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BigCommerce SEO Success Essentials

Now that you understand the SEO basics, it’s time to start optimizing. In this section, you’ll learn all of the 12 essential steps to get your SEO strategy underway.

 

Customize Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Think about what happens when you type a query into a search engine. The results you get back are simply a series of page titles and descriptions. That’s why title tags and meta descriptions are so critical to good SEO. They serve as the “front door” of your business for many potential shoppers and, if done well, you can truly set you apart from the competition.

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Client Example: Bulk Apothecary

How do you make yourself the most compelling option in this list of results? How do you know where to place the keywords and which ones to target? Where do you start so you can begin ranking well? How can you add customer-centric information like product reviews and prices to these search results? Never fear, we have those answers in the “Getting Started” section below.

 
 

Product Pages

As you spend time identifying your target audience and conducting keyword research, you’ll begin to uncover long tail keywords that will help you identify the best options for naming and describing your product or service.

Obviously, how you name your products is critical for search engines and shoppers alike. On top of that, the quality of a product description can make or break the sale. Although there is no one-size-fits all solution for product descriptions, if they don’t include the information a shopper needs to make a decision, it could prevent them from purchasing from you. Nailing this important aspect of your business can both boost your SEO and the rate in which shoppers “add to cart” and turn into buyers.

In short, you need to paint a vivid, unique picture of your product by not only describing it, but by answering the standard who, what, when, where and why questions. Additionally, think about adding some great product photos, and maybe even create some videos to provide the best possible shopping experience. After all, search engines love when you make their users happy!

Check out our client kbandstraining.com, as they have great product page examples.

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Client Example: Kbands Training

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Complete Image Descriptions (aka “Alt Tags”)

Although search engines can read text, they can’t read an image. That’s where “alt tags”, or “alternative text”, comes in. At BigCommerce, we refer to “alt tags” as “image descriptions” for easier handling. This applies to all product, WYSIWYG and hard coded images.

Image description benefits:

  • Helps search engines better understand the contents of your website
  • Allows software to read your content to the visually impaired
  • Replaces broken links with text for a better experience
  • Allows your images to rank on image searches
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By providing a basic, keyword rich description for your images, you’ll reap the benefits. Here’s a good example:

“Orange martingale dog collar made from organic bamboo with training clasp”

Don’t overcomplicate your image descriptions; simply state what‘s in the image and use keywords as appropriate.

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Remedying Product Page Content Issues

Content issues plague many sites on the web. And ecommerce sites are particularly at risk because they tend to host hundreds or thousands of product pages, many of which are very similar. These issues, if left unattended, can negatively impact your search engine ranking.

The most common issues with ecommerce product pages are:

  • Duplicate content
  • Too much content (i.e., too many pages)
  • Not enough or no content provided

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can include:

  • Copied product descriptions from a manufacturer
  • Unique descriptions duplicated across multiple versions of the same product
  • Query strings generated from product filtering navigation

Copied Product Descriptions

The most important thing to remember when it comes to product descriptions is to never copy and paste them from you manufacturer. Search engines favor unique content, so you won’t be able to rank well if another website has the same descriptions. If you’ve already copied your product descriptions, begin writing unique descriptions starting with your highest-margin or most popular products, then make a schedule to work through the rest of your catalog.

Duplication Across Product Versions

If all your product description are unique to your site, then you’re already ahead of the game. But you can run into trouble if you have multiple versions of the same product (different sizes, colors, materials, etc), and each version has a different page or URL with roughly the same description.

Although this content isn’t copied from another site, every page will be considered duplicate by search engines — which makes it tough to rank. The best solution is to use product options that display all the variations on one page. This can do wonders for your SEO as well as your user experience.

Since this is a common occurrence, here’s a specific example.

You may have one product page dedicated to a product in orange, and another page for that same product in blue. The product name is nearly identical, as are the product description and imagery — the only difference is the color. Search engines will view that as duplicate content, while shoppers will need to flip back and forth between pages to figure out which option they like best.

