Advanced E-Commerce SEO with Case Studies and Practical Tips

To help the products of your e-commerce site get displayed on search results and attract web traffic, doing the SEO right is an important thing. But to get real results, you should know about and implement certainly advanced E-commerce SEO tips.

Need of Advanced E-commerce SEO

While basic SEO would set the ball rolling for your e-commerce store, advanced SEO is what brings the visitors in, thus pushing up your leads and sales. If you are wondering whether SEO can be of help, just consider some data:

  • On an average, Google processes 40,000 search queries per second; this means more than 3.5 billion searches every day and 1.2 trillion searches every year worldwide. (com)
  • A search engine is where 93% of online experiences start, and 50% of search queries use at least four words or longer. (com and Wordstream)
  • 70-80% of search engine users are focusing just on the organic results and ignoring the paid ads (com)

You can surely take advantage of organic traffic driven by search engines with the use of advanced SEO.

Related Article: Best E-commerce SEO Techniques 2018

Since the domain of advanced e-commerce SEO is quite extensive, let’s focus on the three key areas at first:

              1.Keyword Research

              2.Site Architecture

              3.On-Page SEO

1. Keyword Research

This is the first step in your e-commerce SEO campaign. Not getting it would mean either of these:

  • You’ll focus on keywords that have tough competition and are extremely difficult to rank for; this, in turn, would mean you don’t reach page#1 of the search results for that highly competitive keyword.
  • You’ll end up ranking for keywords that neither get a lot of traffic nor make customers buy from you.

Since neither is good for your online store, you have to select the best possible keywords for your business.  Wondering how to do it? Here are 3 ways of keyword research for E-commerce SEO:

Use Amazon

Being the biggest online e-commerce marketplace, Amazon is an absolute goldmine of high buyer intent keywords and product-focused keywords. To find keywords suitable for your business, simply type your seed keyword (that you want to rank for) in the Amazon search box and several autofill suggestions would be displayed.

Here, we have used ‘headphone’ as the seed keyword and autofill suggestions (which are all keywords) include headphone adapter, headphones for kids, headphones with microphones etc. Open a Google Spreadsheet to put all these keyword ideas at one place, which you can use later.

Use Amazon

 

There’s one problem though: In case you have hundreds and thousands of products, the process could be a long drawn one as you have to repeat the steps for each of your products. That’s where Keyword Tool Dominator can come to your rescue, which scrapes Amazon’s search suggestions to give you much more keyword ideas than what you get from Amazon. Thus, for the same seed keyword ‘headphone,’ this tool showed 342 keyword ideas against Amazon’s 8.

Keyword Tool Dominator

 

You can select the keywords from this list that are most apt for your business and save them using the button at the bottom of the list to keep things organized. Since you can enjoy 3 free searches every day with this tool, you can get started with your keyword list building strategy without spending a dime.

keyword list building strategy

 

Pro tip: Don’t choose all these keywords blindly. Make sure to understand and use search volume, product fit, and keyword competition rating too to short-list the keywords that you use in your online store. But we will discuss these in some other posts. For now, let’s focus on getting more keyword ideas.

Do competitor research

Just type your seed keyword in Google and select a competitor from the results displayed.  You may even use a variation of your seed keywords. Say, you sell high-end headphones. Type ‘high-end headphone’ in Google search bar and you’ll get your competitor (https://www.themasterswitch.com/best-high-end-headphones). Scan their category and/or product pages for potential keywords.

Do competitor research

 

Record the keywords in your list, and hop forward to the next step.

Use google to find more of your industry competitors and see the keywords they use to describe their products/categories. In case you sell high-end headphones, you should check https://www.headphone.com/ for some more keyword ideas that you can add to your keyword list.

Find more of your industry competitors

You may also use Ahrefs or Spyfu for spying on your competitors’ keywords.

Leverage E-commerce SEO tools

From Google Keyword Planner (that need you to have an AdWords account) and Ahrefs (that allows you a 7-day trial for $7) to Keyword Explorer of Moz, SEMrush, and UberSuggest, you will find a couple of tools online for generating effective keywords for E-commerce SEO.

