Optimizing an eCommerce website can seem like an intimidating task. Our SEO checklist is up to the challenge, however. It will arm you with the necessary tools to fly through SEO tasks and boost your site traffic.
Let’s face it, becoming truly competitive in the eCommerce industry can be, well… tough. You are competing against thousands of other websites, as well as the big boys of eCommerce (think eBay, Amazon, and Etsy). And while Google has given us tools to help us “level the playing field”, the task of ranking well can be daunting. Especially when you consider the seemingly endless resources the industry giants have at their disposal.
The first thing we need to do is make sure we’ve completed the basics. This will ensure Google recognizes us and what it is we offer. And while it’s true, PinnacleCart (and most leading eCommerce platforms) provide you the capability to rank well, the responsibility is on the business to make the platform is being used to the best of its capability.
In order to achieve a high organic search ranking through SEO, it is important that online business owners and managers first understand the importance of information architecture.
Information architecture, aka IA, is not just the navigation of a website, as many confuse it to be. Instead, it is the presentation of information in a meaningful format with the goal of assisting and engaging the user. Another way to think about it is that IA’s main goal is to organize, structure, and label content in an efficient, effective, and intelligent way that helps the user achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. For the user, this translates to finding the exact item or information they are looking for. For the business owner, it equates to assisting users in finding what they are looking for – with the goal of generating revenue. This can be accomplished through advertising, creating a lead, or making a purchase.
For SEO and IA to work together, users need to be able to easily locate the product, content, and answers they need. Online shoppers will be funneled towards completing their purchase or lead form, which helps you meet your business goals.
The right balance of IA and SEO will give you the competitive edge you need in eCommerce. So let’s get started on our SEO checklist..
Here is an SEO checklist with 10 essentials you don’t want to miss:
1. Create Quality Content
Yes, it’s true. Google looks at and rewards websites that create compelling and engaging content. Google (and most other major search sites) want to provide their users with access to the most educational and digestible content they can get their hands on. Why? So the user will keep coming to them for recommendations! The web is a vast place and completely impossible to navigate without the assistance of search engines. So the better they do their job, the more people will continue to use them.
As a business owner, the task of creating this type of content can be challenging. One solution is to hire content writers to help with product descriptions, website content and/or blog posts. Yes, it’s an expense, but one that pays big dividends in the long run.
If you choose to do the writing yourself, keep in mind this basic tip: web pages and articles need to be written for the visitors first and SEO second. Many websites do the opposite and Google has been known to penalize sites that are too heavy on the SEO. So that means, no keyword stacking. Write content with your target marketing in mind. What do they what? What are they looking for? As a general rule of thumb, think Problem / Solution when creating content.
When you put readers first, you’ll end up with content that ranks well because search engines follow user engagement. At the same time, you’ll improve your own user experience and build trust with your audience. You can always go back and lightly add some SEO where it fits naturally if you feel it’s necessary. However, as tempting as it may be, content with too many keywords and SEO attempts will be penalized so pay attention to the word lightly.
2. Build Compelling Titles
Aside from having a well-crafted article, a compelling blog title is the most important part of any content. Without it, nobody will click on your article to even read how great it is. Clever article titles attract users and improve search engine ranking. Your title tag should have the essential information, including the keyword you’re interested in ranking for. But more importantly, make sure your title is engaging. Some writers prefer to use the title to ask a question, in hopes to catch their audience’s attention. Remember, you want to ENGAGE the user with a title, not educate.
3. Do Keyword Research
Use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and Keyword Tool not only to help you understand what people are searching for, but also because they may suggest other keywords that you have never thought of. Don’t waste time creating product descriptions and content with terms or phrases that no one is searching for. Paid tools like SEM Rush conduct advanced research that will help you better understand your chances of ranking well for the terms you’ve selected.