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By using product options, you’ll have a single page that allows shoppers to select options like size and color, with no duplicate content issues in sight.

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Easily find duplicate content or opportunities you may have missed

  1. If you’re worried you might have duplicate content on your product pages, simply export your products and use conditional formatting to identify:
    • Empty fields. If you have any, complete them while following the SEO guidelines for each particular field.
    • Duplicate product titles, descriptions, image descriptions, etc. Evaluate if utilizing product options can help you avoid duplication.
  2. If you uncover duplicate content, check the organic traffic for each of your product page variations in Google Analytics. If each version gets roughly a similar amount of traffic, it's most likely that Google sees each version as unique enough. In this case, it may be advisable to keep the content the way it is, as changing it could have a negative effect on your rank.
  3. If one of your product pages is receiving a significant amount of traffic compared to others, implement product options on it to consolidate your pages. Then 301 redirect the other URLs to that page.
  4. Once you’ve implemented any changes, import your products back into your store.
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Query Strings from Product Filtering

This only applies to those of you who use BigCommerce’s product filtering to help your users easily navigate your store, like gearforgirls.co.uk:


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Client Example: Gear for Girls

Product filtering menus like this can create upwards of one hundred query strings that are appended to the URL, which can create duplicate versions of the same page. Although product filtering can significantly improve your user experience and conversion, there is a little bit of maintenance required to prevent searches engines from indexing duplicate content:

  • Block faceted pages via robots.txt
  • Manage parameter handling via Search Console (we’ll help you set this up later in the guide)

Too Much Content

After all the stress placed on having a lot of rich content on your site, it might seem counterintuitive to hear that having too much can be a problem. But we’re referring specifically to having too many product pages with either duplicate or low-value content.

To search engines, having too much content that’s not differentiated enough is basically the same as having duplicate content. Hosting a mass of too-similar product pages dilutes your site's pagerank or link equity, weakening the overall ranking power of your important content.

The other issue pertains to your site's "crawl budget", which is how many pages Google bots crawl each time they visit your online store. If a large percentage of your site contains duplicate or low-value content, you're wasting your budget on low-quality content and potentially keeping quality pages from being indexed.

In short, be sure to:

  • Keep your product pages and content relevant, robust and unique
  • Manage your product pages by removing pages as needed and using 301 redirects and "Noindex, follow" in your robots.txt
  • Use Rel=next, rel=previous markup to tell Google to treat your product listings spanning multiple pages in a logical order
  • Let BigCommerce handle canonicalization for consolidating link properties and solving link equity dilution

Not Enough or No Content

A few bullets of text for your product descriptions or light keyword placement can sometimes rank well, but it’s unlikely. Beefing up the content on your product pages (or any page) is wise because:

  • It can reduce any risk that thin content issues might negatively impact SERP visibility
  • It adds more content for engines to crawl, which means more opportunities for your page to rank for a wider range of search queries
  • It freshens up your page, which can pay dividends with Google

There are many ways to beef up your pages:

  • Use tools like Screaming Frog to crawl your pages and looking for potential trouble spots in the "Word Count" column
  • If you find duplicate content on your product pages, consolidate those pages using product options and then combine the different descriptions to produce more content
  • Write more original content — to learn more, see the Content Pages section of this guide
  • Encourage product reviews from your customers to generate fresh content
 
 

Encourage Product Reviews

Encouraging customers to leave reviews for your product or service has two benefits:

  • They are creating new, unique content for search engines
  • In a research study from ZenDesk, up to 90% of customers claimed positive reviews influenced their purchase decisions

Think about the way you shop both on and offline. You’re far more likely to purchase something if someone has nothing but nice things to say about a product or customer service experience.

One of our merchants, Chapul, is a great example of the power of product reviews. They sell a protein bar made from crickets. While product reviews are important for all companies, Chapul relies heavily on what their customers have to say since it takes a little more convincing for shoppers to commit to something as unconventional as eating bugs.

