How to: structure an e-commerce website for SEO

Posted: 26 Mar 2024

In the online marketplace, where countless e-commerce websites vie for attention, the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) cannot be overstated. SEO is the backbone of any successful online store, ensuring that your products and services are visible to those who seek them. But SEO is not just about attracting visitors – it’s about bringing the right visitors to your site, those ready and willing to engage with what you offer.

At the heart of SEO lies a dual focus: enhancing user experience and maximising search engine visibility. These two elements are deeply interconnected; search engines like Google prioritise websites that offer valuable, user-friendly experiences. This means that by optimising your e-commerce site for SEO, you’re not only increasing your chances of ranking higher in search results but also improving the quality of your visitors’ experience.

This guide is designed to walk you through the essential steps of structuring your e-commerce website in a way that meets the demands of modern consumers and the algorithms that guide them there. Whether you’re launching a new site or refining an existing one, we aim to demystify SEO practices, making them accessible and actionable for your e-commerce venture.


Understanding SEO basics for e-commerce

To thrive in the competitive landscape of e-commerce, understanding the fundamentals of SEO is essential. At its core, SEO involves optimising your website to improve its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) for queries related to your products, services or content. This process is critical because higher visibility in search results correlates directly with increased traffic and, potentially, more conversions.

The fundamentals of SEO

SEO encompasses a range of strategies and tactics, all aimed at making your site more appealing to search engines like Google. These strategies can be broadly categorised into three main areas:

On-page SEO: This includes optimising the content and HTML source code of your pages, such as titles, meta descriptions, header tags and images. It’s about making each page on your site an entry point for potential customers.

Off-page SEO: This focuses on external factors that impact your site’s reputation and authority, primarily through backlinks. Quality backlinks from reputable sites signal to search engines that your site is valuable and trustworthy.

Technical SEO: This area addresses the technical aspects of your website that affect its visibility, such as site speed, mobile-friendliness and structured data. Ensuring your site is technically optimised is crucial for both search engines and user experience.


E-commerce SEO: A specialised approach

While the basics of SEO apply to all types of websites, e-commerce SEO requires a more specialised approach. The primary goal of e-commerce SEO is not just to drive traffic but to convert that traffic into sales. This distinction influences the strategies and tactics used.

  • Product and category focus: E-commerce SEO places significant emphasis on optimising product pages and category pages. These pages need to be meticulously optimised for both search engines and shoppers, ensuring they’re found for specific product searches and that they provide all the information and encouragement a shopper needs to make a purchase.
  • User intent: Understanding and targeting the right keywords based on user intent is crucial in e-commerce SEO. This involves distinguishing between general informational searches and specific buying intent queries. E-commerce sites need to capture users at the moment they’re ready to buy or are close to making a purchasing decision.
  • Competitive keywords: E-commerce websites often operate in highly competitive markets. Success in e-commerce SEO means not only targeting the right keywords but also outperforming competitors in search rankings for those keywords. This requires a deep understanding of both your audience and your competitors.
  • Customer reviews and ratings: For e-commerce sites, customer reviews and ratings play a significant role in SEO. They not only contribute to the content on your pages (which can help with rankings) but also influence buyer behaviour and trust.
  • Structured data: Using structured data to mark up product listings can enhance your visibility in search results through rich snippets, like price, availability and review ratings, making your listings more appealing to potential buyers.

Understanding the nuances of e-commerce SEO is crucial for any online retailer looking to succeed. By focusing on the specific needs and behaviours of online shoppers and optimising your site accordingly, you can increase visibility, attract more qualified traffic and drive sales.


Keyword research for e-commerce

Keyword research stands as a foundational pillar in e-commerce SEO. It’s the process of identifying the terms and phrases that potential customers use when searching for products or services like yours. For e-commerce sites, where the goal is to attract shoppers who are ready to buy, conducting effective keyword research is not just beneficial – it’s essential.

The practicalities of doing keyword research

Identify your target audience: Understand who your customers are and what they might be searching for. This could involve creating buyer personas or simply listing out the problems your products solve.

Use keyword research tools: Tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs and others can provide insights into search volume, competition and related queries. These tools can help you uncover the terms your potential customers are using.

