eCommerce SEO Guide – 2020 Edition

Digital transactions and ECommerce sales are on track to hit over $4 trillion by the end of 2020, and Google’s ‘organic search’ accounts for over half of all website referrals for desktop based traffic. These predictions were made before the current crisis that sees brick & mortar businesses down in Q3 of 2020 by up to 90%. It’s no surprise then, that being able to create and carry out a successful SEO campaign for an ECommerce website can be one of the most powerful revenue sources for any business.

In this guide, I hope to take you through an exact step-by-step process of how to research, analyze, carry out optimization work and review a long term SEO strategy that’ll help you build high quality traffic that converts, at a fraction of the cost of paid traffic alternatives. As well as give you tips on how you can manage your, or your clients website reputation, beat your competitors with advanced reverse engineering techniques and optimize your site to be as quick as a flash.

Whilst there is a fierce debate going on within the SEO industry, between black and white hat SEO. I decided in this guide, I’d focus the entire strategy on long term, white hat SEO strategies, but also include some additional tricks that the black hat SEOs use to speed up results and get customers lining up down the virtual block.

FULL TABLE OF CONTENTS ( ALL SECTIONS )

What You’ll Need For Success

Whilst there are an abundance of free tools, courses and software within the SEO industry, you will likely need to fork over a bit of cash for some monthly subscriptions if you want to take things really seriously and save yourself a bunch of manual scraping and analysis.
Unlike a lot of industries though, you won’t need 10 or 20 different programs all working in conjunction to carry out a successful campaign..
Instead, you’ll just need a core program for each task that you’re confronted with. Whether that be keyword research, OnPage auditing or scaling out your link building.. Here is my top recommendations for the best SEO tools you want to have whilst optimizing ECommerce sites.

The Best ECommerce SEO Tools On The Market

Whilst you may not need every tool on the list, or may not have the budget to get them, these are by far the best set of tools you can get when it comes to optimizing your ECommerce store.

Ahrefs (or SEMRush / Moz)

Ahrefs has it all for an SEO suite – The biggest data in terms of backlinks and organic keyword positions, as well as a very fast, integrated suite that can be learned within a day or so thanks to their excellent video & blog content.
If you’re wanting to do keyword research, backlink analysis, competitor analysis and even site audits (Though we do have better recommendations further down the list for this) then Ahrefs is the best on the market at what it does, though doesn’t come cheap.

Google Sheets / Docs

The only completely free tool on the list, and one that can be integrated into pretty much every tool and platform we need it to pull data from makes it more efficient to use in your browser than the desktop based alternatives like Microsoft’s Excel.

DeepCrawl / SiteBulb

Depending on your budget and site/s scope, DeepCrawl offers enterprise level cloud site auditing with every feature, bell and whistle you can imagine. SiteBulb is very similar but it is desktop based, a hell of a lot cheaper and is much more beginner friendly with helpful bubble based hints on what the suggestion means and how to carry it out on your site.

Rank Tracker

There are a lot of different rank trackers on the market. Personally I use SERPBook and SERPWoo, 2 industry names that have been around for many years and offer reliable data with clean UIs.

PitchBox / Hunter.io

PitchBox is the premier outreach tool that has every bell and whistle you’d need, on a clean looking interface. It’s also several hundred dollars a month. If you’re just starting out, or simply don’t have that sort of cash then Hunter.io is a great alternative with built-in email scraping and GMail management extensions, as well as a bunch of free tutorials on how to use the suite. PitchBox is the golden goose but Hunter.io is the reliable axe.

If you want to carry out a successful SEO campaign, and really compete, you WILL need at least one of the major SEO dashboards. There are a lot of free tools out there, but the data sets they have are miniscule in comparison to the likes of Ahrefs & Moz.

Understanding Your Site Specifically

ECommerce SEO comes very much down to the website you’re working with and the competitors you’re facing off against in the battle of the SERPs. For example, your CMS could have serious SEO limitations like Shopify, and we’d need to spend more time on certain areas than others as a result or your ideal keywords could be packed full of the eBay & Amazon’s of the world and you’re going to need to spend a LOT of time or money, or both.

Understanding the site’s platform you’re going to be optimizing, the position the site is already in and where the competitors are is how we start carrying out our initial, core optimization work.

Domain Age & Existing Authority

One of the biggest benefits to ranking in ECommerce SERPs is having existing domain age, topical relevancy and backlink authority to kick start any optimization you might do.
If you’re dealing with a brand new domain on a brand new site, then you’re going to need to be extremely careful with your link building activities… One wrong move, and you could spend the next several months trying to get into Google’s good books again.

If the site you’re working on already has years, or even a decades worth of domain age, as well as a bunch of existing good backlinks, then you’ll be in an optimal position to start optimizing the entire site as well as re-working specific pages that could use a boost. You might not even need to be building backlinks, the site may just require some OnPage fine tuning to see significant gains at a much higher ROI.

Your CMS Limits Your SEO

Your CMS, or content management system, is essentially the way you manage your entire site. The most traditional ECommerce CMSs on the internet today are:

Shopify – Cheap, monthly subscriptions with plenty of premium addons and services.

Magento – Expensive solution with premium annual licensing, but a lot more customization and integration options than Shopify. As well as better SEO options.

WooCommerce – The #1 WordPress ECommerce plugin turns a standard blog into a fully functional ECommerce platform with just a few checkboxes.

PrestaShop – Outdated ECommerce platform that hundreds of thousands of companies are still sucked into paying for every year.

There isn’t a set best platform for optimizing your site, however platforms like Magento and WooCommerce that allow you to self host offer much more versatility when it comes to customizing your site and optimizing pages.
CMSs like Shopify for example, have a lot of different issues due to not allowing you to self host, and are either very hard to change or actually impossible to edit. Things like –

⦁ Duplicate content from default category and tag pages that cannot be deleted or noindex’d

⦁ No editing your robots.txt file

⦁ No editing .htaccess file

⦁ No custom URL management or customization options, leaving you with default URL slugs for categories for example

⦁ No server log analysis – This is a major issue for large sites that deal with tens of thousands of Googlebot crawls per day, and want to do crawl optimization

So whilst there is no perfect platform out there for us SEOs to drool over, it is always ideal to be able to have as many customization options and features as you can. Self hosted ECommerce CMSs offer this, so they do have some advantages over the other competitors in the market.

