E-commerce SEO (Advanced Guide + Step-By-Step Case Study)

Ecommerce SEO

This is the most comprehensive guide to Ecommerce SEO online.

In this expert-written guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about optimizing your Ecommerce site, from keyword research to technical SEO to link building.

So if you’re looking to get more targeted traffic from search (and turn that traffic into customers for your ecommerce business), then you’ll love this guide.

Let’s dive right in…

Free PDF: Download a free PDF version of this guide. PDF contains all chapters and resources listed here.

Chapter 1

Keyword Research

If you want to run an effective ecommerce SEO campaign, make sure to kick things off with keyword research.


Because keyword research informs every other SEO-related task you do on your website (for example, without keywords, it’s impossible for you to optimize your product and category pages).

Believe it or not, but your list of keywords influence your technical SEO efforts as well. For example, your site architecture and URLs need to take keywords into account.

So you can see that keyword research is a VERY big deal for your ecommerce site. Here’s exactly how to find untapped keywords that your customers search for…and how to choose the best ones for your site.

How To Find Keywords For Ecommerce Product and Product Pages

Most keyword research tutorials focus on “information keywords”. These are keywords that people type into search engines to discover helpful “how-to” content.

While these keywords have their place for an ecommerce business, the majority of your site’s keywords will be tailored around product pages. That means that you need to tackle keyword research with product-focused keywords in mind.

Here’s exactly how to do it:

Amazon Suggest

Yes, Amazon is probably your competitor. But it’s also the biggest ecommerce site online, which makes it an absolute goldmine of product-focused keywords.

Here’s how to tap into Amazon for keyword research:

First, head over to Amazon and enter a keyword that describes one of your products.

amazon suggest

The keywords Amazon suggests tend to be very targeted (also known as long tail keywords). Not only do long tail keywords like these convert better than 2-3 word keywords, but they tend to be less competitive too.

Rinse and repeat for the most important products on your site.

Pro Tip:

Amazon will sometimes suggest categories above the keyword suggestions. These make great keywords to use for category pages.

amazon category suggest

Keyword Tool Dominator

Keyword Tool Dominator is a nifty tool that scrapes Amazon’s search suggestions.

To use it, just enter a seed keyword into the tool:


And it will spit out dozens of keyword suggestions.

keywordtooldominator results

Not only does the tool make this process significantly faster than doing it manually, but in my experience, it gives you significantly more keyword ideas than doing this the old-fashioned way.

For example, when I used the keyword “organic dog food”, Amazon suggest gave me 8 keyword ideas. The tool spit out 49.

To keep things organized, you can save the keywords that make sense for you to a list.

keyword list

Before we leave Amazon, it’s time to use one more feature on the site that’s a goldmine for category page keywords.

Amazon (and Competitor) Categories

As someone that’s consulted for dozens of ecommerce businesses, I find that many ecommerce site owners optimize their category pages around random keywords. Sure, they’ll put some thought into what their customers might use to find products that fall under that category. But the keywords they use tend to be, let’s just say…less than ideal.

This is a huge mistake. While category pages may not convert as well as product pages, they still generate sales. So it makes sense to invest some time into finding awesome category pages keywords.

And the best way to do that?

Look at the categories your competitors already use

If you’re competing against Amazon, hover over the “Shop by Department” button at the top of the homepage. This will list out Amazon’s main categories.

amazon shop by department

These are all likely too broad for your site. So hover next to any that make sense so you can see that department’s subcategories:


Now we’re talking.

You can also hit up Amazon’s “Full Store Directory”.

full store directory

This will show you all of Amazon’s departments (and subcategories) on a single page.

amazon directory

Now it’s time dig deep through the list and find category-focused keywords that would fit with what your site sells.

For example, let’s say your site sells healthy dog food.

You’d click on “Pet supplies”:

example category keyword

Then click on “dogs”.

subcategory example

Then choose “food” from the list:

amazon subcategory

And Amazon will show you the keywords they use to describe their dog food-related categories in the sidebar:

amazon categories

These are all keywords to consider using for your dog food ecommerce category pages.

Pro Tip:

If your category is unique in some way, make sure to include that unique feature in your category page keyword. For example, you could turn the Amazon category keyword of “dry dog food” into “healthy dry dog food” or “organic dry dog food”. These keywords are less competitive and more targeted to what your target customer searches for in Google.

Amazon is a great resource for finding category page keywords. But it’s far from the only place you can find category page keywords that your customers search for every day.

That’s why I also recommend taking a look at the keywords that your industry competitors use to describe their categories.

So if your ecommerce site sells high-end headphones, you’d want to head to Headphone.com.

And just like you did with Amazon, look at the terms they use to describe their category pages:

category filtering

And add them to your list.


