What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a process that you apply to your website to increase your visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). When a potential customer is looking for a particular item they will enter their query into a search engine such as Google. You want your website to rank highly for those specific terms and the products that you sell. The higher you rank in search engine results, the more traffic your website receives the more customers you’ll receive and therefore more sales. Many businesses pay for search engine rankings, using Google ads for example you set your budget, pay per click and select what keywords and search terms you wish to rank for. SEO doesn’t cost money, but in order to achieve organic reach you will need to maintain regular SEO, analyse your SEO performance on a regular basis and invest time into your website. You can use PPC alongside your organic SEO to enhance your reach, it depends on your budget and your sales targets. If your business is on a budget, SEO is a long term, cost efficient form of sales and marketing.
SEO is long term and ongoing. You can expect to wait at least 3 months before you start to see the effects of SEO that has been implemented on your website. Search engines need to understand what your business is, what it sells and who its audience is. Search engines can only process information that your website provides, through SEO you are regularly communicating to search engines such as Google, Bing etc all of the key aspects of your business. Regular, consistent SEO on your website feeds into search engine results and the results evolve with your site. This must be maintained regularly, a static website will lose its ranking in SERPs.
Online stores and businesses don’t have the advantage of footfall, without a physical premises the ways to drive customers to your store are much more complex, however the benefits is that your store can reach a much larger population from a much larger geographical scale.
Why does your ecommerce website need SEO?
If your business solely exists online and you sell your products via a website, SEO is crucial for gaining customers and growing your brand. Your ecommerce website is competing with a large pool of businesses, and the more broad your business is the more competitive it is. Women’s clothing businesses are highly competitive for example. Niche businesses benefit greatly from SEO as the competition pool is smaller and you can really narrow down your keywords and search queries.
High Competition: Women’s clothing store
Niche Business: Online store that sells vintage boardgames
5 SEO tips to increase website traffic to your online store:
1. Add keywords to your copy. - Write thoughtful product descriptions
Keywords are words or sentences that accurately describe an item, product or service on a website. Keywords are search terms and queries that a potential customer may use when using a search engine. Example of a keyword: “large green velvet cushion covers”. Keywords should be included in your website copy and product descriptions. Each page on your website has the ability to rank for multiple keywords, if your website has a lot of pages, a clothing store for example, your opportunity for keywords is much greater. If you have 300 products on your website and you apply keywords to each product description and pages, your on-page keywords will be vast. For smaller websites with fewer products or services, a way to increase the number of keywords on your website is to write regular blogs and articles.
It may be tempting to add as many keywords to your content as possible but your website will be penalised by search engines. Your keywords have to be relevant to the content on the page and are not duplicated or overused. Choose varied and unique keywords that are related to the content on the page.
2. Add alt-text to your images
The images on your website can also help towards your SEO. Each image will be ranked by search engines based on the image title and the image alt-text. Image alt text is similar to a keyword, it is a word or sentence that accurately describes the content of the image and relates to the content and keywords on the corresponding page.
Fig 1. is of a red t shirt. The title of the image would typically be “Plain Red T Shirt”. Your alt-text could be “plain red t shirt for men sizes S-XXL”
Alt text also helps website visitors with additional accessibility needs, for example those with sight impairment, a screen reader will read out the alt-text to the visitor so they know the contents of the image. Alt text will also be displayed if the image is not appearing or an image link is broken.
3. Write Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are snippets of information to describe the content of a page. Meta descriptions are shown on search engine result pages underneath the page title. See Fig 2. Meta descriptions need to be well written and engaging to encourage a visitor to click on your website in search engine results. This helps to increase your click through rate. A click through rate is how many people click on to your website in relation to how many impressions your website receives. Click Through Rate (CTR) is the number of clicks that your website receives divided by the number of times your website is shown in search results: clicks ÷ impressions = CTR
For example, if you had 3 clicks and 100 impressions, then your CTR would be 3%.
4. Get Backlinks
Backlinks are links to your website from other sources. This provides your website with additional authority, if other websites and businesses are vouching for you this counts as endorsement and shows search engines that your business is trustworthy and an authority on the subject or the products you are selling. It clarifies that your content is correct and accurate. The more backlinks you have will push you up the search engine ranking. There are many different ways you can get back links, but as they are valuable to your SEO strategy you have to provide a reason for other websites to link back to your website. Some ways to get backlinks includes guest blogs, reviews, mutual backlinking, press and newspapers.
5. Use Heading Tags
Headings are ranked in order of importance. A H1 heading tag is usually the main title of the page and website. Subsequent headings are used to organise large sections of text to make it easier to digest, each heading counts towards your on-page SEO. You should view your headings as similar to keywords, they should be relevant to the content and engaging.
Bad example of subheading: “Blue shorts”
Good example of subheading: “Why our Blue shorts are great for swimming”
Should only use one H1 tag on each page, it may seem like a good idea to make all of your headings H1 but this creates negative SEO effects. It is bad practice and is penalised by search engines. If you are structuring your website and content correctly your heading tags will come naturally.
SEO Bad Practice
Once you have optimized your site for search engines, it needs to be maintained. New key words, headings, content, images and backlinks to name a few will go a long way to increase your SEO long term. Don’t get into any bad habits or be lazy with your SEO, search engines use sophisticated algorithms to identify when a website is using SEO bad practice.
Examples of Bad Practice:
- Duplicated content
- Keyword stuffing
- Untrustworthy backlinks
- Too many H1 heading tags
Other things can also negatively affect your SEO such as slow loading pages, broken links, too many URL redirects, a lack of security and suspicious backlinks. Make sure your website is always performing at its best.
If you want to drive traffic to your ecommerce website and increase sales you need to communicate to search engines that your website is trustworthy and provides original content with clear descriptions and keywords. SEO is just one of the ways you can increase traffic to your online store, SEO should be part of your wider marketing and sales strategy. Remember to be patient with your SEO, if you are starting from the beginning with no SEO history it will take time to start seeing results.