An ecommerce store is a great option for frugal entrepreneurs – you need very little initial capital to get started, and if you find the right niche it can be a very lucrative project. But, that’s only if customers can find your site.
Together with a business partner, I started my own online store in 2013. She takes care of dispatch and customer service, and I’m responsible for the marketing and updating of the website. This means I’m constantly hanging out on Google Analytics, looking at how people find our site and what makes them leave again, and trying and testing SEO strategies for our various product ranges.
While getting an ecommerce site up and running is easy, the process of optimizing and tweaking it is never-ending. I’m constantly surprised at how small tweaks can vastly improve our search engine rankings.
Ecommerce sites are indexed slightly differently to normal websites, and they are also more difficult to optimize. The nature of a large product catalogue means e-commerce sites contain a lot of duplicate content, which the search engines don’t like. This means it’s even more important to correctly optimize your ecommerce site.
Here’s what I’ve learned about optimizing an ecommerce site through my (sometimes disastrous) experiments:
Tidy Up Your Domain. Is your store http://awesomeshop.com or http://www.awesomeshop.com? What do you mean, “it’s both of them.” Are you sure? Many search engines treat these as two separate URLs, thereby making your entire site guilty of duplicate content.
The easiest way to deal with this is to choose which option you prefer, then create 301 redirects on all the URLs coming to your site from the wrong URL. And while you’re there, make sure all URLs pointing to your front page are http://awesomeshop.com and not http://awesomeshop.com/index.html or something like that.
Use Unique Titles and Meta Tags. A huge part of your goal as an e-commerce site is to find shoppers who are using Google and other search engines to search for specific items. That means every time you show up in a search engine, you’re given a little free advertising. So you should use that search engine listing to the best of your ability. Keywords appearing in URLs will also be given greater weighting than random strings of numbers, and they look prettier, too!
My store is built in WordPress, so I use the built-in SEO editor to create custom URLs, titles and meta descriptions for all my pages. Each product is optimized for particular keywords and the description is targeted for different customer profiles. It does take a little extra effort when adding products, but I’ve noticed a 22% increase in conversions since I started doing this.
Create Interesting Content. Another way to increase your visibility in the search engines is to add unique content. The first thing to tackle is your product descriptions. Never use the descriptions from the manufacturer – come up with your own unique way to describe your products.
I spend a lot of time thinking up quirky and creative descriptions for our products (we sell socks and hosiery). I don’t focus so much on keywords in these descriptions – I ensure I give the customer all the information they need to make a purchase.
I also created a blog for our online store and started adding articles related to our products. This content is totally unique and allows me to focus on writing for particular customer groups. I can create blog posts around seasonal themes and other events in the sales calendar, as well as creating content to target particular demographics (teens, professional career women, men, mothers). Think about how you might use blogs, DIY tutorials and other types of unique content to add to the user experience on your site.
Create Quality Backlinks. Backlinks from other authority sites will help your ecommerce store rank higher. Unfortunately, there are also the hardest links to get! Here are a few of the techniques I use to gain backlinks:
- Add your store to review sites like Amazon, Yelp and Epinions. These sites will give you inbound links and will help build customer trust.
- Guest post on blogs related to your store’s niche – DIY tutorials are a great way to start out in guest-blogging.
- Collaborate with bloggers to create unique campaigns. For fashion-related ecommerce stores like mine, this means sending bloggers products for review and hosting giveaways on their blogs.
- Submit your product coupons to aggregator sites.
- Add your store to web directories.
- Encourage customers to share your product photos, posts and content on their own blogs and social media profiles.
Allow Customers to Review Products. Allowing product reviews on your site can be scary, but they bring several advantages – chief among them being a constant influx of new, unique content. Encouraging customers to leave reviews will help you to keep new content up on your site. Don’t worry too much about negative reviews – a few bad reviews can actually help you sell MORE products, as seeing negative reviews shows customers that you’re not faking your reviews.
Submit your sitemap. By submitting your sitemap to search engines, you ensure that all your pages are crawled and indexed. For ecommerce stores with a huge product catalogue, this is a vital step to ensuring all your products end up indexed.
With SEO for my ecommerce store, I find the best method is to do a little every day, and focus on building organic traffic through the creation of high quality content. Whatever you do, if you’re running an ecommerce store, SEO should definitely be a vital part of your marketing strategy.
Do you run an ecommerce store? What are you doing to improve your SEO?
When she’s not running a successful online sock empire, you’ll find Steff Green brewing homemade wine and writing for various blogs around the web (often at the same time). Learning more about SEO has really helped her own store flourish, and she’d like to help you learn the same techniques through a range of SEO training courses.