E-Commerce SEO Best Practices for 2018 (Guaranteed to Boost Sales)
When looking for new products or goods online, 36% of people start with a search engine like Google.
That number has increased 8% in the last year alone, and it’s continually trending upwards.
Meanwhile, fewer and fewer people are heading directly to a brand website as their first stop.
Optimizing your E-commerce store for search engines is critical to landing new customers and loyal buyers.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best practices of E-commerce SEO in 2018 to help you rank your products on SERPs and get your brand in front of the customers you want.
Let’s jump in!
What is E-commerce SEO?
E-commerce SEO — is it any different than traditional SEO?
Yes and no.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the marketing practice by which you use tactics to increase your visibility on organic search results.
The goal of SEO is to generate more organic traffic and sales for your business.
In e-commerce specifically, it’s simply doing the same thing (focusing on organic visits) with the following goals:
- Driving more traffic to your product pages and online store
- Building organic sales that you don’t have to spend ad money to get
- Creating better organic brand awareness on keywords/products
You might be thinking something like this: “My sales are fine, and many people find me organically already. Why do I need to put time and effort into e-commerce SEO?”
Well, it’s extremely important to focus on because ranking your product pages or store content on the first page of Google takes work. Lots of it.
If you rank on the second, third, or even fourth page of Google, you won’t generate much traffic (if any at all).
Meaning you have to nail the best practices for many e-commerce SEO factors.
If you aren’t doing any SEO but you’re driving organic traffic, then you are likely shooting far below your potential.
Now, let’s discuss the best practices to guarantee more sales for your store.
E-commerce Title Tags
Your title tag on a given product or category page on your website looks like this in organic search results:
Title tags for e-commerce are the HTML codes that develop clickable titles/headlines for organic search results.
Title tags serve a few key functions when it comes to SEO impact. Title tags are great for providing relevance and increasing your organic click-through rate by appealing to customers searching for products.
For instance, the title tag above came up after a search for red basketball shoes.
The closer that your title tag relates to the keyword searched, the more likely users are to click.
One company was able to generate a 62% increase in organic traffic by updating their title tags for SEO.
Title tags are a critical piece of on-page SEO for e-commerce.
Depending on what e-commerce platform you use, you should be able to easily edit your title tag for products, category pages, and more.
For example, on Shopify, you can find this in the search listing preview for your products:
So, how do you optimize it?
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when crafting a title tag for your store:
- Place target keywords at the forefront title tags.
- Include LSI keywords if applicable/natural.
- Limit your length to 50-60 characters.
- Create unique titles for every single product page/category. Never duplicate.
- Consider utilizing your brand name at the end to develop better brand awareness.
E-commerce Meta Description Tags
Like your title tags, a meta description tag is an HTML code that helps explain the content of your page to users on a search engine. Unlike the title tag, you can’t click on the meta description text.
This appears on organic search results as a paragraph description just below the title tag:
While inserting keywords and context into your meta description is great, it doesn’t directly boost SEO.
So, why is it important? Because it creates the context for the user and helps dramatically increase CTR.
In fact, one brand found a 48% increase in organic clicks by improving their metadata.
Optimizing your meta description to improve CTR takes testing and great copywriting.
Here are some best practices to follow:
- Always include your main keyword or keyword variations. They show up highlighted in bold to attract more attention.
- Focus on compelling descriptions that generate clicks.
- Avoid clickbait since it can increase your bounce rate. A high bounce rate is a bad signal that could harm your ranking potential.
Like your title tag, you should be able to edit your meta description where you edit on-page data. The exact location will depend on your platform.
For Example, here’s what the page looks like where you can edit your title tags and meta descriptions with BigCommerce:
Search Engine Friendly URLs
If you search for anything on Google, you’ll likely notice URL strings immediately:
Why? Because they display a company’s brand name. And since they’re highlighted in green, they draw your attention.
