May 23, 2024

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SEO For E-Commerce: Best Practices For 2022

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By David Hunter, CEO of Epic Web Studios and ASAPmaps in Erie, PA. He also co-founded dbaPlatform, a local SEO software.

Worldwide, consumers have bought into e-commerce. According to Statista, 2.14 billion people patronized a business online in 2021, with sales totaling a whopping $4.9 trillion USD, and by 2025, those numbers are projected to escalate to over $7.4 trillion.

It’s critical to note that 75% of online shoppers turn to Google for product research before making a purchase. What this means is that SEO is an absolute must for e-commerce. The odds are already steep—as of 2020, a meager 2.17% of e-commerce site visits ever convert. If your products don’t appear on any Google surface, those chances amount to virtually nothing (and it’s easier than ever to appear on Google with its live inventory tool, something I wrote about back in 2020).

Share And Structure Product Data To Appear In The Right Channels

Amazon’s share of e-commerce is staggering, especially in the U.S. where it’s responsible for more than 40% of all online retail dollars generated. The best way to stand up to a giant is to ride on the shoulders of another giant—Google. Products can appear on Google on any one of six surfaces (i.e., channels):

1. Google Search: Product information will be displayed in text on Google SERPs.

2. Google Images: E-commerce products can appear in Google Image searches and will be clearly distinguished with a product tag.

3. Google Lens: Product information can pop up when identified by Google Lens, Google’s mobile device camera app.

4. Google Shopping: An enhanced product listing may appear in the Google Shopping tab on mobile or desktop.

5. Google Business Profile (GBP): A Google Business Profile can operate simultaneously both as a listing and a miniature storefront for your products.

6. Google Maps: Products can be uploaded with inventory location data to trigger in Google Maps results.

Sharing Product Data With Google

One of the best SEO best practices for e-commerce (as far as Google is concerned) is to utilize the Google Merchant Center. Here, retailers can submit product feeds that are processed into the kind of structured data format Google finds most palatable. In its simplest form, structured data pairs an attribute with a value for easy referencing—for example, the attribute “color” with the value “blue.” The more information you provide about a product, the more likely Google is to pull it up for more specific search queries. A Google Merchant Center account is free.

Strategically Launching An E-Commerce Website

Naturally, you’re probably eager to launch your new product line or brand. However, to ensure better visibility in search results out of the gate, follow this SEO checklist for your e-commerce website:

• Have I verified site ownership through Google Search Console?

• Have I made a sitemap available to Google for indexing, either through a Robots.txt file or direct submission?

• Will I have products available at launch? (If not, you might consider a “splash” page or lander to build brand awareness and excitement in the meantime.)

• Do I have a plan for shipping products?

Gather Quality Product Reviews

Quality product reviews help build cachet both with search users (as social proof) and search crawlers (as a signal of prominence)—one of the SEO best practices for e-commerce is gathering more of them. More detailed and nuanced reviews (e.g., exhibiting knowledge about other products in the same category, from the same manufacturer/vendor, containing original images/videos) not only influence better click-through-rates (CTRs) but also feed Google more rich data with which to recommend related products and highlight distinguishing features.

Streamline URL And Site Structure

Another important aspect of SEO for e-commerce websites is “crawlability,” or the degree to which a page is navigable by web crawlers, such as Googlebot. This ensures all product pages are properly indexed. To facilitate this:

1. Structure URLs sensibly and consistently (according to category, subcategory, etc.), taking measures to prevent multiple URLs for the same content (e.g., a separate URL for a product’s SKU number) and to correctly identify product variants with the ?key=value URL parameter (e.g., color=blue). Otherwise, Googlebot may dismiss them as duplicate content.

2. Emphasize site navigation and internal linking. Ensure there are logical paths to follow between category, subcategory and product pages. All categories and major subcategories should be accessible through navigation menus. Google also recommends adding structured data to pages for additional context.

Button Up UX

If you have a large number of products, especially within a single category, there are a few routes you can take to incrementally load content, each uniquely affecting the user experience (UX):

1. Pagination: Splitting the products into a set number of results per page and giving users linked page numbers or cues (e.g., “next,” “previous,” “first” or “last”) for navigation

2. Load More: The user clicks a button to expand the initial set of results displayed

3. Infinite Scroll: Displayed products keep loading as the user keeps scrolling

It’s imperative to implement some type of incremental loading for page speed and adherence to Core Web Vitals. If you choose to go the pagination route, be sure to include <a href> tags to help Googlebot understand the relationship between page sequencing, to assign each page its own URL using a query parameter such as ?page=n, and to use the “noindex” robots metatag if your e-commerce site includes a filter function for the same list of results.

Ultimately, SEO for e-commerce boils down to organization. Whether your site is being viewed by humans or crawlers, make sure it’s structured according to a clearly defined internal logic.

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