SEO in an online shop – how to cost-effectively generate profits using free traffic
Everyone who sells on the Internet wants their sales platform to be as well prepared for popular search engines as possible, because this will simply translate into higher and faster profits. It is clear that on the first page of the results of any popular search engine a fierce battle for the user’s attention takes place between paid ads and organic results, not supported by an advertising budget. While being present in the former is a matter of a properly configured Ads campaign and media budget, appearing in the organic results is more complicated, as it requires efforts in several key areas. Awareness of their importance, role and scope will allow for effective investment of financial resources and use of one’s own time for the development of an online shop – regardless of the industry or product range offered.
At the height of the pandemic, online shop owners took various steps to drive traffic to their eCommerce sites. It was a period of intense changes in both consumer behavior and average basket value – and these forced online shop owners to take on completely new challenges and deal with a truly large number of obstacles – both in the area of invested budgets and competition. Promotional activities depended on the scale of the business and its potential during the pandemic. This also applies to the steps taken in organic traffic acquisition, or SEO. And in many cases it turned out that investing in this channel was the right choice – provided, of course, that the implementation of activities was based on a well-thought-out, long-term strategy, excluding randomness and succumbing to temporary trends. SEO is an area of eCommerce that is often one of the most important sources of traffic (and ultimately sales), so in order to reap ever-increasing profits from free traffic from search engines it is worth paying special attention to. Below, an overview of SEO activities is presented, divided into those that an online shop owner can confidently carry out on their own, and those that are better left to experienced experts.
As the name suggests, it involves technical knowledge related to the structure of the website’s code, but also knowledge about how crawlers behave on the website. While some elements belonging to this area can be analyzed by the shop owner themselves, and sometimes even repaired by themselves, the lion’s share of the technical audit can only be performed correctly by so-called technical SEO.
As SEO is like a closed book to many people, let’s start with those activities that, with a bit of will and focus and regardless of the level of knowledge or skills, every eCommerce owner can do on their own.
Page load time
From the SEO point of view, this is an extremely important element – page load time is a ranking factor, which in practice means that Google ‘promotes’ sites that serve their resources quickly to users. We can check the page loading time using the online tool pagespeed. This tool evaluates the loading of the page according to a score: from slowest to fastest, and a fast site can get a maximum score of 100. A score below 50 should prompt action to improve the aspects identified in the tool. The speed improvement itself, however, should be entrusted to a specialist who is able to make the appropriate improvements directly in the code of the website or in the server configuration.
Indexing of subpages
Another important element is the degree of indexation of the web shop’s subpages, i.e. enabling them to be displayed in search results so that they are visited by both users and search engine robots. All website owners want potential customers to be able to find the home page of their shop, the subpages of categories, subcategories and available products in a search engine and therefore it is these subpages that should be indexed. It is important to ensure that users do not land on pages that return a 404 error or subpages for discontinued products. Such site locations should be blocked from indexation. What the shop owner can do here is to analyze the search results themselves and check whether the search engine displays exactly the subpages they want to ‘serve’ to users, and also whether unnecessary or outdated records have appeared in the results. To do this, type the command ‘site:ourshopdomain.com’ into the search engine, inserting the correct domain name in the example. This allows for checking whether the search engine index lacks valuable subpages and which of the existing links should be de-indexed. Having a list of such subpages ready, the shop owner can hand them over to a specialist, who will use appropriate directives in the source files of the website to sort out the indexation.
Making it mobile-friendly, i.e. Mobile-First Indexing
Adapting the shop to the requirements of use on mobile devices is another important issue. It is worth knowing that Google promotes websites friendly to mobile users, i.e. those using the search engine on a smartphone or tablet. Importantly, it is the accessibility and mobile-friendly interface that becomes more important to search engine robots than the desktop version of a website. What does this mean for eCommerce shop owners? Above all, the need to adapt their services for mobile searches. To verify whether an online shop complies with the Mobile First Indexing guidelines, simply go to https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly and enter the address of the online shop in the box visible there. If the result indicates that the website is mobile-friendly, the shop owner can breathe a sigh of relief. If, on the other hand, a message indicating errors in this area appears, the support of a specialist will be required to help eliminate these problems.
The area of technical SEO covers many more elements. Everyone who cares about a full analysis of an online shop and elimination of all errors that make it difficult for search engines to ‘understand’ a given website should use the services of professionals. They will carry out a full technical analysis of the shop together with recommendations for implementation or improvement.
Website content, and in particular on-page text, has a significant impact on the visibility of a website in search results. Its proper optimization, i.e. saturation with key phrases used by Internet users to search the web for information of interest to them, is essential to achieve high search engine positions. This, in turn, translates directly into generating traffic from search engines and, ultimately, into sales.
Placing appropriately matched key phrases in the content of product descriptions, categories, headings and metadata will increase the chances that the online shop will be visible in search results for users interested in the goods available there. Owners of eCommerce sites can do some of this work themselves, based on available online tools and their own experience and knowledge of customer interests.
