This is the most comprehensive guide to ecommerce SEO online.
In this expert-written guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about optimizing your ecommerce site, from keyword research to technical SEO to link building.
Why SEO Matters for Ecommerce Websites
NChannel reports that 44% of people begin their online shopping experience with a search engine.
According to Kissmetrics 30.5% of all traffic to ecommerce sites comes from search engines.
Data by Custora shows that 26% of ecommerce online ordersoriginate from organic search engine traffic.
As you can see, it’s almost impossible for ecommerce businesses to thrive today without search engine optimization. Unfortunately, ecommerce SEO is more challenging, complex and competitive than ever.
Not only are you competing against giants like Amazon and Walmart, but you need to pay attention to new ranking factors like site speed, user experience and organic click through rate.
Fortunately, this guide will show you exactly how to beat the odds and outrank your big brand competitors in Google.
So if you’re looking to get more targeted traffic from search (and turn that traffic into customers for your ecommerce business), then you’ll love this guide.
Let’s dive right in…
CHAPTER 1KEYWORD RESEARCH
If you want to run an effective ecommerce SEO campaign, make sure to kick things off with keyword research.
Because keyword research informs everything other SEO-related task you do on your website (for example, without keywords, it’s impossible for you to optimize your product and category pages).
Believe it or not, but your list of keywords influence your technical SEO efforts as well. For example, your site architecture and URLs need to take keywords into account.
So you can see that keyword research is a VERY big deal for your ecommerce site. Here’s exactly how to find untapped keywords that your customers search for...and how to choose the best ones for your site.
How To Find Keywords For Ecommerce Product and Keyword Pages
Most keyword research tutorials focus on “information keywords”. These are keywords that people type into search engines to discover helpful “how-to” content.
While these keywords have their place for an ecommerce business, the majority of your site’s keywords will be tailored around product pages. That means that you need to tackle keyword research with product-focused keywords in mind.
Here’s exactly how to do it:
Yes, Amazon is probably your competitor. But it’s also the biggest ecommerce site online, which makes it an absolute goldmine of product-focused keywords.
Here’s how to tap into Amazon for keyword research:
First, head over to Amazon and enter a keyword that describes one of your products.
The keywords Amazon suggests tend to be very targeted (also known as long tail keywords). Not only do long tail keywords like these convert better than 2-3 word keywords, but they tend to be less competitive too.
Rinse and repeat for the most important products on your site.
PRO TIP: Amazon will sometimes suggest categories above the keyword suggestions. These make great keywords to use for category pages.
Keyword Tool Dominator
Keyword Tool Dominator is a nifty tool that scrapes Amazon’s search suggestions.
To use it, just enter a seed keyword into the tool:
And it will spit out dozens of keyword suggestions.
Not only does the tool make this process significantly faster than doing it manually, but in my experience, it gives you significantly more keyword ideas than doing this the old-fashioned way.
For example, when I used the keyword “organic dog food”, Amazon suggest gave me 8 keyword ideas. The tool spit out 49.
To keep things organized, you can save the keywords that make sense for you to a list.
Before we leave Amazon, it’s time to use one more feature on the site that’s a goldmine for category page keywords.
Amazon (and Competitor) Categories
As someone that’s consulted for dozens of ecommerce businesses, I find that many ecommerce site owners optimize their category pages around random keywords. Sure, they’ll put some thought into what their customers might use to find products that fall under that category. But the keywords they use tend to be, let’s just say...less than ideal.
This is a huge mistake. While category pages may not convert as well as product pages, they still generate sales. So it makes sense to invest some time into finding awesome category pages keywords.
And the best way to do that?
Look at the categories your competitors already use.
If you’re competing against Amazon, hover over the “Shop by Department” button at the top of the homepage. This will list out Amazon’s main categories.
These are all likely too broad for your site. So hover next to any that make sense so you can see that department’s subcategories:
Now we’re talking.
You can also hit up Amazon’s “Full Store Directory”.
This will show you all of Amazon’s departments (and subcategories) on a single page.
Now it’s time dig deep through the list and find category-focused keywords that would fit with what your site sells.
For example, let’s say your site sells healthy dog food.
You’d click on “Pet supplies”:
Then click on “dogs”.
Then choose “food” from the list:
And Amazon will show you the keywords they use to describe their dog food-related categories in the sidebar:
These are all keywords to consider using for your dog food ecommerce category pages.
PRO TIP: If your category is unique in some way, make sure to include that unique feature in your category page keyword. For example, you could turn the Amazon category keyword of “dry dog food” into “healthy dry dog food” or “organic dry dog food”. These keywords are less competitive and more targeted to what your target customer searches for in Google.
Amazon is a great resource for finding category page keywords. But it’s far from the only place you can find category page keywords that your customers search for every day.
That’s why I also recommend taking a look at the keywords that your industry competitors use to describe their categories.
