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Dollars and Clicks: Value of SEO for E-Commerce

Posted by Molly Geipel on July 11, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Getting a shopper to your site is the first hurdle to all e-commerce success. If you can’t drive traffic, you can’t make sales. Use these SEO tips to make sure your shop is ready to rank.


One of the best ways to drive traffic to your e-commerce site is to make sure your inventory is working for you. Building SEO into your e-commerce inventory can transform your inventory from not just a revenue driver, but a traffic driver too.


Did you know 44% of online shoppers start browsing with a search engine? Your site’s online discoverability is make-it-or-break for your e-commerce business. Incorporating SEO into your inventory can give a huge boost to your search rankings and your sales.


To put some hard numbers to it, the difference between the first-place ranking and third-place ranking is 20%. The first result on page one receives a full 30% share of overall clicks, while spots 6-10 receive only 12% combined. By the time you reach page two of results, the entire page collectively receives just 5% of total clicks.So yeah, your SERP (search engine results page) ranking matters.


Here are a few tips to help you give your e-commerce site its best fighting chance:


Keyword Research

Consumers perform millions of product searches every day. Your task is to know what they’re searching for within your industry. Once you’ve got a list of common search terms, you must identify the cross-section of terms that have the greatest search volume to competition ratio. This will likely include a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords.


Head terms are the short, open-ended search terms we often use when first starting our search, usually less than 25 characters. For example, “running shoes” or “body lotion.” Long-tail keywords are the more specific terms we use to narrow in on exactly what we’re looking for, typically longer phrases of 26-40 characters. For example, “running shoes for low arches” or “anti-aging body lotion natural ingredients.”


While head terms receive much larger search volume, long-tail keywords tend to generate better click and conversion rates. Not as many people will be searching for a specialized search term, but when they do, they are more likely to find—and buy—exactly what they were looking for.


When you build your set of target keywords, try to narrow in on keywords that have a high enough search volume to drive meaningful traffic, but low enough competition to still rank be able to rank for that term.  


There are many free and premium tools you can use to help build out your list of keywords. As the leading search engine, Google offers many of the most popular tools—AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Autosuggest, and Google Related Search.


Site Architecture
The structure of your site is important for two reasons: SEO and user experience (UX).Your site architecture is what maps how a visitor will navigate your site. Good site architecture helps visitors quickly find what they are looking for and guides their path toward key pages. Bad site architecture = bad UX, which will frustrate visitors and limit conversions.


Site architecture is relevant to SEO because it affects how search engines interpret your site. Page hierarchy and organizations tells search engines which pages are related to one another and which take priority over others.


Refer back to your keyword list as you design your site architecture. Head terms make strong category page titles, such as “running shoes” and “loafers,” while long-tail keywords will find their place in product descriptions and metadata.


Bottom line: The more organized your site is, the more user- and Google-friendly it becomes.


Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the behind-the-scenes meta information that gives your content the best chance to rank in SERPs. Things like schema markup, URL structure, and internal linking are all technical SEO.


You set up most elements of your technical SEO when you first designed your site. However, it’s never too late for an SEO clean-up. There are several improvements you can make that will have a significant impact on your site’s discoverability.



You’ll want to clean up all URLs and broken links. Broken links and 404 error pages are a dead end for search engine crawlers, preventing your site from being properly indexed. The best solution is to establish a 301 redirect for 404 pages that will automatically route users from old, unavailable pages to updated, active pages.


Complicated dynamic URLs can also slow down and impede search bots. A dynamic URL is one with lengthy strings of letters and numbers. It’s more intuitive to both users and crawlers to use a clean URL structure. A clean URL is intelligible enough that a user can read the URL alone and have a clear idea about what page it will open on your site.


For example:

Dynamic URL: www.yoursite.com/index.php?.id_sezione=9a67h5yrb38477

Clean URL: www.yoursite.com/shoes/green-arch-support-sneakersClean


URLs use hyphens, targeted keywords, and lowercase letters to create an organized and highly navigable organizational structure for your site.



Another technical SEO update is to introduce pagination into your inventory browsing layout. While infinite scroll is the uncontested preference in terms of UX, it has an adverse effect on indexing and search rankings.


Pagination divides content into smaller sections and helps search bots understand the relationship between different sections. Without proper pagination, you risk pages being penalized for duplication and/or lacking authority because they live too deep in your site.


A good compromise between UX and SEO is to feature a “load more” style of pagination. Customers can interact with the site much like an infinite scroll, but content is still divided into bot-friendly “pages.”


Responsive Design

Make sure your site is optimized for mobile. Google penalizes non-responsive sites, so if you’re not mobile friendly, you don’t have any chance of making it on the first page of SERP, much less claiming the coveted top spot.


On-Page SEO

Your product pages themselves can be a gold mine for SEO. On-site SEO includes both visible visible elements like  content, pictures, and reviews, as well as meta elements like page titles and descriptions.


The key elements of on-page SEO:

Meta Title:
The page title that will appear in SERP results. Use keywords and action verbs to motivate purchasing behavior.


Meta Description:
What appears under the the title in search results. Should be keyword rich and less than 140 characters—like a tweet promoting the page content. Why should someone click this link?


Body Copy:
Ideally, the body of your product page will contain at least 1,000 words. That doesn’t mean your product description has to be 1,000 words long! Word count can also come from lists of features, product specs, alternative options, and customer benefits. Reviews also count toward your word count. Your keyword(s) should appear 3-5 times throughout the copy. Avoid keyword stuffing!


Image File Name:
Without including an image filename and alt tag, your image cannot be indexed or come up in search. Keep it short and sweet, using keywords.

Image ALT Tag:
Should be a keyword-rich description of the image content.



Zappos has been doing this for years to demonstrate product fit and features. More recently, online clothing retailer ASOS has begun featuring short catwalk videos modeling certain products. Product videos should be under one minute long and of professional quality.


Watching a product video can make consumers more confident about the quality of a product, increasing conversions. Videos also increase site engagement and time spent on site, both of which can boost search engine rankings.


As the old adage goes, the devil’s in the details, and that’s certainly true of SEO optimization for e-commerce sites. These may feel like fussy behind-the-scenes adjustments that won’t be seen on the surface, but they’ll show up where it counts, your bottom line.


Ready for your products to be found?
Our free digital marketing assessment will breakdown your ecommerce store to find opportunities to build your organic search ranking and find new shoppers.

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Topics: content strategy, ecommerce, SEO

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