The 3 Technical Basics of SEO for Your Online Store
If you own an ecommerce company, the end goal of your website is to make a sale.
Technical SEO for online stores has a lot to do with your products, how your website displays them, and how your customers interact with them. It’s also directly related to your storefront design and construction. It lives in parts of your website like your code base, product page layout and overall website architecture.
And it’s your best-kept secret.
By solidifying a technical SEO strategy, you better your chances at moving up in search rank. That guarantees more traffic for you and an increased conversion rate.
But because technical SEO seems so detailed and nuanced, not many ecommerce companies are taking full advantage of it. That’s why it’s a secret weapon: capitalizing in areas that your competitor isn’t can help you one-up them in performance.
This article will outline 3 areas of technical SEO for online stores that, once audited and addressed, can kickstart your sprint to ranking in the top 3!
1. Showing Too Many Products on Your Category Pages Slows Down Your Site
Search engines like websites that load fast. Improving your load time will not only look good to Google but it will also keep your customer happy. 51% of online shoppers in the U.S claimed if a site is too slow they will not complete a purchase. (source) So, decreasing your load time can help you increase organic traffic and improve your conversion rate.
When you have a lot of products, though, making your site load quickly becomes more complex. Correctly building your product category pages takes on a new level of complexity when your store has thousands of items, especially if you have a lot of products in one category. Loading each item can take a long time as each thumbnail, description, and piece of metadata needs to load for each item you’re offering under this category.
Even if your store doesn’t have thousands of products, minimizing the amount of items displayed on your category page can greatly improve page load time and be an effective tactic in SEO for your online store.
Using the example of loading a product category page, let’s look at one way to improve page load time.
If you have a category “men’s casual shirts” for example, you may need to load upwards of 200 products on this page depending on your company’s size. However, loading all 200 on the “men’s casual shirts” landing page will definitely take longer than if you only loaded 25 per page.
This is called pagination. Check out how Cabela’s has their Men’s Casual Shirts broken up:They have implemented pagination here to ensure that their customer can immediately see 48 shirts immediately. As an option, they’ve also provided a drop-down to allow the user to choose how many products they’d like to see per page.
Again, depending on how many products you have in your categories, you may not need to implement pagination. But if you have over 20 products in one category, breaking the page load up into 20 products per page can greatly impact the speed.
2. Product Page Structure Falls Short & Will Hurt Rank
Your product pages are the perfect place to infuse data which will boost SEO for your online store. However, if your ecommerce website design uses a template or you don’t have an in-house development team, you may not be aware of how to fully-optimize your products for performance. Let’s look at a few areas you can inject some technical SEO:
Product Titles & Description
The <h1> title and product description on your product page should absolutely include your target keyword. However, you need to make sure that your target keyword is specific enough that you aren’t trying to rank for something very competitive (too general). For example, when searching for “ventilated fishing shirt” here’s what Google populates:
When you view the results that have populated in the “shopping” section – this is a clue that the brand’s technical SEO is performing. Clicking on the above product will show you a good example of including the keyword in the <h1> tag as well as the product description:
Rich snippets are pieces of code that identify elements of a product and translate their “meaning” to the search engine. Price, type of product, and reviews are all examples of rich snippets. Using the same search engine results example, you can see how these brands have also correctly implemented rich snippets in their technical SEO strategy:
All three of these elements, <h1> title, product description, and rich snippets are built into the code of your product pages. By optimizing this portion of your architecture, you enable the search engine to better understand your website. This will result in a higher rank and improve your chances of converting a visitor to a purchase.
3. Poor Mobile Performance Is Not Realistic for Today
Mobile search has surpassed desktop. That means there are zero excuses for any serious ecommerce brand to ignore mobile optimization of their online store.
One of the most important pieces of Google’s algorithm is asking the question: “Is this website mobile-friendly?” If the answer is “no” then don’t expect to be in a competitive position in search results. It won’t happen.
In 2015, Google publicly stated that mobile performance will begin to hold much more value in their algorithm, saying it will have “significant impact” on search results. Since ignoring it is not an option, you can get started by testing the mobile-friendliness of your own site. Google has their own test tool you can use here.
Enter your URL, then the tool will tell you if your site is mobile-friendly or not. It will also identify anything being “blocked” by the robots.txt file (which could potentially cause errors). This image shows an example of results you’ll see when analyzing your website. The red arrow highlights resources being blocked, so you can analyze them and determine if they are causing errors in your technical SEO:
Determining what these errors could be doing to affect your rankings should be done by your ecommerce development team or agency. However, ignoring mobile optimization is no longer an option as mobile continues to rise in becoming the device of choice for users to search for products, browse, and interact with your brand.
The 3 steps outlined above can be considered a mini audit for your online store. Your page architecture, page load time and mobile performance are basic areas where a lack of a technical SEO strategy can hinder search rank.
By dipping your feet into technical SEO in these 3 areas, you’ll be able to kickstart a larger conversation with your development team which will identify areas of technical improvement.
Have you addressed any of these basic areas? What results did you see? Did you find the process difficult or relatively easy? Let us know in the comments below.