5 Unique Ways to Ace Your E-Commerce SEO Strategy

July 10, 2019

With the rise of multichannel buying behavior, the dominance of marketplaces, and the increasing competition for product placements on Google, driving revenue through SEO is more crucial for e-commerce websites than ever before.  

The title of this blog may suggest that we’ll teach you five fancy new ways to boost your e-commerce website traffic, but that won’t be the case.

The best “tricks” you can use are fundamental technical industry standards, which are even more important for e-commerce sites than most other types. 

SEO professionals everywhere, including many online retailers, mistakenly use the mantra “website build first, SEO second.”

This system of prioritization results in a website that favors a slick design over a solid technical SEO foundation.  

Best practices of great design, user experience (UX), and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are essential to apply in order to achieve higher e-commerce conversion rates.

Conversely, neglecting basic SEO principles negatively impacts website performance in the long term. 

Even if you’re already using keywords correctly and following the rules for meta titles and descriptions on your site, using these often-underrated strategies will boost your e-commerce SEO to the next level. 

Create a Flat Site Structure to Enhance SEO

Search engines use a site’s structure to better understand site content and the relationships between pages on the site. 

The two most common types of website structures are “deep” and “flat.”

Flat site structures let users easily find and navigate key pages in just a few clicks. Web crawlers can derive more context from flat sites, which significantly improves rankings. 

On the other hand, deep sites create a long path that a user or search engine must go through to access certain content.

Deep structures not only adversely impact UX, but also take longer for search engines to find content on your site which impedes ranking potential.

PageRank distribution along a simple site architecture

Source

Start flattening your site structure by logically breaking down web pages. Sort your products into core categories, then work your way down into subcategories from there. 

Ideally, it should take users no more than three clicks to access any page on your website.

graph of home page, subcategory pages, and products.png

 

For further reading on creating an optimal site structure, BuiltVisible wrote this highly recommended in-depth guide to solving site architecture issues.

Using this methodology, businesses can more easily understand the value of investing in site structure. 

Use Your SEO Strategy to Increase Internal Linking 

E-commerce sites tend to have a lot of pages. Without strategic internal linking, users and search engines will alike have difficulty navigating your site. Internal links are essential for SEO. 

By helping search engines identify your most important pages and recognize content themes easily and efficiently, internal linking makes web pages rank higher in Google’s index. 

Internal linking allows you to spread link equity, namely ranking power. 

Crafting a strategy for internal linking structure shows search engines how pages relate to one another and demonstrates the value and relevance of your content.

Here are two of the simplest ways to boost internal link value on your website:

Breadcrumbs: Breadcrumbs are “navigational aids that leave a trail where people were active on your site and allow people to retrace their steps from the pages they viewed.” 

Using this method is one of the most effective ways to optimize internal linking on e-commerce sites.

It provides most of your important pages with internal link equity without requiring in-depth development work. 

On its website, Stonechat Jewellers exemplifies how to use breadcrumbs to help users and search engines navigate through its product catalog.

The Stonechat Jewelers homepage with links to product pages and specific sections

Source

Footer links: While footer links may not carry as much weight as links on important pages, they still help to dramatically boost internal linking to key pages. 

The image below offers a great example from Sports Direct of efficient footer link usage:

This image shows popular links that relate to specific queries, companies, and functional pages for things like delivery and payment

Source

Think about it. If your website has 4,000 pages that include a footer with a link, each one those footer pages will receive some internal link value from 4,000 pages.

Use this technique to send a clear signal to Google that those pages are important and relevant for searchers. 

Employ Granular Product Categorization

Product search queries tend to be more specific than B2B search terms, depending on the stage of the buying journey a customer is in. 

It’s harder to rank for broad keywords, so why wouldn’t our product page structure reflect this?

Creating optimized category pages makes it easier for users to find what they need.

Furthermore, this also helps you build a flattened site architecture. 

A logical category hierarchy should take a broad-to-specific silo approach to attract users to your site through search engines based on the specificity of their queries. 

