The Importance of eCommerce SEO and Content

6 min. read
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We've all heard that for any website to be successful it has to make the front page of the Google search results. In other words, it's got to rank, and to rank it needs high quality content and a well-organized search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. This is especially true for e-commerce sites.

Some would argue that content is just one item on the e-commerce SEO checklist, and they would be right, but it's a HUGE item. For one thing, good content has become one of the top considerations to rank in Google, which aside from identifying text and content patterns, also has quality raters that closely examine content in order to improve the efficacy of Google's search algorithms.

Despite the stringent requirements, ranking on Google isn't rocket science. Effective SEO for e-commerce requires you to provide unique content (very important!) that people will not only read and enjoy, but also learn from and hopefully share. Manage all of that and it will do your Page Authority ranking a whole lot of good! After all, there isn't much that's more important to your brand than visibility. Put your name out there where everyone can see it and you'll be well on your way to making a success of your e-commerce business.

Before you hit it big, however, you've got to put in the legwork. Let's take a look at how Google decides what constitutes “quality content” and how it gets ranked to reflect the label.

How Google ranks pages

Let's admit it; when you rank high in Google, you're made. Links and meta-tags still count in the final analysis, but not the same way as great content will.

The heading for this section is, alas, a bit misleading, because we don't actually know how Google rank pages. The exact process is a closely guarded secret, and the subject of many a poignant debate among SEO professionals the world over. That said, we've got a pretty good idea of what is important and what isn't based on what patterns experts have spotted and a whole lot of anecdotal evidence about what works. We do know that Google uses a complicated algorithm (PageRank) that gives points to a website for every criterion that it successfully embodies. The more points a website scores, the better the ranking.

There are hundreds of items considered, but Google (apparently) places more weight on factors that have to do with generating trust, authority, and quality. Guess where that comes from? You guessed it. It's your content.

Anyone can pepper their website with keywords and links up to wazoo, but if they're embedded in bad content, you lose points by virtue of their ubiquitous existence. Even if the content is decent, but still not on par or not comparable with similar sites who essentially produce the same sort of material, your rank remains pretty low.

Google can't tell if your products are actually better than another website's unless you provide relevant information . Nor will the Big G be willing to give you much leeway if people don't stay long enough on your pages to read an article or entry and hopefully share it.

As the chart above illustrates, page content and related factors (optimization, anchor text, traffic) comprise a whopping 67 percent of what Google considers in ranking the page. Google works hard to keep rank grubbers from getting around the algorithm because it wants to keep the PageRank an authoritative measure for users. If a website manages to sneak past Google's guard, its credibility suffers.

And what is the first thing that a user sees? Content, which is, in essence, the ultimate indicator of credibility.

Click-through rates

One of the metrics used by Google to determine PageRank is click through rate (CTR). CTR is used in two contexts that are relevant to us here. First, click-through rate generally refers to the percentage of users who click on a link they see. This could be in an email, on Facebook, or on the Google SERPs. It's also used in advertising as a metric of effectiveness. Advertisers (a good source of income for many sites) usually pick websites that enjoy a lot of traffic, which in turn are dependent on how high Google ranks them, and/or how popular the sites are already.

That's a bit of a circular logic right there, isn't it?

CTR all depends on how well the website has optimized its content. According to Kissmetrics, ranking in the first three spots on Google typically means they get 36.4 percent, 12.5 percent and 9.5 percent CTR in that order.

Let's say you place advertising on your site as an additional source of income (hey, even Amazon and eBay do it). In order to get people to click through on those advertisements, they first have to click through onto your site. Imagine a user is looking for ideas for a Christmas gift, and your website has some great suggestions with numerous relevant links. Assuming you've done everything right, that visitor is more likely to go to your site and click on the ads on your site than they would a sub-par website with no meta content, non-specific page and site titles, and no keywords. More importantly, they're more likely to click on the advertisements on your site. That's because your content is relevant and delivering the information that they're looking for. Your CTR will reflect how much trust the user has in what you recommend or feature, and Google will use that as an indicator of how much trust it should place in you.

Which brings us to our next point.

Information (Not content) is king

Rather than content, it is information that matters. Content is just having a bunch of words that occupy a space on your website; your standard Lorem ipsum text is still content. But the question is does your content contain relevant information in a manner that makes it searchable?

A lot of SEO strategies focus on keywords that are popular (meaning people are entering them into search engines). Some even go so far as to include misspelled words because that's what a lot of people type. But singular keywords are not the end-all, be-all of a successful SEO content strategy. It's the long-tail keywords (multiple keywords used in combination for a more specific search) that pay big dividends because they are more focused.

The long tail of a search term accounts for more than two-thirds of unique visits to any given site, so content that includes a specific long-tail keyword (“keyword phrase” may be the more appropriate term) will rank more easily.

For example, let's imagine that you sell makeup on your website. The keyword “foundation” will yield millions of results, and good luck trying to rank on page one in a field that crowded. You may have better luck, however, with a search for the “cheapest foundation that won't cake.”

But how does one begin to think up of such long-tail keywords?

It's all a matter of understanding what people are looking for. You have to know your market and you must infer that women want the best quality for their money. You know that they will hone in on the one feature that signifies quality. In this case, it's the product that “won't cake.”

(Editor's note: You can also use keyword suggestion tools such as those in Traffic Travis or UberSuggest.)

The phrase may be in the product description, the blog, or in the meta-tag. Wherever it is, if it's on your site, it'll positively affect your ranking. And if you rank, you will have more visitors and higher sales.

The takeaway

The point is your e-commerce SEO, and more specifically your content optimization, is the most important aspect of your marketing strategy. You may have the best prices and the best products, but you need to rank to make sales. Ranking in Google, the most popular search engine in the world, is crucial. 

Ultimately, it all boils down to how informative, relevant, intuitive, and timely your content is. It doesn't even have to be how-to's or news articles; you could post promotions or industry announcements.

The important thing is that you have information people are looking for on your site. If there is anything that you need to make sure of, it's that your website is always putting up the kind of SEO-friendly content that will keep you in the eye of the online public.

How has SEO affected your e-commerce efforts? Share your stories in the comments.


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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