SEO for eCommerce

Have you ever wondered how you can do SEO for an ecommerce website or whether SEO is good for ecommerce?  

Well, SEO is an excellent source of new customers for online retailers, arguably the most important channel in the marketing mix.  In this article, we’ll explore answers to most of the common questions we’re asked by digital marketing teams and SEOs working for online retailers.

Is SEO important for ecommerce?

Yes!  SEO is the biggest driver of new customers to eCommerce sites, on average SEO contributes to 42% of website visits and 37% of revenue according to a study by Wolfgang Digital.

Why is SEO important for ecommerce?

It’s a great way of finding new clients, as Google (and other search engines) want to give their users the most relevant results and recognise that when considering a purchase consumers like to ‘window shop’.   This means that Google does prominently serve eCommerce stores in its SERPs and you have a great chance of generating free natural search engine traffic to well optimised product pages and category landing pages on a well optimised website.

You can read about some eCommerce SEO techniques from our Tea Time SEO episode here.

How do I increase organic traffic on my ecommerce website?

Publish a fast, responsive, user-friendly website with products that users demand and high-quality content that matches the content that Google thinks users want when they are searching for keyword phrases that signal a strong buying intent.

This means you need SEO technology that helps you get all of this spot-on.  SEO platforms, such as ours, help online stores get these essential ranking factors spot-on by providing SEO data and tools such as; 

  • Keyword research tools to find thousands of relevant keywords that show strong commercial intent
  • Content analysers that match your content type with the content Google wants to show users in the highest-ranking positions in the SERP
  • Technical SEO tools to crawl your website and help you discover error pages, technical SEO and content issues and measure the key performance metrics such as Core Web Vitals
  • Opportunity analysers and forecasting tools that help you analyse your competitors, understand your market, get a grasp on seasonal demand for your products and suggest new content and keyword niches to go after
  • Backlink tools that help you understand the other online stores you are competing with and who is linking to them, so you can build an effective outreach/PR strategy to generate fresh backlinks which will improve your authority and rankings in Google’s eyes

You can learn more about eCommerce SEO techniques in our Ultimate Guide.

What are keywords in ecommerce?

This is always a good starting point for any marketing campaign – and it’s all about relevance.

Keywords is actually quite broad in scope, as it literally covers anything that a user might type (or speak) into Google that might be relevant to your business.

This could be one or more words in the relevant language.

It could be a ‘Navigational’ term such as your brand name, contact details, social media handle or website address.

It could be an ‘Informational term’ such as, “when was [your business] founded?”, or, “What is the name of [insert your company name]’s CEO?”

It may be a ‘Research term’ that signals that the user is considering purchasing something, such as “what are the best [insert product type] to buy?”

It might be more transactional in nature, e.g. A phrase that indicates the user definitely wants to buy a product or service such as “Book tickets to [insert event]” or “Buy [insert specific product name and model]”.

How do I find ecommerce keywords?

By breaking down plain old keywords into these different types of ‘User Intent’ queries you can easily segment and focus on important commercial queries that are more likely to bring new customers and generate new sales on your website.  You can see how we help eCommerce stores focus on the keywords that really matter here and more about our approach and methodology on our blog

This means that for commercial queries, the all-important first page of Google is dominated by category pages (or Product Listing Pages – PLPs if you prefer) listing a range of products on each page, as well as articles about how to select the right product, videos, local stores, images and of course a sprinkling of specific product pages.

It’s therefore imperative that you understand which relevant keyword phrases have strong commercial research or transactional intent and which of these phrases generate category and product pages in the SERP and which generate articles.  Then you need to ensure that you have high quality, mobile friendly landing pages that target these terms and are a perfect match for the content type Google is showing in the SERP.

If you’re already sold on the importance of SEO for eCommerce, then feel free to skip down the page and find out how our SEO platform can help you target the right commercial keywords that will drive organic sales growth and how we can help you match your site’s content type with the type of content Google wants to show users.  We call this “The Smell of the SERP” (or the SERP Landscape if you prefer).

How do I optimise my online store?

Well, you will need a plan.

Your SEO plan for your eCommerce store will set out your approach to at least these three main elements; Content, Technical SEO and Backlinks.

