Effective White Hat eCommerce SEO Techniques
SEO may be an ever-changing landscape, but certain constants remain. Knowing how to put the right techniques into play may determine how well your eCommerce website performs against your competitors in the search results.
No matter how long your online store has been around, it’s always worth implementing rock-solid white hat eCommerce SEO techniques. So much has changed when it comes to search engine optimization but the foundation remains the same: intuitive site structure, informative content, and the necessity for detailed keyword research, for instance.
Why is getting to the top spots in Google so important even after all this time? Well, most sources indicate that the top position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) still nets roughly 30% of the traffic. The top 3 spots absorb well over half of all of the traffic, which shows you the value of these spots from a digital marketing perspective.
If you want your online business to succeed, it’s obvious that you need to pay attention to your SEO and utilize the right strategies that will actually produce powerful results. Ideally, you want to land on the first page of Google for multiple keywords, and over time, you want to snag some of those topmost positions. This is where the real money is.
As you have traversed the Web in search of SEO tips and tricks, you likely have encountered the terms “black hat” and “white hat” before, and would like a little more clarification as to what these terms mean and how they apply to eCommerce. This guide will help clear the air a little so you can form a laser-focused strategy built on the best Google-approved techniques.
What is White Hat SEO and Why is it so Important?
White hat SEO is much more than a buzzword, it encompasses everything that Google considers a safe and legit way to improve your website and climb the SERPs. It’s important to make this distinction because there are certainly techniques out there that can land you in hot water with Google and that can even get your entire website penalized.
What are some examples of white hat SEO techniques?
- Creating engaging content that informs your readers and helps them find what they are looking for.
- Writing detailed product descriptions that contain important keywords.
- Making sure all of your images have proper alt-tags.
- Building a fluid website that works great on mobile devices.
- Compressing your images so that your website loads faster.
Sound somewhat vanilla? That’s because real search engine optimization isn’t fancy or sensational. It requires a great deal of research and a keen awareness of SEO best practices and what users expect out of an online shopping experience. Optimizing your website is akin to making your brick and mortar store attractive, walkable, and functional.
On the other hand, you might think of black hat SEO tactics as anything that tries to game the system. Unnatural techniques such as building another website just to provide yourself with a backlink would be considered a shady trick in Google’s eyes. The question is, why?
Whenever you want some insight into the method behind the madness as it pertains to SEO, all you have to do is put yourself in Google’s shoes and think of things from their perspective. Their end goal is to provide their users with an optimal experience. This means helping them to find quality products and reliable answers to their most pressing questions.
A forced unnatural backlink tells Google that there is not actually value here. It’s something of low or zero value passing nothing of merit onto another website. This does nothing for the user in Google’s eyes, and therefore should be penalized. There are a variety of different so-called black hat techniques that are best to steer clear from, because while some do still get results, you are always playing with fire. There’s also the fact that it’s obvious, as Google continues to improve upon its algorithm, that it wants to make all forms of artificial optimization obsolete.
Bottom line: if it doesn’t benefit the user, forget about it.
Online Stores Need eCommerce SEO
If you manage an online store, having the right optimization strategy in place is essential, because no matter how good your products are, you still need to have a reliable means of getting traffic. Even if you are running ads or have a great social media presence, these forms of digital marketing can rarely compete with the ROI and value of organic traffic.
To get the best possible results, you will need to focus on the eCommerce aspect of your business. Ordinary SEO techniques, while still valid, aren’t going to quite get you the ideal outcome here, because blogs and service industry websites speak to a different audience.
The goal for any online store is to sell products, and that means you have to make the appropriate on-site changes and cater your keyword research accordingly. The following white hat SEO techniques will help you create a more balanced and results-driven marketing strategy that will improve the eCommerce experience for your shoppers.
White Hat SEO Techniques for eCommerce Stores
Getting more organic traffic requires a sound eCommerce SEO strategy that uses white hat principles and takes the user into account at all times. We’ve highlighted some of the most important techniques you can use to increase the performance and rankings of your website.
It’s worth noting that if you want to truly take care of your SEO, all of these techniques should be tied to a comprehensive and data-orientated digital marketing strategy. You don’t want to cherry-pick through this list or make one or two corrections a week and rest on your laurels. The time and energy you put into your optimizations will be reflected in the results you get.
Product-Focused Keyword Research
The first white hat SEO tactic that you want to consider for your online store is to step up your keyword research game. If you are familiar with the basics of keyword research, this alone may not be enough.
For eCommerce, you have to take two major points into consideration. That is, search intent and long-tail opportunities. Not every keyword that has to do with your product may apply to your website. For instance, a specific keyword may be better suited for a review or a process article, and you are trying to include it on a product page.
These kinds of keyword conflicts don’t please Google. Remember, when you are fleshing out your content, you have to consider the user at all times and think about their searching behavior. Someone searching for how to repair a certain shoe doesn’t want to land on a product page, and someone who wants to buy a shoe doesn’t want to read a lengthy article on how to repair a sole. While the keywords involved may be nearly identical, they could potentially have dramatically different intentions behind them.
