Killer eCommerce SEO Strategy Creation – a Step-by-Step Guide

Writing a great eCommerce SEO Strategy is hard and requires much time and expertise. This article will tackle the process of SEO strategy creation and implementation and will give you a step-by-step guide on how to do it, and most importantly – do it successfully. However, if you feel like this is too much, and you will end up hiring someone anyway, schedule a free consultation right now and have a live discussion with one of our SEO specialists.

Posted on 19.02.2020 | by Tigran | CEO at Smarketa

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Are you an online store owner in desperate need of a comprehensive and simple guide to optimize your eCommerce SEO strategy?

Well look no more, you have found it! This guide is written by marketing experts with consultation from real store owners to give you useful tips, no theory. 

Setting up an eCommerce business is no easy task. However, once you have accomplished that, and have a somewhat successful business, you can’t sit back either. You have to make sure every single day, that you are acquiring new visitors, customers, and that your sales are steady, and only growing.

To make sure your success is continuous and stable, you need to have the right funnel. 

The right funnel is the alignment of its elements that consist of: 

  • Traffic source
  • Landing Page
  • Offer

What we mean here, is that you need to bring the potential customers from the right traffic sources, showing them the offer that they would be interested in, thus insuring the sales. If you have a gap in any of the stages, most likely you will lose that person.

There are different traffic sources out there, which include organic (SEO), paid (Google Ads, Social Media ads), referral, (when they come to your website through links on other websites), direct (when they come to your website directly), email and many more.

In this article, we will focus on organic traffic attained through SEO. 

In order to have the right funnel and understand very well all the nuances and distinctions of each offer and audience, you need to have an eCommerce SEO strategy.

A right strategy will set you apart from the competition and give you a leading position since people searching for a specific thing, will get access to that thing, easy and fast.  

SEO success starts with the right strategy. Yet, writing the perfect strategy that fits your business goals is no piece of cake.  

Before you even start to write it, you need to have a full picture of where your online store stands, the surrounding environment, i.e. the competition, and analyze all the data, in order to make informed and thoughtful decisions.  

This article will break down all the elements of a successful SEO strategy for eCommerce websites, and guide you step-by-step through the process of its creation and implementation.  

Without further ado, let’s dive right into the first step. 

eCommerce SEO Plan creation stages

The main stages of a successful SEO plan for eCommerce websites include the following steps:

  1. Seo Audit for your website
    – On-Site SEO Audit
    – Off-Site SEO Audit
  2. Competitors Research and SEO Audit
    – Competitors’ On-Site SEO Audit
    – Competitors’ Off-Site SEO Audit
  3. Keyword Research
    – Your current keywords analysis
    – Competitor’s keywords analysis
    – Find new keywords opportunities
  4. Analysis and Strategy Creation/Planning

eCommerce SEO Analysis

Let’s start right from the top, which is performing an SEO Audit

Chances are, you have heard of the SEO Audit, but maybe you didn’t have the time yet to perform it, or maybe you have performed only some elements of it, or maybe you even already have a full report.

In the case of the latter, you are off the hook and can go right into the competitor analysis. But, if you belong to one of the former cases, you will need to invest time into your SEO Audit, and here is what you need to expect and start working on.

On-Site SEO Audit

On-Site SEO audit will give you a picture of what current state your website is in to help you better understand which direction your eCommerce SEO strategy needs to go.

The main parts of the on-site SEO Audit include Technical and Content Audit.

Technical SEO Audit

It will show all the issues you might have with your website, like the site speed, HTTPS status codes, mobile-friendliness of your website, responsiveness, and many more.

Technical Audit is very important, in order to make sure your website is operating at its best and nothing technical is holding you back from desired CR.

Since this part is fairly difficult and requires expert knowledge in the matter, you might either want to hire an in-house SEO specialist to perform the task or outsource an expert.

In case you are confident in your abilities and want to do it yourself, here is a very helpful document – an SEO Audit Checklist, that will make sure you don’t forget anything on the way.

