eCommerce SEO: How to optimize your brand and product pages
In an eCommerce ecosystem that requires you to stand out from the crowd, ranking higher than your competitors is a must - yet, being in 1st place is just not enough. Relying on options such as paid advertising and social media can only do so much, requiring constant attention, input, and long-term costs. SEO however, requires input and effort when building or when revisiting your foundations. While being practically automated and foolproof with proper structure, it will additionally need to be maintained as your site grows, acting as an add-on in tip-top condition.
Whether you’re starting your eCommerce site and laying out the foundations of your brand and product pages, or improving your already existing one in an ‘SEO spring-cleaning’, this article will explore how to optimize your brand and product pages for organic rankings, reaping the benefits in attracting and increasing website traffic, more customers, and generate more sales.
Part 1: Laying the foundations
This involves laying the foundations at the beginning of your eCommerce SEO process by going through your existing product and brand pages to identify the structure you will need, with the keywords you want to use to target your audience. To successfully start laying down your foundations, make sure your site:
- Uses a mobile-friendly and responsive website structure: With more traffic coming from mobile devices, having an equally responsive website that is adaptable will provide a better experience for your customers, and in the long-run, aids in ranking your website higher in searches
- Check your site’s loading speed and performance: Customers can be impatient and leave if a site takes too long to load or performs poorly. Time and speed are everything. Websites that load faster are likely to rank higher amongst results
- Install an SSL certificate that keeps your customer’s information safe. An SSL certificate not only adds an extra level of security to your site but also acts as an essential ranking factor in Google’s search result ranking algorithm.
- Install Google Analytics and a Google Webmaster account: With Google Analytics, you will be able to understand how your customers engage with your site, allowing you to gain a wider insight into your site’s layout, content, structure, and keywords. With a Webmaster account, you will be able to manage your URLs, sitemaps, and search crawler/bot access
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a practice in optimizing your website, bringing your site to rank higher organically amongst search engine results. SEO allows you to increase your site’s visibility through your online business activities that contribute towards more relevant searches amongst results, making you more likely to attract attention and prospective visitors to your website is exactly what they are looking for.
It is a necessity amongst sites and more specifically, eCommerce sites, hence creating a whole different category of eCommerce SEO.
How to do SEO for eCommerce sites?
Search engine optimization statistics point towards 39% of global eCommerce traffic coming from search. Your site needs to rank higher than that of your competitors, pointing towards two types of pages to optimize for the best results - brand and product. When it comes to eCommerce SEO, the most important factors to consider are the relevance of the keywords and descriptions you will use, search volume based on those terms, and its overall existing ranking.
For this article, we will explore eCommerce Keyword & Competitor Research; Website Architecture; Optimize your brand and product pages, and how to choose an eCommerce CMS with SEO in mind.
Part 2: eCommerce Keyword & Competitor Research
With every SEO optimization process, a good starting point is to conduct some keyword research that ultimately is the driver and should be part of your overall content strategy. Whether that involves taking a look into your buyer persona and journey to find the keywords that best resonate with them, keywords can inform you going forwards. It influences not just your brand and product pages, but also your site’s technical SEO, site architecture, and the URLs you will be building around your pages. Imagine the consequences of targeting the wrong keywords, leading to low traffic and few conversions throughout your campaign. So, how do you conduct keyword research for your product and brand pages?
The key is to look into relevant keywords that centralize around your brand and the product you are trying to sell, as well as those that have a medium to high search volume. A great way to do this is by categorizing your keyword search through the following stages your customer may face. For example, if you are an eCommerce outdoor apparel store and someone is looking for leggings:
- Problem-based: Search descriptions of what they are looking for or a problem
(ie. “Best leggings for hiking”)
- Category-based: They search by a category or its solution category
(ie. “Compression-leggings”, “Heat-tech leggings”, “Sweat-wicking leggings”, or “Waterproof leggings”)
- Competitor-based: Your competitors - they want a better version of what they currently have
(ie. “The North Face”, and “Patagonia”)
- Brand-Based: Your eCommerce brand
A good starting point is to use Amazon’s Suggest (it would make sense to see what people are searching for related to your products on the biggest eCommerce site there is, right?). Start with entering a keyword that describes one of your products. Amazon will then provide a list of suggestions surrounding those keywords, most often using what is called long-tail keywords, as well as suggest categories that might be relevant to the product you are looking for. Some other useful tools to search for keyword ideas and their volume is UberSuggest, SEMrush, ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner. Also, Google’s Search Console gives you already a good insight into the topics you rank for.
