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eCommerce SEO: The Complete Online Sellers Guide [2018]

eCommerce may well be an industry worth $7.7 trillion across the globe, but it’s also an incredibly competitive one. 

In fact, new eCommerce sites are being launched every day, which means that as an online retailer you need to be doing all you can to get your website (and more specifically your product pages) in front of the potential buyers that are searching for something you sell.

eCommerce SEO

Sounds simple right?

Well it is, and it isn’t.

In theory, search engine optimisation (SEO) for eCommerce brands should be pretty straightforward – if you optimise your website well enough, you can increase the visibility of your products and subsequently drive more traffic to your site.

Now while that’s all well and good, once you factor in that potentially thousands of other businesses are aiming for that same coveted spot on Google’s search results pages, it becomes a bit more of a challenge.

And that’s before you consider the fact that 75% of users will never look beyond page one of the search results. That’s a huge amount of traffic to miss out on if you’re not quite securing that first page Google ranking.

So, regardless of whether you’re a business owner looking to get your eCommerce site ranking on page one of Google, an eCommerce SEO specialist looking for advice on how to enhance site performance, or a digital marketing expert wanting to drive more traffic through to your site, we’ve asked 14 eCommerce SEO experts for their top tips and advice.

Short on time?

Download the complete guide as a PDF

1. Keyword Research for eCommerce Sites

2. On-Page SEO

3. eCommerce Site Structure

4. Technical SEO for eCommerce Sites

5. Content Marketing for eCommerce Sites



1. Keyword Research for eCommerce Sites

Keyword Research for eCommerce

Let’s start with what keyword research is and why it’s so crucial.

Keyword research is the process of identifying the search terms (keywords) that people are using when looking for something on Google, Bing or any other search engine, platform or marketplace.

Ultimately, having a solid understanding of the keywords related to your products allows you to adjust your product pages (read: on-page SEO) accordingly, so that they appear in the relevant search engine results pages (SERPs).

But how exactly do you find these keywords?

While we outline several keyword research methods in full in our eCommerce SEO guide, often the best place to start is with a brainstorming session.

Think about what you would be searching for if you were looking for a product that you sell. Brand, colour, material, size/dimensions and product type are all details worth considering.

You should also go one step further and research your competitor’s sites to get an idea of the language they’re using for similar products. In fact, with a keyword tool such as Ahrefs or SEMrush, you can get insight into the exact keywords that your competitors are ranking for and more specifically are driving traffic through to their product pages.

Let’s assume you are a fashion retailer selling a black jumper.

By looking at other sites that sell the same product type – in this case ASOS’ Jumpers and Cardigans page – you can see the keywords that particular page is ranking for.

Ahrefs Keyword Research Example

Within Ahrefs, you can do this by going to Site Explorer > Organic Keywords.

Once you have an idea of what users are specifically searching for when looking for a black jumper, or whatever the products are in your case, you will want to look at metrics such as search volume and keyword difficulty.

Do keep in mind that you don’t need an advanced SEO tool to conduct basic keyword research and there are plenty of free tools available to you – Google Keyword Planner and Keywordtool.io to name just a couple.

Whatever tool you use though, it’s crucial to remember that metrics aren’t everything.

The biggest mistake is to assume that the keywords with the highest search volumes are those with the highest opportunities for website traffic.

They’re not!

Here’s the thing, these keywords are often incredibly competitive, meaning that even if they get tens of thousands of monthly searches, there’s a significant chance you’re never going to rank for them. At least not on any page where you will get visibility.

Take the ASOS example above – “black jumper” gets 1,900 searches in the UK every month, but you can see from the example below that it returns 527 million results on Google, with some of the biggest brands ranking at the top of the page.

Google Search Results Page Example

Now while these shorter keywords with higher search volumes (commonly referred to as short-tail keywords) often appear the most lucrative, it’s the long-tail ones you need to be focusing on. 

Long-tail keywords are far more specific than simply “black jumper” and also imply that someone is further along in their buyer’s journey and more likely to make a purchase.

