How to Optimize eCommerce Websites to Improve Rankings

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Having a loyal and engaged customer base is a sure-fire way to ensure eCommerce success. But before you can start retaining customers, you’ve got to attract them to your website in the first place.

To do that, you need great SEO, which is no easy task in the extremely competitive search landscape of eCommerce. What’s more, the very structure of most eCommerce websites makes edging your way up the first page of Google results far from a piece of cake.

At the same time, an effective SEO strategy is key to ensuring your brand’s visibility, attracting potential new clients and growing sales.

With that in mind, make great SEO a resolution for 2019 with these five essential tips:

1. Define Your Long-Tail Keywords

This is your first step to a successful SEO strategy, and it’s a fundamental one. Let’s imagine your website sells lamps: it’s obviously important for you to rank well for the keyword “lamps”. But just try typing that into Google and seeing who you’re up against. Depending on where you’re searching from, you’ll probably be competing with the likes of Ikea, Target or John Lewis. Good luck knocking those three off the top spot!

Long-tail keywords are the holy grail of SEO. They’re what will help you outrank your competition and drive organic traffic to your website, the ones that have fewer hits overall, but better reflect buyer intent. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s typing “lamps” into a search engine. They may be vaguely thinking of redecorating, but in reality, they’re nowhere near making a purchase as they’re not really sure of what they want.

But how about the person who’s googling “child’s unicorn nightlight”? They know exactly what they’re after and are most likely sitting there, credit card in hand. Research your keywords carefully and find what your competitors are doing by using tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMRush and Moz.

2. Create Unique Product Pages and URLs

Though it can seem like a pretty daunting task, especially for larger sites, make sure the copy contained on each product page is unique and as descriptive as possible. Don’t be tempted to just copy over descriptions provided by manufacturers, as other sites will do the same and duplicate content, as everyone knows, is basically death to your rankings.

To simplify the task of creating unique product descriptions, start from the top and work your way down. Pick your top categories (i.e. Floor Lamps, Table Lamps, Work Lamps, etc). Spend some time creating unique high-quality content for your star products and use it as a template you can then adapt for the rest.

Put yourself in the shoes of the people who are coming across your website and create related buyer personas then craft your descriptions, thinking hard about the benefits of the product you’re selling and highlighting them accordingly.

Once you’re done creating your product descriptions, don’t forget to take a look at your URLs. URLs themselves don’t have a major impact on page rankings (don’t bother creating one just to crowbar in a keyword), but they’re worth keeping in mind, notably because they provide both potential buyers and search engine crawlers with an easy indication of what the page will be about.

Avoid codes and ID numbers and stick to words that humans can easily comprehend, thus contributing to an improved user experience. And we all know that Google is all for that.

3. Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Images

If you’re running an eCommerce site, mastering image optimization is absolutely essential. Obviously, no-one buys a product without seeing what it looks like first. But there are two aspects to take into account here: potential buyers happening across your site via an image search and keeping search engines happy by reducing load time – without losing quality.

Use an online compression solution such as TinyPNG or Compress JPEG: simply upload your image and the software will do the rest, with barely any loss of quality. If you’re an Adobe Photoshop user, you can also use the popular “Save for Web/Devices” feature, which automatically optimizes the file dimensions and size.

It’s also important to pay attention to your file names. Avoid automatic file names generated by your camera (of the IMG_184155 type) and create a new one that describes what is contained in the picture (such as IMG_Unicorn_Nightlight). And don’t forget Alt text (short for alternative text) which provides information about an image when you hover over it with your mouse cursor. Alt text also helps search crawlers and visually impaired people understand what an image is about. Don’t forget to provide alt text information and stick to five words or less (i.e. “Child’s unicorn nightlight in pink”). Need more tips? Take a look at Google’s Image Publishing Guidelines.

4. Use Chatbots to Ensure Great Customer Experience

While great SEO is very much a question of content and keywords, people’s experience with a website also plays a big part in how Google decides to rank it. The amount of time a user spends on your eCommerce site, as well as whether they return to it, share it, or mention it on social media, is considered a good indicator of a positive customer experience.

Over the past couple of years, you’ve probably noticed more and more websites using chatbots—especially eCommerce sites. There’s a very good reason for this. Chatbots are not only an inexpensive and efficient way of providing round-the-clock support, but they also help point customers towards the products they’re looking for. If your site offers a wide range of products, chatbots can help guide customers by asking relevant questions, responding to queries and making suggestions.

A newer generation of AI-powered chatbots can combine data from different sources, including web searches, previous customer interactions and social media, to offer users personalized recommendations for products they may be interested in.

Optimizing your eCommerce website for search engines can seem daunting at first. But by following the simple rules outlined above and making a great customer experience a priority, you’ll soon be on your way to making your venture a major success.

About the Writer

Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.

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