The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO for Product Pages
The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO for Product Pages

The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO for Product Pages

Published August 18, 2017 in Marketing
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The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO for Product Pages

Whether you’ve been selling online for years or are just getting started in eCommerce, it’s important to improve your site based on what your specific clients may need. Successful product pages have to be able to convert visitors into purchases. However, those pages also have to receive relevant traffic to be successful as well and a key way to getting that traffic is by ranking organically for search engines.

What is SEO & Why Is It Vital to Ecommerce Success?

You can increase your search ranking by focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of ensuring that your web pages appear when people are searching for keywords related to the products you offer.

There are many optimizations you can make that will have a huge difference on your site. Good on-page SEO makes it easy for users to know what any given page on your site provides, and will allow Google to easily crawl and rank it for relevant terms. By optimizing your pages, you are helping search engines drive free relevant traffic to your pages, which ultimately leads to more sales and revenue for your company.

On-Page Optimization vs External SEO

Before diving in, it’s important to understand the difference between on-page and external SEO. To keep things simple, external SEO encompasses site promotion and backlinks. While on-page SEO, is specific to changes you can make directly on your website. Here are some common on-page SEO factors:

  • Page Text
  • Media Usage
  • Metadata
  • Site layout and design
  • HTML & Structured Markup
  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Site Speed

You’ll need to focus on several key on-page factors to establish relevancy and authority. To help navigate the on-page optimization of your ecommerce website, we created this guide to improving your product pages.

How to Get Started with On-Page SEO

To get started, you will likely want to know two things: “How long does it take?” and “How much time do I have?” To answer the first question you will need to know how many product pages you have and estimate the time it takes to optimize one page. Optimizing a page or two can help you get a feel for the time per page. You then do some simple math:

Quantity of Product Pages  x  Optimization Time Per Page  =  How long it takes (for all pages)

If you only have enough time to do let’s say 50 pages, and you have 5,000 product pages. We recommend you either get outside help from a marketing agency or prioritize the pages you optimize based on which pages are the highest value for you. This process will help you assess to scope of the project and determine how best to move forward before you get too deep into it.

Do An SEO Audit Of Your Pages

To better understand your current rankings and site’s SEO value, you can use a free tool such as SEOptimizer or Woo Rank to perform an audit of your site. This is a great place to start as you can then evaluate where your starting point is and how to improve it. The next step is to dive into keyword research.

How to Research and Identify Good Keywords

One of the biggest mistakes merchants and webmasters can make is to skip on keyword research when launching a new site or maintaining their current website. Your website content needs to be relevant and easily digestible to achieve optimal SEO results. By optimizing for relevant keywords, you can improve your overall site performance as well as increase organic support from Search Engines themselves.

Have a Process for Keyword Research

Before you begin your keyword research it’s important to have a process in place and a way to stay organized along the way. The process for keyword research we use at Classy Llama recently allowed us to see an increase over 30% in organic search traffic in just one month. You are free to use our template and guide for your e-commerce site.

Stay Organized by Crawling Your URLs

A site crawl will allow you to important page data into a spreadsheet really quickly. This can help you stay organized when doing research and making changes to your pages. The crawl will also check for any existing errors within your pages. A simple tool we would recommend for site crawls is Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, which is free for the first 500 pages you crawl. You can use this to identify what product pages you have and what is currently showing as your titles or meta descriptions (if anything).

Have Tools in Place for Gathering Keyword Data

You can research current or potential keywords using a variety of free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest. These tools will provide data on whatever term you submit. When performing research, it’s ideal to identify both a primary and secondary keyword for each page, and list out any additional or potential keyword phrases for future reference.

Put Your Keywords in a Spreadsheet

Once you determine the keywords you will be using, document them in a spreadsheet for later use. You will use these keywords to create page and section titles, as well as meta descriptions. Keywords should be used throughout the page; read on to learn how to do so.

Identify Good Keywords for Your Product Pages

The Keyword(s) Should Be Relevant to the Product

What makes a keyword good? Is the most foundational thing to know when doing on-page optimization. First and foremost, relevancy to the page or product is the most important factor to consider when selecting the keywords you will include on your product pages in hopes to rank organically for them. If the product isn’t relevant to a search phrase, you won’t receive the right kind of traffic, which means they are less likely to convert into sales. Additionally, Google will be less likely to rank your content because the user behavior and overall quality of your page to the key term would be low.

