How to Run an Online Store that Puts SEO First

There’s never been a better time in history to put together an ecommerce business. With a growing audience of eager online shoppers and a variety of useful tools at your fingertips, it’s increasingly easy, affordable and effective, if you go about it in the right way.

The online marketplace is already saturated with ecommerce entrepreneurs selling their various wares. The ones who do well are those who are savvy enough to do their research and use the power of search to their advantage.

If you know what your potential customers are searching for online, you can take steps to increase their chances of finding you – and that will make a world of difference to your success.

Take these crucial SEO factors into consideration when creating and running an online store.

Get crafty with keywords

What are the primary keywords you should be focusing on with your website? Using an online keyword tool such as Übersuggest or Buzzsumo is a good way to discover what your potential customers are typing into search engines, so you can amend your content to better match those demands.

Here’s how to do keyword research effectively and increase your traffic.

Online searches are often more specific than you might think, especially when customers have already narrowed down the brand or product model they’re after. For this reason, including specifics such as brand names and product sizes in titles and main headings can help.

Certain keywords will be very popular, especially if the product is currently trending online. Aiming for just these keywords can mean that you get lost in a sea of other merchants. Try to find ways of differentiating yourself using long-tail variations of the keyword that refer to your specific niche.

Understand user experience

An important factor that will affect both your site ranking and popularity with customers is user experience. Google is very adept at recognising what user behaviour says about a website.

Its aim is always to provide the best options from the web when someone performs a search, and if users don’t seem to like hanging around on your website, then Google will penalize it accordingly.

To perform well in the UX stakes, your website needs to be clear, fast, well-laid out and easy to use. Everything should be geared towards making the journey as seamless as possible for the user, from navigation to the checkout process.

Make sure that you provide answers to any possible questions they may have, and aim to make the overall experience as transparent as possible. This is how you build trust.

Write dazzling product descriptions

Without a product description for each of your products you can kiss goodbye to your chances of ranking in search engine results. It’s important to remember that the more fresh content you write, the better your SEO score will be.

I say fresh, because the content must be unique – not copied from other sites or taken directly from the manufacturer’s description. Both of these options are big no-nos.

A lot of website owners will go ahead and use the manufacturer’s product description, rather than spending time creating one of their own. But this is a surefire way to end up with the same content as everyone else – remember you are probably not the only one that this manufacturer distributes to.

Search engines will spot duplicate copy and will penalize your site accordingly. Plus, these descriptions are often not particularly persuasive or well written in the first place.

So unique, descriptive product descriptions that highlight your product benefits are key. Remember to include your keywords, especially in the title and headings, to make sure that you’re optimizing for terms that your customers are searching for.

Choose the right CMS

A lot of faff and bother can be saved in SEO by starting out with a strong SEO-friendly CMS in the first place – one that will guide you along and offer suggestions for improvement that you may not have thought of otherwise.

A lot of hosted ecommerce platforms that enable you to build an online store have integrated analytics and SEO capabilities that make the whole process a lot more streamlined and get you into good habits early on – so you don’t have to come back and make endless changes later.

You can also use ecommerce plugins on an existing CMS or go for a completely custom ecommerce CMS.

Just make sure you choose an option that works for you and won’t cripple you with expensive startup costs and a CMS that needs constant developer intervention.

Optimize on-site elements

There are lots of other small odds and ends on your site that have the ability to boost your SEO ranking. They might not seem like much, but it’s important to get them right for the best chances of ranking well.

  • SEO-friendly URLS – The best URLs are be succinct, relevant, descriptive and include the keyword you want the page to rank for. Separate words with ‘-’ rather than ‘_’ for best results
  • Image alt-text – Using images throughout your ecommerce website is very important and necessary for your customers to see what they’re getting. However, search engines can’t see them. Instead, they form an impression of what the image shows from its alt-text, so it’s a good idea to optimize your image alt-text with your keywords
  • Title tags – The job of a title tag is to succinctly identify what the site is about. It will appear in all of the search engine result pages, therefore it must also be written with your customers in mind. A good title tag should be approximately 60 characters and include your brand name along with two or more of your top keywords
  • Meta-description – This appears in SERPs underneath your title tag and helps to describe what your page is about and draw people in. You have 160 characters to make your page sound as appealing and relevant as possible, so keep it light and interesting and include keywords where you can. Without a meta-description, search engines will simply pull through the first 160 characters of copy from the web page
  • Internal links – Linking from one page to another on your site makes it easier for search engine ‘spiders’ to crawl through your website and index pages. Anything you can do to aid this process improves your chances of ranking well. Internal links are also beneficial for users, allowing you to guide them easily on the next step of their customer journey. Remember – sites that work for their users are sites that search engines favor

Implementing a successful ecommerce SEO strategy is a long-term process – it doesn’t happen overnight. Ranking well for your core keywords is one of the best ways to drive business, and it’s worth it in the end.

While you go about building your online presence, you might also want to consider other short-term methods of online visibility, such as online marketplaces, social media and Google Adwords.

Used in combination, you will have the best chances of turning your online store into a success.

About the Author: Patrick Foster, ecommerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.  I’m currently writing on where I share engaging ecommerce content for entrepreneurs, bloggers and business owners. 

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