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E-commerce SEO tips for beginners

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So your e-commerce site is up-and-running, and you think your work is done? Not so fast! There’s plenty more to do! It’s all well and good to have an e-commerce website, but you want people to be able to find it, and you want search engines to rank it so more people can find it. For that, you’ll need to get to work on a little bit of search engine optimisation (SEO). Below, we have a few tips to get you started. SEO is a complex and sometimes arcane art, so the below is not exhaustive. But it should be enough to give you a bit of a headstart – once you’ve mastered the easy-to-do SEO, you can start looking into the more complex and difficult stuff.

Research the keywords you want to target

The first and most important e-commerce SEO tip: Do your homework! You’ll need to put some time into researching the most relevant and effective keywords to target on your e-commerce website. Use Google’s free AdWords Keyword Planner tool to identify keywords that have a good search volume, but not too much competition. Just type a keyword into the box, and then click on the ‘Keyword ideas’ tab – this will bring up a long list of similar keywords, along with their search volume and competitiveness (ranked from low to high). Play around with the tool for a while, and aim for long-tail (i.e. lower search volume), tightly focused keywords (at least in the beginning) that won’t be so competitive. If your imagination is failing you, a tool like Ubersuggest [http://ubersuggest.org/] will do the creative work for you, and suggest related keywords you might not ever have thought of.

google keyword tool screenshot

Include your keywords in anchor text

It might seem obvious, but some e-commerce site owners do miss this trick: Don’t embed links to things like product pages in phrases like ‘click here’ or ‘view here’, instead, embed links in your keyword phrases. So, for example, if you have a gallery page of men’s sports shoes, embed the product page link in a keyword phrase like ‘SuperBrand green and white men’s basketball shoes’. This keyword-rich anchor text will help search engines see what it is that you’re selling, and thus help you to rank for those keywords.

Make good use of images, and make sure you use alt tags!

As an e-commerce site owner, you should know by now how important an image-rich, visually appealing website design is. Hopefully, you already have one! But don’t forget to fill in that ‘Alt text’ box for each and every image on your website. For those unfamiliar with Alt tags, they’re what search engines and screen readers (as used by the visually impaired) use to ‘read’ images online. A search engine can’t ‘see’ an image, it can only read the Alt text you’ve included. If you don’t fill in these boxes, all of your product images will be invisible to search engines. So fill up those boxes with keyword rich descriptions! It’s also a good idea to fill in the Alt text for images like logos and other brand artwork. You want your brand to be visible everywhere.

Bear in mind that how fast your site loads is a factor in how a search engine ranks you. (See this article for more on this.) Also, with m-commerce becoming more and more important, you don’t want a website that loads painfully slowly over a mobile connection. So with your images you’ll need to strike a balance between resolution (quality) and weight (how many KB or MB it ‘weighs’). The higher the resolution, the higher the weight and the slower an your site will load; the lower the resolution the lower the quality. You’ll want to go for something in the middle.

Keep an eye on your traffic

google analytics screenshot

Get yourself a Google Analytics account and start watching and analysing your traffic. Using Analytics, you can see which pages are performing, and which aren’t, and use this information to beef up the underperforming ones by modifying your target keywords. You’ll want to look at the raw traffic numbers, but you should also pay close attention to the bounce rate. If a product page has high traffic but a high bounce rate, it could be that people are coming to your site from search results, seeing something they didn’t expect, and bouncing away again. If that’s happening, you’ll need to modify your target keywords so that the visitors who come to your site are visitors who will turn into customers! A large volume of traffic is useless if all those people come to your site looking for something you’re not selling.

Ask for reviews, and publish them on product pages

Apart from the usefulness of reviews for customers, they have another function – an SEO function. Reviews are text content, which is readable by search engines – the more content you have on your site, the easier it is for a search engine to figure out what it is that you’re selling, and the more likely you are to rank! Reviews will also constantly update your site – and search engines like websites that are regularly updated.

You could offer discounts or other rewards to customers for leaving a review – just send them a friendly email when their product has dispatched and ask them to review it on your site in exchange for a discount on their next purchase, or a chance to win a prize.

While this is only an overview of e-commerce SEO, there should be more than enough in the above to keep you busy for a while! We’ll look more closely at e-commerce SEO tips and tricks in future articles, so stay tuned!

Main image: Frankieleon; Other image: David Shankbone