So if your ecommerce site sells high-end headphones, you’d want to head toHeadphone.com.
And just like you did with Amazon, look at the terms they use to describe their category pages:
And add them to your list.
Wikipedia is one of my all-time favorite sites for finding keyword for product and category pages.
Just like with category pages on your ecommerce competitor sites, Wikipedia organizes topics by keywords and categories. In other words: they’ve done a lot of the hard work of organizing things for you!
Let’s look at an example to see how you can tap into Wikipedia for ecommerce keyword research.
First, enter a keyword that describes a product or category your site sells:
Then scan the Wikipedia entry for words and phrases that make sense for the products you have on your site:
In addition to scanning the article, take a look at the contents box. These can sometimes contain excellent keywords for category pages.
Once you’ve exhausted Wikipedia’s keyword suggestions, it’s time to move onto one of my favorite keyword research tools:SEMRush.
If you implemented the strategies I outlined so far you should have a decent list of keyword ideas.
But if you have the budget, I highly recommend trying SEMRush as it can often uncover keywords that you’d be hard-pressed to find any other way. That’s because SEMRush doesn’t generate keyword ideas. Instead, it shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.
Let’s take a look at how ecommerce site owners can use this tool to find ecommerce-focused keywords.
First, enter a competitor into SEMRush’s search field:
Then pick “organic research” from the sidebar:
This will show you all of the keywords that your competitor ranks for:
Can you say gold mine?
If you want to squeeze every keyword out of SEMRush, hit the “competitors” button in the sidebar:
SEMRush will show you sites that are similar to the one you just entered.
Repeat this process with the competitors you just found.
This should give you enough keywords to last you until 2025.
Google Keyword Planner
Last but not least we have the good ol’ Google Keyword Planner. Even though the GKP is essential for keyword research, it’s not very good at generating unique keyword ideas.
For example, if you enter a potential category page keyword like “organic dog food” into the GKP, it spits out super-close variations of that term:
That said, if you do some digging, you can find some gems that aren’t straight-up variations of the keyword you put into it.
PRO TIP: Before clicking on the “Keyword Ideas” tab, glance at the keywords listed under “Ad group ideas”. This tab can contain unique keywords that may not appear in the “keyword ideas” tab.
Because the Google Keyword Planner doesn’t generate a lot of unique keywords, I recommend using the GKP mainly to check search volume and commercial intent.
Which leads us to our next step...
How to Choose Keywords for Ecommerce Product and Category Pages
Now that you have a list of potential keywords in-hand, you’re probably wondering:
How do I know which keywords to choose?
The answer? Use this 4-step checklist to identify the best keywords for your ecommerce SEO campaign.
#1: Search Volume
This is (by far) the most important metric when evaluating a search term. If no one searches for that keyword, it doesn’t really matter how well it converts or how competitive Google’s first page happens to be.
That said, there’s no way for me to give you specific search volume recommendations. In some industries, 100 searches per month is A LOT. In others, 10,000 monthly searches is nothing.
As you spend time looking at the search volume for the keywords on your list you’ll start to get an understanding of what constitutes a “high volume” and “low volume” search term in your industry.
To find the search volume for a given keyword, just pop it into the GKP. You’ll find the number of searches in the “Avg. monthly searches” column.
PRO TIP: Some keywords have HUGE seasonal variations. Of course, you’re going to get more searches for “ugly Christmas sweaters” in December than in June. But there are other non-seasonal that have peaks and valleys throughout the year. For example, the keyword “organic dog food brands” gets 2.5x more searches in October than November.
Why? Who knows. But it’s an important thing to note as you select keywords for your ecommerce site as these fluctuations can directly impact your bottom line.
To quickly see how search volume changes throughout the year, hover over the little chart icon next to any keyword listed in the GKP. And it’ll show you a chart with month-to-month search volume info.
#2: Keyword-Product Fit
This is a big one. Let’s say you find a keyword that gets tons of searches. It must be a winner right?
That’s because the keyword may not fit well with what your site sells. If the keyword you pick is even a little bit of a stretch compared to what you have for sale on your ecommerce site, you’ll have a hard time converting anyone.
So before you move onto the next two stages in this process, double-check that the keyword you’re considering fits like a glove with what you sell.
For example let’s say your ecommerce site sells Japanese green tea bags. And you come across a keyword like “matcha green tea powder”.
Even though you don’t sell green tea powder (only tea bags), you might be able to create a category page around this and then convert those searchers to what your site actually sells.
This is totally possible. But it’s tricky to pull off. That’s why I recommend not stretching into other product categories until you’ve exhausted the keywords that your target customers search for.
Even though the keyword may get fewer searches, I recommend choosing a keyword that’s much more targeted to your business, like “green tea online”.
Now that you’ve got a list keywords that get a decent amount of searches -- and fit well with your ecommerce site’s products -- it’s time to see if these searchers are likely to whip out their credit card and buy what you sell.
