Competition is quite fierce online, and it is imperative to get the highest rank possible for your website in search engine results. Even being on the first page is sometimes not enough when the niche is crowded, and you have to get to the top of the list to beat the competition. Top ranking means more visitors, which can convert into larger sales. Whether you have just started your business with a new e-commerce website or you want to improve the efficiency of your existing website, this SEO guide will ensure you are using the most advanced strategies for improving your ranking.
Why is Research Important?
The strength of your SEO strategy is tied with targeting the right keywords and knowing what your competitors are doing. To do this you need to do proper research into both these aspects.
How to Do Keyword Research
Your e-commerce website is going to consist of various pages, and the important ones are home page, blog, and product page. You need to focus on these three important areas when you are conducting keyword research, as you want to optimize these pages. When conducting keyword research the most important aspect will be relevancy, but you will also have to consider ranking difficulty and search volume of the keywords.
How to Research Keywords for Home and Product Pages
Starting with relevancy, you need to make sure the keywords are extremely relevant to the product or brand names you want to target. Taking the help of certain keyword tools will make your job much easier. The AdWords Keyword tool by Google is highly effective in finding the search volume for a particular keyword. It is better to focus on “Local Monthly Searches” column rather than the Global searches.
With the Google keyword tool, you will try to figure out keywords with almost exact matches to your product or brand, along with high search volume. However, you need to avoid keywords that are very competitive or are too broad. Look at the column marked “Competition”, and if it says High, it means many people are targeting that keyword, and it is going to take you longer time to climb up the ranking ladder. Secondly, if you choose a broad term, then visitors might be frustrated with not finding the thing they want, which will increase the bounce rate, and lower your conversions. For instance, if you were selling “brown leather boots”, you would want to avoid broad terms like “shoes”, “leather shoes”, or “boots”.
How to Research Keywords for Blog Posts
Developing effective blog posts gives you the opportunity to use additional keywords that cannot be fitted into the main website pages. If you select your topics wisely, your blog posts can greatly improve your ranking. Secondly, you also have a chance of using long-tail keywords. Such keywords consist of many words, and are more precise. An example of long-tail keyword would be “Macy’s lace up brown leather boots for women”. These keywords give you the opportunity to target specific products precisely, along with their model numbers, and so on.
If you use Moz Keyword Tool, you will find how long tail keywords consists major percentage of searches. People want to get to the page that has their precise product as soon as possible, and they include all the parameters into the search phrase in order to obtain results that are more precise. Hence, here too, you need to choose long tail keywords that have lower difficulty score, and a high match local search volume. After you have found these, you should go for highly relevant keywords with lower volume.
What You Should Avoid
After you have found the right keywords you would like to target, you should make sure that you do not stuff them in your content, whether it is a blog, home, or product page. Secondly, when you are developing content, keep in mind that you are addressing a human audience, and not simply writing for search engine spiders. You need to select interesting topics and the content should provide some value or solution to the reader. Now, Google also has made many changes to its algorithms, to find sites with good content, and penalize those that are poorly written or is overstuffed with keywords.
Another thing you should avoid is cannibalizing keywords. Keyword cannibalization means you are trying to rank multiple pages of your e-commerce website with the same keyword. Such a thing can be quite confusing for search engines, and they will only choose one of the pages that they feel is important for that keyword. This means only one page will appear in the search result, weakening your strategy for obtaining more traffic for the particular keyword. Hence, to avoid cannibalization of keywords, you should not be writing any blog posts that would target any of the keywords you have used for the other main pages of your ecommerce website. A good way to keep track would be to make a spreadsheet listing each of the pages and their keyword you want to rank. In the keywords column, no keywords should appear twice.
How to Research your Competition
Doing keyword research for your ecommerce website is only half of the job. You also need to do research about your competitors, who are enjoying portions of your niche. It is very hard to find a niche that has little competition, and almost all online entrepreneurs have to be vigilant about their competition and develop strategies to topple their domination.
Find Out About the SEO Strategy Your Competition is using
For studying the SEO strategy of your competitors, you need to find out the keywords they are trying to rank, the ranking strength of their domains, and the ranking strength of their web pages. Moz is an excellent Keyword tool to find this information easily. You need to install the free Moz toolbar in your browser, and you will get all the information you need when you are browsing the websites of your competition.
Moz toolbar provides critical analysis and information under three tabs; Page Elements, Page Attributes, and Link Data. Under Page Elements, you will find information about the header tags and Meta data of the webpage.
Under Link Data tab, you will find information about ranking, links, Domain Authority, and the Page Authority. If you find your competitor’s ecommerce website having much higher Page Authority or Domain Authority, you might want to rethink your SEO strategy and focus on slightly different keywords, as competing directly with exact same keywords will not only be difficult but also take a lot of time. Your strategy would be to look for keywords with lesser competition.
Inbound links play an important part in SEO and rankings. Google while ranking a page considers the number and quality of inbound links. To know the inbound links of your competitor’s ecommerce website you could use the Open Site Explorer tool, which will list all the links along with the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) of these websites.
Your objective would be to get these same inbound links, especially those that are coming from websites with high PA and DA. You could also try getting inbound links from your own company website, or through press outreach, blogger outreach and so on. However, make sure you do not try getting links from websites with poor DA scores. Getting such links will in fact hurt your rankings, as Google has a strong policy against link trafficking and purchasing links. If a bad website is linking to yours, Google presumes your website is also bad. Hence, you need to be careful from where you get your inbound links.
