There is so much you can do to optimize your eCommerce site for SEO, that we have written this checklist to help you. This doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but if you at least start by optimizing everything in this post, you will definitely be doing a great job :)
The first thing you should be aware of is that you should always use consistent branding. Make sure your brand or logo is clearly visible on your homepage and in your page title. This will build up trust and will help to promote and build your business, helping to trigger recognition, both offline and in search engine result pages.
2. Compelling call to action
Your homepage needs a compelling call to action. It may change over time, for example if you want to promote particular products or for seasonal promotions like a Black Friday sale, but you need to make sure it’s always easily visible and that it meets the needs and expectations of your visitors.
3. Featured products
You also need to reserve a prominent spot on your homepage for featured products or something similar: usually your core products or the items you currently have on sale. This will provide an immediate trigger for visitors, while telling them whether or not they have come to the right online shop.
4. Search option
Every online store with more than 20 products should have a search option. Make sure you put the search option in a visible spot, as this will probably be the navigation of choice for your visitors. Besides optimizing your 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 about the company I’m buying from. Who is behind it? What’s their story? What motivates them? 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, will help build a connection between your company and your customers. If you want some inspiration, Patagonia and Dopper are nice examples.
6. Shopping cart
Regardless of how noble your intentions are (see #5), in most cases, your main goal is to make as much money as possible, and that money is made through your shopping cart. For this reason alone, your shopping cart should be available and visible at all times – don’t make people look for it. I’d also recommend adding the number of products in the cart to the cart icon. It will help people remember if they have already added products to the cart.
Newsletters and social media are the easiest ways to get return visits from your customers, so be sure to draw attention to your social profiles and newsletter signup throughout your website. Add your social profiles to your footer at least (use icons, links, social widgets), but if you have space left in your header, that would also be a great spot for them. Promote your newsletter in your sidebar and use scroll triggered boxes to draw attention to it. A nice giveaway always helps motivate people to subscribe.
How you set up your categories and make these accessible for visitors matters – a lot. Categories help visitors get to different groups of products as quickly as possible, especially those who aren’t sure which specific products to buy. Amazon has a large list of categories (or departments), but makes the kind of products a category contains as clear as possible . That has a lot to do with naming these categories, and using subcategories in a logical way. Put yourself in the place of your visitors 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. This is really helpful in determining the subject of the page, especially for search engines. This also helps the category pages function in a similar way to cornerstone content.
10. Product thumbnails
In most cases, product images say more than a thousand words. This is especially true for those pages that simply don’t have space for a thousand words about a single product, such as your category or internal search result pages. Adding a stunning thumbnail image of that dress or painting will encourage more clicks to that page. Good thumbnail images make it easier for visitors to choose from a wide variety of products in category or search result pages.
11. Calls to action in overviews
Besides having killer product thumbnails, your overview pages also need a call to action for each product and that means the ability for a visitor to add that product to their cart right from the category or search result page. Although it isn’t always possible for every product, you should do this wherever you can. I know of online shops that allow you to choose the color and size of jeans, for example, without having to go to the product page. Choose, click add to cart and proceed to checkout. Easy :)
12. Product images
Be sure to add great product images on your product pages. They should be zoomable and give multiple views of the product. Remember that even the filename and ALT text of the product image matter for SEO. There’s a lot more on this in our detailed article 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 you need your product page itself to rank 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.
We recommend adding schema.org data to your product pages for technical SEO reasons. 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 more technical than optimizing your product description, so if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing please ask your web developer for help. Schema.org markup will help search engines and, for example, 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 ensure that when people share your content or products, they will be displayed as attractively as possible. This and more is explained in our article about product page SEO.
16. Be clear about pricing
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 and shoppers may abandon their purchase. Be clear about these additional costs (if any) right from the start. You could even leverage this by offering free shipping on orders of more than a certain value, say $20 or $50. Surprise costs are a major turnoff, plus it’s worth mentioning that they are now illegal in the EU.