There Should Be A Good Amount of Search Volume

Just because a key term is relevant, doesn’t mean that it is going to do you any good. In order to have traffic coming from those terms, people need to be using those terms in the search engines. It is important to note that there is such a thing as going for terms that have too much search traffic, because you will likely not rank for them due to the massive amount of competition that exists for those highly searched terms. It’s all about finding the sweet spot between being too broad and facing massive competition and being to specific and not getting enough searches to really impact your business.

The Organic Competition Should Be Low Enough For You To Potentially Rank

Another factor to look for is low organic search competition. If there are a lot of companies competing for a specific phrase or term, you will have to depend on paid clicks to obtain traffic. It is best practice to identify keywords that you can actually rank for in the top page (and receive over 70% of clicks by doing so). To determine the organic search competition, you can use a program such as Moz Keyword Explorer, or a free alternative such as  SERP Stat. Quality keywords will have a steady search volume.

Select More than One Keyword/Phrase Per Page

When doing keyword research, consider the primary, secondary and long-tail keywords you may target in your articles. A “primary keyword” is the keyword or phrase that you most desire to rank for based on relevancy, search volume, and organic competition. Therefore, the primary keyword should be the most important keyword on each page. In turn, the primary keyword should be included in the title, as well as in the content itself. A “secondary keyword” is second option that can help to expand into other search queries. Also consider overarching keyword families and themes to pull from. Make sure to conduct research regularly and maintain your site in accordance with market trends and updates.

A Guide for Optimizing Your Product Pages for Search Engines

Now that you have done your keyword research, it is time to start making improvements to your product pages. The most foundational thing to start with is what a searcher sees when your page pulls up on the search engine results page, the title and meta description:

Write Informative Titles and Meta Descriptions

Optimize your webpages by implementing unique title tags and meta-descriptions. Title tags signify the title of an individual webpage, and show as the headline in search results. Meta descriptions are snippets of HTML code that provide a compelling summary of the page’s content. Generally speaking, search engines will show the meta description and the title in search results. It is best practice to keep title tags around ~50 characters, and meta descriptions should be ~160 characters. The data can also be used by social media platforms when a links are shared to create a social link card.

Focus on making unique key phrases that can be used on the page. Here is what a title tag looks like if you view the source code of a webpage.

If your meta-description isn’t up to Google’s standards, it will generate its own description so it is important to meet their guidelines to retain control. A good tool for auditing your existing pages is Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. With this tool, you can see every URL and meta description, as well as their character counts. Be sure to input optimized metadata on every page of your site. It is best practice is to keep these between 165 and 175 words.

There are many free or paid plugins and extensions you can use to easily optimize your page’s title tags or meta descriptions depending on the ecommerce platform or content management system you are using. I have listed some below:

Make Quality Product Pages that Users and Search Engines Love

Google wants their users to find quality content that is relevant to their search query. That means that if users don’t like the pages the find, neither does Google. As a result, your rankings in their search engine go down, which means less relevant traffic and less revenue generated from organic search. in fact the same is true for paid ads on Google as well. They give preference to content quality and you should too. Not just because search engines do, but because you should fundamentally care about the experience your users have with your brand. That is because great experiences lead to better conversion rates and repeat customers. Below are some things that can help you improve the quality of your product pages and intern, improve your rankings:

Write Detailed (Human & Search Friendly) Product Names

It’s time to match your content with its keywords. To do this, you will first need to write a detailed product name. It is important to assign a relevant “Heading 1” that includes your primary keyword phrase.

Write a Custom Description With the User (and their search queries) in Mind

Rather that using the standard, out-of-the-box product description written by a manufacturer, take time to differentiate your product – share the compelling details. When writing your description, consider the user first: who would want this product, and why they need or want it?

Go in-depth, but format for easy consumption

Be sure to provide in-depth product details for each product. Highlight key product features, and include all available option of the product. The important details, such as color and size options, compatibility, and product numbers, should be included as well (depending on the product). Just remember to format your pages so that the extra detail is easy for a just to consume.

Include great images of your products

To better communicate this, your pages should include useful product photos: well-lit images that clearly identify the product being sold, and show the product in use.