However, you need to start by understanding your market dynamics, e.g. How big is the market? who am I competing with in which niches? How strong is the competition?  What are consumers looking for and is the demand seasonal?

You can get answers to these questions (and more) by analysing competing sites.  Bear in mind they may not be your traditional brick and mortar retailers, you are almost certainly going to compete against Amazon, eBay or one of the other internet giants in some keyword niches.

You can do this manually by looking at the keywords that multiple competing sites are ranking for.  Or, if you are interested in saving days or weeks of effort then discover how we can automate this SEO strategy process for you across millions of keywords in 26 countries and languages.  The SEO strategy tools and insights we provide can be particularly valuable and timely if there’s been a major algorithm update, or a rival has acquired another competitor or you want to enter a new international market.

What is a good SEO or content strategy for an eCommerce website?

Whether you do this manually or we automate it for you, the very best SEO teams at leading eCommerce stores will go one step further and connect their internal business metrics with SEO demand and forecasting data to produce a revenue-driven SEO strategy.  This gives you an SEO content roadmap of the best pages to optimise and content to create that should generate the best ROI on your efforts by giving the best combination of growth in organic sessions and eCommerce transactions and revenues.

The success of this content strategy is also dependent on solid foundations, which means your website needs to be technically sound and SEO friendly.  You will also want to attract high quality backlinks from relevant pages on authoritative sites.  Let’s look at each of these eCommerce SEO issues and ranking factors in turn.

What technical SEO issues matter for eCommerce sites?

eCommerce sites have the same SEO technical challenges that all websites face such as; 

  • 4XX dead links
  • 5XX server errors
  • Redirect chains
  • Slow loading pages that fail to meet Core Web Vitals
  • Header errors
  • Errors in robots.txt
  • Meta no-index tags
  • Sitemaps with dead links
  • Duplicate meta data
  • Duplicate pages

There are also a range of issues that, if not unique to eCommerce stores, are certainly common in the online retail space.  These range from:

  • Problems with faceted navigation causing index bloat through duplicate pages and spider traps wasting crawl equity and diluting link power
  • Pagination issues
  • Incorrect use of canonical tags
  • Incorrect use of href lang tags
  • Large sites with multiple sitemaps can experience problems such as listing; duplicate URLs, dead URLs, discontinued products and thin pages with only a few products
  • Redirect strategies for seasonal products, out of stock items and discontinued product lines
  • Cannibalisation of category pages and static SEO friendly landing pages
  • A poor site search experience and internal search result pages getting indexed
  • Not using site search keyword data to help drive SEO efforts
  • A lack of faceted refinement
  • Poor or thin product pages and/or category pages – this is especially prevalent when the products are low value and generic in nature and manufacturers’ standard descriptions and images have been used
  • Little top-of-the-funnel content to drive new visitors to the site through search
  • Poor site structure and internal linking

If you’ve found yourself nodding your head whilst reading this, then you’ll be pleased to know that we have a number of SEO tools that can help you resolve these problems such as our website crawler, our page experience analyser that compares your pages’ Core Web Vitals to the competition and a bespoke technical SEO analyser for huge sites that can identify duplicate pages and present the data in Big Query and Google Data Studio.

How to get backlinks for an eCommerce site?

Backlinks continue to help good quality sites get good quality pages ranking well.

Your competitive gap analysis will have revealed the backlink profile of your closest competitors.  So now you can use this data to piggyback off the backlink strategies of the competition.

SEO backlinking strategies typically employed by leading eCommerce sites include:

  • Looking for sites linking to multiple competitors to see if they will also link to you
  • Targeting external links that lead to a dead 404 page on your competitors’ site and contacting the external linking website to tell them that they are linking to a dead page and suggest your page as an alternative
  • Looking for influencers that are writing about your niche and contacting them to agree terms for product placements, backlinks, etc
  • Galvanising your PR team to get relevant placements on national websites that will increase awareness and drive traffic to your site

Subscribe your eCommerce site to our platform and we can provide you with access to arguably the largest independent database of linking websites from Majestic.  You can use this to support your content marketing efforts and improve the popularity of your pages with real users and search engines.

How important is a good on-site search experience for eCommerce sites?

In a word it is critically important.  

Although not strictly an SEO issue, it’s covered here because a sub-standard on-site search engine will hamstring your efforts to get a positive ROI from your investment in SEO (whether that’s technology, data, content production or people).

