Search engine optimization for small businesses can be intimidating. Getting your website to show up on Google amongst all the millions of other ecommerce brands can seem like a daunting task.
Well, that’s why we’re here to help you with 8 tips that are geared specifically towards small business SEO. Without further ado, let’s dive into it!
What is SEO? (And what is it not)
Search engine optimization often gets mistaken with search engine marketing. Search engine marketing entails both the paid and unpaid activities you do to get your website to rank higher on the search results page. SEO, on the other hand, is completely organic and does not include PPC advertising, Google Shopping, or any other paid forms of search engine advertising.
SEO is also (kinda) unaffected by social media. No matter how good your social media marketing is, there are no direct impacts on your website’s SEO. This is why it’s important to invest in all forms of marketing and ensure your online shopping experience is good across all channels.
The social signals (likes, comments, shares, followers…) do help your search engine marketing indirectly. If customers are discovering your brand on social media, this increases your brand awareness, which could result in site visitors searching for you on Google. This increases your visibility online, which could lead to backlinks that actually increase your SEO ranking.
Let’s go over 8 ways you can increase your website’s search engine optimization to rank higher on Google.
1. Segment your audience
As with many other things in marketing, you need to begin by looking at things from your customer’s point of view. When preparing your SEO strategy, you need to think about common ways you could segment your audience based on how they would search for you online, whether they know about your brand or not. For example, you can segment your audience by stage in the buying cycle, products, age, gender, specific need, benefit sought, geographically, and any others you can think of.
But to improve your SEO, you need to stand out from the crowd by thinking differently. Segmenting your audience by the product or product categories they are looking for is the most common method and won’t give you a competitive advantage. In fact, most websites we visit were segmented this way as we can see in the main menu categories.
If you can think of a creative way to segment your audience, then you can tailor your keywords to specific profitable niches that your competitors aren’t targeting. Let’s look at this Shopify demo store for Maplerose, a quality home goods store that is using room types for their SEO strategy.
Their navigation menu shows three segments: kitchen decor, bedroom decor, and living room decor to target customers searching for products based on the room type. This allows customers to find them more easily when using keywords related to those rooms. The key is understanding your customers and predicting what search phrases they would use.
2. Do a competitive SEO audit
Speaking of competitors, it’s important to know how you already rank in comparison to your competitors. You can’t improve your SEO if you don’t know where your starting point is.
Now come up with your list of competitors that are relevant in terms of SEO. These competitors may not be the typical ones you think of. If there are some in other geographic regions or some giant brands in your industry, you need to consider them as well in your SEO audit. Although they are not direct competitors, in the age of online shopping, they still pose a threat in stealing customers’ attention on the Google results pages.
Once you have your competitors and segments, brainstorm keywords that customers in each segment would search for. Search the keywords all on Google or another search engine and mark down your position and your competitors’ positions for each keyword. Calculate the average position of each of your competitors and yourself. Compare your results to see how you are performing and look for opportunities where you can steal keywords from your competitors in unique ways.
3. Do keyword research
Once you’ve determined your opportunities for optimization, it’s time to do keyword research. In the previous phase, you can use any and all phrases that you think your customers could use. Now, it’s time to get a bit more strategic.
You want to find phrases that you will include in various places on your website: homepage, page titles, blogs, website copy, and more. This is where an online SEO software, website, or tool, can come in handy. Let’s take a look at the example below using Ahrefs.
As shown above, keyword research gives you a lot of valuable information about your keywords. For example, continuing with Maplerose, you can look at the term “kitchen decor” and see several key metrics: its difficulty score based on competitors, the monthly search volume for that term, and alternate keyword and question suggestions. As a small ecommerce brand, targeting keywords with lower difficulty and moderate to high search volumes will be beneficial.
4. Optimize your web page title tags
Once you’ve completed your strategic keyword research, it’s time to start implementing it on your website. A great place to start is with the titles and names associated with your website architecture. According to Hubspot, “Website architecture is the hierarchical structure of your website pages…Your website’s structure should help users easily find information and help search engine crawlers understand the relationship between different pages.”
