How can you make sure that you get a good ROI from SEO?
In this post, you’ll get a checklist of proven SEO best practices for eCommerce sites.
We have directly tied these best practices to increased traffic, transactions, and/or revenue in documented case studies for our clients.
Why This eCommerce SEO Checklist Leads to Sales
Together, the tactics on this checklist will help your online store continually become a better traffic and conversion generating machine.
Why? If you can identify search engine optimization (SEO) quality issues and improve those issues as a KPI, it can help your other KPI’s: rankings, traffic, and revenue.
While no SEO tactic works 100% of the time, testing multiple tactics greatly increases the likelihood of a positive impact because of their compounding effect. For this reason, we believe that finding different ways to improve your website’s SEO quality is a marketing benchmark to continually improve on.
We routinely utilize the SEO tactics in this checklist for our clients. Our #1 focus is growing our client’s stores, but when our team has the opportunity, they will document the results of their work in case studies.
Below, we’ll link to almost a dozen of our own SEO case studies throughout to show you that they clearly produce a positive ROI through increased traffic, sales, and revenue. Reading them is optional (but recommended).
Note: If you’re looking to improve SEO results for your online store, you can chat with one of our eCommerce SEO experts to learn how we can help you increase your ROI from SEO investments. Talk to an eCommerce SEO expert.
eCommerce SEO Checklist of Revenue-Driving Tactics
Without further ado, here is our checklist of eCommerce SEO best practices to implement for more sales.
#1: Improve or Create Strategic Content
eCommerce businesses are catching on to the power of strategic content marketing. Chances are, your business is already doing it in the form of blogging, writing informative articles, or making videos.
But when it comes to creating content, too many businesses today waste money on content creation due to mostly guessing about what content will actually perform well and drive results.
However, a strategic approach to content marketing does yield a positive ROI.
Why Content Marketing is Great for eCommerce SEO
Content marketing is not a quick or low-cost strategy. However, scaling quality content production exponentially increases traffic, leads, and customers over time.
As you continue to publish more quality content, you gain more Google search engine equity from it. The other pages you link to from that content and your entire site as a whole also share in that increased authority.
That means more ranking power for your eCommerce product and category pages (and thus more sales) when you link to them from your best-performing content!
We went into more detail about why this works in a previous article: Why Content Quality Matters for your eCommerce Website. The bullet points are:
- Creating or improving content helps to drive more organic traffic from search engines and more referral traffic from inbound links.
- This also helps the ranking power of your entire site, including your product and category page SEO.
- Your website’s authority is more protected against the competition by increasing its SEO quality, rankings, and backlinks.
Here are a few concrete examples of how content we’ve created for our clients has directly brought in more revenue:
eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#1):
We created an eCommerce Buyer Guide for a home improvement eCommerce store. $100,000 in sales were generated from that article alone.
eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#2):
For the same site in Case Study #1, we published blog posts that answered relevant questions the client’s target customers were searching for in Google. In well under a year, these blog posts were attributed to $40,000 in additional sales.
eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#3):
We implemented a video SEO strategy for a subscription-based health and fitness video platform. It led to 45.96% growth in organic search traffic and 53.78% growth in transactions from organic traffic.
As you’ll see in the next best practice, strategic content isn’t the only type of content to optimize.
#2: Add Copy to Product and Category Pages
To help product and category pages rank higher, increase click-through rates, and convert better, one of the most important best practices is to add unique content to these pages.
Most of the pages on eCommerce websites tend to be product and category pages. Yet, a mistake we see stores make is to leave their product and category page content mostly blank. They might put in several short lines of description or copy-paste the original product description from the manufacturer’s website.
Unfortunately, this makes those pages thin or duplicate content and they won’t rank as high in the SERPs as they potentially could.
Google’s guidelines detail the various aspects of a website’s quality. In general, they like to see that your catalog pages are of a higher relative quality than your competition’s in order to rank them higher. Thin product and category pages with little information on them is a signal to Google that they are not of particularly high quality.
Additionally, Google likes to see that the copy on your product and category pages is completely unique to your website. If you paste in product copy (or any copy) that was originally on another website, this opens the risk of a duplicate content penalty from Google that lowers your rankings.
To create a significant improvement to your site’s SEO, we recommend that you perform keyword research using SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz and add copy to your category pages at scale. Do keyword research for each page to find the best keywords to include. Then, add at least 150 words (or more) of copy that includes those keywords.
We added 150-word descriptions to the tops of category pages for one of our clients to increase the amount of unique page content. It resulted in a 46% increase in search traffic in an 18 month period:
eCommerce Copywriting Case Study (#4):
While we were doing other SEO improvements at the time that also contributed, we believe that adding category page copy at scale helped to drive more organic traffic to them.
Another note: Customer reviews are a valid form of content that Google likes to see.