Analysis of popular key phrases
The first step here is to find the keywords most frequently typed into the search engine by users when they want to purchase an item. These will primarily be any words that literally describe the product, such as ‘women’s shoes’, ‘swimwear’, ‘natural cosmetics’, etc. However, in some industries, such generic phrases may not be enough to increase a shop’s online visibility, due to their highly competitive nature. You should then go one step further and look for keywords that more closely define these products. These will be, for example: ‘women’s shoes for summer’, ‘two-piece swimwear’, ‘women’s natural cosmetics’. If appropriate, it is certainly advisable to deepen the search for phrases and use different variants and configurations of words. Again, free versions of dedicated tools, such as https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest/, can help with the analysis. With the free version of the tool, you can perform several queries to check the potential (average monthly number of searches) of specific phrases. Simply enter a generic phrase relating to your business or offer, and the tool will suggest other keywords worth including in your strategy for targeting organic traffic. Another inspiration for finding key phrases by which users can get to the online shop is the Google search engine itself – by entering a general phrase in the search field, it prompts us with other popular queries. However, if the shop’s range is extensive and the offer is highly competitive, it is worth performing an in-depth keyword analysis, using paid tools or engaging an SEO specialist.
Once you have created a list of popular phrases, you can proceed to optimize the various sections of your shop according to them.
Content optimization for key phrases
This should begin by reviewing the individual subpages of the online shop, checking whether they contain the right amount of text and whether it is sufficiently saturated with key phrases. Make sure that subpages of categories, subcategories and products have unique content – this, in addition to valuable information for the potential customer, will also indicate to search engine robots which key phrases they should appear for, determining how users get to a particular subpage from organic traffic.
What can be done here without the help of a specialist is to prepare a list of subpages that require content creation or those with content that needs to be enhanced: expanded, rephrased or saturated with keywords. It is the shop owners who know their product range and its specifications best and who have the most reliable and complete knowledge of the products on offer. So if they are able to prepare the necessary content themselves, this will certainly bring many benefits. On the other hand, the saturation with keywords, their placement in the content, in headings, in metadata and other text elements, should be consulted with an SEO specialist. This is because the effectiveness of this action and full use of the potential of the key phrases used will largely depend on it.
As far as online shops are concerned, one of the most effective ways to use content is to maintain a blog, where the shop in question will share with users interesting facts, information and advice about the products it offers. Blog articles should be optimized for key phrases, but here it is important to skillfully match them to the topic and not duplicate them with those used in the optimization of sales subpages (categories, subcategories, product pages). While the content itself can be prepared in-house, the selection of appropriate key phrases or even topics in accordance with seasonal trends should be consulted with a specialist. This ensures the creation of valuable content for users and, with its help, makes it possible to increase the shop’s visibility in search results.
Link building is the acquisition of links from other sites that lead to the online shop. As this is an extremely important part of the operations, it should be carried out closely under the guidance of an SEO specialist. Incompetent execution of a link building campaign will not only result in a lack of effects but may even harm the shop’s domain.
Links from partners’ websites
One way to increase the number of links leading to the online shop is to ask partners (wholesalers, suppliers, resellers) to place a link to the shop on their websites. If a given partner expresses willingness for such cooperation, it is worth using the help of an SEO specialist who will indicate how, in what form and where on the website such a link should be placed.
Links from blogs
If marketing activities include campaigns with bloggers or influencers, it’s worth ensuring that they link to the client’s shop as part of each such activity. As with links from affiliate sites, the support of an SEO specialist will be extremely helpful.
Paid links campaign
One of the most important elements of the SEO strategy for an online shop should be a regular link building campaign, which enables building a link profile that is valuable from the point of view of search engine robots and the link profile. Both in Poland and abroad, it is common practice to obtain paid links from services offering the possibility of buying them from another domain, for example in the form of a mention in an article that is related in terms of topic to the shop. However, this should be done very carefully, as the temptation to buy a large number of links that can accelerate the effects of SEO activities may prove disastrous – at best, you will end up spending a lot of money on links that will not contribute to the increase of phrase position, organic traffic and ultimately sales; at worst – feeding the domain with inappropriate links, which will lower the value of the domain for search engine robots. In order to make sure that the link building campaign will be carried out in accordance with the best SEO practices, it is worth entrusting it to a specialist to select appropriate websites – taking into consideration their quality, relevance and the so-called ‘SEO power’ they can provide to the domain.
Building a strong position for an online shop in organic results requires a properly prepared and implemented SEO strategy, including technical, content and link building aspects. To a large extent, online shop owners can diagnose areas for improvement on their own and, without the help of a third-party specialist, take care of it themselves. However, in order to derive maximum benefit from SEO activities and to fully exploit the potential of the shop, it is worth consulting a specialist in this field on an ongoing basis, and to entrust part of the work to them entirely. This will ensure that the money and time invested will result in real benefits and generate more profit.