Optimizing online stores is quite different from how usual marketers handle web promotions for other types of websites (blogs, directories, forums, small/local businesses, etc…). And devising SEO strategies for Ecommerce websites is known to be hard, especially if the company is reluctant to shell out a specific budget or invest on their business’ online marketing campaign.
Several reasons why it’s very challenging:
- No one really likes to link out to product pages (voluntary and natural links). They’ll only link to it if they are an affiliate or they can earn commissions from it.
- Content ideas are very limited, particularly if it’s focused on promoting physical products.
- Most ecommerce websites have tons of pages that need to be optimized to serve as landing pages fitting to its separately segmented target traffic (only seeking for information vs. possible consumers).
Ecommerce SEO Tactic Standpoint
- Start optimizing the right landing pages.
- Steer clear of unethical methods used in building links (paid links and rushed links such as comment spam).
- The most important link building strategy for ecommerce sites lies within the site itself – internal linking.
- More on non-promotional content, less on advertising. Educating your market is the best arsenal to making them buy your product.
Site Elements and Structure
1. User-generated reviews on product pages
- User activity is known to be used by Google as one of their search algorithm’s signals for search rankings.
- Increases conversions as visitors can see how well the product is based on users that have already tried the product.
- You’ll be able to produce unique content on your product pages, which is definitely good for its search rankings.
2. Regularly updated section on homepage (for static webpage)
- Inclusion of recent blog posts or twitter updates.
3. Specific keyword targeting for all important pages
- Assign keywords that are absolutely relevant to certain pages by placing it on each landing page’s title page and meta description.
- “Affordable mobile phones” – homepage
- “Cheap Nokia mobile phones” – category page
- “Buy Nokia N8” – product page
- “Nokia N8 specifications” – information page
4. Optimize product descriptions and images
- Using the targeted keywords within the product’s description and Alt text attributes for product images will help boost the product pages’ relevance scores.
5. User-friendly permalinks/URL
- Include your pages’ targeted keywords on the URL. It’s also best to keep your URLs clean and short (ex. http://examplestore.com/nokia/buy-nokia-n8)
6. Weed out duplicate contents
- Fix URL canonicalization of the site, wherein the site must only direct to one preferred URL version (non-www or www. version), since this can cause duplicates within your site if both version are showing up when looked up.
- Check your product pages for duplicates through Copyscape, to avoid similar content from the product’s manufacturer or others who’re also promoting/selling the same product.
7. Produce linkable pages
- Add 2-3 cornerstone content/page to your site that will generate interest or particularly educate your visitors. Thinking outside of the box to make your products look prettier in the eyes of your audiences will enhance the linkability of your site.
- Content ideas – Resources page, awards, List of top ranking blogs in your industry (based on traffic rank, authority, etc…), best of the year (ex. “100 best movies of 2011), infographics (ex. “lifecycle of mobile phones), free downloadable ebook or extremely interesting videos.
8. Video sitemap
- Adding a video sitemap to your site is very efficient, since it can help your site generate traffic through universal search as videos posted within your site can improve its own search rankings for highly competitive keywords. Here’s how to create a video sitemap
9. Search feature
- Builds up the site’s usability, particularly if it’s placed on all the pages of the site.
- Designating this feature to a much visible section of the site will make it easier for your site’s visitors to find what they are exactly seeking for.
- Also used as a signal for search rankings by Google’s search algorithm.
10. Treat category pages as an independent homepage/landing page
- Dealing with your category pages as a separate homepage will enhance its own Pagerank, which will be very beneficial to your product pages indexation and search rankings (whether it’s a subdomain “http://nokia.examplestore.com” or a folder in your site “http://examplestore.com/nokia”).
- Build high quality and dofollow links directing to your category pages (which I will be explaining more below).
- It’s also important to have a separate category or landing page for branded items, especially for brands that are being specifically searched by users.
11. Include a blog section
- If your ecommerce site has no blog section yet, then you better start adding one because it benefits your site in so many ways.
- It allows your site to generate more organic traffic as blog posts have good chances of getting higher search rankings for long tail keywords related to your industry (through the blog posts’ titles).
- Entries on your blogs, particularly those that are intentionally created to inform and educate readers can massively improve your site’s lead generation and conversions.
- Can certainly improve the site’s internal linking structure, in which it can be advantageous for the site in ranking for more relevant search terms.