Wikipedia is one of my all-time favorite sites for finding keyword for product and category pages.

Here’s why:

Just like with category pages on your ecommerce competitor sites, Wikipedia organizes topics by keywords and categories. In other words: they’ve done a lot of the hard work of organizing things for you!

Let’s look at an example to see how you can tap into Wikipedia for ecommerce keyword research.

First, enter a keyword that describes a product or category your site sells:

wikipedia search

Then scan the Wikipedia entry for words and phrases that make sense for the products you have on your site:

wikipedia example keywords

In addition to scanning the article, take a look at the contents box. These can sometimes contain excellent keywords for category pages.

wikipedia contents box

Once you’ve exhausted Wikipedia’s keyword suggestions, it’s time to move onto one of my favorite keyword research tools: SEMRush.


If you implemented the strategies I outlined so far you should have a decent list of keyword ideas.

But if you have the budget, I highly recommend trying SEMRush as it can often uncover keywords that you’d be hard-pressed to find any other way. That’s because SEMRush doesn’t generate keyword ideas. Instead, it shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.

Let’s take a look at how ecommerce site owners can use this tool to find ecommerce-focused keywords.

First, enter a competitor into SEMRush’s search field:

semrush search

Then pick “organic research” from the sidebar:

semrush organic research

This will show you all of the keywords that your competitor ranks for:

semrush positions results

Can you say gold mine?

If you want to squeeze every keyword out of SEMRush, hit the “competitors” button in the sidebar:


SEMRush will show you sites that are similar to the one you just entered.

organic competitors

Repeat this process with the competitors you just found.

semrush search 2

This should give you enough keywords to last you until 2025.

Google Keyword Planner

Last but not least we have the good ol’ Google Keyword Planner. Even though the GKP is essential for keyword research, it’s not very good at generating unique keyword ideas.

For example, if you enter a potential category page keyword like “organic dog food” into the GKP, it spits out super-close variations of that term:

gkp results

That said, if you do some digging, you can find some gems that aren’t straight-up variations of the keyword you put into it.

google keyword planneer good keywords

Pro Tip:

Before clicking on the “Keyword Ideas” tab, glance at the keywords listed under “Ad group ideas”. This tab can contain unique keywords that may not appear in the “keyword ideas” tab.

gkp ad group ideas

Because the Google Keyword Planner doesn’t generate a lot of unique keywords, I recommend using the GKP mainly to check search volume and commercial intent.

Which leads us to our next step…

How to Choose Keywords for Ecommerce Product and Category Pages

Now that you have a list of potential keywords in-hand, you’re probably wondering:

How do I know which keywords to choose?

The answer? Use this 4-step checklist to identify the best keywords for your ecommerce SEO campaign.

#1: Search Volume

This is (by far) the most important metric when evaluating a search term. If no one searches for that keyword, it doesn’t really matter how well it converts or how competitive Google’s first page happens to be.

That said, there’s no way for me to give you specific search volume recommendations. In some industries, 100 searches per month is A LOT. In others, 10,000 monthly searches is nothing.

As you spend time looking at the search volume for the keywords on your list you’ll start to get an understanding of what constitutes a “high volume” and “low volume” search term in your industry.

To find the search volume for a given keyword, just pop it into the GKP. You’ll find the number of searches in the “Avg. monthly searches” column.

monthly search volume

Pro Tip:

Some keywords have HUGE seasonal variations. Of course, you’re going to get more searches for “ugly Christmas sweaters” in December than in June. But there are other non-seasonal that have peaks and valleys throughout the year. For example, the keyword “organic dog food brands” gets 2.5x more searches in October than November.

monthly search variations

Why? Who knows. But it’s an important thing to note as you select keywords for your ecommerce site as these fluctuations can directly impact your bottom line.

To quickly see how search volume changes throughout the year, hover over the little chart icon next to any keyword listed in the GKP. And it’ll show you a chart with month-to-month search volume info.

monthly searches over the year

#2: Keyword-Product Fit

This is a big one. Let’s say you find a keyword that gets tons of searches. It must be a winner right?

Well…not really.

That’s because the keyword may not fit well with what your site sells. If the keyword you pick is even a little bit of a stretch compared to what you have for sale on your ecommerce site, you’ll have a hard time converting anyone.

So before you move onto the next two stages in this process, double-check that the keyword you’re considering fits like a glove with what you sell.

For example let’s say your ecommerce site sells Japanese green tea bags. And you come across a keyword like “matcha green tea powder”.

example keyword

Even though you don’t sell green tea powder (only tea bags), you might be able to create a category page around this and then convert those searchers to what your site actually sells.

This is totally possible. But it’s tricky to pull off. That’s why I recommend not stretching into other product categories until you’ve exhausted the keywords that your target customers search for.