Keyword Research

Doing keyword research for ECommerce sites is slightly different to doing it for a normal blog or business. Some keywords can have substantially lower search volumes but have much higher revenue generation numbers. This is normally because of the intent behind the keyword a user is searching for.
A user searching for just “dog food” could be looking for a variety of things:

⦁ Information on the best dog foods around or the best dog food brands.

⦁ To research what is inside dog food.

⦁ To research the price of dog food.

However, if a user is searching for “buy dog food” then the intent is much clearer, and you’ll likely generate more sales per user to your website than the generic, but much heavier searched term “dog food” or at least your conversion rate will be significantly higher.
Now, before we get into how to actively carry out keyword research for your ECommerce site, I am going to show you how I store our keyword research data for proper analysis and later use.
When you’re doing your initial keyword analysis, you want to create a database Excel sheet to collate all of the keyword data you’re gathering for each page.

If you’re doing keyword analysis for a smaller set number of pages (Say, between 5 and 25) you can create a keyword research document, and create a sheet within Excel for each page. You can download our free template here –

You’ll want to curate some important factors when collecting your keywords:

Country Specific Search Volume (If you’re only shipping within a specific country, then you only want to collect that country’s data. If you ship internationally or are running a virtual product, then you can just curate the combined monthly search volumes from all of the countries – Ahrefs does this for you in the right side of the keyword explorer tool.

Cost Per Click – Knowing what your competitors are paying on average per click is a good insight into how much you’d be paying per month in AdWords fees, and allows you to gauge keywords that competitors are heavily bidding on as a competitive target.

Featured Snippets / Knowledge Graphs – One of the most important things to note when doing keyword research is any additional elements Google has tacked onto the SERP that could be up for grabs or stealing organic clicks. 

Keyword Difficulty – A lot of tools offer an automated metric that gauges the difficulty of a keyword (Ahrefs for example bases it on the links to the page and root domain) and though this may not be a perfect insight, it can be a good overview for grouping low competition keywords.

Once you’ve got your keyword research sheet setup, it’s time to start looking for some juicy keywords that can generate you a bang for your SEO buck.
The initial idea is to go page by page identifying keywords that your site can realistically rank for. If you’re a 2 month old blog with 3 pages and no links, then you probably aren’t going to beat a 100,000 search volume keyword, dominated by Amazon, eBay and Best Buy.

As we used the dog food example already, we’re going to base our first money page off that. Our site will be a dog food selling company, and we’re trying to optimize our main category.
We know that “buy dog food” is our #1 ideal keyword to rank for, so I’ll start by throwing it into Google, scrolling to the bottom of the page and getting a list of recommendations as to what other keywords Google themselves think are topically relevant to my main keyword –

Now we have a few other keywords we can base our keyword research off, we know that Google topically associates with our main keyword and we can look at as potential keywords for our page ourselves –

Best Dog Food – Potentially use the main page or create a seperate blog post promoting our product

Dry Dog Food – Potential keyword for a sub-category page.

⦁ Dog Food Prices – Perfect H2 to try and grab a featured snippet with our page.

Dog Food Brands – Another keyword we can optimize for the main page or create a seperate blog post for.

Once we’ve got our set of keywords from Google for our page, we want to run them through a keyword research tool to extract the data we need that we talked about earlier.

Once we’ve run the keywords through Ahrefs, we can then split them off and try to find additional longtails and other keywords through each of their own panels. In Ahrefs, this would look something like this –

This actually tells us that our main keyword is fairly low volume and very competitive, so it might be best to look at other variants of it such as “buy dog food online” which has 4 times the monthly search volume and less competition.

Identifying Weak Opportunities

ECommerce SEO is all about your ROI (return on investment) and finding low competition, easy to optimize keyword opportunities can provide very steady cash flow to start competing for the big boy keywords.

For this section, you’ll need either a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or the Ahrefs/Moz Tool Bars which allow you to have an overlay in Google’s SERPs to give metric data.
Once you’ve got your tools setup and your additional keyword database sheets ready to go, you’ll want to come up with a list of keywords that would generate your business a ton of cash if you ranked for them.

Keeping with the previous dog theme, I’m going to use the term “dog collars with nameplate” which has around 450 US monthly searches and an Ahrefs keyword difficulty of just 6. Once I’ve searched my keyword in Ahrefs keyword explorer, I’m going to want to scroll to the SERP Overview box and look at the DR Column –

You’ll want to click the “show more” button underneath the bottom result in the box, which will give you the full top 100 results in Ahrefs database.

Note: DO NOT click the “Update” button on Ahrefs, as you will then not get the top 100 results, you’ll only be shown the top 11.

Once you have all 100 results in front of you and can see the individual DRs of each site, you want to look through the list for sites with low DR, for our example keyword, I found 4 in the top 30 –

 

Once you have these 4 example pages, you want to go ahead and run the 4 domains individually though Ahrefs organic keyword explorer. As an example, I ran one of the sites we found (A Shopify store) in our example keyword which would look like this –

You want to do this for 5 – 20 different competitors so you have enough keyword data to go off. Make sure that EVERY competitor you have is an exact match to what your store’s niche is.

Once you have your competitors keywords open in Ahrefs keyword explorer, it’s time to start filtering to find this low competition, low hanging fruit keywords. 

You want to filter by Search Volume, CPC and Keyword Difficulty. You can also filter by the position your competitor is in to get the most relevant keywords first.

Tip: You’ll need to make edits to the way you filter depending on the industry you’re in.

I’ll take the example Shopify store we have above and filter the settings by:

Minimum monthly search volume of 150

Minimum cost per click of 0.20c 

Maximum keyword difficulty of 3

Originally I started with over 1,600 US keywords my competitor was ranking for, and now it’s down to just the top 163 low hanging fruit –

 

Using just the top 50 keywords Ahrefs is showing for this one competitor already gives me 6 unique topical pages to create or optimize for.

Repeat this methodology across the several competitors you found and you’ll have a low hanging fruit content plan for at least a dozen pages – Which should be enough to generate a company thousands of dollars per month in revenue, at least.

If your domain is authoritative enough, doesn’t have any underlying issues and the like.. Then you should immediately rank top 10 pages for these types of keywords if you’re building out the pages well enough. We’ll get onto how to analyze competitors next, which will tell you how you research competing pages and knock them out the SERPs with better optimized versions.

