How can you rank your eCommerce product pages for competitive terms? What page elements help product pages rank well for trending and profitable keywords?
Is building as many backlinks as possible really the key to ranking well? (Hint: nope)
To help answer these questions, we identified 25 competitive eCommerce terms that have been trending upward in search volume in the past year (according to data from Google Trends and Shopify).
We used Ahrefs to analyze the top ten results for each keyword, then looked for trends among the results.
Some of our key findings:
- Site authority and page authority helps product pages rank in the top 10—but they are not enough to get the top spots on their own.
- For high authority sites, a few quality backlinks gave a strong boost to rankings.
- Ranking in the first organic position was not a guarantee that a site would receive the most traffic.
Note: We’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase conversions based on organic traffic. We can create a custom SEO strategy for your business. Contact us here.
It’s Difficult to Rank in the Top 10 with a Low Domain Rating
Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) is a measure of the strength of a site’s backlink profile and overall authority.
DR is measured on a scale from 0-100. Sites with a DR over 90 tend to be household names like Amazon and eBay. Sites with a DR over 60 are often more niche sites—but ones that have a strong backlink profile.
Here’s the distribution of DR for every page that ranked in the top 10 organic results on Google from the results of our 25 keywords:
Most sites that rank for these competitive keywords have thousands of backlinks.
If you don’t have that many backlinks, don’t worry. We’ll talk more about ranking product pages on sites with lower domain authority scores.
Site Authority Helps You Get into the Top 10—but Not to Advance into the Top Spots
How important is your site authority to ranking for the first position of Google? We looked at the median DR of sites by ranking to find out more:
From the previous graph, we know that having site authority is important to ranking in the top 10. This graph shows that once you’re in the top ten, more authority won’t necessarily push you to the top.
If there was a strong correlation between ranking in the top of the first ten results and overall authority, you would expect the median Domain Rating of the top spots to be better than the lower spots.
Page Authority Matters to a Certain Extent
Ahrefs has another metric to estimate the ranking power of a single page called URL Rating (UR). You can think of it as an estimation of how Google rates the page authority of a single URL.
Like Domain Rating, URL Rating is also based on a 0-100 scale. Here’s the median UR at each position for our eCommerce keywords list:
Like Domain Rating, increasing the authority of an individual page seems to have a point of diminishing returns.
That doesn’t mean that aiming for a higher UR is a bad choice. It may very well contribute to you outranking some of the bigger sites like Amazon. Consider the current rankings for “yoga mats”:
The top three results are product pages from smaller eCommerce sites that are outranking the product page from Amazon.
The smaller sites’ product pages all have a better backlink profile and UR than the product page. That doesn’t mean that page authority is the only reason they outrank Amazon, but it definitely helps.
One of your advantages against a big company like Amazon is that you’re willing to spend more time ranking a particular product page. Amazon isn’t going to do as much link building or optimizing for a single product page.
While site authority and page authority do seem to be necessary to rank for these competitive terms, Ahrefs’ DR and UR are not perfect estimates of how Google decides how to rank pages.
Consider this screenshot of the current rankings for “tank tops.” The second-to-last result has a lower DR and UR than the last result:
DR and UR are useful concepts, but take them with a grain of salt. Better scores in a tool like Ahrefs does not always mean you’ll get better rankings in Google.
The Quality of Backlinks Seems to Matter as Much (Or More) as the Overall Number of Backlinks
If you want to rank a product page, how many backlinks do you need to build? We analyzed the median number of referring domains by position to find out.
We can see a slight correlation between the number of referring domains to a page and its Google ranking.
At first glance, this seems to contradict the previous graph in which UR stopped mattering after a certain point. After all, UR is a measure of the backlink profile of a single URL.
How we reconcile this difference is to remember that Ahrefs UR takes into account the quality of a backlink. Our guess is that sites that rank in the higher position are more likely to have some low-quality backlinks. That means more referring domains but no meaningful change in UR.
All of this points to the importance of just building high-quality backlinks. We saw in our data clear examples of product pages ranking without a huge number of backlinks.
Here’s a screenshot for what comes up first in Google for “yoga leggings.”
Yoga leggings a relatively competitive term with clear buyer intent. Yet, the first domain ranking only has one backlink (we checked, and it is from an authoritative site). The next two results have many more backlinks, but that hasn’t earned them a higher ranking. Take note that all have a DR above 50.
The rest of the pages ranking for “yoga leggings” have a UR between 11 and 20 and a DR above 40. This reinforces our earlier conclusions that building backlinks to a site and a page only work to a certain point.
Ranking First Doesn’t Guarantee the Most Search Traffic
Conventional wisdom says that the higher you rank, the more traffic you will get. This is almost certainly true for a single search as people mostly click the top results. But, pages that rank for competitive keywords also tend to rank for other long-tail phrases.
This means that it’s possible that a page that doesn’t rank at the top for a competitive keyword still gets more overall search traffic than the top ranking site.
For example, look at the top 3 results for “heat vests”:
The third result receives more overall search traffic than the first result. To be clear, this is not a measurement of traffic from this search alone. Instead, it’s a measurement of all search traffic when looking at all the keywords this page ranks for.
To see how often a page that doesn’t rank first for a head term gets more overall search traffic than the first ranking page, we looked at the position with the most traffic for each of our 25 eCommerce keywords:
In only 10 out of 25 keywords did the top ranking site have the most SEO traffic overall. In the other 15 cases, a site that didn’t rank in the first position received the most SEO traffic.
So how important is it to rank at the top of a competitive keyword? We looked at how overall traffic is distributed amongst the sites ranking in the top 10:
The product pages we analyzed that ranked first did receive the most overall search traffic, but it’s not as disproportionate as is often portrayed.
You may have read that long-tail keywords are responsible for 70% of all SEO traffic. This graph shows why focusing on the long-tail is a much easier path to getting SEO traffic.
Instead of relying on just one search which fluctuates based on the ever-changing Google algorithms, ranking for hundreds or thousands of long-tail keywords can make your product page more resilient against Google’s changes.
Small Relationship Between Ranking and Total Keywords
We also investigated whether a page that ranks higher will rank for have more keywords:
The minor correlation between position and keywords reinforces how nebulous the long tail is. Still, there are general principles you can follow to maximize long tail rankings (as we’ve described here).
- Increasing your site and page authority with a robust backlink profile can give you the chance to rank for keywords that you otherwise would have almost no chance of ranking for.
- A handful of quality backlinks can help your product page break into the top 10 and even outrank some of the biggest eCommerce sites.
- Instead of focusing on ranking for a singular term, try to rank for many long tail keywords.
Note: Want a custom in-depth assessment of your search ranking performance? Contact us to get started.