October 25, 2010

SEO for eCommerce Stores

By: SEO 4 One

I was recently posed an SEO question from a reader specific to ecommerce stores. The question was that since search engine ranking is so heavily contingent on a website's content being relevantly optimized, how do online stores get high search engine rankings? Being that one of my first websites was an ecommerce store with general merchandise, and I spent several months myself stuck on this dilemma, I knew exactly why they were asking. Ecommerce sites such as that use the keywords for "shopping", etc, but the majority of their pages contain item descriptions that aren't relevant to the term "shopping". Selling items from handbags to vacuum cleaners makes it hard to keep your content consistent and relevant to your search engine keywords, and it doesn't help your ranking for a search engine to find irrelevant keywords between your website pages without a common theme. It's a unique challenge for stores and shopping malls that don't sell all the same types of items and contain an inconsistent keyword theme throughout their pages.

Through my work I found that eCommerce stores can overcome these obstacles by taking these 10 steps:

1. Use the same two to three keywords between all of your pages whether it's a highly used keyword on that page or not, like "shopping", "discount", "on sale"...whatever your common store theme is, regardless of the item (we'll use these three as examples for the purpose of this discussion, but you might feel that different keywords better describe your store as a whole). Optimize your main page content very heavily on these keywords with a description of your business and explanation of your website's mission and theme. It will serve the purpose of driving search engine traffic to your front page, which should be very relevant to your front page keyword tags, as well as convincing shoppers that they want to shop there. The beginning of this text will also show up in your website's description in some searches and could effect how many people click through to your site from your listing. Weave your keywords throughout the page, but more heavily in the top of the first paragraph.

2. Categorize your store's selections. Separate each item into a category such as "handbags", "luggage", "jewelry", etc. rather than lumping them all together disorganized. Create as many separate categories as possible. If you only sell jewelry in your store (in which case "jewelry" is one of your primary website keywords), separate the items into categories such as "necklaces", "earrings", "bracelets", etc. for example. Use these category names as the second group of keywords on your main page, right behind your primary keywords. Make sure there's a navigation bar on your front page that links directly to each category by name, matching these keywords exactly in bold text links.

3. Tag your category pages with your primary home page keywords: "shopping", "discount", "on sale", and then add the category name as your next keyword ("Jewelry" for example), followed by a few descriptive words for the items in that category, such as "bracelet", "necklace", "gold", "diamond". This methodized string of keywords provides connection and relevancy from your main page, through your category page, to your item pages, which might not have appeared relevant otherwise.

4. Add page descriptions on each of your category pages and include all of your page tags in your page content. For instance include a very brief summary of your front page website description (without copying text directly). This will allow visitors who landed directly on your category page to still get an understanding of your business and enables you to use your primary website's keywords ("shopping", "discount", "on sale") so that, primarily, it shows search engines direct relevance between your top page and each second level page. Then provide a description of the category itself and the items within the category, utilizing the rest of your page's tags. This text will persuade visitors to shop on your site, in this category particularly, while convincing search engines your page content is relevant to your keywords and this second level page is directly relevant to third level pages as well as your top level page.

5. Tag your item pages with your primary website keywords ("shopping", "discount", and "on sale"), then your relevant category keyword ("Jewelry"), followed by additional descriptive keywords specific to that item, as if it's a directory map.

Include all of your keywords for each page in your content where it's tagged, whenever it makes sense. So you have the "shopping" keyword tagged on all of your pages to make your whole store relevant to that very important keyword, now you need your item pages themselves (third level pages) to be relevant to the first level and second level pages.

For instance, a page that describes a gold bracelet as explained in the simple rules above, might be categorized in "Jewelry" and tagged as "shopping", "discount", "on sale", "jewelry", "bracelet", "gold", "bangle", and so on. Your description for that item might start with, "If you're shopping for an exquisite addition to your jewelry collection, this gorgeous gold bangle bracelet is on sale at an incredible discount..." You get the idea... Make each page's description meaningful, interesting, persuasive, and rich with keywords.

6. Add as many (optimized!) pages as possible. Stores with the biggest catalogs, the most categories, and the most item pages have more of a presence on the internet, of course. As long as each category is accessible from the main page and each item is accessible from a top level category (your whole website only goes three links deep: main page, category page, item page), no links are broken, there's a navigation bar on each page, and all the pages are optimized as described above, the more the better. The highest ranked online stores have thousands of well optimized product listings, however my first ecommerce store reached a very decent ranking with 300 item listings.

7. Use "Alt Tags" for your images. This is text that will show to human visitors only if your image is unavailable, it makes your images searchable on the internet, and it is always seen by search engines as content. Use your keywords heavily in image alt tags to increase your page's keyword usage, making your page content even more relevant to search engines without boring your shoppers. On a page where one of your keywords lacks very much presence and it would take away from the quality of your content to squeeze it into the text anymore, include that word again in an image "alt tag" instead.

8. Use relevant cross-reference links between pages within your site. If you have the capability to provide cross-references from one item to other relevant items in your catalog, do that! Search engines love cross references. You've already shown the search engine through use of keywords and page descriptions that your third level pages are relevant to your first and second level pages, and cross references between item pages show additional relevancy between third level pages as well. Under the image and description for a particular item, if you have a section that says, "...you might also be interested in..." with thumbnail descriptions that link to other relevant item pages of your site, it makes it easier for search engines to find relevancy between more of your pages, with a direct path for them to follow. It also helps convert visitors into paying customers by helping them find exactly what they're looking for in fewer clicks. It's all-around a great tool and worth the expense and effort.

9. Add a blog or allow comments and reviews. Each comment on your site is new relevant content for search engines to review. You can use a blog page for creating network contacts and free sales publicity. The added functionality also encourages visitors to utilize and then return to your site, potentially bookmarking a post for their own purpose, providing free viral marketing...the benefits are practically endless.

10. Think outside of the box. Always keep your eyes open for new ideas for relevantly linking your pages, providing additional relevant functionality to your pages, increasing your categories, and improving your content.

Niche Article Directory: http://www.thatsmyniche.com

SEO for eCommerce Stores is one part of SEO 4 One 's complete beginner's guide to search engine optimization.


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