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A Simple Guide to E-Commerce SEO

Most people get Ecommerce SEO wrong. They focus on ranking for uber-competitive high-volume terms.

Let’s say that you sell men’s clothing.

Here’s the most obvious term you may want to rank for:

mens clothing monthly search volume ahrefs keywords explorer

Estimated US monthly search volume for “mens clothing,” via Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

Let’s take a look at the top ranking pages.

ecommerce

Think you can outrank these guys? Sorry, but it isn’t going to happen.

So what’s the alternative?

Focus on ranking individual product and category pages for less competitive terms.

In this guide, I’ll show you how to do this from start-to-finish.

Getting Started

If you are running an Ecommerce store, then you should be using HTTPS sitewide!!

You’d be surprised how many Ecommerce sites still don’t do this.

asos no https

Here’s why this is super-important:

Almost all ecommerce stores feature many forms which collect personal details from users. So it’s good practice to make sure ALL information is encrypted (not just credit card details).

Google has also confirmed that there is a (slight) rankings boost for sites serving content over HTTPs. That’s one more reason to do this.

Read this guide to learn how to do this right.

Now let’s get started.

Part 1: Keyword Research for Ecommerce Sites

Like with all SEO campaigns, Ecommerce SEO should begin with keyword research.

Without this, you’ll be flying blind—relying on ‘gut feeling’ to drive your campaign.

But how do you do keyword research for an ecommerce site?

It’s quite simple, actually:

  1. List all the pages on your site;
  2. Find and map appropriate keywords to each page.
SIDENOTE.

Don’t have your ecommerce store set up yet? Keep reading—I have a hack to get around that in a moment.

And, yes… you should do keyword research on a page-by-page basis.

This is how I recommend doing keyword research for any website.

But with ecommerce sites, there are two main types of pages to optimize: category (example) and product (example) pages.

Each of these requires a slightly different approach.

EDITOR’S NOTE

In this section, I’ll be using the UK-based homebrewing supplier, The Malt Miller, for the examples.

the malt miller

So where do you start?

1.1. Get a Complete Inventory of the Pages On Your Site

Go to: yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

It should look something like this:

sitemap

NOT SEEING YOUR SITEMAP AT THAT URL?

Go to: yourdomain.com/robots.txt. This should tell you the sitemap URL.

Screen Shot 2018 06 07 at 11 07 23

NOTE. If you see the .gz file extension for the sitemap, remove it (e.g., sitemap.xml.gz -> sitemap.xml). Otherwise, it will download the sitemap rather than displaying it in the browser.

Use the Scraper plugin (Chrome) to scrape this list of URLs.

Here’s the XPath to use: //a[contains(text(),"{yourdomain.com}")]/@href

If you haven’t yet launched your Ecommerce site, do the same as above but for an existing competing site.

You can then steal their site structure, categories, and products as a starting point.

To find an appropriate site for this purpose, try this:

Keywords Explorer > enter a bunch of keywords (10–15) related to the stuff you’re planning to sell

keywords explorer brewing keywords

SIDENOTE.

Make sure to select the correct country.

On the left-hand menu, go to Traffic share > By domains

traffic share by domains

This shows you which domains get the most traffic from the search terms you entered.

Choose one of these (avoid big brands!), then follow the instructions above to scrape their sitemap.

Paste the results into a Google Sheet.

SIDENOTE.

If you did this for a competing site, it’s worth quickly looking through the list and removing any categories or products that are unrelated to what you plan to sell.

1.2. Prioritise Your Pages

At the start of this section, I mentioned that you should perform keyword research on a page-by-page level.

But I know what you’re thinking:

I have like a bazillion pages here! Do you really expect me to assign keywords to and optimize each page individually!?”

Yes, I do.

But I do understand that this can take forever, so here’s a quick trick:

Optimize the most important pages FIRST.

If you have Ecommerce tracking set up in Google Analytics, you can get a rough sense of the most important pages by going to:

Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages > sort by revenue (high to low)

google analytics revenue pages

SIDENOTE.

Don’t forget to segment this report so that it only shows organic traffic!

If not, use the same report and sort by traffic (sessions) instead.

