Getting started with e-commerce SEO might seem intimidating because, if we’re being honest, it takes a lot of time and effort. You don’t want to waste time spinning your wheels by working in the wrong places. That’s why knowing and prioritizing what to optimize and building a plan from there is so important. In this piece, we’ll help you understand how to identify and prioritize what needs to be optimized on your website and in what order. So, you can divide everything into more manageable tasks and get them done as quickly as possible. Let’s dive in.
Identify and Prioritize What to Optimize
Prior to going through the whole SEO process, many eCommerce businesses are not sure what page to start with. We’ll outline a quick process for identifying which pages you should focus on and how to prioritize your SEO efforts around product changes within the business such as new products, retiring old products, seasonal changes, etc.
URL Selection For Optimization
There are several ways to identify and prioritize URLs to optimize. We are not going to outline a step-by-step process but rather a guide for you or your team to reference. Every industry is different which makes putting a step-by-step process difficult or impossible to put together. Ultimately, you need to rely on multiple teams within the organization, data and your best judgment when determining which pages to optimize month to month and how. For larger sites and those running on Shopify, keep in mind how pages are being organized and canonicalized on the backend to know which page(s) you need to optimize. Example: Shopify, by default, adds collections onto the URL depending on which collection you were in previous to that product. This makes the URL look something like: /collections/(collection name)/products/(name of product) However, the canonical points to a simplified URL: /products/(name of product) Make sure that you’ve only optimized the page(s) being indexed or you are trying to index instead of trying to optimize the same product in all of the different collections you might find it in. Page URL: collections/anniversary-wine-boxes/products/family-vintage-anniversary-wine-box
Page URL: collections/all-products/products/family-vintage-anniversary-wine-box
Before You Begin Optimizing…
The first thing you should do before optimizing any website is to get a current snapshot of all the pages on the site by performing a web crawl. For smaller sites, there are tools to do this like ScreamingFrog and RavenTools. For larger sites, leverage tools like DeepCrawl or Botify, which can crawl and pull this information back but may take 12-24 hours to crawl the entire site.
If possible, crawl the site during slower hours while running at slower crawl speeds. EX: (Screaming Frog > Configuration > Speed –> check “Limit URL/s” and choose 0.5 Max URL/s).
In addition to site crawlers, use the sitemap to get the most important URLs on the website. You should be able to find this by using the address: domain.com/sitemap.xml (i.e. https://www.rei.com/sitemap-core-collection.xml). most important In Screaming Frog choose “Mode > List” then choose “upload” and select “Download XML Sitemap”.
Paste the URL for the sitemap and hit okay and start running.
If you aren’t using an Enterprise SEO tool like Conductor, BrightEdge, or SEOClarity, then you can save the crawl information in a spreadsheet or Google Sheets. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of the pages that have already been optimized (include the date the page was optimized).
Phase One: Category and Subcategory Pages
Most SEO optimizations will start out the same way – by optimizing the category pages since these usually drive the most traffic and revenue to the site. Category and Subcategory Pages Some businesses have sites that are small enough to completely optimize all category and subcategory pages in a few weeks, while others may have so many pages it could take months to work through them all. The biggest challenge is to know what to focus on to make the biggest impact. Which pages should I start with? There are several ways to prioritize category and subcategory pages. Here are a few ways:
- Alphabetically (seriously)
- Pages with the most traffic first or the opposite
- Pages already ranking in positions 11-20 (pulled using a tool like SEMRush or AHREFs)
- Pages ranking in positions 5-10 (pulled using Google Search Console data)
- Top selling
- Top converting
- Any combination of the above
If you are still unsure of where to start, I’d recommend starting with every category page because they have the highest chance to rank and give you a quick win to show the value of SEO, if you have to build the case. Then move to subcategory pages.
Phase Two: Everything Else
Depending on the website, the next step varies widely. Questions to answer that will help you decide include:
- Do we have too many product pages to get to?
- Should we focus on just the top products and then move on to other pages?
- Is there an automated way to optimize product and other pages?
- Are there any pages ranking on the fringe of the first page of Google that are not category pages?
- Are there any high-value/low-competition keywords that haven’t been assigned to a page and optimized that could be?
- Are there any “low value” pages that don’t generate much traffic and revenue but can be experimented with?
Look at the list of URLs on the Site Optimization document and see what hasn’t been touched yet. Group them in terms of similar keywords or ideas to help improve the efficiency of writing title tags and meta descriptions.