Do they actually make an impact for e-commerce sites? Absolutely.
A poor URL structure is confusing for searchers who are looking for your products and for search engines that are scanning your pages.
For example, when you analyze the following two SERP results, which product category page URL looks more appealing to click?
Are you drawn to the first one that’s simple and contains just the keyword, or do you like the long-string URL with dozens of random number combinations?
Probably the first one.
Absolute URLs like the first SERP page are what Google prefers.
When optimizing URL structure, platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce even pack tools to streamline the process:
Here are some best practices to follow when creating your URL structure:
- Place your target keyword in the URL.
- Keep URLs as short and clean as possible.
- Stick with absolute URLs rather than dynamic or date-based URLs.
- Consistency is key. Stick with the same format on your entire store.
Category / Product Content
Content is king, right? Absolutely.
According to HubSpot, the more content you produce in both B2B and B2C (e-commerce, too), the more sales leads you to drive.
It’s no secret that producing great content can help you build everything from brand awareness to real sales for your products.
But when it comes to category pages or product pages, what do you do?
Do you write a long-form blog post? Not necessarily.
Category and product pages are tricky. You don’t want to have thin content and struggle to rank organically, but you don’t want to bombard buyers with tons of writing just for the sake of search engines.
This factor is potentially the most important aspect of optimization on your product pages. According to one study, “Detailed product information ranks above reviews, price in a decision to buy.”
Great product information not only educates the user and fulfills their number-one need, but it also gives search engines context on your page.
You can see one of the best examples of stellar e-commerce product page content from Bolthouse Farms:
Keeping the product description short and sweet allows the potential buyer to understand what the product is without reading a full article.
LSI keywords are sprinkled in the description and among the side panel, too, which provides extra context on related searches.
Similarly, Surf Station has stellar category pages:
Each category page uses visuals to showcase the entire product offering within that category.
A rich description compels you to continue shopping with them.
And potential conversion roadblocks and pain points are demolished by a list of value propositions — all while containing LSI keywords to capture more topics.
When crafting your own product and category pages, here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Prioritize your top product and category pages first. Find your top pages in Google Analytics and make those a priority:
- Research LSI keywords to sprinkle in your copy with a tool like LSIGraph. Just plug in your product or category keyword to generate ideas:
- Include your target head keyword as the title of the page.
- Optimize meta descriptions.
- Keep it short, sweet, and informative. Make it enjoyable to read.
Mobile-Friendly E-commerce Optimization
Mobile, mobile mobile.
I’m sure you’ve seen the hype of mobile optimization just about everywhere.
But the truth is that it’s not just hype anymore. Mobile is dominating online traffic now.
It’s rising every year and showing no signs of stopping.
Recently, Google announced that their mobile-first index was rolling out, too.
What does it mean? In a nutshell, the mobile-first index means that Google will be indexing your mobile site first — before your desktop.
This means that your mobile site has to be on-point to continue to thrive on organic SERPs.
If people are landing on your mobile site and bouncing due to bad speeds and horrible UI, you can bet that your rankings will take a hit.
If your website isn’t mobile optimized and responsive, that should be priority number one for your mobile optimization.
On top of that, mobile page speed is critical for success.
According to Google benchmarks, the average mobile site in every industry is far too slow:
What’s the problem with being just a few seconds slower than the “best practice” for speed?
Bounce rates that go through the roof:
If users have a bad mobile experience, the majority of them won’t return.
Dwell time, the “actual length of time that a visitor spends on a page before returning to the SERPs,” is a factor in SEO. So, having bad page speeds and a bad mobile site that causes bounces is a surefire way to sabotage SEO efforts.
Lush is a great example of a mobile e-commerce site that’s mobile friendly and well optimized for speed and dwell time.
It loads in just a few seconds, so it’s perfectly fit for a small mobile screen. And it contains the header and first CTA without the visitor having to scroll:
At the top, there’s a menu that allows you to quickly find…