So make sure you collect product reviews and post them on your product pages as both an SEO and conversion tactic.
#3: Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords
One of the biggest misconceptions that business owners have about SEO is that high-volume keywords are the ones they should be going for.
Working in eCommerce SEO for over a decade, we have seen many online stores waste time and resources chasing only the specific keywords with the highest search volume.
However, this approach usually requires you to outspend the competition in order to rank. It also takes a varying amount of time to start ranking for those top keywords.
Let us spare you that pain and uncertainty in favor of the approach that works the best today: ranking for long-tail keywords. These keywords make up the most searches on the web and have the lowest competition:
Ranking for long-tail keywords is a strategy that can increase sales for a few reasons:
- Less Competition: In most cases, you are far more likely to rank for long-tail keywords than high volume keywords because not as many websites are targeting them.
- Lower Cost: You can rank for these keywords with less investment into building links to their associated content because they are less competitive.
- Better Conversion Rate: Product pages and long-tail keywords go hand-in-hand because likely customers will search for a specific product using a long-tail target keyword that contains the brand, product name, model, etc. This high commercial intent means your pages that rank for their long-tail product name will have a better conversion rate.
We do long-tail keyword research for our clients using a variety of methods that you can read about in this article. In there, we describe a certain pattern we’ve noticed: long-tail keywords that get more than the estimated number of searches.
The example is a website in the moving company niche that ranks for two long-tail keywords showing “0” estimated volume. Yet, those keywords have hundreds and thousands of clicks from search traffic:
In our view, the long-tail keyword strategy is a more sound investment because you have more of a chance to rank for many long-tail keywords like these, that together, bring a lot of relevant traffic. Compare this strategy with placing every effort into one or a few high-volume keywords and your site may or may not ever rank for them, or at least not very soon.
We also update alt text for product images, page title tags, and meta descriptions to include long tail keywords and further optimize each webpage for them.
The last important thing to mention about long-tail keywords is that if your eCommerce site starts to rank for a lot of them, this actually helps to increase its ranking power for one of those top-competitive, high-volume root keywords.
The next strategy makes that even more likely:
#4: Build Links to Your Strategic Content
Link building is the process of increasing the number of links to your website’s content. The goal being to increase their authority and ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Content that ranks high in Google often gets some backlinks naturally. However, this is a catch-22 if your website doesn’t have as much authority from inbound links as your competition on the first page of Google.
To help your strategic content to rank higher in the first place, you will want to intentionally build links to it with the goal of outranking your competition.
Link building can be done in a number of ways. Some methods are more sound than others. If too many low-quality links from questionable websites point to yours, this can hurt (rather than help) your site’s authority.
The eCommerce link building strategy we recommend is leveraging your strategic content such as guides and blog posts into more links by sharing it far and wide. We recommend using social media and targeted outreach through email to expose it to the type of people who are likely to link to it (and what this is depends on the content and industry).
For example, in the case study linked below, we created an article and interviewed multiple bloggers as experts to feature in it. In addition to our promotion efforts, these bloggers/influencers shared our client’s content with their email lists and social media channels. The end result from this chain reaction of promotion was 188 new backlinks.
Link Building Case Study (#5):
These links are of a higher quality and bring in more relevant traffic from the client’s target audience because they are organic links from legitimate websites (not spammy ones).
Creating content and advertising it on social media using paid ads is another good method of obtaining backlinks more quickly.
In the case study below, we created a “linkbait” piece that was relevant to our client’s industry. In less than a month on social media, it obtained 121 links and more than 4,200 social shares.
Link Building Case Study (#6):
Studying the direct effect of link-building on overall SEO rankings is a tricky thing to do (which is why creating link building case studies is a difficult task).
However, website rankings tend to go up with more referring domains and backlinks. Link building’s effect of increasing rankings and referral traffic often correlates with more traffic, transactions, and revenue. This is why links are still relevant as an eCommerce SEO strategy today.
#5: Content Audits and Pruning
By this point, you might have noticed that these eCommerce SEO best practices build on each other to improve your website’s overall SEO quality. The best practices are targeted toward this because Google consistently updates its algorithm to reward quality.
We’ve mentioned how low-quality content can negatively impact your authority. If you have too many low-quality and/or underperforming landing pages on your website, this bloated index can affect your overall website’s ability to rank.
Running a content audit to identify low-quality pages and then pruning them helps improve your website’s overall quality by keeping only the beneficial pages indexed.
As eCommerce websites tend to have a high volume of pages, we usually recommend running a content audit and pruning thin/low-quality content when onboarding new clients.
The main causes of index bloat we’ll find are:
- Too many pages with thin content.
- Old content that gets little or no traffic, conversions, and links.
- Site search results pages that are getting indexed by Google.
