What is SEO? The Basics of Search Engine Optimisation for Ecommerce

SEO tips for ecommerce

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It’s the process of making changes to your site in order to make it more ‘readable’ to search engines, or more specifically, to the search engine ‘bots’ that crawl your site for information.

As an ecommerce store owner, you want to make it as easy as possible for search engines to see that you have a high quality result to show readers, as this ups your chances of getting listed (‘ranked’) higher up. The higher your site is ranked, the more chance it has of getting free traffic to it — so it’s definitely worth doing!

Why is SEO important?

If you’re wondering why SEO is actually important, just remember this; 68% of all online experiences start with a search engine, and 92.96% of all traffic comes from Google Search, Google Images, and Google Maps.

So basically, if you neglect your SEO, you’re missing out on a huge number of potential customers!

Below, we’ll give you a brief overview of the three different components of SEO, as well as our top SEO tips for ecommerce sites: 

The three pillars of SEO

  • On-Page SEO
  • Off-Page
  • Technical SEO

The different optimization methods fall into three different categories; on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is mainly about the written content on your pages, and making sure this spells out to search engines exactly what you’re selling. For an ecommerce store, think category descriptions, product descriptions, and blog posts. 

Off-page SEO

Let’s say you write a book. You’re collecting quotes for your book cover, and receive two quotable rave reviews; one’s from a well-regarded author working in the same space as you, and one’s from your mum. Which are you putting on your book cover? 

Everyone is choosing the author, right? Why? Because even if the review from your mum is more glowing, and more enthusiastic, the review from the author is more trustworthy. And it will raise your profile as an author by extension. 

This is kind of how off-page SEO works. You want sites with authority in your space to link back to your site, because this indicates to Google that your site is trustworthy. If well-established sites consider it a good source of information, it must be doing something right.

The same effect can be achieved through volume of recommendations. One stranger mentioning your brand on social media won’t have much of an impact. But hundreds, or thousands? That’s when the benefits really start to show. 

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO refers to all the very behind-the-scenes stuff that affects how people experience your website, and how easy it is to crawl. There are a lot of components that contribute to your site’s technical SEO performance. Some are pretty technical, and you might need to seek help from a developer. But three important ones you can tackle on your own are site speed, URL structure and redirects

SEO Tips for Small Ecommerce Businesses

SEO is a big topic with a lot of components. So as an ecommerce store owner, where should you focus your time? Here we’ve picked out the key focus areas of each SEO pillar that will bring the most reward:

1. Rework your category and product descriptions 

SEO-friendly category and product descriptions are essential for showing Google exactly what your product is, and therefore making sure it shows up when people are searching for it. You can help by weaving in relevant keywords. 

Hold up! What’s a keyword? A keyword is a set word or phrase that people are searching for. For example, if you sell scented candles, a relevant keyword is probably ‘scented candles’. You can use a tool like Google Trends to dig out the most popular phrasing. 

You’ll notice this is something we’ve done ourselves on the CREOATE website. Like in this category page, where one of the target keywords is ‘wholesale food storage containers’. For anyone typing this search term into Google, our food storage category is highly relevant — we just need to make sure Google knows it! 

Category-description-example-SEO

That said, don’t get too hung up on this — the most important thing is that your content reads well, is persuasive and on-brand. A string of keywords strung together poorly isn’t going to send good signals to your users, or to Google. 

2. Set up a blog 

Setting up a blog is another way to show your authority in your space, and to show your website is up to date and being worked on regularly (although this relies, of course on you then working on it regularly… ). 

Let’s go back to the scented candles example. On this blog you might update your customers on new releases, behind the scenes processes and competitions. But you might also spot that ‘how to make a candle from old wax’ has a monthly search volume of 90 in the UK, and think this is something you can write confidently on. If your post does well, this could bring in additional ‘bonus’ traffic to your site. 

Hold up! What’s search volume? Search volume is the number of people searching for a certain keyword or phrase, and it’s usually given as a number per month (by country). You can use a tool like Semrush to discover new opportunities for your site. 

All (positive) brand mentions and tags combine to indicate to Google how popular your site is, how in demand your brand is, and therefore how much it should be prioritising your content over other content. 

So as well as upping your social media game (something you should probably be focusing on anyway…), make sure the link between your social accounts and your website is really clear. So you should have a link to your site from your social media bios, and links to your social media accounts from the footer of your website as a minimum. This gives the best chance for all your hard work on social media to translate into results for your website.

4. Accept customer reviews

Customer reviews are another win-win situation. That’s because they’re a proven method for improving your conversion rate, but also — you guessed it — a great signal to Google. They flag popularity, and make the product page appear really current and topical. 

Most ecommerce platforms, including WordPress, have a number of established apps and plugins to enable the review functionality, so you should find this an easy way to get started.

Read More:- Small Business Instagram Tips

5. Improve site speed 

If your site takes longer than two seconds to load, it could be negatively affecting your chances of ranking well. You can use the Google Page Insights tool to check this, and to get an indication of which elements are causing the issue. 

For ecommerce websites, the problem is usually the large combined size of images and videos, but there are some easy fixes you can make here. 

High-resolution images are very ‘heavy’ for your site to hold, and load every time someone clicks onto your site. There are lots of free (or cheap) tools around, like Kraken.io and TinyPNG which will take this resolution down, without visually affecting the final images. All you need to do is upload the image, and voilà! — you’ll have a lighter version to redownload in seconds. It also helps to make sure you’re uploading images in the sizes they display

Videos are even heavier, but require a different approach. You should never upload a video directly to your website. Instead, you should embed it via a third party site, like Vimeo, or YouTube. This means the video is ‘hosted’ away from your website, so it plays normally on your site, without weighing it down. 

Again, don’t worry — this is really easy. It’s just a matter of copying across an ’embed’ code from one platform to the other. 

6. Tidy up your URL/site structure

Your URLs are basically the web address of each page you have on your site. For example, the URL of this page is www.creoate.com/blog/ecommerce-seo

Keeping your URLs tidy is good SEO practice, so always make sure you adjust the autogenerated ones. Let’s say your online store is called Beetle Apparel, and you’re selling a men’s tshirt called the ‘Paolo’ tshirt. A good URL structure would be something like: 

www.beetleapparel.com/mens/tshirts/paolo

7. Arrange redirects 

If you’re making changes to your URLs, or deleting products from your store, make sure you’re always setting up redirects. This will stop people (and Google bots) from hitting a dead end (404 page) if they follow a link to a page which no longer exists. 

This is something that should be easy to configure in the backend of each page — just get in touch with your ecommerce platform provider if you’re struggling to locate it.


Final thoughts

Don’t be intimidated by SEO. Generally speaking, it’s all just common sense — Google wants to prioritise good results that are a good match for its users. If you make your site the best user experience possible, you’re already on to a winner.

Is there anything you’d like us to break down in more detail? Drop us a comment below!

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Hannah is Creoate's Content Marketing Manager. She's passionate about bringing you content that's actually useful and — dare she say it —inspirational. Running a small business is hard, and we really want to help with that. Drop her an email at [email protected] if there's anything you'd like to read (or if you'd like to be featured!). She's all ears.
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