Ahrefs keyword tool example

You can see from the example above that the search queries related to “black jumper” are more descriptive – “oversized black jumper”, “long chunky knit jumper” etc.

Google Keyword Planner is another great source for keyword ideas.

Google Keyword Planner Example

Again, a search for black jumper provides suggestions such as “ladies black v neck jumper” and “black sparkly jumper”. While it goes without saying that not all of the suggestions will be relevant, and you may want to get keyword ideas based on even more specific keywords to start with, it is worth keeping in mind that this exercise can be a great way to identify products to sell that are in high demand. For more guidance on this particular area, have a read of our dedicated article.

Finally, a simple search on Google itself can provide you with suggested searches related to a given keyword.

Google Suggested Searches

Now that you (hopefully) have a list of keywords related to your product, your next step is to consider your on-page SEO, and more specifically keyword placement.

2. On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO for eCommerce

So, what is on-page SEO?

On-page SEO is the process of optimising individual website pages, in order to rank higher on search engines and ultimately direct more relevant traffic through to the page.

Unlike off-page SEO (think backlinks and other external factors), on-page SEO is entirely in your control and refers to page content, technical set up of the page (HTML source code, URL, meta tag and description, site speed etc), as well as the overall user experience (UX).

Let’s start with content and more specifically how you can use your eCommerce keywords to inform your product pages.

To help you understand the anatomy of on-page SEO, I've split it into five key areas that you will need to consider.

1. Metadata

First up, metadata.

Your metadata - meta title (title tags) and meta description - provides search engines with information about your web page, helping it to understand the relevancy in relation to the user’s search query.

Now despite your metadata playing a key role in helping search engines to understand what it is your page is about, and perhaps more importantly convincing potential buyers to go ahead and click through, it is one area that many online retailers aren’t optimising well enough. 

“Our revenue driving tip for multi-channel retailers would be metadata gap optimisation. eCommerce websites can have 1,000’s of pages and every page has metadata which is displayed in search engine results pages like Google.

Your metadata includes a title tag and meta description tag, which often have underutilised space available to add more relevant keywords.

Google search results give you space to include keywords totalling up to 60 characters in each title tag and since December 2017, up to 230 characters in each meta description. Think of each piece of metadata like a billboard – if you’re only utilising 50% of the space, it’s a bit like taking out a billboard but only advertising in half of the available space. The potential loss of revenue is magnified for eCommerce websites because they have 1,000’s of pages.

From our experience working with retailers like Bicuiteers, WOLF, Menkind and Calumet Photographic, multi-million pound growth in eCommerce SEO revenue can be achieved by including the right keywords in the metadata gaps”.

Helen Trendell, Managing Director and Co-Founder of ThoughtShift

2. Product Descriptions

Product descriptions serve two purposes – if optimised well enough, they play a key role in bringing potential customers to the product page from the search engines, but equally as importantly they should convince that prospect to buy the product.

This means each product description should be written with both the customer and search engine in mind.

But what does an eCommerce SEO-friendly product description look like?

“Be as descriptive as possible on product pages. Research not only how customers search for the product, but also if it is compatible with other products, or problems that it solves. That will help rankings for long tail queries which convert better”.

Mark Tillison

It's also important to remember that search algorithms typically evaluate the uniqueness and originality of a web page, as well as its relevance, which is why the following tip is so important.

“If on your online store you are selling products manufactured by someone else, don’t cut and paste their product descriptions and images. Instead, write your own unique ones and take your own photos, as this will allow your site to stand out from all the clones”.

Simon Cox

But that’s not all.

“A product copywriter’s greatest challenge from an SEO perspective is to magic up unique content out of limited source material, that is also being used by multiple competitors. In many cases you’ll be working from just a couple of paragraphs and bullet points per product – and so will everyone else who stocks it. This poses the risk of ending up with product copy that’s very similar to that of other stockists, which in turn can lead to relatively poor search rankings.

My go-to solution is to interpret the product, using the same curatorial sensibilities that helped you choose to stock it in the first place. Don’t just write about what the product is; write about what you think of it and how it could fit into your customer’s lifestyle. You might even go as far as to explain why it’s in your range.

