Selling anything online is a competitive environment. Thousands of e-commerce stores go live daily, anThe National Retail Federation expects online retailers to sell between $427 billion and $443 billion in 2017, so how does one compete? One way to stay on top of your competitors is by implementing some SEO best practices for e-commerce sites.
Make a Plan Before You Begin
As with a brick-and-mortar store, you should develop a business plan before you open up to the public. SEO is essential for online stores, but so are some of the basic elements like a budget, cash flow forecasting, and sales forecasting.
A Little SEO Investment Goes a Long Way
Many online businesses start pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns as soon as the site is live. While this is a great idea to include in your start-up plan, once you’ve reach your PPC budget limit, your campaign stops.
On the other hand, if you add the necessary SEO elements you need to be found on search engines, you’ll gain organic traffic all the time, even after your PPC campaign has ended. Since 85 percent of consumers look to search engines to make purchasing solutions, you will need SEO to guide searchers to your store. If people can’t find your website, they won’t be making a purchase.
Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?
Image via Flickr by Paloma Gómez
In 2015, Google announced it would show mobile-friendly websites first in search engine results. If your e-commerce site doesn’t have RWD (responsive web design), you may not show up on page one of a Google search, and as we all know, Google is king.
Design Elements Do Matter
A good e-commerce site should not only be easy on the eyes, but easy to navigate. Put your consumer hat on and shop in your store. Here are some things to watch for:
- Ease of shopping cart — Is it simple to review your cart while you’re still shopping? Consumers like to see an estimation of how much they’re spending. Make sure you offer a secure shopping cart to prevent client information from being invaded, and announce on your homepage that you have a secure cart.
- Ease of checkout — Never make checkout difficult. Don’t make the mistake of asking consumers to add this or that, especially with pop-ups. If they hit the checkout button, assume they are ready to purchase what’s in their cart. Make payment options easy, as well as the option to check out as a guest.
- Garment or accessory sizing — If a shopper can’t find your sizing chart, they’ll skip your store and find one that makes sizing easy.
- Product descriptions — Make sure you avoid duplicate content by writing unique descriptions for every product you sell. Using duplicate content can harm your site’s search engine results.
- Contact information — Including a telephone number, email, and address helps to build credibility.
How Fast Do Pages Load?
We’ve all clicked on websites that take forever to load. Usually, we click away out of frustration. This means that you absolutely need to know how fast your pages are loading. A simple test audit will tell you. Large image sizes and hosting issues are two possible culprits in slow-loading pages.
Is Your Site Easy to Edit?
All e-commerce sites should have a good CMS (content management system) that allows you to edit products and content easily. It should include these four elements, which are essential in e-commerce SEO best practices:
- Page titles
- Product descriptions
- Meta descriptions
- Image tags
Be Smart With Keywords
Keywords seem tricky, but they don’t have to be. For online stores, they can be quite easy. Think of what you sell and why someone would want to buy it. For example, if you sell plus size clothing, one might search for “best plus size clothing online.” Use those keywords in your SEO.
The “difference between” is also a good tool. Those deciding between a laptop and a gaming laptop might search for “What’s the difference between a laptop and a gaming laptop?”
Become ‘The’ Authority About the Products You Sell
Consumers love top-ten lists or best-of lists. Land on these lists by incorporating a blog and writing regularly about the products you sell. The more you blog, the more organic traffic you’ll receive, and the better chance you have for shoppers to buy from you and recommend your store.
Blogs are a great SEO tool, but many e-commerce stores don’t capitalize on their power. If you don’t fancy yourself a writer, outsource your blogging.
Are You Social?
Social media is huge, so you should take advantage of it. Use the social media sites that best suit your online store. For clothing, fashion, home goods, and other items along this line, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram are great choices. For those selling professional services, be sure to make your presence known on LinkedIn and Twitter. Don’t forget to announce sales and discounts on your social media sites.
Employ the Right Tech Tools
All websites, including e-commerce sites, should do the following:
- Create a Google Analytics account
- Create a Google Webmaster Tools account
- Submit your sitemap to Google, Yahoo! and Bing
A good e-commerce platform will allow you to see what pages are being viewed using an easy Google Analytics plug-in. Webmaster Tools are essential for finding and resolving website errors, and submitting your homepage URL to search engines will help each time your site is indexed.
Use Trusted Platforms
Although it looks affordable to design your store on your own, this is not an SEO best practice for e-commerce sites. Why? Many of these DIY websites don’t offer the plug-ins you need to make your design competitive. They also may not help with HTML, CSS, or SEO elements unless you pay for it.
Your site has to look and feel professional, and it’s easy to tell if it’s not. Online shoppers are savvy these days, and they want a trusted and reliable place to shop.
Show Off Your Good Business Credentials
Shoppers will buy from online stores that are members of certain organizations, such as the BBB or Chamber of Commerce. If you are a member, put those badges on your website.
The bottom line for any e-commerce store is its ability to be found. Use these SEO best practices to make yours first.