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Why is ecommerce SEO so important – and how do you do it?

Getting your ecommerce SEO right is pretty much the most essential element of your marketing strategy – without optimising your product pages and descriptions, search engines simply won't know how to index or rank them in search results.

For many ecommerce businesses, SEO feels like a massive hill to climb – and the more products you have, the higher the hill! But it's well worth the investment of your time, or budget if you'd rather bring in an SEO expert to help.

One of key reasons to properly optimise your product pages is that you’re going to find you’re up against less competition in the search engines. While lots of people might optimise for a generic phrase, such as ‘shoe shop’, not so much focus is given to the specific shoes or other details.

Great SEO on your website will also increase your conversion rates – the more specific the details the searcher’s looking for, the more intent there is to purchase e.g.:

• ‘Shoe Shop’ – the prospect wants shoes – researching stage
• ‘Brown shoes’ – they know what colour of shoe they want – still researching
• ‘Paul Smith brown shoes’ – specific brand and type – researching/ready to buy
• ‘Paul Smith Men's Tan Parma Calf Leather 'Ernest' Shoes’ – know exactly what they want – ready to buy

SEO for ecommerce – where do you start?

First off, all of your pages should be properly optimised – so that's your main content pages as well as your products.
Secondly, you need to know what keywords to use in your SEO strategy. You can take an 'organic', common-sense approach, but ideally you'll conduct proper keyword and competitor research. There are plenty of tutorials online that will show you how to do this, and I'm sure we'll write a blog about it at some point – but for now, we're going to focus on the key ecommerce SEO indicators you need to get in place.

SEO for product pages – our top tips

When you really get down to it, SEO is a long-term effort that extends behind your own website. But here are the key elements of SEO for your product pages that you need to focus on:

URLs - every single URL on your website needs to be unique, and provide clear information on what will be found on that page. Use your focus keyword as the product name, and ensure it follows this structure: domain name/category/subcategory/product name.

Page titles - Google has recently revised its best practice for page titles, so you can use up to 70 characters (including spaces). Make each one unique and place your focus keyword at the start. These only show in the SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) and not on the web page itself – the same applies to the following...

Meta descriptions - make it unique, include your target keyword but also write it to appeal to human visitors, not just search algorithms. Be descriptive, be persuasive, and keep it to a maximum of 150-160 characters. Oh, and do NOT just copy the manufacturer's description or one from another supplier, or you risk your products not being indexed at all, or even worse, face a spam penalty.

H tags - format your main heading (your overarching product description) as an H1 tag and use further H tags in numerical order to break up your product content description. Make sure it's not exactly the same as your page title, but do ensure you repeat your target key phrase.

Product descriptions - content is king, so use lengthier product descriptions if you want to get noticed: aim for at least 250 words. It sounds a lot, but you can break it up with subheadings (see above), and bullet points to draw out key details and options. Remember that this is your sales pitch – make it compelling, relevant, informative and contextual. Oh, and of course, your key phrase needs to be in there too!

Alt image tags - don't forget to optimise your videos and product images with your keywords too. Give each one a unique text tag to help with accessibility for visitors using screen-readers, and to help boost your product SEO so they'll show up in image searches.

Rich snippets - draw out essential product data with rich snippets in your meta data to help search engines and visitors quickly see key info such as price, images and reviews.

Internal links - add suggestions for similar or related products into your descriptions so visitors can easily navigate to other products they might like.

Stay one step ahead – when you’ve got new products in the pipeline, get them on the site and optimised before they’re released to give you a jump-start on the competition!

A lot of SEO elements can be automated to some degree, as product pages tend to have a shared structure – optimising key elements of 100s of pages at once is much better than doing it all manually! For example, H1 and alt image tags can be automatically set as the product’s name, then you can just slightly adjust your page title to avoid Google getting annoyed with exact duplication.

Tagging products to enhance user experience

While not part of your ecommerce SEO strategy as such, you should also tag your products for internal search too. Add relevant tags so that when visitors use your onsite search function, they can easily find the kind of products they're looking for.

Think about the type of product, style, colour, size and function to help guide users.

Need advice on SEO for products pages?

To the uninitiated, the above may feel like quite a lot to take in, and your ability to optimise your product pages easily will depend on how familiar you are with your ecommerce content management system.

If you need any assistance with any aspect of ecommerce SEO, please feel free to give us a call and we'll be happy to offer our advice.

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