Creating highly targeted product category pages by breaking down products into granular categories is a proven way to increase traffic for a broader range of long-tail and high intent search terms. 

Targeting the right keywords is crucial. Undertake granular keyword research to optimize for searcher intent.

My jewelry site poses a topical example. Our store includes a wide range of offerings that match the search term “white gold rings.”

Rather than keeping all my white gold rings under one URL with the other gold and silver rings, I structure the URL breakdown like this: 

https://www.mysite.com/jewellery

https://www.mysite.com/jewellery/rings

https://www.mysite.com/jewellery/rings/white-gold-rings

Our friends at Stonechat Jewellers again demonstrate this strategy quite well. Stonechat’s page for all “Rings” ranks pretty well for general searches, but less high for specific gemstone search terms such as “tanzanite rings.” 

Since breaking down the ring category and creating a URL which contains all tanzanite rings, the brand’s website now ranks number one on google.ie for this highly specific search term.

Google results for the search term "tanzanite rings," including images and links to retailers who sell them

About 140 searches per month in Ireland may seem like a minor figure, but it will drive significant qualified traffic for a small business such as Stonechat Jewellers. 

Avoid Keyword Cannibalization with Unique Meta-Data and Content

Cannibalization refers to multiple pages on one website competing for the same or similar keywords.

Internal pages that compete with one another for rankings cause confusion for search engines.

Making meta-data and content as unique as possible is essential, especially for your primary revenue driving pages. While it’s nearly impossible to eradicate all cannibalization, always be aware of and track this phenomenon.

Here’s an example below from DID Electrical, where we can see two product pages competing for the same keyword on Google: 

 

Google search results 4 and 5 for "black and decker dustbuster" search query

In some cases, keyword cannibalization may not present an issue.

If you find that less important pages are ranking above your high-value pages in Google, however, keyword cannibalization might be causing a massive drain on your revenue from organic search.

Here’s a quick process to preempt keyword cannibalization:

  • Perform keyword research for top-selling products
  • Ensure one version is fully optimized for the query
  • De-optimize the other version/versions of the products
  • Ensure the primary version has unique page copy and increase internal link equity to the primary product page

Optimize your website so you are not wasting resources on pages that are irrelevant to organic search or diverting traffic from the correct page. 

Prevent Index Bloat

Index bloat is a common SEO challenge. It occurs when a search engine indexes pages that should not be indexed, which happens most often for e-commerce sites.

Tools like filter widgets allow users to look for products based on different attributes.

Allowing search engines to crawl these pages minimizes exposure to important revenue-driving pages. 

If a search engine has to waste time crawling piles of filter widgets or tag URLs which provide no value for the user, rankings will ultimately decrease.

Unnecessary crawling also wastes crawl budget, which is a particularly important issue for larger sites. 

Check if your site has this issue by looking at your Google Search Console and clicking on “Index Status.” If you see sudden spikes in the chart, this could indicate bloat.

Performing a quick site, advanced operator search in Google lets you see if unnecessary URLs are being indexed immediately.

Type site:mysite.com into the Google search bar to restrict your search to indexed URLs on your platform.

Look through the results pages to identify any glaring URLs which shouldn’t be indexed. 

ASOS

In the example below from Asos, we can clearly see some product search URLs which shouldn’t be crawled and indexed by Google.

ASOS

Fix index bloat by preventing search engines from crawling specific pages.

Most importantly, make sure to filter and tag URLs by asking your developer to add certain parameters in your website’s robots.txt file. 

Optimizing an SEO Strategy for Your Own E-Commerce Site

The strategies outlined above might not look like your average “SEO hacks,” but each step is a foundational element of strategy for any e-commerce website.

Without ascribing to these best practices, your site will struggle to perform to its full potential. 

After researching your website to find ways to improve any of these SEO elements, prioritize steps based on which requires the least amount of effort, working up to the most time-consuming tasks.

Monitor your visibility improvements by annotating when changes are made in Google analytics.