Magento 1 (M1) will be sunsetting June 2020. While the eCommerce platform will still be accessible and usable by both merchants and devs, it will no longer receive official support from either Magento or Adobe. That means that for the 180,000 merchants running M1, the hunt for Magento alternatives is on.
Are you unsure where to go once M1’s life draws to a close? Here, we’ll cover some of your options, along with the pros and cons of each. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer idea of where your next step on your ecommerce journey will take you.
You may be surprised by the first alternative on this list. You’re probably thinking that WooCommerce just doesn’t have the capabilities you’re looking for in a Magento alternative. This is especially true if you have any experience in WooCommerce and the WordPress space. And you may be right; WooCommerce isn’t as functional as Magento. However, it does have its advantages.
WooCommerce sits perfectly between being a SaaS product like Shopify, and being a self-hosted ecommerce CMS you have full control of like Magento. It plays a fine line between ease of use and feature sets, and it does so brilliantly. You may be surprised by the types of stores that are on WooCommerce. It’s not all small businesses.
WooCommerce is not the ecommerce platform of small merchants some developers think it is. There are a number of larger stores using it as well.
A large number of WooCommerce stores actually fall between the $100,000 to $500,000 range, with some extending as far as $1 million in annual revenue. Brands that have made WooCommerce their ecommerce platform of choice include Blue Star Coffee, Weber, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Singer.
WooCommerce is not the best choice for large stores that involve a lot of moving parts. But it is a great Magento alternative for smaller and medium-sized stores looking to take control.
Why use WooCommerce instead of Magento?
It’s very easy to use, while still offering impressive flexibility for developers
It offers a large number of plugins to increase functionality
It has a large selection of themes and templates
It’s lightweight, so can load content faster
Why use Magento instead of WooCommerce
WooCommerce, while flexible, doesn’t have the ecommerce functionality of Magento
Magento is better for growing merchants
Magento has a great community that supports ecommerce specifically
Stay on Magento 1
Your second alternative isn’t an alternative, and comes with a question. Why make the move at all? Have you thought you need to make the move because of the warnings you’re seeing from the community and in your installation?
Sentiment regarding the Magento 1 End Of Life is split in the community. Fears regarding security vulnerabilities, loss of PCI compliance, and more are on one side. While devs offering continued support and security updates are on the other.
As a hosting provider, we will continue to support merchants that wish to stay on Magento 1, by making sure to keep our web application firewall up to date to help with security. We’ll also continue to maintain server-side performance optimizations for the first version of Magento.
Staying on Magento 1 means doing everything you can to secure your site. From hosting to development, don’t cut corners when the future of your store is at stake.
If you decide that staying on Magento 1 – even if just for the time being – is the right move for your store, then there are a few things you’re going to want to do. Firstly, upgrade your store to Magento 1.9. Unlike replatforming, this does not require much work or expense and is a simple patching process.
You’re also going to want to upgrade any other software you’re running as part of your application stack. This includes your PHP, MySQL, and Apache versions, along with any other applications you’re running as a part of your stack. The Hostdedi support team can help with this. Get in touch and we’ll make sure your hosting environment is as secure as possible.
Finally, don’t forget to communicate with your developer (if you have one) about what they think staying on Magento 1 means for your store. Some developers will try their best to accommodate you and put in place safeguards so your store isn’t exposed to vulnerabilities.
Why Stay on Magento 1 instead of moving to Magento 2?
Perhaps WooCommerce isn’t the right fit for your store. Maybe Staying on Magento 1 is out of the question. Where do you go next?
BigCommerce started out as a SaaS application but has since expanded into the headless (decoupled) market. We offer this as an option in the form of BigCommerce for WordPress. The Advantages? Merchants can use both the backend of BigCommerce for ecommerce management and the frontend of WordPress for displaying it.
This means is more flexibility, better potential user experiences, and the ability to ramp up your content marketing strategy. Remember, content and product SEO are different, so don’t charge in head-first if your not as experienced with content SEO.
BigCommerce is the Magento alternative for merchants looking for both great content and product management capabilities.
BigCommerce for WordPress also comes with premium support from both Hostdedi and BigCommerce. In the event something goes wrong on either the application or the hosting side, you’ll immediately be able to reach out to a relevant member of the support staff to resolve your problem. The faster it’s resolved, the quicker you’re going to be able to start selling again.
Why choose BigCommerce instead of Magento?
It offers both great ecommerce and content functionality
Both BigCommerce and your hosting provider are able to offer support
Why choose Magento instead of BigCommerce?
Magento still offers more in terms of functionality
BigCommerce charges transaction fees
BigCommerce is a closed source application without the development community of Magento
Perhaps you’re a developer or merchant that loves to live on the bleeding edge. Maybe you’ve always prided yourself on staying up to date with the latest and greatest. Or perhaps you’re all about taking the reins when it comes to functionality.
If that sounds like you, then Sylius is probably your platform of choice.
Sylius is an open source ecommerce platform that runs on Symfony. That means more customization, more functionality, and stronger alignment with dev best practices. Plus, with it being open source, the community for support only continues to grow.
Currently available in standard and enterprise forms, Sylius is a good option if you’re looking to stay ahead of trends in web development. However, if your store needs to remain reliable, then it may be better to look elsewhere.
Why choose Sylius over Magento
Sylius is cutting edge in ecommerce web development
It allows merchants to create a heavily customized ecommerce experience
Why choose Magento over Sylius
Magento has a longer history and is a more secure foundation
There is a larger selection of extensions for Magento
You may be limited by your programming expertise
On the other end of the functionality spectrum is Shopify; a SaaS application built to make ecommerce easy.
Shopify is one of the more popular options around, and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at its ease of use. For small merchants, the process of going from store idea to selling is quick and easy. However, this ease of use isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially when a store starts to grow.
Shopify is a good option for merchants getting started in ecommerce, but as they grow its limitations become increasingly apparent.
Shopify comes with a number of limitations that can ultimately hurt a merchant’s bottom line.
One of the most significant of these limitations is transaction fees. While alternatives like WooCommerce and Magento let merchants use a number of different payment processors without needing to pay transaction fees, Shopify only allows you to avoid them if you use Shopify’s payment service. This can cause problems with lock-in once you start needing an alternative.
Other limitations also start to appear when considering Shopify SEO. These include:
A rigid URL structure
Limitations to meta titles and descriptions
A locked robots.txt files
An inability to edit tag pages
No good way to handle duplicate content
For merchants that want their store to rank for important search terms, these SEO limitations can quickly outway the advantages that come with Shopify’s ease of use – especially if you’re a merchant with a lot of products.
Why choose Shopify over Magento?
It’s easier to use and get started with
It comes with a large selection of templates and themes
Why choose Magento over Shopify?
Magento offers more in terms of flexibility and functionality
Magento doesn’t have transaction costs
Shopify has some serious SEO limitations
Prestashop is another option that works well for merchants looking to leverage a platform that offers ease of use.
Originally released in 2008, Prestashop comes in both self-hosted and SasS forms. While the user base for both has diminished over the last few years, it’s still a strong competitor for small stores.
Moreover, perhaps because of its self-hosted background, when compared with other SaaS platforms, it manages to hold its own in terms of functionality. Some of the main reasons you may decide to use Prestashop include:
Easy to use and intuitive interface
A good selection of themes and templates
Over 3,900 extensions for expanding functionality
A lightweight platform that is usually fast
Despite these advantages, Prestashop, like Shopify, just can’t compete with some of the bigger players in terms of functionality and flexibility. For medium stores or those that expect to grow, it quickly becomes a bottleneck that prevents continued growth.
Prestashop is a good option if you’re looking for a platform that offers ease of use. But it trails behind some of the more powerful options in terms of functionality.
Magento, for example, offers a number of complex options and tools for managing omnichannel customer journeys and multi-site stores with localization requirements. This is an advantage that can particularly help stores with international customers. Localization with Prestashop doesn’t offer the same level of detail or a truly “local” experience.
Prestashop – just like Shopify- also falls down in terms of SEO. In fact, stock Prestashop doesn’t even have some SEO features you would expect to see, like meta titles and descriptions. To gain access to that functionality you have to download an extension.
Overall, Prestashop isn’t the best option on this list. It does, however, offer a suitable alternative to Magento for merchants looking to simplify their commerce experience.
