Tips to Kickstart your eCommerce SEO Strategy
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The startup process of an eCommerce website is an exciting time; you get to pick a stunning layout and design, source an awesome array of products for your virtual shelves and install a payment gateway that accepts EFT payments and credit cards. Now that your internet store is up and running, it's time to establish and defend your market position.

Ecommerce business owners are on an endless quest to attract customers and outperform their competitors. A great starting point to achieve this is by putting a SEO strategy into effect during the first months. Fortunately, it doesn't always need the services and associated cost of digital experts. This article offers do-it-yourself tips to pull off a decent ranking on search engines and increase your brand awareness.

Do keyword research for key phrases and search terms

Native and offsite SEO work begins with solid keyword research. This means finding two or three keywords with the biggest search volume and the lowest level of competition in your market. The most valuable keywords are the ones your customers would use when describing your product. Avoid looking for descriptions that are too general, as these will likely contribute to a high bounce rate and tighter competition. Choose only the keywords that relate exactly to what you're selling. So, instead of going for something like "South African online store" or "shoes" pick something specific like "men’s running shoes." You can also take advantage of long-tail search phrases such as "best shoes for running" to turn your products into solutions for customers.

By simply pasting your website's URL into Google's free Keyword Planner tool, you'll get some nice ideas to consider for your eCommerce store.

Use the keywords to optimise all sections of your site

Now that you have a list of the best keywords for your site, it's time to populate your website with them. In the back-end of your CMS, insert your keywords in your page title, meta-description, product descriptions and blog posts, and the URL, if possible. The code sample of a title tag would look like this:

<head>

<title>Mens Running Shoes | Footwear | Brandname.co.za</title>

</head>

However, if you've installed a SEO widget, you can enter your title tag, meta-description, and URL in normal text in the below format.

Mens Running Shoes | Footwear | Brandname.co.za

http://www.brandname.co.za/footwear/mens-running-shoes/

Shop for a wide range of men's running shoes from a variety of brands. Explore our footwear section now.

You can drop these in the Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool to check that the tags are the appropriate length (70 characters for the meta title and 155 characters for the meta description) and how they will appear on Google's search rankings. Make sure your URL's and all metadata are simple and straightforward. Use only real words and exclude unnecessary symbols. Combined, these elements should accomplish the basic function of an ad – to persuade people to click through. A higher click-through rate means a higher ranking.

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Create quality content

Creating user-friendly content is a great way to get your website noticed by consumers who are searching for products related to your brand. Once you've chosen a blogging platform and begun to produce content, it's important to also apply your keywords here. But, be careful of keyword stuffing and aim for a natural insertion of your search terms.

Don't just create blog content for the sake of selling. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that your content should be compelling and relate to what your visitors are looking for on your site specifically. It should therefore be oriented toward customer experience and problem solving such as "Three Ways to Lace Up Men's Running Shoes." Ideally, your blog should be updated with brand related content at least twice per week.

Check out this list of free content generator tools to get ideas for your blog.

Link building and guest posts

Public relations are closely linked to the content creation process. Google checks to see if your site contains high quality links from other sources in your industry. When doing a link building campaign, the process should require two simple approaches: crafting engaging content that attract natural links or reaching out to other bloggers and request a link to your blog. The link can take the form of a spin-off article or a review about your products. Research potential offsite partners and gather information that will help you create customised emails to each influencer.

Guest posting is another link development method and is particularly effective in establishing your brand as a market leader. However, not many established websites are willing to accept an unsolicited post, which is why relationship building with people in your field is essential to gaining offsite partners. Moz suggests you offer promotional codes and discounts to them or mention any errors you notice on their website. When the number of quality inbound links to your site increases, you will get more traffic and your search engine ranking will improve.

Perform frequent usability tests on your website

Great usability is not only important for reducing shopping cart abandonment but also for making your site stand out on search rankings. When your site provides value to users, you'll boost visitor engagement and benefit from more traffic and more positive reviews – which are major SEO ranking factors.

Your user-experience (UX) objectives should always be in line with your business goals. For example, if you want to increase revenue, you should look at improving your cart abandonment rate. A usability solution for this objective would be to make the checkout process as smooth as possible. If you want to lessen your bounce rate, get your pages to load quicker. Google's objective is to provide a positive online experience for visitors and if you test and fix usability issues, people will spend more time on your website, which, in turn, will indicate to search engines that they are enjoying your site.

Here’s a compilation by Crazy Egg on some free usability testing tools you can find online.

Conclusion

Search engine optimisation is one of the cornerstones of an effective marketing campaign for eCommerce stores. If you fail to develop and implement a sound SEO strategy, you're essentially passing on clicks that could have led to a sale. While there are many SEO tools and techniques out there to help you get the most out of your marketing efforts, these basics should get you underway on a journey to a more SEO-friendly website.