Competition is hot in the ecommerce world. There seems to be a new store opening its virtual doors every single day and there has never been more choice for consumers.
So how do you stand out and get noticed?
Creating an online presence is one of the most effective ways to attract more customers and make more sales, and SEO plays a significant role in creating a strong online presence so that you can stand out above your competitors. In fact, over 30% of traffic to ecommerce stores comes from organic search.
So, if you’re looking to rank well in 2020, we’ve put together an in-depth guide packed full of tips and strategies. In this first part, we’ll look at how you can choose the right keywords and optimize product pages and descriptions so they’re the best they can be.
Keyword research is extremely important as it acts as the linchpin for SEO and content strategy. It’s no good optimizing for keywords that have no search volume or don’t attract the right audience.
Instead, you want to optimize for keywords that are:
- Searched for and that have a chance at ranking (don’t try and go for the most competitive keywords, as these will usually be dominated by bigger, more established brands).
- Relevant to your target audience (it’s better to attract 20 qualified prospects driven by search who are potentially interested in what you have to offer than 1,000 unqualified visits from users who will never make a purchase).
- Geared towards reaching your goals. For example, your goal might be to make a sale or get people into your sales funnel via your blog. If you sell sneakers, you might publish a blog post about “shoe trends” or the “latest shoe styles” and then you can link to an appropriate category or product page for each listed trend.
How to Find the Right Keywords to Rank For
1. Choose the Pages You Want to Prioritize
The pages you want to focus on will most likely be the category pages, like “women’s dresses”. These pages tend to have what’s known as a “head keyword” that is an umbrella term for all the different items within it.
For example, within the women’s dresses category, you might have subcategories that segment products based on their color, style, and size (“women’s red dresses”, or “women’s maxi dresses”).
You can also tap into your Google Analytics here if you have ecommerce tracking set up.
Navigate to behavior > site content > landing pages > sort by revenue (high to low) to see which pages are bringing you the most returns.
2. Figure Out What You’re Already Ranking For
It’s far easier to optimize for keywords that you’re already ranking for so you can determine where the low-hanging fruit is.
You can use tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer, SEMRush, or Moz Keyword Explorer to discover the keywords your site ranks for.
3. Determine Search Intent
Search intent refers to the practice of optimizing your content so it aligns with the actions of your target keywords. By doing this, you’re able to get your content in front of the consumer at all stages of the purchasing cycle.
There are four main types of search intent:
Informational searches are carried out by people who want to find out information about a certain topic or product. They tend to take the form of a question, like “how do I clean my oven?”.
These searchers are just beginning the purchasing process and are probably not likely to buy at this stage. However, if you can rank for the terms they are commonly searching for, you can push them into your sales funnel and stay front of mind.
Google’s “People Also Ask” section is great for determining the common questions people are asking around your products.
Intent keywords you can use at this stage include “how”, “guide”, and “where”, as they tie in with searcher purpose, and content usually takes the form of blog posts and guides.
Transactional searches are carried out when a consumer is ready to buy. These searches are more likely to be related to the product categories and subcategories pages on your site. Searches might include things like “best washing machine for under $1000” or “buy Nespresso machine”.
At this point, users are ready to buy, so keywords that include “purchase”, “buy”, and “price” reflect their intent. The most effective content to place these keywords are on product and category pages.
Navigational searches are the most direct kind of search. They are carried out when a user has a very specific destination in mind: your website. They will type “your brand name” into the search engine.
Google’s latest update has placed a higher emphasis on search intent. The October 2019 BERT update works alongside the 2015 RankBrain update to understand searcher intent and help deliver the most relevant results based on the phase of the sales cycle a consumer is in.
Commercial searches tend to be carried out by users who already know what they want but aren’t sure where they’ll buy it or who they’ll buy it from.
Searches that fall into this category predominantly take place in the consideration stage of the sales funnel and do best when incorporated with intent keywords like “best”, “vs”, and “compare”. Content that best fits the intent of these searches includes blog posts, guides, and product pages.
4. Explore Relevant Keywords to Get You Ranking
Once you’ve chosen the pages you want to focus on, figured out the keywords you’re already ranking for, and determined the different kinds of searches your target audience make throughout the sales cycle, it’s time to start researching relevant keywords,
There are plenty of keyword research tools that will tell you the search volume and competition level for every keyword under the sun – for example, you can use Ahrefs, Moz, Ubersuggest, and SEMRush to pinpoint the keywords that you’ll have a high chance of ranking for.
While these will give you tons of ideas, it’s up to you to hone in on the keywords that are most relevant to your audience and that you will be able to rank for.
To do this, you can tap into tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, the People Also Ask section in the search results, and “related searches”. This will provide you with a list of keywords that branch off the major keywords in your industry.
