eCommerce SEO Checklist: 45 Steps For More Organic Traffic

Last updated Aug 21, 2018

Reading time: 14 minutes

Tactics to improve search performance for your ecommerce
 
For the ecommerce manager or marketer, there’s a lot of distractions. There’s also a lot of opportunities. One of the keys to success is knowing the difference.

It’s important to remember the crucial role of organic search and ecommerce SEO.

SEMrush conducted a study and identified that 37.5% of traffic to leading ecommerce websites comes from organic search.

If you want to get more traffic and sales from organic search, then this ecommerce SEO checklist will be a valuable resource.
 

 

User Experience (UX)

For the ecommerce manager, UX is always going to be a priority. But to many, it has always been vulnerable to a trade-off with the SEO guys. However, great UX improves the likelihood that the searcher will accomplish their task. UX is a hot SEO topic and widely considered to be an influencing factor.

Here’s what you can do to create a great user experience,

  1. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
  2. Presenting your user with a mobile-friendly website is a no-brainer. The majority of your orders might get attributed to desktop users, but you need to understand that a lot of them will have started their experience on their mobile. Disappoint them there, and you lose a sale.

    Check your mobile-friendly credentials with Google’s test. You don’t need to test every page on your site, but I would test all of your page templates. For example, your product, about, home, cart and checkout pages.

  3. Have HTTPS and security seals
  4. You should be renewing your SSL certificate every year to ensure that your checkout process is secure. You also need to make sure your entire online store is https and secure. Google is actively encouraging this and close to 60% of sites in Google’s Top 10 are https.

    Be sure to let your users know about our security, particularly on the cart and checkout pages by prominently displaying your SSL provider’s security seal.

    Which security seal do ecommerce customers trust?

    Credit: Baymard Institute


     

  5. Show off your reviews and ratings
  6. They influence your users and Google knows it. So, start asking for them as part of your after-sales process. You want to encourage reviews on all platforms that make up part of your buyer’s journey, including Google itself and Facebook.
     

    Get more Google reviews by giving your customers a direct link. Generate yours now.

     

  7. Have site search functionality
  8. By allowing users to search your site, you make their experience infinitely better. Don’t make them spend more time than they need to when browsing through your product pages. You can also analyse their search terms to improve your keyword strategy.

  9. Have information pages
  10. Your customers will likely want to seek additional information that is not directly related to your product. For example, they may want to clarify your shipping times or returns policy. Or they might have a more general query about your business.

    If you don’t satisfy their query right then and there, you risk losing the sale.

    So, make sure you treat your informational pages with the same care as your product pages. Informational pages include your shipping and returns policies, information about your company, and your FAQ page.

  11. Have payment options
  12. It’s helpful to communicate your payment options early. You don’t want to let your user get to your checkout only to find out they can’t pay. Allowing them to get this far in the checkout journey only to fail is a bad user experience, and when they don’t come back, you can consider that bad for eCommerce SEO too.

  13. Have an HTML sitemap
  14. Ecommerce websites can contain a vast amount of content that can be confusing to navigate for some people, despite your best efforts. To help them quickly find what they’re looking for you should provide a user-facing HTML sitemap.

  15. Ensure your pages have a maximum of three navigation clicks
  16. Having pages that take more than three clicks to reach is not great for the user, and it’s also a poor indicator of that page’s search engines value.

  17. Have breadcrumbs
  18. This is another great asset to improve your site’s navigation and user experience. They also help demonstrate how your site is structured to search engines.
     

    Speed

    I could categorise website speed as a single item under UX, but it’s so much more important these days and is worthy of its category. Slow websites kill conversions, and Google is openly encouraging webmasters to improve the speed of their sites.

    Test your site with Google’s Page Speed Tool for desktop and mobile scores and tips or use their Test Your Mobile Speed Tool to get a broader look at your mobile speed and how it compares to other shopping websites.

    Here are some essential items to cut your page loading speeds down.

  19. Enable GZip compression
  20. By enabling GZip compression, you are compressing your web pages and style sheets before being sent to the user’s browser. This reduces the size of the files being transferred and makes your page load faster.

    Test to see if you have GZip Compression enabled.

  21. Use HTML, CSS and Javascript minification
  22. Believe it or not, but unused (or even white) space within your HTML, CSS or Javascript can contribute to slowing down your page speed. By minifying, you can compact your files and save sending unnecessary bytes to the server.

