A Complete Guide to Technical SEO for eCommerce Websites

1. Research For the Right Keywords (Long & Short)

SEO starts with searching and choosing the right keywords for the website. SEO needs even more attention when we are dealing with an eCommerce website. The product names and categories might seem like keywords themselves. But are these enough?
How do we know the exact keyword that will put the website on the first page of the search engine results?

  • The first step is to make a detailed list of the products that will be available on the eCommerce website.
  • The next step is to start searching for the related keywords for each product.

Various tools make the process easy and effective. It will help if you list the keywords separately for each product page.

  • Do we use only the primary keywords?
  • Do we choose the shorter ones or try even longer ones?

We do both.
Once you decide the primary keyword for a page, get the long-tail versions of it. Pick at least one long-tail keyword that shows up in the top 10. There is an advantage in using long-tail keywords. The content would look like it has been stuffed with the primary keyword to increase the reach.

2. Prioritize the Pages for SEO

As we’ve mentioned above, it is crucial to prioritize the product webpages to get effective SEO results. An eCommerce website will have a lot of webpages. Working individually on each of them is time-consuming and tiring. But it is essential.
Is there a shortcut? Yes, there is!
Start with the important pages. Make use of Google Analytics to see which webpages are getting more hits. It will also tell us which products are more in demand and how we can promote them to increase the page hits. We can also check the page hits for competitor websites.
How does this help?
Well, if we are still building our eCommerce website, we have to rely on the knowledge of how competitors are faring in the market. It will help us give users what they are looking for rather than go by trial and error method. Then we pick the primary keyword and optimize the product page for it.
We will find the keywords and prioritize the webpages simultaneously. It helps us to build a comprehensive eCommerce website.

3. Plan the Structure of the Ecommerce Website

The primary goal of an eCommerce platform is to attract more visitors and convert them into customers. Sales and profits are a priority without any questions. That means that the website should be user-friendly and optimized for search engines. So, the question is, how do we achieve it?
The structure of the website determines its popularity in many ways. If a customer cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will go to another vendor.
Important webpages should be less than three clicks away from the homepage. If you have a small website, don’t add too many categories and subcategories.
Keep it simple and easy to understand. It will also have an impact on the structure of the URL. For example, if a customer is looking for an OTG oven, you either list it under kitchen gadgets, home electronics, or brands. You do not have to classify the categories into types of ovens further, and so on. It further helps in improved navigation of the website.
The homepage should have direct links to all the popular product/ category pages. It will make it user-friendly and reduce the bounce rate. Therefore, by structuring the details as a pyramid, we can create an eCommerce website that is easy to navigate and use.

4. Don’t Ignore the Structure of the URL

Indexing the URLs is essential for the crawlers to be able to detect the product webpage. When you structure the website, you’ll automatically be organizing the products into neat and distinct categories. The same should reflect in the URL.
Auto-generated URLs may not deliver the kind of results you want. If the URL doesn’t have a keyword, doesn’t show where it is leading, how will the crawlers identify the webpage?
Imagine the URL leading the customer to a smartphone by brand X. If the URL has a random text or jumbled alphabets, the crawlers will not know what it means. It will affect the SEO results. Not just search engine bots, even humans who look at the URL wouldn’t know where it is taking them.
On the other side, imagine an URL that clearly shows the path by listing the category, brand name, or product name. How hard would it be to identify the product webpage?
When customers search for a page they have already visited, the search engine will show them this link. It’ll help in bringing visitors directly to the product webpage rather than going round and round. So, the structure of the URL plays a vital role.

5. Get the Overall Site Architecture Right

The best way to improve the overall site architecture for an eCommerce website is by getting the product pages and URL structure the right way. These are related to the website’s pyramid design or hierarchy as we call it. Whether we are designing a new eCommerce website or re-designing an existing one, spending time on the hierarchy will surely help in optimizing the website for search engines.
The basic hierarchy should have

  • A home page,
  • category pages,
  • subcategories (if necessary), and
  • Product webpages (in that order).

Every product webpage, its URL and description, should include the primary keyword (for the product) and the primary keyword for the eCommerce website.
Schema markup is another aspect to keep in mind. It explains to the search engines what the data on the website means rather than simply showing the text.
Use schema markup to display details such as the customer ratings, price of the product, and stock information. It will give the search engines more details about the website.
Google will naturally give more preference for a product page with better ratings and additional information.