Long-tail keywords are longer and more pin-pointed/search-specific keyword phrases that although are low in search traffic and volume, usually have a higher conversion value as they are more specific to the product.
When constructing your SEO campaign, make sure to not choose keywords that are too broad, or even too competitive. Keywords that have high competition, will take a longer time to achieve higher search result rankings. If your keywords are too broad, your site is likely to face a high bounce rate and low conversion rate as people click into your site and don’t find what they are specifically looking for. This does not mean you attempt to stuff as many keywords into your website. Remember, always write for people, not search engines.
On top of that, conducting competitor keyword research is essential to find out what your competitors are using. Start by compiling a list of keywords your competitors are using within their SEO strategy. A useful tool is with Moz, which allows you to see metadata and header tags a site is using, page authority, and domain authority information. Page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA) helps you to see the keywords that rank highest and thus gives you an outlook to explore other keywords to go-to-market rather than compete for the same keywords.
To summarize how to choose and create your keyword campaign for your product and brand pages:
- Look for that keyword’s search volume
- Keyword-Product Fit: What are people looking for and how can you stand out?
- Competition vs. Keyword: See what keywords your competition is using, and how that will reflect with the keyword choices you will make. Remember to stick with medium to high competition keywords. This will affect also the keywords you bid on in GoogleAds to rank on search results in Google
- Don’t make your keywords and key phrases too tricky to search for. The harder the keyword, the harder it will be to rank in Google
Part 3: Website Architecture
The way your website is laid out is comparable to how you would arrange your closet, cupboards, or desk. You want it to be organized and easy to use for your customers to find what they want easily, as well as search engines.
The rule of thumb when creating your site’s architecture comes down to two things:
- Keep it simple, easy to understand, and scalable
- Keep every page within 3-clicks reach from your landing page:
Rule 1: Keep it simple, easy to understand, and scalable
Think of your site’s map like a tree - it has its trunk, its branches, then its leaves, or perhaps a small fruit here and there. Look at the image below, it’s not simple, hard to scale as you grow, and is too complex for a customer trying to navigate and find what they need.
You don’t want a website that all links back to your landing page or homepage, defeating the purpose of establishing authority amongst your product and category pages.
Rule 2: Keep every page within 3-clicks reach from your landing page
The next thing to consider now is to keep your pages within 3-clicks to your landing page or home page. Take this example below, presenting link authority that groups accordingly the products by category and sub-category. This helps Google and your customers to understand and easily navigate your site to determine what it is you sell, and additionally for search engines, the keywords you use to best rank them in search results.
Finally, using your site’s architecture, create a sitemap of your eCommerce site, and submit it to Google. A sitemap, or your website’s architecture, allows search engines and its crawlers/bots to understand your site, from content to structure. By submitting such a sitemap to Google, will allow them to view and thus rank your site accordingly.
See your site map with yourwebsitedomain.com/sitemap.xml
Part 4: Optimize your brand and product pages
Optimizing and using on-page SEO on your brand and product pages throughout your eCommerce pages, allows you to make sure you are using the right keywords in the right places.
On-page SEO optimization is essentially aiding search engines like Google to know exactly what you are selling or describing, as well as in other Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) features. According to a SEMrush study, found that eCommerce websites should invest in presenting reviews and images on their product pages. This is due to 15 SERP features analyzed, reviews were found to aid in appearing at the top spot amongst search results, appearing in amongst 57.93% of global searches.