An individual interpretation written in your brand’s tone-of-voice can be the difference between a compelling sales pitch and an identical spiel that leaves your customers – and Google – cold”.

Pete Wise, Digital Marketing Expert at Target Internet

3. Headers

Header tags play a key role in eCommerce SEO, yet despite this, they are an often under-utilised element of on-page SEO.

These header tags range across six different levels – H1 through to H6 – and define the hierarchy of the page. More specifically, they make it easier for search engines to crawl the page and understand the most important sections.

So, what should header tags consist of?

Well, to start with it’s worth addressing the different types of eCommerce pages on your site, including your homepage, category pages and individual product pages.   

For the homepage, your H1 will often be the brand name, for the category pages this will be the category name and for the product pages, the product title.

Your H2 will be the secondary heading and your H3 will be the sub-heading of the secondary heading and so on. In most instances you probably won’t use H4-H6.

Do keep in mind though that you should only ever use one H1 header on any given page, as this can otherwise confuse the search engine into thinking that your page is about multiple topics, in turn negatively impacting your ranking ability.

Another best practice would be to keep the H1 tag and the meta title of any given page fairly similar.

4. Image Alt-Text

Alt tags are HTML attributes which are applied to images on a web page. As search crawlers cannot interpret images, these alt tags provide them with a text alternative.

As such, they are crucial for eCommerce SEO and influence your page’s search position on Google.

But what should you be including in your image alt tags?

Ideally, product images should be optimised for the same keyword as the product page itself. That said, you should avoid keyword stuffing and you should additionally keep the text short, as this is more likely to be indexed by the search engines.

5. Product Page URLs

“Product page URL’s should display both parent category and product keywords, matched back to the results of your initial keyword research. A well thought through structure allows various keywords to be targeted per page. Clarity of organisation of your eCommerce website will be rewarded with better search engine ranking”.

Nasir Kothia, eBusiness UK

3. eCommerce Site Structure

eCommerce Site Structure

The structure of your online store is crucial for SEO. In fact, in order to rank well on Google, it must be simple for users to navigate and easy for search engines to crawl.

But what does a good eCommerce site structure look like?

“An effective eCommerce website structure starts with your initial keyword research. You should be using these keywords to structure your site navigation, category architecture and sub-menus. Organising your navigation structure systematically helps search engines to know what your page is about, while also improving the user experience for customers, in-turn improving conversions”. 

Nasir Kothia, eBusiness UK

The problem for many online retailers is that the technical architecture of an eCommerce site is often a complex one, especially for those with large product catalogues.

The question is, what sort of structure should you be using if you have a large inventory?

Ideally, a faceted navigation structure.

Faceted navigation is a model that allows users to filter and/or sort results by specific attributes which aren’t necessarily related. A great example of a brand using faceted navigation to improve the user’s product search experience is Amazon.

Ultimately, this type of navigation helps guide website visitors to the products they’re looking for, quickly and easily. From a technical perspective, this includes the use of facets (indexed categories) and filters (not indexed by search engines).

While we would urge you to learn more about the technicalities behind faceted navigation here and the best practices for using it, it’s important that you understand the reason why you don’t want Google (or any other search engine for that matter) indexing every possible page.

In short, this is because of duplicate content.

Think about it.

If you give a user the option to filter their search – by colour, size, brand, or whatever else it may be – every possible combination of facets will have its own unique URL.

Now when you consider the fact that eCommerce stores can easily have hundreds, if not thousands, of versions of a page, based on the updated filtered assortments, it’s easy to see how this can become very messy, very quickly.

In fact, if left unoptimised, you could be penalised for having duplicate content in your URLs, which would in turn negatively impact your ranking ability.

That’s not all though.

It would also increase the chances of Google missing any unique (yet potentially valuable) content when crawling the page.

To show you what I mean by duplicate content from faceted navigation, let’s take ASOS as an example.

When searching for “Men’s Sunglasses”, ASOS provide the option to filter by attributes including “style”, “brand”, “colour” and so on.

