Are you thinking about setting up an online store but you aren’t sure where to start? Do you wonder how to tailor an appealing project to SEO requirements or how to develop an online store that really generates traffic and at the same time looks natural and attractive? It doesn’t matter why you’re here. We’ve devised a comprehensive guide that will allow you to start your e-commerce off on the right foot. Stay with us for a few minutes to learn how to prepare your store to appear in the search engine.
A Few Pieces Of Information - Why Should You Do All Of It?
Due to the situation in 2020, the e-commerce market has been developing really rapidly. Online store owners come across various opportunities they certainly don’t want to miss when planning sales. A significant number of Internet users buy online more than 5 times a month. In a nutshell: e-commerce is enjoying its fruitful years.
However, market competitiveness resulting from the emergence of new online stores is increasing together with the interest in online shopping. This, in turn, hinders the SEO process. Nevertheless, developing an SEO-friendly store is the first step to research your market rivals and catch up with them already at the beginning of your e-commerce adventure.
Keep in mind that potential customers search for information not only within your website, but also on social media, forums, comparison sites, and finally: in search engines. That’s why SEO is so important - it’s supposed to guarantee your presence and top visibility at all possible points of contact with consumers.
Why do users enjoy online shopping and what does it mean for you?
When analyzing databases from previous months, we can easily determine the demographics of online buyers (also according to industries). A proper market analysis is extremely important, already at the stage of developing a website. To access more data, check out the reports mentioned in this entry. Today we won’t be talking about demographics (although we’ll mention the target group so stay tuned). Instead, we’ll focus on the reasons why users enjoy online shopping and what it has to do with your online store.
[caption id="attachment_42896" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Leading reasons why consumers worldwide chose to shop online in 2021. Source: statista.com[/caption]
Users appreciate the fact that they can shop all day and in the case of an online store, you need to take care of page availability - reliable hosting will prevent technical errors resulting from page inaccessibility. Moreover, not having to go to the store is another advantage - ensure shipping options which guarantee that people won’t need to go further than to their favorite parcel locker if they prefer this form of delivery. Unlimited selection time is beneficial for users, however, when developing your online store, you need to design a clear, transparent purchase path to prevent buyers from abandoning the shopping cart and choosing your market rivals.
Why Should You Take Care of SEO Already When Developing Your Store?
To save time and money. Although you may find it hard to notice when summarizing your budget after the first month, developing an online store with SEO in mind is more beneficial than commissioning this aspect to an SEO agency later on in the future.
To satisfy users. Quite a few aspects you need to pay attention to in terms of SEO come in handy when talking about marketing or UX. A well-structured menu, transparent category names, useful and clear product descriptions, or a possibility to review items are only some of the solutions.
To prevent problems in the future. Subsequent website audits may suggest that your website needs to be redesigned (which is problematic for the owner, web developer, SEO specialist, and - if done incorrectly - also for users). Algorithms are updated so frequently that regular SEO services are a must and it’s always better to invest in refining your website, not saving the basics.
To ensure quality content from the very beginning. Although you may not see the results after one month from setting up an online store, a properly designed website filled with valuable texts will bring you lots of profits in the future.
To improve online visibility. You can calculate this on your own: better visibility = improved organic traffic = increased profits and faster return on investment. Remember that it’s a continuous process and it’s up to the marketing activities whether you’ll fully benefit from the potential of SEO.
To outdo your market rivals. A number of online stores emerged in the ongoing pandemic, therefore, you need something that will make you stand out from the crowd. What? An SEO-friendly store is a perfect answer to the challenges of today's e-commerce market.
How To Build An SEO-Friendly Online Store?
When you know why to do it, now you need to learn how to build an SEO-friendly online store. We promised to provide you with a comprehensive guide, so without further ado let’s discuss specific points.
Meet users’ requirements
Even if it seems obvious, before developing an online store you need to research the market and define your target recipients corresponding to your marketing strategy (if you don’t have it, don’t waste time. It’s pointless to take any action without a proper plan. You also have to learn why user personas are so crucial).
Why is it so important when developing a store?
A young art student looking for books about design will have completely different transparency requirements than an elderly woman who wants to buy natural cosmetics. The same applies to keywords. Getting to know your target group will help you properly select keywords and decide which products or services should be prioritized (and how to do it) to improve SEO effectiveness.
A keyword analysis is the first step to improved online visibility. Tools such as Semstorm or Senuto will help with the task (we also recommend other tools), but it's worth bearing in mind that keywords are an extremely complicated topic and it may be better to commission the task to specialists. They require taking into account a number of factors such as competitiveness, the monthly number of searches, the difficulty of phrases, seasonality, and trends. And that’s not the end. Besides, it’s crucial to remember that it’s not enough to specify a few basic phrases: each subpage must have unique keywords that cannot repeat or overlap.
Choose the right hosting
Does the server selection impact SEO? Yes. Hosting is important for SEO (e.g. in terms of website loading time, safety or potential 500 errors. To learn more, go to our entry: Does server selection impact the SEO process?). However, when considering a purchase you have to watch out for offers such as "fast hosting for...", "hosting for SEO" and assess the performance or speed of a given hosting before you choose it.
Implement analytics and monitoring tools
There is no SEO without tools - from the very first days of your store operation, tools such as Google Analytics or Google Search Console will come in handy. They'll help you track internal and external traffic, user paths (Analytics) or the phrases that lead people to specific subpages (Search Console). If you run online campaigns, you may also benefit from Pixel for Facebook and Hotjar, the tool for so-called scroll tracking or click tracking (tracking cursor movements) that will allow you to understand users better.
