five tips for mastering ecommerce seo
SEO whiz Kate Toon explains how to grapple with the Google beast and get more sales.
Most ecommerce stores and makers love channels like Instagram for sharing their products, but forget about SEO (search engine optimisation) and its importance. When I want to buy something, I don’t endlessly scroll through Instagram, hoping that the thing I want pops up – I go to Google and type in what I want. If I don’t find it, I add more detail. And I think you’ll find your customers do, too.
The statistic that’s waved around is that 70 per cent of all transactions (both ecommerce, and service-based) start with a Google search. If your site isn’t easy to find, you’re missing out on a huge piece of the pie. Google is a fussy beast and has around 200 things on its list of ‘what makes a rankable website’. SEO is just about knowing what those things are and the order of importance, so that Google falls in love with your website and gets you fat, juicy results.
Here are five simple tips that will get your PayPal pinging and your carts ka-chinging.
TIP 1: TITLES AND METAS
Unless someone already knows your store, it’s likely that the first time they’ll ever encounter you is by spotting you in the Google search results. And first impressions count, right? Your little snippet will be competing with ads, shopping carousels and all manner of other noise on the search engine results page, so it’s important to stand out.
Here are a few ways to do this:
1. Write a clear, simple title tag for your product (aka the title of the webpage that appears in search results). This should be around 60 characters, including spaces.
2. Include your product name at the start of the title tag.
3. Finish the title tag with a sales benefit, rather than your brand name.
4. Add a meta description (aka the text that appears underneath the title tag). Keep it to around 155 characters, including spaces.
5. Think of your title tag and meta description as a mini ad. Ensure it isn’t just a list of what you sell, but rather a reason why I should buy from you.
Bonus tip: Look at the ads above your listing. What phrases and benefits are they using? Free shipping? Next day delivery? Try to use some of these in your title and meta.
TIP 2: SITE NAVIGATION
So, this might not seem like an SEO thing, but it is. If you’ve managed the magic of getting people to click through from the search results to your site, you have about a minute to get them to stay on the site and take the next step.
One of the biggest issues with most ecommerce sites is lack of clarity. The ‘I have no clue what this store is actually selling’ factor. Of course, branding helps with this. (A site called: ‘Bob’s Umbrellas’ is way clearer than a brand named after your pet cat.) Another really easy way to show the breadth of what you sell is to have a product-led navigation.
DON’T: have one element called ‘Shop’ and a monster drop-down menu.
DO: have your shop categories in your primary navigation (up to 10). You can shove your admin-y pages (like ‘Contact’, ‘Blog’ and ‘Returns’) in your footer – they don’t need to be in your main navigation.
Bonus tip: Remember to leave a spot for ‘New’, ‘All’ and ‘Sale’ if relevant.
TIP 3: CATEGORY COPY
We SEO folks love a good pyramid – pyramids help us explain things. So, picture a pyramid please, dear reader. At the top is your home page, the most powerful page in your site SEO-wise. The next layer down contains your category pages. Then your sub-categories. Then your products. The power of your pages decreases as they flow down.
Now, most store owners put a lot of effort into their home page copy and try reasonably hard with their product copy, but don’t give a hoot about their category pages. Category pages are powerful, people! Try adding 100-ish words of keyword-rich, engaging conversion copy to these. Explain how you chose the products, why you like them and who they’re for. Not only will this give Google something to chew on, it will also help persuade the reader.
Bonus tip: Ideally place the copy above the products. If you shove it at the bottom, no one – not even Google – will read it.
TIP 4: KEYWORD CHOICES
When it comes to keyword choices, there are no easy answers and no set formula. You have lots of elements to consider. Say, for example, you sell clothing. You might want to add the following elements: brand name, colour, gender, item, size and material. Nike blue boys’ trainers size 8 leather. You might change that around to leather blue trainers boys’ Nike size 8. Try both of these out and see how the top results change.
When researching keywords, ask yourself these questions:
1. What is most important to the customer who is searching?
2. How many people will be searching for the phrase I’m planning to use?
3. Who am I competing with?
4. Do the competitive sites have more authority than me?
5. Is the top result a relevant fit?
6. How can I improve on the top result?
Experiment with different keyword orders on different products and base your plans on what works best for your site.
TIP 5: DUPLICATE CONTENT
Writing SEO-friendly product descriptions can be tough. You need to ensure that each description is unique, but also includes lots of information about the product. When you have hundreds of products, how do you keep things fresh? I get it – it’s so much easier to just cut and paste from another site, or, if you’re a reseller, to just use the copy provided by the brand. But if you use their copy, guess what? You’re in direct competition with them for ranking. And guess what else? You’re going to lose.
Take time to write your product copy in your own voice. Add some quirk, some idioms, and explain:
1. Who it’s for
2. Why they’d like it
3. How they’ll feel after they use it
4. How to use the product
5. When to use the product
6. What the product goes well with
Make sure the specifications of the product are clear and consistent, covering not just the features, but the benefits, too. I once had to write hundreds of product descriptions for a cleaning sponge company (each product was pretty much identical) but I found a way!
I know that SEO might seem dry and unsexy when compared to posting flat lays on Instagram, but with a little effort and know-how, you can master the basics and so much more – driving more traffic to your site, and enjoying more sales.
For more tips on SEO, read this.
See more from Kate Toon over here.