Want to learn the basics of eCommerce SEO?
This guide is for you! It’s written for eCommerce store owners who know they could grow with search engine optimization (SEO)—but aren’t sure where to start.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand what eCommerce SEO is, why it matters, and what you can do to improve it.
Let’s get started!
Editor’s note: If you’re looking for some eCommerce SEO help, talk to us. We’ve helped other eCommerce clients 10x their results. But most importantly, we share what we’re doing with you, so you’re never in the dark.
What’s the goal of eCommerce SEO?
The goal of eCommerce SEO is to have pages from your website “rank”—that is, appear high on the results page of a search engine like Google. The more pages from your website that rank—and the better they rank—the more people will visit your website and hopefully buy your products.
For example, when someone searches for “running shoes” on Google, websites with good SEO will rank first.
While you can buy ads in the search results, SEO focuses on “organic” rankings and traffic—meaning, without using ads. Paying for ads is called “paid search,” “pay-per-click advertising” (PPC), or sometimes “search engine marketing” (SEM).
Generally speaking, the higher your rank, the more people click on the result and go to your website. Ranking #1 is better than ranking #2, and so on.
But not all ranking improvements are equal. For example, the top three search results get the most traffic. So getting a page from #4 to #3 will help more than moving a page from #7 to #6.
And by default, Google’s first page shows ten results. Since fewer than 1% of searchers click to page two, moving from #11 to #10 is a big deal.
How can you control your ranking?
Google’s SEO formula is secret. We don’t know every detail of how search engines decide which page should rank #1 and which should rank #999, but we know the most important factors.
Most SEO experts agree these matter most:
- Quality content
- User experience
You can improve these on existing pages, like your home page, product pages, and category pages. But you can also create new content to rank, like blog posts. Creating content to promote your brand is called content marketing.
Let’s look at each one in depth.
1. Quality content
Google and other search engines want to give the best result possible. So creating good content is the first and most important step for eCommerce SEO.
Let’s say you search for “best laptop bag.” Which of these pieces would you rather read?
- An in-depth comparison of the top eight bags on the market, complete with product details, high-res photos, and customer reviews
- A funny blog story about a woman’s favorite laptop bag in college
- A Wikipedia article on how laptop bags are made
- A list of all 3,834 laptop bags for sale at Amazon
If you’re like me, you want to read the first option. It answers my question the best. And if you search for “best laptop bag,” those are the exact kinds of results Google will share.
So the first part of eCommerce SEO is writing helpful, detailed content.
Another important part of quality content is targeting a keyword. A keyword is a word or phrase that people will search for, like “best laptop bag.” If your content never says “best laptop bag” or uses related phrases, it probably won’t rank very high when people search for that keyword.
- 5 Most Effective Types of eCommerce Content Marketing
- How to Write the Perfect SEO Product Description [+ Template]
- 40+ Ideas for eCommerce Keywords (+ 4 Mistakes to Avoid)
Let’s say you’re looking for a great place to eat. You ask ten friends, and nine of them recommend a new pizzeria that just opened up.
With all those recommendations, I’d at least try a slice.
Google uses a similar process to decide which pages to show in search results. Instead of friend recommendations, Google looks for links from websites around the internet. Since they “link back” to your site, we call them “backlinks.”
In general, the more sites that link to your page, the higher it will rank.
But just like pizza recommendations, not all backlinks are equal.
The stronger the site that recommends you, the more its backlink counts. (Like a recommendation from a professional restaurant critic.)
Links get diluted when they’re on a list with thousands of others. (Like a friend who recommends every restaurant in town.)
And paid ads don’t count. (Like your friend who works at the same pizzeria he recommends.)
3. User experience
Finally, better rankings go to better sites.
Even with better content and backlinks, a slow-loading site that doesn’t work on smartphones probably won’t beat a fast, mobile-friendly site.
In the industry, we call these kinds of improvements technical SEO. You won’t rank just for having a fast-loading site. But if you feel like your site isn’t getting the ranks it deserves, poor technical SEO could be to blame.
How fast does eCommerce SEO work?
You should start seeing benefits from eCommerce SEO within a month or two, but it usually takes 1–2 years to see business-changing results.
There are a few reasons why it takes so long. First, the longer content is online, the more backlinks it will get. Second, Google distrusts brand-new content and prefers something that’s at least a few months old. And the more content you create, the bigger your results will be.
Because it takes a while for SEO to make an impact, I recommend brand-new eCommerce stores start with ads instead of SEO (though technical SEO is always a good idea). Once your ads are profitable, you can start investing in SEO.
Can you manage eCommerce SEO on your own?
Any eCommerce store owner can work on their site’s SEO. There’s plenty of information online, and you don’t need special equipment or expensive software to start.
But I’ll be honest—learning SEO usually isn’t the best use of your time unless you already have experience.
Chances are you’ve hired experts to design your site, manufacture products, host your store, create graphics, ship packages, process payments, and more. Getting results from SEO can be just as complex as these fields, and sometimes more so.
I know a handful of store owners who have experience running effective SEO campaigns. I know others who intend on becoming SEO experts and are willing to learn by trial and error in their own store.
But if neither of these describes you, think carefully before running SEO on your own. I believe all store owners should understand SEO basics, and there’s no harm in experimenting.
But if you’re looking to get results faster, find an SEO partner that you trust. Think we might be a good fit? Just let us know.