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10-Step SEO Checklist for Ecommerce Sites Entering 2016

With 2016 soon approaching, many ecommerce sites are restructuring their approach to SEO. With SEO strategies and best practices continuously evolving to the new standards of Google's search algorithm, there is no better time to revamp and optimize an ecommerce SEO program.

ecommerce seo checklist 2016

To help shed light on the vital areas that could use attention, below is a brief 10-step SEO checklist for ecommerce sites entering 2016.

10-Steps to Better SEO for Ecommerce Sites

While you could hire a SEO expert to conduct an ecommerce SEO site audit to address most of these elements, most of the following aspects can be handled with basic knowledge and access to the right tools. They include:

1. Pinpoint HTML Errors

Ecommerce sites are deep and highly technical. Any issues negatively impacting search engine crawling and indexing can plague SEO. Check Google Webmaster Tools to pinpoint any obvious HTML errors. Further, use tools like W3C Markup Validation Service to ensure the ecommerce site is error free.

2. Check for Broken Links

Similar to the latter process of pinpointing HTML, make sure all broken links and 404 errors are corrected. These can hinder SEO and should be fixed with proper redirects.

3. Scan the Site's Backlink Profile

Using tools like A href's, Majestic, or SEO SpyGlass, get a full picture of the backlinks pointing to the ecommerce site. Audit both the sources and anchor text of the links. Spammy links can be disavowed. Further, too much optimized anchor text (keyword-stuffed anchor text) can indicate that any future link building should be done in natural fashion (using anchor text like "domain.com," "click here," or "learn more.")

4. Are You Using Schema Markup?

If you're not using any form of Schema markup (i.e. Product Schema for product pages,) then this is the year to get on board. While Google has yet to admit any correlation of using Schema and seeing better rankings, many ecommerce SEO's claim to experience dramatic improvement in search engine visibility.

5. Enhance Titles & Meta Data

Writing new page titles and meta descriptions for each page might be a bit much for an ecommerce site. But take a look at your top 10-20 pages generating the most organic search traffic and assess the page titles and meta data. 

Are your titles keyword-relevant and under 63 characters? Are you meta descriptions creative, compelling, and under 154 characters. Writing great copy for these small yet significant page attributes has been shown to increase click-through rates, as well as uplift rankings.

6. Audit Your Page Copy

Similar to auditing the page titles and meta descriptions (which are visible in Google's search results), read over the copy populating your top pages. Does the copy reflect the voice of your ecommerce brand? Is it accurate, grammatically correct, and unique? Do you have at least 200 or so words on your key money pages?

7. Evaluate Your Ecommerce Site's Footer

Because footers are site-wide, or on all pages of your site, any links in the footer get special search engine attention.

Not all footers are created equal. For this reason, make sure your site's footer is aligned with your ecommerce SEO strategies. For example, having a section labeled "Most Popular Posts" is a great place to link a few of your best, traffic-generated blog posts. Further, you can link to "Top Products," "Video Reviews," and other linkable SEO assets in your footer.

8. Expand Your Sitemaps

Using a sitemap, or many segmented sitemaps, is essential for ecommerce SEO and ensuring proper crawling and indexing of your key money pages. If you current sitemap only contains a few major pages in your site's navigation, then it's time to expand. Because ecommerce sites often have thousands of pages, try developing segmented sitemaps based on various product categories or brands. There are no rules, but do apply a layer of logic and organization to constructing your sitemaps.

9. Assess Your Social Media Status

If you've been slow to embrace social media in 2015, now is the time to establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn (at very least.) These social media platforms can greatly help fuel your ecommerce SEO efforts.

10. Craft a Content Strategy

In addition to being powerful channel for inbound marketing, content marketing is one of the best supplements to ecommerce SEO. First, determine the various types of content that you're capable of creating (i.e. articles, blog posts, video, graphics, etc.) Next, make a list of questions, problems, solutions, and topics that you want to convey in your content. Lastly, create the content and get it published, whether on your ecommerce site, or on another relevant sources (preferably one that gets a lot of traffic.)