Why choose Prestashop over Magento?
Prestashop is easier to use and develop with.
Prestashop offers a large number of themes and add-ons
Why choose Magento over Prestashop?
Prestashop has terrible SEO features
Magento offers more in terms of features and functionality
With more than half a decade of experience in the tech industry, Robert has worked as a marketing consultant, product strategist, and content developer. At Hostdedi, he spends his time helping clients find the best hosting solution for their needs through online content and as a brand ambassador.
You may have heard of BigCommerce the SaaS platform. An ecommerce platform that has gained popularity in recent years. But forget about the SaaS platform for a second, because what we’re talking about here is BigCommerce for WordPress (BC4WP): a headless ecommerce solution that lets merchants get started quickly by uploading products, setting prices, and finding the perfect BigCommerce for WordPress theme.
BigCommerce for WordPress works with any modern WordPress theme. This is because it was engineered in accordance with WordPress development guidelines. As a result, it’s straightforward for WordPress developers to build custom themes or to use one of the thousands of pre-built premium and free themes available for WordPress. The trick is finding one that lets you visualize the right ecommerce components in the best way possible.
We’d like to highlight some of the more flexible and user-friendly WordPress themes compatible with BigCommerce. Each of these themes is an ideal choice for an online retailer getting started with BigCommerce and WordPress on our BigCommerce for WordPress hosting platform.
What Is BigCommerce for WordPress?
BigCommerce is a headless cloud ecommerce platform that provides inventory management, a shopping cart, a PCI-compliant shopping cart, and built-in analytics.
As a headless ecommerce platform, BigCommerce handles the heavy lifting of online retail but relies on a front-end application to provide the store’s interface. As a result, the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin transforms WordPress into a BigCommerce front-end.
BigCommerce for WordPress offers the best of both ecommerce and content worlds. But to make the most of that, you’ll need the right theme.
WordPress is known for its capable content management features. So the combination of both applications means that merchants are able to make the most of ecommerce and content functionality; creating both an incredible storefront and an incredible content marketing platform.
However, to truly make the most of these features, you’ll need a WordPress theme that’s compatible with BigCommerce and provides an attractive platform for content delivery.
How to Choose a Good BigCommerce Theme
Choosing the right BigCommerce theme for your WordPress frontend can mean browsing through thousands of different options to narrow down the right one. Luckily, we’ve assembled a list of the four best themes available.
When it comes to choosing the right theme for a BC4WP site, there are five main areas you should consider. That way, you’ll end up with a site that delivers results for both ecommerce and content.
The most important factor you’ll want to keep an eye on is navigation. More specifically, how easy it is to find the right product.
Firstly, take a look at the menu. Is it prominent on the site? Does it come with accessibility features? Would you like using it to navigate around a site?
Bad navigation instantly turns customers away; or forces them to leave after they can’t find what they’re looking for. Remember, ecommerce navigation isn’t just about the nav, it’s also about paying attention to ecommerce SEO and categories. Categories make finding and navigating a site easier.
Beyond that, search is also vital. 70% of people rely on ecommerce product search, and searchers are 200% more likely to make a purchase than a browser.
When choosing a theme, it’s important to pay attention to the placement and clarity of the search experience. We’ve seen themes that don’t make it clear and this can have hard-hitting effects on conversion rates.
Your next key focus should be loading time. More specifically, how long does it take for assets and code to allow a user to browse content on a site?
A 1-second delay in page load time can lead to a 7% decrease in sales. So even the slightest delay as a result of load time can mean fewer sales.
What this means is making sure that time to interactivity is as quick as possible. Some theme developers talk about time to first byte (TTFB). We question this, and think it’s more important to look at time to interactivity (a measure of how long before a user can actually engage with a page).
If you’ve tried everything and you site is still slow, then it’s worth reaching out to your hosting provider to see if there are any configuration problems.
In some cases, your site may be slow as a result of your hosting provider. If you’ve tried optimizing code, cutting down on plugins and trying these speed optimization trends, and your site is still slow, then it’s a good idea to contact your provider and their support team to see if there is a problem with your server.
If you’re not offering a mobile responsive website yet, then you’re doing it wrong. Not only because it means you’re probably offering a terrible user experience, but also because it means you’re SEO is suffering.
This ripples out into several different areas of site development; from UX to code, and more.
BigCommerce for WordPress is a headless application, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be offering a mobile-optimized frontend. Being headless, BC4WP means you have complete control over the front-end. So take a look at the competition and make sure your site design isn’t out of date.
Bad themes are an easy goldmine for hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities. Whether it’s bad coding practices, something missed by accident, or just simple laziness, a theme with security vulnerabilities can mean the end of your online store.
Yes, theme vulnerabilities are not as frequent as plugin or core vulnerabilities. But they still make up a sizeable amount in terms of numbers. And all it takes is one exploited vulnerability for you to find your store quickly losing the business and trust of your customers.
Sticking to official and officially supported themes means you’re picking a theme that complies to WordPress coding standards and is a lot safer.
Try sticking to themes that are either available in the official WordPress theme bank, or that have official support from BigCommerce. Stay away from anything you have to download and install manually.
If you’ve already decided on a theme and want to know how secure it is, we recommend taking a look at the WPScan Vulnerability Database. Here, you’ll be able to see a list of vulnerabilities identified from not just themes, but also plugins, and core.
Code links into pretty much everything we’ve just said. Bad theme coding means problems with design, security, and the user experience.
For most non-technical merchants, you’re probably not able to check the code for yourself. So just like with themes, the best option is to take a look at the creator of the theme. If it’s a trusted source, chances are they have followed coding standards. Remember, any themes available through the WordPress theme bank have been checked to make sure they match up to the WordPress theme standards.
Four BigCommerce for WordPress Themes We Recommend
Divi, by Elegant Themes, is one of the most popular premium WordPress themes on the market. Divi is billed as a “website building platform” rather than simply a theme. The highlight feature is a powerful page builder that allows WordPress users to visually construct pages from the wide selection of elements that are built into the theme.
A true drag-and-drop solution, Divi incorporates over 40 different page elements, including sliders, galleries, and forms. Divi can be used to create any type of site, but it includes several features aimed at ecommerce retailers, including pricing tables.
WordPress users who buy a Divi license also gain access to over 100 layout packs, including ecommerce designs with page layouts, images, and graphics.
Make is a free theme that aims to make it simple to build an attractive WordPress site. It has fewer features than all-in-one plugins like Divi, but that’s deliberate, and it has made Make a favorite of WordPress users who have downloaded the theme more than a million times.
The free version of Make includes a page layout engine with several built-in layouts. Make integrates well with the Customizer, providing over a hundred settings that can be visually tweaked.
For users who need access to advanced features, the Make Plus premium tier includes additional ecommerce features and advanced layout options.
Shapely is an elegant one-page theme suitable for simple stores with a handful of products. Unlike the other themes we’ve looked at, Shapely is intended for store owners who want to choose a pixel-perfect design and stick with it. It doesn’t include a heavy page-builder, but there are plenty of Customizer options to bring the theme in-line with a store’s branding.
With more than half a decade of experience in the tech industry, Robert has worked as a marketing consultant, product strategist, and content developer. At Hostdedi, he spends his time helping clients find the best hosting solution for their needs through online content and as a brand ambassador.
In this post we’re going to go through installing the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin, starting with a mostly empty WordPress install. But before we begin, I want to briefly note that if you’re new to Hostdedi and/or want to add a BigCommerce for WordPress retail plan to your existing Hostdedi hosting account, you can do so by visiting this page, selecting a plan and auto-installing BigCommerce for WordPress in one click. For those who need an enterprise-level solution, you’ll follow the steps outlined in this blog to manually install.
The BigCommerce for WordPress plugin is available on WordPress.org, like most plugins. This makes it easy to install, right from within the WordPress admin interface.
Start by logging into WordPress and in the left admin menu, choose Plugins ➞ Add New.
Then in the top right search area search for BigCommerce. When the results appear, click on Install Now on the BigCommerce plugin.
Once it’s installed you’ll need to activate it.
As soon as the plugin is activated it will take you to an Onboarding Wizard to help you configure it properly. Your first step will be to either connect your WordPress site to an existing BigCommerce store or create a new BigCommerce store from right within WordPress.
