Enterprise eCommerce SEO: How to Optimize a Large Online Store

by Scot Rhodes, Senior Solution Architect at Magnolia
Websites and a magnifying glass
Nov 8, 2019 | 9 MIN

As eCommerce giants like Amazon and Walmart continue to expand within the already crowded enterprise eCommerce market, the value of eCommerce SEO has never been higher. Simply put, online retailers need their products to rank well if they are to survive.

Some of the strategies needed to funnel in traffic from search engines such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are now well known within marketing circles. But beyond the basics, eCommerce brands can do plenty in order to boost their search engine rankings. In this article, we’ll take a look at what those eCommerce SEO tactics should be.

eCommerce SEO: Getting the Basics Right

The catch-all term “search engine optimization” (SEO) covers the list of techniques and practices that all enterprise web content management systems and eCommerce platforms should accommodate.

Some of these techniques include:

  • Keyword optimization: This technique covers using the most effective keywords, in the right places, and in the right quantities, to boost search engine ratings.
  • Link building: Links to your site from established sources, such as industry news publications, can boost your site’s credibility and its ranking in search engines.
  • Content marketing: The use of engaging, long-form content including text, images, audio, and video, can not only attract human readers, it can also enhance your site’s presence on search engine results pages.
  • Social media marketing: When visitors share your content on social media, search engines account for these additional links to your site, leading to boosted rankings.

Yet, when you consider that 75 percent of people, according to Junto, never go beyond the first page of the search engine results, going above and beyond the basics listed above becomes vital. Here’s what you need to do to soar above the competition.

Conduct Detailed Keyword Research

The primary method that site developers employ in an eCommerce SEO campaign involves researching the words and phrases that users enter into search engines to look for specific products. These keyword research methods put the marketers in the dual roles of the end user (who searches for the item) and content creator (who creates the content to match the search terms).

The key to finding the most effective keywords lies in finding long tail keywords, or phrases that give a specific description of the product. For instance, the keyword “used cars” is so generic that it is nearly useless. A long-tail keyword, such as “luxury import used cars in New York”, can be more effective at drawing qualified traffic. That particular search term included a location, which further narrows down the search criteria.

Also, when researching keywords, it helps to have a good understanding of your customer. Put yourself in your customers' shoes: if they were to search for your product, what search terms would they use? To help, you can use sites such as UberSuggests and Google Keyword Planner that offer keyword rating tools to help brands see which keywords deliver qualified traffic.

Once you have identified your target keywords, ensure you optimize your product pages with the relevant terms.

Go Deep With Competitor Research

In the competitive arena of eCommerce, sometimes the best source of ideas on how to reach the top of the search engine rankings can come from those sites that are already there. You can view the source code of your top competitors to see which keywords they’re using and where and how they’re using them.

To view the source code of your competitor, simply go on your browser, load up your competitor’s page, right-click on the page and select the page source option. This option is available on most major browsers including Chrome, Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Besides following your competitors’ lead when it comes to keywords, you can also examine their sites to see what they aren’t doing. Google and other search engines have evolved to the point that they can index content from videos, audios, and images as well as text. So include different types of content on your eCommerce site to gain a competitive advantage in the search engine rankings (we’ll discuss more on this under eCommerce Content Marketing).

Evaluate Your Site Structure

Site structure relates to how users navigate the site. For an eCommerce site, this includes how users navigate between different products and product categories. An ideal site structure makes it easy for users to find the products they need in as few clicks as possible.

Search engines take site structure into account when considering what Google previously called “PageRank”. The PageRank algorithm evaluates the 'authority' of a page by the number and quality of other pages linking to it. For instance, when a product page sits isolated, with fewer internal links, this lack of links hurts the product page in the PageRank algorithm and diminishes its potential for a higher rank in search engine results.