Analyse competitors: Look at your competitors’ websites and see what keywords they are targeting. This can give you a good idea of what’s working in your industry and help you find gaps in your own keyword strategy.

Focus on product and category-specific keywords: For e-commerce, it’s crucial to find keywords that are specific to your products and categories. These keywords should be relevant to your offerings and specific enough to attract targeted traffic.

Consider search intent: Understand the intent behind searches – whether users are looking to buy, looking for information or simply browsing. This will help you target keywords at different stages of the buyer’s journey.

The importance of long-tail keywords

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to making a purchase or when they’re using voice search. For example, instead of targeting “running shoes,” you might target “women’s trail running shoes size 8.”

  • Higher conversion rates: Because they are more specific, long-tail keywords often result in higher conversion rates. A visitor searching for a very specific product is likely further along in their buying journey and closer to making a purchase.
  • Less competition: Long-tail keywords typically have less competition than more generic keywords because they are so specific. This makes it easier for your e-commerce site to rank for these terms.
  • Improved user experience: By targeting long-tail keywords, you can create content and product listings that closely match the search queries of your audience. This leads to a better user experience, as visitors are more likely to find exactly what they’re looking for on your site.

Keyword research for e-commerce is not just about finding the most searched terms; it’s about understanding your audience, their needs and how they express those needs through search. By focusing on both broad and long-tail keywords, you can attract a wide range of visitors – from those at the early stages of the buyer’s journey to those ready to make a purchase. 


Site structure and navigation

A well-thought-out site structure and intuitive navigation are pivotal for both enhancing user experience and optimising for search engines. An organised website makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for and for search engines to crawl and index your content. 

The principles of good site structure

Simplicity is key: The structure of your e-commerce site should be straightforward and logical. Avoid complicating the user’s journey. A simple structure helps users navigate your site with ease and improves the efficiency of search engine indexing.

Scalability: Design your site’s structure with growth in mind. It should be flexible enough to accommodate new categories or products without necessitating a major overhaul.

Consistency: Consistency in your navigation, category and page layouts helps users learn how to navigate your site faster. This predictability in user experience can significantly reduce bounce rates.

Creating a logical hierarchy

The hierarchy of your site is how you organise your content into categories and subcategories. A logical hierarchy helps users navigate your site intuitively and helps search engines understand your site’s structure.

Start with broad categories: Begin by dividing your products or services into broad categories. These should represent the main types of products or services you offer and cater to the primary needs of your target audience.

Subcategories for depth: Within each broad category, create subcategories to further organise your products. This breakdown should be logical and based on attributes your customers care about, such as function, size or price range.

Consistent category names: Use clear and descriptive names for your categories and subcategories. Avoid jargon that might confuse users or search engines.

Implementing breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a navigational feature that shows users their current location on your site and how they got there. They appear as a trail of links at the top of a page and are especially useful on e-commerce sites with multiple layers of categories and subcategories.

Breadcrumbs allow users to navigate your site without having to press the back button or start over from the homepage. This ease of navigation can significantly enhance the overall user experience. Breadcrumbs also help search engines understand the structure of your site and the relationships between pages. By including breadcrumbs, you can improve your site’s SEO by making it easier for search engines to crawl and index your content. Ensure that your breadcrumb trail accurately reflects the hierarchy of your site. Each element of the breadcrumb should be clickable, allowing users to easily navigate to previous sections.

A well-organised site structure and intuitive navigation are not just beneficial for SEO; they’re crucial for providing a positive user experience. By creating a logical hierarchy and implementing features like breadcrumbs, you can make your e-commerce site more navigable for users and more accessible to search engines, laying the foundation for online success.


Optimising product pages

Optimising product pages is central to the success of any e-commerce website. These pages not only need to attract visitors through search engines but also convert these visitors into customers. An optimised product page improves visibility in search engine results and enhances user experience, encouraging engagement and sales.

Elements of an optimised product page

Titles: The title of your product page should be both descriptive and keyword-rich. It should clearly indicate what the product is while incorporating primary keywords that potential customers might use to search for it. Aim for clarity and relevance, ensuring the title matches the search intent of your target audience.