One of the easiest ways to optimize your website hierarchy is through your page title tags. A typical website will have a website title, and then each page will have a page title, an H1, H2, H3, H4, and so on to fit the purpose of that page.
One key search engine optimization tip is to ensure your title tags follow a logical structure. For example, don’t include H3s if you don’t have any H2s. This will confuse Google and other search engines as they scan your webpages and hurt your technical SEO. Ensure you are also using your keywords in your page titles and H1s as Google will “read” those to see what the page is about and adjust your SERP ranking accordingly.
5. Create descriptive URLs
SERPs also use URLs to determine what a page is about when ranking it. Whenever you create a new website page or blog post, be sure to create descriptive, logical URLs.
It’s best practice to include your target keyword for the page in the URL too. This shouldn’t be too hard because it should also be included in the page title. It also helps the customer remember your URLs easily so they can come back to your site.
In this example from Maplerose’s “5 Piece Dove Grey Dinnerware Set” product page, we can see how to create an SEO-friendly URL. The last part of the URL in grey is the customizable portion. Maplerose has set this page’s URL to “dove-grey-dining-set”. This includes several attributes that customers may search for: the color and the product type. Using synonyms, such as dining set instead of dinnerware set, is beneficial because it also accounts for different phrases that customers may search for and allows you to rank for those too.
No matter what, when it comes to your URLs, be descriptive.
6. Write product descriptions for customers and search engines
One search engine optimization tip that is specific for ecommerce SEO, is to optimize your product descriptions and pages. Chances are, you will have more product pages on your website than anything else, so it’s key to put a good structure on them.
When writing your product descriptions, remember your customer segments and target keywords. If we continue with our example of a jewellery brand targeting based on fashion aesthetic, they may include keywords like “street style gold chain” in their product descriptions. Whatever method you choose to use, be sure to stay consistent!
How to do keyword research:— Semrush (@semrush) March 28, 2022
🔑 Check the intent metric for the keywords you are targeting
🔑 Place keywords with the highest search volume in the title
🔑 Don't over-stuff with keywords
🔑 Implement keywords in your meta descriptions
🔑 Optimize images
One of the golden rules of SEO is that it should not come at the cost of a good customer experience. Therefore, when writing any website copy, avoid “keyword stuffing”. This is when you try to add your keywords into a body of text as many times as possible. Not only does it make your website copy awkward to read, but search engines can actually “blacklist” your website for this.
7. Make your photos SEO friendly
Anytime you include photos on your website, ensure you add ALT text that describes what the image is. This helps primarily for accessibility to ensure that those with visual disabilities can have the same level of experience on your website. But if you can include your keywords in your ALT text, then this can help your site appear higher on the image results page on SERPs.
On the technical side, ensuring that the sizing of your photos is correct will help optimize your website. This is because large image files can affect your website speed and SEO. Before uploading images to your website, you can use free online image resizing tools to ensure they’ll load quickly.
8. Use links to your advantage
The final search engine optimization tip for ecommerce brands is to always be linking. One of the defining factors of the internet is that it’s a connected web. This means that your website does not act in isolation when it comes to SEO. Getting other websites to link to your website is called backlinking and it is one of the best ways to improve your ecommerce SEO.
Backlinking is a form of off-page SEO, because it occurs somewhere other than your own website and is somewhat out of your control. For ecommerce websites, there are tons of places you can ask to backlink to you. You can target industry blogs, small business directories, or other high quality websites relevant to your brand.
“Whereas Page Authority measures the predictive ranking strength of a single page, Domain Authority measures the strength of entire domains or subdomains.”
Backlinking, and even internal linking to your own webpages, can increase both page authority and domain authority. These are scores out of 100 that measure how well a specific page on your website, or your website as a whole, will rank on SERPs.
Put these ecommerce SEO tips into practice
There you have it–8 search engine optimization tips to help your small business SEO. No matter what phase you are at in your small business journey, optimizing your SEO is always a good choice. Whether you’re a solopreneur doing it all on your own and can only implement a few of these tips, or you’ve got a full team behind your brand and you’re ready for an SEO makeover, these 8 tips will get you started on the right path.