Faceted navigation example ASOS

Now it’s worth me pointing out that the URL for this main category page is:

www.asos.com/men/sunglasses/cat/?cid=6519&nlid=mw|accessories|shop+by+product

Let’s say you want to filter the search results to display only aviator style sunglasses. The URL then becomes:

www.asos.com/men/sunglasses/cat/?cid=6519&currentpricerange=5-210&nlid=mw|accessories|shop%20by%20product&refine=attribute_989:4945

From here, you might want to filter again to search for gold coloured, aviator sunglasses, which will give you another completely different URL:

www.asos.com/men/sunglasses/cat/?cid=6519&currentpricerange=5-210&nlid=mw|accessories|shop%20by%20product&refine=attribute_989:4945|base_colour:11

As you can see, each filtered combination includes the same content as the main category page, it just has additional parameters based on the filtered attributes.

Here’s the thing.

Duplicate content aside, this doesn’t actually have to be a problem for SEO.

So long as you set up your website tags and URL parameters correctly, and apply Google’s best practices for faceted navigation.

In reality, you have two options for dealing with these faceted pages.

You can either instruct Google not to index them (which I’ll get to in a moment), or you can choose to use the page to target relevant search terms.

Now I know I said that you don’t want Google indexing every faceted page (which really you don’t), but there are exceptions.

Given that 70% of all search queries are for long-tail keywords, you probably will want Google to index relevant pages.

The question is, do you target these pages with facets or do you create new pages for those searches?

Many SEOs will recommend that if the search is related to the product attributes or features, it should be targeted as a facet. This could include colours (“black dress”, “maxi dress”, “black maxi dress” etc).

As I mentioned before, filtered searches (updated assortment pages) can easily run into the thousands, making it unrealistic to target all possible variations.

Instead, you should consider allowing for up to four facet combinations i.e. [brand] [colour] [material] [style]. Keep in mind that these will change depending on the product category.

There will also be facet groups that should never be considered, including price, customer ratings and delivery option.

“Take advantage of faceted navigation to target long-tail keywords. When implemented correctly, a faceted navigation can be used to capture a lot of long-tail organic search traffic.

Take ‘dresses’ as an example – there’s a lot of search volume even when you start getting specific:

Long-tail keyword example

If you had an indexable page for ‘plus size black maxi dresses’ and could offer a number of different designs and prices on that page, it’s likely that it would convert well as the search term is so specific.

Through smart use of faceted navigation, these pages can be scaled across the site in an automated fashion to create landing pages to target long-tail search traffic.

It’s really important that this is implemented in the correct way as it can quickly get messy and bad for SEO if not planned out correctly and we advise speaking with a technical SEO expert to help with implementation.

This strategy relies on having a strong product range that can be categorised in a way that still leaves a good number of products per page – 6 to 8 as an absolute minimum is recommended”.

Rob Marsden, Head of SEO at Search Laboratory

As Rob also explains, unless faceted navigation is implemented correctly, it can have serious consequences for your SEO.

A big part of this comes down to URL structure.

Now we’ve already said that it’s possible to index faceted pages, but we haven’t yet told you how to do so correctly. 

It is in fact the URL that will inform Google that the page is a facet, as opposed to a duplicate. More specifically, it is the query parameters used in the URL.

You can learn about the appropriate URL structure of faceted navigation here.

Another thing to consider is that when indexing faceted pages, you will need to update the title tag and meta description to reflect the updated content of the page. Both should include the category name.

So, now that we’ve covered indexed facets, what about the pages that you don’t want Google (or any other search engine) to index?

Canonical Tags

Your first option is to use canonical URLs…

A canonical tag (also known as “rel canonical”) tells search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page, i.e. the main one that you want Google to crawl and rank for.

This tag ultimately prevents any problems that are caused by identical or duplicate content appearing on multiple distinctive URLs. It also allows you to control which URL the user sees in Google’s search results.

“The biggest issue we usually see when working with a new eCommerce business (and can make the biggest immediate difference) is the lack of canonicals on the site. As this is quite technical, it’s not something that most people – even developers – are aware of.