Even though the keyword may get fewer searches, I recommend choosing a keyword that’s much more targeted to your business, like “green tea online”.

low volume buy targeted keyword

Now that you’ve got a list keywords that get a decent amount of searches — and fit well with your ecommerce site’s products — it’s time to see if these searchers are likely to whip out their credit card and buy what you sell.

#3: Commercial Intent

Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword? Awesome.

Ranking #1 for a high-volume keyword that only tire-kickers search for? Less awesome.

So before you decide on a keyword, take a second to see if people using that keyword are ballers that buy…or broke peeps that browse.

Fortunately, this is super-easy to do using the Google Keyword Planner.

First, check out the keyword’s “Competition” rating.

keyword adwords competition

“Competition” reflects how many people bid on that keyword in Google Adwords. In general, if a lot of people are bidding on a keyword, there’s money to be made. That’s why, when it comes to SEO for ecommerce, I recommend sticking with “medium” and “high” competition keywords.

As you can see, the competition metric is a helpful way to see if people that search for that keyword will convert. But the most important metric of all is: “Suggested bid”.

Suggested bid is an indicator of what people tend to spend on a single click in Google Adwords. When sizing up commercial intent, the higher the suggested bid, the better.

Obviously, keywords with expensive suggested bids are also more competitive to rank for in Google search. But we’ll cover that in the next section.

For now, check out the Suggested bid for the keywords on your list.

suggested bid

And note how certain words and phrases that suggest “I’m ready to buy!” impact the estimated bid. As you can see above, the keyword “Japanese green tea” has a suggested bid of $1.19.

That’s because many people searching for that keyword probably aren’t ready to make a purchase. They might be looking up the definition. Or they might be curious about green tea’s health benefits.

On the other hand, a similar keyword like “buy green tea online” has a suggested bid that’s 3x higher.

suggested bid 2

On the flip side, this keyword gets significantly fewer searches. That’s why it’s important to take all four factors into account when evaluating keywords for ecommerce SEO.

#4: Competition

Finally, it’s time to see how hard it’ll be to crack Google’s first page.

Here’s how:

SEMRush’s “Keyword Difficulty”

This metric gives you an idea of how competitive a given keyword is to rank for.

You can find a keyword’s difficulty in SEMRush by entering a keyword into the search field…

semrush keyword search

…clicking on “Keyword Difficulty” in the sidebar…

keyword difficulty

And then looking at the “Difficulty %” column.

difficulty score

The higher the number, the more competitive the keyword is to rank for in organic search.

Keyword Targeting and Page Optimization

Here’s where you evaluate Google’s first page to see if the pages in the top 10 are optimized around that keyword.

If the pages are only semi-related to that keyword you can sometimes outrank them with a highly-targeted page (I’ll show you exactly how to optimize your page soon).

For example:

If you search for “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll notice that the most of the first page isn’t optimized around this specific search:

page not well optimized

Most people searching in Google are probably wondering: “Where da handle at?”.

So if you optimize one of your ecommerce category pages around the keyword “bamboo cutting board with handle”, you’ll have a good shot of leapfrogging the competition.

Pro Tip:

Exact keyword targeting isn’t as important as it once was (thanks to Google Hummingbird). However, if you optimize your page around a specific keyword, it still gives you an edge over pages that aren’t as well optimized.

Now that you have a list of keywords that get searched for, have little competition, AND are likely to turn into buyers, it’s time to set up and optimize your ecommerce site’s architecture.

Chapter 2

Site Architecture

Site architecture — or how the pages on your site are organized and arranged — is an important SEO consideration for ANY site.

But it’s doubly important for ecommerce sites. That’s because your average ecommerce site tends to have significantly more pages than your average blog or local pizza shop website.

For example, BestBuy.com has over 6 million pages:

total pages

With that many pages, it’s critical that your site architecture makes it easy for users and search engines to find the most important pages on your site.

The secret?

Following the Two Golden Rules of ecommerce site architecture:

Golden Rule #1:

Keep things simple and scalable

Golden Rule #2:

Keep every page 3 (or fewer) clicks from your homepage

I’ll have more details on these two rules in a minute.

But first, let’s look at an example of how the wrong site architecture can hurt your SEO efforts…

Example of How NOT to Set Up Your Ecommerce Site’s Architecture

Here’s an example of a site architecture that breaks the Two Golden rules:


What’s wrong with this picture?

First, it’s not simple. It’s hard to understand the logic of what goes where.

Second, it’s not scalable. Every time you want to add a new category, you need to create a new layer and reorganize your existing categories and subcategories.

But most important for SEO, it’s way too deep. For most ecommerce sites, the majority of the site’s link authority (PageRank) will reside on the homepage.

And when you have a “deep” site architecture, that authority is diluted by the time it reaches your product and category pages.