4. Use Heading Tags Wisely
Heading tags serve as visual cues on what topics are covered on a web page or in an article. They allow readers to clearly see the main sections and points of a page. An easy to absorb page is more likely to be read through and engaged with. When you put in the first heading tag within the title or body of a page, select <h1>. The succeeding heading tags should be <h2>, <h3>, and <h4>, respectively, as they serve as the table of contents of a page. Remember to follow good SEO structure and only use one <h1> tag (sometimes called the Title Tag) and one <h2> tag. Keep in mind most search sites use the <h1> tag as the link to the content of the page. MOZ does a great job explaining tags here.
5. Careful Link Building
Most business owners understand the benefits of building links to your site, but few understand the importance of outbound links. While you wouldn’t want to link to a competitor’s page, outside links are a healthy and fundamental part of a smart optimization strategy.
Of course, we don’t recommend outbound links on pages where you want a user to take a specific action (like ‘add to cart’) but creating outbound links in blogs and articles is a good thing.
If you can link to industry influencers and build relationships with them, you may be able to entice them to link back to you, share your post, or even email it to their email subscriber list. Those strong inbound links are like eCommerce gold. Don’t forget that in link building, quality always trumps quantity. Make sure to rake in more authoritative links rather than a dozen poor quality links.
6. Social Media
Social media isn’t just a personal downtime addiction; it’s a powerful tool for online businesses! Social shares, likes, and tweets create a huge impact on search engine rankings, making it an integral part of SEO strategy. So if you want to amp up your social media techniques, remember the following:
- Create compelling content that you can syndicate on your social media platforms.
- Make sure the ‘share’ buttons on your web pages are visible.
- Link to social media influencers in your posts.
- Create more social shares! Hold contests, promos, and give out discounts and freebies.
- Just ask. Ask your loyal following to share your post. This works more than you realize!
7. Meta descriptions
Creating an effective meta description is one of the most important SEO tips that businesses neglect. The meta description is a 160-character snippet that serves as a summary of a page’s content. Meta descriptions can be seen in search results, especially when the searched phrase is included in the description. When creating a meta description, it should be in an active voice, have a call-to-action, match the content, contain the focus keyword, and be actionable.
8. Mobile Optimization
Your site MUST be optimized for mobile. BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, forecasts that mCommerce will reach $284 billion, or 45% of the total U.S. e-commerce market, by 2020. If you’re using a top eCommerce platform like PinnacleCart, you have nothing to worry about. Your site is responsive and mobile optimized. If not, make sure you’re working with a platform that is mobile ready.
9. Image and Video Optimization
Images are essential. They keep your content lively and users interested. Videos, on the other hand, are highly desirable to most users and deliver more SEO benefits and social sharing power. Images and videos provide visual excitement and engagement to users but the ALT tag on them helps search engines know what they’re about. Don’t forget to properly tag media and content. Also, when adding videos and photos, make sure to reduce the file size to increase speed. Incorporate width and height attributes in image tags and resize the files to the display size rather than uploading the original file and letting the browser to shrink it. Keep in mind that all filenames and alt tags should be descriptive and should include keywords!
10. Web Analytics
Once you have defined your search engine optimization goals, you need a way to track what’s working and what’s not. There are many analytics software solutions that will help you monitor the success of your website but one stands out like a shining star among the rest – Google Analytics. The advanced techniques of Google Analytics will really give you an in-depth understanding of what your target audience responds to. Make sure you install Google Analytics on your website as soon as possible!
Every website has different needs but the above tips will get any website started on improving organic traffic, driving quality leads, and enhancing their position in search engine results.
Got more ideas to add to our SEO checklist? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Inspired by her love of travel, Susan is a passionate supporter of eCommerce software and the idea that people should own their own internet business (so they can work from anywhere in the world). Though she currently resides in California, she is often found blogging from random beaches and teaching her kindergartner the delightful difference between ‘hola’ and ‘ciao’.
With a strong past in product evaluation, educational content, and eCommerce sales, Susan is serious about helping online merchants succeed in their goals. She loves meeting other independent business owners on the road and hopes to run into you one day… maybe in the hammock next to her!