Competitor Analysis

As you can see from the low hanging fruit keyword research we just went through, competitor analysis can be one of the most powerful techniques SEOs have available to them.. We use competitor analysis for EComm SEO to find competitors’ broken links, find competitors keywords that can generate thousands of dollars in sales and straight up steal their content ideas, CRO inspirations and featured snippets.

Identifying Weak Opportunities

Whilst customized keyword research can be time consuming and tedious, finding keywords for your competitors are ranking for is a piece of cake.

Before we can identify the keywords our competitors are making their revenue off of, we first need to identify the best competitors we can analyze to steal keywords from. These types of competitors are going to be those that are around the same size/metrics as our site, and those below us. We can go for bigger brand sites, but we better find good OnPage or backlink opportunities to be able to beat out their domain authority.

Competing Keywords For A New Site

If you’re dealing with a brand new website, and you haven’t already got keywords you’re indexing for, then we need to first identify some generic keywords for the site. If we were wanting to optimize a site that was for “dog collars” then we would go down the route of generic keyword variations like:

⦁ Colour + Dog Collars (e.g. Red, Black, White, Green etc)

Buy Dog Collars

⦁ Dog Collars Online

And so on..

As an example, I used “buy dog collars online” and “red dog collars”, and we’ll pretend that we are optimizing a DR20 site, to keep it on the lower end.

I found 2 sites we can use as examples, however you’re going to want to collate 10 – 20 sites for detailed research. The 2 sites that I found were:

Both sites have actually consistently lost traffic over the last several years, so they’re perfect starting grounds to find juicy keywords that the sites aren’t all that well optimized for.

As our site is a DR20 and doesn’t have all that many pages or links, we want to find pages that have a low keyword difficulty, high CPC for the niche and a good number of users searching for them.

I’ll use Ahrefs filters in their Organic Positions Explorer and run our first found example through, Go Tags, I’ll start by filtering out any branded keywords by putting the brand terms into the exclude bar & only searching by keywords –

 

I’ll then sort by a CPC of $1 minimum, 100 monthly searches minimum and a maximum keyword difficulty of 10 –

This returns a list of tens of keywords I can build pages off –

You can then repeat this across your list of competitors, and filter by the preferences to your niche to get a sheet with hundreds of keyword ideas to base new or existing page optimizations off.

Competing Keywords For A New Site

If we already have a site that’s ranking to play off of, then it becomes a lot easier. You do the exact same competitor analysis process as you would on a new site but identifying your competitors is slightly easier.
Instead of using generic keywords, you base your initial competitors off keywords you already rank consistently for.
As an example, I can use the above site we found for the new site research, gotags.com which already ranks for keywords like:

⦁ pet tags – #6

⦁ personalized dog tags – #4

⦁ engraved dog tags – #7

Once we have these initial keywords, we just go through their keyword explorer pages to find sites that are similar to ours, to carry out our competitor keyword research process on.

As an example, I used “personalized dog tags” and identified –

⦁ Luckypet.com – DR21

⦁ Pettags.com – DR32

⦁ Dogtagsonline.com – DR30

Which are all around our example sites (DR36) domain ranking and make perfect targets to base our competitor keyword research off of.

As I said in the new site analysis section, you’ll need 10 – 30 of these competitor sites to be able to build a large scale keyword plan to start bulk building or optimizing pages off of.

Skyscraper Competitor Content

The term “skyscraper content” coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, is a very simple yet hugely effective method to find competitors content (Blog posts, infographics etc) and turn them into much more detailed and optimized pieces that Google (and hopefully users) will prefer to the competitors version.

The idea starts with analyzing competitors most linked to content and most visited content pages for pieces that could be improved upon with:

Longer Form Content – Google generally prefers long, more thorough explanations on topics. It’s one of the many reasons why Wikipedia dominates rankings so much.

Rich Media (Images, Videos & Embeds) – Whilst it’s much easier for Google to understand text, the algorithms behind understanding the relevancy of images, videos and file embeds (Like SoundCloud songs) has gotten substantially better over the years, and Google treats pages that include them generally better than walls of text.

⦁ Better Internal Linking – A lot of sites, bloggers and CMSs don’t add internal linking between articles, even though it’s one of the most powerful SEO techniques. Adding internal links at your target page can often be the difference maker between yours and a competitor’s page rankings.

Now you have an idea of what you’ll need to do to actually improve the pieces you’ll be finding, let’s get onto how to actually find them.
You’re going to want your Ahrefs/Moz/SEMRush subscription open for this one, and start inputting big competing sites (Small to medium sites tend not to work so well) and looking at 2 fields:

⦁ Organic Positions Explorer So we can start filtering through the keywords for pieces of content.

⦁ Top Pages by Links – So you can see which pages have attracted the most links on a site, often of which is content pieces that have either been around a long time or rank well for specific types of keywords.

Once you’ve got those 2 open, you want to start filtering by specific words, you can to start by looking for content pieces like these examples –

Fact Content

Students and journalists are constantly looking for “interesting” or “cool” facts. The term “interesting facts about paris” has over 600 global monthly searches, yet a DR7 blog ranks in the top 10 –

https://www.greenandturquoise.com/ten-fun-facts-about-paris/

Statistics Content

Likewise, students and journalists are always looking for statistics, and if you can turn them into bar charts and line graphs with embeddable linking in the blog post, you’ll start to see links come flooding in as soon as you rank #1.

ShopBlocks for example, did a piece on ECommerce statistics in the UK –

https://www.shopblocks.com/blog/ecommerce-by-numbers-key-facts-and-figures

This piece launched in January and in just 4 months managed to acquire 6 natural links –

As well as be hyper relevant to their target user base, and take over a number of featured snippets.

How To Content & Guides

This is likely the #1 source of Skyscraper content out there. Simply putting the words “how” or “guide” into your competitors keyword database will spawn hundreds of content ideas for you to create.. However, what we really want to look at is creating topical groups of content where one piece can answer multiple keywords, and potentially takeover multiple featured snippets.

A great example of this would be Ikea. Simply exclude their brand name from any keywords, and input “how” or “guide” and you’ll be given hundreds of content ideas for a home furniture EComm store –

Steal Competitors Broken Links

This is likely the #1 source of Skyscraper content out there. Simply putting the words “how” or “guide” into your competitors keyword database will spawn hundreds of content ideas for you to create.. However, what we really want to look at is creating topical groups of content where one piece can answer multiple keywords, and potentially takeover multiple featured snippets.