What is a SERP feature? A SERP is a Search Engine Results Page. In SEO however, SERP is identified keywords or searches that made the results. Contents of a SERP can include paid results, organic results, as well as SERP features. Some common SERP features on Google include Reviews, Featured Snippet (Instant Answers), News, Images, Videos, Twitter, FAQs, Sitelinks, or People Also Ask (Related Questions)
When it comes to using SEO for brand terms or keywords, an example can be the usage of branded SEO targets that use long-tail keywords, such as “Nike running shoes”. While on the market and amongst search results, there are many brands that offer running shoes, there is only one that resonates as much as Nike’s brand. By adding your brand to your long-tail keywords, it will aid in your overall SERP due to the nature of its relevance and specificity.
Ultimately, what you are looking for is to gain quality brand traffic (ie. customers searching for you and your products). This does not discount however other factors beyond SEO that can aid you in getting potential customers to search for you, whether that be through PR, paid ads (Google Ads, television, print, banner, etc.) can also be streams in aiding your brand traffic.
So how can your brand implement and optimize on-page SEO for your brand and product pages? Category pages are one of the key pages to rank, giving someone who is looking for something in the right direction of their query. A good starting place to optimize your pages, starts with your URL, in the title headline tag (H1), in the body content, image alt text, and in your metadata.
The most straightforward way to first optimize your pages is to put your primary keyword within your URL (of course, not making it long and unreadable), but to the point and simple, not exceeding 50+ characters.
2. Title Headline Tag (H1)
Title tags (or page titles) have one of the biggest potentials when it comes to SEO, due to it being the first impression amongst search results and thus the page’s click-through-rate. An optimized title should contain between 55 to 60 characters, using descriptive and specific keywords, such as your product’s category.
3. Body Content
Body content involves taking a look into optimizing your paragraph copy, and product descriptions. Search engines need content to be able to understand what it is you are selling, and therefore rank it, making it essential for SEO.
When optimizing your brand and category/product pages, consider writing a description for each product, aiming for around 250 to 350 words. Why? Studies have shown that Google tends to rank higher longer content. The more in-depth the information you provide on your pages, the better Google understands and thus ranks you higher. On top of that, in-depth content descriptions will aid your customers, giving an extra brownie point towards your overall user experience and the potential for happy customers to leave even more content on your product page, in the form of reviews. Make sure to also mention your targeted keywords at least 2 - 3 times.
4. Image Alt-Text
Google, on the other hand, does not physically recognize images, but rely on what is called alt text. Alt-text is a written copy that appears in place of an image if the image does not load. This text is also used to describe images to visually impaired readers, and allow search engines to understand better your content, and rank your website accordingly. It also gives you a chance to use keywords to show up amongst Google image results.
Search engine crawlers look through a site’s metatags and metadata to determine the relevance it has to what you are proposing to your headline and body. Metatags are snippets of text or descriptions that describe your page’s content, source code or HTML, and are therefore not visible on the page itself, but only to search engines.
6. Adding blog content
As an extra mile bringing together the keyword research, and that each page of your site should be optimized for only one keyword, adding blog content is a great way in utilizing the extra relevant keywords to rank accordingly. As an eCommerce business, consider writing blog posts that discuss your products, brand, and categories, bringing quality content to your customers, as well as a two-in-one in optimizing each post for a keyword (that is not already on your other pages) to therefore rank higher.
Part 5: How to choose an eCommerce CMS with SEO in mind
When it comes to choosing the best-suited content management system (CMS) with SEO in mind for your eCommerce site, you don’t need to be a code-savvy user. Content management systems are platforms that handle the basic infrastructures of your content in storing images, offering customizable templates to create your website, while also offering the perks of omnichannel publishing, site performance, multilingual translation options, and in-app editing capabilities. This makes CMS’ ideal platforms to create, easily publish and update your content across a multitude of platforms and channels. Yet, amongst all the perks of a CMS, you need a CMS with SEO capabilities in mind that will allow you to stand out from the crowd in SERPs. Here are 7 key factors to consider when choosing an eCommerce CMS for SEO:
Customizability page elements
As a CMS-user, you will need a platform that allows for your title tags, meta description, image alt tags, and headings to be not only customizable for specific pages, but also to enable such rules to other sections of your site (such as a blog, static pages or forums). Search engine bots/crawlers not only crawl your content but also your HTML, making your title tags, headings, and meta descriptions vital to signal the topics your site is about.
