Generating more traffic and securing more sales are naturally top priorities for online sellers — and much of that is dependent on a solid ecommerce SEO strategy. As great as it would be to do a little optimisation here and there, sit back, and let the sales roll in, lasting results only come through persistence and consistency.
If you’re in the realm of online sales — whether you’re a fledgling merchant or run an established enterprise — you need to be clued up on ecommerce SEO to become a savvy online seller, and our Head of SEO, Annika Haataja, is here to help. With many years’ experience working with ecommerce brands, Annika knows a thing or two about building an SEO strategy for ecommerce.
Here, Annika offers her top ecommerce SEO sacks to help drive traffic and boost conversions.
Why is SEO important for ecommerce?
Sure, selling online is often a way of generating revenue quickly…but what’s more likely is you’ll need some help attracting your target audience, showcasing your products, and remaining visible amid your competitors.
Research has found that 75% of people will never scroll past the first page of search results and the top 3 search results get 54.4% of all clicks. This clearly shows how a robust SEO strategy is crucial, as the majority of users focus on the first page of results while Google’s algorithms favour quality and relevant content, influencing the page rank directly.
“From a return on investment point of view, SEO is considered one of the best channels for ecommerce. While conversion rates might not be as high as PPC or email marketing in the beginning, the value of SEO lies in its presence — there’s no need to turn on an ad or continually allocate budget to specific areas. Even with a basic setup you can start generating revenue. SEO works in the background, gaining you visibility, authority and traffic that you can build upon.”
Ranking in number one position shouldn’t necessarily be the end goal, but recognising how SEO can enhance the quality of your site is something you need to focus on as an ecommerce business owner.
What are the benefits of SEO strategies for ecommerce?
Anyone wanting to grow their online shop should understand the fundamentals of SEO. By optimising for relevant keywords, building links, and enhancing the overall user experience, ecommerce sites can climb search engine rankings, maximising their online visibility and driving organic traffic to their websites
That said, ecommerce marketers need to be a little more savvy — the competition is fierce, after all, with almost 600,000 ecommerce websites operating in the UK alone. Boosting your SEO efforts will help you reach your growth goals quicker and future-proof your organic visibility.
SEO is cost-effective for new and existing businesses
SEO is known to generate a healthier ROI than many other marketing channels. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, for example, SEO doesn’t need to be ‘turned on’; it’s always there in the background, helping your site strengthen its relationship with search engines.
Plus, where you pay for each click or impression, organic search doesn’t require ongoing payments for every visitor. Once your site is optimised, the traffic it generates doesn’t incur additional costs, making it a cost-effective long-term strategy.
Of course, it does need to be nurtured, but even as a small business with limited resources, there’s plenty you can do to optimise your strategy without spending thousands on advertising. SEO feeds into almost every area of your online presence, making it extremely cost-effective and ROI-friendly.
SEO is always working in the background
SEO is the gift that keeps on giving. Lack of consistency is often where people go wrong when it comes to maintaining good SEO; however, to an extent, SEO is self-sufficient. Feed it great content, build high-quality links, perform regular technical audits, and the rest will follow.
An implementation you made this year can continue to improve your site for years to come. Let’s say you run an online store selling gardening tools, for instance — producing an optimised and informative guide on an evergreen topic can generate traffic and sales for years after the content was originally published.
SEO creates more organic opportunities
SEO aims to align your website’s content, structure, and technical aspects with what users are actively searching for. By doing so, it helps your website organically appear in front of users who are interested in what you offer, creating more opportunities for engagement, generating leads, and boosting ecommerce conversion rates.
Once you’ve got your website to a good place SEO-wise, organically this is incredibly valuable. A high-quality site won’t be overlooked by Google. Organic search results are seen as more trustworthy by users compared to paid ads. Many users skip over ads and click on organic results, as they believe these results to be more relevant and unbiased.
SEO contributes to customer acquisition and conversion
SEO offers a two-fold approach — it will not only help your site be visible to the right audience, but by providing the right user experience, it can help convert them too.
On-site SEO tactics — such as ensuring your site ranks well for keywords that align with your offering — mean the traffic directed to your site is already interested in what you provide, increasing the chances of conversion.
