Search engine optimization (SEO) can make or break any website, but it’s especially critical for eCommerce sites whose success depends on attracting, delighting, converting, and retaining the most consumers. Optimizing eCommerce websites is more complicated than doing SEO for a typical site that doesn’t have hundreds or even thousands of product listings, so it’s even more important to follow a set of best practices to ensure your site is performing at an optimum level.
Statistics Tell the Tale
There’s little room for error when it comes to SEO for your product pages, especially when you consider that getting close to the top of Google search results simply isn’t good enough. Ideally, you should be within the top three positions to significantly increase traffic. Research has shown that, on average, websites ranking on page one of a Google keyword search achieve an average click-through rate (CTR) of 71.3 percent. Page two and three combined only get a CTR of 5.59 percent.
But even more eye-opening is the disparity between the top positions on page one. The number one ranked search result receives an average of 31.24 clicks, while number two drops by over half to 14.04 clicks. Sliding to the number five position results in a CTR of just 5.50 percent. We could delve even deeper, but these statistics alone underscore the importance of spending the time and resources needed for your eCommerce website to win the SEO battle.
Analyze, Research, and Optimize
Analyzing data, researching keywords and competitors, and implementing the right changes to your site based on your findings are the secret to SEO success. Failing to do so virtually guarantees that you won’t rise to that coveted first position on page one of Google for your company’s most prized keywords. While you must do these things on an ongoing basis to sustain success, you need to focus on three key areas before you can begin doing the SEO work to ascend the Google rankings summit.
- SEO audit: Start with a comprehensive audit of your website to identify SEO problems. While you should analyze your entire site, pay particular attention to your product pages. They are, by far, where the most mistakes are found and are the most vital to your website’s performance. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your links, images, CSS, script, and apps so you can discover the errors, duplicate content, redirects, missing tags, and many other issues that impact your site’s SEO.
- Keyword research: Keyword research is one of the most important pieces of the SEO puzzle. While targeting the wrong keywords will lead to low-quality traffic and weak sales, strategically using the right keywords on your product pages can result in attracting highly qualified consumers and achieving huge sales numbers. Perform keyword research with an eye on their relevancy, search volume, and ranking difficulty. You want to choose long-tail keywords (more on these later) that are extremely relevant to your products, while having a high exact-match search volume and a low difficulty ranking compared to the competition.
- Competitor research: Review competitors’ sites to compile a list of keywords they seem to be using in their SEO strategy, and then research those keywords to see which ones you want to (and can) compete against. See who’s providing them with quality inbound links, and consider reaching out to those sites yourself. Also, review the architecture of competing eCommerce sites—specifically focusing on their product pages—to get ideas on the best ways to organize your site’s navigation.
13 SEO Strategies to Improve Your Product Pages
Once you have a clear understanding of your eCommerce website’s challenges, keywords, and competitors, you’re ready to implement the following SEO strategies to help your product pages climb to the top of Google.
- Create unique product descriptions. One of the biggest mistakes eCommerce websites make is using manufacturers’ product descriptions. Search engines view this as duplicate content. In addition to your website being penalized, Google may not even index it in the first place. Product descriptions are your opportunity to write one-of-a-kind, compelling sales copy to entice visitors to buy your products.
- Use long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are very targeted search phrases that contain three or more words. Consumers who search using a long-tail keyword typically know exactly what they’re looking to purchase, so a product page optimized for this has a higher likelihood of attracting and converting a customer who’s ready to buy.
- Incorporate customer reviews: Product pages with customer reviews convert 58 percent more visitors and increase revenue per visit by 62 percent. That’s because reviews establish credibility and provide social proof to prospective buyers. From an SEO perspective, product pages that feature customer reviews rank higher because Google rewards pages that are frequently updated with fresh, unique content.
- Make navigation intuitive: Your eCommerce site’s architecture has a major impact on achieving higher rankings and providing the best possible user experience. Organize your product pages into categories that are easy to understand, search, and follow.
- Integrate social media on product pages: Google rankings are significantly influenced by the amount and quality of social media signals because they indicate a page’s authority and relevance. Add social sharing buttons for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram to your product pages so interested prospects and happy customers can share your product information with their followers.
- Optimize page load speed: Forty percent of visitors to your product pages will leave if they don’t load within three seconds, and 79 percent of your customers won’t come back if they’re unhappy with your site’s load time. This is even more important for success on the mobile version of your site, as mobile now accounts for a large portion of eCommerce and is growing. You can optimize your product page load times and even see a boost in Google rankings by compressing product images, implementing lazy loading, and fixing these top five coding issues.
- Write compelling metadata: Every product page needs unique, catchy meta titles and meta descriptions that include your keywords. It is one of the most important on-page optimization aspects in SEO. Remember that your metadata is often the first thing a potential customer sees after a Google search, so make the most of this first interaction by drawing them in with enticing copy that includes a persuasive call-to-action.
- Add rich snippets: Rich snippets are coded pieces of data that can be included in a meta description to display product information such as price, availability, reviews, and images. Implementing rich snippets typically results in better CTRs and higher rankings. Google rewards product pages that use rich snippets because the search engine’s goal is to return the most relevant search result to improve the user experience.
- Include product images and videos: The quality of your images and videos influences how visitors feel about your products, as well as whether they will share them with their followers on social media sites. Add as many compelling images and videos as possible while keeping page load times in mind, and remember to tag them with relevant metadata so they will show up in image-based searches as well.
- Use search-friendly URLs: Every URL needs to be unique and optimized for the page’s primary keyword. Relevantly titled URLs tell Google what the page is about while giving visitors helpful information. Use the following URL structure for category and product pages:
- Category page: website.com/category/
- Sub-category page: website.com/category/sub-category/
- Product page: website.com/category-sub-category/product-name/
- Optimize internal search functionality: Don’t overlook or underestimate the importance of internal search to your eCommerce sales. Build an internal search function that scans your site and returns the most relevant results. This will include optimizing product categories and titles, incorporating product misspellings, and enabling predictive searches.
- Keep pages with out-of-stock products live. You don’t want to lose the SEO power these pages have built-up over time, so leave them up just the way they are if the products will be in stock later. In the meantime, change the content of the page to promote a similar product (such as a newer model or the same product in a different color), inform visitors when it will be back in stock, and/or offer to backorder the product.
- Optimize your eCommerce site for mobile: Mobile shopping has reached its tipping point, making it more important than ever to make your eCommerce site mobile-friendly. The stats are in: 30 percent of all U.S. eCommerce sales now occur on a mobile device, 30 percent of mobile consumers abandon transactions on websites that aren’t optimized for mobile, and 57 percent of shoppers won’t recommend businesses with poorly designed mobile sites. What’s more, Google has stated that not having a mobile optimized website is like closing your store one day every week. In fact, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile are now losing placement due to a recent mobile-friendly update. Use responsive design to create a smooth mobile experience that promotes conversions and sales.
A Worthwhile Investment
Improving the performance of your eCommerce website is an ongoing process that requires you to stay current with SEO best practices. Frequently test your site for errors, continue to analyze keywords and competitors, closely monitor Google’s algorithm updates, and make the necessary changes to optimize your site and rise in the rankings. Lastly, spend the time and resources to make every product page truly unique, and focus on creating compelling content that provides users with an amazing shopping experience. Both your users and the search engines will reward you for it.
Looking for tips to optimize your Magento store? Check out this post from Demac Media, a Magento Gold Solution Partner: 9 Magento SEO Tips For Your eCommerce Site, and visit Paul Rogers’ page to read the original research.