So you’ve decided it’s time to take the next step for your business and open up an ecommerce store. Congratulations! Whether you’ve been running an established brick-and-mortar shop for years or you’ve only just realized you can capitalize on your love of kitten mittens by selling them online, owning an online store is a crucial revenue-driving strategy for businesses in any stage.
As your “welcome to the online selling” present, here are ten steps you can take to increase your ecommerce storefront’s organic traffic and overall online visibility:
Prior To Setting Up Your Storefront
1. Research Your Target AudienceGetting to know your audience from an SEO perspective means understanding what your users will be searching for and what they’re expecting to find. Some SEO-specific questions you can ask of your audience include: What devices are they using? Will they require a website that uses responsive design? What searches will they be making? What style of language and messaging will they respond to? What questions do they want answered before they make a purchase? Are there complementary products you could stock on your website that your audience would be interested in purchasing alongside what you already sell?
Now that you have an idea of who you’ll be targeting, you can start setting up shop.
During the Set-Up Phase:
2. Make a Few Technical FixesBefore you take your ecommerce website live, give it a quick run-down and make sure the URL structure is SEO-friendly and can be crawled as easily as possible. If you’re using Volusion ecommerce software, you’re in luck. The process is as simple as navigating to your store dashboard and making sure a few boxes are checked. Here’s what to do:
- Enable 301 redirects — This means if you move a page on your website, the old link will automatically redirect to the new link so the user will still be able to access the product or page they searched for instead of encountering an error message.
- Enable canonical links — Most ecommerce websites, by their nature, have many pages on their store that contain very similar content. Enabling canonical links will tell search engines which page to prioritize when they come across multiple pages with the same content.
- Enable Search Engine-Friendly URLS — This will allow you to add text to each individual page’s URL in order to make the URL more relevant to users and search engines.
3. Install Google AnalyticsWhile having Google Analytics on your online store will not directly impact your SEO (read: you don’t get brownie points from Google for having one), it will dramatically dictate how you build your strategy in the future by providing detailed information on which tactics are working and which ones aren’t. After you set up your account, enable ecommerce tracking, which will provide you an array of valuable data, including a break-down of the revenue gained from various traffic sources, a list of your top-performing products, the pathway a user took through the site prior to making a purchase, and more.
4. Optimize Your Meta TagsMeta tag optimization, which involves updating your website’s Title tags and Meta descriptions to reflect 3-5 unique, well-researched keywords per page, is at the heart of any SEO strategy. Think of it as a concise “cheat sheet” for both the search engines and the users; it describes what an accessed page is about via some choice phrasing and a few key search terms. It also takes a lot of time. So, while in a perfect world you’d take care of this pre-launch, it’s also okay to set a realistic goal of optimizing a certain number of pages per month and gradually getting the job done. Search engines constantly re-crawl websites, so nothing is static; in time, the new metadata will be accounted for and indexed. Oh, and you can ignore the keyword tag – the search engines do too!
5. Add Product ImagesDo you show off the best of every product you sell with multiple professional, attractive, high-quality images? If not, you’re going to have some serious trouble converting prospective buyers. If so, here are the next steps you can take with your images:
- Give users the ability to enlarge each photograph for an even better view of the product, and provide views from multiple angles.
- Show the product being used for its intended purpose. Don’t just display a pair of sunglasses; show someone looking awesome in them.
- Add Alt text to each image. The Alt text will show up if an image doesn’t load properly, and it’s a great way to communicate to Google what an image is and how they should index it, since search engines can’t “see” the images on your page (things haven’t gotten that creepy yet). It’s also an accessibility bonus for vision-impaired users. You can quickly do this in you Volusion admin by using the “Photo Alt Text” field in your product page.
6. Submit your Sitemap to Google and BingImmediately upon launching, you’ll be able to set up an account in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools, two powerful and free resources that will provide more detailed data than Google Analytics alone. You can now easily submit your sitemap, essentially a list of all the pages on your website you want indexed, to both Google and Bing. It’s easy to find your store’s sitemap with Volusion; just add /sitemap.xml to your domain (for example: www.example.com/sitemap.xml).
7. Write Your On-Page ContentIn a perfect world you could write all of your content prior to launch. In Regular-People world, writing on-page content is a task best broken down into doable bites. Start with your highest-priority pages (like the home page and top category pages) and work your way down the list, focusing on adding 150-300 words of smart, descriptive, compelling content per page and naturally adding the page’s targeted keywords into the mix.
8. Keep Your Site Content FreshSomething else the search engines love is new content. They love it. They are suckers for it. Have you ever seen or read “The Iron Giant?” You know how the Giant couldn’t stop eating scrap metal? Search engines are like that, but with content. The more fresh content you can serve to those lovable, famished robots, the better. Here are some strategies you can consider that will keep your website content fresh:
- Manage an on-site blog — A regularly-updated blog will make existing customers happy, bring in new organic traffic, and drive revenue by promoting deals or highlighting products on the website.
- Produce videos — Think you can’t produce a few videos about your products? Grab a Go-Pro and give it a try. There are many instances in which the content of the video will be valued over quality; “how-to” videos, in particular, can pull in an audience that cares more about your knowledge of the product and its process than about your ability to channel your inner Jim Jarmusch. You can then both embed the videos on your own website and start a YouTube channel. A well-optimized video on YouTube is not something to take lightly; we’re talking about the world’s second-largest search engine, here.
9. Design a Relationship-Building StrategyBy this point, your on-site SEO is looking pretty great. So where do we go from here? The on-site factors are an essential jumping-off point, but your website’s ability to establish popularity and trust among the internet pantheon is the thing that will really drive traffic, organic and otherwise. This kind of “trust” is measured by search engines in inbound links from high-quality, relevant websites. In short, you want to get the right people talking about you and sharing your products. Here’s where your prospective “sharers” might be hiding:
- Related (but not competing) blogs
- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Polyvore
- News websites
- Industry resources
10. Monitor Your ProgressRemember Step 3? Here’s where your initial work with Google Analytics pays off. Monitor your website’s progress on a month-over-month – and ultimately year-over-year – basis, tracking factors like overall traffic, organic traffic, revenue, top-performing products, landing pages, referrals, goals and whatever else suits your specific needs. You can then make informed decisions about your SEO strategy moving forward.
If all of that seems like a lot, I get it. But keep your chin up and stay passionate about what you sell, write that passion down on your website and then share that passion with others, and you’ll do great. If you ever need help, there’s a whole team here Volusion here to help you grow your business through SEO; we’re happy to share our expertise!