Essentially, if you have a category page with lots of filterable options, this creates lots of duplicate pages, making it harder for Google to index the correct one and splitting your page authority.

We very recently had a case study of a client who launched a new site with their old SEO agency but rankings and traffic tanked after a new site migration because they didn’t fix this issue. They were experiencing a drop of around 50% but once the issue was fixed they have returned to pre-migration traffic levels.

It is also really important to map out your keyword targeting across the site so you understand which pages are ranking for specific keywords. Particularly on large sites with lots of similar categories”.

Ollie Cload, Seed Publicity

If we go back to the ASOS example, a look at the page source for each filtered search shows the exact same canonical URL.

Canonical tag example

This tells the search engine that it should associate the particular page with the main “Men’s Sunglasses” category page.

Not all retailers are adopting best practices though.

Let’s look at another example.

A simple search for “dishwashers” on a relatively large home electronics website, displays 310 products.

­­Again, to start with, it’s worth keeping in mind that the main category page URL is:

https://www.XXXXXXXXX.co.uk/nav/mc/dishwashers

Faceted navigation example

You can see from the screenshot above that there are various attributes that the search can be filtered by – Brand, Colour, Condition, Width etc.

Now just like with ASOS, any filtered search will display different URLs, such as:

https://www.xxxxxxxxx.co.uk/st/freestanding-dishwashers

AND

https://www.xxxxxxxxx.co.uk/st/freestanding-dishwashers-100-to-200-pounds

AND

https://www.xxxxxxxxx.co.uk/nav/mc/dishwashers/dfnops/6/pt/dishwashers/mpt/freestanding/range/100-to-200

Again, this is completely normal.

The problem this retailer has, however, is that each page has its own canonical tags.

While this is perfectly fine for “freestanding dishwashers”, neither one of the other filtered pages – price and place settings – are overly relevant for SEO and therefore should not be indexed.

The thing to remember is that canonical tags aren’t the only way to tell Google not to index the page and you can simply use a “Noindex, follow” tag.

In which case, you’re probably wondering why not just use this tag to start with?

Well, the main reason is because you’d still be wasting crawl budget (the number of pages Google will crawl on your site on any given day) on this page content. These pages would also receive equal link equity, which would also be a complete waste.

4. Technical SEO for eCommerce Sites

Technical SEO for eCommerce

We’ve already covered many technical SEO considerations in the previous sections, but there are certainly other things to be aware of.

Before anything else though, it’s important to understand the importance of technical SEO for eCommerce sites.

The fact is, even the smallest of online retail stores can easily have thousands of pages, and the more pages a site has, the greater chance there is of it having technical issues.

Issues that can ultimately affect your site’s accessibility, indexability and on-page ranking factors.

That’s not all though.

What many retailers aren’t aware of is that these technical issues can also be the difference between ranking at the top of Google’s search results pages and further down on the page – or on an entirely different page altogether.

This is due to the fact that your product pages probably won’t have many (if any) back-links pointing to them and Google will instead prioritise websites with fewer issues.

Without regular SEO audits, you’re essentially blind to all potential errors with your site’s performance.

“Ensure you have the right tools to conduct regular, detailed SEO analysis. You need an audit tool (Screaming Frog, Sitebuln, Deep Crawl etc.), a performance tool for on-page, links, competitors and so on (SEMrush, SEOMonitor etc.) and Search Console/Bing WMT”.

James Gurd, Owner of Digital Juggler

But what does a technical SEO audit consist of?

While we would urge you to read this brilliant technical SEO guide from Branded3, we have provided an overview of the key areas you should be monitoring as part of your audit:

  • Indexing

Ultimately, all web pages that are eligible to be displayed in search engine results pages (SERPS) should be indexed. Pages that bring no value to being displayed in Google, however, shouldn’t be.

There are often huge problems with indexing every single page on your eCommerce site – firstly there’s content duplication and secondly there’s the simple fact that you don’t want Google wasting crawl budget on pages that aren’t relevant.

But which specific areas should you be testing?