The Ultimate SEO Checklist for Ecommerce Sites

Ecommerce SEO can be a complex undertaking that demands a higher degree of effort and consideration compared to typical websites. In addition to optimizing a robust site (that may contain hundreds and thousands of pages,) ecommerce SEO is typically more keyword competitive as well. ecommerce seo checklist

In short, there's just a lot that goes into the SEO process for an online store. Although the best results are attained with a professional ecommerce SEO company, there are a number of on-site SEO tasks that can be handled in-house by a webmaster or tech-savvy marketing team.

In this article we share several SEO processes that are essential for ecommerce sites. Think of all of these processes as your ultimate SEO checklist for your ecommerce store.

Your Ecommerce SEO Checklist

  • Define keyword optimization naming convention - This doesn't sound as technical as it may seem. A "keyword optimization naming convention" is simply the semantic structure of words that you use for essential SEO elements (namely the Meta Title.) Because ecommerce sites are often so deep with pages, it's best to write a consistent naming convention for the Title and other parts of a page. A good place to start in developing SEO-friendly naming conventions is with the brand name and then the primary keyword phrase (or product name.) So your naming convention formula might be "[Brand] [Product Name] | [Ecommerce Store Name]" (e.g. "Nike Flex Trainer 2 Shoes | EcommerceShoeStore.com.") You can also apply naming conventions for URLs, Meta Descriptions, and other important content elements with SEO value.
  • Always write unique page copy - One of the biggest SEO mishaps that ecommerce stores face is duplicate content. This often stems from using generic product descriptions provided by manufacturers. The problem is that the same product descriptions are found on various other websites (perhaps even competitors'.) As a result of using generic content, the SEO value of your product pages is significantly diminished (if not entirely obsolete.) Instead, take the time to write unique and compelling product descriptions. This might demand the help of an experienced copywriter, but the investment is usually well worth it.
  • Keyword optimize media files – Most individuals who know a thing or two about SEO are familiar with keyword optimizing the ALT tag for images. However only few keyword optimize the entire file before uploading it to the website. To do this, name your media files with respect to your keyword targets (which is typically logical for product page image.) Additionally, you can modify the properties of images to be more keyword relevant. Right click the image or media file, select properties, and populate the title, sub-title, tags, description, and comments of the file to reflect your keyword targets. This helps maximize the SEO value of your pages when you go to upload the files.
  • Optimize for faster load speeds - Beyond the scope of SEO, optimizing your ecommerce website for fast load speed enhances user experience (which aids in conversions.) Although there is some SEO value to having a quick load times, most value is seen for conversion optimization. Faster load speed is achieved by minimizing the HTML code and optimizing robust media files. By taking the time to strip unnecessary code and reduce the file size of images and video, you can significantly improve your website load speed.
  • Start content marketing (if you haven't already) – Content marketing is the glue that holds your social media marketing and SEO efforts together. In a nutshell, you can create informative, inspiring, and enlightening videos, articles/blog posts, or images/graphics, and share the goodness with your social media followers. Awesome content earns social authority and gets linked-to naturally. As a result, you can leverage content marketing to both increase your keyword rankings and grow your social media following.
  • Integrate social media icons - There's no question that social media is having a game-changing impact on SEO. Tweets, shares, likes, +1's, pins, and other "social signals" are becoming stronger ranking factors. In essence, social signals tell search engines that humans are digging it, so it's worthy of higher rankings. In addition building a presence on relevant social media sites, integrating social media icons makes it more efficient for visitors to like your content, particularly product pages, the homepage, and blog posts.
  • Build a HTML sitemap - The HTML sitemap serves as the index of your ecommerce site, and is considered by many SEO experts as the second most important page of the website (next to the homepage.) Although visitors rarely use the sitemap, it's very important to search engine spiders and SEO in general. The issue with ecommerce websites is that a complete sitemap can sometimes contain thousands of pages. When this is the case, you can create segmented sitemaps that focus on specific product categories. From you primary HTML sitemap, you can link to each segmented sitemap. This is a great solution for SEO and helps to keep your online store in good shape for crawling and indexing.

Although there's a lot more that goes into ecommerce SEO than the processes mentioned above, this is a solid starting place to get the ball rolling. On-page SEO is only a small piece of the puzzle, however by respecting the potential behind content marketing and social media, you'll be well on your way to executing some momentous off-page SEO strategies.

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