When it comes to ecommerce SEO, there is plenty of advice to be found. Some of that advice is genuinely helpful. Other advice, not so much. Ecommerce websites have unique challenges that make them very different to the average website. The ecommerce market is also highly competitive, with retail giants such as Amazon taking over a good chunk of the market, leaving smaller stores to try and find their place online.

At the same time, SEO is a field that continues to evolve and adapt, with Google getting smarter each year. Continuing to use the same strategies that worked one or two years ago is unlikely to get you anywhere today. Despite the challenge of trying to stay ahead in the SERPs, organic traffic remains the most effective way to gain more traffic, and, ultimately, drive more sales.

According to Custora, the top three traffic sources driving sales for ecommerce sites in 2016 were Organic (22%), Email (20%) and CPC (19%). A Wolfgang Digital study conducted around this time showed that 43% of ecommerce traffic came from Google search (organic) with 26%  coming from Google Adwords.

Whatever the size of your store, investing in ecommerce SEO is vital to ensure that you are able to get your store found online. That means understanding the good ecommerce marketing practices as well as the bad practices. In this simple, straight-forward guide, we take a look at some of the most effective tried-and-tested approaches that you can add to your strategy.

Ecommerce SEO Best Practices

First up, we have a list of the most important ecommerce SEO best practices to incorporate into your strategy. These are by no means the only practices that you should be adding to your broader strategy – they are definitely a good start, however. There are many useful ways that you can boost your rankings organically, but these practices offer the most effective way to grow in a sustainable way. Some of the best practices to look at include the following:

Unique content

In this case, we are not just talking about content in the broader sense. Content plays a vital role in the ranking process. While blog content can be effective, the type of content that typically matters the most is without a doubt product page content. Unique descriptions are required for every single product page on your site. Make sure that these are optimised, relevant, and enticing to get the full benefit of product descriptions. Along with your unique descriptions, user-generated content in the form of reviews can also be effective.

Category optimisation

Many etailers focus on their product pages, only to put little to no thought into category pages, making these either devoted entirely to product page links or making them non-clickable. These pages can be utilised in many different ways, adding value to your ecommerce SEO efforts as well as your usability. Optimising these pages and adding keyword-rich content is a great way to bring in broader traffic from shoppers looking for men’s clothing, for example, or kitchenware.

Mobile optimisation

Many shoppers will use mobile devices to browse products, completing their purchase on their computer later. Make sure that your store can be easily accessed on any device. Rather than making a mobile version of your shop, it is far simpler to invest in a fully optimised site that can be enjoyed from smartphones, tablets, and desktops or tablets. This will allow shoppers to browse your shop from any device, favourite products, create wishlists or even add products to cart, without losing any functionality.

Smart keywords

As search engines get smarter, trends such as voice search continue, and competition gets tougher, keywords need to get smarter. Long tail keywords still reign supreme, with intent keywords also coming into play along with mobile-friendly and location-based keywords. Shoppers are far more likely to be actively searching for ‘find kids sneakers for girls near me’ then they are ‘kids sneakers’.

Ecommerce SEO Worst Practices

Now that we’ve covered some of the better ecommerce SEO practices, what about the practices that you’ll certainly want to avoid? As tempting as it is to take short cuts or experiment with strategies that seem like they will get you results, there are certain practices that can end up causing far more damage than you realise. Let’s take a look at some of the worst practices to avoid.

No/duplicate content

Not adding any content to your pages is a very quick way to ensure that you stay at the bottom of search pages. Even a short paragraph is better than nothing at all. What is worse than no content, however, is duplicate content. This is true whether you are duplicating your own content across similar products, using the manufacturer description or copying the content from another online store.

Empty pages

When a product is no longer available, it is essential to remove the product page from your store. Search engines are not too fond of empty pages. Shoppers are not too fond of empty pages, either. These can set your SEO efforts back considerably – even more so if you have a large ecommerce store with a large number of empty pages. They can also greatly reduce your conversion rates as well, with most people leaving the online store rather than trying to find the product through a search. Remove the pages or use them to direct shoppers to similar items.

No reviews

Failing to include user-generated content such as reviews is a common mistake. You may worry about bad reviews putting shoppers off. In reality, reviews don’t just help you improve your online ranking – they also help to build trust and even gain authority. One or two bad reviews along with many good reviews increase transparency and helps shoppers see that you are not trying to hide anything.

Broad keywords

Very broad keywords can also impact your ecommerce SEO results, and not in a good way, either. These are seldom intention-driven and are typically far too vague to bring in traffic that will actually lead to sales. Rather than aiming for something broad, such as ‘scarves’, for example, get more specific and think carefully about who you are targeting with your keywords. This will help you find relevant phrases that bring in targeted traffic.

Every year, the ecommerce landscape continues to shift. Trends will come and go. Not every trend will add value. Genuinely helpful practices are something that you can always rely on, year after year. When you have a solid plan in place, it will be far easier to adapt your strategies, keeping the most effective ones and learning and growing as your store grows.

Remember – SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes. Trying to rush or find ways to get ahead in a way that is not geared towards authentic results can set you back in more ways than you realise. Rather than aiming for quick results, it is far better to see ecommerce SEO as a long-term strategy that will reap plenty of rewards if you put in the investment. When you stick to the simple strategies that are known to work and you avoid the ecommerce SEO strategies that end up doing your brand and ranking harm in the long run, you have the best chance of growing your store’s results holistically.

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