To start with you need to check that your site is being fully indexed. You can do this by typing in site:www.yourdomainname.com and checking whether the results are as expected.

During this search, you should also get an idea of how many pages are being indexed by Google.

eCommerce SEO indexed pages

We would advise you to check this number against the number of pages being crawled by your chosen tool. If more pages are being crawled than are indexed, this could be a significant waste of crawl budget.  

  • HTML Content

In order for search engines to display relevant pages for a given search query, they must be able to effectively interpret the content on the pages when crawling your site.

Keep in mind that an SEO crawler such as Screaming Frog will be able to spider the site in the same way that Google does, providing valuable information about your HTML content, along with your site structure and SEO setup.

Once the crawl report is complete, you’ll have a list of on-site issues that have been flagged.

To ensure that you’re ranking for all relevant search terms, you should ensure that any issues are fixed and that you’re using your HTML content – page titles, meta descriptions, meta tags, alt tags, canonical tags and so on – appropriately.

  • Validation

Technical SEO audits will be able to flag any pages that can’t be accessed due to broken links (internal or external) and server errors.

Website speed is another huge SEO factor and you should be monitoring load time regularly. As an eCommerce business, one thing you can do to reduce load time is to compress your product images.

  • Mobile-Friendliness

With 62% of all smartphone users having made a purchase on mobile in the past six months, it is imperative that your eCommerce store is optimised for mobile. 

In fact, it is for this very reason why the mobile friendliness of a website has become a crucial ranking factor for search engines.

With this in mind, when it comes to your SEO audit, you should be monitoring the view solutions for mobile, as well as crawler accessibility to mobile content.

  • Search Console

When it comes to technical SEO, you will hear Google Search Console mentioned a lot and this is because it’s the primary SEO tool that evaluates websites based on Google’s ranking criteria.

In fact, Search Console provides reports and feedback for evaluating your website’s search appearance, traffic, index statuses, crawler issues and more.

Within this tool, you should specifically be running tests on General Setting & Messages, Search Appearance, Search Traffic, Google Index, Google Crawl and Security Issues.

  • HTTPS Configuration

Security is a huge consideration for search engines and as such, any security issues will have a significant impact over your website’s ranking ability.

Encryption plays a key role in this and search engines such as Google consider HTTPS protocol to be safer than HTTP. Subsequently, you should be running tests on your HTTPS resources, security certificates, as well as the redirects between HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

  • Sitemaps and Analytics

Sitemaps help search engine crawlers to understand what, how often and in what order they should be crawling and indexing websites.

This is why it’s so important that you are able to identify and fix any issues in sitemap files, for example broken links, missing pages, redirected links etc.

To do this, you will need to be running tests on XML sitemaps, HTML sitemap and analytics.

“When dealing with discontinued products, rather than disabling them so the page returns a 404, instead leave them enabled and build in functionality so the page shows 'product discontinued' and then you can provide alternative products”.

Eralis

In addition to the risk of a customer landing on a page for a discontinued product, it's also possible that they could land on a page for a sold-out product. Failing to prepare your site for this can lead to a loss of potential revenue, not to mention a bad customer experience.

While this article outlines several ways you can encourage conversions on out-of-stock product pages, it's crucial that you are optimising these pages for SEO, in order to avoid harming site performance.

5. Content Marketing for eCommerce Sites

eCommerce Content Marketing

There are huge opportunities for eCommerce brands to capitalise on content marketing. In fact, done correctly, content marketing can increase brand awareness, enhance your social media presence and ultimately help you sell more.

Perhaps more importantly, from an SEO perspective it can play a crucial role in helping you to increase your search engine rankings, not to mention visibility.

Now while the content used on your homepage, category pages and product pages are fundamental to driving traffic to the site, there will be plenty of other keywords you can (and should) be targeting through different types of content.

Think back to your keyword research process.

While you will have originally been looking for keywords to use in the metadata, HTML code, titles and descriptions, you may also have identified long-tail keywords that didn’t quite make the cut.

This could be common queries related to the product or even the broader industry.

Let’s say you sell jewellery for example.

