7 SEO Best Practices Your E-Commerce Site Can’t Ignore

These tweaks to your site can make all difference when it comes to customers finding your business.
seo
Simple changes, such as writing unique descriptions for the products on your site, can up your site ranking. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Search engine optimization (SEO) for e-commerce sites is critical. It’s your most powerful tool for making your site discoverable to customers.

Getting your site to rank in search results isn’t a matter of doing one thing perfectly; it’s about optimizing a lot of small elements that collectively give Google the confidence that your site is worth ranking above others in search results.

Even small errors can cost your business traffic and revenue. That’s because Google, in an effort to present high quality and relevant pages in its search results, is ever more sensitive to small signals within pages that denote factors like authority, relevance and originality.

NCR Silver surveyed a handful of experts to see what you need to do to put your best digital foot forward.

Related: 10 Tricks For Boosting Sales in Your E-Commerce Store

Avoid duplicate content (even in product descriptions)

Liz Jammal

Rewrite product descriptions using keywords that customers would most likely use to search for that product, suggests Liz Jammal, owner if Vivd Marketing. (Photo: Liz Jammal)

If you are selling products that are available elsewhere, take the time to rewrite the product descriptions provided by the manufacturer. Sure, it’s faster to use the original product text, but that means a large body of the content on your site is identical to that of any number of other sites — and that’s bad for your rankings.

Liz Jammal, owner of Vivd Marketing, advises: “Rewrite the description so that it’s unique. And ensure you have naturally included keywords that a customer would use to search for the product.” You might even want to use a plagiarism checker (like this one) to make sure your site doesn’t trip any Google sensors for duplicative content.

Reduce the file size of photos

Google prioritizes sites that contain images, but including photos that are too large can backfire.

“Google penalizes sites that are slow to load,” said Max Robinson, SEO manager for Scotland Shop. Images are far and away the most common culprit when it comes to sluggish sites.

You can reduce the file size of photos through most photo editing programs, or even automate photo compression. “We use WordPress, and there are a variety of plugins available which can instantly compress your images at the click of a button,” said Robinson.

Keep in mind we’re talking about the file size; it’s fine to use images that look big on the page, and indeed, larger images look better than small or thumbnail-sized pictures.

Related: Top 6 Reasons Why E-Commerce Stores Fail

Remember your meta descriptions

A web page has a lot of “hidden” information that most users never see but search engines care a lot about. For example, each page has a meta description that tells Google what’s on the page. These meta descriptions also appear in search results. If you don’t include them, Google will downrank your page.

Another important element is alt text, which describes the content of an image. It’s both an SEO signal to Google and a tool used by screen readers for sight impaired users. Make it work for you.
Robinson advised, “By including relevant keywords in the alt text, you’ll not only improve the rankings of the entire page, you’ll also notice improvements in rankings for the image in Google Images, which is another great source of traffic.”

Prioritize your homepage

homepage

Spend ample time optimizing your homepage because it has the highest ranking potential.
(Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Ben Cook, marketing director at JC Social Media Marketing, said it’s important to pay special attention your site’s home page. “The homepage of any given site has the most ranking potential. That’s where the majority of traffic ends up and where the majority of your external links point to; it’s the top of the tree.”

That means you should make sure the home page is optimized for search terms you’re targeting. This page will do more heavy lifting than product pages buried deep in your site with zero links and relatively little traffic.

ben cook

“The homepage of any given site has the most ranking potential. That’s where the majority of traffic ends up and where the majority of your external links point to; it’s the top of the tree.” -Ben Cook (Photo: Ben Cook)

Related: Danny Sullivan’s Top SEO Tips for Small Businesses

Include enough text on the page

Google may consider a page with too little text to be of low value and downrank it.

“We do a lot of site reviews and the number one problem we see is that people are not putting enough, or sometimes, any content on their pages, especially their most important pages,” said Dave Hermansen, owner of small business consultancy Store Coach. He advised that the more words you have on your pages, the better the chance is that you will be able to rank for those pages.

Every page, including category pages, should have at least 300 words, he said. “It may seem difficult to create a lot of compelling content around a category of products, but it really isn’t. Address the questions people may have when they have typed in a category type query. Steer them toward the best products for their needs.”

A caution: Including words just to have words is a bad strategy and can even be damaging to SEO. Make sure your copy provides value to the reader.

Create dedicated product pages

Brian O’Connell, owner of Asterion SEO, said it’s important to make sure each of your products has a unique page. That increases its chances of ranking.

In addition, O’Connell advised against taking pages down when a product is temporarily out of stock. Not only does this prevent customer confusion, but “it ensures that you do not disappear from the search engines index. If a page has disappeared from the web when Google visits, then it will be removed from the index until they next crawl, which could be weeks.”

Use HTTPS

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. The “S” stands for “secure” and means that communications — such as those that include your customer’s credit card number — are encrypted.

David Lowbridge, managing director at TwoFeetMarketing, encourages small businesses to use HTTPS. Google confirmed last year that HTTPS websites would be given an advantage over non HTTPS websites. As more sites convert, e-commerce stores that don’t have HTTPS are more likely to fall behind in rankings.

Even if you have payments go through PayPal or another secure payment gateway, ensure you have an SSL certificate for your website. “This helps to satisfy customer concerns of security and pleases search engines.” Adding a security badge can help put a customer’s mind at ease.

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