  23. Keep third-party resources to a minimum
  24. Ecommerce managers love third-party solutions and scripts. But by the time you add pop-ups, social proof widgets, marketing automation, social widgets, YouTube videos and remarketing tags, you’ve added a slew of extra scripts for the user’s browser to call. Each of these scripts will contribute to slowing down your page speed.

  25. Lazy load your images
  26. Images are the single-biggest contributing factor for slow websites, particularly ecommerce sites. One solution is to lazy-load your images. Lazy loading enables images on long web pages to delay loading until the user scrolls to the part of the page where they’re located.

    ecommerce lazy loading images

    Credit: WebbyMonks


     

  27. Resize your images
  28. Often images are saved or downloaded at sizes exceeding 1MB and 2,000px +. These large file sizes are not necessary for images to display well on the web. Making your user’s browser resize them when the page is rendering adds time to the download. Make sure you resize your images to optimise them for the web before you upload them.

  29. Delete any images no longer required
  30. Whether you have 50 products or 5,000, you’re invariably going to have a bloated image library over time that will slow your site down. I encourage you to delete any image from your library when you don’t need it any longer.

  31. Compress your images
  32. You may not know it, but images will often contain a lot of meta information (such as who took the photo and when). This information adds to the weight of the image and slows your web page download. So, compress your images before uploading too.

    You can compress your images with tinyjpg.com.
     

    Need help improving your WordPress site speed? Get LightSpeedWP to turn your slow site into a high speed sales machine

     

    Images

    As I’ve just noted, you should optimise your images to avoid slowing your website down. But remember that images are also assets that can help you demonstrate what your page is about to search engines. They also give you a chance to generate traffic from image search.

    Here are two ways you can use your images for SEO.

  33. Use ALT tags
  34. ALT tags are the traditional way of adding a description to an image. They help a search engine understand what it is about.

    Wordpress - uploading images and adding tags
     

  35. Use file names
  36. Adding a descriptive file name is another indication of what the image is about, to help search engines.
     

    Crawling and Indexing

    Crawling and indexing is the more technical area of SEO, but it’s perhaps more important for ecommerce than most other verticals due to the complex architecture of these sites. If search engine crawlers are not crawling your website adequately or inefficiently, it may result in products not being indexed. Even worse, Google could penalise you for not meeting basic search guidelines.

    Here are some tips.

  37. Check Google’s index
  38. Enter “site:yoursite.com.au” into Google, and it will return each of your pages that it has in its index. There can be a few potential scenarios, but the one to be worried about is when it shows your home page only referencing the robots.txt file. This result tells you that your site is blocking Google. Aside from that major issue, you also want to avoid Google indexing pages that are of little value to them or your users.

  39. Check the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
  40. Your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts contain troves of super-valuable information. Check them on a regular basis for broken links, manual action penalties, HTML issues, etc.

  41. Have an XML sitemap
  42. Create or generate an XML sitemap with your ecommerce platform and submit it with the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

  43. Be careful with product variations
  44. You may have colour and size variations for your products. The structure of these variations can be critical to your SEO. So, you need to get this right. Sizes will, of course, be options on each product page if they’re relevant. But if you sell shoes, what about colours? Do you have the one product page with both size and colour as options? Or do you have separate product pages for each of the colours?

    Having all the options on the one page is good, but it may not be your best fit when you consider the user experience. But if you have separate pages for each of the colours instead, this situation is problematic because you’re diluting your ability to rank for that product. Which one should Google rank? You’re also going to run into duplicate content issues if you take that approach.

  45. Use canonical URLs
  46. Take the example above where you might have separate pages for the different colours. Imagine that you have five different colours and five different pages. Compounding this issue is that this particular shoe falls under four different categories. Each colour would be on URLs such as:

    /category-1/colour-1
    /category-2/colour-1
    /category-3/colour-1
    /category-3/colour-1

    This example would generate 20 different URLs for the one product. It’s a mess!

    To solve this problem, you need to implement canonical URLs. These tell search engines which URL you would prefer to use for each variation. Ideally, you want to get the unique identifying keywords closer to the root URL.

    technical ecommerce seo

    Credit: Backlinko


     

  47. Use your robots.txt file
  48. You should have a robots.txt file in place. To check yours, head to yoursite.com.au/robots.txt. The directives in this file tell web crawlers (including Google’s) both what to crawl and what not to crawl.