In this example it takes six clicks to reach the first product page. As I mentioned earlier, you want all products to be three clicks or less from your homepage.

Pro Tip:

If your site already has a less-than-ideal setup, don’t start moving pages and around until you’ve consulted with an SEO pro. They can help you make sure that old pages redirect to new pages. When done right, you can implement huge changes to your ecommerce site’s architecture without losing significant amounts of your search engine traffic.

Example of an SEO and User-Friendly Ecommerce Site Architecture

Now that you’ve seen an example of how not to do things, it’s time to take a look at an example of a well-optimized ecommerce site architecture.

Flat and wide site architecture

As you can see, authority is concentrated in this site’s product and category pages (which tend to be the most important pages for most ecommerce sites). This concentrated authority helps these pages rank in Google. It also boosts indexation.

And here’s an example of how this might look for an ecommerce site that sells shoes:

Ecommerce site selling shoes – Site architecture example

Not only is this great for SEO, but users will love it too. A simple, flat architecture makes it easy for browsers to find the products they want.

Let’s take a look at a real-life example of an ecommerce site with this optimized architecture: PetSmart.com. LIke in the above example, no product is more than three clicks away from the homepage.

For example, let’s say you want to get a new dog food bowl for Fluffy.

You’d head to the homepage and click “Dog”.

category selection

Then “bowls and feeders”.

subcategory select

And you’d have a list of products in that subcategory:

product list

Just like that, you’ve found what you want (and Google can easily find and index all of PetSmart’s product pages).

Chapter 3

On-Page SEO

Now that you have your site architecture all set up, it’s time to optimize your category and product pages. For most ecommerce sites these two types of pages generatethe lion’s share of traffic and sales.

This makes sense if you think about it: someone searching for “red Nike running shoes size 10” is much closer to making a purchase than someone searching for “buy shoes online”.

Without further ado, let’s see an example of a “perfectly optimized ecommerce page”.


TITLE TAG: Add Modifiers Like “Buy”, “Cheap” and “Deals” to Get More Long Tail Traffic

You obviously want to use your primary keyword in your page’s title tag.

But don’t stop there. Adding “modifiers” to your title tag can help you show up for more long tail searches.

For example, let’s say the target keyword for your category page is: “noise cancelling headphones”.

Instead of making your title tag simple” “Noise Cancelling Headphones at Headphones R’ Us”, you’d add a word or two that people are likely to use when searching for “noise cancelling headphones”

Here are some common terms people use when searching for products in Google:

  • Cheap
  • Deals
  • Review
  • Best
  • Online
  • Free shipping

So your title tag could be:

search engine listing preview

TITLE TAG: Use Click Magnet Words like “X% Off” and “Lowest Price” to Boost CTR

Google likely uses organic click-through-rate as a ranking signal. And even if they didn’t, it would still make sense to optimize your title tag to maximize CTR. That’s because: Higher CTR=more clicks=more sales.

Fortunately, there are a handful of words and phrases that magnetically move a searcher’s cursor to your site. I call them “Click Magnet Words”.

Here are some of the best Click Magnet Words for ecommerce product and category pages:

  • X% off (“25% Off”)
  • Guarantee
  • Lowest Price
  • Free Shipping
  • Overnight Shipping
  • Sale

Here’s an example of these words in action:

search engine listing preview 2

And when you include these in your title tags (and description tags), you’ll find yourself with more clicks (which can mean more customers).

DESCRIPTION TAG: Include Phrases Like “Great Selection”, “FREE Shipping” and “All Our Items are On Sale” To Maximize Your Page’s CTR

Your site’s description tag used to be an important part of on-page SEO. While that’s not the case anymore, your description tag is still important for maximizing your CTR (which DOES have a direct effect on rankings).

The title tag Click Magnet Words that I listed above also work for description tags. The only difference is that, with a description tag, you have more room to include longer phrases.

Here are a few examples of phrases you can include to get more clicks:

  • Get the best prices on ____ today.
  • Save X% off on ____.
  • All of our ____ are on sale right now.
  • Get FREE shipping on all ____ today.
  • Click here to see all of our exclusive deals on _____.
  • Great selection of ____ at the guaranteed lowest price.

Here’s an example of how a a description tag optimized for clicks might look:

product description example 2

PRODUCT AND CATEGORY PAGE CONTENT: Include 1000+ Words of Content and Use Your Keyword 3-5x.

Optimizing product and category pages is one of the most challenging parts of ecommerce marketing. Yes, you want high-quality content. But unlike a blog post, you need to also keep conversions in mind.

Here are the three most important on-page SEO tactics that I recommend for ecommerce pages:

1. Write 1000+ Word Descriptions


Industry studies have found that longer content tends to rank best in Google.