#3: Commercial Intent
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword? Awesome.
Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword that only tire-kickers search for? Less awesome.
So before you decide on a keyword, take a second to see if people using that keyword are ballers that buy...or broke peeps that browse.
Fortunately, this is super-easy to do using the Google Keyword Planner.
First, check out the keyword’s “Competition” rating.
“Competition” reflects how many people bid on that keyword in Google Adwords. In general, if a lot of people are bidding on a keyword, there’s money to be made. That’s why, when it comes to SEO for ecommerce, I recommend sticking with “medium” and “high” competition keywords.
As you can see, the competition metric is a helpful way to see if people that search for that keyword will convert. But the most important metric of all is: “Suggested bid”.
Suggested bid is an indicator of what people tend to spend on a single click in Google Adwords. When sizing up commercial intent, the higher the suggested bid, the better.
Obviously, keywords with expensive suggested bids are also more competitive to rank for in Google search. But we’ll cover that in the next section.
For now, check out the Suggested bid for the keywords on your list.
And note how certain words and phrases that suggest “I’m ready to buy!” impact the estimated bid. As you can see above, the keyword “Japanese green tea” has a suggested bid of $1.19.
That’s because many people searching for that keyword probably aren’t ready to make a purchase. They might be looking up the definition. Or they might be curious about green tea’s health benefits.
On the other hand, a similar keyword like “buy green tea online” has a suggested bid that’s 3x higher.
On the flip side, this keyword gets significantly fewer searches. That’s why it’s important to take all four factors into account when evaluating keywords for ecommerce SEO.
Finally, it’s time to see how hard it’ll be to crack Google’s first page.
SEMRush’s “Keyword Difficulty”
This metric gives you an idea of how competitive a given keyword is to rank for.
You can find a keyword’s difficulty in SEMRush by entering a keyword into the search field…
...clicking on “Keyword Difficulty” in the sidebar…
And then looking at the “Difficulty %” column.
The higher the number, the more competitive the keyword is to rank for in organic search.
Keyword Targeting and Page Optimization
Here’s where you evaluate Google’s first page to see if the pages in the top 10 are optimized around that keyword.
If the pages are only semi-related to that keyword you can sometimes outrank them with a highly-targeted page (I’ll show you exactly how to optimize your page soon).
If you search for “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll notice that the most of the first page isn’t optimized around this specific search:
Most people searching in Google are probably wondering: “Where da handle at?”.
So if you optimize one of your ecommerce category pages around the keyword “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll have a good shot of leapfrogging the competition.
PRO TIP: Exact keyword targeting isn’t as important as it once was (thanks to Google Hummingbird). However, if you optimize your page around a specific keyword, it still gives you an edge over pages that aren’t as well optimized.
Now that you have a list of keywords that get searched for, have little competition, AND are likely to turn into buyers, it’s time to set up and optimize your ecommerce site’s architecture.
CHAPTER 2SITE ARCHITECTURE
Site architecture -- or how the pages on your site are organized and arranged -- is an important SEO consideration for ANY site.
But it’s doubly important for ecommerce sites. That’s becauseyour average ecommerce site tends to have significantly more pages than your average blog or local pizza shop website.
For example, BestBuy.com has over 6 million pages:
With that many pages, it’s critical that your site architecture makes it easy for users and search engines to find the most important pages on your site.
Following the Two Golden Rules of ecommerce site architecture:
I’ll have more details on these two rules in a minute.
But first, let’s look at an example of how the wrong site architecture can hurt your SEO efforts...
Example of How NOT to Set Up Your Ecommerce Site’s Architecture
Here’s an example of a site architecture that breaks the Two Golden rules:
What’s wrong with this picture?
First, it’s not simple. It’s hard to understand the logic of what goes where.
Second, it’s not scalable. Every time you want to add a new category, you need to create a new layer and reorganize your existing categories and subcategories.
But most important for SEO, it’s way too deep. For most ecommerce sites, the majority of the site’s link authority (PageRank) will reside on the homepage.
And when you have a “deep” site architecture, that authority is diluted by the time it reaches your product and category pages.
In this example it takes six clicks to reach the first product page. As I mentioned earlier, you want all products to be three clicks or less from your homepage.
PRO TIP: If your site already has a less-than-ideal setup, don’t start moving pages and around until you’ve consulted with an SEO pro. They can help you make sure that old pages redirect to new pages. When done right, you can implement huge changes to your ecommerce site’s architecture without losing significant amounts of your search engine traffic.
Example of an SEO and User-Friendly Ecommerce Site Architecture
Now that you’ve seen an example of how not to do things, it’s time to take a look at an example of a well-optimized ecommerce site architecture.
As you can see, authority is concentrated in this site’s product and category pages (which tend to be the most important pages for most ecommerce sites). This concentrated authority helps these pages rank in Google. It also boosts indexation.
