A Complete Ecommerce SEO Guide For 2019 & Beyond

Many newbies and even experienced marketers get eCommerce SEO wrong; they focus on optimizing high-competitive, high volume keywords and phrases.

For instance, you will find a marketer trying to rank for a keyword like “car accessories.”

The truth is that websites that have ranked for these keywords are impossible to outrank. That’s why you need to focus on ranking category pages and individual products with less competitive terms.

Today, I’ll guide you on how to this- step-by-step.

Let’s get started…

Ecommerce SEO Guide

My Complete Guide to Ecommerce SEO:

The first thing you need to do is to go to Ahrefs site audit and crawl your site for any errors.

This will take some time, and so it’s good to set it going early so that it be running in the background as you do other things.

Also, ensure your eCommerce site is using HTTPS sitewide.

Many eCommerce sites do not use this. Have your site transfer to HTTPs.

This is very important because your eCommerce site will be collecting personal data from users.

Therefore, it is good that all their information is secure and encrypted.

Google gives a slight ranking boost to sites with HTTPs. This is enough motivation to shift to HTTPS.

Now, let’s get to the main business of the day.

Section 1: Keyword Research for Your E-commerce Site

Just as is the case with all any SEO campaign, eCommerce SEO need to start with keyword research. Without keyword research, you will be like a plane without compass direction. So, how do you carry out keyword research for your eCommerce site?

It is quite simple;

  • List all pages on your eCommerce site
  • Find and map relevant keywords for each page

Remember that you have to do keyword research for each page on your website. However, there are two main pages that need a different approach when optimizing them. These are category and product pages.

Here is what to do;

1.1. Get a full list of inventory of all the pages on your site:

You will do this by going to yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. Or yourdomain.com/robots.txt

To scrape the list of URLs, you will get there, use the Scraper Plugin. Here is an XPath to use //a[contains(text(),”{yourdomain.com}”)]/@href

If you have not launched an eCommerce site, do the same for an existing competitor site. You can steal their categories, site structure, and product to start with.

To find the right site for this, use this:

Keyword Explorer> enter 20-25 keywords related to the products you intend to sell. Make sure to choose the right country.

On the left, go to Traffic Share then By Domains. Here, you will see the domains getting the most traffic from the keywords you entered. Choose a less-popular but relevant brand, then follow the instructions above on how to scrap their sitemap. Paste the results you will get into a Google Sheet.

You can quickly go through the list and remove any products or categories that do not relate with what you are planning to sell.

1.2.Prioritize your pages:

You may be wondering whether or not you should assign keywords and optimize every page on your site individually, and I will tell you, “Yes, you should do that.” Of course, this is one hell of a work, but here is a quick way to do that;

Optimize the most relevant and important pages first. If you already have set up eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics, you can identify the most important pages. Just go to, Behavior> Site Content> Landing Pages then to sort by revenue.

You can choose to sort by traffic as well. For people that have not installed Google Analytics, try Top Pages reports in your Ahrefs Site Explorer. However, you need to install Google Analytics. Do this by going to Site Explorer, enter your domain, and you will see Top Pages.

1.3.Find and Map keywords to each webpage:

Now that you have identified prioritized pages, you can begin to find and map keywords to each page.

Head keyword- this is the primary keyword you want to optimize a page for

Long-tail keywords. These are secondary keywords that may drive targeted traffic to a page.

Let’s discuss the head keyword;

Step 1- Finding a head keyword

The best place to find relevant head keywords is to look at the keywords you are already ranking for. You can find these keywords easily with Ahrefs Site Explorer.

After finding the head keyword, hit the SERP dropdown to check the top 10 ranking pages for the query.

Here, you will be checking two things;

The pages ranking for the keywords:

  • Are they category pages, product pages, blog posts, or what type of pages are they? It is important that you rank keywords that are not highly competitive. If you see tens of pages ranking for that keyword in the top 10, the best thing is to look for another keyword to rank your product or category page for. If you end up ranking for that keyword, it won’t work since it is not what people want.

Look at the top keyword:

  • This is displayed in the SERP overview. Often, you will find that all the top 10 pages in the SERPs have the same top keyword. It may be the same keyword as that you are currently considering to use as your head term. However, you can find a better head term among the choices you see.

Most of the time, you will see that the head keyword in the top 3 results is hard to outrank. So, you will need to check the remaining results to see if they have ranked their head keyword in their category or product pages because you know there is intent to purchase behind this keyword. Once you see the head keyword used for every page, you can use that for your pages as well.