(And yes, those findings apply to ecommerce sites).

The fact is this: Google wants to understand what your page is all about. And the more content you provide, the better Google can do it’s job. Plus, when you publish long content, customers can better understand what they’re about to buy.

It might be impossible for you to write 1000 words for EVERY page on your site. If that’s the case, I recommend writing long, in-depth descriptions for your 50-100 top-priority product and category pages.

For example, this Amazon product page for a Kitchenart mixer boasts 2,109 words…

amazon product page

…and that’s not even counting the reviews at the bottom of the page (which add another 500+ words).

amazon product reviews

2. Sprinkle Your Keywords (3-5x)


Once you’ve written your in-depth description, it’s time to make sure that you’ve included your target keyword 3-5 times.

This has nothing to do with keyword density or keyword stuffing. It’s simply making sure your keyword is mentioned on your page so Google can understand what your page is all about.

For example, if your target keyword was “6 quart crockpot” you’d want
to make sure you have that exact phrase in your product description
at least 3 times:

sprinkled keywords

Pro Tip:

Google puts slightly more weight on keywords that appear at the top of a webpage. So make sure that one of your keyword placements is at the top of your page (for example, in the first 100 words of your product or category description).

3. LSI Keywords


Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)keywords are words and phrases that are closely tied to your main keyword.

For example, let’s say you were optimizing an ecommerce category page around the keyword “slow cookers”. Terms closely related to that keyword include:

  • Crock-Pot
  • 6 quart, 4 quart etc.
  • Timers
  • Pressure cooker
  • Manual
  • Recipes
  • Stew
  • Soup
  • Programmable
  • Stainless steel

See how that works?

Here’s how to find (and use) LSI keywords specifically for ecommerce SEO.

STEP #1: The Amazon Eyeball Test

First, head over to Amazon and search for your target keyword.

Then take a look at terms that appear multiple times on the category page…

lsi keywords from category page

…or product page for that keyword.

lsi keywords from ecommerce product page

Pro Tip:

If you have a competitor that outranks you for your keyword, use this same process on their site.

STEP #2: Google Keyword Planner

Next, enter your target keyword into the Google Keyword Planner.

Then take a look at the keywords that Google suggests to you for Ad groups…

gkp ad groups

…and for keywords.

keyword suggestions

STEP #3: Sprinkle These In Your Content

Finally, sprinkle the LSI keywords that make sense into your product or category description.

URLS: Use Short, Keyword-Rich URLs

Our analysis of 1 million Google search results found a clear correlation between URL length and rankings.

Specifically, we found that short URLs tend to rank higher on Google’s first page than long URLs.

url length google position

Because you run an ecommerce site, your URLs will be slightly longer than other sites due to the fact that you’ll likely include category and subcategories in your URL.

For example:

However, that doesn’t mean you want your URLs to stretch out to 50+ characters. That’s because long URLs confuse Google and dilute the impact of the keywords in your URL.

Here’s an example of an unnecessarily long ecommerce product page URL:

really long URL

(Not only is this URL a mile long, but it contains SEO (and user) unfriendly terms like, “productID.300190600”).

Speaking of using SEO-friendly terms in your URL, you also want to make your URLs keyword-rich.

For category pages, include a 1-2 word description of that category:


Follow the same process for subcategories. Only this time, the subcategory will come after the category in the URL:


Then, for product pages, include just your target keyword for that product, separated by dashes (“-”).


Pro Tip:

Some ecommerce sites remove categories and subcategories from their URL. For example, instead of https://example.com/kitchenappliances/slowcookers/6-quart-crockpot, your URL would simply be: https://example.com/6-quart-crockpot. This makes your URLs shorter and more keyword dense. I don’t necessarily recommend this, but if that’s how you have things set up, it certainly won’t hurt your product page rankings.

Internal Links: Liberally Link to High-Priority Pages

One of the nice things about ecommerce SEO is that internal linking is done almost automatically. That’s because your site’s navigation creates a lot of natural internal links:

ecommerce seo internal links

That said, strategic internal linking is an ecommerce SEO best practice. So you should spend some time on it.

Specifically, you want to internally link FROM authoritative pages TO high-priority product and category pages.


For example, let’s say you have a blog post that’s generated a lot of backlinks. And you also have a product page that ranks #5 in Google for a high-converting term (like “moleskin notebooks”).

You’d want to add a keyword-rich anchor text link from that post to your product page.

example internal link

Rinse and repeat for all of your top-priority pages.

Implement Product Review Schema to Get Rich Snippets Displayed in Google

If you want an easy way to stand out on Google’s first page, look no further than adding rich snippets to your search result.

And for ecommerce sites, you have the opportunity to tap into one of the most eye-catching rich snippets out there: reviews.