And here’s an example of how this might look for an ecommerce site that sells shoes:
Not only is this great for SEO, but users will love it too. A simple, flat architecture makes it easy for browsers to find the products they want.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example of an ecommerce site with this optimized architecture: PetSmart.com. LIke in the above example, no product is more than three clicks away from the homepage.
For example, let’s say you want to get a new dog food bowl for Fluffy.
You’d head to the homepage and click “Dog”.
Then “bowls and feeders”.
And you’d have a list of products in that subcategory:
Just like that, you’ve found what you want (and Google can easily find and index all of PetSmart's product pages).
CHAPTER 3ON-PAGE SEO
Now that you have your site architecture all set up, it’s time to optimize your category and product pages. For most ecommerce sites these two types of pages generatethe lion’s share of traffic and sales.
This makes sense if you think about it: someone searching for “red Nike running shoes size 10” is much closer to making a purchase than someone searching for “buy shoes online”.
Without further ado, let’s see an example of a “perfectly optimizedecommerce page”.
TITLE TAG: Add Modifiers Like “Buy”, “Cheap” and “Deals” to Get More Long Tail Traffic
You obviously want to use your primary keyword in your page’s title tag.
But don’t stop there. Adding “modifiers” to your title tag can help you show up for more long tail searches.
For example, let’s say the target keyword for your category page is: “noise cancelling headphones”.
Instead of making your title tag simple” “Noise Cancelling Headphones at Headphones R’ Us”, you’d add a word or two that people are likely to use when searching for “noise cancelling headphones”
Here are some common terms people use when searching for products in Google:
- Free shipping
So your title tag could be:
TITLE TAG: Use Click Magnet Words like “X% Off” and “Lowest Price” to Boost CTR
Google likely uses organic click-through-rate as a ranking signal. And even if they didn’t, it would still make sense to optimize your title tag to maximize CTR. That’s because: Higher CTR=more clicks=more sales.
Fortunately, there are a handful of words and phrases that magnetically move a searcher’s cursor to your site. I call them “Click Magnet Words”.
Here are some of the best Click Magnet Words for ecommerce product and category pages:
- X% off (“25% Off”)
- Lowest Price
- Free Shipping
- Overnight Shipping
Here’s an example of these words in action:
And when you include these in your title tags (and description tags), you’ll find yourself with more clicks (which can mean more customers).
DESCRIPTION TAG: Include Phrases Like “Great Selection”, “FREE Shipping” and “All Our Items are On Sale” To Maximize Your Page’s CTR
Your site’s description tag used to be an important part of on-page SEO. While that’s not the case anymore, your description tag is still important for maximizing your CTR (which DOES have a direct effect on rankings).
The title tag Click Magnet Words that I listed above also work for description tags. The only difference is that, with a description tag, you have more room to include longer phrases.
Here are a few examples of phrases you can include to get more clicks:
- Get the best prices on ____ today.
- Save X% off on ____.
- All of our ____ are on sale right now.
- Get FREE shipping on all ____ today.
- Click here to see all of our exclusive deals on _____.
- Great selection of ____ at the guaranteed lowest price.
Here’s an example of how a a description tag optimized for clicks might look:
PRODUCT AND CATEGORY PAGE CONTENT: Include 1000+ Words of Content and Use Your Keyword 3-5x.
Optimizing product and category pages is one of the most challenging parts of ecommerce marketing. Yes, you want high-quality content. But unlike a blog post, you need to also keep conversions in mind.
Here are the three most important on-page SEO tactics that I recommend for ecommerce pages:
Industry studies have found that longer content tends to rank best in Google.
(And yes, those findings apply to ecommerce sites).
The fact is this: Google wants to understand what your page is all about. And the more content you provide, the better Google can do it’s job. Plus, when you publish long content, customers can better understand what they’re about to buy.
It might be impossible for you to write 1000 words for EVERY page on your site. If that’s the case, I recommend writing long, in-depth descriptions for your 50-100 top-priority product and category pages.
For example, this Amazon product page for a Kitchenart mixer boasts 2,109 words…
...and that’s not even counting the reviews at the bottom of the page (which add another 500+ words).
Once you’ve written your in-depth description, it’s time to make surethat you’ve included your target keyword 3-5 times.
This has nothing to do with keyword density or keyword stuffing. It’s simply making sure your keyword is mentioned on your page so Google can understand what your page is all about.
For example, if your target keyword was “6 quart crockpot” you’d want
to make sure you have that exact phrase in your product description
at least 3 times:
PRO TIP: Google puts slightly more weight on keywords that appear at the top of a webpage. So make sure that one of your keyword placements is at the top of your page (for example, in the first 100 words of your product or category description).
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)keywords are words and phrases that are closely tied to your main keyword.
For example, let’s say you were optimizing an ecommerce category page around the keyword “slow cookers”. Terms closely related to that keyword include:
- 6 quart, 4 quart etc.