In eCommerce, this is all the more pronounced, because users who are in the process of shopping know exactly what they are looking for. If they don’t see a product description or an Add to Cart button, they won’t stick around for very long. Likewise, if you are constructing an informative blog but it is crammed with product-specific keywords, Google may consider this spam and so will your users.
One of the best things you can do for your website is to invest more time into your keyword research and lock onto those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to optimize one of your product or category pages for a really low volume keyword. As long as it’s getting some attention and the page is properly optimized, this is almost guaranteed to bring in more traffic than a page that tries to target a broad keyword.
Remember, unless you are an already well-established brand, there’s a good chance that your website won’t have the domain authority needed in order to target basic keyword combinations.
Optimize Your Website For the User
All of the changes that you make to your online store should be for the benefit of the user. Think about what would make it easier for your users to navigate your store and find what they are looking for. Is your site intuitive and fast? Does it offer the right kinds of checkout options? Is the homepage cluttered or does it do a good job of representing your brand and displaying your most important products?
The more user-centric you get with your website, the more value you will be providing. Ultimately, this is what Google is looking for.
On-Page SEO Enhancements Every Store Needs
As far as white hat SEO goes, you want to target on-page improvements wherever possible. This includes basic site components such as navigation, title tags, alt tags, mobile functionality, and the overall usability of your website. Here are some of the main on-page SEO elements you need to focus on:
- The overall site structure and navigation. Do the categories and breadcrumbs make sense? Is everything in the navigation relevant? Are there any blank category pages or dead links? The bones of your website should make sense and provide value, otherwise you will have a steep uphill climb when it comes to ranking well.
- Basic functionality. How easy is it to perform basic actions on your website? Is the checkout process slow and clunky or is it streamlined and modern? Make sure your text is easy to read, that linked elements aren’t too close together, and that all of the buttons and links work properly.
- Your mobile site has to be optimized as well. These days, shoppers are making their purchases right from their phones, so unless you want to lose out on customers, this has to be properly addressed.
- Social proof and brand culture. Shoppers want to know that they are making their purchases at a real place. Make sure you have an informative About Us page and that you go out of your way to highlight your audience throughout your website. Whether this means prominent links to your social media accounts, an embedded Instagram feed, or statistics from your email list, you want to make sure you are sending the signal loud and clear to your users (and Google) that you are a legitimate business.
- Site speed is another important area you have to work on. While some eCommerce platforms aren’t exactly optimized for the utmost speed, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Make sure all of your pages aren’t cluttered with useless images or videos, and limit your use of plugins and 3rd party software. Also, be sure to compress your images. While you don’t want them to be grainy, you don’t want your site to take forever to load, either.
Think About Your Internal Linking Gameplan
You should pay extra close attention to the way your internal links are built. Your strategy here should be to provide value to your users by linking to appropriate content throughout your website. Whether this means linking from a product description to one of your blogs that explains how to use a product, or if it entails linking to one of your products from a specific blog post, including these links can enhance the overall user experience of your website, which is the key here. It also helps Google to crawl your website and make sense of it.
Add Customer Reviews For Brand Authority
Everyone loves to see reviews, because they are small and easy to read and can reveal a lot about a company or a product in a short span of time. If you have any reviews, you should be including them prominently on your website. This includes Facebook reviews, Amazon reviews, Google reviews, or anything else that you might think your users would want to see.
Social proof like this is not only great for users, but helps Google connect the dots when it comes to vetting your website. It is also one of the ultimate white hat eCommerce SEO techniques, because nothing says quality online than legitimate reviews and testimonials.
Blogging For Your Users
The last white hat technique you want to tackle is blogging. Even if you are strictly eCommerce, you still need a blog. A high-quality blog is important for a multitude of reasons, including connecting with your audience, providing supplemental information on your website, and also allowing you to expand your reach online by targeting additional keywords.
For example, there are many kinds of keywords that wouldn’t make sense to target in product descriptions or on your homepage, but would fit perfectly in a blog article. Blogs can also function as sales pages that push people to your products or offers. They can also be used to keep your audience abreast of current events in your company or to announce deals.
What’s Next For Your White Hat SEO Strategy?
Now that you have a better idea of what constitutes white hat techniques and how they apply to eCommerce, you might be somewhat overwhelmed. There’s no question that SEO can be incredibly complicated at times and unless you are taking the right approach and building a solid strategy, it’s easy to get lost, even if you are focusing strictly on best practices.
If you think your digital marketing strategy could use professional touch, it’s time to jump onto a call with one of our eCommerce experts. Genius eCommerce® is a marketing agency that strictly works with online stores to help them improve their organic traffic through powerful SEO campaigns that take all of the best white practices into account. No matter what niche you are in or how big your store is, our team can help.