— September 13, 2017
Unfortunately, owning an ecommerce store is not like the movie Field of Dreams. Just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come. In fact, unless you take very specific actions, they almost certainly won’t come.
But don’t worry. These actions aren’t necessarily complicated. They do take some time to implement, but they’re proven methods for improving your overall organic search engine traffic.
#1 – Craft Your Category Page Keywords
Your category pages are actually more important than your individual product pages. It’s more important for you to compete for broad keywords, like “deck shoes”, then individual product lines and models.
You want to make sure that your category pages are perfectly optimized for the products, brands, and models that appear on those pages. This means putting your keyword in the image ALT, the H1 tag, the page description, the page title, and scattered appropriately throughout the page.
#2 – Redirect Expired URLs With A 301 Redirect
You probably have numerous products that you don’t sell anymore and thus deleted the product page. However, these original product pages were most likely indexed by search engines and could show up in customer searches.
If a customer clicks on the link, they’ll encounter a missing page and will probably move on to another site. This is especially problematic if the page was high ranking and sent a lot of traffic to your site.
In the case of expired products, use a permanent 301 redirect to send visitors to a similar product page.
This does two things:
First, it tells search engines to remove the original page from the index.
Second, it passes the high ranking of the original page to the redirected page, meaning search engines will still return your site high in the rankings.
This will keep your search rankings high even when products expire.
#3 – Give Each Product Page A Unique Title Tag
The title tag is the clickable headline that shows up in searches. So, for example, if someone searches for Nike Swoosh Shoes, the title tag will be all the different headlines that are returned.
Unfortunately, many ecommerce stores, especially if they have a large amount of products, end up with duplicate title tags. It’s easy for this to happen if you have multiple product pages.
If you want a certain product page to attract the attention of search engines (and presumably show up higher in the results), you need to give it a unique title tag.
When you’re worried about repeating key words, which is a real possibility, consider using key phrases instead of specific keywords. Frankly, this is how customers are finding products anyway.
Ideally, keep your tags under 70 characters to ensure they don’t get cut off in the search results. Also, place the most important words and phrases at the beginning of the title.
#4 – Use Those Breadcrumbs
Search engines love to know how pages relate to each other. The word “breadcrumbs,” as in a trail of breadcrumbs, is a way of describing the proper structure pages should follow.
The layout of your pages should be self-explanatory to search engines. You should have your main store page, and then category pages within that main page, and then subcategories. Within each category there should be product pages.
For example: http://www.store.com/category/sub-category/product
By using a clear structure throughout your site, search engines can index it easily and return it in customer searches.
#5 – Optimize For Mobile
Your website should have been mobile optimized for quite some time given the prevalence of smartphones. But Google has given you one more reason to do it.
Google is beginning to rank sites that are mobile friendly ahead of desktop only sites because more searches occur on mobile devices. This means if your desktop site is optimized with keywords, title tags, page speed, etc., but your mobile site isn’t, both sites will be penalized.
Obviously, this means things like no flash on your site, easy to read, no horizontal scrolling required, etc.
If you ignore these guidelines, your ecommerce store will begin to significantly fall in the rankings.
#6 – Use Rich Snippets On Product Pages
Google uses rich snippets to understand the content of your pages. It allows them to distinguish between, say, a blog post and an actual product page.
What is a rich snippet?
It’s contextual information about what’s on the page. So, for example, it could include product details like color, sizes, related products, and pricing.
Technically, including rich snippets alone won’t boost your search rankings. But when a search engine properly understands what’s on a page, it’s much more likely to rank it higher.
#7 – Avoid Cannibalizing Keywords
Cannibalizing keywords is when multiple pages are attempting to rank for the same keyword, which ultimately forces the search engine which page is more important. In the end, this can minimize your ability to rank for your most important keywords.
To avoid this, you need to utilize two separate practices. First, be sure to use a distinct keyword or key phrase for each page.Your most important pages should have your most important keywords. Don’t even write a blog post that has the same keyword or you hurt your overall rankings.
Second, keep a list of which keywords each page is trying to rank for. A spreadsheet works well for this. When implementing new pages or optimizing existing ones, consult the list to be sure you’re not creating a duplicate.
#8 – Use Internal Linking Appropriately
Search engines look more favorably on pages that link internally to other pages within the site.
There are a few tactics you can implement that can boost your overall ranking. First, point multiple links back to the page you want to rank highest. Search engines will evaluate the number of links to a page to determine its importance, and more links equals more importance.
Second, link specific “anchor text” that you want to rank for. In other words, if you want to rank for the words “blue suede shoes,” put your link within those words.
One note of caution, however. If you use internal linking too much, search engines can think you’re attempting to do something suspicious. Don’t go overkill on it.
#9 – Make Your Site As Usable As Possible
Search engines don’t only look at things like title tags, meta descriptions, and keywords. They evaluate actual user experience. They want to know if the search results they’re returning are relevant to people.
For example, if Google sees that people are going to a particular page on your site and then quickly leaving, they interpret that to mean that it’s not relevant. If a page isn’t relevant, they’ll lower it in the search results.
How can you determine whether your site is usable and relevant? Two ways. First, simply look at your bounce rate and session duration for different pages. Bounce rate is the percentage of users who navigate away from your site after viewing a single page. Session duration is how long users are staying on your site.
If your bounce rate is high or your session duration is relatively short, it’s a sign that your site may not be relevant to visitors.
Second, simply perform user testing. Have people who aren’t familiar with your site walk through the browsing and ordering process. As they go through the process, have them speak their thoughts out loud. This will enable you to see your site through their eyes and identify any possible sticking points.
#10 – Implement A Blog
You may think that blogging is a waste of time, but it can actually drive huge amounts of organic search traffic. Because blog posts tend to have more content than product pages, it can be easier to rank them for certain keywords, especially if they have a high number of external links pointing to them.
If you write high-quality blog posts centered around topics related to your products, you can attract customers who are actively looking for what you sell.
For example, if you sell diamond rings, you could write about how to pick the perfect diamond ring or the different types of diamond cuts. Customers searching for these terms are probably also looking to buy a diamond ring.
In addition to organic traffic, if you post is well written, you can get additional traffic through social media shares.
Getting organic search traffic isn’t easy. You can’t simply create an ecommerce store and expect people to start showing up. Like any business, you have to work for exposure.
But if you know what you’re doing, you can make your site more search engine friendly. As you slowly optimize your site, you’ll begin to see more organic traffic. Don’t expect this to happen overnight. Typically, search engines take weeks or even months to update their indexes.
But you should expect growth, and with more growth comes more sales.