For this post we’ll choose Create New Account.
The form is longer than what you see in the screenshot, but it asks for normal contact information like address, city, state, zip, phone, etc.
When creating a new account like this it’s creating a free 15-day trial. If you decide you don’t like it, you can simply let it expire. If you decide you’d like to sign up for BigCommerce you may do that in your Account page in the BigCommerce admin area.
Once you’ve created an account you’ll need to make a Channel. Channels in BigCommerce allow you to specify what products appear in what storefront. For example, Amazon can be a channel, and you can say “These products appear in Amazon”.
With WordPress, each WordPress instance in a channel, so you can show certain products on one WordPress site, and other products on another WordPress site.
Of course if you wish you may show all products on your WordPress site, but this Channel we’re making is the method by which that happens.
As shown in the screenshot above you may choose to have all products immediately imported or have none so that you may go back later and specifically choose which products get imported.
The next option is to choose a Full Featured Store or set up a Blogging store. If you choose Simple Blogging then it will skip helping you set up a Navigation Menu and disable the Cart and the Embedded Checkout. So customers will click to Buy a product and it will send them to the BigCommerce store. If you choose this and change your mind it’s easy to switch back later.
For this post we’re going to choose Full Featured Store.
Once you’ve chosen Full Featured Store, the next step is to optionally set up a WordPress Navigation Menu. Checkboxes are provided for all of the pages that BigCommerce creates during this install, including Product Listing Pages, Brand Pages, Category Pages, Shopping Cart, Checkout, etc. You can also choose a Menu Location, exactly like in the default WordPress menu builder.
After you complete the Navigation configuration you’re essentially done with setting up WordPress. If you wish you can go into BigCommerce ➞ Settings and make some changes, but that’s not required.
The final page of the Setup Wizard offers some links to finish setting up your store, and these must be done before your store will function properly. These things include setting up your payment gateway, taxes, and shipping.
Once these last admin things have been set up you’re ready to sell!
Learn more about the BC4WP plugin with Hostdedi here.
Every year, on the fourth Friday of November, shopping chaos unfolds.
Stores cut their prices, customers flock to their nearest outlets, and deals are had by everyone.
But not anymore. Thanks to ecommerce, customers no longer have to leave the comfort of their home to take part in Black Friday. Keeping an eye on advertisements and pre-event newsletters, customers can easily turn on their laptop, click add to cart, and checkout as soon as the clock strikes twelve.
For customers, this is great. For merchants, it means competition has only gotten more fierce (if you thought that possible). It’s no longer just about having the best deals; it’s about having the best visibility.
Why Black Friday Matters
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, with American shoppers spending a record $5 billion in 2017. In 2018, this number then grew by 19%, with over 14.8 million online transactions recorded. With so much money up for grabs, Black Friday can be one of the most profitable days of the year for some businesses. In some cases, it even defines a stores annual profit.
In the jewelry industry, for example, Black Friday can account for 40% of a business’s annual revenue. With such a large percentage from only a single day, these merchants are often forced to ensure their Black Friday campaigns do better year-over-year. The alternative is something many can’t think about.
Hopefully, your sales are not so dependent on Black Friday. However, there’s still a lot of money available to those savvy enough to take advantage of the digital opportunities available to merchants.
But with more demand and more customers, the chance of something going wrong only increases. If you want to be successful this Black Friday, you can’t treat it like any other sales day, or even any other sales event.
Black Friday Ecommerce Statistics
According to NRF, shoppers who took part both online and in-store were up 40% from 2017, with multi-channel shoppers outspending single-channel shoppers by $93. This year, ecommerce merchants can expect to see another huge increase in online shoppers, following on from 2018’s substantial growth.
With Black Friday now online, shoppers no longer have to venture outside to chaotic shopping centers and can instead make their purchases from the comfort of their sofa.
This is despite in-store shoppers declining by roughly 1%, and 44% of consumers saying they would shop online in 2017 vs just 42% in 2018.
Industry Ecommerce Benchmarks for Black Friday
Prior to the 2018 Black Friday event, Blackfriday.com questioned their users on what they planned to look for in the sales.
Clothing took top spot, with 23% of consumers aiming to score a good deal on fashion items. This was quickly followed by tech, with 22% of consumers looking for their next gadget.
Towards the bottom of the pile was travel. With it being less of an impulse buy, just 9% of consumers aimed to find some travel deals for the coming year.
If you’re a clothes or tech merchants, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are going to be the days you want to get ready for.
Getting Your Site Ready for Black Friday
Getting ready for Black Friday means getting ready for more than just the products you’re going to sell. Expect to see:
An increase in traffic
An increase in server strain
An increase in the potential for things to go wrong
We’ve seen it all too many times. Merchants who wait until the last second to address these potential pitfalls, and as a result: they fall.
Getting yourself ready for Black Friday doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. But it will mean that you’re able to maximize ROI from the event, and secure your place among the Black Friday customer go-tos for years to come.
Get Started Early
The earlier you start targeting Black Friday shoppers, the better results you’re going to have. Getting started early means ramping up everything from prep work to marketing strategy.
Some merchants start their Black Friday marketing efforts as early as October, with others beginning to ramp up marketing in early September.
When considering how early you will begin your marketing strategy, take a step back and analyze these factors.
Budget: How much do you have to spend on Black Friday marketing? Where should that budget be spent? Will you increase adwords spend, ramp up email products, or instead focus on more traditional print-media?
Resources: November is a resource-intensive time. Christmas is just around the corner, and depending on where you’re located, Singles Day is just a few short weeks ahead of Black Friday. Calculating ROI on resource spend is going to make a huge difference. You don’t want to run out of money before Black Friday has even started.
Potential: While it would be great if we all had unlimited products and opportunities, that’s more often not the case. Perhaps you’re limited in terms of stock or fulfillment processes. The less potential for your Black Friday campaign, the less time should be dedicated to it.
Once you’ve drawn a clear picture of these areas, it’s a good idea to outline the different channels and audiences your aiming to target and assign any associated dates.
Getting Your Ecommerce Site (and hosting) Ready for Black Friday
If you’re running a Black Friday sale, that means you can all but guarantee an influx of traffic. That means more opportunities for something to go wrong. Don’t let it be your hosting platform.
As the foundation of your site, hosting problems can mean slow user experiences, broken page elements, and, in the most extreme cases, site-wide outages. Luckily, there are specific steps you can take to ensure a smooth Black Friday experience for your customers and keep those conversions rolling in.
What’s Your Limit?
How much can your hosting actually take?
Every hosting package you purchase will have its limits. If your site is seeing more visitors than those limits can handle, then your site won’t crash. Instead, it will slow to a crawl, queuing page load requests until it eventually becomes long enough for the dreaded timeout.
If you’re already seeing traffic hover around your limit, it’s definitely worth upgrading your hosting to the next level. If you’re running on the Hostdedi Cloud, you can also enable auto scaling in your Client Portal. Just a flick of a button and you’ll be set for any unexpected (or expected) traffic spikes.
Prepare for International Sales
International sales can add a whole new level of complexity to a store. For the merchant, alternate payment options, different order fulfillment choices, and tweaks to content are only the start. On top of those, delivering digital assets to countries halfway around the world presents its own problem.
Yes, digital transfer speeds are fast, but running your website through cables located under the Atlantic is going to lead to some lag, especially if demand is high (like on Black Friday). How can you solve this?
For most stores looking to serve international customers, purchasing a CDN add-on for their store will allow static assets such as images to be held in server locations around the world. This way, regardless of where your customers are coming from, they’re going to be able to access high-bandwidth assets from a local location. That means faster load times and more conversions.
Check in with Our Support Techs… Why Not?
Our philosophy is that it’s always worth exploring every avenue available to you, to see if there’s something you’ve been missing. That’s why we recommend all of our clients expecting an influx of traffic during Black Friday to check in and see if there’s anything we can do to help.
There may not be. Perhaps you’ve already prepared your store for any eventuality. But what if you’ve missed something and it ends up coming back to haunt you? We’ll often reach out to clients we expect to encounter a problem, so keep an eye on your inbox. Or, start the conversation yourself.
At the very least, it’s worth letting the team here know that you’re planning to run a sale over those dates, that way our team can take extra steps to keep an eye on your hosting platform and how it’s performing.
