How to do SEO for E-commerce Websites

If you own an e-commerce website or doing SEO for one, let me tell you, it will give you a lot of headaches. Doing SEO for e-commerce websites takes a lot of time and effort because of the size of these websites. E-commerce SEO puts a heavy emphasis on technical and on-page SEO. If your website has hundreds or thousands of pages, the first thing that you have to remember is that each page presents an opportunity for SEO optimization.

If you’re reading this article, you are either planning on creating an e-commerce website or you are in the process of optimizing your current website but don’t know where to start. In this post, I’ll try to simplify the process of doing SEO for e-commerce websites.

Website Structure

Having an e-commerce website can be messy. I have seen a lot of businesses where they just keep on uploading new products until they realized that their website structure is so unorganized that it is almost impossible to untangle it. If you’re just planning on creating a new website, lucky for you. But if you’re already lost on your website’s structure, it could still be saved, but it will require you a lot of time.

Website structure for e-commerce websites uses the same principle for other websites. Your most important pages should be accessible in just 1 or 2 clicks. It should reflect in your website’s main navigation bar. 

In this case, aside from your landing pages, your product categories should be accessible with just one click from your homepage and your sub-categories and product pages should be easily accessible after that. This helps search engine crawlers understand the hierarchy of your website’s pages and it also makes it easier for users to navigate around your website.

Here’s a good illustration of how your e-commerce website should be:

Keeping a website structure like this also ensures that link juice is spread throughout your website. Most backlinks of e-commerce websites are pointed to the homepage. So you have to make sure that the homepage is linked to the important pages and so on. 

Keep in mind that the deeper your website gets, the authority of links gets diluted for pages toward the end of your website structure. Pages that are more than 3 clicks away from your homepage will receive less authority from pages 1 or 2 clicks away. 

Build your Keyword List

A good keyword strategy for e-commerce SEO is to divide your keywords list into three: Informational keywords, Transactional keywords, and Commercial keywords.

Informational keywords are what users use to look for news, facts, tips, and other information. Commercial keywords are queries where users are browsing their purchasing options but there is no intent to buy yet. While transactional keywords are used by users with the intention of purchasing. You could read more about keyword intent in this other post.

So how would you know which is which?

You could use the search results to give you clues on how Google understands the intent of a keyword.

Usually, informational keywords are long-tail keywords that ask questions like “how” or “what” and it will serve you articles or blog posts.

Commercial keywords are those that include terms such as “affordable” or “best”. This means that users are looking for a list where they could do some research first before they consider to purchase.

And last, transactional keywords include general product categories and product names. Users are already ready to purchase and Google will return product pages or product category pages in the search results.

The reason why you should diversify your list of keywords is that each type of keyword presents different opportunities. Having an e-commerce website means thousands of pages to optimize for keywords and each opportunity should not be wasted. We’ll talk about it more in the next sections.

Optimize Product Meta Tags

For e-commerce SEO, there are limited places you can put keywords on in your product pages and your main opportunity here is the page title. Your page title should include the keyword you are targetting for a specific product or category.

Yes, you read that right. Each page should have its own target keyword. Remember what I said in the intro about each page presents an opportunity for SEO? This is it right here.

To give you an idea, here’s an example. For a website that is selling vitamins and supplements, rather than just using Vitamins and Supplements for sale in the title tag, I placed keywords in each of the product category pages.

This gives the website more opportunities in the search results.

It is also important that you optimize meta descriptions for click-through rates. Without setting your own meta description, Google will randomly pull up texts on your product pages and it wouldn’t look good in the search results.  

Write Compelling Content

Even if the main focus of an e-commerce website is to sell products, content is still vital and you still need it to boost your rankings. 

Writing blog posts that target informational or commercial keywords will bring in traffic to your websites and you could use a call to action to drive people to purchase from your website. 

You could also use internal linking to bring users from blog posts to product pages and keep them on your website to get a higher chance of converting them.

Have Important Pages in the XML Sitemap

It goes without saying that your XML sitemap file should include all the important pages of your website. An XML sitemap helps Google identify which are the pages it should give priority when crawling.

One common mistake I see people make is that they don’t put their single product pages in their sitemap. You should always have your main product category pages and single product pages in your XML sitemap. You could leave subcategories behind. Always remember that for e-commerce websites, each page brings more opportunities so you should definitely let Google crawl them more frequently and with priority.

You could create a separate sitemap for products and content so you could better organize your links. You could then submit both sitemaps in Google Search Console to make sure both of them get crawled.

Use rel=canonical for Duplicate pages

Having many product categories or sub-categories can cause duplicate pages for your products which can hurt your SEO.

If a product is labeled in two or more sub-categories, some content management systems will create one page for each sub-category it is in and produce multiple URLs with the same content inside. You have to choose one page as the main/original content and use rel=canonical on the other pages.

Make your Shop Mobile-Friendly

E-commerce website owners would always want their shop to be virtually appealing to drive in more people, but virtually appealing does not mean efficiency.

When creating an e-commerce website, you should not compromise speed for the design, especially for mobile. A huge chunk of e-commerce sales is made from mobile and having a website that does not adjust well on mobile is a lost opportunity.

Apply Schema Markup

Having a proper schema markup for all of your product pages allows Google to display your product and its details in rich results. Using the product schema markup can make your products visually appealing in the search results and Google images to attract more people to go to your website.

If you accept reviews on your website, you could also apply the AggregateRating schema inside your Product schema so Google could show star ratings in the search results.

To get the proper schema markup accepted by Google, you can view this guide on how to apply product schema. You could also use plugins to automate your schema application. After the application, you’ll be able to see your valid product pages or errors in your schema markup in the “Product Report” on Google Search Console.

Optimize Images

E-commerce websites contain a ton of images, sometimes multiple images per product. Unoptimized images can heavily affect your website’s loading speed.

When uploading images, always try to compress your images to reduce its file size without decreasing its quality. You could also use tools to automate this process for you for images that are already uploaded by using tools or plugins so you won’t have to re-upload each image again. There are a lot of plugins out there but I regularly use EWWW Image Optimizer for our websites since we mainly use WordPress.

Another thing you should optimize is alternative texts for images or alt text. This is a good opportunity for image SEO. You could place keywords on your product images to help them appear in Google images.

Bonus: Submit your Products on Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant Center is a platform created by Google that allows business owners to upload their product details and allows it to be seen by users across Google’s other platforms such as Google search, Shopping Ads, and Shopping Actions.

It is really easy to upload your products and its an easy way of selling your products globally. You should definitely check Google Merchant Center out.


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Sean Si

About Sean

is a Filipino motivational speaker and a Leadership Speaker in the Philippines. He is the head honcho and editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker. He does SEO Services for companies in the Philippines and Abroad. Connect with him at Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Check out his new project, Aquascape Philippines.