13-Step Checklist for Ecommerce SEO Based On Industry’s Best Practices

by Sajjad Shahid  November 23, 2016

If you are reading this post, then it means you have just created your online shop. Congratulations! However, I do know that many are reading this post before venturing out with their ecommerce idea. Good idea!

You see what I did there. I just place positive reinforcements to two different types of ecommerce aspirants: ones who do have a shop and ones who may build a shop in future. This is what SEO is all about. Search engines bring affirmations for your queries. For someone who is searching “gummy bears”, she should get results for bear-shaped fruit-gelatin delights. This is an affirmative result.

But in the results, the user will get many choices. Therefore, it is necessary to optimize website for search engines. Only a website with proper SEO can make its way to top search rankings.

So, the question is: How to do SEO for an ecommerce website?

Well, I have a suggestion.

Ecommerce SEO checklist

To rank good, User Experience is the key to efficient SEO. While optimizing for search engines, do not ruin the experience of your website. Find a middle path. To rank best, you need to implement the 10 steps in this checklist.

ecommerce SEO checklist

1. SEO Title

It’s necessary to create a unique and interesting Title for search engines and users as well. Remember, all your products are optimized with SEO Title. There are some best practices which you can follow to create optimized best titles for ecommerce:

  • Use your website brand in the Title (Brand Optimization).
  • Use less than 60 characters.
  • Use Action Words like “buy”, “online”.
  • Use Free Shipping words in title for ecommerce website, if possible.
  • Use proper keywords placements. The title starts with the most important terms and ends with brands. For e.g, “Organic Wild Rice – Rice Vendor”.

2. Image and video optimization

Images and videos are used at many places. For images, I have the recent example of Cloudways Console. If you search on Google, “Cloudways Console”, this result will show as below:

Ecommerce SEO checklist

The Alt text of these pictures are relevant to the “Cloudways Console” keywords. These are some of the things you have to care about for Rich Media Content Optimization:

  • Use proper and relevant Alt Text.
  • Name the image file properly, for e.g. “buy-button”, etc.
  • Reduce image and video size as much as you can. There are many online tools that offer instant optimization.
  • Use embedded code for videos by hosting videos on external sites, like Wistia, Vimeo, etc. This way, your site’s load time will not be affected.
  • Write all meta details and required descriptions for all your videos.

3. Page Load Time

Most of the ecommerce sites average load time is 6 seconds. Best load time is around 2-3 seconds.

Some points which reduce your ecommerce site load time:

  1. Reduce Redirects.
  2. Optimize Images.
  3. Try to upload video from external source.
  4. Minify HTTP Requests.
  5. Minify Development resources like: HTML, CSS, JavaScript.
  6. Reduce or if possible deactivate extra Plugins on your cms.
  7. Try to get better Hosting + CDN service like: Cloudways.
  8. Enable Browser Caching.

4. More Unique content

Uniqueness is must when it comes to content. Google has announced strict measures against copied content. Here is the reference:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

  • Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
  • Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
  • Printer-only versions of web pages”

For Affiliate Programmers, Google set some conditions such as:

“Google believes that pure, or “thin,” affiliate websites do not provide additional value for web users, especially if they are part of a program that distributes its content to several hundred affiliates. These sites generally appear to be cookie-cutter sites or templates with no original content. Because a search results page could return several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliates create a frustrating user experience.”

Some examples of thin affiliates include:

“Pages with product affiliate links on which the product descriptions and reviews are copied directly from the original merchant without any original content or added value.”

Please remember that the product name and most of the code and quotes are used the same just because they cannot be changed. Try to produce different content in product description and details. If you want to rank your ecommerce efforts on search engines, follow each and every single guideline from Google. One of the major SEO issues which occurs in ecommerce is copied content. Try to work smarter in this regard.

Some of the points to care about:

  • Noindex all pages which are not necessary to index
  • URL Path should be clear
  • Proper Redirection
  • Canonical Tags implementation
  • More content is equal to top SERP
  • Frequently update old content
  • Improve engagement to improve ranking
  • Link related contents

5.Site structure

A site built on a structure provides good user experience. It helps visitor and search engines in finding relevant information. Beside this, internal linking of related products and other pages of your store helps to easily index pages of your ecommerce site. Proper structured websites help search engine crawlers to find your site pages.

6. Structured data

Structured data is now a necessity for every online business. For successful SEO, you need to create a proper structure for data too.

Its benefits are increased Conversion Optimization, CTR, improved SERP indirectly, reduced Bounce Rate, and increased User Engagement.