When implementing website codes, it’s crucial to stay moderate and not overload the page. Long website loading time can be dispraised by both Google and users - nobody likes to wait for slowly loading websites. If you need a variety of various codes, you can load key elements first.
Fill the page with quality content
Apart from attracting users, quality content allows you to effectively apply relevant keywords. Don’t leave empty pages that are perceived as not valuable, fill your landing page with a unique text that will appeal both to users and robots. Thoroughly describe each product so that people can learn about it. Don't forget about a blog and content other than the written one - videos, graphics or infographics effectively attract attention. Avoid duplicate content and never copy descriptions from websites of manufacturers or market rivals - it won’t improve your positions and it can actually do more harm than good.
Take care of proper website architecture
[caption id="attachment_41807" align="aligncenter" width="528"] An exemplary screenshot from Sitebulb[/caption]
Why is website architecture so vital for SEO? A robot, like a human, navigates through individual subpages step by step, or rather link by link, and no matter how much it wants to, it isn't able to get to a page that isn't highlighted in the sitemap and has no connection to other subpages of the site. The more expanded the page, the harder it is for robots to navigate it. It’s worth using tools like Sitebulb to point out what can and should be improved.
Focus on the site menu - it needs to be intuitive, preferably drop-down, designed in a way that prevents it from disappearing after a slight movement of the cursor in one direction or another. The categories ought to be divided in a logical and transparent way, keep product names specific. Why? Well-structured names are already anchors (so-called exact match anchors), and therefore support internal linking. That's why it's better to use specific, maybe even obvious names, such as "wooden decorations" instead of "decorations", because Google won't necessarily instantly realize that your store sells only wooden products.
The abovementioned internal linking is an important part of website architecture. How to improve it? Use breadcrumbs, place links to categories in the footer, provide appealing calls to action in blog entries, link to product categories and other items that may be of interest to users.
Don’t forget about technical SEO
Nowadays, the combination of a quality website and valuable content is a quick recipe for success. How to develop an online store which is in line with technical SEO principles?
Don’t forget about the SSL certificate that’s important both for users and search engine robots. It protects the site and ensures its safe operation while encouraging users to buy and convincing the robots that they’re dealing with a quality page.
Once your page is fully developed, create its sitemap and upload it to Google Search Console. This way, robots will be able to index it. A well-implemented sitemap.xml file is a must-have of a top-quality online store.
Txt is another element that should be taken care of when it comes to technical SEO. If you apply it incorrectly, the page may be indexed out. To learn more about the robots.txt file, go to our blog entry and find out how to use it properly.
Ensure proper size and loading time of your website. Remember that sometimes less is more. Take care of the size and speed of your site - to check these parameters, use tools such as GTmetrix or PageSpeed Insight (focus on elements such as Core Web Vitals). Functionalities like lazy loading are important but it’s more crucial to take care of the size and format of your graphics.
Structured data helps Google understand page content, and it also catches users' eyes thanks to providing them with a lot of information available already on the search results page: we're talking about elements like stars, ratings, number of votes, and product prices. Want to find out more about how structured data can support your e-commerce? Check out our entry to learn about schema markup for online stores.
If you're thinking about going international, ensure proper quality of various language website versions. What to keep in mind? It’ll certainly be crucial to implement hreflangs (to learn more, go to our entry: How to tag language versions of your website?), ensure correct translations, keywords or a local domain, not only a local directory (e.g. yourstore.it, not yourstore.com/it).
Place the no-follow attribute on external links. Do you link to websites of your partners, manufacturers or your own social media? Remember to use the nofollow attribute when dealing with external links.
Alt texts are invisible and seemingly unimportant, but their lack is one of the most common e-commerce mistakes (alt texts make it possible for Google to analyze graphics and help visually impaired persons). This and other similar mistakes are mentioned in our
Title and meta description - similarly to keyword research, it’s an advanced level of SEO, so it's best to commission the task to an agency. However, if you don’t have such an opportunity at the moment, check out the Yoast plugin for WordPress, the "SEO" product and category panel on Shoper or WooCommerce based stores.
Remember about the mobile version
Finally, we would like to mention the importance of a mobile version of an online store (this is relevant not only because of the mobile-first index!). As the Omni-Commerce report says:
"Cross-device shopping is even stronger than a year ago. This means that consumers start the shopping process on one device and finalize the transaction on another. Therefore, the issue of a uniform shopping experience is becoming extremely important, regardless of the sales channel".
That's why you can't perceive smartphones as less important. Just the other way round, the users’ adventure with your online store frequently begins on smartphones, so make sure that your page is fast enough and don't force visitors to struggle with buttons that are placed too close.
Plan shipping and payment methods that support conversion
What payment methods enjoy the greatest popularity? Fast transfers and cash on delivery are still chosen by a significant number of buyers. Traditional bank transfers are much less important, although they’re still popular among e-consumers aged 55+, so if they constitute your target group - be sure to provide them with this payment method.
How To Build An SEO-Friendly Online Store? The Takeaway
An SEO-friendly online store is one of the finest investments you can make when starting your e-commerce adventure. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth starting cooperation with an SEO agency, a well-prepared online store is a cornerstone for subsequent activities. Nevertheless, remember that if it’s not your cup of tea, you don’t have to do everything on your own as it may bring you more harm than good.
Now you know what to do (learn what to avoid in SEO), therefore, with this basic e-commerce knowledge you can start conquering the online world! Share your expertise with developers and your marketing team to combine all the activities that will support each other and help you reach better positions in the search results.
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