- Pressure cooker
- Stainless steel
See how that works?
Here’s how to find (and use) LSI keywords specifically for ecommerce SEO.
STEP #1: The Amazon Eyeball Test
First, head over to Amazon and search for your target keyword.
Then take a look at terms that appear multiple times on the category page…
...or product page for that keyword.
PRO TIP: If you have a competitor that outranks you for your keyword, use this same process on their site.
STEP #2: Google Keyword Planner
Next, enter your target keyword into the Google Keyword Planner.
Then take a look at the keywords that Google suggests to you for Ad groups…
...and for keywords.
STEP #3: Sprinkle These In Your Content
Finally, sprinkle the LSI keywords that make sense into your product or category description.
URLS: Use Short, Keyword-Rich URLs
Our analysis of 1 million Google search results found a clear correlation between URL length and rankings.
Specifically, we found that short URLs tend to rank higher on Google’s first page than long URLs.
Because you run an ecommerce site, your URLs will be slightly longer than other sites due to the fact that you’ll likely include category and subcategories in your URL.
However, that doesn’t mean you want your URLs to stretch out to 50+ characters. That’s because long URLs confuse Google and dilute the impact of the keywords in your URL.
Here’s an example of an unnecessarily long ecommerce product page URL:
(Not only is this URL a mile long, but it contains SEO (and user) unfriendly terms like, “productID.300190600”).
Speaking of using SEO-friendly terms in your URL, you also want to make your URLs keyword-rich.
For category pages, include a 1-2 word description of that category:
Follow the same process for subcategories. Only this time, the subcategory will come after the category in the URL:
Then, for product pages, include just your target keyword for that product, separated by dashes (“-”).
PRO TIP: Some ecommerce sites remove categories and subcategories from their URL. For example, instead of , your URL would simply be: . This makes your URLs shorter and more keyword dense. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but if that’s how you have things set up, it certainly won’t hurt your product page rankings.
Internal Links: Liberally Link to High-Priority Pages
One of the nice things about ecommerce SEO is that internal linking is done almost automatically. That’s because your site’s navigation creates a lot of natural internal links:
That said, strategic internal linking is an ecommerce SEO best practice. So you should spend some time on it.
Specifically, you want to internally link FROM authoritative pages TO high-priority product and category pages.
For example, let’s say you have a blog post that’s generated a lot of backlinks. And you also have a product page that ranks #5 in Google for a high-converting term (like “moleskin notebooks”).
You’d want to add a keyword-rich anchor text link from that post to your product page.
Rinse and repeat for all of your top-priority pages.
Implement Product Review Schema to Get Rich Snippets Displayed in Google
If you want an easy way to stand out on Google’s first page, look no further than adding rich snippets to your search result.
And for ecommerce sites, you have the opportunity to tap into one of the most eye-catching rich snippets out there: reviews.
Here’s an example:
How do you get these awesome snippets? By implementingSchema markup on your ecommerce product pages. Schema markup is simply a special code that you add to certain pages on your site. This code gives search engines (like Google and Bing) a deeper understanding of your page’s content.
Here are the types of markup specific to reviews.
While there’s no guarantee that Google will display rich snippets just because you ask them to, adding proper Schema markup boosts your odds.
You can manually set up Schema markup, but it’s not easy. That’s why I recommend that you use Google's excellent Structured Data Markup Helper.
Here’s exactly how to use this helpful tool so you can quickly implement review Schema markup.
First, head over to the tool and choose “products” from the list of options.
Next, find a product page on your site that has reviews and ratings on it. This can be a single reviewer, or as is the case with most ecommerce sites, user reviews.
Paste the URL of that product page in the URL field and click “Start Tagging”.
Then highlight the section of the page you want to tag. In this case we’re going to focus on product reviews and ratings.
If your product was reviewed by a single person, choose “Review”. Then highlight the name of the person that reviewed the product, the date of the review etc.
If your site’s customers reviewed the product, highlight the number or star rating and pick “Aggregate Rating”.
Make sure to provide as much info as you can. For example, don’t forget to highlight the number of reviews and choose the “count” tag.
When you’re done, choose “Create HTML”.
You can either copy and paste this new HTML into your page or simply add the new Schema markup to your existing HTML.
PRO TIP: Use Google Search Console to double-check that your Schema is implemented directly.
Head over to “Search Appearance”.
Then choose “Structured Data”.
Then you’ll see the Schema markup Google has found on your site...and if you have any errors.
CHAPTER 4TECHNICAL SEO
Technical SEO is one of those things that’s important for ALL sites... but doubly so for ecommerce sites. That’s because ecommerce sites tend to have lots and lots of pages to manage. Even a “small” ecommerce site can have 5,000+ pages. And all of those pages increase the odds of technical SEO issues.
