Your SEO ranking is determined by many factors, some of which you can control and some of which are influenced by your readers, shop visitors, and other publishers on the web. The factors that you can’t directly control are called off-page factors, and include things like the number of links to your online shop from outside websites and the quality of those websites themselves.
On-page SEO ranking factors are what you can control. These include:
Have you researched the keywords that people are using to search for you on the web? We’ll talk more about how to do this later, but once you have these keywords, it’s important to pepper your texts with them consistently so that all your pages contain the words that you hope to be found for.
Are your blog entries, articles, and the copy on your online store all well-written? Do they offer the user information of value?
The quality of your articles will affect this, which will in turn affect your SEO: do people stay a while and read your articles, or do they click and ‘bounce’ away quickly? A high bounce rate on all your posts could indicate articles with click-bait titles that turn out to have no substance. Search engines notice that people either stay to engage with your quality content or leave in a hurry, and this will affect your search rankings accordingly.
This doesn’t just mean having pages that were added recently -- at least weekly, ideally -- it also encompasses the “freshness” of your content. Are they about “hot” topics?
Do your HTML title tags contain the relevant keywords to your topic? Do your meta description tags properly describe what each page is about? Are your URLs ‘clean’ (meaning relatively short), and do they contain relevant keywords to your topic?
Negative on-page factors that can hurt your SEO ranking include:
Are your pages advertisement-heavy, especially ‘above the fold,’ causing readers to have to scroll down to find any actual content? Though no one says you can’t have ads on your website, try to strike a balance that users find your page enjoyable, rather than annoying.
Don’t try to trick Google into giving you a higher SEO ranking by hiding your keywords throughout your page through clever colours or design. Doing the work to create content that is useful, on-brand, and incorporates your keywords organically works much better than trying to ‘hide’ keywords at the bottom of your website by putting them in the same colour font as the background.
It’s true that we’ve said you need to find the best keywords for you and stick to them, but don’t overdo it. Also known as ‘stuffing’ your content with keywords, writing an article that consists of 50% SEO keywords is not quality content. Your readers will notice, search engines will notice, and your SEO ranking will suffer.
Now that you know the most important factors that you can control to boost your SEO ranking, let’s discuss some tips and tricks to get search engines pointing users to your online store like never before.
SEO is all about using the keywords that people use to find you in your own content, so that search engines rank you higher. But how do you know what the right ones are? Don’t just guess, go through the process:
1. Brainstorm keywords that describe your top 5 or 10 products
2. Find qualifiers to come up with “long-tail keywords”. There are words that help make your keywords more specific, such as price points (“discount” or “sale”), quality signifiers (“luxury” or “handmade”) or even location (“London”). If, for example, you’re a London-based accessories shop for a younger and cosmopolitan audience, you could go from the keyword “jewellery” -- which will have hundreds of millions of search results -- to “teen jewellery London,” which only has a million and a half hits on Google.
3. Test our your ideas with a keyword tool. A safe bet for beginners is Google Adwords Keyword Planner, as it’s free and easy to use. Once you’re in the Keyword Planner, type in some of the terms that you’ve come up with on your own. Click “Get ideas” to find similar keyword searches and compare their average monthly search volumes.
4. Pick keywords that have medium-high search volumes, because you don’t want to get lost in high volume searches.
5. Plug your keywords into search engines once you think you’ve found the right ones. You want to check out the competition and ensure that those keywords are not dominated by huge corporate brands. You don’t want to compete with huge brands because at the start of your business they will always have more links to their pages, more content, and more ‘authority’ (because they are sought-after and established) than you.
Online store owners often wonder if their social media accounts have an impact on their SEO. The answer is yes and no, since it’s not officially taken into account but a bigger social media presence boosts your organic visibility and makes people more familiar with your brand and keywords. People sharing your links on social media also matters, since the more links you have out there, the more likely Google is to think that you are the most relevant page when someone searches for your keywords.
However, Google+ is the exception to the rule when it comes to social media: it absolutely affects your rankings, and you shouldn’t ignore it. If users are logged into their Google accounts (which they usually are for email and YouTube), Google takes Google+ activity into consideration in order to give people personalised results.
So, say you’re an online accessories boutique and you’ve written an article on how to go from daywear to eveningwear just by changing your jewellery and accessories. You should post this article on Google+, because if someone connected to you searches for this topic in Google, your post will rank very high in their results. We know social media always matters when it comes to SEO, branding, and making a name for yourself in ecommerce -- but Google’s social media network in particular gives you prominence in the search results of people that you’re connected to. So get those Google+ circles expanding (why not import the contacts from your newsletter list?), and start posting all your new content there as well!
A sitemap helps search engines better “crawl,” index, and categorise your online store. It’s basically a list of all of the URLs that make up your online boutique, so submitting your sitemap to Google and other search engines helps them learn about the structure of your site and do a better job of combing through your store when looking for search results in the future. If you haven't done so already check out Where can I find my store's sitemap XML file?
“Backlinks” are links on other people’s websites that link back to yours. The number of backlinks you have is a huge indicator of quality, in the eyes of search engines, because other publishers wouldn’t link to you unless you were providing valuable content.
Every backlink counts, but not all websites are created equal in Google’s eyes, so above all you want to concentrate on getting high-quality influencer blogs with authority to post backlinks to your online shop. These things can happen naturally over time as you interact with influencers on social media with funny or useful commentary on their posts. Build relationships with these influencers, proactively share and retweet their content when it suits your brand, and you’ll find it easier to breach the subject. Remember, too, that guest posting on someone else’s influential blog is an easy way to build your own brand’s authority and get a valuable backlink to your website! Everyone is playing the same SEO game as you, which means everyone is looking for high quality, fresh content -- provide some!
And, while cultivating relationships with bloggers and the press takes time -- and often money, in the form of free products in exchange for a review -- you can probably do quite a bit of linkbuilding with the network of business partners, suppliers, loyal customers, friends and family, and even employees that you already have. Don’t be shy; ask them to link to you on their own websites, blogs, or social media accounts, and you’ll have gotten to a great start!
Example of SupaDupa store - Greenberry Kids, selling kids wear, has done a great job with link building. By being featured on blog Babycinno Kids, the products listed here are linked to the product page and can be added straight to the basket
The title tag for each page of your website shows up in the internet browser tab and in search engine results. These titles are a fairly low time investment for a high SEO return, because all you need to do is make sure your titles describe each individual page in a compelling way and contain at least one of your keywords. Make sure you’re not calling each page “Welcome to My Page”, for example, and don’t make your title too long. Google only gives you
70 characters before they hide the rest of your title!
This means your title might not make sense to your readers if you put the keyword too far in. When you do show up on google, ensure that your readers see “RUNWAY LOOKS: 20 Different Ways to Wear an Infinity Scarf” instead of “A Complete Guide to the Ways Runway Models and Celebrities are Using the…” with your keyword, “infinity scarf,” hidden from readers’ view.
The meta description tag are the words that show up under the clickable link in Google, usually a brief description of the content on that page (and that page only!). These descriptions should be unique from one page to the next, and also be keyword-rich.
However, there are some times when you don’t want to use a meta description tag at all. A good rule of thumb is to write a 20-40 word meta description for pages if you are targeting broad keywords, and to leave the meta description tag blank if you’re targeting long-tail keywords (like our previous example “teen jewellery London”). This is because you can’t possibly put in all the variations of your long-tailed keywords into a 20-word bit of text! Instead, just leave the tag blank and let Google automatically take a snippet of your text based on the user’s search. The snippet will likely contain your long-tailed keywords if you included them in your content -- which, by now, you know to ALWAYS do!