A great example of this would be Ikea. Simply exclude their brand name from any keywords, and input “how” or “guide” and you’ll be given hundreds of content ideas for a home furniture EComm store –

Once you’ve found a 404 that is relevant to a page on your site, you then want to run that page to see who else links to it and can be reached out to replace it. As an example, we found that the Moz was linking to a page on Searchmetrics which was now deleted and 404’ing –

http://www.searchmetrics.com/en/searchmetrics/press/ranking-factors/

The page was previously about Google ranking factors, which is a blog post perfectly suited to this site (If we didn’t already have one made) and when we run that 404 URL through Ahrefs, we find the page has over 30, really high quality links going to it –

I am certain any SEO agency would fork out thousands of dollars to be able to get even half the links this 404’d page has. 

The next step is creating the template to reach out via email and try and these bloggers/editors/site owners to update the 404 to our link. Bear in mind that it might take tens of emails to even get one reply, and your email template & subject line will greatly depend on that!

 

Putting “I Found A Broken Link On Your Site” in the subject line is extremely common, and likely won’t get you a reply. Instead, you can go down the more clickbaity style subject lines of –

⦁ You Have A DEAD Link! You’re Losing Users!

⦁ An Old Post of Yours is Slightly Outdated Now

⦁ Want To Fix A Broken Old Post?

These subject lines are much more interesting and get a lot higher click-rate than talking about broken links or backlinks, which you should NEVER mention the word “backlink” in an outreach email, unless they say it first.

 

In terms of the actual content in your email, it massively depends on the niche you’re in and the position of the person you’re reaching out to. 

If you’re thinking of starting the email with “I was looking through your blog”, forget it.. Ask any travel blogger, they get this exact email 10 times a week and it either goes straight into their trash box or a default reply of “I want money” is going to be sent straight back.

I’ll give you an example template of how I’d reach out to Moz editorial team and inform them they have a broken link on the site, and that my page has the best offer for their users.

Hey [Author/Editor/Site Owner Name],

We don’t know each other, at least not yet, but I just wanted to give you a hand with an old blog post on your site.

I noticed that [INSERT BLOG POST URL] had a link to [THIS PAGE] which unfortunately [THISCOMPANY/WEBSITE] has now deleted. They haven’t replaced the page, but we have a (In my opinion, better) version of it anyway here –

I thought it’d be the perfect fit to update so your users aren’t left clicking thru to a blank page!

Thanks,

⦁ Gabriel Sims

As I said previously, you’re going to want to expand upon this and edit it depending on your niche – Some industries are considerably more formal in their wording than others, and take that into consideration.

If you want a very high success rate, then get an idea for the writing style of the author you’re reaching out to and see if they’re on social media for a less formal way of reaching out. Though don’t be that guy that starts trying to video call people on Facebook, please.

 

Steal Competitors Backlinks

Much like stealing your competitors broken links, you can also look to get backlinks your competitor already has. Things like social profiles, citation web directories and guest posting opportunities on relevant blogs are perfect links to level the playing field with your competitors domain authority. As well as the fact that you’ll be able to repeat this methodology across tens, or even hundreds of competitors to be able to generate thousands or even tens of thousands of high quality backlink opportunities.

First, you’ll want to get a list of your competitors sites, though I already showed you how to do that in the finding competitors keywords section of this guide above.
Once you have your competitor site list, you want to manually run each site through a backlink finder tool like Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush or Majestic.
In this example, like throughout the guide, we’ll be using Ahrefs in this instance, and specifically going to the backlink section of the site explorer tool. I’ll use the GoTags site we found earlier that had close to 400 referring domains for us to analyze –

Firstly, we want to filter the language to only give us sites that we are looking to build links from in our own language –

Then you want to do 2 different research methods.
First, you want to select Link type > NoFollow

This will give you a list of things like social profiles, directories, blog comments and forum posts that you can look to build up real world engagement and trust links with.
In our example, we found instances of forums and directories to build up our link profile on –

Next, we want to look for contextual linking opportunities from blogs. Ahrefs has a feature built-in just by clicking the Platform > Blogs, which gives you a bunch of WordPress blogs to start basing link building plans off –

However, you can also filter Link type > Content, which gives you a list of ALL the contextual backlinks a site has, which spawns a considerable more number of sites to go off, and especially considering WordPress blogs are the #1 more outreached to.

Unlike broken link building, it’s much harder to convince a blogger to let you write on their site or link to you from an already existing page. There’s a complete guide, including a bunch of free tools to get you started with guest posting further down in the link building section of this guide.

Other Competitor Analysis Tips

We’ve already been through how you can steal keywords, links and content from your competitors sites.. But what else can you get from analyzing your competitors?
 
Conversion Rate Optimization inspiration – A lot of large EComm stores (Amazon especially) do CRO testing to see how a page better converts depending on the formatting, style and colour scheme of different elements on the page. A red button on a red website for example, would be a sin within the CRO world.

⦁ Social Media – Review your competitors social media accounts. If they aren’t active, then send that competitors profile to your social media guy/team to start tweeting at any customers not getting @ replies.

 

ECommerce OnPage SEO

Optimizing an ECommerce site is slightly different to a traditional blog. You’ll want to optimize each page depending on what type of page it is – Product, category, blog etc.. are all different page types and all require different types of optimization.

I’ll start off by showing you how to analyze, check, audit and implement optimization work that can be affecting the entire site rather than individual pages.

ECommerce OnPage SEO Checklist

There’s never going to be a definitive checklist that’ll allow you to hit ever nail on the head when it comes to an ECommerce site, as every site will be different and have it’s own unique issues.
However, there are some general rules of thumb and SEO principles that the industry has clearly tested over the last 2 decades or so.

Making sure that these core principles are all setup correctly on your site will give you a boost over 90% of the sites on the internet who don’t even know what SEO is –

Check For SSL + Check SSL Validity On Example Template Pages – You can use this site ( https://www.whynopadlock.com/ ) to check why the green padlock isn’t displaying for individual pages and how to fix it. Most of the time it’s due to an image coming from the http URL rather than a secure version.

