article sells brown leather sofas. “Brown leather sofa” sees 1,800 Google searches per month in the U.S., according to Ahrefs. Not bad. But some quick research shows that “brown leather couch” gets 3,100 searches per month. “Tan leather sofa” gets 1,200.
Think as specifically as you can. If a person wasn’t looking for your brand (“Article leather sofa”) but they were looking for your product, what would they search for? Think about adjectives, qualities, features, colors, the product’s value proposition (“affordable leather sofa”), or the pain point it addresses.
Leverage these descriptive terms in keyword research tools. You may uncover a unique opportunity to target a new customer in the “awareness” phase who’s also very close to the “purchase” phase.
Ecommerce product page URL
Once you have your target keywords, your first stop is the product page URL. It’s critical to include SEO-friendly urls that are clear, simple, and as relevant as possible.
It’s a best practice to include a keyword in your URL. It’s even more important, though, to make sure the URL tells the consumer exactly what to expect. Often this means the URL handle will be the product name. You might find that you need to tweak the product name to make the handle user-friendly, and that’s okay, too. What’s not okay? Product numbers, auto-generated gibberish, extremely long URLs, and URLs that don’t make sense for the product.
Aim for “speaking URLs,” or URLs that tell the user exactly what to expect from viewing that page. Here’s an example from Tiffany:
Product page title tags
Earlier, we mentioned that it’s important not to simply auto-populate your title tag with the product name and move on. This is true, with a caveat: setting the website to auto-populate the tag with the product name, or building a naming convention into a spreadsheet, is still a great way to cover a lot of territory very quickly. And it’s much better than having no tags at all (which would be very bad).
So, for websites with many thousands of products, auto-populating keeps the momentum flowing. You can fine-tune each tag from there, according to priority.
What makes an incredible title tag? Well, a title tag should be descriptive for the search engines, and enticing for the consumer.
It will likely include the product name first and foremost, but you have more room to play with additional keywords. However, if people aren’t searching for the full product name or past a certain level of specificity, you can reserve that priority real estate for a different keyword. An example of this would be if Tiffany’s customers didn’t actually search for “Tiffany atlas watch.”
And while it’s hard to write for clicks when you’re short on space, don’t neglect conversion optimization conversion rate optimization techniques. Add pain point keywords to your product title tag. Or use enticing adjectives to improve click-through-rate while keeping your keyword goals paramount.
For example, if “Italian Leather Handbag” is in your title tag, consider changing it to “Chic Italian Leather Handbag.” That allows you to maintain the keyword integrity and paint a more intriguing picture for the customer. It also accomplishes this without taking up too much additional room in the title tag.
Product page meta descriptions
When it comes to writing for clicks, though, the meta description offers much more flexibility than the title tag. Here are some basic tips to improve your click-through rate:
- Be as brief as possible
- Overview the product
- Offer a compelling product benefit
- Share what pain point the product solves
- Talk about who the customer will embody when they wear or use the product
Too many folks in the SEO world ignore the meta description because it’s not a direct ranking factor. Please don’t leave it blank. Remember, this is like your ad copy. Write for clicks! If you don’t specify a meta description, Google will write it for you. And here’s what it might look like:
Admittedly, that description could have been worse considering Google wrote it. But, it could have also been much better if a human did.
Product image alt text
Google can identify images fairly well. But, why leave anything to chance? Image alt text is a basic SEO best practice to improve SEO for photos. Make sure each of your ecommerce product page images includes descriptive alt tags.
Product overviews and headings
Your H1 will continue to follow the trend of sharing exactly what the user’s going to get (the specific product). Write for clicks here, too, adding warmth and brand personality whenever you can.
It’s very common for ecommerce websites to have a product overview or “short description,” followed by a longer overview with more information. While it’s important for your copy to shine in both of these places – using your brand voice and really selling the product – the short description is where you should really aim to entice the shopper. Be crystal clear about what the customer is going to get and why it’s perfect for them. Mention the most unique or compelling benefits for that product. You can add more detail into your long description, but your first job is to make sure the customer wants to read more.