Curating product reviews may seem like a small task in the grand scheme of things, but the rewards can be huge. In addition to improving your SEO, you can also use positive reviews in your marketing collateral.

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Category Pages

Similar to product pages, it’s important that the titles and information found on your category pages are relevant and descriptive to help your shoppers make decisions (which will, in turn, make the pages more relevant to search engines).

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Mobile Optimization

Now more than ever, your website needs to be mobile optimized. Selecting a responsive site design will ensure that your online store displays correctly across any and all devices. This is critical to your success, as the mobile shopping audience is growing rapidly. And although mobile optimization and best practices are simple, it can be easy to neglect them.

If you’ve fallen in love with a BigCommerce theme that’s not fully responsive, you can still offer a good mobile experience to your shoppers by enabling the default mobile theme in the Design section of your control panel.

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Content Pages

As we’ve mentioned, creating content is one of the largest ways search engines understand the contents of your website (but certainly not the only way). Content can come in a variety of forms, but no matter what, it should be unique. Be sure to create additional original content such as:

  • Product Pages
  • An About Us page
  • A mission statement
  • A testimonials page
  • An FAQs page
  • A shipping and returns policy
  • Privacy policy
  • Blog posts
  • Terms & conditions page

Other types of content that can help your SEO include images, videos, slide shows, ebooks and guides.

It’s a great idea to link this content pages in a meaningful way which is commonly called “internal linking.” For example, if you write a blog post and you want to link to another content page on your website you should try to include some relevant keywords in that link. Rather than “click here” to go to a specific product page, you can hyperlink text that reads “martingale dog collar.” This will be helpful to your users while skimming text, and also help search engines better understand the contents of that specific webpage and your content overall.

Overall, here are some things to be mindful of when writing content for your online store:

  • Titles — Create eye-catching titles that raise the reader’s interest. You only have one chance to make a great first impression.
  • KeywordsPick keywords that will help bring people to your site and are relevant.
  • Links — Link to your store’s content in a meaningful way and to quality sites that compliment what your website is about. It’ll encourage sites in your niche to link to you as well.
  • Quality — Work to publish unique and quality content. This prompts shoppers to come to your site because they cannot easily find the content elsewhere.
  • Freshness — If you are publishing content that does not age or become outdated, that’s great, but you also need to add new content on a regular basis. If you don’t have the time to add content to your website, consider adding a question and answer section or a blog to your website.
 
 

Blogging

Blogging is a great way to get your feet wet and start regularly developing new, unique content for your online store. Aim to post at least once per week to your blog as this new, fresh content for search engines to understand this is an active website offering new and interesting content to it’s users. Additionally, this content will help draw in new clientele from search engines who may be interested in a client’s product or service.

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Google Search Console and Verification

You can use Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) to see how your website is performing, identify and repair errors, and understand your overall store performance from the perspective of the search engine.

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Submit your Sitemap

A sitemap helps search engines learn about your site’s structure and content. Technically, it’s an XML list of all the URLs in your store. Creating and submitting a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that all of your URLs will get crawled or indexed immediately, but it will likely speed up the process and help the search bots do a better job of crawling your website in the future.

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Check Keyword Click-Through in Google Search Console

  • You can use Google Search Console (TrafficSearch Analytics) to check the click-through rate of the keywords that your store is ranking for so you can make adjustments as needed. Typically, it’s suggested that if your average ranking for a keyword is within the top 10 but the click-through rate is low, the title tag of that page might need some love.
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Set Up Google Analytics

Although BigCommerce has a robust collection of analytics to help you grow your business, it’s still important to understand how search engines are feeling about your online store’s performance. By setting up an account with Google Analytics and linking it to your Google Search Console, you’ll gain deep insights into things like your customers’ habits, the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, crawl errors and more.

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