According to Algolia, 43% of users on retail websites going directly to the search bar and up to 30% of e-commerce visitors use internal site search. Therefore, you should make this area of your site a competitive advantage for your brand. A site-search engine that is fast, provides accurate search results and recommendations will increase conversions – this will improve the ROI from your SEO campaign.

Read about our partnership with GroupBy and how we’re working with their leading-edge site search and merchandising technology to use users’ site search keyword data for SEO to deliver even better organic SEO session growth and sales.

What does Authoritas do to help eCommerce sites?

If you’ve enjoyed reading about the kind of problems encountered daily worldwide by leading eCommerce sites, then you’ll hopefully also enjoy discovering how our SEO software tools and team help digital marketing teams, content/editorial teams merchandising and SEO teams at leading online stores and retailers drive superior organic growth.

Would access to these kind of tools and insights help you achieve greater personal and professional success?

SEO and Content Strategy Tools, Data and Insights for eCommerce sites

Do a much more thorough market analysis than any of your predecessors could possibly have done.

Automatically analyse your top 100 closest competitors to perform competitive gap analysis at scale.

This will deliver you:

  • An SEO strategy focused on pages and content topics that have the greatest potential for organic growth.
  • A granular understanding of your market position and market share based on a universe of relevant keywords (we don’t compare you to the whole of Amazon or eBay when you only compete with a part of each).

Market entry strategy for international markets

We’re working with major retailers to help them thoroughly research the competition in their niche in new global markets that they want to enter.

We can deliver you:

  • A no-stone unturned approach to market and competitor analysis and keyword research
  • Commercial keyword opportunities and seasonal demand mapped back to your site categories and sub-categories so you can tie the SEO data back to your business data for effective planning
  • Complete consumer question research so you can understand how your content and PR teams can support your market entry

Revenue/margin focused SEO and Content Marketing Strategy

We can help you tie your SEO strategy to business objectives and build a more effective revenue-driven SEO plan.

By combining your business metrics, analytics data and our SEO data we can deliver you:

  • A way to focus on the areas that have the potential to generate the most sales
  • An actionable way to refine your tactics so you can concentrate your efforts where Google is showing eCommerce category pages
  • A better way to justify SEO budget
  • A sure-fire way to improve the ROI of your SEO projects

Technical SEO for eCommerce sites

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Our website crawling and auditing tools can be run in the platform on demand or on a regular schedule.  For the largest sites, we can also run custom scripts which will perform data analysis across millions of data points and store the data in Big Query and custom Google Data Studio dashboards.

Our technical SEO tools help eCommerce sites solve the most common SEO challenges they face, such as:

  • Sitemap auditing
  • Internal site-search enhancement and deduplication
  • Cannibalisation of SEO Landing Pages and site categories
  • Website crawling for common SEO issues (data is integrated with your website analytics and Keyword ranking data so your tasks can be prioritised in the in-built SEO Task Manager)
  • Addressing the issues caused by faceted search
  • Core Web Vitals assessments for your pages and your competitors

You can also learn some great tips about crawling large eCommerce stores on our blog.

Keyword Research and User Intent

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Our algorithm analyses the Google SERP for each keyword to help eCommerce sites to target commercial keywords with strong research or transactional user intent.

  • This eliminates time and resource going to waste on keywords with informational intent
  • This has also proved to be useful for PPC teams!

Smell of the SERP, SERP Landscape/ Matching Content Types

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We can support product and merchandising teams working on large ecommerce sites create and serve the correct type of content that matches the content type Google is favouring on the SERP.  This increases your site’s relevance for thousands of queries and will drive organic rankings and a stream of new customers.

Good news, you can now see detailed content analysis of your ranking pages versus your competitors.

This data is available via our Page Structure API and in Big Query.  Yes, we are also synchronising this data for any platform account with Big Query enabled!

What does this mean?

It means every time we run a rank check, we store the top 100 SERP results for that keyword in Big Query and we additionally visit, download and analyse the content of the top 10 organic results (including Featured Snippets, but ignoring universal search results).