Typically, we start to see the changes register at the 3-month mark after making most SEO improvements. This includes deindexing low-quality content and underperforming pages.
After pruning 200 blog pages from one of our client’s blog subdomains, it took a 3 month period to see their remaining content perform better. In this case, a marked increase in the KPI’s of traffic, transactions, and revenue from their strategic content.
Content Pruning Case Study (#7):
Sometimes, we find websites with far too many low quality pages due to technical errors created by their software.
For example, the eCommerce software one of our clients was using in the case study below created a large number of automatically generated product and category pages that we deindexed for a positive impact.
Content Pruning Case Study (#8):
Content audits should be done periodically as part of your Technical SEO process. In a previous article, we wrote about how to track your ROI From a Content Audit.
#6: Improve Internal Linking and Fix Crawl Errors
Internal links around your website are a factor of its ability to get indexed.
As we mentioned earlier, internal links transfer their equity (colloquially called “link juice”).
If there aren’t enough internal links, or if they are broken links, this can affect your entire site.
Optimizing your internal linking and setting up redirects for any broken ones helps prevent any crawl errors as Google checks out your website.
We routinely find and correct these internal errors for our clients as part of the content and SEO audit process. As in the case study below.
Internal Link Cleanup Case Study (#9):
As another important facet of internal linking, we also optimize the link anchor text to help the pages rank for their target search term.
#7: External Link Cleanup
In addition to internal link cleanups, we also audit for low quality backlinks to disavow any that could negatively impact our clients’ websites.
Google’s Penguin algorithm update was targeted toward unnatural link building. Unfortunately, many sites have spammy backlinks pointing toward them without knowing it.
Our internal and external link auditing process led to improved performance across the board for the case study below once we cleaned up their links.
External and Internal Link Cleanup Case Study (#10):
Links matter. We’ve observed the direct effect of cleaning up unnatural backlinks along with optimizing internal links and solving crawl errors.
#8: Host Your Online Store on SEO-Friendly Platform
The eCommerce platform that you host your online store on can greatly affect its SEO. Some eCommerce platforms are better for SEO than others.
The platform you use depends on the size of your product catalog and other strategic goals.
When you aren’t aware of the SEO implications of the platform you’re currently using, it’s good to check and see if it might be affecting things. Especially if your website seems to have an “as-yet-unknown” SEO error affecting it.
This has happened to a couple of our clients. Their platforms were causing some really bad errors that made it hard for Google to index them.
The case study below details how a client migrated to a new platform, which caused errors that required a whole lot of work to correct. Once we corrected them, traffic increased and their yearly revenue doubled.
eCommerce Platform SEO Case Study (#11):
The last few SEO tips on our checklist don’t have documented case studies. However, they are widely-agreed upon eCommerce SEO best practices that are so important, we can’t in good conscience leave them out of this list.
#9: Have a Mobile-First Site
You may have heard that it’s important for SEO to have a separate mobile version of your website.
This is because Google indexes mobile websites separately and factors the mobile version of your website into its overall quality. The prioritization of Google’s algorithm toward mobile sites is called mobile-first indexing.
But it’s not enough just to have a version of your website for mobile devices. Optimizing your mobile site is a further source of revenue.
Mobile eCommerce sales are projected to make up 54% of all eCommerce sales by 2021. Surpassing the 50% mark for the first time.
Mobile shopping and eCommerce sales only continue to grow. Customers need to find your mobile site and be able to use it seamlessly. This steady upward trend has made optimizing mobile SEO an important best practice.
#10: Have a Good Site Speed
Google has stated that site speed is a ranking factor in their algorithm for both search results and Google Ads.
Improving user-experience is the stated purpose of Google’s updates. Clearly, a fast website helps people find what they are searching for quickly as well.
Google doesn’t want to rank slow websites and frustrate its searchers, and neither should you. It’s not just about the rankings, Shoppers are less likely to complete their transactions on a slow website.
In terms of creating an ROI, improving your eCommerce website speed helps contribute to:
- Better search engine rankings
- More traffic
- Lower bounce rates
- Higher conversion rates.
#11: Consistently Check for Issues and Solve Them to Improve Overall Website Quality
Being proactive with your eCommerce SEO by using the techniques above is crucial. We’ve talked about issues related to website quality related to the content, links, and platform.
As a tool for your business, we recommend creating an SEO quality scorecard for your online store. This will help you and your team stay focused on the important components of SEO to improve and the tactics to use such as the ones on this list.
As another recommendation, SEO auditing is a good protective measure to couple with your proactive improvements.
We know that all of the different things you could do for your SEO seem overwhelming.
We hope this list helps to focus your SEO efforts on tactics that are far more likely to lead to growth in traffic, transactions, and revenue.
Note: If you would like us to make recommendations or implement the tactics here for your store, our SEO experts are ready to help. Get in touch with us here or use the form below.