Table of Contents
There are only a handful of CMSs that are the staple of the modern ecommerce website, notably:
- Adobe / Omniture
All of which come with their unique positives and negatives for SEO. Some issues - like Shopify's locked robots.txt file - are common across ecommerce websites on that platform, and we won't be covering any of those in this post. But other issues can be as a function of the site set up, and can be easily updated to improve organic performance. We’ll cover these below.
No Product Page Optimization
Product page optimization is one way we can shift buying behaviours positively.
Product pages are a goldmine for optimization opportunities, and many SEOs in ecommerce take a while to get to these, especially on sites that have hundreds of SKUs. A great example of a product page is from H&M. These pages have the following attributes:
- A featured image and a gallery of other photos, including one in-situ
H&M does this by giving the user a close up up front, and a side view of the product, and later on provides more general images:
- A product overview that includes the product name, it’s price, key features, and customization options
H&M uses a short description with most content being on the visual side and in bullet points.
- An add-to-cart option
Not only does H&M use an add to cart option, it also provides a “find in store” option, reducing friction for users that would rather shop in store.
- An optimized and unique product description
H&M Does a good job of incorporating high value keywords in a short description.
- Some form of social proof. This could include reviews and ratings.
H&M Uses their reviews to provide an average rating, and gets users to add information about their sizing to help future customers purchase easier.
- Similar product suggestions (upsell and cross sell).
Using dynamic carousels like this allow easy internal linking, and helps users build up their cart and checkout at higher values.
- Structured Data implementation
Structured data is essential in the SERPs. With elements like price, stock levels, and reviews help guide the user to the best option for their query.
Missing top of funnel and bottom of funnel content
Content is one of the biggest elements of SEO, and it’s slowly growing. The other day, I read a quote from one of SEOs biggest and brightest, saying he’d rather people learn how to write than how to code. There are multiple ways content can be created, but it’s important to create content that is full funnel. Top funnel content is content that educates and points the user in the right direction. A great example of top of funnel content is a “how to use” article. Bottom funnel content, on the other hand, is completely focused on the conversion. An example of bottom funnel content for ecommerce may be a reviews and testimonials page.
Top of Funnel Content Creation
Top of funnel content may not be the first tactic you think of when you work with ecommerce clients, but we’ve seen great success by filling the top of the funnel. The way we use top of funnel content is to target prospects in the awareness stage. Our keyword research process is written about by Dave in detail here. He details, most importantly, how to make keyword research actionable.
But why should you care? Abby Reimer wrote an excellent post on top of funnel content that goes into detail, but I’ll summarize:
- Top of funnel topics present a larger traffic opportunity as they have higher search volumes.
- More qualified traffic by targeting large groups of searchers in your interest area.
- Top of funnel assists conversions - By adding next steps for your audience, users move down the funnel to conversion.
- Increases brand awareness and authority by writing about bigger, broader topics.
- Leads to micro-conversions like newsletter sign ups and downloads.
- Increases paid search/retargeting opportunities by providing opportunity for higher funnel ad campaigns.
- Top of funnel content can be used across platforms for a holistic approach to traffic.
Bottom of Funnel Content creation
Bottom of funnel content is one of the most important, friction removing tactics you can apply in ecommerce work. Bottom of funnel content like reviews, round ups, and product page descriptions are all essential in building trust with the buyer. When we updated the product page content for one of our clients, we saw an 83.65% increase in users and a 251.75% increase in revenue over a four month period compared to the period before:
Elements of technical SEO help ensure search engines can crawl your site efficiently. There are many ways that a site could be crawled inefficiently, and we won’t get into them all here. The best way to find all crawling inefficiencies is to use Screaming Frog’s User Agent switcher for Googlebot Smartphone. If you find yourself in a place where your crawling has become inefficient, it may be time to restructure your site to create pages that are not-parameterized. The best way to do that is to ensure all pages are built with a HTML / CSS base, and are submitted via sitemap.
Thin Category Page Content
This is a problem we’re seeing more often in 2020. With minimalism “in” for web designers, the room for content is becoming smaller and smaller. However, it’s still an important aspect of category pages in ecommerce as content gives search engines an idea of what the page is about. We’ve been experimenting with category page power ups, with Abby Reimer going into some detail in her post 6 Simple Tips to Optimize Your Ecommerce Category Pages. Let’s check out how it’s helped one of our clients:
Category page power ups
A client of ours worked on the development of their category page content to improve overall site performance. This client used Abby’s tips in the above article to develop their content and build authority around their topic of LED Lightbulbs. The results could be seen from May to September for this one page:
This client used the idea of answering a user’s question to compete with other, more well known sites that were leading users to convert.
A recent article by our founder Griffin on Ecommerce Category Page Power Ups covers this in more detail.
Not Targeting Key Keywords
This happens more often than you think. This happens most often when a brand has a proprietary name for a product that no other brand uses. A hypothetical example would be if Dyson just called it’s product “Dyson” on it’s site before it was popular, instead of using “vacuum cleaner” which is the generic name. With lesser known brands just starting to establish their place in the market, this can be an issue, especially if there hasn’t been sufficient brand building offline.
