One of the things I notice about the results you get when you search “ecommerce seo tips” is that the ranking articles include a great deal of general SEO advice. While this is certainly helpful, I’m much more interested in specific information regarding ecommerce SEO. 

So, what you will find in this article is ecommerce SEO tips that are specifically about doing ecommerce SEO. What you won’t find is advice like “make your website faster,” or “optimize your H1s with keywords,” or “make sure to make content.”

Now, no doubt, those tips constitute good, solid advice, but my critique here is that we have to read the same stuff over and over, in almost every blog we set our eyes on. I want this article to be different. I want this blog to be fluff free. 

Where my advice may sound generic, I want you to keep reading to find where it parts from SEO that doesn’t have an ecommerce focus. Those parts will be where you will find the most fruitful takeaways for your own online store.

So, without further ado, let’s jump in.

1. Site Structure is Key

Ok, ok, I am guilty right away of being overly generic. However, this is something I don’t think a lot of blogs emphasize enough. What matters in terms of site structure, however, is how you’re setting yourself up for link building, your internal linking structure, site crawl, and user navigation.

A site structure that doesn’t reflect those needs will inevitably need to be restructured to leverage its full capacity to bring in organic traffic. Here are some things to keep in mind about ecommerce and why a strategic site structure is imperative:

  1. Products and category pages do not often get backlinks
  2. A cornerstone content approach is often needed for ecommerce category pages
  3. Ecommerce is highly, highly competitive
  4. Keywords for product pages are basically predetermined

In short, site structure is central to user experience (UX), conversion rate optimization (CRO), and search engine optimization (SEO), and it is useful in compensating for the disposition of ecommerce SEO. 

So, here’s what you can do.

Put Your Category Pages in the Main Navigation

Your main navigation should include category pages. By placing them there, these pages will get higher priority due to their position in the sitemap and site structure.

This also positions your products in an optimal position in terms of click depth, which cannot be any better unless you put your product pages directly into the menu – which is feasible if your online store is smaller.

Use Subcategory Pages to Target Subtopic Keywords

Once you have your category pages in place, you can start choosing the subcategory pages, which will give you the opportunity to go after longer-tailed keywords. For example, you may sell clothing, shoes, and accessories. Under shoes, for example, you can use the subcategories formal, athletic, and casual. These should be placed underneath the appropriate main category pages in the main navigation. That may look like something like this:

Link Subcategory Flowchart

Parent categories (i.e. shoes) are often the most competitive keywords because they are head terms, so subcategory pages will be where you’ll probably get your first traction in terms of SEO wins. I will talk later about how the internal links play a role in site crawl and how they contribute to the siloed structure you can see the beginnings of in the menu (see the color differences in Figure 1). 

However, for now I will say that the subcategories will provide the link equity support in and through the internal links that I will suggest should be placed in the subcategory pages and should point to the category pages. You will want your link equity pool where it is most needed, i.e. at the category page level. 

Strategically Place Category-Level Navigation to Improve User Experience (UX)

The categories and subcategories should be assembled into a panel of sorts so that it creates a clickable menu or glossary – or, day I say “index”? – and placed in optimal positions in your website to help shoppers navigate your products with ease. 

In the end, where you’ll place your categorical-based navigation is dependent on your website and your preferences. However, my suggestions include these locations:

  1. Your front page
  2. Sidebars
  3. Category pages (where you’ll want to place subcategory-level navigation)

By improving UX, your SEO and conversion rate will be helped in virtue of the users

  • Staying on your website longer
  • Clicking through to category pages (which will help lower bounce rate)

Siloed Structure

The beauty of what has been suggested so far is that it is already the beginnings of a siloed structure. If you refer to Figure 1 again, you’ll notice the color differentiation between the columns of pages. Those colors indicate the topical differences between the columns.

Although this is a beginning, this is just that, a beginning. 

There are 3 types of silos (or 3 aspects of a silo):

  1. A navigational silo that’s built into the navigation. This is the one already outlined. 
  2. Crawl silo – This is a topical silo you can create by the use of backlinks that are reflective of the topical relationship(s) between pages.
  3. Physical silo – The structure of the topic is reflected in the URL structure.

These silos should not be understood as separate; rather, they work together to help the user navigate the website, as well as Googlebot. 

