It’s important to invest time and resources in SEO. But be aware, SEO isn’t necessarily something you can implement overnight. Results aren’t immediate. To make things more difficult, SEO is a constantly changing practice.
We know you’re busy, and you don’t have time to catch up on everything. So Chris Yee, Square’s SEO lead, shared his top tips for using SEO to move the needle for your e-commerce business.
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1. Standardize all foundational elements.
SEO for e-commerce is all about growth and scalability. Automating a few things allows you to grow exponentially while managing your site. Try standardizing the following:
- Internal link structure (background): All product pages should link up to their parent category page, and then into the home page to optimize your site’s SEO equity.
- Site behavior: how to handle expired or out-of-stock products.
- SEO meta data: Title tags, H1 headers, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, canonical links, images, structured data, and breadcrumb navigation.
2. Keep up with keywords.
Every successful e-commerce SEO strategy starts with keyword research. Insights derived from your keyword research (or semantic research or even search intent analysis) should be your north star, dictating everything that goes on with your site.
With insights, prospective customers are essentially telling you what they want, their pain points, what they want to purchase, how they want it, and more. Insights can drive the category pages you create, the customer language you use, what technical specs you include in your product pages, what facets to include (or exclude), and how to structure your site navigation.
Chris breaks keyword research and insights into four primary steps:
- Gather: Collect as many relevant keywords as possible that pertain to your business. Don’t forget to check Google Search Console, your own web analytics data, and onsite search.
- Categorize: Corral your list of keywords into topical themes. For example, mentions of “blue, black, green, yellow, red, etc.” could fall in a color theme and keywords mentioning “rebate, discount, cheap, etc.” may fall under a thrifty theme.
- Insights: Once you categorize your keyword list, you can determine specific topical themes and quantify their relative importance. Should you focus on color or thrifty? The data will tell you how to prioritize your e-commerce website.
- Action: Data is useless if you don’t act on your insights. For instance, if you grouped keywords by brand, that means you may need a page to target those terms along with the appropriate subcategories (assuming it’s relevant for your business and you have the inventory).
3. Don’t underestimate the long tail of search.
Product pages are where customers decide if they want to check out or not. Make use of that real estate by incorporating the appropriate content to help your customers make that decision. This content not only helps with conversions but also taps into the long tail of search where you’re addressing hyper-specific search intent (for example, “blue jeans with holes and dolphins on them”).
Case in point: Amazon ranks well for millions of products because it started out with descriptive content on the page but began incorporating technical specs, FAQs, and customer reviews.
4. Don’t fret about your search ranking.
Focus instead on qualified traffic from organic search. There are too many factors to account for nowadays (location, device type, browser type, browser history, which data center you’re hitting) to get a “true” SEO ranking.
Rankings should be used as a measure of opportunity and how you stack up against your competitors. Track keyword rankings for overall site diagnostics and to understand visibility trends, but don’t worry about them. After all, you can’t take keyword rankings to the bank.
Instead, focus on your customers and work on improving their site experience. You can have a site fully optimized for SEO, with blindingly fast page speed, but if your site doesn’t function well, then everything you do will fall flat. As Chris says, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.”
There are many SEO tools out there, but they’ll never be a substitute for you and your ability to get into the mind of the customer with insights. SEO trends and tactics are constantly evolving, and what worked last year may not be as effective today.
To stay up to date, Chris checks Search Engine Land and follows SEO experts on Twitter to see what they’re sharing about industry news. Here are a few he recommends:
Most of all, don’t forget that you need to continue to test and iterate on what you know about your users. Because at the end of the day, what’s good for the user is good for search engines.