E-commerce 101: What You Need to Know

E-commerce SEO, sometimes called Shop SEO, is a specialized form of SEO that deals specifically with online storefronts (or shops).

Why Optimize for E-commerce Sites?

Currently, E-commerce has a 10% market share of retail sales in the United States, but this market is expected to increase every year. Amazon is currently the industry leader, followed by such big box stores as Target and Walmart that have embraced the online storefront as well.

Competition in the E-commerce realm is therefore fierce, which makes top quality E-commerce SEO essential. While much of the SEO that can be implemented for E-commerce sites is the same as for any other type of site, there are many essential requirements Google has put in place specifically for this niche.

Let’s talk about a few of these elements.

  1. Technical SEO

Technical SEO, an element of on-page SEO, refers to optimizing the coding of a website, rather than its content. Poor coding will impact the site’s rankings.

Take site speed, for one example.  According to research, most people will “bounce” from a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load on their device. If that’s not bad enough, Google’s web crawlers can detect how long a page takes to load, and will penalize it if it takes too long. This is a special problem for E-commerce sites, which tend to be very image heavy. Images should be resized before being uploaded to the site.

Another essential element for E-commerce sites is that every page be secure, so a security certificate should be purchased (designated by https://, rather than http://, in the URL). Not only is this safer for the businesses’ customers, but Google penalizes sites that don’t have such security in place.


  1. On Page SEO/ Blog

On page SEO – focusing on quality content – is especially important for E-commerce sites. Typically, the only text an E-commerce site has on its category pages is captions for each product photo. That’s why it’s important for each photo to be optimized via its name, alt text and description. No opportunity should be lost to place keywords on each page. If possible, clicking on a photo on the category page should take the user to a specific page for that product, where keyword-rich text describing the product can be used.

Search engines also reward fresh content. An integrated blog on a site, with regular, keyword-rich entries, provides the content that search engines like, but also helps build brand loyalty with customers who will appreciate the entries.


  1. Keywords Research and Implementation

Long-tailed keywords are essential for E-commerce SEO success. For example, a car enthusiast who needs new items for his or her classic car will not do a search on “car rims.” It is far more likely that they will search for “black rims for muscle cars,” or “chrome Mustang emblems” or “1954 Chevy quarter panel.” People who do a search on exactly what they want, which is why they use such long phrases, are far more likely to convert from a visitor to a purchaser on their first visit.

Choosing the right keywords is extremely important when the E-commerce site is in a very competitive niche. That’s why researching one’s competitor’s keywords is a good idea. Keywords must be relevant to the business. It does no good to “trick” someone to come to an E-commerce site by following a specific keyword, only to find that the site is not what they thought it would be.

By paying attention to these three elements, E-commerce SEO helps ensure that sites are rewarded by search engines with high rankings, and by converting visitors to customers.

Small or Big Business: Local vs. National SEO

There are two main types of Search Engine Optimization.

Local SEO focuses on companies that conduct business in a limited geographic region – the city in which they are based.  Such companies are typically locally-owned businesses such as restaurants, locksmiths, dry cleaners, caterers, or event planners.

National SEO focuses on companies that have customers or clients throughout the country. It doesn’t matter where the company is located as its customers or clients do business on the web, or they have locations in several cities in several states.

Local companies will rarely benefit from a national SEO strategy. However, national companies can benefit from local SEO if they have a budget for a two-pronged approach. An example would be restaurant or grocery store chains that have a loyal customer base throughout the country.

There are many ways that local SEO differs from national SEO.


Locally-owned businesses are in competition with each other for the spending dollars of people in their community.

Searchers for locally owned businesses will often be quite specific about what they’re searching for, using what’s called “long-tail keywords.”

Examples would be “best Chinese restaurants in the Bronx,” or “plumber open 24 hours Rapid City” or “closet locksmith to Pike Hotel in Fairbanks.”

Local businesses will conduct surveys to learn what the most popular searches are for their particular business sector, and then optimize at least one if not more of their webpages for that keyword.

Searchers may use long-tail keywords to search for national businesses, but the geography used is a bit broader. “Cheapest book printers in United States,” or “best ski resort in the US” or “best shoulder surgeon in the Northwest.”

Rather than competing for business in a single city (albeit potentially a very large city) or state, national businesses are competing against other companies in every state. Their SEO budget must reflect this, as they must optimize their on-page and off-page SEO with a much wider variety of keywords.

Local Search Services

Local businesses can take advantage of local search services and directories – including Google Business, Google Maps, Yelp, Fourquare and so on.

Typically, these local services will list businesses for free – which is a great help to their budget! In turn, it’s essential that local businesses seek out any and all directories and provide them with complete information – including NAP – name, address and phone number – as well as a website url.

Having said that, there’s no reason why national companies that can benefit from such directories – restaurant and grocery chains, to repeat that example – should not make sure they are included as well.


The more keywords a business must optimize for, the higher its budget must be. As a result, local SEO is typically less expensive than national SEO.

The more backlinks – links from other websites, article repositories, blog guest posts, blog comment sections, and so on – that a company’s website has, the more chance it has of beating out its competition for the top positions on page 1 of the search results.