This helps SEOs in the following ways:

  • Assess the types of pages performing well on Page 1 of Google for that query (e.g. Do articles dominate or product pages)?
  • Determine if there is a good or poor match between the ranking keywords for your pages and what Google wants to show users.
  • If some keywords are poor matches for Google’s intent, then it helps you identify which keywords to split off into new pages, or which pages need further content added to meet Google’s expectations
  • Analyse the detailed characteristics of the top performing pages vs your page, so you can identify what is missing from your page and where you can improve your content

Creating SEO Friendly Landing Pages at scale

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We crawl your site categories and take a feed of your internal site search data to get a seed list of keywords.  We feed this into our keyword suggestion API, search volume API, Smell of the SERP algorithm and SERP Similarity analyser to give you a list of relevant terms for which you should create static HTML category pages.

  • These pages will rank for and bring you new customers from a group of related terms that you are not ranking for today
  • These pages won’t clash or cannibalise traffic from your existing pages

(Coming Soon) We’re currently experimenting automating the creation of unique on-brand meta titles, meta descriptions and relevant summary text geared around helping consumers make informed buying decisions.  (Interested Beta Testers always welcome).

Feeding relevant content suggestions to your content teams

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In competitive markets you sometimes need to support your key category pages with internal links from long-form blog posts or articles.  We can supply your editorial team with relevant, prioritised groups of keyword terms that Google predominantly shows articles or blog posts for on page 1 of its SERPs.

This is a great way to attract new top of the funnel buyers as well as improving the relevance and organic performance of related category and product pages.

AI-powered Content Assistant

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We help SEO teams and agencies working for major eCommerce brands scale their editorial and content marketing efforts with an AI powered content assistant that is designed to give your content writers and editors a fast-start when optimising or creating new content on almost any subject!

Add some relevant keywords and watch as our AI will automatically generate content for 6 different types of content:

  • Meta Title
  • Meta Description
  • eCommerce PLP Summary
  • Buying Guide
  • Article Outline
  • A ‘How-to’ style article outline

Already got SEO Friendly Landing Pages?

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Often sites will have inadvertently created tens of thousands of very similar (if not practically identical) pages using SEO automation.  Problems typically occur when sites use user generated site search data to automate the creation of SEO friendly landing pages without any checks and balances in place.  This can work well of course, after all we advocate an automated approach to creating these pages at scale – and the results can be remarkable.

If you haven’t seen the award-winning case study yet, then read for yourself how leading French ecommerce site Rakuten, used Authoritas market data to create landing pages at scale and drive a 40% increase in organic traffic in a matter of weeks!

However, you need to validate your assumptions and have checks and balances in place to stop very similar pages getting created.  This should also be treated as a continuous optimisation process and not a one-off fire and forget exercise for your development team or site search technology vendor.

If you already have these pages then great; we can audit these pages for you!  

We can de-dupe them against each other and against your Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 category pages.

We analyse 3 key factors across all your site’s pages to ensure our auditing recommendations are as accurate as can be:

  • % URL similarity using keyword analysis of the URL strings
  • % similarity of products shown on each page using word vectors
  • % of ranking URLs in the SERP for the key head term the page is targeting (AKA “SERP Similarity”)

We’ve seen major eCommerce sites with tens of thousands of duplicates pages or close variant pages indexed and hampering SEO growth.   Often, they are caused by these common issues:

  1. Singular/Plural

The same content is created for 2 pages that only differ through the singular and plural versions of the URL slug.  For example; /grey-wood-counter-stool and /grey-wood-counter-stools.

  1. Word Order

The same content is created for 2 pages that only differ through the order of the words in the URL slug.  For example; /led-touch-lamp and /led-lamp-touch.

  1. Additional Words

The content on each page is the same as the ecommerce store does not have a large enough assortment of products in this niche, but the URLs differ by a word that implies the user should expect slightly different content and products.  For example; /blush-decorative-pillows and /blush-pillows.

  1. Synonyms

The same content is created for 2 pages that only differ by a single synonym in the URL slug.  For example; /kids-table-and-6-chairs and /kids-table-with-6-chairs or /tapas-dishware and /tapas-dinnerware-collection.

  1. Semantically similar intent

The same content is created and displayed on 2 pages and although the URLs are quite different the meaning is semantically similar and the content is likely to satisfy the same user intent. For example; /rug-slipping-on-carpet and /prevent-rug-from-slipping-on-carpet or /side-window-sun-shield and /sun-shield-for-car-side-window.