    The first thing you want to ensure is that you don’t see this:
    Disallow: /

    This directive tells search engines to avoid crawling your entire site.

    What you do want to do is use the file to ask Google to ignore private and unnecessary folders within your site. You will be able to optimise your crawl budget by using the robots.txt file to manage the areas of your site that you don’t want Google to crawl.

  49. Redirect your discontinued products
  50. If you have a product that is discontinued, you need to redirect the URL because that product URL is providing no value to your user or Google.

    But where will you redirect to? You could redirect to a relevant product URL, but what if that product is discontinued now or in the future? That will create a redirect chain. The best bet is to redirect to the appropriate category page instead.

  51. ‘Noindex’ low-value pages and products
  52. There are pages on your site that you want Google to crawl, but that you don’t need in search results. These should be ‘noindexed’. For example, is there any benefit in having your privacy policy page show up in search results? Noindex it instead and start to craft the pages of your site that show up in Google’s index.
     
    ecommerce webinar
     

    Category Pages

    These pages are among your most powerful assets. They’re consistent and evergreen. Unlike products, your category pages don’t go in and out of stock, and they don’t get discontinued. They’ll continue to build your authority and acquire links for you.

    Here are some tips for your category pages.

  53. Use priority keywords
  54. Do your keyword research. Your category pages should be targeting the broader, higher-volume keywords. After all, they’ll see more traffic and acquire more links over time, so they’re more chance of ranking.

  55. Have introductory content
  56. Too often ecommerce pages have product inventory on category pages with no supporting content. Treat these pages like the landing pages they should be. Add original content to describe the category. It’s a great spot to highlight any specific sales and to link to specific informational content.

    Optimising ecommerce category pages

    Credit: CottonOn.


     

  57. Add pagination if necessary
  58. Dealing with pagination is another critical SEO consideration. Traditionally you’ll see about 20 products on the one category page. If you have more than 20 products on the one page, you have a decision to make. You can:

    • Serve them all
    • The downside is that you risk slowing the loading speed of that vital page.

    • Implement infinite scroll
    • Facebook uses this scrolling technique in its news feed. The downside is that Javascript is used to activate the infinite scroll and Google may not crawl the products below the Javascript fold.

    • Add pagination
    • This allows your users to click to different pages, i.e. /page-1/, /page-2/, etc.
      But you don’t want multiple versions of your category pages being indexed and displayed in search results. However, you can add markup (rel=prev and rel=next) to sort that issue out.

  59. Use filters
  60. I’ve already touched on sizes and colours as product options, and these might be filters from your category pages or your main shopping page. Additional filters will also look at price and more, creating numerous variations that can get messy from a product URL perspective. Controlling this situation requires a skilful blend of noindex tags and robots.txt file directives.
     

    Product Pages

    While they may not be the landing page asset that categories can become, product pages are still essential of course to an optimised ecommerce site (and not just for their ability and role in converting customers).

    Here’s are some tips for your product pages.

  61. Promote related products
  62. Keeping your user on your site until they convert is your ultimate goal. Displaying relevant and valuable related products is a great way to do this. It’s excellent for UX, and it also helps to get people browsing around your site and demonstrating the value of your other products.

  63. Use video
  64. A video is engaging and offers a rich experience. Video keeps users on your site for longer and gets vital messages across faster. A video adds to the user experience and in turn, demonstrates value to search engines.

  65. Have great product images
  66. Buying something online comes with risks. A customer wants to get a better idea about the product to reduce any anxiety about the purchase. Images can help to reassure your customer that the right decision is to buy your product.

  67. Use unique descriptions
  68. One of the most common SEO issues with ecommerce is the ‘copy and paste job’ of product information from the manufacturer’s website. Not only are they all too often uninspiring, but they’re also the same descriptions as so many of your competitors use.

    ecommerce product description mistakes

    Credit: ASICS.


     
    Seriously, if you’re guilty of this type of copy and paste approach, copy a snippet of your product descriptions and use it to search in Google. You’ll see just how many of your competitors have done the same. A unique and compelling product description is one of the easiest ways of distinguishing yourself from your competition.
     