Write unique product descriptions
For a host of reasons, duplicate product descriptions are often the bane of an ecommerce site’s existence. This is especially true when there are thousands upon thousands of products that vary in only the slightest ways. Here are some examples:
If you’re a home improvement brand with an online store like Lowe’s, think about how many separate SKUs you have to create just to get through every bolt you offer.
On the other hand, if you’re a major auto parts retailer with an ecommerce store that sells parts that vary according to the make, model, and year of the car, you’re going to have even more fun.
Your first and best line of defense is to write detailed, unique descriptions for all product pages whenever you can.
If you cut and paste manufacturer descriptions, then your page will be nearly identical to thousands of other webpages. As a result, you lose an opportunity to differentiate your brand or to provide a unique digital customer experience.
Write for your target persona
If you want your content to resonate with customers, then you need to understand them. Get to know your audience segments and create a buyer persona to represent each one. For help, check out these detailed buyer persona examples to see how you can craft more personalized content.
Tell target customers the story behind your products. Why does your brand exist? How are your products different from the competition, and do they fit into the customer’s life.
You’ll also want to share any technical details that will inform the purchase decision, presenting the information in an organized, clear, user-friendly way. You’ll want to provide a call to action and incentive the purchase of not just the product, but the purchase from your ecommerce store. Oh, and you’ll want to do all of this using the right brand voice.
But what about those times when that isn’t the case? Let’s return to Lowe’s.
Is it really necessary for you to write a completely unique product description for the ½-inch x 10 inch threaded bolt vs the ½-inch by 8-inch threaded bolt? Probably not.
Do products need separate landing pages?
If you have separate landing pages for similar products, ask yourself if people search differently for those items. In that case, you can use a template. However, you should still aim to make your page content as unique as possible. Mirror how people search for each unique product with your language.
There are plenty of times, though, when the product variant does not need its own separate landing page for SEO purposes.
This is usually the case with apparel sizes, sometimes color variants, a small difference in a model number, and any other variant that the customer wouldn’t typically include in their search for the parent product. In that case, you can consolidate all of your SEO energy on the parent product and provide the variants as options.
What if customers prefer to view the variant on its own landing page? You’ll need to consolidate the SEO mojo with rel=canonical tags. This establishes the parent page as the canonical URL.
There’s much more to know about this topic. So, we wrote a separate post all about lead generation landing page best practices.
Duplicate content unfortunately runs rampant on ecommerce sites. It can happen despite making every effort to faithfully write unique product descriptions. Here are just a few things that can trigger duplicate content:
- Faceted search
- Ecommerce category pages with pagination
- URL parameters
- Mixing uppercase and lowercase URLs
- And so on…
Duplicate content without the proper technical fixes hurts ecommerce SEO. It confuses Google’s algorithm as to which URL to serve users. Multiple variations of the same URL also dilutes link equity. Given the importance of referring domains and backlinks to SEO, ignoring duplicate content issues can have a seriously negative impact on your organic search results.
An SEO audit will be able to check for each instance of duplicate content in turn, using both crawling tools and human eyes. Often, the fix will be as easy as adding the appropriate URL canonicalization.
Check out these guides for a detailed rundown of common issues:
High quality product images
Once you’re out of the weeds with duplicate content, it’s time to return once more to selling. Since online shoppers can’t see your products in person, photos are vital to your product pages.
Your customers will see the product and make a judgement about it in an instant – far faster than they can read and process copy. So make that vital first impression count with a series of professionally-photographed, high-resolution photos of the product. Up close, from multiple angles, in use, and as part of a scene. Enable the consumer to zoom in on the product, as well.
For inspiration, look to Harley Davidson. For every motorcycle, there’s a blend of artful, useful close-up shots and more exciting and action-oriented pictures of the motorcycle in use. The latter is an essential way for Harley Davidson to connect their customers to the lifestyle they wish to embody.
Showing the product in motion, too, can be a highly effective way for you to show the consumer how the product will fit into their life. Videos give you the opportunity to invoke emotion through more than just imagery. Or they can be purely useful, showing the individual how the product is used.