However, other times, things are not as straightforward as we may want. If you find out that you cannot clearly see the head keywords, or most of the head terms are branded, here is what you need to do;

  • Use search volume to sort the Organic Keywords report
  • Scan the list to see the most appropriate head term for the page
  • Check the SERPs to see if category and product pages are ranking
  • Look for a similar page to yours in SERP overview that receives a lot of traffic
  • View and scan the organic keywords for that page
  • Repeat these steps

Step 2: Find long-tail keywords and related keyword variations

You can find long-tail keywords in several ways;

For starter, you can use the Organic Keywords as your source for long-tail keywords and related-keyword variations.

However, remember to look at SERPs for each keyword to ensure the search volume is significant. To know they are relevant and backed by purchase intent, ensure the top ranking pages are either eCommerce category pages or product pages. After verifying, add it to your spreadsheet as a long-tail keyword.

To make your work easier (as this report can sometimes overwhelm you), use this trick:

Keywords Explorer> enter your head keyword> SERP overview.

Paste 3-10 of top-ranking product pages and category pages into Content Gap tool, then use the following settings;

  • Ignore “But the following target doesn’t rank for” part for now
  • Check “At least one of the targets should rank in top 10.”
  • Choose “at least 2 of the below targets” from “Show keywords that …. rank for”
  • This will reveal long-tail keywords and also semantically-related synonyms and words.
  • Repeat this for all priority pages on your eCommerce site.

Section 2: On-Page SEO for Your E-commerce Site

Now that you know the keywords and phrases to optimize for in each page, it is time to optimize them.

2.1.Optimize your Meta Descriptions, Titles, and H1’s: 
You will find many eCommerce sites using templates to optimize their Meta tags, and it is easy to see why most of them do this- it is because they have tens or even hundreds of thousands of product pages to optimize. Writing unique Meta descriptions and titles for each of them is a daunting and mundane task.

However, a template approach to optimizing Meta titles and description is not ideal. It will take forever to optimize each individual page if you follow this method. That’s why I recommend a hybrid approach.

Dedicate time, and most of your efforts into writing well-optimized tags for your most important pages then use template approach for other pages.

However, avoid using the same template for all the other pages. You can create a unique template for each brand, subcategory, etc. It wouldn’t make sense to have a template for products in different categories.

You will need to create different templates for products in different categories. As we said earlier, you need to write unique descriptions for your website’s most important pages. How do you know the most important pages? These are the pages ranking in the top 10 for at least one head or secondary keyword.

In your description, make sure you do the following;

  • Include your primary keyword
  • Add several long-tail keyword variations
  • Include action words such as buy, learn more, sale, click, free, etc.
  • Mention your USP such as next day delivery, free shipping, free returns, money back guarantee, etc.
  • Optimize for CTR to make them compelling

You can split test different Meta description and title to maximize click-through rates.

For H1’s, use the category title for category pages and product title for product pages. They should also have one of the keywords in them. There is no need to complicate this: Just ensure there is only one H1 on every page.

2.2.Optimize your URLs:

E-commerce URL can be overly lengthy, and this is something you need to avoid. You want your URL permalinks to be as readable and clear as possible.

Here are what our URLs should look like;

For your category page- Yourdomain.com/category-name

For your subcategory page- Yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name

For sub-subcategory page- Yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name/subcategory-name

For your product page- Yourdomain.com/category-name/subcategory-name/subcategory-name/product

This is pretty simple, right?

You will find that many CMS make URLs messy by default. For instance, WooCommerce often adds /product-category/ to URLs of category pages. This makes them look messy. And although there are plugins one can use to prevent or solve this problem, sometimes they are more involving than they should. So, I recommend that you don’t worry too much about this mess unless your URL looks really disgusting.

Something that adds keywords such as best-car-side-mirrors-2018 is not something you should have in your URL as this makes your category page looks more like a blog post or review post and this may put off some buyers.

There is no need to repeat keyword phrases in your URLs as it doesn’t make them SEO friendly. Your URL will just look messy.

How to write effective eCommerce URLs;

  • Keep them as short as possible
  • Include your head/primary keyword
  • Make the context and hierarchy of the page clear
  • Make use of hyphens to separate words. Do not use funny characters or underscores
  • Avoid URL parameters as much as possible

2.3.Write unique product descriptions and category reports:

If you look at all popular eCommerce retailers, you will see that they have unique descriptions on all their category pages and product pages. This is because they want to tell visitors more about the product or category they are viewing and also makes it easier for Google to understand more about your page.

Google uses an algorithm to rank pages, and if a page has no written content, this will give Google bots a hard time. Therefore, it is important to add unique descriptions to both your product and category pages. They need to be unique and not copy/pasted product descriptions from manufacturers’ sites. Create the content for these pages yourself.

