There is so much you can do to optimize your eCommerce site for SEO, that we decided to write an extensive checklist about it. Word of warning: there’s more. Nevertheless, if you start optimizing all the things in this article, you are definitely doing a great job already :)
The first thing you should be aware of is that you use consistent branding. Make sure your brand or logo is clearly visible on your homepage and, for instance, in your page title. This will build up trust and will help to promote and build your business. It will trigger recognition, both offline and in the search result pages.
2. Compelling call to action
Your homepage needs a compelling call to action. That call to action might change over time, due to seasonal influences or for promotional reasons. Always make sure it’s easy to distinguish and it exactly meets your visitor’s needs and expectations.
3. Featured products
A nice spot on that same homepage should be reserved for featured products or something similar: list your main products or your current sales items. This will provide an immediate trigger for visitors. It will tell them if they have come to the right online shop or not.
4. Search option
Every online store that sells over 20 products should have a search option as well. Make sure to list the search option on a visible spot, as this will most probably be the navigation of choice for your visitors. Besides optimizing that search option, be sure to give the search result pages some TLC as well. More on that later.
5. About us
I like to know a tad bit more about the company I buy from. If we share the same values and beliefs, I am more likely to return to that shop and buy more products. Adding an about us page, and perhaps a team photo might create sympathy for your company. Nice examples are Patagonia and Dopper.
6. Shopping cart
Regardless of how noble your intentions are (see #5), in most cases, your main goal is to make or raise as much money as possible. That money is made through your shopping cart. For that reason alone, your shopping cart should be available and visible at all times. Make sure people don’t have to look for it. I’d also recommend adding the number of products in the cart to the cart icon. It will help me remember that added products to the cart already ;)
Throughout your website, be sure to draw attention to your social profiles and newsletter. These are the easiest ways to stimulate return visits from your visitors. Add your social profiles at least to your footer (use icons, links, social widgets), but if you have space left in your header, that would be a great spot as well.
Promote your newsletter in your sidebar, of use scroll triggered boxes to draw attention to it. A nice giveaway, like our free eBook, always helps to convey people to subscribe.
The way you set up your categories and make these accessible for visitors matters a lot. Especially for a visitor that isn’t sure about what specific products to purchase, these categories help them get to certain product groups the fastest way possible.
Amazon has a large list of categories (or departments), but manages to keep it as clear as possible what kind of products a category contains. That has to do with naming these categories, and using subcategories the right way. Put yourself in the visitor’s spot and go over your shop’s categories. Do they make sense? Are these the terms a visitor would use? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
9. Introductory content on category pages
Besides being very clear about the name of your category, be sure to add a nice introduction to your category pages as well. This introduction is like the glue that holds the collection of products on that page together. Especially for search engines, this is really helpful in determining the subject of the page. In that way, it helps the category pages function like a kind of cornerstone content as well.
10. Product thumbnails
In most cases, product images speak louder than a thousand words. This especially goes for those pages that simply can’t hold a thousand words about a single product, like your category or internal search result pages. Adding the right thumbnail of that dress or painting will trigger clicks to that page. It makes it easier for visitors to choose from your wide variety of products in that overview.
11. Call to action in overviews
Besides having killer product thumbnails, your overview pages also need a call to action per product. Although it isn’t possible for any product, a lot of products allow for putting these in your cart right from the category page or search results. I know of online shops that allow you to choose color and size of for instance jeans immediately. Choose, click to cart and proceed to checkout.
12. Product images
On your product page, be sure to add a great product image. That product image should be zoomable and there should be multiple views of the product. Keep in mind that even the filename and ALT text of the product image matter for SEO. For all ins and outs, please read this detailed article we did on product images.
13. Product description
Optimizing your category pages is oftentimes a lot easier than optimizing all of your product pages. If you’re selling bolts, screws and nails, adding an awesome and unique product description to each page is a lot of work. If your product page itself is something you need to rank with as well, be sure to invest some time and effort in optimizing your product descriptions for the product name and / or SKU. Our SEO plugin will come in handy if you have a WordPress site.
For more technical SEO reasons, adding schema.org data to your product pages is recommended. Add at least schema.org/Product and schema.org/Offer, and see if you can extend this to even more detailed schemas.
Adding schema.org markup is a bit more technical than optimizing your product description, so if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing please ask your web developer about this. Schema.org markup will help search engines and f.i. Google Shopping understand the contents of your page better.
15. OpenGraph and Twitter Cards
Besides schema.org data, be sure to add OpenGraph and Twitter Cards as well. These will make sure your content or products are shared in the best way possible. This and more is explained in our article about product page SEO.