Offer customer reviews, video content, and FAQs when possible

Essentially, the content you provide should provide more than enough information to sell the product listed. You can provide additional product resources based on specific customer needs – FAQs, customer reviews, and video content (such as comparisons, usage, etc). – to better guide the user’s buying decision.

Focus on the needs of the customer

Good SEO content is based on the quality of your connection with users. Focus on what they need most, and what you can do to meet that need. Empathize with their desired goals, find answers to what they want to know, complete a purchase, etc. By answering your user’s questions and breaking the content down into digestible pieces, you increase your chances of ranking higher with more relevant content. Well-written product descriptions can help increase engagement and will encourage visitors to convert into purchasers.

Optimize Your Images for Search and Speed

There are many benefits to providing imagery on a product page. Naturally, consumers want to understand the product they are receiving prior to purchasing it, but also search engines see the use of relevant images on a page as positive indicators of content quality. So how does a search engine know if an image is relevant?

Tell search engines what your image is with simple metadata

It is important to note that search engines cannot see an image and decipher what it is about. Instead they rely on metadata, such as alt text, file name, and captions to understand what the image is about.

Use Alt Text On All Your Images

Alt text is an HTML attribute tag added to image elements to explain to search engines what the image is about. Add alt text that describes the image to  increase your site’s accessibility to screen readers and crawlers.

Write descriptive image file names before uploading

The image’s file name helps bots associate the image with a target keyword. Before uploading the image to your site, rename the image file to something more descriptive.

Use Captions when it makes sense

Captions is a visible description on an image for all your users to read. They also provide additional detail to search engines about your image. We recommend the use of captions when possible. However, captions are not necessary to optimize your images.

For Videos: Transcript or Closed Captioning

Video’s are another item that search engines can’t really see. The best way to help search engines understand your video content and make your site more accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing is by  providing a transcript of the video or closed captioning

Reduce Image File Size

Keeping image file size low helps improve your page load time which is a factor in search and improves the overall experience of your site. Compressing your images and reducing file sizes before uploading are a few simple ways to improve this. There are many other ways to further reduce image size, that we would recommend asking your developer about.

Provide Links to Related Products and Information

You may have seen sites out there that place related products on their product pages. This is a great way to help users find other products that they may need as well when shopping through your online store, but it has another advantage as well. Providing links to related products also helps search engines see your page as more relevant because the associated links on the page are related to the search terms as well.

When adding related products to your pages, you are giving customers an opportunity to compare products or add additional products to their shopping cart. You can present related products in whatever way fits your customer best: “Product B, C, and D are similar to product A,” or, “customers also liked X product.” Choose the language and style that expresses your products best.

In addition to related products, links to pages with more information about the product or the brand that created the product builds further trust and relevancy because the search engines see that some of pages your product page links to are relevant as well. Although these Provide links to related products and information to help users understand the value of your product.

Use Readable URLs That Include Your Keyword

URL strings should be short, descriptive and easy to read. URLs help identify what the page is about without including a large set of confusing numbers and symbols. The readability of a URL can be determined by a number of factors. Analytics have shown that shorter URLs rank better than the long ones. Since the URL should give context to know what the page is about, be sure to include your primary keyword in the string.

The title, meta-description and the URL are the factors you use to clarify what a user should expect from your page. An optimized, keyword-friendly URL easily projects what content the page includes while adding relevancy to your ranking. This will help bring the right audience to your products.

Focus on the User’s Experience

It is important to make your site user-friendly. Always remember that your primary audience is not robots or search engines, but people. Another thing to keep in mind is that Google’s algorithm ties back to their desire to satisfy users’ search queries with relevant content. Because of this mission, Google’s bots are looking for sites that offer a user-friendly experience for their visitors.

Think through the eyes of the customer

To identify what you could improve. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and go through their entire journey. If it’s hard for you to do that. You can always sit down with someone that has never been to your site before and have them think out loud as they go through the customer journey.

Improve Their Customer Journey

Now that you have walked through the customer’s journey, what are things you can do to make their experience more enjoyable? Was the site hard to navigate and difficult to find the product specific product? Was the call to action button easy to find? Were there enough photos to get a full view of the product? Was the description detailed enough to make a confident purchase? Was the checkout process quick and easy? Or confusing and frustrating? Did I have to spend a lot of time thinking how to use the site? Were there any elements that could be confused as links or buttons because of the way they are styled? Do I know when to expect my package? Were there a lot of pop-ups that interrupted my experience? Continue to ask questions like these and then take action!