- It allows your business to develop relationships with your readers as well as with other sites that have similar theme through interaction.
- It puts emphasis to your brand’s expertise in the industry as you showcase it through publishing useful, entertaining and educational content.
12. Site’s speed
- Remove unnecessary plugins and applications to enhance the loading speed of your site’s pages.
- Employing GZIP compression for pages that have larger html size.
- Speeding up your site’s loading process will strengthen your visitors’ mood that can lead to conversion. Search engine crawlers also give high scores for this site’s usability aspect that can help boost its search rankings.
- Keeping product pages 3 clicks away from the homepage is a very constructive structural strategy for your site, given that the link juice flowing from the site’s homepage will easily reach those vital sales pages.
- Getting them crawled regularly is very important and that’s why treating your category pages as independent landing pages is a smart move – as I’ve mentioned above.
- Making your site’s structure easy-to-navigate for users will enhance its conversion rate.
14. Trust indicators
- Well optimized about, contact and support (email ticketing) pages.
- Presence of physical business address and local numbers.
- Photos of business founder(s) and staff members.
- Certificate badges from associations and/or organizations.
Internal Linking Strategies
15. Related products
- Including a section for related products on each of your product pages can help improve their search rankings, as these links are considered as very relevant votes, particularly if rich keyphrases were used as the links’ anchor texts.
- Can somehow improve sales as your pages suggest other related products that might be of their interests. However, this method may sometimes distract your visitors, depending on its placement.
16. Category pages should link to products with keyword rich anchor texts
17. Create separate product information pages that link to product sales pages
- Product information pages can contain more in-depth descriptions or specifications of the site’s offered products that will direct readers to the main product page (through call to action and keyword rich text links). Basically, it’s a support page which aims to help boost the product pages’ SERP rankings.
- You can as well choose to cross-link the two pages, wherein the product page can link to its particular information page by displaying a link that explains they can read more about the product.
18. Product comparison pages
- Comparing your top products will help your visitors in making wise decisions in purchasing and it also generates highly relevant internal links to your top products.
19. FAQ pages linking to site’s important pages
20. Highlight your top products through sidebar widget
21. Produce blog posts that will act as support pages for your product pages
- Content ideas – written/video reviews, best selling products of the month, newly added products, product A vs. product B, etc…
- Use keyword rich anchor text links when linking to your product pages.
- Images of the posts can link to the product pages.
22. Ebook distribution
- Create a useful content in PDF format, which links out to important pages in your site. The concept of the content may focus on giving guides, price list or your own research about the industry.
- Distributing the content can be done through directories (such as Docstoc, Scribd and Eric.ed.gov), reaching out to bloggers for them to upload and promote your free Ebook and by promoting through your own blog.
23. Press release and news submission
- This method can certainly provide high quality links to your site, and it can as well amplify your brand if your news gets syndicated and picked up by other news articles as a source over the web.
- It’s important that you first do a comprehensive research about the angle of your news story (ex. industry expert interviews, charity work, upcoming events, state of your market, analysis/reactions or current business performance and findings) before creating your press release. Gathering your contacts in media for a smooth sailing publication process is also a vital part of this research. You can read more about this method at Distilled’s Online PR tutorial.
24. Video product review
- Submitting your product reviews or other interesting videos related to your business on video sites like Youtube, Vimeo and Metacafe can boost your product pages’ search rankings, especially if they are linking to it.
- Video sites are known to be a good traffic source, given that users mostly search for visually appealing reviews about products that they are interested to purchase. It can also help generate relevant and organic traffic to your site as these pages from highly trusted sites can rank on its own on search result pages (mostly for long tail keywords).
25. Image and infograph distribution or link building through image submissions/bookmarking
26. Submit Product Feeds to Product Comparison/Review Sites and Shopping Engines
- Google Product Search
- Yahoo Shopping
- Bing Shopping
- AOL Shopping
- Ask Shopping (Pronto)
- Lycos Shopping
- Excite Shopping
- About.com Shopping
- CNET Shopper
Link Building and Brand Development
27. Reverse engineer competitors’ links
- Analyzing your competitors’ links is an imperative phase of any SEO campaign, mainly to understand how they are ranking for certain keywords (which you want to rank for).
- Acquiring links from authority pages or domains where your competitors are getting their links from can help you achieve the same results.
- A thorough competitor analysis will also allow you to know what methods best work in your industry as seen from what your competitors have done to obtain good rankings.