Here’s an example:

rich snippets -- reviews

How do you get these awesome snippets? By implementing Schemamarkup on your ecommerce product pages. Schema markup is simply a special code that you add to certain pages on your site. This code gives search engines (like Google and Bing) a deeper understanding of your page’s content.

Here are the types of markup specific to reviews.

schema review example

While there’s no guarantee that Google will display rich snippets just because you ask them to, adding proper Schema markup boosts your odds.

You can manually set up Schema markup, but it’s not easy. That’s why I recommend that you use Google’s excellent Structured Data Markup Helper.

Here’s exactly how to use this helpful tool so you can quickly implement review Schema markup.

First, head over to the tool and choose “products” from the list of options.

product schema

Next, find a product page on your site that has reviews and ratings on it. This can be a single reviewer, or as is the case with most ecommerce sites, user reviews.

product page reviews

Paste the URL of that product page in the URL field and click “Start Tagging”.

Structured Data Markup Helper 2

Then highlight the section of the page you want to tag. In this case we’re going to focus on product reviews and ratings.

schema highlight

If your product was reviewed by a single person, choose “Review”. Then highlight the name of the person that reviewed the product, the date of the review etc.

schema review

If your site’s customers reviewed the product, highlight the number or star rating and pick “Aggregate Rating”.

rating value

Make sure to provide as much info as you can. For example, don’t forget to highlight the number of reviews and choose the “count” tag.

rating count

When you’re done, choose “Create HTML”.

create HTML

You can either copy and paste this new HTML into your page or simply add the new Schema markup to your existing HTML.

html schema markup

Pro Tip:

Use Google Search Console to double-check that your Schema is implemented directly.

Head over to “Search Appearance”.

google search console search appearance

Then choose “Structured Data”.

structured data

Then you’ll see the Schema markup Google has found on your site…and if you have any errors.

structured data errors

Chapter 4

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is one of those things that’s important for ALL sites… but doubly so for ecommerce sites. That’s because ecommerce sites tend to have lots and lots of pages to manage. Even a “small” ecommerce site can have 5,000+ pages. And all of those pages increase the odds of technical SEO issues.

Not only that, but most ecommerce product pages don’t have a lot of backlinks pointing to them. That means that technical SEO is often the “tiebreaker” on Google’s first page. For example, if you and your competitor are neck-and-neck, a technical SEO issue can be the difference between the 5th spot and a coveted #1 ranking.

That’s why regular technical SEO site audits are considered an ecommerce SEO best practice.

How to Run a Technical SEO Audit on an Ecommerce Website

In this example we’re going to use Raven Tools. In my opinion it has the most thorough and easy-to-understand site auditing system out there.

In addition to Raven Tools, here are other SEO tools you can use for ecommerce site audits:

To use Raven for your ecommerce SEO site audit, choose “Site Auditor” from the left-hand sidebar:

raventools site auditor

Then Raven will analyze your site for potential errors.

site auditor message

Then scan the report for issues that crop up.

site auditor report

Like problems with your title and/or description tags:

duplicate title tags

Duplicate and thin content:

duplicate and thin content

And broken links:

link issues

Now that you’ve seen how to identify common SEO errors on ecommerce sites, it’s time for me to show you how to solve them.


Problem: Too Many Pages

Having thousands of pages on your site can be a technical SEO nightmare. It makes writing unique content for each page a monumental task. Also, the more pages you have, the more likely you’ll struggle with duplicate content issues.

Why It Happens

Some ecommerce sites simply have lots and lots of products for sale. Because each of these products require their own page, the site accumulates lots of pages. Also, sometimes each slight variation in the same product (for example 15 different shoe sizes) has its own unique URL, which can bloat your ecommerce site’s total page count..

How to Fix it

First, identify pages that can be deleted or noindexed without affecting your bottom line.

In my experience, 80% of an ecommerce site’s sales come from 20% of it’s products (the old 80/20 principle at work). And 60%+ of their products haven’t generated ANY sales over the last year.

Rather than work to improve these pages, you’re often better off simply deleting them, noindexing them, or combining them together into a “super page”.

You can use your ecommerce CMS (like Shopify) to see which products haven’t generated any revenue for you. If they haven’t, put them into a “maybe delete” list.

zero traffic pages

If a page isn’t bringing visitors to your site or putting cash in your pocket, you should ask yourself: “what’s the point of this page?”. All it’s doing is making your technical SEO efforts more difficult.

In some cases these “deadweight” pages will make up 5-10% of your site. For others, it can be as many as 50%.

Once you’ve removed excess pages that might be causing problems, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are left.

Problem: Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the most common ecommerce SEO issues on the planet. And it’s one that can sink your site in Google’s search results (thanks to Google Panda).

