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Stores that want to be found on Google need to be optimized for search engines. However, this is not easy, as online stores usually consist of hundreds or even thousands of pages that need to rank for the right search terms.

Search engine optimization for online stores follows principles that also apply to other websites, but specific challenges such as URLs with little content, category and tag pages and the risk of keyword cannibalization must be mastered.

I have developed an approach to online store SEO that will get your cash register ringing.

Pay attention to the technical basics

The technical approach to search engine optimization follows the goal of optimizing the customer experience. Fast loading times and a clear structure that users can find their way around are a must-have for successful online stores. You can now find out exactly which factors need to be taken into account.

Fast loading times

Nobody wants to store in a store where you have to wait for hours before the products are displayed. Fast servers and an efficiently programmed store are therefore the be-all and end-all of an online store.

Under no circumstances should the speed of the server be a problem. Shared hosting should be reserved for static blogs, while online stores should rely on high-performance servers or cloud hosting, such as Amazon Web Services. Content delivery networks (CDN) such as Amazon CloudFront or Cloudflare can also be helpful in reducing loading times.

There is also a need for optimization when it comes to images. The higher the quality of the images, the larger the files and therefore the longer the page takes to load. However, if you use solutions such as Shopify, you don't need to worry about this point. The store software automatically compresses images to the smallest possible size without affecting the quality too much.

In addition to server performance and image size, there is a third stumbling block that I often encounter when optimizing loading times: too much or slow JavaScript.

Page Speed Insights OttoThe DFB Shop has a very poor performance on smartphones. Google Page Speed Insights takes 15.4 seconds for the page to become interactive on a 3G internet connection. JavaScript seems to slow it down unnecessarily.

JavaScript is often used by plugins, which is why store operators actually only have two options for solving problems in connection with JavaScript: to use a different plugin or to do without the function provided by the plugin.

Clear website structure with flat hierarchy

Online stores and the silo structure are made for each other. A silo is a group of URLs that are assigned to a category and linked to each other. A category is then subdivided into several subcategories. In the end, you end up with a structure like this:

Peanutbutterseite.de/creamy/classic

Peanutbutterseite.de/creamy/low-carb

Peanutbutterseite.de/creamy/fair-trade

Peanutbutterseite.de/crunchy/organic

...

This enables search engines to recognize how the page is structured based on the URL structure. In addition, linking several pages within a category to each other reinforces the coherence of those pages.

It should be noted that the website structure should be as flat as possible. This allows both the search engine crawler and the customer to quickly navigate from the main page to the product page via categories.

The danger of duplicated content

There is a lot of duplicated content on the Internet. They can occur when third parties copy the content of a website or when the content of a page exists multiple times on the same domain. The latter occurs, for example, when there is an http and an https version of the website, a subdomain in which content is stored as a backup or when parameters are appended to a URL.

In this case, not all URLs are listed on Google, but at most one of them. It is therefore important to check that the store software or its plugins have not inadvertently created duplicates of a URL. In addition, 301 redirects must be set, for example to redirect the http version of the page to the secure https version.

If there are several URLs with identical or very similar content, the canonical tag ("rel=canonical") can be used. This is used to identify the page that is to be regarded as the original. A duplicate that refers to the original via the canonical tag is recognized by Google as a copy.

Orphan pages must be avoided

Orphan pages are URLs that do not receive any internal links from the other URLs of a domain. It is therefore not possible to find this URL. This is obviously a major problem, as search engines will never discover such a page and include it in the search index.

Tools such as the SEO Spider from Screaming Frog can be used to discover orphan pages. If such pages exist, in most cases there is a structural problem or the page has not been categorized correctly. Once you have rectified the error, you can have the URL crawled manually via Google's Search Console so that it is included in the index as quickly as possible.

How keyword research works for online stores

Keyword research is just as important for online stores as it is for other websites. While your site can rank for search terms with low search volume and weak competition by chance by using a meaningful headline and URL, careful planning is essential for difficult keywords.

As it is precisely these more difficult keywords with strong competition that can generate a lot of sales, it is worth investing your attention here.

Without SEO tools, you're fishing in the mud

You can certainly analyze the search results for each individual search term yourself and estimate the search volume pi by thumb. However, I strongly advise against this method!

Modern SEO tools are able to find hundreds of variations of a keyword at the touch of a button and indicate their search volume relatively reliably. In addition, many tools offer a measure of the difficulty of landing on the first page of search results for a keyword.

Search terms for which you are already listed on Google can be easily found via Search Console.

Keyword Overview

Over 3000 relevant keywords are displayed on Ahrefs for the search term "truffles".

Let's say an online store sells truffles, among other things. As we can see at a glance, it would be possible to create subcategories such as Palatinate truffles, white truffles, black truffles etc.. Each individual sub-category would be optimized for the keyword.

Ranking Check - SEOAhrefs displays the top 10 search results for each keyword plus important data such as backlinks and traffic.

If we look at the top search results for the keyword, we immediately see that almost all sites are online stores specializing in truffles - so it is possible to be displayed as an online store for this keyword. A look at the number of backlinks or domains shows that the competition is not overpowering. We are not competing against Aldi, Lidl or Edeka here, but small web stores.

How to grab your competitors' keywords

To find even more keyword ideas, it is worth analyzing the competition. Almost all SEO tools can find hundreds or even thousands of keywords that generate traffic for any website.

