Unravelling SEO - a beginner’s guide to SEO for online stores

Unravelling SEO
a beginner’s guide to SEO for online stores

Martin Cox

Acronyms and technical jargon abound in every industry, and particularly in the digital arena. Whatever your level of technical expertise, if you are an ecommerce business there are three mysterious little letters that you need to get your head around. S. E. O.

What exactly is SEO?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) describes a process of generating organic (i.e. free) traffic from search sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo, optimising your potential of being discovered by customers.

Just about everyone is familiar with the end customer experience of SEO, each time you search for something on Google you land on a search engine results page. The first page displays a combination of ten organic results alongside paid ads and sponsored ‘Google Shopping’ results. Every business in the digital game, is aiming to land their business in one of those hotly coveted ten organic search results.

Why does SEO matter for my business?

Our online attention spans are short. The number of results returned by any given search can number into the thousands, but if your site only appears on page 10, we can just about knock you out for the count. In fact, a recent study confirmed that, after the first page, searchers drop like flies. Only 4.8 per cent of searchers make it to the second page of search results.

Where do I start?

SEO is developed by aligning keywords on your website with high-value keyword search terms your customers may be using. The first step is to identify the correct keywords for your products. Ecommerce sites need commercial keywords rather than informational keywords (for example, specific product names such as ‘women’s jeans’).

Pick a few product names and use your search engines. Google will suggest relevant queries when you begin to type in your search terms into its search bar. At the bottom of the search page, there will also be a ‘Searches related to…’ section for related queries, which can be a goldmine for potential keywords.

You can also search sites like Amazon in much the same way, which will bring up a list of both potential keywords, and potential product category names for you to choose from.

Other considerations

There are a number of technical considerations to get your head around once you have defined your SEO keywords, such as your site structure and your on-page SEO. This is where a good digital agency comes in/our team can help you out.

Site Structure

How your pages are organised and structured directly affects your search engine rankings, so your site structure needs to be simple, scalable, and easy to navigate. It should be easy for both visitors and search engines to find their way around your store. For optimised SEO you also need every page on your site to be as few clicks away from your homepage as possible.

We take these factors into consideration when building your site, saving you a ton of time down the track.

On-page SEO

Your highest value pages are your product category and product pages, so the next focus is optimising your on-page SEO for these pages.

If you are using Shopify, there are some handy built-in SEO features that can help you optimise your on-page SEO. Automated features include:

  • Canonical tags (which prevent Google mislabelling similar pages as duplicate content)
  • Your website’s sitemap.xml and robots.txt files
  • Themes that generate title tags that include your store name
  • Themes that have social media linking and sharing options

Customisable features built in to Shopify’s functionality include:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions to include your keywords
  • Alt text for images to include your keywords
  • Customisable URLs for blog posts, pages, products and collections.

Nail those URLs

Your URLs are extremely important for optimising your SEO, so choose them wisely. Here are a few key guidelines:

  • Use keywords
  • Short URLs are better than long URLs. Try to keep it below 50-60 characters
  • Match the URL and page title as closely as possible
  • Don’t include words like “and”, “of”, “the” and “a”
  • Use product names for your product handle and avoid using numbers or SKUs

Page speed

Google places high value on the speed of your site. And, believe it or not, so do customers. Making sure your page loads as quickly as possible not only improves your search performance, it also means visitors are more likely to stay on your site.

Some tips for making your Shopify store as fast as possible:

  • Utilise Shopify’s built in image scaling to display resized images on your page.
  • Use lazy loading for content at the bottom of your page (this stops browsers from loading content until it appears on the screen).
  • Use Youtube or Vimeo for hosting any videos on your pages. These platforms will always display the best version of a video for the device a user is on.
  • Don’t use apps that slow your page down. Test any app before you launch it to make sure it doesn’t slow your pages down.
  • If using a purchased Shopify theme, buy one from the Shopify app store rather than from other sources such as ThemeForest. Shopify has much higher standards when approving themes.

Fatten up your page content

Don’t be caught out with ‘thin content’ product pages (a page with minimal text). Google and other search engines use the content on your page to decide which keywords to rank your page for and how high your page’s ranking should be. Write long, in-depth descriptions for your products so that you can use your keywords more frequently and Google can work its magic.

If you’re not confident writing the right descriptions, research how your competitors describe products and use a thesaurus to find alternative words to describe your products.

Stay abreast of SEO changes

It’s important for businesses to be informed about new SEO developments in order to stay ahead of the competition. Three new optimisation tactics emerged in 2017 that are worth getting your head around:

1. Competitor backlink analysis: gives you all the backlinks your competitors have built to their website to help you capitalise on SEO opportunities.
2. Featured snippets: relatively new, they sit at the top of the search results page and have a huge effect on your SEO. To be featured, identify and answer a question searched by your target audience and set this answer up so search engines can find it easily.
3. Linkable assets: content you create that is of interest to your target audience, and worthy of linking to or sharing. This can build a number of high-quality links to your website and improve your ranking positions.

SEO is a complicated world, and this beginner’s guide is merely an introduction. If you have specific SEO questions, contact us for more information—we’re here to help.