This can be simply done by creating h1 tags (the main title), titles and meta descriptions, and the rest of your content in a hierarchical order. Keep in mind that your page title and meta description are the first things that someone will see on SERPs, therefore acting as an essential role when it comes to CTRs (Click-Through-Rates).
One important thing to consider and explore when looking into a CMS is its plug-ins. Some things to consider are: Automated-SEO tag components, XML sitemap creation tools, page speed and performance tools, keyword management and editor tools, and more.
Image the URL of your webpage as your stage for search engine crawlers/bots - the way your URL is structured with the right keywords help those bots determine how to index and rank you accordingly in SERPs. While some CMS’ will automatically generate a URL for you depending on your title tag and headline (h1), an SEO-friendly CMS will allow you to still have control over the construction of your URLs, specifically if you are looking to target long-tail keywords.
- Alt Text for Images
Images not only act as a visual engagement for your website visitors but also as an index for search engine bots to accordingly index and rank your images as well through reading image alt texts or tags. Look for a CMS that allows you to customize and use alt texts for your images on your site.
- Page Speed & Performance
While it is a given that speed is everything, it can also be a dealbreaker for your visitors. A Google study on industry benchmarks further concretes the fact that half of the visitors are likely to abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. A slow-loading website will affect your search engine rankings. Make sure to look in your CMS-search for well-written code that loads text first, while automatically optimizing your images through compressing them for example, without losing its quality - therefore not disrupting the flow of interaction your visitors will have with your website.
With 57% of search traffic coming solely from mobile devices and is expecting to grow, now is the time to consider making your site mobile-friendly if you haven’t already. Make sure to choose a CMS that offers templates that are responsive to different devices, and feature mobile-first indexing (the mobile version of your site becomes a starting point for search engines to include in their index and criteria for ranking).
Traditional vs. Headless CMS
The difference between a traditional and headless CMS (such as Storyblok) in SEO, is that many traditional CMSs allow your editors to edit site meta data (titles and description) out of the box. This is because your domain is closely integrated within the CMS, and therefore controls how your content is exhibited. What this means is that editors can heavily rely on a mix of plug-ins and add-ons to handle metadata, breadcrumbs, content optimization, security, caching, and others.
On the other hand, since a headless CMS has no control over how your content is displayed, editors must add SEO functionality themselves. This empowers teams to configure, as well as gain the capability of flexibility in choosing what works for them, having control over how their content is managed and distributed accordingly. With Storyblok however, editors can find an in-app metadata plug-in, and the capability to input alt text for images.
Capabilities for Editors, Developers & Marketers
It is important to note that although you might have the best and fastest CMS in your toolkit, it will not work properly unless your SEO managers, editors, and marketers are able to use it. With CMS that provides great SEO features, content workflows aid your team to access and create content that can be SEO-ready with editing features, collaboration features, content workflow features, and QA control features.
The reasons are countless as to why you should optimize your brand and product pages for search engines. Yet, all factors point to the main goal of increasing sales, driving traffic, and attracting more shoppers.
Keep in mind that SEO needs constant ‘spring-cleaning’, as Google and other search engines continuously update their algorithms for their crawlers/bots to make the most informed decisions as to what counts as the best results amongst searches.
If you would like to learn more about optimizing your eCommerce site, check out these resources:
|A Guide to Optimizing your eCommerce Conversions and Site Performance||A Guide to Optimizing your eCommerce Conversions and Site Performance|
|eCommerce UX/UI in 7 minutes||eCommerce UX/UI in 7 minutes|
|Internationalizing your eCommerce: A quick guide||Internationalizing your eCommerce: A quick guide|
In the meantime, check out Storyblok and our eCommerce integrations to drive sales and enrich your site’s eCommerce experience.