For example, if one of your focus pages is “women’s dresses”, you can use the related searches feature on Google to determine other popular searches that consumers make around that topic.
Elsewhere, social networks like Quora, Pinterest, and Reddit will help you uncover even more popular keywords related to your products.
For example, on Quora, you can simply type your head keyword into the search bar and scroll through the results to see the kinds of questions and key phrases users are searching for.
This search below for “women’s dresses” reveals key phrases that might spark ideas for product-related blog posts or for phrases to include in your product descriptions (more on this later).
As well as digging through social channels, you can use cold hard data. If you’re running PPC campaigns, you can use the data from this to help inform your SEO strategy. For example, if you’re getting a lot of click throughs for a certain phrase, chances are it’s more relevant to your products and users.
Remember here that it’s important to check that people clicking through are doing so with the right intent. There’s no point clinging onto a keyword because loads of people click on it but don’t actually end up taking any action when they get to the landing page.
5. Make Use of Long Tail Keywords
Long tail keywords are by no means a new phenomenon in the SEO world but, with so much competition, heavily incorporating them into your SEO strategy is the way forward.
You’ll naturally have gathered a number of potential long tail keywords from your research on social channels, Google’s “People Also Ask” section, and research on search intent. They are essentially keywords that contain three or more words and make up over 70% of online searches and help you capture conversions at different stages of the buying cycle.
For example, someone searching for “phone charger” is likely in the early information gathering stage, whereas someone searching for “iPhone 7 charger price” is more likely to be looking to make a purchase.
But even if they don’t convert better instantly, they might over time. For example, the keywords “find my Android phone” or “how to transfer pictures from android phone to computer” won’t necessarily convert better than “Android phone”, but they could be good terms to optimize for if you sell Android phone accessories and want to get people into your funnel.
They are also important because they will have less competition than your main “head” keywords. This is because they are more focused and targeted. If you sell women’s clothing, chances are you want to rank for “women’s clothing” – it’s a no-brainer, right?
But that’s an incredibly competitive term with big-name brands taking the top spots. These established brands will have years of SEO and linking in their favor, so it’s going to be really hard for you to outrank them.
Instead, pick long tail keywords that have less competition. Again you can use the lists you’ve gathered from previous research, or you can use Amazon suggestions to find the most common long tail keywords that relate to your products.
From there, you can run these suggestions through a keyword tool that will tell you how many searches they get a month and how much competition they have from other brands.
Narrow down this list to only include keywords that are low competition but still have a fair few monthly searches.
Once you’ve wrapped up your keyword research, it’s time to start taking action.
Optimize Product Pages and Descriptions
Think about it: your product descriptions offer prime real estate for SEO because they are descriptive and will likely organically include key phrases that potential customers are searching for.
1. Optimize Your Descriptions Based on Best Practices
Work this in your favor by incorporating your chosen keywords (both head and long tail) into your product descriptions – but don’t use them more than 3-5 times. Start on the most important pages of your site, like the homepage, category pages, sub-category pages, and then the product pages. Keep content unique and don’t force keyword usage, but it helps to mix singular and plural versions of your keywords when you can, as well as variants of it.
Research has shown that product descriptions with between 300 and 800 words perform the best, as this gives you ample time to describe what you’re selling without giving prospects time to zone out.
This product description incorporates lots of key phrases that customers might search for if they were looking for a backpack like this.
2. Create Internal Links
Internal linking plays a huge role in search engine rankings. It helps Google understand the structure of your site and see how subcategories relate to your main categories.
Make sure all subcategory pages link back to the main category pages and that your main category pages link down to any relevant subcategory pages.
3. Incorporate Reviews
Google loves reviews (and so do consumers, so it’s a win-win situation). Reviews are a key part of the sales funnel and provide original, fresh, and consistent content. On top of that, they tend to incorporate other keywords that will also help you rank.
ModCloth includes customer reviews below its product description.
4. Make Your Metafields Pop
Metafields indicate to Google what your page is about so it can serve it up to people who make relevant searchers. Ideally, you want to sprinkle your head and long tail keywords throughout your site’s metafields, including:
- In the headings of your product pages, blog posts, and landing pages
- In the meta description of each page
- In the image descriptions and alt text of your product pages (this is particularly useful for ecommerce sites because they tend to have a lot of images)
- In the page title
Optimize Your Store for Search in 2020
If you haven’t already started optimizing your store for search, now’s the time to do so. With more competition than ever, getting to the top has to be a strategic and planned out activity.
Firstly, you need to arm yourself with keywords that are highly relevant to your products, audience, and different points in the sales funnel, and then sprinkle them throughout relevant pages.
Creating an SEO strategy for your ecommerce store in 2020 doesn’t have to be complicated. Start implementing these actionable step-by-step tips today and you’ll start to see results over the next twelve months.