Descriptions: Product descriptions play a pivotal role in conversion. They should provide essential information about the product, including features, benefits and specifications, in a way that speaks to your audience’s needs and concerns. Use natural language that incorporates keywords without sacrificing readability.

Images: High-quality images are crucial for product pages. They should accurately represent the product from various angles and in different use cases. Clear, high-resolution images can significantly impact a customer’s decision to purchase, as they help the customer visualise the product.

URLs: URLs should be clean, readable and keyword-rich. A well-structured URL provides both users and search engines with clear information about the page’s content. For example, instead of using a generic URL, include product names and relevant keywords that reflect the page’s content.

Writing unique product descriptions

  • Focus on your audience: Write descriptions that address your target audience’s specific needs and how the product meets those needs. Use language that resonates with them and be sure to highlight benefits, not just features.
  • Use keywords strategically: Incorporate relevant keywords naturally into your product descriptions. Avoid keyword stuffing; instead, aim for a natural flow that makes the description enjoyable to read while being SEO-friendly.
  • Be descriptive and concise: Provide enough detail to help customers make informed decisions without overwhelming them with unnecessary information. Use bullet points to break down features and benefits for easy reading.
  • Tell a story: If possible, include a story about the product that connects on an emotional level. This can be about the inspiration behind the product, how it’s made or how it can fit into the customer’s life.

Using high-quality images

  • Invest in professional photography: Professional photos can make a significant difference in how your products are perceived. Ensure that your images are well-lit, in focus and show the product in its best light.
  • Show multiple angles and uses: Provide images from different angles and, if applicable, show the product being used. This approach helps customers get a better sense of the product’s size, shape and functionality.
  • Use image zoom: Implementing an image zoom feature allows customers to see details up close, providing a more comprehensive view of what they’re buying.
  • Optimise for speed: While using high-quality images, ensure they are optimised for web use to prevent slow loading times, which can harm both user experience and SEO.

Optimising your product pages with these elements in mind can significantly enhance their effectiveness. By providing clear, descriptive titles and URLs, compelling and keyword-rich descriptions and high-quality images, you can improve both search engine visibility and user engagement, leading to increased conversions and sales.

Category page optimisation

Optimising category pages is crucial for enhancing the user experience and improving your e-commerce site’s SEO. These pages serve as gateways to your products, helping users navigate your site and search engines understand your offerings. Effective optimisation of category pages can lead to better visibility in search results and a smoother browsing experience for customers.

Title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags: The title tag of a category page should be descriptive and keyword-rich yet concise. It needs to clearly communicate the contents of the category and include relevant keywords that potential customers might use. For example, “Women’s Waterproof Hiking Boots | BrandName” is specific and likely to match search queries.

Meta descriptions: While not a ranking factor, the meta description plays a critical role in click-through rates. A compelling meta description should summarise the category’s content attractively and include a call to action. It should also incorporate relevant keywords naturally.


Optimising content

Category descriptions: Include a brief, keyword-rich description at the top of each category page. This description should offer insights into what the category covers and why a shopper might be interested in these products, enhancing both SEO and user experience.

Quality content: Consider adding more substantial content sections to category pages, such as buying guides or tips related to the category. This can provide value to users, keep them engaged and attract organic traffic.

Featuring products

Highlight bestsellers or new arrivals: Feature products that are bestsellers, new arrivals or on promotion at the top of the category page. This not only showcases your most attractive items but also guides customers towards making a purchase.

Use high-quality images: For the products featured on category pages, use clear, high-quality images. Visual appeal can significantly impact click-through rates and user engagement.

Customisable viewing options: Offer users the ability to customise their viewing experience, such as sorting by price, popularity or newness. This enhances usability and can improve the shopping experience.

Internal linking strategies

Cross-linking between categories: Strategically link between related category pages to help users navigate your site and discover more products. This can also distribute page authority throughout your site, benefiting SEO.

Breadcrumb navigation: Implement breadcrumb navigation on category pages to improve user navigation and SEO. Breadcrumbs help users understand their location within your site hierarchy and allow search engines to understand the structure of your site.

Use descriptive anchor text: When linking to category pages internally, use anchor text that describes the category. This helps search engines understand the context and relevance of the linked page.