If you don’t have Google Analytics installed (you really should!), or are doing this for a competing site (as you are yet to set up your Ecommerce store), try the Top pages report in Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Site Explorer > enter domain > Top Pages

ahrefs top pages

1.3. Find and Map Keywords to Each Page

Now that you have a list of prioritized pages, you can start finding and mapping keywords to each of them.

  • Head keyword (i.e., the primary keyword you want to optimize the page for)
  • Some long-tail variations (i.e., other keywords that may drive targeted traffic to the page)

Let’s start with the head keyword.

Step 1. Find a Head Keyword

Believe it or not, looking at the keywords you already rank for can be the best place to find an appropriate head keyword.

You can find these with Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Let’s try it for this ecommerce category page for an all-in-one brewing system, called the Grainfather.

Site Explorer > enter a page URL > Organic Keywords

grainfather malt miller

SIDENOTE.

Make sure you’re set to a “URL” search in Site Explorer. You can choose this from the drop-down.

Looking at these keywords, “Grainfather” (2.9K searches/month) stands out as a good head term for this page. After all, that’s what we’re selling here.

But let’s also hit the SERP dropdown and check out the top 10 ranking pages for this query.

Here, we need to check two things:

  1. What types of pages are currently ranking? Product pages? Category pages? Blog posts? Or something else? It’s important to go after keywords with the right search intent. If you see tons of blog posts ranking in the top 10, there’s no point trying to rank a product or category page there. That isn’t what people want, so it won’t work.
  2. Look at the top keyword. We display a top keyword for all top ranking pages in the SERP overview. Most of the time, you’ll probably find that the top keyword is the same for most of the pages in the top 10. It may also be the same as the keyword you’re currently considering for the head term. But sometimes, this can unveil an even better head term.

So let’s do that.

grainfather serps

Here are my observations:

  • Top 3 results are from the official Grainfather website. We ain’t going to outrank those.
  • 86% of the remaining results are ecommerce category or product pages. This is a good sign. It means there’s purchase intent behind this query.
  • The top keyword for every page is “grainfather.” So this is definitely a good head term.

I’m happy with this as a head term for this page. So I’ll add this to my spreadsheet.

head keyword grainfather

STRUGGLING? TRY THIS.

Sometimes things aren’t always this clear-cut.

To illustrate, let’s look at the Organic Keywords report for this page: http://www.asos.com/women/

asos women keywords

Not only is this ranking for over 4K keywords. But you can clearly see that a lot of them are either branded terms or have low search volumes (e.g., “woman store”).

None of these would make a particularly good head term. So here’s what we can do:

  1. Sort the Organic Keywords report by search volume;
  2. Scan the list for the most appropriate-looking head term for this page (use your brain/gut here!).
  3. Check the SERPs, see if product and category pages are ranking (if not, look for a different keyword).
  4. Locate the most similar page to yours in the SERP Overview that gets a ton of traffic.
  5. View the Organic Keywords report for that page.
  6. Repeat the steps above.

Quick demo (steps, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5):

GIF

Step 2. Find Long-Tail and Related Keyword Variations

Long-tail variations can be found in a few ways.

For starters, that same Organic Keywords report is often a good source of long-tail and related keyword variations.

long tail variations

Just remember to investigate the SERP for each one to make sure the search intent is similar — i.e., the top ranking pages are either ecommerce product or category pages).

Add any that look good to your spreadsheet.

long tail keywords spreadsheet

But again, this report can sometimes be overwhelming. So here’s a trick:

Keywords Explorer > enter your head term > SERP Overview

Copy and paste 3–10 of the top ranking product or category pages into the Content Gap tool and use these settings:

  1. Leave the “But the following target doesn’t rank for” field blank (for now)
  2. Keep the “At least one of the targets should rank in top 10” box checked.
  3. Choose “at least 2 of the below targets” from the “Show keywords that ____ rank for” drop-down.

Results:

grainfather content gap

Not only does this uncover long-tail variations, but also so-called semantically-related words and synonyms (e.g., “all in one brewing system”).

Let’s add that one to our spreadsheet.

grainfather lsi long tail

Rinse and repeat this entire process for each Ecommerce page on your site.

Get started today!