Black Friday Ecommerce Strategy
Start Marketing Early
Any good Black Friday ecommerce strategy means ramping up interest before Black Friday actually begins. After all, some customers spend weeks looking for deals they’re going to jump on during the sales.
Getting started early means promoting your company’s email newsletter through organic and paid channels. This will give you a lot of leads to follow up with once your really start marketing your discounts.
The earlier you start marketing your Black Friday discounts, the more customers are going to come knocking on the big day.
Start promotions with enticing statements about how your sales event is unique. Statements like “Over 80% off this Black Friday, sign up to stay ahead of the curve” work well to draw in subscriptions, especially when they’re paired with tantalizing artwork.
Get Creating Niche Gift Guides
You’ve got awesome products so why not let them market themselves? Your Black Friday marketing strategy doesn’t have to only be about target Black Friday shoppers. There’s a whole internet of customers you have access to.
This means creating marketing material that will draw in those interested in your niche, but not Black Friday.
Gift guides are a great way to target long tail ecommerce SEO keywords. They not only target Black Friday Shoppers, but everyone looking for your products.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating a gift guide that suits your target audience. If you sell shoes, how about creating the ultimate gift guide to Men’s Fashion in 2019? If you sell hats, do the same thing. If you have a larger product range, make your gift guide broader. The possibilities are limitless.
Prepare Upsells and Cross-sells
With the average person spending $289.19 during Black Friday in 2018, it’s the perfect opportunity to push upsells and cross-sells. This may be grouping items for an improved discount, or providing recommendations for related products during checkout.
Just remember, a good upsell and cross-sell strategy revolves around providing your buyer value. Don’t just indiscriminately group items together, think of how grouping multiple items provides buyers with a benefit.
For example, if you’re selling shoes, shoe care products are a great upsell. They can potentially increase the longevity of a product, fitting perfectly within the buyer narrative of saving money.
If you’re selling a specific type of gift, think about other products that complement it. The more you think about and push the narrative of buyer benefit, the more you’re going to be successful here.
Prepare Your Email Strategy
Did you know that 25% of Black Friday sales start with an email? At least, that’s what Custora says.
That means you should be jumping on the email bandwagon if you want to maximize ROI. But how?
Great email campaigns start with two things: timing and subject lines.
If you haven’t already, begin testing what times are best for sending emails to your customers. Which days of the week work best and when are they going to check their inbox?
If you spend 1 hour creating the perfect email, spend 2 crafting the subject line.
Then work on your subject lines. These sentences should be the core of your content. If you spend 1 hour creating the perfect email content, spend 2 crafting the subject line. The subject line will encourage opens, click-throughs, and sales.
There are four days of shopping to be had around Black Friday: not just Black Friday itself. Make sure to target each of these days individually.
Then, think about how your Black Friday marketing strategy can continue to bring sales in even after the sales event is over. Use it as an opportunity to increase reach, and audience knowledge of your brand.
Don’t Shrug Off Black Friday in 2019
We’ve seen it all too often: merchants not preparing their stores for Black Friday and then suffering from site slowdowns and outages. Don’t let that be you.
Talking to a sales rep to ensure you’re ready is one of the most crucial steps merchants can make in the run up to November 29th this year.
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Do you run an ecommerce store but aren’t sure how to improve its SEO? Worry no more, this is your complete guide to ecommerce SEO.
From keyword research to technical audits, this expert guide takes you on a detailed journey through the ins and outs of ecommerce SEO tactics for ranking your products on page one of Google.
What are you waiting for, let’s get started!
Laying the Groundwork for Ecommerce SEO
A concrete ecommerce SEO strategy is exactly that: a strategy. And all good strategies start somewhere.
For ecommerce SEO, that starting point is keyword and category research, upon which you’ll build site structure, on-page and technical SEO, and backlinks.
These, in turn, influence the buyer’s journey. From click to homepage, to checkout, your keyword research should provide a clear rationale for the journey a customer takes, even extending off-site into guest posts and social channels.
So before we launch into a detailed look at implementing or improving your ecommerce SEO, let’s take a look at the groundwork you need to cover, and why it’s important, first.
Why Ecommerce SEO Matters
Why does ecommerce SEO matter? Is it really just a form of dark magic held by wordsmiths of a digital age?
Let’s break that down.
Firstly, yes, ecommerce SEO matters. It matters because it’s the key to finding customers and selling products organically. This means without having to pay for advertising.
Sound pretty sweet, right?
93% of online activity begins with a search, with less than 75% of searchers proceeding past the first page of search results. That means that in order to play the organic game successfully, you’ll need to compete and beat out the competition.
Moreover, as we’ll look at throughout this guide, SEO doesn’t just affect your organic search rankings, it has implications that run throughout your entire site. From UX to structure, SEO is the key to creating buyers journeys that are unforgettable and targeted.
So what about the second question. Is SEO just some form of dark magic?
Despite what some “experts” would like you believe, SEO is actually a fairly straightforward process (for the most part) that revolves around you proving the relevancy of the pages and content you create.
For ecommerce, that means attributing value to your products and telling a search engine that is the case.
What’s best, it’s all easily done by following a simple formula. That’s what we’re going to be looking at here.
Defining Ecommerce Products and Categories
Ecommerce search engine optimization is a little different than typical content SEO.
Google handles content differently, buyers expect it to act differently, and the competition is different.
Where ecommerce and content SEO differs is in how products should be treated when compared with blog or other content pages. This is especially true if your store offers a large number of products across several categories.
Take, for instance, if you’re opening a store selling headphones.
Simply stating “headphones” when it comes to the product title and description isn’t enough. Going even further, the category “headphones” won’t do much to help either the buyer or your SEO either.
Modern audiences are looking for personalized and detailed buying experiences. These buying experiences mean understanding the differences between, say, “headphones” and “earphones”, “in ear” and “over ear”.
Understanding the Difference Between Ecommerce and Content
Ecommerce and content SEO is not the same.
To start, visitor intent is different. Content SEO often has the long game in mind. Ecommerce SEO aims to optimize the sales process. Sometimes this means the long game, other times it means more immediate engagement.
Secondly, ecommerce is arguably a lot more competitive. There are a huge number of products which are very similar. Product attributes then become increasingly important, with even the smallest addition or subtraction potentially making or breaking a sale.
Thirdly, Google handles transactional search queries differently. We will look at this in more detail later. However, what’s important to know is that transactional search queries have search features you won’t find with informational or navigational queries.
Finally, site content will be different. Product pages should be treated a little differently than, for example, blog pages. They should still follow the same general rules of focus and relevancy, but they also need to sell a product. This means you’re going to have to intertwine some emotional resonance in that copy.
As we cover pretty much everything you need to know about ecommerce SEO, keep in mind that every store is different and should be treated differently.
To create incredible, future-proof ecommerce SEO, make sure that your copy is relevant, informative, and useful.
Then do the rest.
Your Ecommerce SEO Stack
Your ecommerce SEO stack should be a collection of applications and websites that enable you to quickly and effectively research and/or confirm your keyword and category suspicions.
Your ecommerce SEO stack is your main toolset for laying the groundwork and building your store’s online presence. WIthout a good stack you’ll struggle to implement a proper keyword strategy.
Here’s exactly how you can use a huge range of applications to isolate product differences, find buyer intent, and understand a product’s market.
The Keyword Map
Before you launch any further into this section, you’re going to need a place to store all of your juicy keyword information. Everything you collect needs to be recorded for later!
If you have nothing else available, we recommend pulling up a spreadsheet and creating something which looks like this:
Cost Per Click
We’ll come back to what all these different sections mean shortly. For now, you can focus on keyword and product. Here you’ll put any of the keywords you find through your research and the product they are associated with.
Secondly, create a smaller table that looks like this:
This is potential categories. Categories are much larger than keywords. For instance, “Headphones” and “Earphones” may be individual categories as they have large differences. More specific attributes would fall under the keyword sections.
While conducting keyword research, keep an eye on the different keywords that appear and try to gain inspiration on what categories may and may not work.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get researching!
When Google Is Replaced by Amazon
The first tool you have at your disposal is Amazon. As the most popular ecommerce outlet, with a huge range of products, did you think we would (could) start anywhere else?
Amazon is to ecommerce SEO as Google is to content SEO.
