7 Proven Ways eCommerce Brands Can Compete on SEO

No matter which products you sell, your eCommerce store faces intense SEO competition. A comprehensive SEO strategy is critical for success. Before starting your SEO journey, it’s important to form a clear understanding of the landscape; then you can determine the exact steps you’ll need to take, and implement your plan. 

We’ve identified seven critical steps you can take right now to outperform your SEO competition, regardless of their website’s size or their experience in SEO. Unlike a generic checklist or beginner’s guide to SEO, this guide provides actionable insights and practical steps you can use today. These proven steps are guaranteed to enhance your SEO strategy, regardless of your industry. We’ve used these tips as part of our SEO framework for some of the world’s biggest eCommerce stores to help them outperform their competition, and we’re sure they will work for you.

Step One: Examine Your Current SEO Performance

To compete effectively, it’s essential to fully understand your website’s current SEO standing. The most valuable source of SEO information for any website is the Search Console. While there are many other SEO tools available, Search Console provides verified data directly from Google about your website’s performance.

Using Search Console’s wealth of information, you can uncover valuable insights including:

  • Identifying which pages are generating organic traffic
  • Tracking the number of clicks and impressions each page receives
  •  Discovering which keywords your website ranks for
  • Monitoring technical issues that may affect your SEO

To make the most of the data in Search Console, we recommend using the “Performance” report. With this report, you can analyze which keywords and pages are receiving the most organic clicks and impressions. Plus, if there are specific products or categories you want to focus on, you can filter the results to show data from specific URLs.

Step Two: Fix Common Technical SEO Issues

One important difference between eCommerce SEO and SEO for other types of websites is how important technical SEO is for online stores. This is due to the number of products and filters/variants and how often inventory changes. The main issues to look for are broken links, internal redirects, canonical URL issues, slow pages, and poor website architecture.

Even platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce do not solve these technical issues out of the box. We recommend a technical SEO audit to identify and fix these common but dangerous technical SEO issues.

Step Three: Keyword Research For Products

Improving the rank of your product pages requires thorough research followed by optimizing each page for keywords. For each product or category, optimize the entire content around a single “target” keyword, including meta titles, meta descriptions, and all on-page text.

While Search Console can inform you about the current keywords your product ranks for, it won’t suggest the best keyword to target. This is where SEO tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Keywords Everywhere, and more come in handy. These tools allow you to enter any term or keyword into their database and receive information about it, including:

  • competitors ranking for the keyword
  • monthly search volume
  • content types that rank for the keyword
  • difficulty level of ranking for the keyword

Analyze this data to gain insight into the best keyword to target. Once you’ve selected the target keyword, you can begin optimizing your content.

Step Four: Optimize Your Product Pages

After selecting and mapping the target keywords to the correct products, it’s time to optimize the content on your pages. For all pages, the target keyword should be included in the page’s meta title, meta description, and as the H1 or title tag. This provides basic context to search engines about the terms your page should rank for. 

The strategies for product detail pages and product category pages are slightly different.

Product Detail Pages:

For product detail pages, technical optimizations are crucial for improving the page’s ranking. Each page should contain comprehensive product directions that are optimized for your targeted keywords. Include important details such as prices, shipping information, manufacturer numbers, SKUs, in-stock status, FAQs, and customer reviews, both in the product page content and in the product’s markup (schema). 

Search engines use both product description content and schema markup to display product detail information in their product results sections, so ensuring there are no errors in the markup is critical. You can test your product markup by entering a product URL into the Google Rich Results Test.

Product Category Pages:

To optimize product category pages, many brands add long-form content in the form of category descriptions or “blurbs” somewhere on each category page. These descriptions help insert valuable keywords and FAQs into the product categories. Category pages also accept most of the same product schema markup as product pages, so it is important to ensure that reviews, product names, brands, and price markup also appear for all products in the category.

Step Five: Write Complementary SEO Content

For true SEO success, it is crucial that eCommerce brands recognize the immense value of consistent content creation and not focus solely on their product pages. Neglecting this aspect of SEO can result in a significant loss of high-value, organic traffic to competitors and affiliates.

Establishing a basic content strategy is easy and requires only a Google Sheet to begin. Start by listing the keywords you aim to rank for in one column, and the corresponding content titles in the adjacent column. Ideally, you should group similar content under a single keyword, although this is not mandatory. Expand your keyword list by using the SEO tools mentioned above to research competitors and identify relevant keywords.

Once you have your list, conduct a Google search for each keyword and examine the search results. Analyze whether the search results include blogs, reviews, product pages, product categories, YouTube videos, or downloadable resources. The core of a content strategy lies in understanding the intent behind the keywords. Sometimes, search engines present results that differ from what we anticipate, and your content must align with their objectives.

Step Six: Build Backlinks to Key Pages

Backlinks are an essential part of ranking eCommerce pages. For eCommerce stores, affiliate partners are a great way to build backlinks at zero cost. However, most affiliates only link to the specific product they promote. See if your affiliates will backlink to key category pages, too, as these pages need a lot of links to rank high.

Another way for large eCommerce stores to build links is to have the brands they sell include a backlink to their brand category page. For example, if a hardware store has a brand category page for all Dewalt tools, they should ask Dewalt to link to that page somewhere on their website.

There are other proven ways to build backlinks like guest posts and link inserts. For more information on backlinks and how to build them, refer to our “What are backlinks?” article.

Step Seven: Set and Track Your KPIs

The main KPIs eCommerce stores track for online marketing are conversions and sales; however, with SEO those results may take time to occur. So, what can you track in the first 6-9 months to measure success?

  • Organic Impressions: It might take a while for your keywords to rank high enough to get a lot of clicks, but if your impressions are increasing, your SEO is beginning to work.
  • Keyword positions: Getting your keywords to rank high is important. Be sure to track your most valuable keywords, but don’t just rely on tracking software. There are lots of places Google shows product pages in its search results, and rank tracking software doesn’t always pick them up.
  • Interactions & Conversions: Track interactions like a phone number, newsletter signup, online chat, or coupon use. They show that a valuable customer action has happened before the purchase.

Compete Effectively With A Comprehensive SEO Strategy

Focusing on keyword research, technical optimization, and the right content strategy is key to beating your competition with SEO. By developing and optimizing high-quality content that meets the needs of their target audience, and optimizing product pages for search engines, eCommerce brands can improve organic search rankings and drive more traffic to their site, ultimately increasing conversions and sales. 

With the help of analytics tools and regular monitoring and analysis, eCommerce brands can continuously refine their SEO strategy to stay ahead of the competition and achieve long-term success in the highly competitive world of online retail.

Picture of Austin Cline

Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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