On the other hand, optimising your technical SEO elements — improving loading speed, mobile responsiveness, and ease of navigation — encourages users to stay longer, which means more engagement and a greater chance of generating revenue.
6 SEO hacks for ecommerce stores
Your SEO strategy for ecommerce should be designed around your goals, how new or mature your site is, and the type of products you’re selling. But before you get ahead of yourself, you need to master some of the most important — but often overlooked — SEO hacks.
Here are 6 tactics to use in your SEO strategy for ecommerce, with expert insight from SEO expert Annika.
1. Optimise your product images for accessibility and SEO
When optimising product images, begin by adding descriptive ALT text for accessibility. For people who use screen readers, ALT tags help them understand what’s on the page as the reader scans the content, describing what’s there — including all images.
The aim is to create a seamless and beneficial user experience for shoppers, and this won’t be the case if your ALT tag is full of random letters. Take the time to write an accurate description of your product images so everyone — including visually-impaired shoppers — will be able to understand what the images are depicting, enabling them the same experience as other users.
Best practices for writing image ALT tags:
- Use clear and specific descriptions
- Give context to your image based on the topic of the page
- Don’t write long-winded descriptions
- Avoid starting the description with “picture of…” or “image of…” as screen reading tools will identify it as an image from the article’s HTML source code
- Use your keywords, but sparingly and avoid stuffing them in
Here’s an example. Imagine you’re selling this hat:
Image credit: Festival Friend
Bad Alt Text: photo of fun hat with logo
Good Alt Text: baby pink cap white a small palm tree logo stitched on the front
Adding ALT tags to your upload process is a great way of improving the accessibility of your site. Beyond that, these descriptions can also help your images rank, and with shoppers relying more on image search to find new products, there are plenty of new opportunities to catch someone’s attention.
“ALT tags are also useful for increasing your visibility. Today, shopping behaviour is quite image heavy and people use Google Image search to look for specific products as they want to see the product before even landing on the site. Images also tap into the early buying stage of customers where finding inspiration and considering their options is the focus.”
Don’t forget about the quality of your images, too. Avoid using fuzzy photos but do include different variations of the product so shoppers can see it from all angles — this can be particularly helpful for items like furniture, where visualising the product is an important part of the consideration and buying processes.
2. Consider working with UGC creators
If you want to be ecommerce-savvy, then SEO should go beyond simply what you’re doing directly on your website. How about User Generated Content (UGC)? Developing your content marketing strategy so that it stretches beyond blog posts is particularly important for ecommerce businesses, especially since social platforms like TikTok are great for brand discovery.
Nowadays, consumers can easily differentiate between branded advertising and authentic information sharing. Retailers need to take a humanised approach to promote authenticity and reliable information about their products and UGC offers trustworthy, authentic, realistic, and insightful content driven by the consumer experience.
Here’s an example of UGC content for skincare brands. Brand awareness from influencers can introduce you to a whole new audience, and if they add a link that’s a boost to your domain! However, you should be aware that this type of strategy can be expensive, depending on who you work with.
Alternatively, reposting genuine customer photos and videos on your brand’s social channels (with credit of course) not only expands your brand reach, but also encourages browsers to actively participate in content creation for your brand.
3. Enable smooth user experience with strategic internal links
One thing that sets ecommerce stores apart from many other websites is the vast amount of pages they have. From category pages to individual product pages, it’s important to make your site easy to navigate — not only for your users, but for search engines such as Google, so it can be crawled and indexed.
You can do this by internally linking across your site. On category pages, for example, link to relevant subcategories, while on individual product pages you can provide alternative or complementary product suggestions with links in your content. The user journey should flow naturally from one page to another — you can even use personalisation software to understand the user’s journey and enable more customised product recommendations.
Filtering is also very important. It might not seem significant, but when a shopper is looking for a specific item, scrolling through hundreds of products can stop them from browsing altogether. Adding useful filters that narrow down items by colour, material, price and other features can make your category pages much more helpful and increase your sales.
4. Create helpful content around your products
The content on your site really matters. According to Google’s Helpful Content Update, best practice is to create content for users first, search engines second. Consider this: are you mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value? Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
Your shoppers are your number one priority, so while your content needs to be optimised for search engines, it also needs to be useful for buyers. An informative product guide or high-quality product description could be the difference between someone proceeding to your checkout or shopping elsewhere.
