Whether you’ve recently made the big step to opening an online presence for your shop, or you’ve been selling products and services online for a while, it’s always the right time to look into your SEO strategy. With ever-changing algorithms and tactics to keep up with, the world of SEO – Search Engine Optimization – can feel a bit overwhelming. Have no fear! We’ve put together a handy list for the SEO best practices for eCommerce in 2020, to help you get – and stay – ahead of your competition.
What is SEO?
Before we go into how to approach SEO, let’s touch briefly on what SEO even is.
SEO is essentially a practice of adopting strategies for your website to ensure you show up in search results when potential customers are searching for products or services like the ones you offer. It’s important to remember that SEO isn’t for simply driving traffic to your site, but to attract more quality traffic. The objective is not to only lure visitors, but to bring in the visitors who will become customers.
There are many technical aspects of how search engines come to display results, and we won’t go into those here. Just suffice it to say, SEO strategies are about drawing organic – that is, unpaid – traffic to your site based on user searches, by ensuring the content on your site is accurate and descriptive enough to be picked up by the search engines themselves and to increase your ranking (where you display in the list of results).
This happens in a variety of ways, so let’s cover some of them now:
Before analyzing the content on your site, first consider how the site itself is laid out. This is an important factor not only when it comes to search engines, but also for the odds of a visitor becoming a customer once they land on your page. After all, if you have what they want but your site is difficult to navigate, they may not have the patience to see all of the good things you have on offer.
Start by ensuring your site is cleanly laid out, and navigable. Clearly-labeled menus, clean and easy-to-read text, and relevant photos can help with the user experience. Ensure you aren’t using huge blocks of overly-descriptive text – especially on the homepage and product pages – and that text has clear headers and is broken up by images. If you don’t have an expert on hand to address UX (user experience), enlist some friends or colleagues to have a look at your site and provide feedback on anything that feels unclear or complex.
For the sake of SEO, it’s best to also make sure your URLs are clear and clean. Something like www.yoursite.com/index.php?page=product will be less effective than www.yoursite.com/product/, for example.
Canonicalization is also an important means of ensuring search engines don’t view your content as duplicated, should you have similar information on more than one page. For example, adding a canonical tag to a product page will tell the search engine that the specific page in question is the master copy, and to display that page/URL in search results. It draws attention to that page, ensuring potential customers are directed to the right place, and that your page isn’t ranked lower due to duplicate or similar content.
Be sure to add canonical tags to your homepage and your primary product pages. See Google’s explanation here on what they are and why they are important. Don’t worry, if you are using any WordPress SEO plugin, or have your site built on One of the popular eCommerce platforms, this is most likely taken care of. To make sure, check with tech support.
Following on from checking your layout on the desktop, keep in mind that eCommerce is increasingly popular from mobile devices – a trend that won’t be slowing down. As more and more customers choose to do their shopping from anywhere, at any time, it’s crucial to ensure they have a positive experience on their small screens.
Check the layout on mobile devices, and that load times (the amount of time it takes for content on your site to display) are fast. Be sure, also, that the checkout process is smooth from mobile screens, and that access to carts and checkouts is easy to access, an aspect that can be helped by a eCommerce payment processor and checkout plugins. It should also be easy to input payment information through checkout forms viewed on small screens with keyboards often taking up half of the display real estate.
This can be one of the more tedious elements of SEO strategy, though it is also one of the most crucial. If you have a nice, navigable site and yet your keyword strategy is non-existent, you’ll be limited on the number of people who get to see the fruits of your earlier labor!
Keywords are, effectively, words or phrases that are associated with the searches made by users on search engines. These can be as simple as one or two words (which are typically less specific), or what are called long-tail phrases: short descriptive phrases relevant to your product.
There are many tools out there for keyword research, and we recommend you start with Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest. Keywords could get an entire article to themselves, but to keep it brief here are a couple of things to look for:
- Search volume – you want keywords that are relevant to your product, and have a decent volume of people looking for that word or phrase.
- High intent – if you’re selling dog food, it’s easy to put that phrase on your site and find a high volume of people searching for it. But, it’s not specific enough. If you’re looking to sell dog food online to people in Ghana, try playing around with phrases that are relevant to both dog food and your specific market.
- They make sense – you’ll find in the tools that simply smashing a bunch of words together doesn’t return a lot of volume or intent. It’s important to cover your topic, but also take into account what people would actually search for and grammatical context.
Once you’ve determined your keywords, pepper them throughout your site. Ensure you’re not “keyword loading” – meaning, the places where you have put your keywords make sense in the text, aren’t redundant, and make sense to the reader.
Optimizing content means many things. Here are a few key things to remember in content optimization:
- Write fresh content – don’t copy and paste from competitor or manufacturer sites, or duplicate content from one page to another. Content on your site should be fresh, easy to read, and accurate.
- Describe images – in the admin panel of your website, you’ll find a place to write alt text for images. This helps not only the visually-impaired, but also adds more context for search engines to review when determining your site ranking. Describe images concisely, but using good and relevant terms.
- Use bullet points and small paragraphs – as mentioned above, you want your site to be easy to digest by the reader. Attention spans are getting shorter these days, so keep it brief and descriptive, break the text with headers and images, and put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your site for the first time.
- Internal linking – where possible (and relevant) link to internal pages. That means, add links to other pages on your site on the home page, product pages, and blog to create a navigable network outside of the header/footer/menus.
- Blog – okay, so this isn’t specifically about optimizing content, though you’ll want to make sure this content is optimized! Keeping a blog with relevant information is a great way to use keywords, keep content fresh, draw viewers (potential customers) to your site, and show yourself as an industry expert.
SEO is a big topic, but don’t let it overwhelm you. By following the above steps you’ll be in a good position for drawing organic attention to your site and start building your customer base. To support you in your behind-the-scenes operations to keep those customers happy, DPO brings a secure payment processing platform and tools for reporting and business processes so you can focus on the bigger picture.