Since the navigational silo has been explained (you set it up in how you set up your navigation), let’s elucidate the other two silos/aspect of silos.

Crawl Silo

Put simply: try to make the crawl path of your website topic-oriented. You can control this by internally linking from pages and posts within a silo in such a way that it reflects the hierarchical structure of the topic. 

This may be best explained visually.

Link Crawl Silo Flowchart

With this distribution, pages targeting more competitive keywords receive link equity from the structure. You can call this a “cornerstone” internal linking approach that pools the link equity where needed. 

Here is a helpful metaphor from a Yoast blog post about the subject:

“The following metaphor might help you understand this principle: imagine you’re looking at a map of a state or country. Small towns and big cities will all be interconnected somehow. But the big cities will have many more roads leading towards them than the small towns. Those cities are our cornerstones, receiving the most links. The small towns are your posts on more specific topics. There are some roads (links) leading to them, but not as many as to the big cities.”

Once you get this implemented into the pages in the main navigation, when you mention anything in the main structure (topically) in your blog posts, make sure to link to the most relevant page within that structure. Make it a point to do this.

Physical Silo

A physical silo is also something that needs to be accounted for when crafting silos into your site structure. 

This is accomplished by reflecting the topical structure into your url/permalink structure.

For example, a physical silo for a real estate website based in Central Oregon may look like this:

  • Etc.

2. Use Schema Markup

Although it is not a ranking factor, schema markup for ecommerce sites helps your products to show up as rich results in Google and other search engine results pages (SERPs), which constitutes 33% of search results

Schema markup can also be used to supplement your siloed structure and improve click-through rate. 

In short, using schema markup on your ecommerce website can seriously bring more visibility to your store and put more money in your pocket.

Product Schema

Product schema markup provides users with the following:

  • Prices
  • Product availability
  • Review ratings
  • Detailed description 
  • Product images

It looks a little like this:

product schema example on google search

Google understands and displays this additional information in search results — stars, numerical rating, number of reviews, price, availability — thanks to the structured data markup on each of the product detail pages.

Ok, Ok, How Do You Implement it?

I don’t recommend you do your product schema implementation by hand because it can be time consuming, and that time can be used to improve the copy on your product pages, creating content, or something more productive for your store. Consider a schema app or plugin to scale your schema efforts.

Because how to use each plugin or how to adjust settings would go outside of the scope of this post, here are some resources for implementing schema across different CMS providers:

Whatever means you use, please do the following to quality-check your markup:

  • Test your product URLs with the Structured Data Testing Tool
  • Test your product URLs with Google’s Rich Results Test
  • Always provide the information needed to pass these tests to the schema aggregator you’re using, as neglected fields can lead to errors and warnings in your Google Search Console.

Item List Schema

Also known as “Carousel Schema,” ItemList schema provides the opportunity to create an all-in-one-list on a single page, and should be a summary page, like a category page. It provides the opportunity to show up in SERPs like this:

Though a lot of literature across the internet does not acknowledge the use of the ItemList schema in the way I’m advocating, I want to point out that an example of this markup on used products in their example (under the “JSON-LD” tab on this page):

Coded example of item list schema

Google’s guidelines indicate that product schema cannot be implemented at the category level. However, using ListItem allows you to interconnect the category pages with the product pages in such a way  that Google can identify category pages as such.

Breadcrumb Schema Markup

Breadcrumb markup helps with click-through by adding more visual elements to your results in search engines, and it can help with navigating users to other relevant portions of your website by providing clickable nodes that look like these:

Example of Breadcrumbs in search engine

As you can see, with more links in your search result, users can choose to click the portions of the breadcrumb.

3. Do Keyword Research for Category and Subcategory Pages

Much of the keyword research involved in ecommerce sites centers on category and subcategory pages since product pages should target the name of the product they display, which is to say that these keywords are predetermined. 

Here are some tactics to find the best keywords to target for your category and subcategory pages.

Competitive Research

A good approach to finding keywords for category and subcategory pages is by looking at what your competition is ranking for, and it will also give you a better understanding of what people are searching for within your niche. 

Using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush, paste in the urls for your competitors’ category and summary pages, and make a list of those keywords inside of the tool as you go. All you want to do at first is collect keywords that could be what you want. Only after you’ve done enough keyword research do you want to start making judgment calls.