When writing, follow these guidelines:

  • Include your head/primary keywords in the description
  • Integrate several long-tail keywords, LSI keywords, and synonyms where applicable. Make sure you do this naturally
  • Tell your visitor what to expect
  • Keep them short and sweet

Of course, this is a lot of work, and you might feel overwhelmed and even feel as though you will want to cry because of the great deal of work ahead of you. But I feel you. Try creating descriptions for your most important pages first.

A lot of eCommerce stores which sell products on Amazon use the same product description as that one of their manufacturers. But which description will rank better? One that has been copied/pasted from the manufacturer’s site to your eCommerce site or one that is hand-written in a unique, interesting way?

2.4.Add Schema Markup:

Displaying your products in the SERPs when they have Schema markup provides the searcher with more information that can make them click your link. Schema markup helps to bring more traffic to your site, and this obviously results in more sales.

In addition, Google bots appreciate this additional information as it can understand your content better- it will know if it is a product page, blog post, category page, etc. This is very crucial for eCommerce SEO.

However, Schema markup can be complicated but here are the basics you need to understand;

Product Pages:

Make sure to add markup to all your product pages so that Google can provide detailed information to your searches in search results- including Image Search. This way, users can see availability, review ratings, and price right on Search Results without having to open your link. To do this, you can use schema.org Product markup.

There are many things you can add to this, but here are the most common that you too should add to your product pages.

  • Name
  • Description
  • Image
  • Aggregate rating
  • Offers>price
  • Offers>Currency

Category Pages:

A category page list several different products. Each entity is marked up using their relevant schema.org type. However, if you mark up one item, you need to mark up all the other items. Also, the marked items shouldn’t link out to different details pages. This is the description given by Webmaster Guidelines, Google.

And it’s pretty confusing, right? Let me interpret this for you since these folks are making it look like rocket science.

For categories pages, I have simplified things for you.

  • You can markup multiple products on one page
  • If you decide to mark up on a product on your list, then you need to mark them all up.

The main reason for adding category pages description is to help Google to differentiate between different categories.

Rarely will you see rich information about category pages appearing in the SERPs. For this reason, I recommend that you markup category pages and keep your description simple and straightforward.

I recommend that you use breadcrumbs on your site and also add Schema markup to it too. Google says that it uses breadcrumb markup in the webpage body to categorize the content from the page in its SERPs.

Section 3: Technical SEO for E-commerce Sites

There are several technical SEO issues that affect eCommerce websites. In this section, we will pinpoint them and discuss how to solve them. Please note that we will be referencing Site Audit in this section.

3.1.Fixing duplicate content issue:

To check this, go to Site Audit>internal pages>content quality. You will see green and orange tiles showing duplicate pages on your site.

You don’t have to worry about Green tiles. So we will not dwell on those for now. However, the orange tiles duplicate pages are not canonicalized, which means they need attention.

For such pages, you need to delete one and redirect one to the other. However, if you cannot delete, you need to add a canonical link to ensure Google only indexes one of the pages. You can also add “Noindex, follow” Meta Robots tag.

This tag instructs Google to drop a page as soon as it has re-crawled it. This means that you want Google bots to crawl them.

Therefore, don’t add robots.txt to these pages as this will block Google from crawling them. After they have disappeared from the index, you can add the robots.txt tag to make sure they don’t waste crawl equity, and they don’t come back.

Add Meta robots tag and set “Noindex, follow” to all generated pages on your eCommerce store.

3.2.Find Deep lying Pages:

You want all your product and category pages to be easily accessible to your visitors, and that’s why your pages should not be more than 3 clicks from your homepage.

However, this rule of thumb applies for smaller eCommerce sites- this may not apply for large sites. So, let’s create a better rule of thumb;

Make sure none of your most important pages is more than 3 clicks away from your homepage

So, how do you find deep-lying pages?

Go to Site Audit, then to Data Explorer, to Depth is greater than 3, then to Is Valid (200) internal HTML page= Yes.

You should check these pages and adjust your internal linking structure to ensure they are a few clicks from your homepage.

To find orphaned pages- those that do not have internal links pointing to them, go to Site Audit, then to Data Explorer, to Inlinks= 0> Is Valid (200) internal HTML page= Yes.

Fix all the indexable pages first before fixing the rest.

3.3.Find Keyword Cannibalization Errors:

Before we discuss how to fix this, we need to define what keyword cannibalization is. It is when one website unintentionally targets similar keyword across multiple pages or posts.

It’s like you are quoting yourself. This is a common problem that many eCommerce sites suffer from. Research on ways to find and fix keyword cannibalization problems.

Section 4- Link Building for Ecommerce Sites

It is notoriously tricky to build links to your category pages, product pages, and homepage, but it is doable and a good thing.