“Often, ecommerce businesses fill pages with long FAQs which can be overwhelming and not very helpful. Instead, having five to six FAQs that are related to pre-purchase and assisting in making that purchase decision is much more helpful. Anything that’s not related to pre-purchase can go into articles or product guides which are more about the use of the products.”
A good ecommerce SEO content plan should include high-quality category descriptions, product descriptions, FAQs, articles and guides. Always make the unique qualities of your product clear, and ensure your customer reviews are visible — this is free but often very valuable content! Following up with a post-purchase customer care email is good practice too, and an opportunity to gain some extra reviews.
5. Use long-tail keywords to maximise conversions
Using long-tail keywords can help customers who already know the type of products they’re looking for. In most cases, shoppers who are searching for more generic keywords like ‘wardrobes’ are probably still in the research phase, but if they’re making a more detailed search (‘brown oak double wardrobes for bedrooms’, for example), they’re probably closer to making a purchase decision.
This is known as search intent — the primary goal a user has when entering a query into a search engine. Understanding search intent is crucial for SEO, and creating content that is relevant to different stages in the user buyer journey is key. Answering long-tail questions in your content can help serve the user’s goals and intent.
You can incorporate long-tail keywords into your product descriptions, category descriptions, or through creating very specific subcategory pages for each type of product. Just being that little bit more specific when describing your products can increase your conversion rate and your chances of ranking highly, since long-tail keywords tend to be less competitive but more valuable.
6. Begin link building to your most important pages
Do you have a link building strategy for your ecommerce site? If not, it’s a very good idea to start building links to your strongest pages. Gaining high-quality backlinks through strategic link inserts can be a good approach; for example, getting your product featured in ‘Top 10 X’ blog posts can help boost your traffic, visibility, and credibility as a brand.
However, the outreach side of link building can be challenging, and at the very least it requires plenty of persistence and dedication. You can attempt to do this yourself, of course, but alternatively, working with an ecommerce SEO agency with experience of gaining highly-relevant links from authoritative sites can help you unlock high-value backlinks and start to build your domain authority.
Don’t forget about the power of creating your own high-quality content for link building, either. Start writing informational content and buying guides about specific types of products (including product links) to help establish your authority in your field. This not only adds value to your content, but increases the likelihood that you’ll gain backlinks organically.
Extra hack: How can you optimise your sales pages for SEO?
During your peak trading periods — such as Black Friday or the lead up to the holiday season, for example — SEO becomes even more fundamental, particularly as competition during these times is likely to be far more intense. The aim is not only to maximise your revenue-earning potential across these peaks, but achieve sustainable, long-term success.
Here are some quick tips to consider:
Create an evergreen sales page
Often, ecommerce sellers create new URLs every time they have a sale. This typically means that once the sale is over, the page is no longer needed, and so it gets removed and a new one is created for the next sale.
This process is pretty long winded, for one thing. Worse still, any authority you’ve built gets lost every time the page is removed. Alternatively, creating an evergreen sales page can make sales easier to plan and ensure the page retains its SEO prowess.
Add a temporary redirect or keep updating the content
Utilising one sales page means you can put a temporary redirect on the page when it’s not in use. For example, you may use the page for your Christmas sale, but once that’s over, simply redirect it to your general sales page.
Alternatively, keep the content up-to-date to reflect when the next sale is — generating anticipation and demand with a ‘coming soon’-type message — even if you don’t list any products on the page. Remember, these pages can be very beneficial in the future.
Consider the mobile layout
It’s predicted that around 187.5 million people will shop via their smartphone in 2024. So, your whole site, including your sales pages, need to be optimised for mobile users. When someone clicks on your sales page via their mobile device, you need to think clearly about the customer perspective, and build your landing page with mobile users in mind.
Unnecessary text, media, and navigation elements can be annoying, and most importantly, steer people away from making a purchase! Before you go live, check how your pages render on mobile and review how users will experience them.
Running and growing an online store can be challenging, but being savvy when it comes to ecommerce SEO will help you get one step closer to your growth goals. From enhanced visibility to increased brand awareness and authority — and ultimately a boost in overall revenue — there are multiple benefits to a well-thought-out SEO strategy for ecommerce.