Check Sitemap + Robots.txt – Make sure the site has a readable sitemap and the robots.txt isn’t blocking any core pages.

Check URL Structure – One of the most common issues with ECommerce sites is using default URLs that don’t have keywords within them. 

Check Meta Titles + Description – Are they using auto-generated meta titles? Are the titles too long due to templating issues? Make sure to check a number of pages to see where titles could be improved.

Check Load Time & Responsiveness – As of 2018, Google announced that your page load time would contribute as a direct ranking factor to your site. Making sure you have a mobile friendly site that is fast on both versions will improve your rankings.

Check Schema / Microdata Validity – Google’s own structured data testing tool ( https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/ ) allows you to quickly analyze a URL’s schema or microdata for any issues that may be caused. A lot of EComm sites don’t even use schema, so it’s a good idea to check if it’s even on there and if it has warnings.

Check 301s / 404s & Broken Links – Use a tool like Ahrefs Site Audit or SiteBulb to analyze your site 404s, redirect chains and broken links to find easy ways to get back some of that missing link juice. 

Check Pagination & Canonical Tags – One of the number one ways ECommerce sites cause themselves hundreds of pages of duplicate content issues is by either not having or not correctly implementing pagination and canonical tags.

⦁ Check For Subdomains – A lot of ECommece sites put their blog, core sites and store all on different subdomains. Google however, treats each of the subdomains as unique sites and thus doesn’t combine link juice to create root domain authority or interlink pages between the 2 URLs without actually interlinking the 2 together.

Once you’ve got your overall site’s SEO looking healthy, it’s time to look at and start optimizing individual pages as well as building up our overall internal linking and blogging/content campaigns.

Optimizing Your Category Pages

Your category pages are going to likely be the most valuable pages on your site for organic traffic. People tend to like selection and search in grouped keywords rather than for select products, this is why the keyword “best blender” has 17,000 monthly searches in the US, but product blender names will barely scrape 100. 

Finding the best keywords for your category page is going to be all about the keyword research behind them, but you should already have ideas for keywords for your category pages from our previous sections, so this part is how to optimize your page specifically.

That being said, everyone’s page layouts, product numbers and competitors are going to be different.. So, we base our SEO on a combination of our own site and our competitors.

Ideally, we want to have a layout on the site that puts some content above the fold but we don’t want to take away from users clicking on the products beneath. We also want to position ourselves with enough indexable content on the category page to compete with our competitors depth and relevancy.

First, we want to analyze the competitors in our SERP to get an idea of how many words they’re using on each page, where they’re positioning it and how they’re putting on the site. Some sites use tabbed or accordioned content to great effect for example, but we don’t recommend using any sort of hidden content.

We’ll be using our “buy dog collars” example from earlier, I’ve picked 2 of the top ranking pages to analyze –

https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petcostore/category/dog/dog-collars-leashes-and-harnesses/dog-collars

https://www.gundogsupply.com/collars.html

And straight off the bat from looking at the pages, I’m noticing that they’re both putting their content at the bottom of the page:

You can also note that neither pages are optimizing very well with keyword optimized headers or internal linking to any other pages on the site with keyword focused anchors. The meta titles are too long, and in my opinion, the content they actually have on the pages isn’t all that great.

In this case specifically, I’d look to add around 800 words of content to the page, including some additional keyword focused headers for our “buy”, “small”, “large” and “custom” keywords we found earlier.

When it comes to optimizing your category pages you want to look at:

Unique Category Descriptions – Making sure that each category page has unique content that is both keyword optimized and descriptive for the user. Ideally you want some above the fold, and the bulk of the content below.

Breadcrumbs – Making sure your site has breadcrumbs setup both improves the look of your site in the SERPs, and helps users go up and down navigational categories on your site.

Internal Linking – Your category pages will likely be your most heavily optimized and linked to (both onsite and off site) pages which means dropping relevant internal links with keyword focuses down to other pages can offer them huge juice.

Schema – Using organization, webpage and review schema can offer Google considerably more information about the page and help consistently with rankings. Though save product schema for the product pages.

Pagination – Making sure you have rel pagination for prev/next on pages is very important. Without it, your inner pages for the category pages cause duplicate content issues and harm rankings.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start analyzing your competitors category pages for backlink and internal linking, content opportunities. Though we’ll get onto that later on in the guide.

 

Optimizing Your Product Pages

As I said in the start of the optimizing category pages section, product names tend to not get all that many searches. There is however a trick you can do to get an idea for which products require optimization, and which do not.

You’ll need to first export the product names of your entire site. Some sites will have so few products you can do this manually and others will require you to export them from the product tab in the admin dashboard, and then copy and paste all of the product names from the exported CSV file.

Once you have all of the names of your products, you’ll want to copy and paste them into the Ahrefs keyword explorer tool if you have under 200 products. If you have over 200 products, you’ll want to create a new keyword list and import it via a copy/paste, text file or CSV

Once you have your product list imported, you’ll be able to sort by which products have search volumes and which do not –

You can then sort your products by priority of optimization. Now that you have your list of products to optimize, how exactly do you go about doing that to a product page?
Well, there are several things on a product page you can optimize –

Unique Product Image – Having a unique image, even if it’s just photoshopped to be unique from its original form can stop duplicate content issues from competing sites, as well as offer you alt tag and EXIF Data optimization.

Unique Product Descriptions – There are some product descriptions (Such as measurements or specific names/IDs) that you can’t help but be duplicate to competitors. However, even a 50 word unique description can nudge you over your competitor for a range of longtail keywords.

Optimized Meta Title – Make sure your products meta titles are fitted to the highest possible ROI keyword, and not just auto-generated.

Product Schema – Adding  product schema with the details filled out fully, or having a plugin do the heavy lifting for you can add rich snippets to the SERPs which give buyers the instant information they wanted such as pricing or reviews.

Add User Generated Reviews – User generated reviews can add additional unique content to help boost rankings and improve buyers user experiences when wanting further information or validation before purchasing. Just monitor them for competitors or bots, as a lot of plugins/addons have issues with both.

Once you’ve done all of those, you’ve got well oiled product pages that should bring in traffic from tens or even hundreds of additional longtail keywords.

Building A Content Campaign For Your Site

Traditionally it’s pretty hard to put hundreds or even thousands of words on to ECommerce category and product pages, but written content is the #1 source of analysis when Google is reviewing your websites OnPage.