Get insight from your analytics

You can track user behaviors such as their time on the page or site, bounce rate, and pages per session to better understand where you can improve. It is important to notice where your customer is experiencing frustration throughout their purchasing, and to address those pain points effectively. By offering an experience that is painless, enjoyable, and relevant, you increase the likelihood of repeat customers

Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

With so many consumers shopping on their phones, it is crucial to have a fully-responsive and mobile-friendly site. The standard desktop version of a site is typically difficult to view on mobile devices. If a site is not mobile-friendly, users will have to zoom in to view the content. Users will find this frustrating, and will likely leave the site. Alternatively, a mobile-friendly site is easily read and immediately usable.

Mobile accessibility is critical to your business and its importance will continue to rise. Search engines now suppress sites that are not mobile friendly. Be sure that your visitors have a good experience on your site, even if visiting from a mobile device. Google has created a Mobile-Friendly Test that will score a URL based on how easily a visitor can use your page on mobile. They have also published mobile optimization guides for many of the popular content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress and Magento.

Make Your Site Secure

When it comes to interacting and purchasing items online, customers expect to be protected. The standard was set when Google announced its “HTTPS Everywhere” campaign in 2014, stating that all sites “should be secure by default.”  In the years since, Google has revealed that they will, in fact, index and rank secure pages over unsecured content. For more insight into how Google interprets secure site, take a look at their guide: “Securing Your Website With HTTPS.”

Having an accessible Privacy Policy on your site is another factor that Google has mentioned for years it a factor in their quality scoring of pages (for AdWords) and is believed to be a factor in organic rankings as well. A privacy policy allows there to be transparent between your site and its users with how their information will be used and protected.

There are far more components to website security that are worth talking with a developer or web security expert about. As far as SEO is concerned, using HTTPS and having a privacy policy are key things search engines look for.

Make Your Site Fast

Site speed measures how fast (or slowly) your web page loads. Google has confirmed that site speed is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. A slow page speed means that search engines crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, which could also negatively affect your rankings. It is important to test your site speed regularly and take steps to increase load times whenever possible. Here is a short list of things to do to improve your site speed, but keep in mind, there are many other performance enhancements than these listed below:

Test Your Site Speed

There are a few essential tools you can use to test and monitor your site speed. Utilize a free website speed test, such as Pingdom or GTMetrix, to analyze load speed and receive recommendations on how to make them faster. Google also has a free tool, PageSpeed Insights, that will provide recommended optimizations, as well as show which optimizations are currently found.

Optimize Images and Leverage Caching

There are many ways you can increase page speed, such as optimizing images, file size, and type. You should also leverage browser caching so that when visitors return to your site, the browser doesn’t need to fetch the entire page from your server. Use a free tool like YSlow to check whether or not you have an expiration date assigned to your cache. Google has more information about how to leverage caching here.

Minify Your JS and CSS

You should also minify JS and CSS file sizes whenever possible. Minification is where you reduce the file sizes of your code by removing spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters. The reduction in file size improves the load times of your pages because there is less to download from the server. Google recommends using YUI Compressor for both CSS and JavaScript, however there are many other ways to minify your files.

Ensure Your Site Gets Crawled

When you launch a new site or you have made changes to the url structure of your site. You don’t want to assume that search engines will index your new pages automatically. In order to help get your web pages crawled faster, it is important to create a spider-friendly XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a data file that lists all of the pages within a site. Search engine robots use the sitemap to identify pages to be crawled and indexed. To create a XML sitemap, you can use free online software such as XML Sitemaps or there are other methods depending on the eCommerce platform you are on.

Once you have the sitemap, you will want to submit it to Google Webmaster Tools. You can re-submit your sitemap at any time to coincide with any changes to your website. By using tools like Google’s cache, SEO-browser.com, and the MozBar extension, you can monitor which elements are visible and indexable to search engines.

Conclusion

Although it can take a bit of effort, in the end it is worth it. By following this guide, we hope you’ll begin to see the benefits of it for your business. Optimization is a complex subject, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Start with just a few of your most important pages and keep working down the list over time. In the end the efforts can pay off big time, but it is important to note that SEO doesn’t have to be something you do in house. If you are wanting to get some expert help to move the needle for you we know some great folks that can improve your product marketing.

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