9 in 10 consumers use amazon to price check a product before making a purchase elsewhere. By positioning the right products in the right places along a buyer’s journey, they increase the chance of making a sale.
To do this, they have had to optimize and perfect their internal search engine and ecommerce SEO to deliver only the most relevant results.
So, amazon is the perfect place to get started with keyword research.
Since we’re interested in selling headphones, we’re going to start by typing “headphones” into search and taking a look at Amazon Suggest.
This gives us two different types of information: ideas for keywords, and ideas for categories.
Primarily, the keywords we see above are what we call long tail keywords. They are search terms that are actually being searched by real customers and they provide a lot of insight into what they are looking for.
Taking a quick look, we can see that “headphones for kids”, “headphones with microphone”, and “headphones over ear” are a couple of keywords that stand out.
Since headphones are very close to earphones, we can also take a look at this search result to see if there is any crossover or new long tail keywords we can play with.
Immediately, “earphones with microphone” stands out, as does “earphone splitter” as a potential upsell product.
We can also take a look at the categories referenced in these searches. Cell Phones & Accessories appear in both search results, meaning it’s an important category to consider moving forward.
This tool scrapes a huge number of amazon search suggestions for you, providing keywords for you to add to your keyword and category map.
This can help save a lot of time and provides a fairly big long tail keyword base to work from. As you can see above, the results are different than when we used amazon directly, but are still just as valid moving forward.
The Power of Reddit and Wikipedia
Both Reddit and Wikipedia should be used for generating a longer and more complete list of keywords.
Reddit should be your first port of call as its community is often teeming with advice and recommendations on what others should or shouldn’t purchase. These posts provide a huge amount of information regarding product market, target audience, and keywords.
Of course, this often depends on what type of product you are looking to sell. However, there is often some kind of online community (whether in reddit or not) which talks about products from the perspective of a buyer.
Wikipedia is also an asset when it comes to keyword research. Just search for any product idea you have: like headphones.
We’ve highlighted a few key things which appear in the wikipedia search. First we have synonyms. These are words with the same or similar meanings, and are great keyword targets. Even the slang term “cans” is a viable search terms.
Second is potential categories. We already know that mobile phones are a viable category from the Amazon suggest results. We can now add musical instruments, radio, and video games.
Finally, we’ve also marked up some words which may be helpful for building out a more complete keyword strategy, including keywords like “bluetooth”, “DECT”, and “high fidelity headphones”.
Tip: Don’t forget to take a quick look at the table of contents too. Here you’ll find some good ideas for both categories and keywords. For headphones, we can see a couple of options listed under types.
Identifying Semantic Keywords
Additional bits of language conceptually related to your keywords or products are what are known as semantic keywords (LSI – latent semantic indexing). They are not one of your primary keywords.
Semantic (LSI) Keywords are those that are linked conceptually.
We can also identify these as Qualifiers and Attributes. They are excellent for building our and understanding categories, as well as for bulking up your keyword strategy.
For example, LSI keywords for Headphones may be”
These link conceptually and co-occur with instances of “Headphones” frequently. However, they do not have the same meaning.
In the wikipedia example above, two examples may be “open back” and “closed back”. These are potentially great binary categories, and provide customers with a clear UX path to purchasing the product they want.
Remember, these keywords should always be checked with a keyword tool (which we’ll get to later).
Google trends is useful tool for seeing what kind of trends are taking place in the market currently. In the past, we’ve found this tends to require a lot of sifting of data, but it can help you to find golden SEO opportunities if done right.
To begin, we’re again going to want to use the auto suggest feature to see what kind of searches are popular. Luckily, there are a few suggestions for headphones, including the popular search term “noise-cancelling headphones”. We can add that to our keyword map.
Once we’ve done this, we can scroll down and take a look at the related topics and queries. These can provide us with some good, long tail keywords, and help us to gain deeper insight into the categories we’re looking to create. Oculus VR can probably fall under video game, MacBook Air can fall under computers, and AirPods can fall under mobile phones.
Tip: Sorting through Google trends can take a long time but it really does offer a wealth of information for merchants that are able to act quickly. Remember that trends are exactly that: trends. There is no guarantee that what is popular now will be even 1 month down the road.
Google Keyword Planner
Once you’ve collected all of your keywords, it’s time to run them through a keyword tool to see what kind of buyer/searcher intent exists. There are a lot of options available to merchants, but we’re going to start with good old Google Keyword Planner.
Yes, Google, not Amazon.
The reasons we’re using google is because a large number of ecommerce searches come from search traffic outside of amazon. While Amazon has grown to be larger than Google in terms of ecommerce searches, Google still accounts for over 34% of product searches.
So, taking a look at the list of keywords we’ve found, we’re going to start putting them into the keyword planner to see what it suggests and what we’re looking at in terms of search volume and competition.
Starting with the keyword “earphones with microphone”, taken from our first look at Amazon suggest, we’re given a deeper look at how that keyword would perform and several additional options.
But what numbers are we really looking at here and what do they mean?
Avg. monthly searches
This is the average number of searches you can expect each month. Google keyword planner isn’t accurate in this area and we’ll be using another tool later for a better number.
This is how hard it is to rank for the keyword. On your keyword map, we’ve called this DIFF.
Top of page bid (both high and low)
These provide a guide to how much an ad would cost per click. This number gives us a really good indication of competition. The higher the cost, the more competition. The lower the cost, the less competition.
Go through your keywords and add the numbers you find here to you keyword map. We’re going to be using them more later.
Once you’ve completed everything else, we recommend taking your keyword map and exploring it further with a paid keyword tool.
For the purposes of this guide, we’re using Mangools’ KWFinder. It’s lightweight, provides a lot of the information we’re going to need, and we’ve found it to be pretty accurate at predicting success in the past.
We’re going to start this section of our research just like each of the other ones: by searching for “headphones”.
Here, we’re given a lot of information on how useful our keywords are. We’ve got a lot more detailed information on search volume, a clear idea of the cost per click (CPC) and an easy metric for judging ranking difficulty. We can also see how search volume has changed historically.
All of these metrics are ones we can use.
It’s also possible to take a look at autocomplete suggestions and questions that are asked using the keyword. These sections also provide detailed information on search volume, CPC, and difficulty.
Once you’ve looked through all of this information and moved what you think is relevant into your keyword map, you’re ready to start sifting through and putting together your primary keywords.
Sifting Through Keywords
Well done on getting this far. If you’ve proceeded through each of the previous steps, you should now have a fairly expansive list of keywords, potential categories, and metrics available to you.
But it’s probably too much. How are you going to take that list and shorten it to create a clear idea of what keywords to use and where to use them? After all, you can’t just stuff it all onto one page.
To solve this problem, we’re going to need to take a deeper look at those metrics we pulled earlier.
When looking at keywords and metrics, it’s important to remember three general rules:
Higher search volume means more potential
Lower difficulty means easier ranking
Lower CPC means less competition
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the types you metrics you’ve gathered and what they mean.
Don’t forget to check the semantic keywords you found as well. These can come in handy during category creation.
Search Volume is a good indicator of how much traffic you could potentially see to your product. Know that this is searches, not click throughs. Even result number 1 doesn’t receive all of that traffic (but a fairly significant portion of it).
Knowing what number is good here is really about understanding how niche your target audience is. Clearly, headphones are a large consumer market (who doesn’t own a pair in the mobile phone age?).
As a result, large numbers are going to be good here. We would say anything with over 1,000 searches per month is going to net you a return. If you’re looking to sell more specific or specialized headphones or products, such as headphone amplifiers, a smaller search volume is ok.
“Headphones with mic” has a search volume of 2,400. This is pretty high and means that if you make it to the first page, you’re probably going to get a good amount of traffic. For merchants who stock this product, they would probably want to add priority to this keyword.
Before looking at CPC, we’re going to take a quick peek at keyword difficulty.
Different tools measure difficulty in different ways. KWFinder measures it in terms of the link profile strength from other competitors on the first search engine results page. We like this method as it provides a nice understanding of page 1 ranking competition.
The lower the score, the better. It’s going to be harder to rank for higher numbers.
KWFinder’s color coding here is really helpful. Anything in green is usually very easy to rank for – depending on a few factors. These are low hanging fruit and you’re going to want to target them if possible.
