If you’re in the eCommerce business your website is your lifeblood. And SEO is vital to it.
The eCommerce world has become a cutthroat arena for businesses. Most niches are overcrowded. Everyone wants to be ranking #1 in Google and will do whatever it takes to get there. When you slip up, not only does it undo the progress that it took weeks or even months to achieve, but while you’re scrambling to recover, the other guy is profiting. You cannot afford that.
Whether you’re in the process of starting a new eCommerce business or your business is already up and running, this eCommerce SEO checklist describes what you need to do to get ahead of your competition. The checklist is platform agnostic, so whether you’re on Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify or some other platform: the same best practices apply.
After you went through the eCommerce SEO checklist you’ll understand what you need to do to get ahead of your competition. Some sections are technical in nature, so they can easily be shared with developers to implement the best practices.
The eCommerce SEO checklist explains step by step what you need to do to be successful in SEO:
Don’t let SEO be an afterthought: slapping on some SEO after your website is released often leads to a Frankenstein website. Instead, use this SEO checklist to make sure you're doing everything you can to maximize the efforts you put into your eCommerce business.
Before we get into website structure and the technical side of things, first we need to establish what keywords your target audience is using when searching for the products you offer. Figuring out what keywords are actually used by your audience, and which ones are most interesting to incorporate into your website is called keyword research. These keywords fuel your entire SEO strategy, so it’s absolutely essential that this is done right. To prove our point, the next section on this checklist, Information Architecture, heavily relies on that keyword list.
In short, keyword research comes down to researching which keywords:
To give you the rundown on how this process works, I’ve put together an extensive guide on keyword research. Use its step-by-step instructions to build the list of keywords you want to target. Again, and I can’t say this enough: the keyword list fuels every aspect of SEO.
Make sure you only target keywords that are within reach. Sure, you may have the ambition to rank for very competitive keywords right from the start but that’s just not going to happen. You have to be realistic, and pick your battles.
You’ve got a list of interesting keywords that you want to rank for, so now what? In order for you to rank for these keywords, you need to have pages where you can incorporate these keywords. First, you need to map the keywords to pages and second you need to define how to incorporate the keywords. Incorporating keywords in pages is done by including keywords in important HTML elements, the body content and links.
All this results in something we call the keyword strategy.
Let’s take the keyword examples used in the Keyword Research article:
Create a new tab in the spreadsheet with the following columns:
Now we start the mapping process. Fill in the columns “URL” and “Keyword #1” and “Keyword #2”.
Soon you’ll see your website structure taking shape. You’ll also see gaps in your keyword research list. For instance: you included the keyword “smart tv samsung”, but forgot to include the generic keyword “smart tv”. Add it to your keyword research list, and fill it in in the keyword strategy spreadsheet. You see people are searching for combinations of one brand’s television types and sizes. They’re probably searching for the similar keywords with the other brands too.
Incorporating keywords in pages is done by including keywords in important HTML elements, the body content and links.
Now define the contents of the other columns “Title”, “Meta description”, “H1 heading” and “H2 heading”.
When you’re done, your spreadsheet is going to look something like this:
Pro tip: use templates to generate the contents of the title, meta description and headings. Make sure you can manually overwrite the generated contents. Good templates will get you 90% of the way, but the remaining 10% often needs manual adjustments.
Example of a title template:
$productName - Buy online at $companyName
Example of a meta description template:
Image optimization plays an important role in on-page SEO too, but we’ll touch on that a little later.
On eCommerce websites, body content is often placed above and/or below the products. Body content gives search engines a better idea of what the page is about, as well as a clear signal that the page is unique and needs to be considered for indexing. Without this context, search engines have trouble understanding what pages are relevant for what keywords.
Here’s an example of body content on Amazon’s Plasma TV page:
Amazon deliberately chose to place the body content below the products because they didn’t want the body content to push the product images down the page. They wanted the best of both worlds: to give their visitors the opportunity to dive into their products right away (good user experience) and offer search engines a clear context for this page (good SEO).
Add body content to all of the pages you want to rank for in search engines. Be pragmatic and apply the 80/20 rule. Start by adding body content to your most important pages. Often these are the homepage, category pages, subcategory pages and your top product pages. After that’s done, continue with the rest of the pages.
Links play a vital role in SEO. Because navigational elements like such as the main menu, footer menu and breadcrumbs include links, these play a vital role too.
You’ll define these in the next section “Information Architecture”, what you need to keep in mind for now is:
Information Architecture is the art and science of designing a structure for presenting your website’s content. In a nutshell, it’s about defining what content will be presented and how it will be made accessible. Information Architecture is essentially where User Experience meets Search Engine Optimization, and both visitors and search engines will benefit from a well-crafted design.
Common Information Architecture deliverables include:
While your situation may not call for all these deliverables in high fidelity, it is always important to think about the essentials. The information architecture is the foundation of your eCommerce website, so you need to make sure it’s solid and allows for expansion in the future. The last thing you want is to paint yourself into a corner.
Keep these aspects in mind during your planning and you have 90% of the best practices covered.
In your Keyword Strategy you’ve already thought about the role of the navigation from an SEO point of view. Now let’s fill in the blanks by looking at it from a user point of view.
Describe all of the pages you want to include in your navigation and add hierarchy to them.
When doing so, make sure to:
Define the content of each of the following navigation types:
Define the different page templates you need. These needs may be based on specific product categories, or you may want to include specific landing pages. From an SEO perspective, every eCommerce website has these high-priority templates:
For each page, make a list of the following information:
For eCommerce websites with a lot of products it doesn’t make sense to define the properties above for each individual product category and product page. The goal here is to get you thinking deeply about the whole process, and along the way it’s likely you’ll come up with a template that applies to a lot of product categories and pages.
I recommend defining the properties above for at least your most important product category pages. When it comes to product pages, it’s a good idea to at least define them per product category.
Choose your product names wisely. Ideally they are the same or at least very similar to the queries users would use to find your products.
Optimizing your product images for search engines is a no-brainer for eCommerce websites. If done well, image optimization can drive solid traffic that converts.
Be sure to incorporate important keywords in the elements described above, as well as in the ones that matter specifically for images:
A general best practice is to offer the right image size for the right device. This means high-quality images on desktop and lower quality images on mobile.
Also read the other articles in this series of eCommerce SEO articles: