As an eCommerce store manager you’re looking at a couple of strategies to get your products and shop easily found online. You’ll need to improve your organic search rankings and/or invest in an effective ad campaign. A well planned, balanced combination of the two is typically what I recommend to most clients.
From an economical perspective the search engine optimization (SEO) option is going to be less expensive over the long term. A properly initiated paid ad strategy will get you traffic and likely generate sales but you can’t afford to neglect the organic (non-paid) traffic that results from good product SEO. This is why striking a healthy balance between the two strategies usually works best.
Proper SEO for an online shop will focus heavily on your products. Your customers are searching online for the products they’re looking for. This is your opportunity to capitalize on the search terms/phrases that are directly related to your products and that customers are likely using in their online searches. For your products to show up well in their search results, your product pages need to be built with these specific optimized keywords and search phrases in mind.
Strengthen Local SEO
Regardless of whether you have a physical store or sell exclusively online, your business will benefit from utilizing both Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings. There are options within both listings that will allow you to hide your physical address (business location address) if you sell only online. Claim and complete your Google My Business listing and complete the verification steps. Claim and complete your Bing Places for Business listing and complete the verification steps.
Don’t stop there once you’re verified. You’ll want to insure your online shop web address (URL) is linked to the profiles appropriately as well. Important information like phone, hours of operation and business description information need to be entered accurately as well. You’ll want to revisit these valuable assets frequently so you can take full advantage of the exposure they’ll offer your online shop. You can even post photos of your products and list special offers as well.
Leverage Product Reviews
You’ve likely noticed how product reviews often show up in search results when searching online yourself. Not only do these reviews influence buying decisions but they can often impact which online shops search engines chose to display for specific searches. Having visible product reviews also makes online shoppers more likely to visit your website and purchase from you.
Don’t be shy about allowing reviews for your products out of fear of getting a less than stellar review. Unfortunately those can and do happen even to the best of retailers. Always respond appropriately, professionally and do your best to make things right if you do get a less than favorable review. Transparency goes a long way and most prospective buyers will still appreciate any shop that does it’s best to satisfy its customers.
The eCommerce shops that we develop and design for our clients all offer product review functionality along with options on how and where to display the reviews. Some are even automated, sending an email to the purchaser at a specified time interval after purchase asking that they leave a review. These work great and even better when using review incentives like reward coupons to use on their next purchase.
Google My Business reviews and your own online shop reviews are a great place to start when it comes to collecting reviews. Google reviews will also help to leverage your online shop’s organic placement in search. You may have noticed this when searching online yourself for products or services. You’ll see their star rating system at work. The product reviews on your website that properly utilize schema markup can also help your product page search rankings.
Optimize Your Product H1 Tags
The h1 to h6 tags are used to define HTML headings. Your h1 defines the most important heading while your h6 defines the least important heading. Contrary to a popular misunderstanding, these title tags are not to be used solely for styling purposes. Sure they change the font size and also make the text easier to read which is very important for your visitors but they also serve a couple of other critical purposes (covered below). The use and tweaks to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) allow web developers/designers to take standard heading tags and make adjustments to (color, font style, & font size). Don’t use your heading tags for styling purposes!
Heading structure is important for accessibility. For the visually impaired or blind who can’t read from a screen, a screen reader can understand the product text structure and read it out loud with properly implemented heading tags. Whether or not a distinct SEO advantage is to be derived from effectively using heading tags nowadays is a source of some debate. However proper usage of the H1 tag can only benefit your online shop and site visitors. Proper usage of the heading tags also adds value and clarity to the architecture of your content. You should only have one H1 title tag present on any product page.
Keep your product titles (H1’s) to 50-60 characters long or less. This prevents them from getting truncated in the search results. Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of an H1 title tag. You’ll want to create descriptive, (unique if possible) product titles as well. If you’re like a lot of clients we service and obtain product titles and descriptions from suppliers you’ll want to change these up somewhat. Use relevant product titles that clearly describe your product rather than attempting to stuff keywords. You can and should utilize keywords in your product titles when it makes sense but don’t force them into the product titles when it doesn’t fit and flow naturally in the text.
Optimize Your Product Descriptions
You’ll want to add proper, unique descriptions to your products. Craft your product descriptions with your shoppers in mind first and foremost, not search engines. More often than not what’s good for your shop’s visitors is also good for search engines. Search engines are designed to help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for. As long as your product descriptions align with this principle, you’re on the right track.
Add proper, unique and accurate descriptions of your products. If you don’t manufacture your products and rely on a supplier this shouldn’t be the same descriptions the manufacturer or supplier uses. Those same exact descriptions are likely used on other eCommerce shops all across the web. They’ll be considered duplicate content on the web and a sign of low quality for your online store (to Google and the other search engines). You’ll want to avoid duplicate content issues caused by simply copying and using the manufacturer and supplier descriptions.
It’s next to impossible to craft informative, accurate descriptions of a product unless you understand that product well. Limited knowledge of a product usually results in vague descriptions being used and ones that aren’t very helpful for your online shoppers. Strive to only use unique, descriptive content in your product descriptions that will actually help your customers in making their purchasing decisions. Be specific and accurate with your product descriptions. The more specific you are in your descriptions, the easier it is for your online shoppers to find the products they’re searching for.
While you’ll want to nail the features in your product descriptions you can’t afford to neglect the all important “benefits” of your products. Benefits describe how your product’s features will work for your buyer. The benefits specifically address the question of how your product will improve their lives. Using benefits wisely in your product descriptions is very helpful for your audience and will also serve to encourage the sale. Adding product benefits makes your product descriptions relevant to the buyer.
Examples of the types of information to include in your product descriptions:
- Special Features
- Technical Specifications
- Design (shoppers often search for very specific visual terms like “Black Stainless Steel Tool Box”)
- Variations (list product defining details like color, size, pattern, or material)
Ideally you’ll want to list the most important details in the first 160 – 500 characters. Be sure to include your product’s most important features, benefits and visual attributes.
While your product titles will and should always appear as an H1 heading, many eCommerce platforms like the ones we build for our clients also utilize various SEO modules and SEO plugins that allow for editing and improving your SEO (Meta Title). It’s worth mentioning that your SEO (Meta Title) doesn’t have the same purpose as your product title (H1). Your product title (H1) is meant for people that are already on your online shop viewing it. It’s telling them the title of your product (the readable title on the product page).
Your SEO (Meta Title) on the other hand, is meant for people who are not on your website yet. It’s what’s shown to people in the search engines. It’s the title of your snippet in Google and other search engines. That’s why it’s also a very important component in good product SEO. The purpose of your SEO (Meta Title) is to encourage people to click or tap the search snippet, visit your online shop and ideally purchase your product(s).
Your meta “product description” can be any length you want. Just keep in mind that Google and most search engines typically only show around 160 characters of the meta description in the search results. Your SEO (Meta Description) doesn’t have the same purpose as your on page product description either. Your on page product description is meant for people that are already on your online shop viewing it. It’s telling them the description of your product in all its glory (the readable description on the product page). Just like your SEO (Meta Title), the purpose of your SEO (Meta Description) is to quickly inform and encourage people to click or tap the search snippet, visit your online shop and ideally purchase your product(s).
Add well crafted meta descriptions to your products. Typically the product page contains a lot of general product specific information. To discourage search engines from simply using that text in a product description in search results, you want to add SEO (Meta Description) to your product pages. Ideally, no two of your product meta descriptions will be the same.
While meta descriptions can be any length, keep in mind that Google and other search engines generally truncate product description snippets at 155–160 characters. Keep your product meta descriptions long enough to be descriptive with your main goal being to provide descriptive value to the search snippet and also encouraging for online shoppers to click or tap.
While we’ve covered a lot of ground on the basics of good product SEO with this article, I’ve barely scratched the surface. If you’re serious about optimizing your online shop’s product pages and need help, you can reach out and take advantage of our evaluation audit for your online shop’s product SEO.
To truly maximize your online shop’s reach don’t focus solely on just the regular SEO and user experience. You’re going to need to dig a little deeper into the other important aspects of the product pages of your online shop. For instance, add product and offer schema. This equips Google to index all of the details about your product and then show these as rich results in search results. You can add a Google Merchant Product Data Feed and even get your products with images showing in results and ads.
eCommerce Product SEO Consultation & Project Quote
Let us help you boost your eCommerce shop with a quick and easy evaluation of your online shop’s product SEO. Simply use the form on the bottom of this page to send us your eCommerce product SEO questions or request your eCommerce evaluation audit for your online shop’s product SEO. You can even include a phone number (optional) and we’ll call you. Be sure to check out my eCommerce costs guide if you’re new to eCommerce and looking to launch your own eCommerce shop.
Best wishes on your eCommerce venture!
Mark D. Hulett is the Senior eCommerce Website Developer & Designer at Georgia Web Development. His experience and working knowledge of eCommerce website development, design and SEO spans more than a decade.