6. Increase the Speed of the Ecommerce Website

In today’s world, no one is going to wait for the website to load. When it comes to eCommerce websites, it becomes even more important to load the website fast. Why is that?
An eCommerce website needs to be detailed and attractive. It needs to have clear images of the products., and videos. All these increase the time taken to load the website. It will annoy visitors who have to sit until the webpage gets downloaded.
Also, the speed of the website is one of the top ten factors that search engines consider when ranking the website. From both technical SEO and marketing perspectives, website speed has to be optimized and increased. There are quite a few ways to increase the speed of the eCommerce website. Let us talk about them:

  • Compress images without reducing their quality.
  • Use simple yet effective templates for the product webpages.
  • Multiple redirects reduce the speed of the website. Avoid it.
  • Keep the server response time less than 200ms.
  • Use CDN (Content Delivery Network) tools to increase website speed.
  • Enable browser caching so that you can store some of the website details on the visitors’ device.

7. Create a Mobile-friendly Ecommerce Website for SEO

Famous search engines like Google have been giving more importance to mobile-friendly websites. They changed the algorithm back in 2015 to include this factor.
Google started penalizing websites for not being mobile-friendly. When designing eCommerce websites, the focus invariably falls on having a mobile-friendly template. After all, more than 50% of visitors use their smartphones to check the website.
So how do we check if the eCommerce website is indeed fitting the bill? That’s easy.
There are a few test tools that help us in determining the mobile-friendliness of a website. Some test tools also offer suggestions to make the website better. Google has one & Bing has one. There’s HubSpot’s website grader as well.
A Technical SEO audit will analyze the website for errors and show the status of the website. The SEO experts can use the data to make necessary changes. You need to remember that a mobile-friendly eCommerce website is user-friendly and search-engine friendly. When both factors ticks, the website rank is bound to increase (also considering other aspects).

8. On-Page SEO and Ecommerce Websites

Website structuring is all well and good, but what about the data on the product pages?
Ultimately, on-page SEO has a vital role to play in deciding the reach of an eCommerce website. We have the keywords ready. We have the hierarchy ready. Now, let’s start putting it all together.
The primary keyword for each product page should be included, even in the meta titles, meta descriptions, and H1’s (Heading 1). There is a readymade template many eCommerce websites are already following. It does make the job faster. But is it effective? We can’t say for sure.
When every eCommerce website follows the same procedure, they will all get the same kind of results.
For a website to be successful, it needs something more, something extra. Does it mean that you need to write each product pages separately?
Yes. If not, we follow the same approach as before. We select the most important pages and write optimized tags for these. For the rest, we go with the templates. That said, using the same template for every product page is a sure way to minimize the results. Pick different templates and use them for a limited number of product pages.

9. Create Unique Webpage Content - Product Description & Categories

An eCommerce with copy-pasted product descriptions is probably the most boring one. It will be boring for both customers and search engines. Ecommerce SEO is about using keywords to create unique and refreshing content for the product pages. One way to understand how to create attractive content is by analyzing the competitors’ websites. Mainly focus on the big names in the market.
Adding content to product pages will not be enough to optimize the website. Conduct technical SEO audits to check the category pages. A category page with no content doesn’t sit well with the search engine algorithm.
We might feel like pulling out our hair (there’s a lot of uniqueness we need to bring to the content, isn’t it?). But at least focus on the important pages. Having a set of guidelines might make it easy (or not)-

  • The primary keyword should be in H1 and the description.
  • Keep the content short and to the point.
  • Write in a clear and easy-to-understand language.
  • Don’t forget to include long-tail keywords, LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing), and synonyms.
  • Make it appear natural. Google is penalizing websites for keyword stuffing.

10. Fix Product Images - Loading Time and Hyperlinks

Where did we mention product images before? Oh, yes, when talking about the website loading speed. We said how image compression could help us retain the quality of the image while reducing its size.
An image of a smaller size will take less time to load. But is it easy to compress images?
Not really.
Compression is much more than resizing an image to fit the required dimensions. The best way to handle this would be to use professional image compression tools.
You can do this, but here’s another question.

  • Can search engines see what the image says or means?
  • Can the search engine algorithm read an image and use it to decide the website rank?

No. The search engines rely on the metadata to understand what the image is about.
Now, if we named a file as abcxd.jpg, what can the search engine understand from it? Nothing, right?
We should also focus on the image alt text (alt descriptions) that are used in the HTML code to describe an image.
By adding alt text tag to the images, we are telling the search engines what the image is about. Keep it simple and use the primary keyword to optimize the alt text. It greatly helps.