Optimising category pages involves a balance of SEO best practices and user experience enhancements. The suggested optimisations above help with visibility in search engines and facilitate a more engaging and navigable shopping experience for users.

Technical SEO for e-commerce websites

Technical SEO is crucial for e-commerce websites, as it lays the foundation for search engines to crawl, understand and index your site effectively. This, in turn, can significantly impact your site’s visibility and user experience. Key technical aspects to focus on include site speed, mobile-friendliness and the implementation of schema markup. Each of these plays a vital role in enhancing the performance and usability of your e-commerce site.

Site speed

Site speed is a critical factor for both SEO and user experience. Slow-loading pages can lead to higher bounce rates, lower conversion rates and negatively impact your site’s rankings in search results. To optimise your site’s speed, minimise the size of images, leverage browser caching and reduce server response time. Tools like PageSpeed Insights can provide specific recommendations for improving your site’s speed.


With the increasing use of mobile devices to browse the internet and shop online, having a mobile-friendly e-commerce site is essential. Google’s mobile-first indexing means that Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Ensure your site uses a responsive design, which automatically adjusts the layout and content to fit different screen sizes. This improves usability and accessibility for mobile users.

Schema Markup

Schema markup is a code that you put on your website to help search engines return more informative results for users. For e-commerce, schema markup can enhance product listings in search results with rich snippets, which include information like price, availability and review ratings. Implementing schema markup can make your product listings more attractive and informative in search results, potentially increasing click-through rates. It can also assist search engines in understanding the content of your product pages, which may improve your visibility in search results.

Use specific types of schema markup for e-commerce, such as Product, Offer, AggregateRating and BreadcrumbList. These can highlight various product attributes directly in search results, making your listings stand out.


Implementing technical SEO enhancements

  • Regular audits: Conduct regular technical SEO audits to identify and fix issues related to site speed, mobile responsiveness and other technical aspects that could impact your SEO performance.
  • Monitor mobile usability: Use tools like Google Search Console to monitor mobile usability issues across your site, ensuring that all pages are accessible and user-friendly on mobile devices.
  • Integrate schema markup: Carefully integrate schema markup into your product and category pages. Test your implementation with tools like Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure it is correctly recognised by search engines.

Focusing on these technical SEO elements can significantly enhance the visibility and usability of your e-commerce website. Site speed and mobile-friendliness are fundamental to providing a positive user experience, while schema markup offers a direct way to communicate with search engines and improve how your products are represented in search results. By prioritising these aspects, you can improve your site’s SEO foundation, leading to better search rankings, more traffic, and ultimately, higher conversion rates.


Content marketing and e-commerce SEO

Content marketing plays a pivotal role in e-commerce SEO, driving traffic and supporting the buyer’s journey from awareness to purchase. By creating valuable content such as blogs, buying guides and informational articles, e-commerce sites can attract a broader audience, build brand authority, and improve their search engine rankings. 


Blogs remain a versatile tool for e-commerce sites, allowing you to cover a wide range of topics that interest your target audience. They can help:

  • Attract organic traffic: By targeting specific keywords related to your products or industry, blogs can improve your site’s visibility in search results, attracting more organic traffic.
  • Educate your audience: Blogs can provide valuable information, tips and insights related to your products, helping to inform and educate potential customers.
  • Build brand authority: Consistently publishing high-quality, informative content can establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry.

Buying guides

Buying guides are an effective way to assist customers in the decision-making process. They can:

  • Simplify the purchase decision: Buying guides help break down the features and benefits of products, making it easier for customers to make informed decisions.
  • Target specific keywords: By focusing on terms like “best [product type] for [use case],” buying guides can attract visitors who are further along in the buying process and more likely to convert.
  • Enhance user experience: Providing clear, helpful buying guides improves the overall user experience, potentially increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Informational content

Informational content, such as how-to articles, FAQs and industry insights, serves to:

  • Address user queries: By answering common questions and providing useful information, you can attract users seeking solutions, establishing your site as a helpful resource.
  • Support various stages of the buyer’s journey: Informational content can cater to users at different stages of their journey, from initial awareness to consideration, by offering insights and solutions that meet their needs at each step.


