3 SEO Strategies to Improve UX on Your eCommerce Site
by Ron Dod
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Creating an eCommerce storefront is one of the most popular and effective strategies for generating retail revenue while mitigating the risks that come with operating a physical brick-and-mortar location.
However, since the multitude of eCommerce platforms have placed the barrier to entry at an all-time low, an ocean of digital retail stores has sprung into existence. Some estimate the number to range from 2-3 million eCommerce companies worldwide (with the exclusion of China).
Considering the colossal amount of competition in the space, retailers need to produce a premier shopping experience for users that enables shops to stand out among the throngs of options. The best way to bolster your retail efforts is by enhancing your SEO strategy through crafting a top-notch UX (user experience).
To help you achieve those goals, we will be breaking down three powerful ways to implement SEO-boosting UX elements for better rankings, increased user satisfaction and elevated sales figures.
Boast an Intuitive Site Structure
Site structure is one of the single most important elements for any eCommerce retailer. For that reason, we will spend the bulk of this piece helping to generate an optimal structure.
Online storefronts often feature a myriad of products. Organizing them by similarity, relation and theme will produce more profound effects in the SERPs than a flat website structure. Not only does this help search engines crawl and comprehend your site’s content, but it also refines the site experience, giving users a friendlier shopping encounter.
To construct a favorable architecture, there are several elements that must be considered and optimized:
A great eCommerce experience starts with an intuitive navigation blueprint. Four components of an excellent navigation design that will boost your SEO efforts include:
Homepage organization: This is the centerpiece of your site and initial contact point for many consumers. Don’t neglect its power. The homepage should easily point visitors in the direction they want to go through a clean, streamlined structure. Additionally, this is where you will want to highlight any sales, special features (like free shipping) or new products. Visitors will quickly decide if your site is right for them, so optimize this landing page to its fullest.
Main menu: Don’t overwhelm or clutter this space with an exorbitant number of categories or items. Limit the option to the highest-level groupings. This should range between 3 and 10, depending on the size of your site. Also, don’t neglect using proper keywords in your menu options. This makes it easier for users and web crawlers.
Sub-menus: This is where you will provide users with the opportunity to drill down a bit with secondary dropdown menus that stem from the high-level categories. Keep these sections relatively streamlined as we will provide further refinement options later.
Search capabilities: A plethora of eCommerce shops don’t provide a search function on their site. If you only offer a few products, that’s fine. But if your store has a rich product catalog, it is wise to place a search bar in the top right corner of the site as this heightens your site’s UX and increases visitor’s average time on-site.
This should align with your site’s navigation scheme. When URLs are messy or nonsensical, consumers can have a difficult time sifting through various products and categories.
Providing a straightforward structure greatly enhances SEO value and usability for consumers. To effectively implement clean URLs, Google suggests:
If you have a medium-to-large eCommerce store, you likely feature a variety of products that come in a diverse range of colors, sizes, prices and materials. Your visitors need a way to quickly move through the catalog and promptly find the items they are seeking. This greatly strengthens your site experience. To this end, faceted navigation is an ideal approach.
Faceted navigation is a means by which users can filter and sort through eCommerce offerings based on their characteristics (like those outlined above).
However, it is important to note that while this greatly enhances UX, it does come with a set of SEO dangers that can result in:
Diminished link equity through transference to pages that shouldn’t be indexed.
Despite this, there are some useful methods for mitigating these concerns.
Firstly, employing noindex tags enables site owners to tell search bots to exclude certain pages from the index. Additionally, canonical tags let merchants inform Google that among a set of comparable pages, one is favored and should be referred to. Finally, disallowing sections through robots.txt is a viable solution that requires minimal effort.
Breadcrumb navigation simplifies the user experience by showing the visitor exactly where they are in the site navigation without having to examine the URL structure. Not implementing breadcrumb navigation is a major mistake for digital merchants. But more than just applying this technique, it is vital to mark them with microdata as this helps search bots to properly understand your site’s hierarchy of pages by utilizing the structure and its information.
While some think that this technique is unnecessary, breadcrumbs add to the user experience and enhance SEO efforts by:
Visually indicating a user’s location within the site and how they got there
Minimizing the number of clicks a user needs to reach high-level pages
Increasing internal site links
Adding on-page keywords
Utilizing this approach can have hugely positive impacts on your site’s UX and SEO achievements. With a stellar site structure in place, we can begin optimizing other user-facing elements that stand to increase rankings.
Unique Page Title Tags
This may not seem obvious from a UX perspective, but title tags help searchers determine if a page is right for their needs as this is the boldest aspect of search result pages. Viewed through an SEO lens, title tags are still a prime ranking factor.
To view your page’s current title tags, head to your website and hit CTRL + U. Then, simply hit CTRL + F to search “title.” (Note: This is only applicable on a Windows PC.) The tag will appear as:
<title>Your Site Title</title>
To properly optimize this section, utilize relevant key phrases (as opposed to individual keywords) as close to the beginning as possible. The reason you want to employ key phrases is that this mitigates the risk of adopting duplicate title tags on various pages. Moreover, search engines rank the priority of words based on placement.
For example, instead of labeling all your men’s shirts with the title “Men’s Shirts,” create detailed tags that include the brand name, sizes and colors so that it appears as “Men’s Large Black Shirts | Lacoste.” Do your best to keep title tags under 60 characters.
If you need help selecting appropriate keywords, it’s wise to leverage a tool like SEMrush or similar research platforms to provide you with detailed keyword info for generating SEO-worthy and user-friendly title tags.
Product Page Keyword Optimization
Again, not the most self-evident user experience enhancing mechanism, but optimizing product pages and categories with the appropriate keywords helps your customers to successfully find the items they want in the least time possible–and that is the heart of a great UX design.
And, of course, keyword optimization is a fundamental SEO practice.
The most effective strategy for product and category optimization is to utilize specific key phrases that speak to a certain product, while employing more encompassing terms for categories. The reason for this was expertly explained by Essayroo SEO Manager Leon Acosta:
“Your category pages should be optimized to appear ahead of individual product posts in search engine results because they will bring in a wider group of customers than each individual product page will. Setting up your product pages and category pages with the same keywords only means they’ll be competing against one another for rankings…”
Image alt tags: Alt tags are a necessity as these describe the image when it fails to load while also assisting search bots to properly index images. You can check your alt tags in a number of ways. I have the Alt Tag Tester extension added to my Chrome browser.
H1 tags: These tags serve as headers for your site’s content, grab visitor’s attention and help engines to analyze a page’s content.
Meta description: This is the text that appears below the title tag in the SERPs. It doesn’t directly impact SEO, but it does inform consumers and entice them to click, which does have major SEO implications. Google lengthened meta descriptions for a while but has since reverted to its old length. Keep these to a concise 160 characters or less.
Good user experience and SEO are deeply intertwined and should not be thought of as isolated disciplines. By focusing on these three key areas, you can craft an incredible UX that opens the doors to increased revenue through search results and customer satisfaction.
Start optimizing these areas today if you want your eCommerce business to stay above the competition and continue to thrive in this ever-growing industry.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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