SEO for E-Commerce – Structure, Architecture, Strategy
Organic search is still the prime real estate in terms of the available online channels for demand generation. For many, competition is fierce, with online retailers always looking for ways to increase and improve their online acquisition.
When it comes to E-Commerce, as with most verticals, a common issue is that SEO is not included as early as it should be when it comes to site design, architecture, marketing and development.
This isn’t as much about graphics as it is about user experience. While an SEO is not a UX person, they typically hold a variety of knowledge that’s integral to creating an online storefront that should be included early in the process. Usability comes before everything, with a number of primary concerns that follow.
While developers often have a decent grasp on many parts of site optimization, there are always a number aspects that are overlooked from an SEO perspective.
Key elements to site architecture include navigation, internal links, breadcrumbs, URLs, directory structure and categorization of products. Proper setup ensure effective management of crawl budget, how the site is indexed, allocating authority through internal linking, along with other issues such as pagination, meta, canonicalization, page speed, content structuring, along with microdata for search and social. Technical SEO isn’t easily covered in a single shot, but those would be a few to watch for. Also ensure there are adequate product descriptions, unique titles and meta tags per product, and use what are sometimes know as “speaking URLs”. Also known as “keyword friendly URLs”.
User Engagement Optimization
Identifying the value for different calls to action is an important step towards optimizing user engagement and experience.
Consumers trust social media a lot more than advertising, and making your site readily accessible to create those social signals is an important step towards engaging customers to build a site’s authority and influence perceptions later.
Social logins can help simplify an online purchase. With social network profiles facilitating easier account creation and checkout, it can reduce shopping cart abandonment, as well as grow newsletter signups for marketing opportunities later. Using social logins to connect not only saves users time and decreases cart abandonment, but it also provides valuable user data that can be added to CRM tools in order to further target emails and offers later.
The structure of a site can influence the user experience and overall satisfaction, which tends to impact revenue in the long run. While there’s a variety of A/B or multivariate tests that a conversion rate optimization (CRO) specialist might perform, it’s often at the expense of SEO performance. There are ways the 2 can work together, such as when certain aspects or elements of a page are declared off limits.
Shopping cart abandonment is an ideal place to focus conversion optimization efforts on. Some common issues for abandonment include not being able to see a total cost with shipping easily, not being able to save the cart, order value to small to qualify for free shipping, and the shipping costs simply provided too late in the process.
Capturing Leads for Marketing Funnel
Not every visitor will convert on their first visit. Which is why you want to provide creative lead capture opportunities to nurture so they might return whenever they are in fact ready to make a purchase. Getting visitors to subscribe to an email list will provide additional marketing opportunities where you can lure the visitor back by incentivizing a return visit with different offers.
m-Commerce and Mobile SEO
Mobile is on the verge of passing desktop search, and it’s critical to your success to offer a responsive design for these users. Past practices typically included detecting the visitors device and redirecting them to m.site.com, but then you only create a more complex issue with canonicals, and the fact that your link equity might be divided between a sub domain and your main site. Common issues many sites currently have you want to watch for include setting the viewport, using proper sized fonts, and elements too close together.
Optimizing for mobile also ensures your site is appealing to tablet users, a rapidly increasing segment of online shoppers not to be overlooked.
Global e-Commerce SEO
To effectively remove any borders, multi-language sites provide additional opportunities. These pages should be setup through directories (not sub domains) and effectively utilize the HREFLANG command. If dealing with multiple English speaking countries, this can be setup so it doesn’t become a case of duplicate content when properly optimized. Even if you only deal within the U.S., consider that the Hispanic population represents over 50 million consumers.
An ongoing SEO debate about Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) and URL structure have gone on for some time. My advice is to build with sub directories and use a single domain to build on, which will more effective manage link equity.
Developing A Content Strategy for e-Commerce SEO
Unless you’re Apple, you aren’t likely to have a bunch of ‘fan boys’ and naturally acquire links to your site. Even if you’re a strong brand, employing SEO strategies like content marketing only helps improve and fortify for success in the future.
While your first inclination might be to simply right up information about your product, that’s probably already in detail on the product pages. What you want to do as a content strategy is think at category level and provide articles that offer value.
Writing up general fluff isn’t worth the paper or pixels used to produce it. To be a resource means referrals and earned media. Easier said than done, look who ranks for terms you’re interested in and use as a benchmark to beat for editorial quality.
Your content marketing strategy will be an integral part of demand generation as well as SEO. With much of this, there are no cookie cutter solutions.
Reporting for e-Commerce SEO
The typical tracking and SEO metrics will still apply, but e-Commerce introduces measurable revenue to the mix, which becomes a KPI to also monitor. Through your analytics you should setup goals, but also monitor a variety of things to spot quick wins and directions to work towards. This also helps you determine what pages might benefit from conversion optimization, along with how to optimize for the bottom of the purchase funnel.