Strategies for content that supports the buyer’s journey 

Understand your audience: Conduct research to understand your audience’s needs, preferences and the types of questions they have at different stages of their journey. This will help you create more targeted and effective content.

Create a content calendar: Plan your content in advance with a calendar that aligns with your marketing goals, product launches and seasonal trends. This ensures a steady stream of relevant content that engages your audience throughout the year.

Incorporate SEO best practices: Use keyword research to optimise your content for search engines, including strategic keyword placement in titles, headers and throughout the content. Also, ensure your content is shareable and includes calls to action where appropriate.

Measure and adjust: Use analytics to track the performance of your content marketing efforts. Analyse metrics such as traffic, engagement and conversion rates to understand what works and refine your strategy over time.

Incorporating blogs, buying guides and informational content into your e-commerce SEO strategy can drive traffic, enhance the customer experience and support the buyer’s journey from awareness to purchase. If you’re not a natural content writer, a freelance e-commerce copywriter can help. By understanding your audience and leveraging SEO best practices, you can create compelling SEO-friendly content that not only ranks well in search engines but also genuinely meets the needs of your potential customers.

Link-building strategies

Link-building is a crucial aspect of SEO for e-commerce sites, impacting both their search engine rankings and overall site authority. External links (backlinks) from other websites signal to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy, while internal links help distribute page authority throughout your site and improve user navigation. 

Importance of external links

Boosts site authority: High-quality backlinks from reputable sites can significantly enhance your site’s authority in the eyes of search engines, leading to better rankings.

Drives referral traffic: External links also bring in traffic from other websites, which can increase your site’s visibility and potentially lead to higher conversion rates.

Enhances brand visibility: Being mentioned on reputable sites can increase brand awareness and establish your e-commerce site as a leader in your industry.

Tips for acquiring quality backlinks

Create shareable content: High-quality, valuable content is more likely to be shared and linked to by other websites. This can include original research, comprehensive guides or engaging infographics.

Guest blogging: Contributing guest posts to relevant blogs or industry websites can provide valuable backlinks. Make sure the content is high-quality and provides value to the host site’s audience.

Leverage partnerships: Collaborate with suppliers, manufacturers and industry influencers who can feature your products or mention your site on their platforms.

Use social media: Promoting your content on social media can increase its visibility, encouraging shares and links from other websites.

Monitor competitors: Use tools to monitor your competitors’ backlinks. This can help you identify potential sites that might be willing to link to your content as well.

Optimising internal links

Strategic use of anchor text: Use descriptive and relevant anchor text for internal links to help users and search engines understand what the linked page is about.

Link to important pages: Ensure that your most important pages, such as category pages and best-selling product pages, are easily accessible through internal links. This can help distribute page authority to these critical pages.

Improve site navigation: A well-structured site with intuitive navigation encourages more internal linking and improves the overall user experience.

Regularly audit your links: Conduct regular audits of your site’s internal and external links to ensure they are current and pointing to relevant, high-quality pages.

Effective link-building strategies can dramatically improve your e-commerce site’s search engine rankings and authority. By focusing on acquiring high-quality backlinks and optimising internal linking, you can enhance your site’s visibility, drive more traffic and ultimately, increase conversions. Remember, link-building is a gradual process that requires consistency and quality over quantity.


Social media and SEO

While social media signals do not directly influence search engine rankings, the integration of social media and SEO can significantly impact your e-commerce business. Social media platforms can amplify your content’s reach, drive traffic to your website, and enhance brand visibility. This synergy between social media and SEO strategies can indirectly boost your site’s performance in SERPs. 

The impact of social media on SEO

Content distribution: Social media platforms are powerful channels for promoting your content to a wider audience. Sharing engaging content can lead to increased website traffic, as well as natural link building when users share your content on their websites or blogs.

Brand visibility and search demand: A strong social media presence can increase brand recognition. As more people become aware of your brand through social media, they’re more likely to search for your brand or products on search engines, thereby increasing organic search traffic.

Enhanced user engagement: Social media allows for direct interaction with your audience, fostering a community around your brand. This engagement can lead to higher brand loyalty and customer retention, as well as indirect SEO benefits through increased brand searches and direct traffic from social platforms.