Not only that, but most ecommerce product pages don’t have a lot of backlinks pointing to them. That means that technical SEO is often the “tiebreaker” on Google’s first page. For example, if you and your competitor are neck-and-neck, a technical SEO issue can be the difference between the 5th spot and a coveted #1 ranking.
That’s why regular technical SEO site audits are considered an ecommerce SEO best practice.
How to Run a Technical SEO Audit on an Ecommerce Website
In this example we’re going to use Raven Tools. In my opinion it has the most thorough and easy-to-understand site auditing system out there.
In addition to Raven Tools, here are other SEO tools you can use for ecommerce site audits:
To use Raven for your ecommerce SEO site audit, choose “Site Auditor” from the left-hand sidebar:
Then Raven will analyze your site for potential errors.
Then scan the report for issues that crop up.
Like problems with your title and/or description tags:
Duplicate and thin content:
And broken links:
Now that you’ve seen how to identify common SEO errors on ecommerce sites, it’s time for me to show you how to solve them.
HOW TO FIX COMMON TECHNICAL SEO ISSUES
ON ECOMMERCE SITES
Having thousands of pages on your site can be a technical SEO nightmare. It makes writing unique content for each page a monumental task. Also, the more pages you have, the more likely you’ll struggle with duplicate content issues.
Some ecommerce sites simply have lots and lots of products for sale. Because each of these products require their own page, the site accumulates lots of pages. Also, sometimes each slight variation in the same product (for example 15 different shoe sizes) has its own unique URL, which can bloat your ecommerce site’s total page count..
First, identify pages that can be deleted or noindexed without affecting your bottom line.
In my experience, 80% of an ecommerce site’s sales come from 20% of it’s products (the old 80/20 principle at work). And 60%+ of their products haven’t generated ANY sales over the last year.
Rather than work to improve these pages, you’re often better off simply deleting them, noindexing them, or combining them together into a “super page”.
You can use your ecommerce CMS (like Shopify) to see which products haven’t generated any revenue for you. If they haven’t, put them into a “maybe delete” list.
If a page isn’t bringing visitors to your site or putting cash in your pocket, you should ask yourself: “what’s the point of this page?”. All it’s doing is making your technical SEO efforts more difficult.
In some cases these “deadweight” pages will make up 5-10% of your site. For others, it can be as many as 50%.
Once you’ve removed excess pages that might be causing problems, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are left.
Duplicate content is one of the most common ecommerce SEO issues on the planet. And it’s one that can sink your site in Google’s search results (thanks toGoogle Panda).
Fortunately, with a commitment to unique content on every page of your ecommerce site (and using advanced SEO techniques like canonical tags), you can make duplicate content issues a thing of the past.
There are a lot of reasons that duplicate content crop up on ecommerce sites.
Here are the three most common reasons.
First, the site creates unique URLs for every version of the product or category.
For example, if you have a category menu like this…
...it may create a unique URL for every selection the person makes.
If those URLs gets indexed by Google, it’s going to create A LOT of duplicate content.
This can also happen if slight variations of the same product (for example, a unique URL for every shoe size or color) create unique product page URLs.
Second, we have boilerplate content. This is where you have a snippet of text that appears on multiple pages.
Here’s an example:
Of course, it’s perfectly fine to have a short line or two on every page (for example, “At Brian’s Organic Supplements, we use the best ingredients at the best price.”).
But if your boilerplate content gets to be 100+ words -- and appears on multiple pages -- it can be seen as duplicate content in the eyes of Google.
Finally, we have copied descriptions. This happens anytime you have the same (or very similar) content on multiple product or category pages.
For example, here’s an example of duplicate content on two different ecommerce product pages...
Product Page #2:
As you can see, the content on these two pages are almost identical. Not good.
Your first option is to noindex pages that don't bring in search engine traffic but are causing duplicate content issues.
For example, if your category filters generate unique URLs, you can noindex those URLs. Problem solved.
This is a dead-simple way to nip a lot of duplicate content issues in the bud.
Once you’ve noindexed all of the URLs that make sense for your site, it’s time to tap into the canonical tag (“rel=canonical”).
A canonical tag simply tells search engines that certain pages are exact copies or slight variations of the same page. When a search engine sees a canonical tag on a page, they know that they shouldn’t treat it as a unique page.
(Not only does canonicalization solve duplicate content issues, but it helps makes your backlinks more valuable. That’s because the links that point to several different URLs reroute to a single URL, making those links more powerful).
PRO TIP: Implementing canonical tags can be tricky. That’s why I recommend that you hire an SEO pro with technical SEO expertise to help. But if you prefer to set up canonicals yourself, this guide by Google will help.
Finally, it’s time to write 100% unique content for all of the pages that haven’t been noindexed or set up with canonical URLs.
Yes, this is hard work (especially for an ecommerce site with thousands of pages). But it’s an absolute must if you want to compete against the ecommerce giants (like Amazon) that tend to dominate Google’s first page.