In the example above, keywords like “neckband headphones” have really high search volume and low difficulty. A combination of these two metrics makes this a high-value keyword. Similarly, “best DJ headphones” is another with this perfect combination of factors.
Finding this golden SEO combination is the key to isolating the best keywords available to you.
Cost Per Click
Cost per click (CPC) indicates how much an individual click will cost in Google ads.
But wait, you want to rank organically, not for paid ads. Why does this matter?
CPC is a great indicator of competition. The higher the value of a click, the more merchants are bidding for a smaller customer pool. This number can fluctuate a lot. According to Search Engine Watch, the most expensive keyword in terms of CPC in 2016 was “best mesothelioma lawyer”. Each click was valued at $935.71.
You should not expect numbers anywhere near this large. The most expensive CPC for headphones is just $3.24. This travels all the way down to just $0.14 for “gumy headphones”.
What you’re really looking for is a number in the middle here. You don’t want to go for a keyword with too little competition as there’s probably a reason for that (it doesn’t lead to a high conversion rate). You also don’t want to go for something too high as it may be because it’s too hard to rank for or compete on.
Taking the top and bottom numbers of “headphones”, we’ve set a range between $0.60 – $1.50. This actually only filters out a handful of results and leaves us with a pretty broad spectrum of results.
Bring It All Together
Once you’ve done this, you should now have a pretty complete picture of what your keyword strategy should look like.
Take those keywords remaining on your keyword map and organize them based on relevancy and metrics (remembering the general rules above).
Once you’ve completed your keyword research, it’s time to put that research into practice by using it to inform your site structure (or site architecture).
Site structure is already an important part of SEO for any site. However, with ecommerce sites, it’s even more important due to the number of products and pages.
A clearer site structure makes it easier for customers to find specific products, for search engines to index them, and for merchants to create exquisite buyer journeys. The more pages and products you have, the more important this stage will be.
Don’t Skip this
Optimizing site structure means following two simple rules:
The rule of simple scalability
The rule of proximity to your homepage
These two rules embody two core principles behind best practices web development: simplicity and connection.
They show that it’s important to add pages to your site in a way that supports simple site architecture, while also ensuring that no page is more than 3 clicks away from you homepage.
These two rules relate heavily to “deep” site architecture.
Creating “Deep” Site Architecture
In general, most external links (packed with backlink juiciness) are going to be directed towards the homepage. This means that most of your authority is going to exist on this page (probably).
As you build out your site, you’re going to want to create a clear pathway for that authority to “flow” from the top to the bottom.
In the example below, domain authority filters from the home page down through to the product pages (which are just 2 clicks away).
With more complex sites with more pages, this would probably have to be built out even more. It would include multiple mid-level pages and many, many more product pages. Whatever you do, it’s important to ensure that product pages are no more than 3 clicks from your home page.
If you have fewer products, it’s important that they are no more than 2 clicks from the homepage. This ensures a streamlined customer journey and makes for easier indexing by search engines. Take a look at some of your competitors if you’re unsure and see how they do it.
Tip: don’t put too many pages in level 2 if you can help it. The more pages on each level, the lower authority each page is given. The “deep” structure is designed to dilute that authority vertically instead of horizontally.
Bad SEO Site Structure
Bad site structure is easy to diagnose. It flies in the face of both simple rules above:
The rule of simple scalability
The rule of proximity to your homepage
Instead of allowing for authority to drip down from the top, it creates meandering mazes that create uneven buyer journeys and hard to navigate UX.
The example above also puts 6 pages between the homepage and the product.
That’s 7 clicks between arriving at the site and finding the product they want. Not only is this terrible UX, it also all but guarantees that your conversion rate will drop significantly (unless you happen to have an audience that loves website mazes).
Tip: If your site structure looks like it does above, don’t rush into moving everything around and changing your site structure. This will lead to changes in URLs, which means a lot of pages will lose their existing SEO value. Before engaging in a site redesign, we recommend getting in touch with an SEO professional to help, if it’s something you feel needs to be done.
Now that you know the basics of site structure, we can start to apply the keyword research we performed in the last step.
Where this is mainly going to make a difference is on the category pages. Do you remember those qualifiers and attributes we identified in the first section? We also called them semantic (LSI) keywords.
These terms are great for creating categories. Make sure that you check them with the keyword tool as well.
For the purposed of this exercise, we’re going to start with two category pages, “open back” and “closed back”. These provide us with a nice way to split any products we have down the middle, despite not necessarily having some of the best keyword metrics around.
If you structure your site for best results, your URL structure should mimic your site structure.
Take the “open back headphones” and “closed back headphones” example from our wikipedia research. These would create two different categories “open back” and “closed back”, and the following URLs:
Product variations should not be addressed in your site structure. Differences such as color, size, material, or similar attributes should be addressed with your ecommerce CMS.
The line between these variations and genuine categories is a thin one. Generally, best practice is to keep niche attributes with high volume or competition as categories, while taking more general attributes such as color and size, and setting them as variations.
Magento is particularly powerful when it comes to setting up product attributes. Not only does it allow you to set different values and settings, it also allows for attributes to be displayed differently in different parts of your store or different regions.
Other applications like WooCommerce are also very capable of managing attributes, but don’t have some of the advanced functionality you’ll find with Magento.
Tip: Before actually putting together your site structure, it’s a good idea to compare the differences between ecommerce CMS. Make sure to check for features which line up with your requirements for SEO. We recommend Magento in most cases as it allows for much more customization.
The Best Ecommerce SEO Site Structure
The best ecommerce site structures follow the two simple rules above and ensure that all authority and links flow from the homepage towards categories and then out to products.
In the example above, the categories have been separated into two levels, allowing for more products to be represented and simplifying the buyer’s journey. In turn, these level two categories flow into the product pages along the bottom.
If you were setting up site structure for an earphone/headphone site, you may place “earphones” as one top level category, and “Headphones” as another. Level two would then diversify into other features such as “Noise Cancelling”, “bluetooth”, or other options.
We do not suggest going past this 4 level structure as that would mean more than 3 clicks from the homepage to reach a product. This will lead to a bad user experience and a hit to conversions.
On-Page Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization
Ok, you’ve made it this far.
You’ve got your keyword map and you’ve created a solid site structure. Now it’s time to start creating the actual pages and optimizing them for SEO.
Here we’re going to show you how all that groundwork you’ve prepared is going to pay off. We’ll walk through keyword placement, on-page optimization factors, and what makes ecommerce SEO unique.
Optimizing SEO for ecommerce is different because Google treats ecommerce search results differently than they do other queries.
Since we’re talking about ecommerce SEO in this article, we’re going to focus on Transactional search engine results pages (SERPs).
To do this, let’s take a look at a simple ecommerce search query and break down what we see. The query we’re going to use is “buy bluetooth headphones”.
Immediately, the first thing we’re shown is a sponsored product carousel. These are products that Google has deemed relevant to your search query and are based on you own ad selection settings. They are paid ads (we can tell by the sponsored tag in the top right), so ranking here is going to depend on numerous factors, including your ad spend.
Directly below this, you can see the delivery of an adwords ad, along with typical search query results. These usually last for a couple of results before moving back into another ecommerce SERP feature.
In the case of our search query, that is a carousel for the best bluetooth headphones and headsets. This is actually more of an information section, providing information scraped from popular sites and displayed in an easy to read manner. It is organic.
Scrolling down a little, we are then shown the “People also ask” box. Here, long tail questions with higher search volume are listed and answered in easy dropdown text boxes. This is also organic and not paid.
Further down still and we’re shown a series of articles relevant to our search query. These allow for buyers to perform even more research before making a purchasing commitment. These are also organic.
Below this, we’re able to refine our search based on brand. We’re offered a couple of options here. Clicking on one takes you to a google search for that brand’s name combined with your search query above.
Finally, the last thing you will see if a map with the location of local businesses you can purchase the product you’ve searched for from. To really make the most of this section you need to optimize your local businesses SEO.
The Move to Informational
Following some level of criticism over too much paid placement in search results, Google have dialed it back a lot more recently. A lot of the information we see on the results page is actually informational – despite the fact that we have a transactional query.
This means that content and a solid content strategy is an ever increasing part of ecommerce search optimization.