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11. Data Structuring for Greater Visibility of Products

Having useful and relevant information is not enough. You need to structure it in a way for the search engines to grasp the meaning immediately and push the eCommerce website to the top of the search results.
Schema markup is one way to attract more attention. The details provided by this are known as rich snippets. As the name suggests, the snippets share valuable information about the product on the search engine results page. This data is available right with the URL of the product webpage.
When users see a product page with 5-star reviews and an affordable price (or a great discount), they undoubtedly, are more inclined to visit the page and check the product. So, Google pushes up such a product webpage to the higher places in the SERPS. It will automatically increase website rank.

12. Give Importance to Website Crawls

Search engine crawlers are those tiny spies that see how the website is performing and thereby influence the search engine algorithm. While the crawl budget is important for every website, it becomes prominent for eCommerce websites.
What’s an eCommerce website without hits and sales? It’s as good as a closed store.
The crawl budget is the number of categories, and product webpages the bots visit on a single day. A low crawl budget implies a poorly performing website.
We can check the status through Google Search Console.

We can try the following-

  • Work on the URL structure (maybe it is not as clear as it should be)
  • Fix broken links (Links that lead nowhere are a big no for an eCommerce website)
  • Identify and remove duplicate content (we’ll see how to do it in the next point).
  • You need to update the sitemap regularly.
  • Avoid redirection errors (we’ll see this one too)

13. Tackle Duplicate Content Issues with Canonical URLs

Gone are the days when we could add random content to the website and aim for a higher search engine rank. Google constantly fine-tunes its algorithm to promote only those websites that offer quality content. It can get tricky for eCommerce websites with similar products. We cannot get away with duplicate content anymore.
But how can we delete these webpages?
Product webpages are always separate for a reason. And to write unique content for hundreds and thousands of them is impossible. There must be a way to work around the issue, right?
Product reviews, shopping cart pages, and internal search results are some common areas where you find the duplicate contents. By using canonical URLs, we can identify duplicate/ multiple webpages for the same product.
The canonical URLs allow us to retain similar product webpages without affecting the rank of the eCommerce website. By using a WordPress plug-in, you can add a rel-canonical tag to the web pages. You can do it by entering the original URL. It will not only save the website from a penalty for duplicating content but will also increase the crawl budget.

14. Work on Robots.txt File for Ecommerce SEO

While increasing the crawl budget is essential, we also have to ensure that the bots visit only those pages that will help in increasing the website rank. Ecommerce websites will invariably have webpages that you cannot delete them but don’t help with SEO as well.
We have to do something about these pages.
Don’t we?
Robot.txt files are also related to the crawl budget issues. The files contain a list of webpages that the crawls should not visit. Some Pages may contain sensitive user information (user accounts). You have to block or hide them from the crawlers. Other webpages like the cart, login, and check out also have to be kept hidden from public view. After all, a customer’s confidential information is at risk here.
What with Google becoming an expert at identifying and indexing webpages, many websites have stopped using Robots.txt. But eCommerce websites cannot afford to do the same. They have to compulsorily make use of Robots.txt to safeguard the sensitive pages from being displayed during the search engine results.

15. Fix Broken Links and Redirecting Errors

What is a broken link? Simply put, it is a link that goes to a 404 page or nowhere. The link tries to find a destination and will finally display the famous ‘404 Page Not Found’ error. It could lead to adverse results in terms of eCommerce SEO and marketing.
Visitors don’t like not finding what they want on an eCommerce website. They will simply go to the competitor’s website. Search engine algorithms also avoid websites with such pages.
But how can we find the broken links?
With countless products listed on the website, anything could have gone wrong. Well, there’s no need to worry about it. WordPress has a plug-in called Broken Link Checker. Install and run it. Other websites can use this checker.
The plug-in doesn’t just check the website once. It scans the website every 72 hours. For an eCommerce website, this is a great way to ensure that the links are all working and leading to the right product pages.
Redirecting errors also affect your eCommerce SEO rank. The server might sometimes fail to process the request or respond in time. The server might end up redirecting the user elsewhere. It’s vital to track these errors and prevent them from affecting the website rank.

16. Internal Links are Crucial for eCommerce Websites

We know by now that links are an inherent part of the website. They play a major role in increasing visibility and bringing more hits. Ecommerce websites will have many links. Thanks to the numerous category and product webpages we create.
How can we use internal links to optimize the website for search engines?