Not having the correct keyword targeting can also occur if the site is structured in a way that doesn’t allow the brand to target the highest volume keywords possible. We saw this occur with a client of ours, who was segmenting a B2B clothing site by sex, rather than clothing categories. We decided to restructure the site, involving condensing pages and retargeting the majority of collections pages to target the highest volume keywords possible without creating duplicate content.
The client I’m talking about had a site that was targeting “custom women’s polos” and “custom men’s polos” for a combined total of 20 average monthly searches. Although this was pretty standard for the B2B garment industry, we knew that this isn’t how people search. Our keyword research enabled us to draw a profile of the user - someone who is ordering for larger groups that are made of mens and womens sizes - and this helped us to identify the friction points for conversions and allowed us to see that separating mens and womens sizes for a B2B sales site both creates duplicate content and does not allow great targeting of high value keywords.
By restructuring the site, we were able to then target “custom polos” for an average monthly search volume of 1,900/mo, and remove the friction point of the user going to multiple collections pages to find both mens and womens sizing.
Here are their results for the overall site:
Here are their results for just the category pages:
No Out Of Stock Process
Out of stock items are both a UX issue and can create many soft-404 pages. An excess of soft 404 pages on ecommerce websites shows search engines that the site is not valuable to searchers and it can be a factor in the demotion of product pages and categories. A client of ours implemented an out of stock process to take back the value of those lost pages:
Out of Stock Process Development
We worked with our client developed a process is a simple one that will be able to help any site:
Scenario A: If a product is just out of stock and will return
- When a product is out of stock, add an out of stock message and leave the page live.
- There will be no redirect taking place.
- When stock returns for this item, remove the out of stock message and continue selling the product.
Scenario B: Product is discontinued
- When a product is first out of stock or discontinued, add an out of stock message and link to the nearest alternative products (if applicable). Leave this in place for several weeks.
- Assess whether or not the product has a similar or new alternative in stock, and if there are no relevant products to which users can be directed, it’s time to remove the page. You will want to either redirect the page or delete the page, depending upon whether or not the page has backlinks.
- However, if there are related products that the user may be interested in, it may be a good idea to leave the product page up indefinitely and include links to other products. To determine this, look at the product’s organic traffic.
Here are the results:
Product Page Clicks:
Since implementing the out of stock solution, this client saw a 301.88% increase in clicks PoP
Since implementing the out of stock solution, this client saw a 175.97% increase in revenue PoP
Since implementing the out of stock solution, this client saw a 221.09% increase in transactions PoP
Partnering with merchants is a preventative measure to avoid surprise out of stock products. Being in step with your merchant partners enables the SEO team to do a few things:
- Implement a dynamic out of stock solution for categories and products that are seasonally rotating
- Implement a new navigation or mega nav
- Implement a strong internal linking strategy before it launches
- Work on high priority products coming up
Without partnering with the merchandising team, we find that products and new collections aren’t given the search-friendly launch they deserve. A great example of what can happen when SEO isn’t involved in the merchandising process is for the same client above with their face mask page:
Before launch, we weren’t able to view the page and as a result, the page launched without much thought for SEO. The page began ranking at 20 and dropped to 60. After we implemented our recommendations, this page started ranking on the first page for most of its target keywords.
No Local Presence
If you have a brick and mortar store, ensuring your local SEO is up to scratch is key. Local SEO is one of the most underrated parts of ecommerce. While 2020 may not be the year of in-store shopping, it will become more important as we move forward. Local SEO elevates your brand, making it more accessible to customers here, there, and everywhere. There are a few ways to start building local authority and engage with your local community, and I’ll go through the following below:
- Claiming your Google My Business profile.
- Building local citations.
- Get local links.
How to start gathering Local Authority
Claim your Google My Business Profile.
If you haven’t already, you must claim the Google My Business listing attributed to your brand. Google My Business allows you to manage your online local presence with reviews, location, open and close times, and more. The main point of claiming your Google My Business listing is to show up more prominently in search engine results pages. You’ve probably seen many of them before:
The recommendation we always give is “Because Google loves Google products, use as many features of the Google My Business profile as possible”.
Yes. That includes:
- Staff photos
- Free product listings
- And any new options Google comes out with - they’re always testing!
But that’s just the first step. Let’s build some local citations:
Build local citations
Local citations are just backlinks from local websites like:
- News outlets
- Press releases and
- Any other local media.
A classic example is the Yellow Pages.
Local citations are important for local SEO because they show that you are a valued community member, and that you are popular in the area. Looking at a larger scale, this is just like international SEO - the theory is that if you want to start ranking better in Australia, you’ll want to gather as many Australian backlinks as possible to become relevant - along with everything else that goes into international SEO of course!
Get local links
Local links are a little different from citations as they can come from anywhere. When we’re talking about local links, we’re actually talking about websites that are focused on your local community. For example, if Uproer was to initiate a local link acquisition campaign, we would not only look for lists about Minneapolis based SEO and Paid Search marketing companies and Yellow Pages listings, but we’d also look to collaborate with other agencies in the Twin Cities to build community.