To combat this lack of content (or overuse of “thin content”) we want to create a blog/content campaign that allows us to create enough content that Google deems us a “topical authority” within our subject, and allows us to look for keyword focused internal linking opportunities to send juice at our key money making pages.

Topical Keyword Research

Before we can begin creating our content, we first need ideas that are topically relevant enough to pass internal juice via a well placed, keyword focused internal link. As well as build up our topical authority within the eyes of Google.

If we use our example of “buy dog collars” from previously, we can start creating a map of content that can offer suitable internal linking and relevancy to our main category page that we are looking to rank. We can start by using Google themselves and looking at the recommended relevant keywords at the bottom of the SERPs –

This gives us some ideas, but not a whole heap, we could start off by researching the keywords –
⦁ Unique Dog Collars – The Top 10 Most Unique Dog Collars of 2020
⦁ Hunting Dog Collars – The Best Dog Collars For Hunting
However, this is only 2 blog posts and we want to ideally create a list of at least 10 per category page to create real topical authority and give us enough content to fill out our calendar for the very foreseeable future.

We can also find other competitors sites or content sites that are in our niche and start generating content ideas from these. We can start with a keyword we already found related to our main example – Unique Dog Collars.

The first result is a content site that we can use our competitor research training to also look for additional content calendar keywords on –

The Most Unique Dog Collars Online

We can run this page through Ahrefs organic explorer, and start filtering down to our niche. I tried “collars” but it only came back with one page, which was the page we already had found a content idea for, so we can try other related topics to dog collars like –

⦁ Leashes

Tags

Dog Walks

This in turn pulls back a few different content ideas we can steal from a competing site, and begin creating content we already know has search volume for –

Repeat this across several competitors blogs and with varying terms, to build up ideas for each topic. Bear in mind that you don’t need to JUST internally link one blog post to one category page, and that you can use a content piece to help multiple other pages on your site, and power up each other as well.

Creating A Blog Calendar

Once you have your content ideas, you need to start creating a calendar to create and release your content on your site. Releasing all your content all at once doesn’t allow you to take advantage of Google’s freshness algo or give space between to allow for marketing pushes to current audiences or to attract links and clicks.

Ideally, we want to be able to create content at a consistent rate and always have a backup of content in case anything happens to our content creation pipeline.

We also want to release content that has as most of an effect as possible. This means releasing content that is going to improve the pages we want to the most, and releasing content that’ll attract the most PR, so we can get traffic, links and brand awareness.

Optimizing Internal Linking

We talked about it earlier, but internal linking is one of the most powerful techniques an SEO has at their fingertips.. And whilst blog posts can generate some customers, the main point of creating this content calendar was so that we could set up some juicy internal linking to target, money making pages with keyword focused internal anchor text.

Now, we can’t just go internal linking random blog posts with keyword anchors to money pages.. We want to pass as much juice, and relevancy as possible.

We do this by creating 2 lists. One list of our keywords for a page, prioritized by the amount of ROI we’ll see from ranking those keywords. The second list is of blog posts that are relevant to our page, or will be once released. 

If blog posts already have internal links in them to our target pages, then you can still add them to our list as we can always edit the links and do small updates to that blog post which will also help re-indexing the updated internal link.

Once you have these 2 lists, you need to take the prioritized keywords and put them on the most powerful pages (In terms of backlinks, outbound links on the page and relevancy) by priority. This means your most powerful page is linking to the most prioritized keyword, and gives you the most amount of juice and ability to rank that page.

If you have a new site and will be dealing with planning internal anchors for future blog posts.. Then you’ll need to eye up the most relevant posts or intertwine your link building strategy with which blog posts will be the most powerful when link building work begins on them.

Link Building Theory For ECommerce Sites

Building links to ECommerce pages can seem quite hard on the surface, but realistically it’s all about how you initially setup your sites architecture and how you form your overall link building strategy with the analysis you’ve done of both the site you’re working on and a range of your competitors.

You need to do a step-by-step process to create an overall strategy that is in sync across the website. If you’re working with link building vendors, suppliers or agencies like ourselves, then you want to ask in advance for your strategy to match what you’re paying for. 

Like I said in the internal linking section a minute ago, if you want to plan internal anchors then you also want to plan your backlinks around those internal anchors so you’re getting the most amount of juice flowing around your site as possible.

Building Trust With Google

If you’re operating a new site or have recently been hit by an update, then it’s very likely that your site is lacking some core links that validate your sites authenticity whilst potentially not actually passing link juice.

As of 2019, the NoFollow tag changed to a hint directive, which means that Google can (at it’s own will) take a nofollow link and send it link juice but it also confirmed our suspicions that Google never ignored these links in the first place, and that they did offer other means of ranking signals, mainly trust signals.

Our foundations of building trust with Google, come in the social profiles that validate our engagement with the internet, the citation directories that validate our address as a real business and links from huge, authority sites like Wikipedia that are generally hard to acquire without offering genuine knowledge. We’ll get on to how you can build all of these later on.

Anchor Text Strategy

It’s a lot easier to get your anchor text strategies wrong than it is to get them right. Gone are the days of setting up percentage based anchor text strategies in GSA and waiting for our pages to peak top 3.
Firstly, you’ll want to track EVERY link you’re building and every link your site has. Collate all these links, the URLs they go to and their anchors into an Excel sheet database. Without this key data you’ll be building links with blind anchor text decisions in 6 months time, as well as not have a quick “jump to” which allows you to see how many links a page already has when doing keyword and competitor analysis/research. 

If you’re building the first backlink to a page, then you’ll want to analyze the competing backlinks and anchor texts to see what they’re using. You might only need one backlink with a keyword within it, as no other competitors have links to the page or you might need to start creating a number of backlinks and make the anchors as white hat as possible with as much diversity as possible.
If we use our “buy dog collars” example from earlier, we could do the following 5 anchor texts for a page –

Buy dog collars online at example.com

⦁ Find dog collars

⦁ These dog collars

⦁ example.com/dogcollars

⦁ Dog Collars at Example.com


This gives us enough word and brand variation, whilst also giving us keyword usage throughout to optimize for our core keywords.

As a rule of thumb, I never like to repeat the same anchor text twice, even if you’re building 100 backlinks to a page. There is always alternatives you can go with to lessen the optimization of your link profile and diversify further.

