Many people are treating e-commerce like the gold rush, and it’s easy to see why at first glance. The field has made $2.3 trillion in sales so far, and is still expected to trend upwards. Some believe that e-commerce will actually double this number in sales by 2021. In addition, it’s eating up so much of the retail marketshare—that conventional brick-and-mortar stores, including industry titans around for decades—are going out of business as they are unable to compete.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, again, just like the gold rush, there are going to be plenty of people whose e-commerce businesses fail. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Targeting the wrong audience
- A lack of customer engagement
- Inappropriate pricing
- Hidden fees
- Lack of security
Some of these issues are similar to conventional commercial businesses, others unique to the online realm. But at the end of the day, an e-commerce business lives and dies by its website, and SEO strategies are an essential part of that.
Mapping Your SEO Strategy
When planning out your SEO strategy for e-commerce, there’s going to be a few basic elements that you share with a typical website. So we can focus more on e-commerce specific issues, we’re going to go over these quickly.
- Investing in keyword research to make sure you’re populating your site with things that your customer base is looking for.
- Using content marketing (blogs, guest posts, email marketing) to ensure you’re getting a regular stream of qualified traffic.
- Using outreach, social media, and more to build a great backlink profile that will increase your ranking.
- Optimizing your site through on-page SEO like meta tags and alt tags on images.
- Using analytics tools to see if your keyword strategies are working and where you may need to adapt.
All of these are essential, but for e-commerce, some take more importance than others. In addition, for e-commerce, you sometimes may need to approach these pillars of SEO in a different way.
E-Commerce Specific Components of Your SEO Strategy
Images take on new importance when it comes to e-commerce, and it’s easy to understand why. For most websites, the issue with images and SEO generally tends to come from them slowing downloading too much. A site that’s slower to load or has broken plugins will have a harder time ranking in Google. However, for e-commerce sites, you need to balance this out. Remember, this is likely the only glimpse a customer will get if your items before they buy or don’t buy. As a result, it makes sense here to put a premium on high quality images and even using some at different angles.
For this same reason, SEO keywords for e-commerce may be different than on other websites. This all boils down to intent. For example, a typical small business website may want to rank for something that a person would type in for informational reasons. For example, a plumber’s website may be looking to rank for “plumbers in X city” or something similar. To rank with customers who are likely to actually make purchases, you need to look for something that reflects buyer intent, like “inclusive children’s books.” The basic principle of chasing motivated customers hasn’t changed, but you need to approach it in a different way. In addition, long-tail keywords are important for e-commerce for helping set your product apart. Using our example from before, you may want to focus on “inclusive children’s books” for a specific group.
One other thing that’s worth focusing on is putting metadata at a premium for your e-commerce website. This means optimizing any meta titles, descriptions, and headings you already have. Why is this so important for e-commerce? Mainly, it boils down to volume. Your typical small business website may only have a few pages, some for its features and a contact page. But any e-commerce site can have up to thousands of different pages. This means that you’re more likely to reap benefits from investing time to create unique and optimized metadata and tags for each page. The question here is, how do you balance the ROI when this could be a huge investment of time? Your decision will probably be one of the two following choices:
- Focusing on implementing unique metadata for major pages, while using a templated approach for smaller pages.
- Coming up with the exact metadata ideas you want to use on your own, but outsourcing the work of implementing them to someone else. In some cases, you may want to leave the major pages to you or a trusted professional.
There’s not a right or wrong answer here. The ideal thing would be unique metadata for every page, but time management is important as a business owner, too. This is why it pays to have a strategy in place. With different priorities mapped out, you can decide what makes sense to work on now, and what you can afford to push off.
If you’re a business owner who wants to take their e-commerce business to the next level, it’s essential that you take the time to try and hone your SEO strategy. Remember, a physical retailer can use their website as just an informational tool or just a marketing tool if they wish. In e-commerce, you’re doing both these things and running a sales platform at the same time. Because of this, you shouldn’t be afraid to try and seek outside help from SEO professionals.
With over 10 years of experience helping hundreds of businesses succeed online, Paul Teitelman is one of the most respected and top ranking SEO consultants in Toronto & across Canada. A passionate SEO expert that works directly with clients and offers custom white-labelled services to search marketing and digital advertising agencies in Canada and the United States. Add Paul on LinkedIn or check out his SEO blog for more great tips.