Fortunately, with a commitment to unique content on every page of your ecommerce site (and using advanced SEO techniques like canonical tags), you can make duplicate content issues a thing of the past.

Why It Happens

There are a lot of reasons that duplicate content crop up on ecommerce sites.

Here are the three most common reasons.

First, the site creates unique URLs for every version of the product or category.

For example, if you have a category menu like this…

ecommerce category page menu

…it may create a unique URL for every selection the person makes.

unique URL

If those URLs gets indexed by Google, it’s going to create A LOT of duplicate content.

This can also happen if slight variations of the same product (for example, a unique URL for every shoe size or color) create unique product page URLs.

Second, we have boilerplate content. This is where you have a snippet of text that appears on multiple pages.

Here’s an example:

boilerplate content

Of course, it’s perfectly fine to have a short line or two on every page (for example, “At Brian’s Organic Supplements, we use the best ingredients at the best price.”).

But if your boilerplate content gets to be 100+ words — and appears on multiple pages — it can be seen as duplicate content in the eyes of Google.

Finally, we have copied descriptions. This happens anytime you have the same (or very similar) content on multiple product or category pages.

For example, here’s an example of duplicate content on two different ecommerce product pages…

product description 1

Product Page #2:

product description 2

As you can see, the content on these two pages are almost identical. Not good.

How to Fix it

Your first option is to noindex pages that don’t bring in search engine traffic but are causing duplicate content issues.

For example, if your category filters generate unique URLs, you can noindex those URLs. Problem solved.

This is a dead-simple way to nip a lot of duplicate content issues in the bud.

Once you’ve noindexed all of the URLs that make sense for your site, it’s time to tap into the canonical tag (“rel=canonical”).

A canonical tag simply tells search engines that certain pages are exact copies or slight variations of the same page. When a search engine sees a canonical tag on a page, they know that they shouldn’t treat it as a unique page.


(Not only does canonicalization solve duplicate content issues, but it helps makes your backlinks more valuable. That’s because the links that point to several different URLs reroute to a single URL, making those links more powerful).

Pro Tip:

Implementing canonical tags can be tricky. That’s why I recommend that you hire an SEO pro with technical SEO expertise to help. But if you prefer to set up canonicals yourself, this guide by Google will help.

Finally, it’s time to write 100% unique content for all of the pages that haven’t been noindexed or set up with canonical URLs.

Yes, this is hard work (especially for an ecommerce site with thousands of pages). But it’s an absolute must if you want to compete against the ecommerce giants (like Amazon) that tend to dominate Google’s first page.

To make the process easier, I recommend creating templates for product and category page descriptions (I’ll have an example template for you in the next section).

Problem: Thin Content

Thin content is another common technical SEO issue that crops up on ecommerce sites. Even after you’ve solved your duplicate content issues, you may have pages on your site that have very thin content.

And make no mistake: thin content can derail entire ecommerce SEO campaigns. In fact, Ebay lost upwards of 33% of its organic traffic due to a thin content-related Panda penalty.

organic traffic drop

But let’s not focus on the negative. Our data from analyzing 1 million Google search results found that longer content tended to rank above thin content.


So I recommend that you see publishing in-depth, unique content as a competitive advantage.

Why It Happens

One of the main reasons that ecommerce sites suffer from thin content is that it’s challenging to write lots of unique content about similar products. After all, once you’ve written a description about one running shoe what can you write about 25 others?

While this is a legit concern, it shouldn’t stop you from writing at least 500 words (and preferably 1000+ words) for all of your important category and product pages.

How To Fix It

First, you want to identify pages on your site that have thin content.

Pro Tip:

Everyone has a different definition of “thin content”. In my mind, thin content refers to short snippets of content that doesn’t bring any unique value to the table.

You can go through each page on your site one-by-one or use a tool like Raven Tools to find pages that are a bit on the thin side (Raven considers pages with fewer than 250 words as having a “low word count”):

thin content pages

Once you’ve identified thin content pages it’s time to bulk them up with high-quality, unique content. Templates make this process go significantly faster.

Here’s an example template for a product page description:


Pro Tip:

The more truly unique your content is, the better. That means actually using the products you sell. Write your impressions. Take your own product images. This will make your product descriptions stand out to users and search engines.

Problem: Site Speed

Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm.

But site speed isn’t just important for ecommerce SEO: it also directly impacts your bottom line. Research by Radware found that slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8%.

Why It Happens

Here are the three most common reasons that ecommerce site pages load slowly:

  • Bloated Ecommerce Platforms: Certain ecommerce platforms are inherently slow due to bloated code. And unlike a blogging CMS like WordPress, you can’t just install a plugin and watch your speed improve. (By the way, you can check out this study to see how the loading speed of different ecommerce platforms compare).
  • Large Image File Sizes: High-res product images are awesome for your customers, but can make your page load like molasses.
  • Slow Hosting and Servers: When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for. A slow hosting plan can put the brakes on your site’s max speed.