Leveraging social platforms for brand visibility and traffic

Optimise social media profiles: Ensure your social media profiles are fully optimised with a clear bio, high-quality images and links to your website. This helps in presenting a cohesive brand image across all platforms.

Share quality content: Regularly post valuable and engaging content that resonates with your audience. This can include product highlights, behind-the-scenes looks, customer testimonials and educational content related to your industry.

Use hashtags strategically: Whatever the latest social media ‘guru’ tells you, hashtags are NOT dead! Incorporate relevant hashtags to increase the visibility of your posts. Research popular and trending hashtags within your industry to reach a broader audience.

Engage with your audience: Actively engage with your followers by responding to comments, messages and mentions. This can increase engagement rates and foster a loyal community around your brand.

Collaborate with influencers: Partner with influencers who align with your brand to tap into their follower base. Influencer endorsements can significantly boost brand visibility and drive traffic to your site.

Track performance and adjust strategy: Use social media analytics tools to track the performance of your posts and campaigns. Analyse the data to understand what resonates with your audience and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Social media offers a valuable opportunity to complement your SEO efforts and enhance your e-commerce strategy. By effectively leveraging social platforms, you can increase your content’s reach, boost brand visibility and drive more traffic to your website. While the benefits of social media on SEO may be indirect, the combined power of both can lead to substantial growth for your e-commerce business.


Measuring SEO success

To ensure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts for an e-commerce website, it’s crucial to measure and analyse your performance regularly. This involves using a variety of tools and metrics to gain insights into your website’s visibility, traffic, engagement and conversions. Understanding how to interpret this data allows you to refine and adjust your SEO strategies for better results. 


Tools for tracking SEO performance

Google Analytics: An essential tool for tracking website traffic, user behaviour and conversion rates. Google Analytics provides comprehensive insights into how users interact with your website and where your traffic comes from.

Google Search Console: Offers valuable data on your website’s presence in Google search results. It helps you understand which queries bring users to your site, how your pages are performing in search results and identifies issues that might affect your visibility.

SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz: These tools provide a wide range of features for keyword research, backlink analysis and competitor insights. They can help you track your rankings, understand your website’s SEO health, and uncover opportunities for improvement.


Key metrics to track

Organic traffic: The number of visitors coming to your site through search engines. Monitoring changes in organic traffic helps gauge the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.

Keyword rankings: Where your website ranks in SERPs for specific keywords. Tracking how your rankings change over time can help you understand the impact of your SEO strategies.

Conversion rate: The percentage of website visitors who take a desired action, such as making a purchase. This metric is crucial for e-commerce sites, as it directly relates to revenue.

Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate might indicate that your content does not meet the expectations of your visitors or that your site is not user-friendly.

Page load time: The time it takes for your pages to load for users. Faster load times improve user experience and can contribute to higher rankings in search results.

Backlink profile: The quantity and quality of external sites linking back to your website. A strong backlink profile can significantly boost your site’s authority and rankings.


Using data to refine and adjust SEO strategies

  • Identify patterns and trends: Look for patterns in the data that indicate what’s working and what’s not. For example, if certain types of content consistently drive more traffic or have lower bounce rates, consider creating more content in that vein.
  • Adjust based on performance: If certain keywords or pages are underperforming, investigate why. This might involve optimising content, improving page speed or revising your keyword strategy.
  • A/B testing: Conduct A/B tests to compare different strategies and see what works best for your site. This could include testing different meta descriptions, titles or content formats.
  • Stay up-to-date with SEO trends: SEO is always evolving, so it’s important to stay informed about the latest trends and algorithm updates. Use your learnings to adapt your strategies accordingly.

Measuring and analysing SEO performance is a continuous process. By regularly tracking the right metrics and using insights from SEO tools, you can make informed decisions to optimise your e-commerce website, improve your search engine rankings and ultimately drive more conversions and revenue.

The complexity and dynamism of SEO practices necessitate professional assistance. By enlisting the help of a freelance SEO consultant, you can take your e-commerce business to new heights, ensuring your website not only attracts but also retains and converts your target audience. 

Get in touch today.