While you may have included product related keywords such as “18ct white gold wedding band” or “white gold engagement rings” on your product and category pages, you may have come across search terms such as “35th wedding anniversary gift ideas” or “how to take links out of a watch”, both of which would be perfect topics for a blog article and/or how-to-video.

Just to recap on the process you can take to identify these keyword opportunities, let's look at Ahrefs.

When using the site explorer functionality, take a look at the organic keywords for popular sites in your industry. From here you can then filter the search down further to include search terms containing "how to", for example.

eCommerce SEO

With the example above, I ran a search on www.hsamuel.co.uk and am now able to see the full list of how-to related search queries, for example "how to measure ring size" and "how to remove links from a watch". 

Remember, if you are using this particular SEO tool, make sure that you've selected the country you're targeting.

 eCommerce Content Types

We’ve mentioned blog posts and how-to-videos, but what other content types should eCommerce businesses be leveraging?

The list really is endless, but some other popular types of content include:

  • Branded Magazines

More and more brands are beginning to launch their own digital magazines, covering topics from across the industry they operate in.

One example is Topshop, which dedicates a section of its site to 'The Magazine', a weekly update of styling secrets, beauty tutorials and outfit how-to's. 

Branded magazine example Topshop

Whether you use a magazine format or a simple blog (or both), there are opportunities for businesses in all industries to create content for SEO (and ultimately sales).

Fashion is of course a great example, and if you're an online fashion business you could think about creating content around seasonal trends, guidance on how to wear a particular item (i.e. five ways to wear a blazer) and even simple styling tips. That said, this approach can be used across all industries, you just need to ask yourself what sort of questions/advice would your audience be looking for.

"Focus on inbound content, as this will allow you to focus on smaller volumes of searches that have a much higher intent to convert and buy. 

Let's say for example you specialise in selling women's clothing - a perfect piece of inbound content would be 'The hottest women's fashion trends for summer 2018'. Within this post, you can include your predictions - or influencer predictions - for the hottest trends that year. Then, within that content, for each type of clothing that you stock, you'll include an internal link through to that product page. Why does this work? 

In the months leading up to summer, people will be searching for the biggest fashion trends for that year. As such, you can get your content ranking and showing up for those people. When they're reading your article and come across a trend that they absolutely love, you've already included your internal link, allowing them to easily navigate to your product and buy their must have items.

This is just one specific example, but you can do this with any niche/industry. Just put yourself in your customers shoes, think about what you'd want to search for and there you have it - your perfect inbound content topic".

Matt Jones, Co-Founder & Head of SEO at Akateko Digital

So, what content are brands in other industries creating?

"As an artisan spice and tea company, the best content for our customers is good, simple to follow recipes, showing them how to use spices to create amazing meals. We have also extended this to new brand ambassadors including chefs and food bloggers who regularly use our spices, and we also share their own recipes on the site".

 Sanjay Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen

  • Behind-the-Scenes Content

Behind-the-scenes (BHS) content can be a great way to humanise your company, by demonstrating that there are real people behind the brand. 

Product shoots make for great BHS footage, in fact you can even use this tactic as an opportunity to encourage sellers to pre-order your items.

Employee activity is another fantastic way to give your audience an insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes. This could be video footage, images, interviews with employees or even an employee takeover, where you allow a member of the team to manage your blog and/or social channels for a day or so. 

The key thing to remember here is that any engagement will indirectly have an impact on your SEO performance.

  • User-Generated Content

While the use of user-generated content (UGC) does extend beyond SEO, it can be a great way to build engagement around your brand, which subsequently increases page views and influences your ranking ability.

User-generated content is just that – content which has been created by your customers. This could be images, blog comments, product reviews, social media updates and so on.

The example below shows how Vans encourage their users to share Instagram photos of them wearing their Vans, using the hashtag #MyVans, for a chance to be featured on their site.

User generated content example Vans

Not only does UGC provide you with unique content and provide search engines with signals that your website is active, but it can also be a great way to understand the language your customers are using to describe your products and brand.

