Best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) are always changing, and it’s tough to keep up. Customers who have an ecommerce website often ask what updates they should make to their online store to climb up the ladder of the all-important Google search rankings, so I wanted to offer some recommendations.
In the brief history of the internet, SEO has been through a few stages of evolution. Early on, websites simply needed a lot of content to show up in search engines. Then keywords became the driving force, and companies focused on ranking for terms that drive sales. Today, the best SEO strategy is to build individual pages around a specific topic, with one main topic and multiple subtopics.
Keep in mind that these SEO recommendations are specific to Google, which owns more than 70 percent of all searches worldwide and 90 percent of mobile searches, according to Net Market Share.
Let’s start with what’s new in 2018:
Mobile-first indexing: Google will now crawl and index the mobile version of your website first, then move through the desktop version. If you maintain a separate mobile site, this will have a major negative impact on your rankings.
Google started rolling this out in March 2018 as part of its push to make every site mobile-friendly as more and more users search on tablets or smartphones. The best solution is to have one responsive ecommerce website that auto-adjusts to different devices and browsers.
HTTPS is a ranking factor: Google recognizes that people are more concerned about the security of their personal information than ever before, which is why the search engine giant will penalize any sites that lack HTTPS encryption. This has had a small impact on rankings since 2014, but now it´s become a more relevant ranking factor.
In addition, starting July 2018, anyone using Google Chrome will see a “Not Secure” warning in the address bar when they’re on a site without HTTPS.
Site speed matters: There has long been a correlation between fast sites and high rankings, but it becomes official in July. At that point, slow sites will not earn high rankings (this is especially true for mobile queries). It’s important to note that a minor improvement in page load time – three milliseconds, for example – will not improve your ranking.
Those are the latest changes, but they should not be your only concerns. The old rules still apply, and I think it’s important to review them.
Here’s what is not so new but still critical:
Relevant content: Google’s goal is to make search results as relevant to users as possible. If someone is searching to buy, the product page on your web store may be one of the first listings. However, if someone is looking for information, a category or product page will have lower SEO value. And content doesn’t just mean text – it also includes videos and images, which may rank higher if the search engine thinks they are more relevant to the query.
To find out what content is relevant for different keywords, enter the term into Google and see what is on the first three pages. Is it primarily informational or does it feature product pages?
Keyword and topic focused content: Structure your content in a way that makes sense to both your audience and Google. Just like with your content, keywords (the topic) should satisfy user intention. If Google detects that you are “cheating the system” with keywords that don’t match your actual content, your rankings will slip fast.
Good on-page SEO: This is where metadata and schema markup comes in. Metadata text describes the content of a web page while schema markup helps search engines figure out what your data means. Schema markup allows you to show a more detailed description of your site – the who, what, when and more – directly in the results page and can improve traffic and rankings.
Now more than ever, the metadata and schema markup should be written for users rather than stuffed with the keywords you want to rank for.
Technically optimized: Optimize your site to be crawlable and indexable. Make sure you are allowing Google and other bots to crawl your site by checking your robots.txt. Also make sure you do not include a “noindex” tag on the pages that you want to get indexed.
Optimizing your crawling budget will help you get the most important content indexed while leaving behind the content that will not help your SEO efforts. Make sure you disallow non-SEO relevant pages from being crawled, through robots.txt.
Keep these guidelines in mind when selecting an ecommerce platform and when building your SEO strategy. Certain ecommerce software will provide features like responsive design, HTTPS and other tools that help improve your rankings out-of-the-box.
My hope is that these best practices will help you prioritize different aspects of your SEO strategy. And if you follow this path, your ecommerce website will see results that get you one step closer to long-term growth.
What can a great SEO strategy do for your business? Learn how NetSuite customer International Wine Accessories improved organic search to see a 49 percent increase in site traffic in this case study.
To learn more about SEO consulting available to NetSuite customers, email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to your account manager for more information about available SuiteCommerce SEO services.