Anchor Text Rules I DON’T Recommend

As I said at the start of this anchor text segment, it’s much easier to get it wrong than it is to get it right, and so here’s a few rules I don’t like following anymore:

⦁ Using “Click Here” or “View More” anchors. This was popularized with automated link building tools, but nowadays it can just look extremely spammy and not pass any sort of contextual relevancy from the anchor itself.

⦁ Using your root URL as an anchor text for inner pages.

⦁ Using the same anchor text for different pages.

⦁ Using keyword anchor text on tier 2 backlinks. We’ve tested this tactic, it doesn’t pass the keyword somehow up the chain.

Relevant Link Building In 2020

The only kind of link building you should be focusing on in 2020, outside of your authority links from the likes of social profiles or directories is links from relevant pages or domains, though ideally both.
Google’s English language algo’s have gotten extremely good at detecting the relevance between 2 documents. Putting a link to your handsaw category page off a Mommy blog doesn’t give the same effect as it did 3 years ago, that’s for sure.

Link Building Strategies For ECommerce Sites

Once you’ve got your research in place, you need to build a strategy that’ll allow you to rank both the pages that are going to generate you direct, cash sales as well as the pages that are going to generate you topically relevant visitors and offer strong internal linking opportunities. Traffic is always a good thing, and adding emails subscribers with lead magnets or social followers through brand awareness on the site adds long term, real dollar value amounts to websites.

However, it just might not be worth all that much without pre-negotiated deals to clients when you’re doing SEO work. Just some food for thought before we jump into what kind of links we build for our ECommerce clients and our own sites.

Social Fortess & Citations

Every domain needs a set of links that can help Google further prove its authenticity as a legitimate entity and as a topical authority.

Our link building recommendations for this comes from 2 different sets of topics. Building a social fortress, a term coined by Matt Diggity can help you build a set of authoritative social profiles that pass what SEOs call “trust signals” to your domain.

The idea is you build out your social profiles such as Facebook, Twitter and even add YouTube videos with links to your content in the descriptions, and a root domain link in your bio. You then build tier 2, niche links from cheap sources such as PBNs and niche edits or even custom built tier 2 packages that a variety of sources offer.

These tier 2 links empower the tier 1 links for your brands term and helps solidify your brands authority within Google. This not only helps bolster your root domains SEO, but it can also help with ORM – Online Reputation Management. Have some bad reviews in the SERPs? Tier 2’ing your social profiles can knock them down out of the users view.

When it comes to building citations, you’ll need to have a physical address for the business to be based out of, and you’ll need to have it consistently across the internet – That means if your address, phone number or even your email address changes, it needs to change on every directory and citation listing you have.
This means we need to do 2 things when building out a sites citations campaign:

⦁ Build a target list of citation sites that we want to get listed on – These can be a mixture of large authority platforms like Yelp, niche directories about your sites industry or even listings you’ve found your competitors have on sites through reverse engineering.

⦁ Put your company name, address, email and phone number into a word document formatted between each other.

Then when you begin actually signing up for each directory/listing site, you’ll want to fill out the details of each one exactly as you did the last via copy and pasting from the document.

This is due to something called “NAP”, or very simply put, “Name Address Phone” which are the core 3 consistencies Google looks at when evaluating the location and contact information of a business or place.

Outreach Link Building

The term “outreach” is pretty much what it says on the tin.. Reaching out (Normally via email or social media) to site and blog owners to try and acquire backlinks to your pages – Either for free or with some sort of incentive, usually cash.

In this guide I’ll show you how to carry out an efficient outreach campaign, for totally free, with no downloadables required and a little imagination of your own.

Firstly, you’ll need to fire up Google Chrome, get yourself a Gmail account (Ideally one that is unique to your site or persona of the site) and install the GMass extension and signup for a free copy of Hunter.io.

GMass is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to manage email campaigns, schedule sending and automatically fill out inserts like first name or website URL from a pre-loaded contact database.

Hunter is the tool that we use to generate out contact database. It’s essentially a scraping search engine that allows you to find the email addresses of website owners and bloggers. You get 50 searches per month for free (Which is enough to get you rolling) or can start searching by the thousands from $34 per month.

Outreach For Guest Posting

Looking for sites to get guest posts on is all about the domain relevance. You’re going to be creating a relevant page that links to your page anyway, so the page level relevancy is already there but you want to make sure you have as relevant of a domain as possible.

Finding sites to guest post on isn’t as simple as some other guides make it out to be.. And looking for sites that are actively wanting guest posts or contributors will lead you to sites that are over spammed and send auto-generated replies with PayPal links for guest posting on their sites.

The trick is to find a site that is relevant enough, good enough to get a link and then pitch them a piece that their blog hasn’t already got. It’s an extra 30 seconds of work to sort through your content ideas for a piece (With example keywords to show to the site owners) that hasn’t already been covered on the site.

When you’re guest posting, the quality of the domain is very important and you’re going to want to vet the sites you’re getting the guest posts on.

Once you have a site in mind and have made sure it’s up to scratch, you’ll want to pitch the content idea you have. Personally, I don’t like pitching multiple ideas in one email as it tends to take away from the personal nature of helping improve their site for a new topic/keyword.

You can use this template that we use to great success to pitch a guest post at a site –

Hey [Author/Editor/Site Owner Name],

I’m Gabriel, I’m the Head of Marketing for [INSERTEXAMPLE.COM] and found your blog whilst I was looking for content producers in our industry to work with.

I noticed that you had a couple blog posts on [YOUR NICHE HERE] but you have yet to cover a blog post on [YOUR CONTENT IDEA HERE]. I think your readers are missing out by you not covering it, and we can take the work out of it for you!

Our piece would be similar to this – [INSERTEXAMPLECOMPETITOR] and we found that the keyword “[EXAMPLEKEYWORD]” has over 1,200 searchers per month in the US.. That’s an extra few hundred visits a month when it starts getting picked up by Google!

Thanks,

⦁ Gabriel Sims

Pro Tip: When your guest post is live, find relevant internal pages on the site and ask the site owner/admin to link from those pages to your guest post to instantly increase the juice you get from that link.

 

Outreach For Niche Edits

A niche edit is a link that is inserted into an aged, niche relevant page.. Either by inserting the link into existing content or slightly editing the page to fit the link in to make more sense.