Take a look at your keyword map and see if there are any clear opportunities for content creation. Then take a look at whether you think it is a good idea to start a blog on your website.
We’ll be picking up on how to implement an SEO content strategy for ecommerce sites a little later.
A Deeper Look at Keywords
How Many Keywords?
It’s often one of the first questions asked by merchants trying to solve their SEO woes: “How many times should I use this keyword”. Well, there’s no precise answer to this question, but just as with everything SEO, there are a couple of rules you can follow.
Keep usage clear, relevant, and precise (no keyword cramming)
Consider use of semantic keywords
Make keywords meaningful
We’ve seen articles that state you should only use them 3 or 4 times. We’ve seen articles which state they should be used 5 or 6 times.
Yes, best practice states that using a keyword less is better than using it more. However, there’s also something to be said for how Google (and language processing networks in general) analyze text. As long as your keywords are making semantic sense and appropriate, write away.
If that’s not good enough, as a general guide, use 1 keyword per page and use it 3-5 times per 1000 words.
Mix in a small number of semantic keywords where needed and you’re good to go.
Take the text below as an example of a product description for a pair of noise cancelling headphones we want to rank.
The Audio Creator To the Beat Noise Cancelling Headphones are some of the best on ear,active noise cancelling headphones around. Take your music wherever you think it’s needed with either bluetooth support or the 3.5mm jack. Experience high fidelity sound like you never have before.
The words in bold above are semantic keywords we identified during our keyword research. We’ve included a lot of them in the product description, but they all make sense and none are out of place.
Long Tail vs Short Tail Keywords
When putting together content, you’re going to see that there are primarily three different types of keywords you have to play with. The first two are short tail and long tail keywords.
Short tail keywords are exactly as you would expect: shorter. They tend to have much higher monthly search volume and difficulty. But that’s ok because these pages should be closer to the homepage. That means they will have more authority flow into them: and so will have more power to rank.
An example of a short tail keyword would be “bluetooth headphones”, or even just “headphones”.
Long tail keywords are longer. They have lower search volume and difficulty. More and more, long tail keywords and mimicking natural language patterns; usually in the form of questions.
An example of a long tail keyword would be “what are the best bluetooth headphones?” or “The best bluetooth headphones of 2019”.
We recommend using a mix of short tail and long tail keywords on pages when possible. The higher up in the site structure, the more you’re going to want to optimize for the short tail.
Optimizing Category Pages
In this example, the category pages are optimized for Noise Cancelling and Wireless short tail keywords. These pages would contain some text about the different attributes and internal links to the top products.
Below these would be the long tail keywords for the products themselves. The Audio Creator To the Beat headphones would be searched by fewer customers than just “Noise Cancelling Headphones”. We still want to rank for it, but because of the lower search volume and difficulty, it’s ok to place this on the product page – further from the homepage.
Semantic Keywords for Ecommerce (LSI)
On top of short tail and long tail keywords, you also need to consider semantic keywords. This are also known as LSI (or Latent Semantic Indexing).
As we discussed earlier, semantic keywords are those that are conceptually linked to the main keywords. For ecommerce, these are often product attributes and features.
If you’re unsure about what semantic keywords there are, take a look at Amazon and search for you product.
In the example above, we highlighted several keywords which seem to appear frequently across the page in the product titles. These include words like “active” for noise cancelling, “bluetooth”, and “over ear”.
We could take this deeper and explore product descriptions to see relevant, frequent words. We recommend looking at several different products like this and then putting the semantic keywords you find into your keyword map.
They should then be sprinkled throughout copy on different pages – especially in product descriptions. They tell Google that your page is relevant and informative.
Don’t overdo it. Moderation and relevance is key here, so follow the same rules as you would for other keywords with the exception that you can use multiple semantic keywords on one page.
How Much Content?
Talking about the number of words, how many should you have on each page?
This isn’t a length thing. It’s not the more words you have the higher your pages are going to rank. If that were the case then everyone would be writing 10,000 word articles.
It’s that a well-written article or product page provides more than just a quick answer or description. In terms of ecommerce, a well written product description goes into depth about the product and what it can do.
When google then analyzes the page and its text, it will be able to see your keyword (assigning relevancy) and any semantic keywords (assigning extended relevancy) present.
Ecommerce On-Page SEO
An ecommerce product page optimized for search will look (roughly) like this:
So what is everything there and how can you ensure you’re providing enough information? Let’s walk through each of these different areas and look at them in detail.
The Ecommerce Title Tag and Meta Description
Meta content is vital, not only for your ecommerce store’s SEO, but for click through rates from the search results page as well.
When deciding on a title tag, be sure to include the main keyword for the page and place it towards the front of the title tag. Try to make the copy here convincing as it will directly affect click through rates. Including terms like “The best” or “Cheap” or something similar can really help to improve click through rates.
The meta description isn’t as important in terms of direct SEO. However, it’s still going to influence click through rates. Again, using terms like “Cheap” and “Best” here will probably increase click through rate. Just make sure that it’s easy to read and understand.
There are two key things you URL needs to consider:
Implement both in this section and you’ll be fine.
The example above uses both the “noise-cancelling” keyword from our category page and the keyword from our product page.
The H1 Tag
This is one of the most important pieces of information you’ll have on the page and best practice is to keep it simple and short. In some cases, it’s even worth just using your main keyword directly.
Of course, this depends on the page.
Products should include the product name. Take a look at what Amazon does with their main titles on the page.
This H1 tag is long and wordy. Part of the reason for this is how Amazon’s search algorithm works and the competition between similar products.
However, if we take a look at a product like Bose, who are trying to rank on Google, we see a different picture. Their H1 tag is short and simple. It is the product name itself. This is because their product has search volume in its own right.
Tip: deciding on how you are going to treat your H1 tags depends on the products you’re selling. Does the product itself have search volume? If not, it may be worth taking more of an Amazon seller approach.
For category pages, it’s recommended that you stick to the short tail keyword you’ve opted to use. For the example above “Noise Cancelling Headphones” would be perfect.
This is the meat of your page and where most of its SEO value will come from.
As we discussed earlier, at a minimum, you’re going to want to include 1000 words here. The more the better (within reason).
Don’t forget that you should also include your keywords here: both short tail and semantic. We recommend aiming for 3 uses of your main keyword, with an additional sprinkling of your others.
Take a look at some of your competitors to see how they have done this. This can give you a lot of insight into what works and what doesn’t in your industry.
This content should also have emotional relevance and pull for your audience. This is outside the purview of ecommerce SEO, so we won’t cover it here, but a clear understanding of your target audience (personas) is vital to creating this content. Your keyword research should help to inform this.
We also recommend placing keywords in H2 title tags if possible. H2 tags are given higher priority than body text, so well positioned keywords here attached increased relevance to a page.
The Alt Image
Google understands that images help make content easier to digest. When was the last time you clicked on a web page and there were no images? Even Wikipedia has images scattered throughout.
As a result, including images won’t only make a difference in terms of conversion, it also helps with SEO (yes, really).
When inserting an image, try to think of a relevant alt tag. This should describe the image for those with sight impairments. If it’s a side shot of a pair of headphones, something like “side short of Audio Creator To the Beat headphones” would work.
An Ecommerce Internal Linking Strategy
Depending on the ecommerce platform you’ve opted to use, you should already have a lot of internal links on your site. Links from category pages, links from product pages to frequently viewed products, and more.
This makes ecommerce SEO much easier than in a lot of other industries.
However, putting in some strategic internal links is aldo going to help and it does align with SEO best practices. So how do you do it?
Start by taking a look at which pages are high priority. Which pages get the most traffic and see the highest conversion rates / are vital to the customer journey?
Are you going to have a blog?
We recommend that you start a blog.
When you publish new articles, link them to the high priority product pages. The higher the article with rank, the more authority will flow into the product page (just like with our homepage down technique).
Remember, when creating anchor text (the actual link text), use a keyword rich search term.
In the above example, we’re linking to the noise cancelling headphones category page, so are using the anchor text “The best noise cancelling headphones”. This is both relevant and has high volume according to our keyword research.
Rich Snippets and Product Reviews
What’s one thing ecommerce SEO has that content SEO only sometimes has?
That’s right, reviews.
Take a look at the results of “bose noise cancelling headphones 700”. Every single one on the first page includes review stars. Every. Single. One.