Keywords truffle storeA look at Trueffelshop.de shows us 683 keywords, as well as their volume and the URL that is assigned to a keyword. This not only allows us to find out which keywords bring in the most traffic from the competition, but also why Google has chosen this particular URL.

It's easy to find keywords for which your competitor ranks well, but which your site is still missing. Let's say you want to increase the traffic of your store Frischetrueffeln.de by finding out for which keywords Trueffelshop.de ranks. For this purpose, Ahrefs offers the Content Gap function.

SEO for online stores

The Content Gap function shows all keywords for which a competitor or several competitors rank, but your site does not.

Now you can develop new content or offer new products based on these new keywords, as you can be sure that they are in demand and fit your store.

Fight for better positions with on-page optimization

Content must be optimized for search engines without disrupting the UX. For online stores, this means that despite all measures to tailor pages for Google, the user must come first.

In recent years, however, many online stores have realized how important it is to use body text in addition to a meaningful headline and image alt tags.

 

Online store SEO

At Otto.de, there is a guide on every category page under the product images. As search engines cannot interpret images (except via alt text), this text is helpful for evaluating the page.

Nobody really reads this text under the product images. It exists purely to explain to Google what this page is about, women's outdoor pants. Within this text, relevant terms such as "rain pants", "softshell pants", "thermal pants" and "trekking pants" are used to be relevant to these terms as well.

Without this text, Otto.de would have a much harder time ranking for these competitive keywords. However, the combination of domain authority and optimized content enables the store to be displayed at the top of Google for many keywords in many different categories.

The optimization of a page starts with the meta tags

There is still no more important part of a URL for Google than the meta title and H1. The keyword must appear here in any case and, if possible, exactly and not in a modified form.

To ensure that hundreds of URLs have meaningful titles right from the start, it is advisable to use templates. Due to the severely limited length for meta titles, this template must be kept simple. In this way, longer keywords do not exceed the intended length.

Example: {keyword} buy now cheap | Store Name

Since online stores focus on keywords with the intention to buy, keywords such as "cheap", "best", "now" etc. should definitely be used to maximize the conversion rate.

H1 headings, on the other hand, should only consist of the product category and the product name. In any case, these should appear in the headline.

Google has recently started to select meta descriptions according to the search term itself. As a result, the descriptions provided by the site owner are hardly used any more. Nevertheless, it makes sense to at least offer Google a meaningful meta description. Depending on the industry, emojis such as checkmarks and arrows can be used to generate attention.

Meaningful URLs help with rankings

URLs should be readable for humans and kept as short as possible. It is advisable to simply use the category names according to the website structure as the URL and not a date, randomized characters or similar.

If we look at the following URL of Trueffelshop.de, we see an unnecessary section "product-category". This does not help to describe or categorize the product and should therefore be omitted. The larger the store, the more levels there are in the website structure. At a certain point, you can no longer afford to create unnecessary complexity.

https://trueffelshop.de/product category/pasta-and-risotto/trueffelpasta/

Useful category and product descriptions are a must

The more competitive a keyword, the more text a page needs to be among the highest positioned search results. While many store visitors do not read this text, it should at least contain useful information.

First and foremost, however, it is about providing Google with the right signals to be displayed as high up as possible for a relevant search. If you have not been sloppy in your keyword research, you should have found a number of secondary keywords for each keyword that should be mentioned in the content.

On-page optimization tools such as Surfer or Page Optimizer Pro can also help to identify the signals and incorporate them into the content.

Regardless of whether tools are used or not, one thing must be clear: The official product descriptions or other previously published texts must not be reused under any circumstances. Otherwise it is a duplicate that is not included in the index and therefore cannot be displayed as a search result.

Almost all stores now use schema markup

Schema markup is markup code that explains to search engines in a structured way what content can be seen on a URL. This information is also known as structured data. The following information is suitable for stores:

- Rating

- Price

- Name

- Picture

- Description of the

- Currency

 

 

SEO for online stores

The Buongusto store stands out from the search results because it displays the star rating as well as the price and availability. This information is only displayed on Google because the appropriate schema markup exists on the page.

There are plugins for the most popular store platforms, such as Shopify, which simplify the addition of schema markup and sometimes even do it automatically. These plugins are also available for WordPress and WooCommerce.

Targeted link building is not easy for online stores. Stores usually get backlinks automatically due to their popularity. However, if you want to build up a store, you need to take a much more systematic approach.

Here are three ways to build targeted links for online stores:

  1.   Contact industry-related websites: There are often news websites or blogs that deal with the topic of your store. You can find these by analyzing the backlinks of the competition, for example, or by looking through the search results for search terms without a purchase intention (news, guides, etc.) to find suitable partner sites.
  2.   Publish entries in web directories: There are almost always directories in which the websites of a particular industry are listed, for example Yellow Pages. Backlinks to the store can usually be placed here.
  3.   Cooperate with manufacturers: If you have a trustworthy online store, the manufacturer can list your store as a partner on their website.
  4.   Content Marketing: Some stores have a blog, which is not only used to get more traffic, but also to get backlinks. You can also send press articles about your store to news websites - this way you can get amazingly good backlinks if your store has a high reputation.

Once you have internalized these four components of search engine optimization for online stores and translated them into clear to-dos, you can expect significantly more traffic within a very short time. But the work doesn't stop there, because the more successful your store is, the more it will grow and the larger your store is, the more important the technical components become. Search engine optimization therefore always remains exciting!

For further information, we can recommend our article on the topic of Amazon SEO & Amazon SEO Tools recommend.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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Based on 59 reviews
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