Use Seed Keywords That Are Relevant but Aren’t Accounted for by Your Competition

Now, not everyone’s competitive analysis will be helpful, so I want to give an alternative for those who come up empty-handed or for those that are more diligent with their keyword efforts.

“Seed” keywords are simply the words you put into keyword tools to find matching or relevant terms. And they can simply come from your own experience.

Plug the terms into the keyword tool, and then try to find the “keyword suggestions” tab or button to find keywords relevant to your seed keyword. As you can see from the image below, what will be displayed can be used for category or subcategory pages.

Ahrefs suggested keywords

Use “Related searches” in Google to Identify Keywords You Can Also Use

At the bottom of each SERP, there is a “Related searches” section that can be used to find subcategory pages. 

These are well-worn paths in Google, and using the keywords you find in this section as seed keywords will give you more ways to find keyword candidates. And, in some cases, you might find keywords “at your threshold” or within your reach in terms of competitiveness in the SERP.

However you decide to use this tactic, make sure to add keywords to your list as you go.

4. Showcase Your Deals on Your Category Pages

If you are in a competitive niche, it behooves you to market your sales on the page. Now, this may mean doing this via popup, banner, or chatbot to some, but another way is to put your sales in the natural browsing path of the user, such as on category and subcategory pages. 

For example, does exactly what I’m suggesting:

shoe website with sales in natural browsing path of user

Once users click on any of these selections, they are taken to a page where they can browse the selection of products that that deal pertains to. These can become click magnets because they can trigger impulse buys. This demonstrates how UX, SEO, pricing psychology, and rhetoric can work together to up your conversion rates.

5. Use Original Copy on Your Product Pages

A lot of ecommerce stores are large, boasting large amounts of products, making it a tall task to get them up and going. Thus, it will be a temptation to use similar descriptions in similar products.And that’s ok. You can do that to get up and going, but as time goes on, your products will better rank if they are:

  • Unique and free of duplicate content
  • Go into depth about what the product is, how to use it, what needs it addresses, and anything else that is unique to that product
  • Has a competitive amount of copy on the page 

Duplicate content, according to Hobo, is rampant in the ecommerce industry because those selling similar products often only do minor changes in the copy they copy and paste from wherever  they got the original product description from. 

You can alleviate your ecommerce store from this error by going back in, little by little, and adding or editing in the original copy. By avoiding duplicate content issues on your website, you’re standing out from the competition, giving you a competitive edge.

6. Use Google Search Console to Optimize Your Product Pages

One useful tool in optimizing your product pages is Google Search Console (GSC). From here, you can find keywords that your pages rank for, but only marginally, like longertail versions of your target keyword. 

What you want to do is identify applicable keyword variations that you rank #11 – #15 and put those verbatim into the copy, as natural-sounding as possible. 

These are the steps you take, once you’re in GSC:

  1. Click on “Search Results” on the left-hand side of the screen
  2. Click on “+ New,” above the graph provided
  3. Choose “Page…”
  4. Toggle to “Exact URL”
  5. Paste your product URL
  6. Scroll down and identify the keywords in which your page ranks #11 – #15

Once you have identified these keywords, work them into the copy on your product page in a way that they do not sound forced. And, make sure the placement makes logical sense, too.

7. Optimize for Site Search

Site search can be a powerful way to optimize your website for conversion and UX. In very simple terms, it helps your potential customers become actual customers by helping them find what they want.

There are two faces to optimizing your site search.

  1. Place your search bar in optimal places for your users’ use
  2. Making sure the queries people put into your search bar actually navigate your customers where they want to go

Be Strategic About Where Your Site Search Is Placed

Although site structure plays a large role in how well your website is used (and thus drives conversion), there will be a point in which site search will need to be considered. In some instances, it can provide a way for users to find what they are looking for when they cannot (or prefer not to) navigate via menu and category options. Thus, the larger your website, the more emphasis you should put on on-site search, and that includes its placement and how well your search bar functions. 