Content SEO Audit

It is all about how the content of your website is optimized for the keywords that you are targeting. Here you will only see what keywords you are ranking with, but the information will help you greatly to compose the right eCommerce SEO strategy. 

However, you need to be very careful not to have cannibalization among your pages.

What Is Keyword Cannibalization?

Keyword cannibalization is when 2 (or more) pages are ranking with the same keyword, and the algorithm doesn’t get which one of them is more relevant or important and shifts you to the bottom of the SERPs.

Content audit includes the following elements:

  • Meta title & meta descriptions
  • Site content
  • Landing pages
  • Blog content
  • Keyword density

Keyword rankings 

When doing an SEO audit of your website, a very important thing to take into account, is the keyword rankings you currently have.

At this stage, we are not analyzing them, and not looking whether or not the page and the keyword match in regard to keyword intent, and our targeting needs. Here we are merely collecting the data on which page ranks with which keyword.

Later on, when we will be doing our analysis and planning of the eCommerce SEO strategy, we will look closely at this data, to see if we are on the right track, or we need to change something, in order to achieve desired results.

Off-Site SEO Audit

If the on-site audit shows the situation your webstore is in, the off-site audit shows how others see you, whether or not you are on the digital map of eCommerce. Off-site SEO audit in-tern also consists of different elements, which include the following:

Backlink quantity and quality

This shows how many other websites are linking back to you and what is the domain authority of those websites – are they reliable sources or not?

It is very important to be known and recognized by your peers in the online community and try to become an authoritative source of information. Backlinks are the way to do that and are a big part of your eCommerce SEO plan!

Imagine you are an online shoe store, that has a very good and strong knowledge base in the industry, and shares it through a blog. If your content is truly good, people will use you as a source of information, and therefore will link to your website.

However, if you have a lot of info, but it is outdated, unreliable and just simply bad, no one ever will refer to your website as a good place to get some insights.

Thus creating good content will eventually ensure plenty of backlinks, and most importantly from great websites. That’s why you need to deeply analyze this data, before mapping your eCommerce SEO strategy.

You can check a website’s DA – domain authority, through different tools. Just remember when it comes to your backlinks, 1 strong backlink, with a high DA is more important than many links from weak websites, make sure to include that your eCommerce SEO plan.

Social media presence

This shows how many people are talking about your online store, how many shares your content has on social media and so on.

An important thing to remember is you need to be active on social media since it’s a great platform to connect to your potential and existing clients and persuade them to visit your store.

The attention span of people today is so short and the competition is so big, that if you are not constantly reminding about your existence, people will simply forget. That’s why this point is always included in the SEO strategy for eCommerce websites.

Reviews

This shows how many people leave reviews to your webstore in review sites, like Yelp, Google, Amazon, Yellow Pages and so on.

You can think of this one as virtual word-of-mouth. When you meet your friends, your relatives, the latest purchases or a great small shop you have just discovered are usually a part of the conversation.

However online word, unlike our normal one, doesn’t have an actual physical shop, where you can have personalized customer service, try and touch the merchandise, check the quality.

For all the above-mentioned points you need to trust the seller. As trust is a big issue, and there are a lot of scammers out there, reviews make sure you are real, you are good, people are using your services, people are trusting you.

That’s why emphasizing the importance of reviews in your eCommerce SEO strategy is so important to build trust with your existing and potential customers.

Local SEO

Remember above we were talking about how people don’t have much trust in online stores? Well, this section is for that exact purpose. When you conduct a local SEO, you give people local address, phone number – basically local visibility. 

You put yourself on the map, you give them an option of a man-to-man contact.

In case you have a physical shop they can attend, more often than not they will do it. Google has conducted research, and results indicate that 50% and 34% of people who have done a local search on their smartphone and tablet/computer respectfully have visited the store within a day.

Make sure your website is optimized for local search, by auditing your meta tags, URLs, website content. Also make sure you are listed in the directories like Yelp, Yellowpages, Google and any other local directory that might be out there.

Ensure the information there is accurate and up to date and spend time on this point within the framework of your eCommerce SEO plan.