Even without any tools, you can make out low quality websites. Such website will have poorly written content, stuffed with keywords, and there will be many ads. Also, stay away from content farms, which are websites that accept posts from anybody. A content farm is a low quality link, and particularly disliked by Google.
To earn good inbound links, you need to focus on providing something useful to high authority websites, in exchange for the link. Some of the things you could do are design an excellent infographic, co-author some research study, provide a quote for story, or write an excellent guest post.
For ecommerce website, the following solutions are ideal –
• Press mentions
• Product reviews
• Building broken links
• Free ebooks
In link building, you should avoid the following mistakes –
• Repeatedly using the same anchor text
• Purchasing or securing links for websites having poor DA and PA
• Repeatedly linking to the same page without focusing on relevancy
Usually, it is not possible to have much control over which page is linked or the choice of anchor text. That is fine, when the website is a good one. If you are having contact and good relationship with the owner of the website, you could request for a certain anchor text. However, do not argue over the link or anchor text with authority sites, as that could hurt your SEO.
Study the Architecture of your Competitor’s Website
Consider the website architecture of your competition. Is it easy to navigate on their sites? How well do the links connect and how deep do they go? Typically, you should consider the following aspects in ecommerce website architecture –
• Categorization of popular products
• Products that are top rated
• Categorization of related products
• Navigation to products that are recently viewed
When you consider all these aspects, you will know how the top competitors in your niche are organizing their websites. Based on this information you could analyze your own website and find out aspects that may need improvements. You could modify elements or you could develop a unique approach, which you feel is more efficient.
According to many SEO experts, page that are deeply buried in the architecture do not get enough exposure to links, for them to be visible to search engines. However, upwards promotion of content in the architecture could have a significant impact on the overall ranking. You should consider all aspect and not simply copy the architecture of another website simply because they have the top brand.
How to Distinguish Your Website to Develop an Effective Strategy
The point is thinking of something that will make your website unique and better than your competition. For this, you could consider the following –
• Improving your site architecture and navigation so that it is more user friendly
• Making your site more social
• Adding a blog or providing more interesting posts in an existing blog
• Trying to create better inbound and out bound links
Identifying Issues that is Harming your Ecommerce Website
After conducting keyword research and gathering critical information about your competitors, it is time to analyze your website for issues that have to be solved to get a better ranking. While conducting such an audit of your website, you should focus on the following important aspects –
1) Finding and Fixing Website Errors
A website has a complex structure and many things can go wrong with its different elements. A tool like Screaming Frog can be very helpful in finding the different errors existing on your website. This free tool will crawl through your website and find issues from an SEO standpoint in the images, CSS, links, apps, and scripts. After analyzing your website, the tool will generate a report that will list errors, summary data, duplicate pages, redirects, missing tags, and much more.
You should try to make the following corrections immediately –
• Eliminate 404 pages by redirecting to existing content
• Change redirects of 302 to 301
• Remove duplicate content, and update meta titles and descriptions
2) Improving Speed of Your Website
People browsing the Web are not going to be patient with a slow loading website. Most people go back to the search engine and click on another website, which could most probably be the competitor. According to surveys, about 40% people will switch to another website if the page does not load within three seconds. Hence, you would not want to lose customers due to the slow speed of your ecommerce website. For testing your website for speed, Pingdom is a great tool. If you website speed is slow, then consider reducing the sizes of files and image on your site, change to another CMS, or purchase extra space on the server.
3) Optimize your Web Pages
Take all the actions needed for optimizing all your web pages. On-page optimization is the most direct SEO method for gaining better ranks. For achieving best on-page optimization you should consider improving the following areas –
• Structure of the website
• Keyword optimization
• Internal links
• Integration of social media
• Customer reviews
• Developing mobile version of the site
Testing and Analysis
After implementing the different SEO strategies, you need to test and analyze your website to see if your strategies have worked. To find out about the performance of your website you could –
• Use analytic tools to see which keywords are providing the highest conversions
• If you feel you are lacking proper keywords, conduct PPC campaigns to find the best converting keywords
• To improve click through rates, test your descriptions and meta titles
• Put your page content through A/B testing for increasing conversion rate from available traffic
When you conduct proper testing and analysis, you not only know if your SEO strategy is working, but you can also find what is lacking and do the right adjustments. Analytics should be a constant operation, as your ranking can drop anytime, and you need to correct the situation immediately.
Special Tips for Local Businesses
If you are running a brick-and-mortar establishment along with your online business, you should make sure you include full contact information of all your business locations you mention on your site. Information should also be shared with major business directories, and other relevant information books. Also, check out which directories your competition is listed in and try to include your business as well.
Location based keywords can especially be helpful when you are trying to target local crowds. Since organic and local search rankings are blended in Google, a website that is not doing well in organic rankings could be optimized for local rankings. There is even opportunity for promoting organic results by making improvement to factors that influence local rankings.
Using SEO Tools
Most of the tasks in SEO can be made much simpler and easier by using SEO tools. There is a huge variety of tools available and many of them are free. Here is a list of some of the best SEO tools that you should consider –
• Google AdWords Keyword Tool
• SEO Moz Keyword Tool
• Google Analytics
• Authority Labs
• Open Site Explorer
• Screaming Frog
• Citation labs