  1. Typos/Misspellings/Apostrophes

You could have 2 indexed pages that list almost the same product set and compete with the same competitors.  If you do, then you are diluting your SEO efforts by cannibalising yourself. E.g.  teal-gray-curtains and teal-grey-curtains.

  1. Abbreviations

This often happens with brands but can also happen when common words are shortened. For example; /comfortable-pack-n-play and /comfortable-pack-and-play or /four-by-four-remote-controlled-car and /4-x-4-remote-controlled-car.

  1. SEO Landing Pages clash with Category Pages

In this example, the content was identical and the competing ranking URLs in the SERP were almost identical for “green dining chair cushions” and “dining chair pads and covers green”.  There was no need for an SEO friendly landing page of /green-dining-chair-cushions as it competed with the category page /store/category/dining/chair-pads-and-covers/green/.

  1. Products where Google doesn’t differentiate between them in the SERPs

Examples such as this; /marble-and-wood-end-table and /marble-wood-side-table, where 90% or more of the ranking URLs for these terms are identical and the similarity of products on the page is also high probably don’t merit their own page.  Consolidate and conserve crawl and link equity.

Sometimes, but not always you’ll discover pages that should be merged that have dates, years, numbers in the URL, e.g. /baby-doll-stroller-for-1-year-old and /baby-doll-stroller-for-2-year-old.  

The similarity of your pages and the competing pages in the SERP as well as the URL string similarity all give you useful clues as to whether to keep, delete and redirect or merge and redirect these pages.  

We can automate this audit on an ongoing basis for you, so your site always reflects what Google wants to see.

Integrating eCommerce Site Search with SEO

The majority of eCommerce sites have a site search facility and it’s a tremendous source of knowledge to help you optimise your website and drive sales. Research by Bloomreach shows that ~80% of site visitors engage with either your search bar or your navigation and browse experience.

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We have partnered with eCommerce site search and merchandising specialists GroupBy to help major eCommerce brands solve common SEO issues and drive organic traffic and sales.

We do this by taking a feed of;

  • The most searched terms on the site’s internal search engine; and
  • A product catalogue
  • All sitemaps

We can then recommend the creation of search engine friendly landing pages, where the user intent is commercial research or transactional in nature and eCommerce category pages (Product Landing Pages) are the dominant page type on page 1 of Google’s SERP.  By matching recommendations back to the product catalogue, we only make viable recommendations where the eCommerce site can fulfil the demand.

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The clever integration of SEO and site search data can drive rapid growth in organic traffic. 

We can work with any site search and merchandising solution, so if you are using Elastic Search, SOLR or a SaaS product from Algolia, Attraqt, Constructor, Bloomreach, Celebros, Coveo, Fact-Finder, GroupBy, Hawksearch, Klevu, Lucidworks, Qubit, Salsify, Searchspring, Swiftype, Syte or Vue.ai, then get in touch with us and let’s explore what we can achieve together.

Supporting Content, Editorial and Merchandising Teams

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Our Smell of the SERP analyser is great at sniffing out which groups of related relevant terms have high-levels of blog posts and articles ranking in the SERP.

The data insights can be deployed to editorial and content teams to write content to rank for these keywords and bring in top of the funnel buyers at an earlier stage of their buyer journeys.

If you are wondering why your page is ranking well for some keywords and poorly for others then maybe Google is showing a different content type more prominently for these keywords.  

Talk to us and let’s see what story the data is telling us.

SEO Reporting for eCommerce Sites

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  • Export the data you need from the platform on demand to .csv or .xls format.
  • Use our Platform API to feed data into your internal systems.
  • Synchronise the platform with our Big Query instance.

What to do next

Need some help optimising your eCommerce store to get ahead of your competitors?

We’d love to talk to you about the unique challenges you face in your niche and see whether our data and tools can give you a competitive edge.

Why not setup a 30 minute introductory meeting with one of our experts?

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Laurence O’Toole
Authoritas CEO

An entrepreneur with 20+ years’ experience in consumer and B2B internet product development, sales and marketing. His current venture Authoritas is a big data science-driven SaaS platform for Content Marketing and SEO Professionals worldwide.

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