"If you are selling internationally, use your content to educate your audience on cultural nuances to add some diversity. One of the top selling products in an eCommerce business I ran was linen tea towels. They sold all around the world but were used very differently in different countries. For example, in the UK and Ireland, they were used to dry the dishes, but in Japan they were hung on the wall as decorative items.

We created a blog article around this and people were fascinated. It prompted them to engage on social media, posting images of how they used their tea towels and stories of how many years their tea towels had endured. This user generated content boosted social proof and encouraged other customers to talk about and share the content.

Using and encouraging UGC appeals to the audience's sense of trust of your brand and service. It is a great way to have fun interactions with your audience and lets them create the content and promote your brand in a manner that will appear more human and trustworthy".

Heather Harvey, Marketing Consultant at Fizzle Up Marketing

  • Buying and Comparison Guides

"Buying guides and comparisons are fantastic pieces of content to produce, as they target buyers that are intending to make a purchase. As an example, if an eCommerce website specialises in selling laptops/computers, you could create content for "Best laptops for students", "The fastest laptops" or "Best laptops for gaming".

These topics all deal with very specific issues and by offering tailored recommendations which address these issues, you create an opportunity to drive the searcher to your product pages; the searcher has been educated, nurtured and guided towards the right product for them.

This tactic is also fantastic for SEO. Information based content is much more likely to attract links than product or category pages, as the content is much more useful. By linking through to relevant pages from any content that is produced, you are ensuring some of the link authority pointing to any guides, articles, or tutorials is passed through to other commercially important pages such as products and categories.

You could leverage content marketing even further and turn it into a ‘trust signal’ that can be included on your main product pages. In the laptop scenario mentioned above, on a specific laptop product page, you could make it clear the product was recommended as one of the best laptops for students. This gives a very clear indication of who you think the best audience for the product is, which is a strong signal to any students looking at that particular laptop that the product is a great fit for them".

Zack Neary-Hayes, Freelance SEO and Digital Marketing Consultant

  • Virtual and Augmented Reality Content

There is a lot of talk about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) at present, which is largely due to how this technology is shaping marketing experiences.

Before I discuss how you can use this technology for your content marketing, it's important to understand the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality doesn't require the use of a headset. Instead, it overlays digital content onto the real world, simply through the use of a smartphone. 

Many eCommerce brands are in fact already using AR to personalise customer experience and increase sales. 

One popular example is beauty brand Sephora, which uses their Virtual Artist app to allow potential customers to try different make up looks before purchasing. 

VR - Sephora Example

If you're wondering how virtual / augmented reality will impact SEO, a key one will be through links and social sharing. Given that VR/AR is such a new area, now really is a great time to get on board and start thinking about how you could leverage this trend for your own business.

For more examples on how to use augmented reality in eCommerce, have a read of this guide

  • Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing not only helps to raise brand awareness, drive engagement and boost conversions, but it can also impact off-page SEO by securing authoritative inbound links.

What's perhaps even more powerful than solely working collaboratively with industry influencers, is working with the wider community. 

"In my experience the most successful tactic for content marketing will always be to provide engaging content that doesn't directly push the brand.

So, for example, one of my most successful marketing campaigns was for an outdoor clothing client.

One of the areas we discovered during our research was urban rambling and found that there were clubs based around the country. We therefore engaged with them and incorporated them into a specific content strategy.

This proved fascinating for the brand's customers and we got a lot of engagement around urban walking in cities such as London, Glasgow, and Birmingham.

I would always recommend getting to the heart of a community and working with influencers to create exciting content that goes straight to the heart of customer interest".

Chris Taylor, PR Manager at SALT.Agency

So there we have it - just about everything you need to know about using SEO for your online business. Ultimately, it's important to remember that eCommerce SEO is an incredibly broad area and not all of the tips and guidance included above will necessarily be relevant (or the best approach) for your particular business.

Do you have any advice that you'd like to share with the community about what works for your eCommerce business? How are you ensuring that your website pages appear at the top of Google? Drop us a comment below!

Complete guide to eCommerce SEO

Topics: Website Platforms, Marketplaces & Websites, eCommerce, eCommerce Website, SEO

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