- You can use tools such as Open Site Explorer to track your top competitors’ links. It’s best to choose 10 – 20 competitors to monitor.
28. Reach out to bloggers and build relationships
- Engage with bloggers that provides content related to your products by regularly following their blogs and leaving sensible comments, sharing their posts and connecting with them via social media, personal email messages or phone calls.
- Request for your products to be reviewed if it’s possible, and offer incentives to increase the chances of getting the request approved.
29. Guest blogging
- In choosing the blogs to submit your guest blog entries, focus on blogs that provide information related to your site’s theme and are specifically targeting the same market as yours. The blog should also have high Pagerank and traffic (can be determined through low Alexa Traffic ranking) to make the most out of the technique (in generating highly relevant traffic and of high quality backlinks)
- It’s best to direct the links that you’ll be acquiring from this method to your category pages – using their targeted keywords as anchor texts – and to your homepage using your brand as its anchor text.
- Make your guest entries extremely relevant to your targeted keywords as well as to its target destination pages, and of course – promote your guest posts to make it a strong linking page.
30. Contact suppliers, dealers or manufacturers for links and offer to write a review or testimonial of their products.
31. Branding through community participation
- Build your online store’s brand by providing useful information about the products you are selling through related forum threads and questions posted on Q&A sites. Link to informative contents published in your site as your resource whenever it’s possible.
32. Brand monitoring
- Monitoring your brand/mentions of your brand over the web and social media through Google Alerts can help you acquire more quality links that are really intended to your site, particularly to articles that have cited your brand with no link attribution, wherein you can request for a link placement or links with your preferred anchor texts.
- In setting up your Google Alerts, it’s also important that you include your targeted keywords on its daily reports to keep track of what you’re competitors are currently doing, to find more relevant linking opportunities and also to generate more content ideas for your own campaign.
33. Encourage your users to make positive product reviews
- You can give incentives such as freebies, discounts or coupons to persuade your past customers to make a positive review about your products through your newsletter or a blog post.
- Users can make a review of your products on the list of product comparison sites and shopping engines listed above.
- Garnering positive reviews through those given sites will optimize your product pages’ search rankings through Google product search.
34. Encourage your staff members to link to your site through their social media profiles or blogs/websites (if they have).
35. Sponsor or organize contests
- Collaborating with other online stores and/or bloggers to organize a contest can produce massive quality and natural links to your site. It’s also a win-win-win situation for the sponsors, hosting site and participants.
- Contests can expose your brand to a wider range of audience.
36. Establish business-related link partnerships
- Find online stores that offer related products (if you’re selling shirts, find stores that exclusively sell jeans, accessories, shoes or basically products that you are not offering on your site) and try to build a linking relationship. You can help promote each other’s products through product feeds placed on both websites and/or a simple thematic link exchange.
- It benefits both sites as the generated traffic is very relevant and doesn’t conflict with the other site’s interest.
37. Leverage the site’s domain authority, Pagerank and trust by building quality links to its important pages (homepage, categories and resource pages) from authority sites in your industry. This will enhance your product pages rankings on SERPs. By quality, it means links:
- From high authority domains (can be measured through SEOmoz toolbar)
- Sites that have high Pagerank (homepage)
- Pages that have high Mozrank and Page Authority (SEOmoz toolbar)
- From pages that are topically relevant to your site
- That are visible to readers (link’s placement is within the body copy)
- With dofollow attribute
38. Link out
- Linking out or making a shout out to your loyal followers through your social networking accounts or blog posts is also a good way to establish company-customer relationships. This in turn can lead to word of mouth or more natural links from your followers.
- Voluntarily mention and promote events (charity, conferences, webinars, etc…) in your industry to help your business build more relationships – eventually potential link partners. It also allows you to produce unique and useful content in your blog that can improve readership and increase your blog’s subscribers.
39. Google Product Search Optimization
- Submit your products to Google Product Search.
- Optimize your submitted products by making use of all the attributes in defining your products for higher relevance and better search rankings – get to know more on how you can optimize these attributes here.
- Acquire positive user reviews from the list of sites cited above as much as you can to improve your products’ performance on Google Product Search.
- Always seek for link opportunities and suitable linking targets; because once you’ve reached the top, your competitors will never stop in trying to outrank you – make this part of your campaign’s daily tasks
Image Credit: Breaking-reality