This task is difficult for everyone which makes it something you need to try so you can outrank your competitors. However, you need to get some links and here are several ways of getting them;

4.1 Find sites linking to your competitors’ websites:

Imagine knowing sites linking to multiple competing eCommerce sites? That would make your work of outranking them very easy.

Here is how you can do that:

Link Intersect>enter your competitor homepages

If you are not sure who your competitors are, go to Site Explorer> enter your domain, then go to competing domains.

I recommend that you add at least two competitors and then opt for “any of the below targets” to start with. Link intersect will show you the sites linking to your competitors’ homepages. Sift through these results and look for sources of links you can easily replicate such as those coming from forums, link pages, and niche-relevant directories. You will find it easy to get these sites to link to you as well since they are linking out to different competitor sites.

4.2. Get your sites featured on ‘where to buy’ pages on different manufacturer’s sites:

Many manufacturers have pages where they list stores (online and offline) that are stocking their products, and they link to them as well.

One way of finding these pages is to Google the brands that you stock their products followed by “where to buy” phrase.

Check out relevant results and see if they link other sites stocking their products. If so, reach out to them and request you be added to the list.

Ahrefs can also help you. (Site Explorer> enter a competitor’s domain> Backlinks). From here, search for words such as “where to buy” or “stockists” in the search field. If you see any relevant manufacturer, reach out and request them to add you.

4.3. Alternative ‘International’ Technique:

Here is how this ‘International Alternative’ technique works;

Find a competitor in a different country or region, e.g. If you are in the UK, you can look for a competitor serving the US market.

Find blog posts mentioning or recommending that competitor

Request that they link to your site too as it might be useful for their UK-based audience.

Building a link from such sites will be easy in the same way you will be reaching out and requesting them to add you as a UK alternative to the page.

Here is an example you can use to reach out to them;

Hey (NAME)

John from AllSellers here.

I just found your guide on ….and noticed you linked to (Competitor site)

Having been in business for Y years, I know (competitor site) are a great supplier of the products you mentioned. However, they don’t have shipping services to the UK.

However, we do have and sell similar products as them in the UK. So I was wondering if you may consider adding us to that list alongside (competitor site). I think this would benefit your UK audience.

Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks!

John

Send this to a few ‘International’ sites, and I’m sure you will get some important links.

This is a pure white-hat technique that you can use. However, you can be creative and explore the safe black hat SEO to increase your likelihood of getting such a link. Of course, I don’t advocate for black-hat route since it is quite risky, but it is your choice.

Section 5: Content Marketing for Your E-commerce Site

When we were discussing link building, I mentioned that building links to every product page and category pages is very difficult. This is because you will rarely find people who are willing to link to such pages.

The reality is that most people will like to build links to information content such as infographics, blog posts, tools, etc. because they find it helpful for their readers. However, these types of pages will rarely drive conversion or direct sales for eCommerce sites.

But you can use content marketing to boost your most important category and product pages on your eCommerce site.

How do you do this?

5.1. Create relevant content that is “linkable.”:

First things first, you will need to create niche-relevant content that will naturally attract links. However, not all great contents are linkable. That’s why I want to show you how to find linkable ideas in your niche.

Go to Content Explorer and enter a keyword related to your niche and filter for pages with more than 100 referring domains.

Scan through the results and look for content that is related to your niche. Ensure that the content gets some significant traffic as well.

Once you identify a content idea that is both related to your niche and is capable of attracting a lot of links, it is time to create something similar and better.

After that, promote and build links to it for it to rank.

5.2. Add internal links in a clever way:

Now that you have created a great piece of informational content that has attracted a fair number of links, the next step is to strategically link from that content to a couple of pages in your eCommerce site or your eCommerce homepage to boost its ranking.

Here is what I would recommend for this;

Ensure that you are linking to your most important internal pages only. For instance, it would make sense to link men clothing size chart to a men clothing page.

People who are using men clothing size chart almost certainly have decided to buy a piece of clothing. However, having used your clothing size chart, they may realize they need a belt. So, it would make sense to link to your men’s belt category page.

Link to a product or category page. Keep in mind that these are the pages you are looking to boost their ranking as they directly generate revenue for your business. Internally linking to these pages will help boost their ranking in SERPs.

Internal linking strategy might not be the only strategy that will make your product pages and category pages rank better, but it will go a long way in helping them rank high.

Final Thoughts
As you have seen from this comprehensive guide, you don’t need to reinvent any wheel. However, if you follow the advice and guidelines I have given here, I can guarantee you, with certainty, that you will fare than virtually all of your competitors’ sites and Make Your E-commerce Business Successful.

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