Pro tip: Google Correlate is another powerful tool that can let you find search patterns to see the keywords that are searched together. This information can be extremely useful for expanding your keyword list, especially with long tail keywords.

Google Correlate Tool

As you see above, you just need to enter your seed keyword to find a couple of correlations. A few of these keywords may not seem related (e.g. wine bottle, men’s wallet) but those too can be saved for later use (in a blog post or for social media posts, or even to develop a product idea based on them).

2. Site Architecture in Advanced E-commerce SEO

Once you have the list of right keywords to target, you should implement them in your online store. And the job starts with your e-commerce site architecture.

Site architecture refers to the way your site’s pages are organized and arranged. It’s a crucial component of E-commerce SEO. The reason is an average e-commerce site is likely to have considerably more pages than what your local restaurant website or an average blog has. This makes it critical to design your site architecture in a way that both users and search engines can easily find your site’s most important pages or the ones they are searching for.

Here is the 2-step process to do it:

  1. Make it scalable and simple.
  2. Make sure it takes 3 (or fewer) clicks to reach every page from your homepage.

In addition, you should create extremely relevant page URLs as well as subdirectories based on your keyword research.

 

Site architecture

In the above example, notice how the e-commerce website of Bose has really simple navigation despite offering a lot of products. But it makes sense. Neatly organized into categories and subcategories, the website makes it easy for visitors to browse and find what they want to buy.

 

Bose has really simple navigation despite offering a lot of products

 

So, if you want to buy headphones, simply hovering your mouse on the main category would reveal the 9 subcategories. By taking your pick from these more specific subcategories, you can then hop onto the respective page, from where you can finally decide to either buy a product right away or bookmark the page to return at a later date in order to complete your purchase. The key is to organize your products into categories and subcategories that are easy to browse, find and buy.

The official store of Under Armour is another good example of how to get your e-commerce site’s architecture right.

Under Armour is example of how to get your e-commerce site’s architecture right

 

Say, you want to buy shorts for your little boy. You just have to hover your mouse on Boys, which will show the drop-down menu. From here, you will notice Shorts under Bottoms, clicking which will take you to the relevant products page.

Refine your search based on certain parameters

 

You may either buy a product displayed on the page right away or refine your search based on certain parameters (gender, shorts type, age group, color etc). You may even sort the results displayed based on relevance, increasing/decreasing price, or product types (newest, or highest rated, or bestselling). Thus, you have to think about multiple ways a customer may try to browse and find products on your site, and accordingly organize your offerings to make it easier – both for the potential buyers as well as the search engine spiders to index your product pages.

Use of keywords

While designing and finalizing your site’s architecture, make sure to ask yourself 2 questions:

  • What do consumers search or ask before coming to my site?
  • What information do they need after they land on my site?

Another important step is not to forget to include keywords in your navigation, especially in your product names and categories. The medium-tail keywords (with 2-3 words) are the ideal ones to use as long-tail keywords with 4 or more words would jumble up the design (since the space for your navigation bar and even drop-down menu is limited) and make it difficult for users to distinguish between what is what.

Can brands be used as keywords?

If you are selling items from popular branded through your online store, you may not be sure if you should use them for keywords. If you are wondering what to do, we would suggest you go ahead with it. After all, by using brand names for keywords that are relevant to your products, you would be helping your customers find the products that they are seeking. In certain niches (such as Skin Care Products), it can even let you stand apart as the retailer of reliable products, which may encourage buyers to put their trust in your store and buy from you.

You can take inspiration from Sephora that sells makeup, hair and skincare products.

 

Can brands be used as keywords?

 

Though the site’s top navigation bar displays the types of products on offer, there’s a ‘Brands’ category too. When you hover your mouse over it, the drop-down menu shows the subcategories where you will find the site’s offerings listed in alphabetical order based on the available brands, in addition to Sephora Collection, and other branded products (listed under New Brands and Featured Brands).

URL structure

This is important for E-commerce SEO. Having a disorganized mess in your online store’s URL structure would be a massive problem for your consumers, particularly when you have lots of product pages and categories. So, what can you do to have simple, clean URL for your e-commerce site?