Search engines care about two things. No prizes for guessing it’s content and links. Backlinks have been part of the Google algorithm for as long as there has been a Google algorithm. The easiest way to explain links is to compare it to the system of upvoting on reddit. More upvotes (links), the more people like and trust your content. Backlinks have traditionally been important to increase your rankings through domain authority, and more recently, have been a fundamental factor in developing authority around a topic. Of course, backlink development is a longer term process and requires some flexibility and grit, so this isn’t always the first thing ecommerce websites think about.
I’ll cover the following ways to build links:
- Hub page link building - Classic Link Building
- Partnering with influencers and bloggers - Advanced Link Building
- Partnering with other brands - High Risk, High Reward Link Building
- Broken link building - Quick Link Building
- Gathering old competitor links - Strategic Link Building
How to build links for Ecommerce websites
“Hub” page link building
This is your classic link building.
“Hub” pages are pages that combine resources and products. The classic form is a listicle like this:
Of course, these pages have a large number of links on them, which can decrease the power of the links, but with the right links, it does contribute to page authority growth.
A great way to find these pages is to Google any of the following:
“inurl:resources + X (X being your product/industry)”
“inurl:gifts + X”
“inurl:list + X”
Let’s use an example:
Find a page that resonates with your brand and has a high Domain Authority / Rating. Add these to a spreadsheet and reach out to the relevant contact using a tool like Hunter.io or Voila Norbert. Any email just won’t do. It’s important to strike the right balance between friendly, real, and genuine.
I was doing some research for my own [topic], and found your page [Title/URL of page].
This is awesome! I was thinking, I’d love to add one of my own that I think your readers would love - it’s about [topic]. I can send it to you if you’re interested!
Let me know, and keep up the great work!
This can be the most time consuming part of the process, but it can yield some great results.
Partnering with influencers and bloggers.
Think of this as “Advanced” link building. It’s a little more time consuming, but it can create sustainable relationships that work well into the future.
This is the preferred way to build links, as it fosters a genuine partnership between the brand and the community. Bloggers and influencers usually don’t have ecommerce sites that compete with brands, but audiences overlap, so it’s the best way to reach your audience without having to partner with another brand.
No, this isn’t your classic influencer marketing campaign. Rather than paying for the influencer to share the product on social media, partnering with influencers for SEO involves the trading of a link or multiple links from their site and brand pages. This could come in the form of a blog post or suite of posts, or a page that talks about your product in detail.
But how do you get there?
To truly build links in a way that feels natural and looks natural, there has to be emphasis on the relationship between you and your influencer or blogger. Building friendships is the one way to keep content rolling (even when you don’t ask!)
There are many ways to initiate conversations with influencers and bloggers, the best ways I’ve found are:
- Free products - Who doesn’t like free stuff!
- Sharing and commenting on their content
- Reaching out to ask about their expertise
- Promote them on your social media
The best way to find influencers for your brand is - you guessed it - Google. Search for influencers with something similar to the following:
“[your industry/product] blogs/influencers”
Partnering with other brands
Let’s call this one “High Risk, High Reward Link Building”.
Partnering with other brands is risky, especially if they’re somewhat related to your product and have ties to your competitors. However, it’s highly beneficial to your brand if you’re seen as a leader in the space.
No, I’m not recommending going out and trading links with your direct competitors.
What I’m recommending and what’s worked well is the following process:
- Identify your target audience
- Who are they? What do they want? What’s their age range?
- Use a tool like Buzzsumo or Sparktoro to identify social media brands and influencers that these users may follow that aren’t direct competitors
- I’m talking completely out of your industry. If you sell custom suits, are your customers also following skincare brands? Are they really into surfing? Do they have long hair and need haircare? Do they LOVE coconut water? All opportunities and conversations that are related to your customer that you traditionally are not a part of, can suddenly become your competitive secret weapon.
- Make a list of relevant brands that fit with your own branding
- Reach out to set up a partnership discussion with focus on content and link building efforts for both people.
A client this worked really well for was a men's suits company trying to get their bespoke suit service off the ground. By partnering with a bigger player in an adjacent space, they were able to form a consistent partnership that has endured and provided multiple valuable links over the engagement:
Broken link building
Let’s dub this one “Quick Link Building”.
By no means is this process “quick” but it is the quickest form of link building. Broken link building is the process by which you search sites that are in your niche for broken backlinks. The blog posts are a gold mine for this tactic. I use the “check my links” extension on Chrome to find broken links. Once cataloged, I’ll write an email saying something like:
I was on your site the other day, and noticed that one of your posts:
links to a broken link!
Just wanted to let you know!
If you’re interested, I have a great [post/resource/page] that talks about this exact topic that I think your readers would love. It might be a good replacement for that broken link!
I appreciate your amazing content! Keep up good work!
Gathering old competitor links
OK, this one’s a little more strategic than the rest.
To push out competitor links, all you need is an Ahrefs subscription and the willingness to push forward.
This simple process involves you plugging their URL into the site explorer, identifying the domains and links that are Dofollow, and following up with a list of brand appropriate sites to include you in their lists.
It’s really that simple!
As you can see, there is more than one way to skin an ecommerce site for SEO improvement.