Other Helpful Ideas For Prioritizing Pages
Page Two Ranking URLs
These URLs are ones that rank for highly relevant keywords in positions 11-20. These pages are one page away from the first page of Google and have the highest chance of driving traffic to the site with some work. Run a SEMRush report on the domain and identify these pages. Keep in mind that some pages that rank for a keyword on page two also rank for another URL on PAGE ONE. Don’t cannibalize those URLs that rank on page one. Your judgment is crucial to the efficacy of this strategy. Don’t pick “page two” URLs just because they are on the fringe of ranking. If they are on the fringe for a keyword with a search volume of less than 50 or 100, you probably won’t move the needle much. To “level up” this strategy, you could look at URLs that rank in positions 4-10 since the CTR of positions 1-3 are exponentially higher than the rest of the page. Use a free tool like Google Search Console to get that data quickly. Make sure you have added Search Console to your site and have waited a few days to collect data. Once you have data you can go to the Performance section and select Total Clicks, Average CTR, and Average Position.
Click on the Filter icon below the graph chart to the top right of the keyword table. Filter by: Query, Clicks, and CTR
Once you select the filters you can filter down even more. Sort the information by highest clicks and review the keywords that rank in positions 4-10 and work to improve the CTR on these terms.
URLs that receive no landing page traffic (as found in Google, Adobe, or other Analytics tools) and have little to lose. Select these pages to optimize. Keep in mind that the best way to optimize these pages could be to “deoptimize” them. They may have lost rankings (or never ranked) due to the oversaturation of the keywords being used on the page.
Through Google Analytics, Shopify, or any eCommerce platform, identify product pages that are best sellers (most revenue, highest conversion rates, etc.). Export this list (most platforms have an export option). If the client’s website is seasonal, select the relevant date range (should be ahead of the season). If they do not have a way of exporting, add the Link Klipper extension to Chrome, view the relevant category page, select the view that allows the most products on a single page, and run the extension.
Once you’ve downloaded all the links, they’ll be downloaded into a CSV file. Here’s what that will look like:
Select the newest pages. These pages likely haven’t been optimized and could benefit from a boost. Likely requires little effort. Make sure you are communicating with the product team so you know what products are going to launch on the site to stay ahead of optimizations prior to the new products launching.
What do I do once I optimize the entire website?
First of all, throw yourself a party. You did it! Good job! Once you’ve optimized the entire website, go back to the start and look at the first pages you optimized. It should be enough time since you’ve optimized those pages to see what kind of impact your optimizations are having. Are there pages that you optimized that didn’t rank for the keyword you optimized? Or aren’t ranking at all? Reoptimize and try again. You could do things like select a new keyword with less competition to focus on to see if you can get more movement with that keyword. Google is always tweaking its algorithm as they test how the 200+ ranking factors play into which sites rank and more importantly, how users respond to the content that ranks on page one. Ongoing keyword research is useful to understand how consumers research and buy products since new products coming to the market can impact “what” users will search for. For example, Google trends show traditional web searches for “women’s booties” are trending above the term “women’s ankle boots”.
However, Google shopping is the other way around. The term “women’s booties” is not trending as much as “women’s ankle boots”.
Once you have identified and prioritized URLs on your site, the next step to improving your web presence through SEO is to conduct focused keyword research. This research will be the foundation on which all future SEO efforts will revolve and rely on.
So, in short, we get it. Getting started with e-commerce SEO might seem intimidating. However, knowing how to identify and prioritize what needs to be optimized on your website will put you in a much better spot. If you feel like you could use some help with SEO for your e-commerce business, though, our team at Stryde can help. Schedule a free consultation with us today and let’s see what we can do for your business!
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Looking for more SEO tips to help you grow your e-commerce business? Check out these posts:
- How To Do Keyword Research For An Ecommerce Business
- What Should Your Ecommerce Site Architecture & On Page Optimizations Look Like For Maximum SEO Value
- How To Tackle Technical SEO For Your Ecommerce Business
- Local SEO For Your Business That Sells Through Ecommerce & Retail Locations
- Getting Started With Link Building For Your Ecommerce Business
- How To Measure Ecommerce SEO Success
Greg is the founder and CEO of Stryde and a seasoned digital marketer who has worked with thousands of businesses, large and small, to generate more revenue via online marketing strategy and execution. Greg has written hundreds of blog posts as well as spoken at many events about online marketing strategy. You can follow Greg on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.