  • The home page will have internal links to the category pages.
  • Each category webpage will have links to subcategory pages or product webpages.
  • The product pages have links back to the category page for easy navigation.
  • There will a link to the reviews page.

Each customer review has a specific link allotted to it. A randomly generated number usually denotes the reviews.
Depending on the keywords entered in the search engine, we can see some of the internal webpages popping up on the results page. It is quite common for eCommerce websites. It allows the not-so-popular webpages to get some visibility, which boosts the SEO of the website.

17. Try to Gain External Backlinks from Manufacturers

The best way to get a backlink is directly from the manufacturer of the product. Not all of them sell the products online. They rely on eCommerce websites and digital marketplaces for online sales. Get the manufacturer to recommend the eCommerce website on their ‘where to buy’ page.
They can list the website along with the addresses of the physical stores that stock the products. But how we find them? We can’t possibly search for every manufacturer on the internet. We will have to. However, you can do it without too much effort.
Enter the brand name followed by Intitle:“where can you buy?”. Or enter the brand name followed by Intitle:“stockists” in the Google search bar. Check out which manufacturers list the sellers and contact them to add the direct URL to the product page on their website.
A reference link mentioned on the manufacturer’s website does have more weight in terms of marketing. And if it is bringing more hits to the website, the search engines will consider it.

18. Check Who Does the Competitor Link up with?

Backlinks are effective for SEO when done the right way. Though the search engines say that they do not consider backlinks when ranking websites, we cannot ignore the reach a backlink provides. Also, the presence of the website on other platforms will boost its visibility.
We’ve seen how backlinking through manufacturers is useful.
You can tell the same for other websites and blogs. These are usually called affiliate links by bloggers.
An eCommerce website can tie up with an influencer to include a direct link to the product page.
Bloggers can promote and advertise the product. Also, they can add a note saying that purchasing through the affiliate links will get them a small commission.
Sure this is good, but the results of this move will depend on the website or blogger we’ve chosen to connect with. Check out whom the competitor is working with and approach them with a proposal.

19. Perform Regular Technical SEO Audits

A technical SEO audit will help us in keeping track of the overall performance of the eCommerce website. From broken links to errors, warnings, and issues, we analyze everything and create a comprehensive report. There are various tools in the market that allow us to run technical SEO audits. Even SEO experts make use of the tools to get the job effectively done.
The following is a short checklist for a technical SEO audit of an eCommerce website.

  • Check indexed pages (what is the default page showing up on the search engines?).
  • Track organic visits (can be checked through Google Analytics).
  • Check brands and branded terms/ keywords (do they appear where they should?).
  • Is the eCommerce website mobile-friendly?
  • Which links did Google store in its cache?
  • Check on-page SEO (titles tag, and metadata).
  • Check URLs and their descriptions.
  • How’s the content on the important pages? Are the keywords effective and used in the right way?
  • Did we come across any duplicate product pages?
  • What is the ratio of content to images on the eCommerce website?
  • How is the site architecture? What about JavaScript, cookies, and CSS?

20. Ensure Your Ecommerce Website Has an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate proves that the website is secure and safe to use. An eCommerce website needs to prove that users can safely conduct their financial transactions on their website. The reason is that the users will enter their confidential information to order their favourite products.
Also, back in 2014, Google said that an SSL certificate would result in a higher website rank. Having the HTTPS tag instead of plain HTTP shows that the website is encrypted. We can also find a small padlock symbol towards the left side of the URL. It denotes that the site is secure. A sure way to boost the eCommerce website rank would be to get the much-needed SSL certificate. More than 50% of the search engine results are secure websites.
Moreover, how many visitors would risk their bank account details or credit card information on a website that shows as ‘not secure’?
Antivirus software also warns users about such websites. Some antivirus solutions even block websites that are without SSL certificates.

Relevant : Importance of SSL/HTTPS for an Ecommerce Website & Its effects on SEO

A good eCommerce website is the one that ticks all boxes of technical SEO requirements. Make sure it is also working as marketing strategies to attract more visitors and convert them into customers.
Do you own an eCommerce store? Drop your details to get a free technical SEO audit for your eCommerce platform.

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Naomi Wilson

Naomi Wilson has been in the digital marketing industry for more than seven years. She has helped companies such as Kellogg, Best buy, Honeywell to improve their online presence. She is an expert in writing high-converting content, especially for ecommerce sites.

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