Competitor Research & Analysis

The next step of the creation of your eCommerce SEO strategy includes a comprehensive competitor research and analysis. You will need to take about 3 preferably local major competitors and analyze all the data you can find.

You need to know what they are doing and how exactly they set up their funnel, in order to take the best practices and, if possible, implement them into your own buyer funnel.

Just as the analysis with your own website, you need to approach the competitor analysis in the same way, i.e. perform both on-site and off-site SEO Audit.

Competitors’ On-Site SEO audit

Here, just like you did with your own website, you need to check their technical parameters, content and keywords. I won’t go into details here, since we have discussed all of these points above, in the on-site SEO audit section of your website.

However, there are little nuances to take into account. For example, when it comes to technical audit, you don’t need all the metrics, like you would with your webstore.

Our SEO specialists have developed a list of technical parameters they check when doing an on-site audit of competitors’ websites, which include a number of indexed pages by Google, if the website has an XML sitemap, site speed, error pages and so on.   

When it comes to content and keywords, you need all the data you can have; all of it is helpful and will guide you in creating the best eCommerce SEO strategy for your online store.

Competitors’ Off-Site SEO Audit

Here you need to see how the competitor is performing on the market arena, how many backlinks they have, what is their social media presence, how many reviews they have, both of their product and of their store, and whether or not they have a local presence.

In the case of an off-site competitor audit, you need all the data! It will help you see where your online shop stands on the market map, and point out areas for improvement and maybe best practices you can adapt to your eCommerce website SEO plan.

There is not much difference when performing the off-site audit for your webstore, or for the competitors’, thus feel free to follow the steps described above.

Keyword research

Keyword research is one of the crucial parts of creating a good eCommerce SEO strategy. It’s more than just a search of what people are looking for and what your competitors are ranking with.

A very important and essential part of keyword research is its analysis in terms of keyword intent. There are 4 main types of keyword intent: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial or “high intent”.

To illustrate what we mean here, look closely at these keywords, for example: red women shoes; red women shoes with the high hill; and red women shoe prices; buy Gucci red women shoes.

The first 2 are very specific keywords, showing people looking for red women shoes, but more with a window shopper or informational intent.

She wants to see what’s out there, compares different offers, sees if they have any in her size, and whether she actually needs them or not. The person is interested but not sure if she should buy them.

These keywords have informational or navigational intent.

The third keyword has the word price in it, meaning she knows she wants them, and she is prepared to pay the price but wants to compare different stores to find the best deal. This keyword has a clear transactional intent.

The last keyword shows a very clear commercial intent, she knows she wants them, she knows how much they cost and all she needs is a place where she can get them.

A variation of the last one can also include a place, like London or Liverpool, or even areas of one city, like Soho or Whitehall.

Aside from the keyword intent that needs to be analyzed, you need to make sure you are targeting the right keywords when you are creating the SEO plan for eCommerce website. For that purpose, you need to carry out the keyword research from 3 standpoints:

  • Current keyword profile – You will research these in your SEO Audit stage as well, however, remember that your current keywords, the ones you are ranking with, need to be updated. 

Their search volume may drop or increase, they might become outdated with time. Just keep in mind that the world of eCommerce is a living, breathing and constantly changing organism, so you need to keep up. 

  • Competitors’ keywords or Keyword Gap – Here you look into your competitors, and it can also fall under the competitor analysis you do. The process is the same: by now you know your competition, know who they are, and once again you need to check which keywords they are targeting. 

In some cases, it will make sense to borrow some of their keywords, in others not, but you need to be on your toys when it comes to your competitors’ targeting.

  • Keyword Opportunities – Here we mean all the keywords in your niche that people are searching for. What you need to see is the keyword demand, regardless of the fact if you or your competitors are using them.

There many tools for that very purpose, like Google Keyword Planner, Semrush, Ahrefs and so on. Surely, you are using one of them to do your keyword research. Just make sure you are paying attention to the suggested keywords since there might be keywords that neither you nor your competitors are targeting, but it has decent search volume and needs to be included in your copy.