Determine if or how product videos would lead to a greater understanding of each product or your brand. And develop a plan for executing and optimizing the content. For Apple, product videos become a seamless part of the page, with the prominently-featured video flowing into the next piece of content.
Similar product suggestions
Once the priority work is done, don’t overlook the simple yet powerful additions. These can enhance the product page’s usability, increase its conversion rate, or increase your website’s Average Order Value. One such option is to have a “Customers Also Viewed” or “You Might Also Love” feature displaying similar products.
Not only does this enhance customer experience, but it also provides an opportunity to add valuable internal links!
ASOS uses this feature at the bottom of each product page to direct the customer to similar styles.
And Amazon uses their “Customers Also Viewed” feature to dynamically crunch real-time data about what each customer looked for next. Apple even provides a tool that helps you compare different models, for a high-level look at the main features of each.
Whether you auto-generate related product suggestions or manually choose them based on your customer’s style or the add-ons they might want to buy, this feature is a great way to help your customer discover something they weren’t even looking for. It’s a way to deliver customer delight, while also increasing ecommerce sales.
If you offer product variants or customization options, make sure each option is user-friendly, bug-free, and visually-pleasing. Faceted navigation, checkbox, or drop-down menu? If it’s the easiest choice for your customer, it’s the best choice for you. When the customer clicks on the new variant, make sure everything changes that needs to change, including price, product photos, relevant details, and URL handle. During the page editing or QA process, manually click on each variant to de-bug possible errors.
Product reviews aren’t just great for ecommerce SEO. They’re also genuinely useful for people. Allow your customers to provide complete reviews. Add photos if applicable. And don’t be afraid to prompt them for more information that might be helpful for other customers.
On Rent the Runway, for example, customers can (and usually do) voluntarily include in their review their height, weight, measurements, clothing size, age, the occasion where they wore the dress, and a photo. This provides a peak user experience for Rent the Runway’s customers, who can search for customer reviews from those with a body similar to their own.
Similarly, they’ll have more contextual clues to help them decide whether they’d be bothered by the same thing the customer pointed out. The standard for “too short,” for example, may change depending on whether the customer wore the dress to the office or a night out.
Additional UX perks like allowing customers to mark online reviews as useful, asking customers to rate comparative products on a defined set of features, or pulling out and highlighting the most helpful positive and negative reviews, are a great way to help the customer navigate through a large number of reviews.
Don’t let all those reviews go to waste. Use rich snippet markup to display review information directly in the SERP. This helps each product stand out and/or take up additional real estate in the search results.
Be sure to use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure you’ll get maximum benefit from your rich snippet implementation.
Page load speed
Because your product pages are likely to have custom functionality, they’re also likely to be running scripts that could weigh down the site. Test each product page template individually for speed, in addition to testing more broadly before and after any wide-spread changes are made. If you’re running on an out-of-box ecommerce platform that uses plugins or apps, you’re not off the hook. These apps are often developed independently and haven’t been vetted for speed, so you’ll need to do that part on your own.
Don’t miss our comprehensive guide about how to improve page load time.
Use Google’s page speed testing tool specifically for mobile. Using the Google mobile testing tool also enables you to evaluate the business impact of a faster site.
Mobile search engine optimization is another area where product pages should be checked individually for functionality. Use cross-browser testing to validate the appearance and usability of each product page. Click on every product variant. Test every clickable element, and make a complete test purchase.
Google also has a tool to determine if your site is mobile-friendly overall. Or, you can check the Google Search Console Mobile Usability Report for your site.
Ecommerce website architecture
Your ecommerce site architecture is the system of organization that guides both people and search engines to the right pages, at the right time. You can think of each level as a folder or subfolder on your desktop. If a category folder gets too hard to navigate, you’ll divide it into subfolders to make it easier. Search engines use the hierarchical organization of your website to determine how they will assign authority and relevance to each page. More weight is given to higher-level pages.
Because of this, there’s a rule of thumb in the SEO community:
You should aim to get customers to your products in no less than three clicks.