To make the process easier, I recommend creating templates for product and category page descriptions (I’ll have an example template for you in the next section).
Thin content is another common technical SEO issue that crops up on ecommerce sites. Even after you’ve solved your duplicate content issues, you may have pages on your site that have very thin content.
And make no mistake: thin content can derail entire ecommerce SEO campaigns. In fact, Ebay lost upwards of 33% of its organic traffic due to a thin content-related Panda penalty.
But let’s not focus on the negative. Our data from analyzing 1 million Google search results found that longer content tended to rank above thin content.
So I recommend that you see publishing in-depth, unique content as a competitive advantage.
One of the main reasons that ecommerce sites suffer from thin content is that it’s challenging to write lots of unique content about similar products. After all, once you’ve written a description about one running shoe what can you write about 25 others?
While this is a legit concern, it shouldn’t stop you from writing at least 500 words (and preferably 1000+ words) for all of your important category and product pages.
First, you want to identify pages on your site that have thin content.
PRO TIP: Everyone has a different definition of “thin content”. In my mind, thin content refers to short snippets of content that doesn’t bring any unique value to the table.
You can go through each page on your site one-by-one or use a tool like Raven Tools to find pages that are a bit on the thin side (Raven considers pages with fewer than 250 words as having a “low word count”):
Once you’ve identified thin content pages it’s time to bulk them up with high-quality, unique content. Templates make this process go significantly faster.
Here’s an example template for a product page description:
PRO TIP: The more truly unique your content is, the better. That means actually using the products you sell. Write your impressions. Take your own product images. This will make your product descriptions stand out to users and search engines.
Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm.
But site speed isn’t just important for ecommerce SEO: it also directly impacts your bottom line. Research by Radware found that slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8%.
Here are the three most common reasons that ecommerce site pages load slowly:
- Bloated Ecommerce Platforms: Certain ecommerce platforms are inherently slow due to bloated code. And unlike a blogging CMS likeWordPress, you can’t just install a plugin and watch your speed improve.
- Large Image File Sizes: High-res product images are awesome for your customers, but can make your page load like molasses.
- Slow Hosting and Servers: When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for. A slow hosting plan can put the brakes on your site’s max speed.
Fortunately, all three of these site speed issues can be solved somewhat easily.
- Upgrade Your Hosting: I can’t recommend specific hosting providers because your decision depends on your preferences and needs (for example, the level of support, pricing, security, etc.). But what I can say is that you should spend at least $50/month on your host. If you spend less, your loading speed is likely to suffer.
- Invest In a CDN: A CDN is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to significantly crank up your site’s loading speed. Bonus: a CDN also makes your site more secure from attacks and hacks.
- Optimize Image File Size with Compression: This is a biggie for ecommerce product pages. Make sure to export images so they’re optimized for the web.
CHAPTER 5CONTENT MARKETING FOR
Like any site, ecommerce sites can significantly boost their traffic and sales by tapping into content marketing.
For example, the popular cookware ecommerce site Williams-Sonoma.com has an outstanding blog that features recipes, cooking tips, interviews with chefs, and more.
With a regular output of top-notch content, it’s no wonder that their blog’s homepage has a Page Authority of 66.
How can you do the same thing for your ecommerce site?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating awesome content for your ecommerce site’s blog.
STEP #1: Find Where Your Target Customers Hang Out Online
Hanging out with your customers gives you incredible insight into the thoughts, dreams, fears and desires of your target audience. Because this isn’t always possible in the real world, I recommend finding out where they tend to spend time online.
For example, if your target audience are made up of coffee snobs, you’d want to check out places like Reddit’s coffee community…
...and even old school forums about coffee.
STEP #2: Learn What Words and Phrases They Use On The Web
Now that you’ve found your target audience, it’s time to stalk them. Don’t worry, this isn’t as creepy as it sounds 🙂
You want to keep an eye out for words and phrases that they use to describe their problems and issues:
These phrases represent keywords that your audience use on Google when they’re NOT shopping for products. These make great keywords for you to create blog content around.
For more on finding and choosing the right keywords, check out this guide.
STEP #3: Create An Outstanding Piece of Content Around That Keyword
Next, it’s time to create a piece of content that’s the bar-none absolute best on the planet.
The easiest way to do that?
The Skyscraper Technique.
This video will walk you through the entire step-by-step process:
And when you’ve finished step #3, start back at the top and go through the process again. When you consistency publish content using this formula, you can find yourself with a significant amount of traffic, leads, backlinks and customers.
CHAPTER 6LINK BUILDING FOR
When you publish amazing content on your ecommerce site’s blog you have the world’s link building strategies at your disposal.
Yes, building links to your content can give your product and category pages a boost in Google’s search results. But those links aren’t nearly as powerful as links that point directly to your product and category pages.