Analysis and Strategy Creation

Analysis of findings

Now that you have analyzed and optimized all there was to analyze and optimize, you need to keep track of what you did and maintain the high indexes got through hard work.

When it comes to competitor analysis, you need to analyze their data to see what kind of optimization opportunities you might have. For example, what is the word count of their pages, what kinds of shipping they offer, do they have a blog, do they have decent interlinking, what is the domain authority and do they have all the necessary pages.

All that and much more need to be benchmarked with your own website to see what areas you need to work on, and where you come on top of your competition. For example, if none of your competitors has a blog, but you update yours regularly with relevant and quality content, you can see it as a win.

Of course, 1 factor doesn’t make much difference, but when you add up all the findings and optimize your online store accordingly, the results will surely follow.

We have talked about keyword intent above, and we are going to mention it again since it’s probably the most important thing to understand when creating the eCommerce Website SEO plan. When you sort your keywords by intent, you clearly see what kind of ads, landing pages, and links need to be associated with each of them.

Intents are very different, as we have mentioned above, thus if you target an informational intent keyword with a product landing page, you will most likely lose your potential customer, since they were not ready to buy, but merely wanted some information, and were in the research stage.

The table below will help you understand how exactly you need to carry out the analysis, structure your strategy according to which data and how to implement it.

Strategy Creation/Planning

As soon as you do your analysis, you will be able to make a very informed decision on what’s the right way to target your keywords, and build funnels to help people better navigate through your website, not give them something they are not ready to get and don’t mislead them with your offer and landing pages.

In this stage, you need to make a smart keyword targeting to align the following elements:

  • Keywords
  • Landing page
  • Offer

The logic of your funnels should be 1 keyword – 1 page – 1 goal!

You need to make sure that the keyword intent is aligned with the landing page and the offer, to make sure the funnel is in a logical order.

Let’s discuss different scenarios on the red shoe example.

With “red women shoes” keyword, which has a clear informational intent, you need to put a blog article talking about red shoes, if you have one of course, or a general page, with a filter of red shoe collection that you have.

With “buy red women shoes” keyword, which has a clear buying intent, the best bet would be to take them directly to the product page, in order to convert them fast and easy.

Below you can find a table that was created by our eCommerce search engine optimization experts to guide you through the process of the analysis when creating your SEO strategy and help you maintain your focus on the most important parts of the strategy creation process in general and analysis in particular.

Phew, the planning part is over! We know it’s a lot! 🙂 Just in case this seems like too big of a task to complete on your own, feel free to contact us for a free SEO strategy session, have a live chat with one of our SEO experts and see what you can do to maximize your sales.

Implementation Stages

The hard part is over! You have analysed and planned everything, and now it’s time to implement your brilliant ideas, sit back and reap the results of your hard work.

Just as the strategy creation, implementation also has its process and steps to take. 

On-site Strategy Stages

Just as you need to perform an SEO audit separately on-page and off-page, you also need to implement your strategy separately on and off-page. When it comes to on-page implementation, you have 2 options, content and technical optimization.

Content Optimization Tips

When it comes to content, the optimization opportunities usually are very vast and there are many different approaches you can take. Here are a few tips on how you can target different kinds of keywords and what strategies you can use to rank.

Combination of long-tail and short-tail keywords 

For example, a long-tail keyword would be “where to buy red shoes for women” and a short-tail is “red women shoes”. As a rule, short tail keywords have much more search volume, so you would think you should use a lot of them, however, it is that much harder to rank with them.

Thus targeting long-tail keywords, with a less search volume would give you less competition and at the same time higher conversion rates, since they have a very specific intent, and if you bring them to the right page, they will most often than not convert.

The combination of both will signal to Google Algorithm that your page is highly relevant, and will rank you on a higher position.

Secondary keywords’ Segmentation to avoid cannibalization

In SEO there is such a phenomenon called cannibalization when 2 pages of the same website have the same keyword, and Google doesn’t understand which one of them should be more relevant for that exact keyword, and both pages “eat” each other, and as a result, none of them ranks.