    General On-Page Optimisation

    Of course, there are on-page optimisation factors that are important whether you manage an ecommerce site or not. They’re important to help communicate what your page is about to Google and your users.

    Here are some on-page optimisation techniques.

  69. Use unique page titles
  70. Your page title is an excellent indicator of what readers and search engines can expect from a page. You should get your target keyword in there. But if it’s not unique, then Google won’t necessarily know which page to rank for that target keyword. If it gets it wrong, what will that cost you?

  71. Have unique meta descriptions
  72. The first touchpoint you have with your potential customer is often via search results. These results will likely be a page title and a two-line description pulling from your meta description of it. Make that description unique, informative and appealing. More clicks indicate that you’re providing value and will be great for your SEO.

  73. Use internal linking
  74. It’s important to understand that Google and other search engines crawl a website, they don’t browse it as we do. So, imagine your site as a sitemap with a hierarchical structure. Ideally, you want to link from your home page to your category pages. Then from your category pages to your product pages. Internal linking can be one of the easiest ways of giving poor-performing pages an SEO boost.

    ecommerce structure

    Credit: strategybeam.com


     

  75. Use permalinks/URLs
  76. There are a few things you need to be mindful of with your URLs. When you’re adding your slug, be descriptive and use your target keyword. But keep it short, don’t use underscores and remove words like ‘and’, ‘if’, ‘to’, etc.
     

    Extras

    These ‘extras’ as tactics are no less critical to your ecommerce SEO strategy than the ones I’ve already outlined, but they don’t naturally fall into one of the earlier categories. If you follow these specific ‘extras’ tips, you’ll increase your domain authority and branded searches, improve your keyword targeting, and score yourself compelling rich snippets in Google.

  77. Conversion tracking
  78. As an ecommerce manager, you should be tracking both your conversions and your assisted conversions. But not only is conversion tracking essential in identifying the value of your campaigns, it can also provide you with valuable information for your keyword targeting. Subtle differences in search queries can change the quality of your search visitor or their readiness to purchase.

  79. Use Schema
  80. Schema is a markup language that helps you to add another layer of structured content to your pages. This markup will help to communicate what your page is about to all the major search engines. The direct result may include rich snippets in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). For an ecommerce site, these snippets can be stock availability, price, product rating and more. Schema markup is also a recommended tactic to score valuable voice search results.

    Google Rich Snippets ecommerce
     

    Generate your product Schema with our JSON-LD Schema Generator.

     

  81. Encourage link building
  82. Link building is still considered to be a reliable indicator for search engines. But be mindful that you want to source a healthy blend of high-quality, contextual and (where appropriate) local links to your site.

    Further Reading: Check out ‘Link Building Strategies: 30 SEO Experts Share Their Secrets‘.

  83. Encourage social media engagement
  84. Is social media engagement a ranking factor? Google has stated that it’s not. But by having an active social media community, you’ll help your SEO by earning links and increasing branded searches.

  85. Aim to get shopping comparison listings
  86. While they could be considered link building (albeit low value), there is one crucial distinction; these shopping comparison sites can be great referrers of traffic and sales. Do your research into what comparison sites your competitors are listed on and try them yourself.

  87. Offer university discounts to generate high-value links
  88. Links from .gov and .edu websites have long been considered high-value targets because they’re so much harder to acquire than other types of links. The good news is that it isn’t that hard for an ecommerce website to get educational links. For example, try reaching out to universities and offering an exclusive discount for their students. All they have to do is promote the offer on their website with a link to your site (ideally to a landing page that you’ve created for that university).

  89. Do blog posts around your priority products
  90. Blogging has been one of the prominent inbound marketing tactics of recent times, but for ecommerce sites, it’s a controversial tactic.

    It does have a place though. It’s just that if you haven’t invested in your product copy or even the copy across your informational pages, then you should prioritise those areas first.

    Once you’ve done that, consider blog posts. Identify your priority products. Is your audience researching those products? Are they searching for info that isn’t typically found on the same site that sells the product? If so, then there’s a significant blogging opportunity.

    Create a streamlined experience for your user. Be the general source of information about the product and then offer it to them via your site. It sounds simple, but in many customer journeys, the research to purchase experience is disjointed.
     

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.