17. Product reviews
Creating trust is a good thing for all online shops. Genuine product reviews help a great deal with this. One thing I would recommend for websites that include user reviews from third parties is to copy a couple of those reviews to your own website. Including third party reviews in, for example, a widget, would be a great solution. Add these near your call to action for the best results.
18. Related products
When you’ve got their interest, leverage it. If someone buys an iPhone 7 from your site, the chances are they’ll need a cover, and might even want a pair of those really expensive wireless ear pods (they are expensive, right?!). But they might feel a bit 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 much more. We highly recommend adding these.
19. Call to action on your 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 accidentally disguise the Add to Cart button is, I think, lower than it used to be, but I’d still urge you to take a good look at that button and make sure it stands out. This is especially true 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 and is the largest and first major button on your product page is absolutely essential.
20. Payment options
Just like in number 16 of this eCommerce SEO checklist, this one is all about preventing surprises. It’s so frustrating to get to the end of the checkout process, only to find that your preferred payment option isn’t available. And again, if your eCommerce shop is in the EU, it is now a legal requirement to display your accepted payment methods to customers before they get to the checkout. By the way we’re not pretending to be perfect in this, as we have only recently gone from just offering Paypal and credit card payment, to offering payment options like Giropay and iDeal as well. Much more convenient, right?!
21. SSL and security seals
Here’s one vital thing about creating trust: If your site has an SSL certificate, your site will have that nice green padlock in your visitors’ browser address bar, and you’ll let them know they are shopping in a safe environment. These things will help him or her to insert their home address, credit card details, or whatever other personal information you ask the customer to provide, with confidence. You could also add security seals and there’s more on this in our trust article.
22. In stock – or not?
These days, availability of a product drives sales. With online shops everywhere, I want to buy my things at a shop that will deliver the products I want tomorrow, or even later today. If you tell me a product is in stock, I’ll be more likely to buy. But this isn’t just about competition, it’s about managing expectations. 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 I won’t get the product for three weeks because it’s out of stock, I’d rather have bought it somewhere else. Not making availability clear also reflects badly on your brand, by the way.
23. No account needed
I’ve said it before and I’m happy to repeat it – always allow customers to buy without forcing them to create an account. I really think that making customers create an account is bad practice. It’s is only valid if creating an account gives the customer perks, like easy license renewal, managing recurring payments or things like that. These are tasks I would want to do in a secure environment, so I wouldn’t mind setting up an account, but when I’m shopping for clothes, I think having an account only makes sense for convenience reasons (not having to fill in address details next time and so on) and therefore it should be optional.
Don’t forget mobile users. Here are some of our articles that will help you:
- Mobile SEO: the ultimate guide
- Optimizing your mobile content
- DIY: test your mobile site
- 10 ways to improve mobile UX
- Setting up WordPress for AMP
And there will be more to come.
When we say speed, we mean the speed of your desktop and your mobile site. People have short attention spans these days, and we’ve all got used to faster internet everywhere. However, there are loads of places around the world that have to make do with crappy mobile connections and a small data allowance. Don’t take your situation as gospel. Also, Google tends to rank faster websites higher, which is 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 about how people use your shopping cart. Read that entire article and you’ll find out why it’s better to use longer cookie expiration times for your cart.
27. Meta description
As I mentioned at the start, this is not a complete list and I’m sure we’ll add more tips over the next months, if not years. But with eCommerce, more so than with all other websites, meta descriptions serve a very important purpose. Where Google is probably able to come up with a proper and keyword-related invitation to your website for information pages, the chances are your product page doesn’t have enough product information or contains details about your customer service or warranty that Google might use instead. Be sure to add a product-focused meta description to your product pages, to prevent Google from using the wrong text in search results!
This list could be a hundred tips long, and I am sure that as an online shop owner, you can come up with a bunch more as well. Feel free to share your tips in the comments or on social media. I’m looking forward to reading them!
Read more: Positioning your shop in the online market »