So what you need to do is separate main and secondary keywords for each page and the main keywords should not be duplicated. How exactly to optimize your content? Select your main keyword and use it in meta titles and descriptions, H1 title and use it throughout your page. 

When you apply that logic, it signals to a search engine that the particular page is targeted for that particular keyword. This way none of your pages will prevent another to rank.

Long-tail keywords are the ones to bet on

As we have mentioned above, long-tail keywords are great to rank with, since they usually have less search volume and very specific intent. For instance, returning to our beloved red shoes example, “where to buy red shoes for women” keyword has a very specific intent.

The person knows he/she needs and wants red shows, and now the only thing they need is locations, physical or virtual, where they can obtain the set shoes. In this case, you can target a blog post, discussing the best shops, where you can purchase them, and then through a link bring the person to your product page.

Technical SEO Optimization

Technical optimization is a part of the On-site optimization, where you need to get all your technical stuff in order, to make sure your website load speed, responsiveness across different devices, HTML codes, mobile usability and many more parameters are operating as they should.

All of the above-mentioned technical points have a huge effect on user experience and customer satisfaction with your online store. So take the time to fix all the little bugs you have identified during the SEO audit, and as a helpful tool, feel free to use our SEO Audit Checklist to guide you through this process and make sure you do not miss even the smallest detail.

Another important step is to look into your competition. Many people forget to do that in this stage, but in order to get a real picture of what’s going on in the market and what works and whatnot, you need to analyse your competitors.

Off-site SEO Optimization

As we have mentioned before, off-site space is pretty much the outer world and whether or not you have a place in it – links from other websites, social media and reviews are all sources and platforms for you to use to get links to your website and use an online “word of mouth” to promote your online store and be known as a reliable and good website.

Here are some factors that directly or indirectly influence your rankings:

Social networks and forums

When you post great content through your social media and it gets shared, they use your website link, a hashtag, or maybe people like your store so much they tweet about you – all these signals to search engines that you are popular, thus must be relevant.

In many sources, social media presence doesn’t identify as a ranking factor, however, 9 years of experience in the field shows, that it does matter and websites with a strong social presence rank higher.

Backlinks and anchor texts

Anchor text is the clickable word or a phrase that is used to link one website or a webpage to another. Google sees anchor texts as indicators on what your page is about and what keyword you are trying to rank with.

Make sure you optimise your anchor texts to fit your keyword strategy and targeting, to make sure that you are seen and ranking exactly the way you want and planned.

Getting other people to link to your website is also very important. You can achieve that by contacting bloggers to mention you on their website, you can send your product for reviews, contact influencers and so on.

There are many link building techniques you can use, like asking for backlinks, writing guest posts to ensure a link back to you, link yourself in directories and so on. Just remember to choose your opponents wisely to link yourself to high-authority websites.

Reviews Here are the reviews that other people write about your store, about your products and so on.

You want to encourage your clients to leave reviews since it builds trust and signals to search engines that you are a high-authority brand/retailer.

You can encourage them by providing incentives, making the review section more visible, sending follow-up emails after the purchase, simply ask your customers to do so, make sure you answer to all of the reviews, even to the angry and negative ones, etc.

Parting wisdom

As you can see the process is long and very substantial and needs high competence, since as Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”. An eCommerce SEO strategy is one of the most important parts of your planning and overall marketing strategy.

SEO is not a sprint, but a marathon, that has a long-lasting effect on your rankings and conversion rate. If you do it right and create a strategy that fits your needs perfectly, you will enjoy the fruits of the sweat and tears you put into creating it. 

In case the task seems too much and you think you might need guidance in this process schedule a meeting, and we will be more than happy to discuss the options and details of how we can create a strategy that not only will maximize your sales but also, with time, minimize your costs on marketing and search optimization. 

Tigran | CEO at Smarketa

Tigran Mirzoyan is the CEO at Smarketa and also loves to share his experience and expertise in blogs. Since 2010, the year Smarketa was founded, Tigran has worked tirelessly to grow eCommerce businesses, and now he can share his experience with those in need of professional advice.