Here are 5 actionable tips:

  1. Construct your URL logically.
  2. Keep it short (preferably under 70 characters).
  3. Instead of using underscores or spaces in your URLs, use hyphens.
  4. Add targeted keywords to it.
  5. Use only lowercase letters.

You should also ditch parameters in your URL structure, when possible. If you must include parameters, use canonical tags.

You can take inspiration from how Home Depot creates its URLs. Instead of using layers and layers of subdirectory after subdirectory into its URL structure (such as homedepot.com/decor/furniture/bedroom/dressers/chest), it condenses the URL down to a simpler form (https://www.homedepot.com/b/Furniture-Bedroom-Furniture-Dressers-Chests/N-5yc1vZc7pw as the screenshot below shows).

URL structure

Faceted navigation

We have already talked about how an e-commerce store selling several products should organize them neatly in their top navigation bar to make an item easy to find. When you have hundreds and thousands of products varying in color, size, price, and material, you should aim to offer your site visitors the right information fast along with giving them the best experience. And you can achieve this with faceted navigation.

Wondering what is it? To answer, you can call it simple filtering, or a way that gives customers an easier way to find products based on size, price, material, etc. in other words, faceted navigation helps customers easily navigate to their preferred product (or group of products).

Despite the advantage faceted navigation brings, it has its downsides as well. The primary concern is it not being search-friendly always. If you fail to do this right, you will end up creating several URL combinations and duplicate pages (having identical or similar content). This would make it difficult for search engines to accurately index or crawl your pages, and may even get your site penalized due to these duplicate pages. These scenarios would give a devastating blow to your E-commerce SEO efforts.

So, what’s the solution? Here are some steps you can use to tide over the problem:

  • Use only those URL parameters (like robots.txt, internal link structures etc) that are required for search engines to crawl each page.
  • Stay away from the parameters that will simply cause duplication together with unneeded indexing and crawling.
  • Use configuration options for URLs with unneeded parameters such as robots.txt disallow or rel=”no follow” internal links.
  • Improve individual page’s indexing as well as that of paginated content (which refers to a single piece of content spread over multiple pages or segments of a website).

To understand faceted navigation better, let’s take a look at the site architecture of REI.

site architecture of REI

 

You will notice the site implements facets in a way that’s both user-friendly and E-commerce SEO-friendly. In case you are looking for single ropes, you can simply choose the subcategory shown under the ‘Climbing Ropes’ to land on the relevant page. Once you are there, you can narrow your search further by rope length, diameter, dry treatment, brand, feature, color, style, sustainability, weight and more to find the exact item you are looking for.

Find the exact item you are looking for

 

If the products weren’t organized this way, you would have to search through multiple pages listing ropes (from Single Ropes, and Half Ropes, to Static & Rescue, Twin Ropes, and Rope Bags) to find your desired product.

When you filter the products, some very lengthy and messy URLs are created, which aren’t SEO-friendly. For example, selecting Dry Core (under Dry Treatment) creates https://www.rei.com/c/single-ropes?ir=category%3Asingle-ropes&r=c%3Bdry-treatment%3ADry%20Core&origin=web but the good thing is every filter has a canonical tag to https://www.rei.com/c/single-ropes, thus showing all these have a single originating/source page.

Using such canonical tags tell the search engines the pages they need to focus on. By using these tags, you end up indicating the pages you want to be indexed by the search engines and given the search value.

Breadcrumbs

These refer to a secondary navigation theme that portrays users’ location in the hierarchy of your e-commerce site and allows them to navigate the site further from where they have landed on. By having the right breadcrumbs in place, you will improve your site’s SEO by helping search engines navigate your website better, and even understand how one web page relates to another. Even for users, breadcrumbs act as an effective visual aid by indicating the position of the user within the hierarchy of the site. This, in turn, helps users find their desired product on the site quickly.

Breadcrumbs can be location-based (hierarchy breadcrumbs) or attribution-based (tag breadcrumbs). The former is most commonly used in e-commerce. The image below (the red bordered rectangular section) shows a breadcrumb trail from Best Buy.