But you might be wondering:
“Why would anyone link to a product page?”.
That’s the same question that Backlinko reader Chris Laursen wondered. He had a ecommerce client that was struggling with link building. Then Chris decided to try The Moving Man Method.
After implementing this strategy, the number of links pointing to his client’s website rose dramatically:
Sure, it was great that Chris built so many backlinks…
But the TYPES of links that he was able to develop — contextual links from highly-relevant sites in the consumer electronics industry — is the real story here.
He got links from…
A DA68 consumer electronics product site:
A popular Danish Mac news site:
And an editorial link from an online electronics magazine:
Even better, several of these links point directly to product and category pages, like this one from the trusted and authoritative (DA66) MacNews.com:
Here’s the exact step-by-step process that Chris used.
STEP #1: Find Outdated, Moved or Expired Resources
This is important:
Unless you have something that adds value to another person’s site, you might as well give up on link building right now.
Because the only way you’re going to convince someone to link to you is by making their site better.
That’s where step #1 comes in…Step #1 is finding resources that are out-of-date, expired or not working.
Here are a few examples from the real world to show you what I mean…
A Real Life Example
Because Chris was working with an ecommerce site, he zeroed in on companies that had recently gone out of business.
But no matter what you sell, there are businesses in your industry that have gone under…and have THOUSANDS of links pointing to their old site.
In many cases, the domain name actually expires. When that happens the entire site gets replaced with parked pages, like this:
Because pages on out of business websites are still technically working (they’re not 404s), broken link checkers can’t find them.
Although parked domains are harder to find than broken links, the advantage of using them is this:
They hook you up with link building opportunities that your competition doesn’t know about.
For example, look no further than Blockbuster.com (175,000+ links).
You probably heard that movie rental giant Blockbuster closed its doors a few years back.
Because Blockbuster Video is a household name, their site — Blockbuster.com — generated A LOT of quality backlinks over the years.
If you’re in the entertainment industry, Blockbuster.com is an absolute gold mine of link building opportunities.
But how do you find these outdated resources?
That’s what I’m going to cover next…
Domain auction sites have done a lot of the hard work of finding outdated resources for you.
They’ve found domains that had something going for them (either traffic, backlinks or both)…and they organize them in one place to make them easy to sift through.
Strategy #2: News About Business Closings, Rebrands and Mergers
Google News is a treasure trove of information about companies that close, rebrand or change domain names.
Just head over to Google News and use one of these search strings:
- “Chapter 7” (Chapter 7 means the company dissolved. Chapter 11 means the company is restructuring)
- “Business closes”
- “Has closed”
- “Out of business”
- “Rebrands as”
Strategy #3: Find Parked Pages
As I mentioned earlier, parked pages are PERFECT for The Moving Man Method.
Here’s how to find them:
“This page is parked FREE, courtesy of GoDaddy.com” +”domain is for sale”
This brings up parked GoDaddy sites that are for sale.
It may take a bit of digging…
…but if you look at enough sites in the results you’ll find at least one link that you can use for The Moving Man Method.
Back to Chris
When Chris dug for outdated resources, he noticed a parked domain in the same niche as his client (iphone cases) -- edge-design.com.
Edge Design used to sell customized iPhone cases…before they closed for unknown reasons.
And it’s a product that his ecommerce client sells.
Chris thought to himself:
“If we’re linking to Edge Design’s website, I bet other sites are too.”
And he was right.
Which brings us to step #2…
STEP #2: Grab a List of Pages Pointing to the Outdated Resource Once you’ve identified a popular-but-outdated resource, it’s time to find sites that link to it.
First, grab the URL of the dead resource.
If it’s an individual page on a site (for example, a tool that’s not working anymore or a service that a company no longer offers), enter the URL of that specific page.
If the entire site is down, you can use the homepage URL:
If you find a page with a lot of referring domains, head over toArchive.org and see what used to be on that page.
Then recreate a similar resource on your site. Because you have a solid replacement for the outdated page, the email outreach you do in step #3 will be crazy effective.
Next, export the list of external links:
And you have yourself a list of pages linking to the outdated resource that you found:
And this leads us to the last step.
STEP #3: Send Emails, Get Links
You’re almost done.
Now it’s time to let people know about their outdated link.
The best way to do that? Email outreach.
Here’s a word-for-word script you can use (this is an actual outreach email that Chris sent out):
As you can see, Chris didn’t just tap the person on the shoulder and let them know about the outdated link…
…he also gave them a replacement link.
It just so happens that the replacement is a page on his site.
When you send out brief outreach emails (Chris’s was only 21-words) — and improve other people’s sites — email outreach tends to convert REALLY well:
That’s all there is to it.
Now It’s Time to Hear From You
I hope you got a ton of value from Ecommerce SEO: The Definitive guide. Now it’s up to you to implement the strategies from this guide.
But first, I want to see what you have to say:
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