But this is highly dependent on the number of products you sell. A better rule of thumb is to get the customer to the product as quickly and logically as possible. If organizing your product into the proper category and subcategories takes you more than three clicks down, trust that the user-friendly experience is what’s best for your SEO.
Use breadcrumbs and internal links
Once the search engines and customers get to their destination, don’t leave them stranded. No matter which route they take to find the product, give them the ability to see the path that got them there. And the ability to return easily to any higher-level category on that path. Breadcrumbs are an essential component of internal linking best practices because they enhance the crawlability and usefulness of your website.
Your URL path, too, should reflect your architecture in a user-friendly way. It should mimic the path the user took to get to the product. URLs like www.example.com/mens-novelty-sloth-socks are less useful than consistent, navigable URLs like this:
Make sure each “level” in the URL is the same as the actual level of your product in the hierarchy. (www.example.com/product is problematic because that product is sitting where a high-level category should go.)
Manage seasonal product pages
Running a sale or putting together a seasonal collection? Curate the products onto their own seasonal page. This will allow you to drive customers to the sale pages or collection via SEO and PPC ads, email blasts, and merchandising slots on your website more effectively.
For example, Home Depot’s home page swaps out the hero graphic to reflect the current promotion:
And they link to the page itself along with several different filtered options.
Madewell, on the other hand, has a distinct page not for a promotion but for their summer collection. This is a great reminder that well-curated seasonal or themed collections don’t always have to be focused around sales. Sometimes, the curation itself removes a huge barrier for the customer and helps them find what they were looking for.
Target takes a similar approach, offering gift ideas for different occasions regardless of whether every product in the collection is on sale.
When you do add seasonal pages, publish them as early as possible. The more time the page is live, the better chances you’ll achieve better organic search results. In other words, launch a summer collection product page in the spring. No need to wait until the summer season.
In addition, establish a plan for what you will do with the page once the season/promotion no longer applies. You have two main options:
1. Delete and redirect the page.
If the season or promotion is over, you can delete the page and 301 redirect it to a similar page or a higher-level category. This provides people who click on an old link embedded in their email, for example, with an alternative. What you don’t want is people finding it in the SERPs, clicking, and landing on an old, expired sale page.
2. Update the content on the page
If the promotion is recurring, you might choose to keep a static page up. That way people can reference the promotion whenever they want. And you can prevent your team from reinventing the wheel the next time the promotion runs. If you exercise this option, make sure to clearly share any updates at the top. If the promotion is over, for example, you can say, “This promotion is currently over. But it will return soon! Subscribe to our email list to be the first to know about it.”
If your site has a static sale page, you can also provide a link to that page. Then tell them to check out your other offers. That’s a great way to communicate the information the customer needs. And give them another action to take on the site. It also enables you to garner more SEO value for the page over time.
There are times when you may also exercise a third option:
3. Maintain a static page with “evergreen” information
If the promotion is recurring, you can maintain a static page full of information about the promotion. You’ll be able to link to this from all marketing collateral whenever the promotion runs. Kohl’s, for example, maintains a static page for their recurring Kohl’s Cash promotion. Again, this enables the page to build its SEO value over a long time period.
Test and optimize for conversions
Because of their lower-stakes position in the site hierarchy, product pages are the perfect place to experiment. Use a tool like Optimizely, VWO, or SiteSpect to run A/B tests on your product pages, periodically trying new messaging, highlighting different benefits or customer pain points, changing the imagery, and exploring different call-to-action buttons/language. Test the length of content on the page as well as different types of content.
Run each test for long enough to gather a sufficient sample size so that you can glean meaningful data. Keep as much in your control as you can. Change one thing at a time, not 20. Sometimes there’s a clear winner between the two pages when it comes to conversions. Set that page as your new control and test a different change against that. Strive to beat your controls with every new product page.
Keep on top of your SEO for ecommerce product pages to ensure that every product on your site gets the positioning and attention it deserves!
Read our ecommerce conversion rate optimization checklist for more.