16. Clear price
I can’t emphasize this enough: be clear about your prices. If you add surprise costs like shipping or taxes later on in the checkout process, this will backfire. Be clear about these additional costs (if any) right from the start. You could even leverage this by offering free shipping on orders point of over $20/50/100. Surprise costs are a major turnoff.
17. Product reviews
Creating trust is a good thing for all online shops. Genuine product reviews help a great deal in this. One thing I’d like to recommend for websites that include user reviews from third parties is to strategically copy a couple of those to your own website. If you can’t include the third party reviews in, for instance, a widget, that would be a fine solution. Add these near your call to action for the best result.
18. Related products
When you’ve got their interest, leverage that. If someone buys an iPhone 7 on your site, chances are they need a cover, and might want a pair of those really expensive wireless ear pods (those are expensive, right!?). They might feel less expensive when a customer has just paid full price for a new iPhone.
Adding a related products section, or an ‘other customers also bought’ section to your product page will trigger upsells, allow for bundles and more. We highly recommend adding a section like that.
19. Call to action product page
Your visitor needs to click the Add to Cart button on your product page to start the purchase. Don’t hide that button! The number of shops that really disguises that button is slimming, I think, but I’d still like to urge you to take a good look at that button. Especially when you also have a secondary call to action like ‘Add to wish list’, making sure that Add to Cart button stands out the most, is the largest and first major button on your product page is absolutely essential.
20. Payment options
Just like the number 16 in this random eCommerce SEO checklist, this one is all about preventing surprises. It’s utterly frustrating to find that your preferred payment option isn’t in the list of options at the end of a checkout process. We’re not pretending to be perfect in this, by the way. Only recently, we have gone from just offering Paypal and credit card payment, to offering payment options like Giropay and iDeal as well. How convenient, right!
21. Security seals
One more thing about creating trust. By adding genuine security seals and that nice green bar in the address bar of a browser, you’ll let the visitor know that he or she is shopping in a safe environment. These things will help him or her to insert their home address, credit card details or whatever personal things you ask the customer to mention. More on that in our trust article.
22. In stock
Availability is a sales reason these days. With online shops everywhere, I want to buy my things at a shop that will deliver my desired products tomorrow or even later today. Let me know if a product is in stock and if it is, I’ll be more likely to buy.
This isn’t just about competition, this is expectation management. If your website tells me something isn’t in stock, I can still decide to buy at your shop and know I’ll have to wait a bit. If I buy at your shop and the product won’t come in within three weeks due to it being out of stock, I’d rather have purchased it somewhere else. Without that reflecting badly on your brand, by theban way.
23. No account needed
I have made a clear case for guest accounts or simply no accounts before, and am happy to repeat that once more. I really think that the need to create an account is a bad practice. That need is only valid if creating an account is giving the customer perks, like easy license renewal, ways to stop a recurring payment or things like that. These are things I’d like to do in a secure environment. I wouldn’t mind setting up an account for that. When I’m shopping for clothes, I think that account only makes sense for convenience reasons (not having to fill in address details next time and so) and should be created by choice.
We’ll continue to optimize your mobile website and content over and over again:
- Optimizing your mobile content
- DIY: test your mobile site
- 10 ways to improve mobile UX
- Setting up WordPress for AMP
And more to come.
When we say speed, we mean the speed of your desktop and your mobile site. People are just not that patient anymore, due to all of us getting used to faster internet everywhere. Besides that, Google tends to rank faster websites higher, just another reason to make sure your website is as fast as it can be.
26. Cookie expiration times
Perhaps ‘cookie expiration times’ is a bit too narrow for what I’m trying to say. I recently updated our article on shopping cart abandonment, that will tell you a lot of things about how people use your shopping cart. Please do read that entire article and find out why it’s better to use longer cookie expiration times for your cart.
27. Meta description
As mentioned, I’m not wrapping things up with number 27 of this list and I’m sure we’ll add tips over the next months, no years. But more than with all other websites, meta descriptions serve a purpose for your online shop.
Where Google is probably able to come up with a proper and keyword-related invitation to your website for informational pages, chances are your product page has too little information or contains details about your customer service or warranty that Google might use instead. Be sure to add a product-related meta description to your products pages, to prevent Google from using unrelated text there!
This list can be a hundred tips long, and I am sure that you can come up with a bunch of these as well, as an online shop owner. Feel free to share your tips in the comments or on social media. I’m looking forward to these!