Here’s the thing: default and “out of the box” search functions usually suck. Here’s what you want out of your search bar:

  • The flexibility to place it in places people will actually find and use it
  • The adaptability for it to work with imperfect input (fragments of keywords, misspellings, etc.) 
  • The ability to work with stop words
  • Provide a predictive search function
  • The ability to use meta-data, on-page word usage, taxonomies, and other data to render results

Most, if not all, ecommerce platforms offer plugins that will help you empower your users to find better results on your website.

Optimize Your On-Site Search Using Google Analytics

Once you’re satisfied with your site’s on-site search function, it’s time to test and optimize your website using Google Analytics. 

To do this, you will have to enable site-search data on Google Analytics by doing the following:

  1. Sign into Google Analytics
  2. Navigate to “View Settings” under Admin
  3. Scroll down to “Site Search Settings” and toggle it to the “On” position
  4. Open another window in your browser and go to your website in it
  5. Search for something
  6. Identify your search parameter, which is the portion of the URL that shows up before your search term. In most websites, the search parameter is “?s=”
  7. Copy the portion of your search parameter that consist of only letters
  8. Go back to Google Analytics and paste your search parameter in the field under “Query Parameter.”
  9. Check the box beside the words “Strip query parameters out of URL”
  10. Click “Save”

Once enabled, queries users type into your search bar can be found under Behavior, under “Site Search.”

direction of where to find site search in google analytics

Using this data, type in the searches your visitors have put into your search bar and see what results they would have recieved. Do the results make sense? Are they helping or hurting your chances at getting the right customer on the right page?

For those searches that showed less than ideal results, try to work those terms into your tags, meta descriptions, or onto the page or into the headers. The extent to which you have to get those terms onto your product pages will depend a lot on how advanced your search function performs. Whatever the case, fix the searches that can lead to results by going back and forth between your website and your Google Analytics data.

8. Upgrade Your Product Images & Video

At Amity Digital, we have found that product images can make or break you. Think about it. A clear disadvantage of ecommerce is that it lacks the tactile experience of actually holding, trying on, or feeling a product. 

For this reason, we stand by the following: 

The key to selling any product online is imagery. If you can’t give your customer the tactile experience of touching and feeling an item, give them high quality pictures that provide all the details necessary to make an informed buying decision.

By compensating for this inherent shortcoming, you can help customers make better buying decisions on your site.

Not convinced? Here are some useful research findings that should alert you to how important imagery is to ecommerce success. 

  • People remember 80% of what they see and 20% of what they read. 
  • Only 0.52 percent of consumers want to see a single product photo, 33.16 percent prefer to see multiple photos, and about 60 percent prefer images that will enable them to have a 360º view of the product.

Consumers are 85 percent more likely to buy a product after viewing a product video.

9. Create Linkable Assets That Internally Link to Category and Product Pages

One insight to take away from this article is that backlinks do not often (or naturally) target product pages

This presents numerous issues:

  1. Getting backlinks organically will be highly challenging
  2. Building links to product pages can be perceived as spammy in Google’s eyes, so, even if you manage to get backlinks to your product pages (or buy them), it may hurt you rather than help you
  3. Having a website that only sells products seriously leaves you out of link building opportunities

While getting link equity to your product pages is challenging, it is not impossible. The solution that mitigates this issue is none other than creating linkable content that (1) helps bring up the domain authority of your website, and (2) can use internal links that sends link equity to product or category pages. 

How it brings up your domain authority is quite simple: you suddenly have a reason for people to link to you. And, if they do, with time, your domain authority will build in virtue of the content and an internal linking from that content.

Now, when you get links to your content, it’s important that the link equity you get from them gets moved to important pages in your website, otherwise you’re simply where you began, only now with ranking content. 

The process that actually changes the bottom line for your ecommerce store is placing internal links into that content. The targets should include:

  1. The homepage
  2. Product pages
  3. Cornerstone / category pages
  4. Other content (with backlinks to the 3 above)

Final Words

There you have them – nine ecommerce SEO tips (with 0% fluff). 

Did this give you some ideas on how to up your ecommerce game?

If this information makes sense, and you put any of it into practice, please come back to let everyone know  what difference it made. This information can help me clarify what makes a better ecommerce store for search engines. 

If you have your own store and would like to implement some of these tips, but don’t know where to start, reach out to us at Amity Digital. You can get a free consultation on what needs done and how we can help drive more profit from your store.