Breadcrumbs

 

When your e-commerce store has rich content and products listed across several categories, you can use attribution-based breadcrumbs. Often, these aren’t a navigation-enabled component of the breadcrumb trail (unlike their location-based counterparts). Yet, they let visitors de-select product filters that they might have applied to their navigation. The screenshot below of TM Lewin (the section marked in a red colored rectangular border) is an ideal example of how you can do it.

Use attribution-based breadcrumbs

 

If you want to enjoy the best of both worlds, you can use both location-based and attribution-based breadcrumb trails to improve the user experience and boost e-commerce SEO efforts.

3. On-Page SEO for E-Commerce

As you now have your site architecture ready, you should focus next on optimizing your e-commerce store’s category and product pages. Here’s how to do it.

Title Tag

Add some common search terms to your primary keyword to increase your chances of being shown in long tail searches. When people use Google to search for products, here are some common terms they use the most:

  • Cheap
  • Online
  • Best
  • Deals
  • Free shipping
  • Review

If you are selling noise-canceling headphones, you can use ‘cheap noise canceling headphones’ or ‘the best noise canceling headphones online’ in your title tag to attract more long tail traffic.

In your title tag, make sure to use certain words and phrases that magnetically attract a casual visitor to land on your site. Here are some of these words that you can use for your e-commerce category and product pages:

  • Sale
  • X% off (‘35% Off’ or something similar)
  • Free Shipping
  • Lowest Price
  • Guarantee
  • Overnight Shipping

Thus, if you sell slow cookers, you can use something on these lines: Slow cookers: 30% off on all orders till Christmas

Description tag

It’s an important element of your On-page E-commerce SEO. Use your primary and secondary keywords along with some click-worthy words and phrases (Free Shipping, Sale, Great Selection etc) to increase the chances of your description tag being clicked. Make sure your description tag is between 150 and 170 characters.

If you sell cat food, your description tag could look like this:

Get the best online prices on cat food today. All orders today will get Free Shipping. Click here to see our exclusive deals on cat food. (137 characters)

Product and category page content

  • Write 1000+ words product descriptions and use your keywords 3 to 5 times at the least. Though it’s difficult to do this for all your pages at one go, do it at least for your top 10 products and category pages, to begin with. You can take inspiration from this product shown below (on Amazon) that has 1000+ words in its description and a lot more through its 9106 customer reviews and 1000+answered questions.

Product and category page content

  • Sprinkle 3 to 5 keywords in your in-depth descriptions and make sure at least one is within the first 100 characters of your product/category description) as Google gives more weight to keywords placed at the top of a webpage.
  • Find LSI keywords (phrases or words tied closely to your main keyword) using Google Keyword Planner and Amazon, and then sue them in your product/category description.
  • Create lots of natural internal links, especially to high-priority pages.

Implement Schema markup on your e-commerce product pages. This add rich snippets (in the form of reviews) to your search results to stand out among other search engine results (as shown below). You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper for the job.Add rich snippets (in the form of reviews)

SUMMARY

Advanced E-commerce SEO

Bonus

Apart from above mentioned tips, e-commerce SEO involves several other steps – from tactical SEO to link building, online marketing and much more. We bring you 3 case studies to encourage you to take the first step and get started.

1. LoveAntiques.com

From overhauling website’s URL and internal linking structure, to having unique site content and doing scalable link building. These steps helped the site get a whopping 2115% boost in its organic traffic. The site’s organic visibility too was up from almost zero to a position of increasing and sustained growth.

2. Express Watches

 We’ve already talked about the benefits of using rich snippets (especially reviews). Reviews are also a powerful social proof as the positive ones make people trust a brand to buy from it. Express Watches leveraged this tool to increase their conversions by over 58%.

3. Finish Line

The e-commerce retailer that sells athletic shoes as well as related accessories and apparel identified the aptest target keywords. Then enhanced its site content using these keywords and some other tactics in addition to doing some on-page optimization. The result was a 258% boost in its organic traffic against its established competitors.

 

SEO is one of the most effective ways to increase traffic and generate sales, but it takes lot of effort and continuous monitoring. Making E-commerce SEO a priority is a good way to start in 2019. Good Luck!

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