There are many Rich Snippets that are used with ecommerce sites, because products have lots of information that users want to gather before buying. Some of them are:

  1. Name
  2. Rating
  3. Currency
  4. Shipping
  5. Price
  6. Color
  7. Availability, and many more.

I prefer Schema for Structured Data. It’s the easiest one. You can implement Markup Tags which you want to show in rich snippet.

For testing, I used Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Be sure to test all your Markup Tags with this tool.

7. HTTPs

Recently, Google announced minor SEO benefit for website that implement HTTPs for transfer. Ecommerce sites have to apply HTTPs not only for Google, but for Users too. Ecommerce websites usually have Payment Gateways connected with the Cart System. HTTPs basically encrypts all the data which is transferred between the server and website. Now, buyers won’t pay on a site that does not use HTTPs for data transfer.

To get your website HTTPs protected, you need to install an SSL certificate. Many hosting service providers offer this feature to their customers. On Cloudways, you can install SSL in just 3 easy steps.

8. Mobile Friendly

Earlier this year, Google started to optimize its Search for mobile friendly website. Since April 21, 2014, mobile friendly websites have an edge over other sites that are non-mobile friendly. Websites built on Magento and WordPress can easily be made friendly by using responsive themes or plugins. Once you have made your shop mobile friendly, check whether your site is compatible with Google standards. Remember, the upcoming holiday season is first one after this major announcement. Therefore, it is best to act now as users searching from mobile devices will be shown mobile friendly results.

This can have an effect on Mobile Conversion Rate.

9. Voice Search & Answer Box

Voice search allows the users to take advantage of the capabilities of their smartphones. Top brands offering voice search include Google’s “OK, Google” Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Samsung’s Bixby.

Another great tactic that benefits your ecommerce SEO is the Google’s Answer Box. Once your website’s content appears in the Answer Box, you will be amazed at the number of clicks your website receives. Here is an example of the how Cloudways have leveraged Google’s Answer Box to great advantage.

Answer box result

Ecommerce store should accept the fact that answer boxes are a growing trend and will only continue to be more prevalent. Thus, it is essential that you embrace this trend as early as possible.

10. Guest Posting

Guest posting is another great way of creating high quality backlinks and increasing relevant traffic. If you want to build authority in any niche, guest posting is a great tool.

Now how could you start with guest posting? Research relevant, high authority websites within your industry. Once you have the list, offer them a high quality guest post. You could also explore co-authoring a research study, putting together a great infographic, and so on. To kick things off, I recommend HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to find press great opportunities.

11. Permanently 301  Redirect to expired product URLs

You should permanently redirect expired product pages as this informs search engines that your old content has moved. A 301 Redirect is a permanent redirect which passes between 90% to 99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page.

Link equity of an expired page is lost with a 404 Page NOt Found notice. In keeping with the SEO best practices, you must redirect your expired product URL to a similar page. This will enhance the user experience on your website as well as help you retain most of the link equity through a 301 permanent redirect.

12. Optimize Category Pages with Keyword

Usually people ignore the importance of category pages on their stores. However, they are as important as individual pages and posts and must be optimized to appear as high as possible in SERP.

For instance, an ecommerce store that sells “latest phones” should not optimize every product page for this keyword. Otherwise, all the pages will then compete for the same keyword. Instead, you should optimize your store’s category page. This way, the category pages will rank for the main keyword, while the product pages can rank for more specific terms.

It’s important to optimize your category page on the following lines:

  • Keyword in the image Alt text
  • Keyword  in file name
  • Keyword in your Headings tag specifically H1
  • Keyword in your page description
  • Keyword in your page title

13. Canonical tags

Canonical Tags are for search engines to define a page and avoid considering duplication of that page. Here are some examples:

  • http://www.example.com
  • https://www.example.com/
  • http://example.com
  • http://www.example.com/
  • http://example.com/
  • http://www.example.com/index.html

Search Engine Bots consider all these pages as different from others. But these are single pages. To define to the search engine that it’s a single page you have to put Canonical Tags and point to one page. The best example is: https://www.example.com/

The last “/” sign indicates to the search engine that the URL path has come to an end.

Most of the users are confused with the usage of 301 Redirects and Canonical Tags. Canonical Tags are for Search Engines, not for Users. Redirects are for both Users and Search Engines. For staying safe from suffering a Google SEO Penalty, use proper Canonical Tags.

I hope you found this post useful to learn about ecommerce SEO Best Practices. Are you confused about any of the practices mentioned here? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to address your concerns.

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About Sajjad Shahid

Sajjad is an Ecommerce Community Expert at Cloudways. He loves helping out Ecommerce store owners, merchants and marketers in establishing their businesses and startups. Sajjad enjoys playing table tennis and cricket over the weekend.

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