This method almost always requires you to fork out cash to the site owner/blogger to get the link, unless you’re doing broken link building which we covered already above.

Instead of reaching out and pitching content ideas and trying to build a relationship with the target bloggers, you’re wanting to get links from target pages on a site.

We can take our “dog collars” example from earlier and do the easiest search of our lives for “dog blog” in Ahrefs keyword explorer –

Realistically for niche edits, you’re looking for content blogs between DR 10 and 60. Anything over 60 tends to be owned by more than one person or a company, and likely won’t even respond to your email.

As an example, I’m going to use the DR34 blog we found PupJunkies.com which has good metrics and great traffic growth

Anything with significant traffic drop off generally means it’s been hit by a Google algorithm update and we don’t want to risk our site getting downgraded by there’s as well.

Now that we have the site, we want to check the Pages > Best by Links option on the left hand sidebar in the Ahrefs site explorer. This page gives us the pages with the best backlinks the site has to offer

We can then go through and find relevant pages that have decent backlinks and traffic. You’ll ideally want to find 2 or 3 examples, as some blog owners will say no to some posts but yes to others and you might get a handful of solid links for an all-in-one price anyway.

Once you have the pages, you’ll want to reach out to the site owner using our above outreach methodology/tools and begin to ask for a backlink from one of the select pages you’ve chosen. As I said previously, you’ll more than likely have to fork over cash for these links so you can either start the email by offering how much you’re willing to pay for the link upfront or ask them for what they’d like in return for a link.. Bear in mind that if you have a real company social profile with a large following you can always offer shout-outs/content blasts in return, or even free products.

Here’s a template I’ve used in the past to great success –
Hey [Author/Editor/Site Owner Name],

I’m Gabriel, I’m the Head of Marketing for [INSERTEXAMPLE.COM] and found your blog whilst I was looking for content producers in our industry to work with.

I noticed that you had a couple blog posts on [YOUR NICHE HERE] and wondered if you would be open to linking from these pages to our site? –
⦁ [EXAMPLEPAGE.COM]
⦁ [EXAMPLEPAGE.COM]
We would be looking to link it to [INSERTYOURPAGE] if you’d be open to looking at what we could do for you in return?

Thanks,
⦁ Gabriel Sims

Additional Link Building Strategies

There are a range of other link building strategies that SEOs use to varying effect, though we just stick to social profiles, citations, niche edits and guest posts. Here’s a few additional tactics you might want to spend some time researching and even use on your own site –

Q&A Sites – Question and Answers sites like Yahoo Answers can be an amazing source of user related traffic (With a trust element of answering a question too) as well as backlinks and an almost endless supply of content ideas. You can also build backlinks like these with sites like Reddit, which has some options to be able to get DoFollow backlinks as well.

Forums – I’m not talking forum profiles like we’re using XRumer in 2004.. I’m talking about building up your reputation over time and either using a branded signature link or engaging with content and answering it with genuine links. It takes an awful lot of engagement to get these links though, and most of the time they’re NoFollow.

Blog Commenting – Whilst I don’t recommend getting links to your inner pages from blog comments, they can be a powerful way to help initially build relationships with bloggers and get those NoFollow trust signals we were talking about earlier.

Infographic Submissions – Creating high quality graphics and using them as link bait is awesome, but mass submitting them to 100 spammy directories is a bad link building practice in my opinion.

Video Sites – Creating a YouTube Channel is always a good idea, and having video content can pass signals both on your site and through links from the video descriptions. However mass building links from a single video file is not recommended.

⦁ Web 2.0 Blogs – Whilst they do offer contextual backlinks, you may as well try to target real domain sites and build outreach links than artificially build up fake Web 2.0 sites or re-build expired ones. As well as for the fact that a lot of the sites are making all links NoFollow and Google has ⦁ routinely devalued them in the past. 

Press Releases – A lot of duplicate content spread across networks that you don’t get to choose from. Press releases don’t offer much value unless done properly with a PR company and across real sites, not paid distribution hubs.

Scholarship Links – Were ⦁ the target of Google’s wrath in 2018 and have routinely gotten websites penalized since. I do not touch these, and never have.

That’s it from our link building section, in this final section I wanted to cover something that doesn’t directly affect either your site’s actual OnPage SEO or link building but rather can help your brand as a whole.

Reputation Management For ECommerce SEO

One of the most undervalued parts of an SEOs role is managing the first page for the brand/websites keywords. Being able to control every page and it’s assets for your company’s first page holds a lot of power, and if in years to come when (inevitably) bad reviews or unhappy customers start to come out of the woodworks.. Having strong pages able to push them to pages 2 and beyond, which no customer will ever (I mean, ever) venture to is a very powerful tool.

First, we want to look at what types of pages we have the ability to make for our site and have the potential to rank. Things like –

Social Profiles

⦁ YouTube Channel

⦁ Wikipedia Page

⦁ About.me profile

⦁ Review Sites (TrustPilot, Sitejabber, BBB etc)

All of these can either be created or controlled by us as SEOs, and all of them can say or reinforce positive things for the company to the users looking to purchase things off our website.
Pro Tip: Making a /reviews/ page on your own brand domain will allow you to often control the #1 spot for “Company Name + Review” which can have your own curated reviews on.

Now that you have your list of pages to overtake the #1 spot, you’re going to want to start actually ranking them. Now, it’s pretty hard to put unique content or OnPage optimize a Twitter profile or YouTube channel.. So we’re going to want to stick to backlinks.

The type of backlinks you use mainly depends on the budget you have in place for the site and for reputation management specifically (Agencies & freelancers, you can upsell this as an addon) but as these are huge authority domains already, you normally won’t need anything too expensive or powerful and generally only a link or 2 will do as branded search terms aren’t all that competitive normally.

Thank You & Conclusion

Whilst ECommerce SEO can be complicated, confusing and quite frustrating at times.. Right now is also the best time you can be optimizing sites for online shoppers to empty their wallets into. With ECommerce shopping, Google searches and the sheer number of internet users all peaking in 2020, we’re in the ECommerce SEO golden age.

This guide should give you a complete and rounded picture of how you can carry out ECommerce SEO for any website that sells just about anything now!

If you have any questions then you can ask them in the comments down below, and if you aren’t already then join our email list here to get updates when we drop mega guides like this.

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