So how do you get this on your product pages?
By using Schema Markup.
Schema markup is a code for telling Google and other search engines more about a page and what information is on it. It’s vital for having “rich snippets” in search results, and for including product review stars in the search results.
It’s also possible to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. This provides a simple wizard where you are siven several options on what to do and what you want to appear. It will then create the code for you, which you can just copy and paste onto your page.
Remember, to input reviews for the structured data markup here, you’ll want to select the products category. This will allow you to add the review and more information.
To check if these are working, head to the Google Search Console and check under Enhancements. The different schema that Google is able to track will be listed here under the different categories.
Since we selected the products category above, we can see products listed in this section. If you have not activated schema properly (or it hasn’t been indexed) then nothing will show up here.
You should now have an ecommerce SEO optimized website.
You’ve conducted keyword research, you’ve created a concrete site structure, and you’ve optimized on-page copy and meta.
The Next thing you’re going to want to do is launch a technical SEO audit. This is going to help you diagnose any problems with your SEO from a technical perspective.
Technical audits can easily find themselves stuck in the weeds. In this section we’ll take a look at how you can conduct a simple audit for yourself, and how to fix some of the most important issues which spring up.
What Does a Technical Ecommerce SEO Audit Include?
A technical SEO audit takes a look at what may be broken on your site. It scans the site code to look for issues that can easily be fixed and often provides a clear way to fix them.
Some of the errors an SEO audit should pick up on are:
Page title and meta issues
Incorrect XML sitemaps
Bad robots and directives
Site structure and architecture problems
Schema “rich snippet” issues
There are additional areas that a technical audit will touch on, but the above are the main areas this guide is going to cover.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use Raven Tools. We’re choosing this as it provides information on all the areas we’ve mentioned above, and is arguably the easiest to use. To keep taking advantage of it you’ll need to pay a subscription. However, you can get started with a 14 day free trial.
Screaming Frog is also a good tool for conducting technical audits. It provides information on a lot of different areas and allows site owners to look a lot deeper into the issues their site is having. This means that it is a lot more complicated to use than Raven Tools, so we’re not going to talk about it here. We do recommend taking a look at it if you want to delve deeper.
Finding Technical SEO Issues
Start by signing up to Raven tools and logging in. Once logged in, you should be presented with a request to set up a campaign. These campaigns are based around website URLS. So go ahead and enter your website URL for the campaign or project you want to manage, then click continue.
Once you’ve gone through the setup wizard and selected the choices, head to the left sidebar and then open the SEO research drop down and then SEO Auditor Classic. After your site has been crawled, you’ll then be provided with a summary of the different areas you need to respond to.
Now you’re possibly going to see a lot of different things here. We simply don’t have space to go through each of the different technical audits you’ll see. Instead of covering everything, we’re going to look at the most important issues the tool can highlight and show you how to fix them.
Let’s get started.
Solving the Top Ecommerce SEO Issues
Despite being a major concern in terms of SEO, this is a very common problem. The very nature of ecommerce sites (especially large ones) does not help.
However, it’s an easy fix with the right time commitment and a few changes to your technical SEO.
How to Fix It
Fixing duplicate content issues is simply done by following three techniques:
Make sure content across your site is unique
Employ Canonical URLs when needed
Avoid heavy boilerplate content
Yes, creating unique content can be a huge time drain – especially if you’re aiming for 1000+ words for each product. However, it will make a huge difference in terms of how well your site will rank.
The second thing you should make sure you’re doing is using canonical tags.
Do you have a few pages that have to be very similar? In these cases it’s best to implement a canonical tag on that page.
The canonical tag will state which page is the primary page – which one you want to rank in Google.
Let’s say we have two products that are very, very similar. We want them both to rank in Google, but they can’t because they are just that similar. One is selling A LOT more than the other, and we’ve decided it’s time to start climbing the SEO ladder.
We would take both product pages and implement a canonical tag that directs to the higher-performance page. This will tell Google that this is the page you want to be indexed.
Canonical tags can be implemented with a SEO plugin or through code. However, we recommend getting in touch with a technical SEO professional about this as there is a smorgasbord of rules to consider (too many to list here).
A Slow Site
Slow sites are a common problem and there’s no one way to fix it. It really depends on the reason behind why the site is slow.
This can be:
Global customers accessing a single data center location
Uncompressed images and files
Poorly coded content
How to Fix It
The first thing you should do is check your hosting platform. They are not always the problem, but it’s an easy first port of call.
Get in touch with your support team and see if they can see anything wrong. If they can’t find anything, then that means it’s probably something wrong with your code or content.
Hosting isn’t always the problem with site speed, but it’s an easy first port of call.
To narrow down what code or pages are causing problems, head into analytics and take a peek at Behavior > Site Speed.
This will give you a good idea of the different page timings and which pages are showing the problem. Remember, metrics like TTFB are not the ones you should be looking at. From here, you may be able to see consistencies across you site and resolve the problem yourself.
It’s very possible that certain pages just have elements which are taking a long time to load (e.g. images). If this is the case, try lowering their file size with compression and see if site speed improves.
Perhaps the speed issue isn’t your hosting or your code, but a location issue. If a large amount of your site traffic is coming from a different country than your hosting provider, it may be time to either switch hosting provider or (the better option) invest in a CDN.
A CDN will give you a good kick in terms of speed around the world, and it makes your site more secure!
Unsure how to choose a data center location? Check our guide.
Your Site Is Not Secure
This is a big one and something that a lot of ecommerce merchants have been slow to buy into. However, it’s a really easy problem to fix and can be resolved in a few minutes.
BigCommerce has been an ecommerce SaaS platform for a number of years with great success. Merchants ranging from small mom-and-pop stores, to enterprise-level businesses doing millions of dollars in sales every month, depend on BigCommerce to keep their stores running securely.
Many of those merchants have also chosen to run the content part of their web presence on WordPress. It’s extremely powerful, and has a strong history of regular growth. Other merchants have chosen to use Drupal as their content manager, and still others have written custom presentation layers in React, Vue, or any other language of their choice.
To help those merchants merge their ecommerce storefronts and their content management systems, BigCommerce invested heavily in our API. This allows anyone with the proper credentials to write their own interface to BigCommerce, removing the requirement of running the presentation layer of their store on the BigCommerce platform. This is called headless ecommerce, and it provides practically unlimited flexibility and power to the storefront.
BigCommerce wanted to provide an example of what could be done with headless ecommerce, so they picked the most commonly used CMS in the world, WordPress. WordPress currently powers over one third of the entire web, so it was an easy choice to make WordPress our debut integration.
BigCommerce partnered with Modern Tribe, an elite WordPress development agency, to create the WordPress plugin. They wanted it built “the WordPress way” so that it would be easy for WordPress developers to extend it, and make new and interesting things with it. They also wanted to leave all of the security concerns on the BigCommerce servers as well as the CPU intensive functions. This would leave WordPress free to do what it does best: serve content.
They accomplished these goals with some key technological decisions:
Products are maintained on the BigCommerce servers and synchronized to the WordPress server on a schedule.
Products in WordPress are stored as a Custom Post Type, a very common data storage method in WordPress.
Product metadata is stored as WordPress metadata, making it as easily accessed as any other metadata.
The checkout page holds an embedded iframe. This means that all sensitive data is exchanged between the customer and the main BigCommerce servers, allowing the WordPress server to avoid the need for PCI compliance.
The consequences of these decisions are quite profound:
BC4WP tends to be much faster than other WordPress ecommerce platforms because all of the heavy lifting is on the BigCommerce servers.
BC4WP is more secure than other WordPress ecommerce platforms because if WordPress gets hacked the intruder still doesn’t have access to sensitive customer and sales data.
The average WordPress developer has very little work to do to get ecommerce functionality working, leaving them both time and budget to focus on solving business needs and building the best possible website.
The overall footprint of BC4WP is very light, both from a performance and security standpoint. Many of the integrations you might find in WordPress with WooCommerce, like CRM connectors or shipping settings are maintained on the BigCommerce servers, which allows them to be standardized, vetted, and maintained by BigCommerce.
Topher DeRosia is a web developer with over 25 years of experience, 9 years of which as a WordPress developer ranging from small personal sites to enterprise level. He currently works for BigCommerce as WordPress Developer Evangelist.