An e-commerce website is nothing without traffic – and to be more specific, it’s incredibly difficult for any e-commerce website to get by without organic search traffic from Google. More than any other traffic source, Google and other search engines are most likely to send potential customers your way. If your e-commerce site ranks well for a wide variety of search terms, you’re going to make money – it really is that simple.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of designing a website so that each page on the site has the best possible chance to rank for its primary search terms. The idea might seem fairly straightforward on the surface – but while you’re trying to optimize your website for the best possible rankings on Google, all of your competitors are doing the same thing. SEO is an intensely competitive world, and companies often spend enormous amounts of money for help in that area. You may eventually decide that hiring SEO help for your site makes sense as well, but it’s actually possible to do the basic steps on your own and get your site off on the right foot from the beginning. 

Don’t know where to begin? That’s where this article is going to help. Whether your site sells pet food, vape juice or clothing, the basic SEO principles for all websites are exactly the same. Follow this simple 5-step checklist, and you’ll give your site the best possible chance to start generating profitable traffic right from the beginning.

Optimize Your Home Page Around Your Site’s Primary Keywords

No matter what types of products your website sells, there are a few main ideas that sum up your business. Those are your site’s main keywords. Let’s suppose, for instance, that your site sells computer hardware. In that case, some of your site’s main ideas might include:

  • Computer hardware
  • Computer parts
  • Computer components

Keyword phrases often have synonyms. For instance, people often use the term “PC” as a synonym for “computer.” Therefore, your site’s main ideas would also include “PC hardware,” “PC parts” and “PC components.” Your first step in optimizing your website for search engines should be to ensure that your site’s main ideas are very obvious to web crawlers. Put a few paragraphs of helpful text on your home page explaining who you are, what you sell and what makes you different from the other businesses selling the same types of products.

Give Your Site a Logical Structure

In the world of e-commerce, a logical site structure is important both for SEO and for the user experience. For the users, no e-commerce website should require an instruction manual or “Help” page. People should intuitively know how to find what they want from their first time visiting the site, and having a logical structure accomplishes that goal. 

Organizing your site logically is also good for SEO because each page on your website should link back to the page above it in the site’s hierarchy, thus reinforcing its importance. In that way, your site’s structure tells search engines what your most important keywords are. Using our hypothetical computer parts store as an example, here is one possible hierarchical structure leading from the site’s home page to an individual product.

  • Computer parts (home page)
  • Computer peripherals (category page)
  • Keyboards (category page)
  • Logitech keyboards (category page)
  • Logitech Craft keyboard (product page)

Depending on the number of products that your site sells, it might make sense to have two hierarchical trees, with one tree based on product types and the other based on brand names. Someone who visits a computer parts store, for instance, may want to see all of the CPUs that you have, while another visitor might want to see only CPUs made by AMD. Make sure that your site’s structure allows both types of customers to get to the products that they want directly from your home page.

Optimize Your Category Pages Around Your Site’s Secondary Keywords

As you can see from the example above, any e-commerce website with a decent product selection is going to have quite a few category pages – and for many sites, category page SEO is a major missed opportunity. A category page can be so much more than a list of products. It can, in fact, be more like a miniature home page. 

In our example above, for instance, the “Logitech Keyboards” page could present an opportunity to rank for that search. What makes Logitech keyboards special? What different types of keyboards does Logitech offer, and why should someone buy a keyboard from you? Optimize each category page for its main idea by adding helpful text that informs customers and reinforces the page’s relevance for its main keyword phrase.

Optimize Your Product Pages Around the Names of Those Products

At the bottom level of your site’s hierarchy are the individual products. Anyone who searches for a specific product online is highly likely to be interested in buying that product – so whenever someone comes through a search engine and lands on one of your product pages, you have a great chance to make a sale. With that in mind, you’re probably going to spend more time on your product pages than on any other aspect of your site’s SEO. You should optimize each product page around the name of that product, and here’s a quick checklist of the things that every product page on your site should have.

  • A meta title and meta description featuring the product’s name.
  • At least one high-quality image featuring the product’s name as both the file name and alt text. If you can provide your own original photography, that’s even better.
  • A high-quality original description explaining what the product is and answering the questions that a potential buyer might have. 

It’s also wise to link internally to one or two other pages on your site within each product description. It’s very common for unscrupulous website owners to copy product descriptions from other websites. If your site is around long enough, that’ll almost certainly happen to you. If it does, there’s a chance that the person copying your descriptions will leave the links as they are. In the process, they’ll be giving you free links from their site to you