Another facet of site structure includes the use of search-engine-friendly URLs for each page. For instance, a page that lists the address for an action figure from the movie “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (SKU 985674) as:

https://www.generictoystore.com/toys/action-figures/spider-man/amazing-spider-man-2

Will get a higher ranking in the search engines than one that displays the address as:

https://www.generictoystore.com/product?SKU=985674

Take Globalization and Localization Seriously

A key aspect of expanding your brand’s global reach, and of boosting your SEO rankings in different regions, is to localize your content. This means translating your content to a language that your target market natively speaks.

But content localization is more than just a straightforward translation, you have to adapt and adjust your original content so that it relates to the region’s unique interests and needs. Each international market has its own culture and way of life, so when you are localizing content, it is important to keep in mind that a straight translation is not enough. For instance, we use certain expressions, analogies, and idioms in our own language that may not mean much in another language such as French, Mandarin or German.

That’s why your CMS must enable internationalization at scale. For instance, Magnolia comes with a number of multi-language capabilities built-in. It allows you to auto-translate content with either Google or Microsoft services and you have access to Magnolia’s Content Translation Support module where you can import and export bulk content in a translation-friendly CSV, Excel or XLIFF file. You can also create multiple authoring interfaces for different regions, allowing content authors to work with their preferred language.

From an eCommerce perspective, localization requires you to adhere to different currency and delivery options, in addition to making content relevant to that region. Magnolia’s component personalization feature enables you to personalize different portions of the page by the region. You can set the currency, contact hours, and language based on the geolocation traits of your visitors.

Derive Lessons From Your Website Analytics

Website analytics shouldn’t just be an indicator as to how much your traffic is growing or shrinking. Even with the tools found in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to uncover insights that help you adapt your SEO strategy in line with what’s working, and what isn’t.

In line with our best-of-breed philosophy, Magnolia CMS partners with Siteimprove to help online retailers with their SEO programs. The Siteimprove plug-in will allow you to integrate Magnolia with the Siteimprove tool to improve SEO, web analytics and content quality.

“Integrating content management and optimization onto the same platform makes it easier and faster for content teams to go to market,” said Nicolai Munch Andersen, technical product expert at Siteimprove. “This gives them the speed to deliver high-performing websites and great digital experiences more efficiently,” he continued.

With an all-in-one SEO package within the Magnolia CMS dashboard, Magnolia clients get tailored recommendations that help them improve product pages and content, as well as their user experience and mobile experience. Moreover, content editors have real-time access to visual data from Siteimprove’s Intelligence Platform, streamlining the SEO and content creation workflow in an environment where brands need to manage multiple touchpoints.

Content and Commerce: Your Road to Differentiation

Perhaps the most important aspect of boosting your SEO efforts for your eCommerce site is to conduct marketing campaigns that draw attention to your brand. Now the secret to a successful content marketing campaign is not to sell but to inform, educate and entertain. For instance, if your eCommerce brand sells golfing equipment, your consumers would appreciate reading an engaging blog post that shares golfing techniques used by the professionals instead of a blog post that lists the features of the products you sell.

That said, if you want content that sells your product, ask an active influencer in your niche to promote your product for you and add a backlink to your eCommerce store. Your customers tend to lean towards the opinions of people they know and trust. And plus, since you’ve gained that link back from an influencer, your search engine rankings will improve.

Also, when reaching out to influencers, make sure they have an authentic engagement rate - there are plenty of tools such as Like-Wise that can assist with identifying real influencers. Authentic engagement helps to get people talking about your brand, which is hugely beneficial for your SEO.

eCommerce SEO Doesn’t Make A Difference—It Is The Difference

In a world where eCommerce giants are eating up more of the attention, traffic, and sales, enterprise eCommerce companies need to take matters into their own hands if they are to remain relevant, retain customers, and impact culture.

The eCommerce SEO tactics above will help you go above and beyond the basics, and when you pair those tactics with a sound content strategy that engages, educates, and nurtures your audience, those search engine rankings will be looking healthy before you know it.

Portrait of Scot Rhodes

About the Author

Scot Rhodes helps clients and partners succeed with their Magnolia implementations and integrations.