When I tell people that I focus on SEO for a web marketing group, I usually get a confused look, or maybe a slow nod if they’ve heard that acronym somewhere else. I follow up this comment with a simple explanation: “I make Google like my clients’ websites and services.” Once people hear that, they start nodding and immediately asking questions.
This is actually a pretty normal reaction since most people don’t really understand how search engines work or what’s required to get a website to the top of search results. This reaction and limited understanding are not just limited to people outside of the tech and web industry. The same can be said about plenty of people in the ecommerce industry, which is why I’m here to share a little bit of CQL’s SEO knowledge.
SEO: The Big Mystery
Search engine optimization might be one of the most commonly mentioned and relatively least understood tools in a web marketer’s arsenal. We’ve all had managers, clients, and coworkers ask about SEO, but most of the time, these people only understand the basic idea: SEO will help our website show up in search results.
With proper and comprehensive search engine optimization, the established search engine value is likely there to stay and grow, barring a major algorithm shift or a concerted effort by a competitor. Companies can expect regular sales and activity once a website or particular page has achieved a high ranking and maintaining that high ranking can actually be easier than you’d think. The return on investment in SEO easily tops other marketing channels, simply because the work you put in doesn’t disappear when you stop.
So… how do you go about building that value and getting to the top of search results? It’s simple: you start with a strategy.
Developing an Ecommerce SEO Strategy
A key tenant of an effective SEO campaign is strategizing how you’ll accomplish your goal. Whether it’s increasing rankings, improving revenue generation, upping site interaction figures, or going after a unique KPI, you have to start by figuring out the path you’ll follow on your way to SEO success.
I always recommend beginning by reviewing a company’s audience and how they search. After all, there’s no better way to understand what your customers want than by reviewing what they’re searching and how they made it to your website. You can find these search terms using Google Search Console. If you don’t have a GSC account for your website, then I suggest setting one up as soon as possible.
This is the first stage of keyword research and it’s an effective method for establishing your focus and beginning to build page value. Keyword research tools like Google AdWords and SEM Rush are excellent resources for discovering new keywords, but their real value lies in finding keyword variants.
Marketers can also use tools like SEM Rush to review a website’s current and historical rankings, which can be used to identify even more high-value keywords and variants.
Implementing Your SEO Strategy
So, now that you’ve picked out a batch of keywords and variants for your selected category, product, or service page, you can begin the optimization process.
Outside of a website’s technical elements, search engines are largely looking for two areas with every page: the title tag and the on-page content. The title tag gives the search engine an immediate understanding of the page’s intent, while the deeper crawls examine page content, headline, and internal linking.
In the SEO world, the expression “Content is King” is almost a slogan. While it’s usually said in reference to long-form, detailed page content and articles, it’s just as true for product descriptions. Unique headlines, descriptions, and on-page content are highly valuable and capable of pushing pages higher in search results, but there are pitfalls to avoid along the way.
Don’t Duplicate Your Descriptions
In most cases, duplicate content is a serious issue for Google and other search engines. They don’t take plagiarism lightly, but search engines understand that a single product sold by many different websites across multiple industries might end up with similar or duplicate descriptions. After all, there are only so many ways you can describe products and services, and many ecommerce groups have agreements with manufacturers to use the descriptions they provide.
This doesn’t have to apply to your website. If you want your category, product, or service page to stand out to search engines, then you need to develop unique content. A focused title tag and headline, paired with descriptive content containing keywords and variants, should be seen as the basic structure for every product page on an ecommerce site.
Secondary Content & Meta Descriptions
Once you’ve developed your unique descriptive content, you can move on to secondary content and meta descriptions. Secondary content can be anything outside of the product’s main description, such as specifications, features, benefits and related areas. This content can be optimized but it shouldn’t be used as a way to push multiple keyword variants.
Your meta description is there to explain the related page, highlight important information and entice a user to visit your site, all in less than 160 characters. While meta descriptions don’t have any real value to search engines, they’re still highly useful from a UX perspective. While many ecommerce groups use generic or formulaic meta descriptions (which isn’t all that bad), it’s better to write unique descriptions.
Internal Links Hold It All Together
With title tags, meta descriptions and all of the content out of the way, the next area to focus on is developing an internal linking strategy. These in-text links serve three purposes: to help users navigate a website, to spread organic value throughout a domain, and to ensure search engine crawlers both avoid dead ends and find new ways to explore the site beyond top-level navigation elements.
Every SEO will give you a different answer when you ask how many links should be on a page, but the basic rule is to never have more than 2-3 links in a single paragraph and to avoid linking to the same page more than once. Make it feel natural and give the links enough space to stand out in the eyes of a reader.
Keep Your URLs Pretty
Finally, we come to one of the most overlooked parts of ecommerce optimization: URL formatting and structure.
Depending on how your ecommerce platform works, you might have URLs full of ugly junk or simple URLs that follow a nested category structure, such as www.domain.com/product-category/product. This is the optimal structure for any website’s URLs but it’s particularly important for ecommerce websites.
Google and other search engines prefer URLs with a “clean” category structure. Product or category pages with URLs featuring filtered elements, parameters, or strange structures aren’t ranked as often as clean URLs, particularly if the canonical elements are wrong or aren’t set.
If your site uses a nested category structure and accurate canonicals, then you’re likely doing fine. If your site’s URLs need a facelift, work with your development and product management teams to find a new solution. Who knows – maybe a new ecomm-focused content management system, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud, is right for your site.
Working with the Experts at CQL
For nearly 25 years, CQL has been helping service and ecommerce groups excel in their industries. Proper search engine optimization has always been a part of that approach, but with our newly expanded digital marketing services, it will become a top aspect of every website we develop.
If you’d like to learn more about CQL’s experience with designing, developing, and optimizing ecommerce websites, then contact us today.