Fortunately, all three of these site speed issues can be solved somewhat easily.

How to Fix It

  • Upgrade Your Hosting: I can’t recommend specific hosting providers because your decision depends on your preferences and needs (for example, the level of support, pricing, security, etc.). But what I can say is that you should spend at least $50/month on your host. If you spend less, your loading speed is likely to suffer.
  • Invest In a CDN: A CDN is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to significantly crank up your site’s loading speed. Bonus: a CDN also makes your site more secure from attacks and hacks.
  • Optimize Image File Size with Compression: This is a biggie for ecommerce product pages. Make sure to export images so they’re optimized for the web.

Chapter 5

Content Marketing for
Ecommerce Sites

Like any site, ecommerce sites can significantly boost their traffic and sales by tapping into content marketing.

For example, the popular cookware ecommerce site Williams-Sonoma.com has an outstanding blog that features recipes, cooking tips, interviews with chefs, and more.

williams sonoma blog

With a regular output of top-notch content, it’s no wonder that their blog’s homepage has a Page Authority of 66.

page authority moz

How can you do the same thing for your ecommerce site?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to creating awesome content for your ecommerce site’s blog.

STEP #1: Find Where Your Target Customers Hang Out Online

Hanging out with your customers gives you incredible insight into the thoughts, dreams, fears and desires of your target audience. Because this isn’t always possible in the real world, I recommend finding out where they tend to spend time online.

For example, if your target audience are made up of coffee snobs, you’d want to check out places like Reddit’s coffee community…

reddit coffee community

…and even old school forums about coffee.

forum example

STEP #2: Learn What Words and Phrases They Use On The Web

Now that you’ve found your target audience, it’s time to stalk them. Don’t worry, this isn’t as creepy as it sounds 🙂

You want to keep an eye out for words and phrases that they use to describe their problems and issues:

example keywords

These phrases represent keywords that your audience use on Google when they’re NOT shopping for products. These make great keywords for you to create blog content around.

For more on finding and choosing the right keywords, check out this guide.

STEP #3: Create An Outstanding Piece of Content Around That Keyword

Next, it’s time to create a piece of content that’s the bar-none absolute best on the planet.

The easiest way to do that?

The Skyscraper Technique.

This video will walk you through the entire step-by-step process:


And when you’ve finished step #3, start back at the top and go through the process again. When you consistency publish content using this formula, you can find yourself with a significant amount of traffic, leads, backlinks and customers.


      1. Yes, Brain. It’s really an awesome guide.
        I have been a reader of your blog and fan of strategies for a very long time. I am applying some of your methods on my website, and it’s working most of the time. Outreaching and link building are not working well for me, but I guess I am not good at it.
        I am also thinking to sell some products on my site, and this guide is going to help me a lot.
        Thanks. 🙂

  1. Hey Brian,

    Good post with great tips and insights.

    A couple of more tools-related suggestions to empower this strategy of link building for your readers with no or little cost:

    – There is a free tool SEOSpyGlass that allows to find up to 1000 backlinks for a website, check their Google Pagerank, Alexa and many other metrics. Free version’s main restriction is that it does not allow export the results, so you need to sort the results and open found links manually.

    – Scrapebox is another super great tool to do a lot of stuff including finding backlinks and dropped domains. It is paid (it is one-time payment of i think $57), but it’s totally worth the investment if you are serious about link building and domain lurking.

    – Also, pay attention to Xenu Sleuth that is free and allows to crawl website(s) and check their links, including outbound. If a link is a broken with “no such host exist” error, it is possible that the linked domain has expired and available.

    Being creative with any tools links can be build relatively easily without any content if following advice in Brian’s post.

    1. Thanks Michael. AWESOME tool suggestions. I actually forgot about Xenu (I use it for BLB…but not so much for this). Thanks for taking the time to leave such an awesome comment.

  2. Brian,
    as usual great post. I shared it on Growthhackers.com 🙂

    As for the outreach, does it matter what email address you send from? More specifically, is it better to send from a personal gmail or from your company’s address?

  3. Great stuff as usual Brian!
    Was considering making websites completely based on this method. When a website goes down offer almost the exact same thing and this’ll give you a niiice boost to start.

  4. Thanks for post Brian (and for the proof of concept, Chris).
    I love how actionable all your posts are. Halfway through reading this one I had to start trying the strategy out for some of my clients and am already seeing the advantages. You have single handedly improved my SEO work. Thanks!

    1. Wow, what an awesome comment, Scott. My goal is for people to actually use the stuff I write about. Glad yo hear you didn’t waste any time 🙂

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