There is so much you can do to optimize your online shop, whether it’s for users or for Google. To help you cover all your bases, we’ve written this ecommerce checklist to help you. It doesn’t cover absolutely everything, but if you at least start by optimizing all the aspects in this post, you will definitely be doing a great job!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner. So it’s time to make sure you’re ready to make the most of it and get those sales! Join our CCO Thijs de Valk on November 4 for a free workshop to optimise your product pages for SEO and conversion.
Site-wide ecommerce checklist
The first part of our ecommerce checklist is all about changes you can make site-wide to make sure your online shop is up-to-scratch. Some of these tips will help with your ecommerce SEO, but — more importantly — all of these tips will give users a better experience when they visit your site.
1. Use consistent branding
The first thing you should be aware of is that you should always use consistent branding. Make sure your brand or logo is clearly visible on your homepage and in your page title. This will build up trust and will help to promote and build your business, helping to trigger recognition, both offline and in search engine result pages.
2. Add social buttons and newsletter sign up
Newsletters and social media are the easiest ways to get return visits from your customers, so be sure to draw attention to your social profiles and newsletter signup throughout your website. Add your social profiles to your footer at least (use icons, links, social widgets), but if you have space left in your header, that would also be a great spot for them. Promote your newsletter in your sidebar and use scroll triggered boxes to draw attention to it. A nice giveaway always helps motivate people to subscribe.
3. Take care of site navigation essentials
Make sure users can navigate to your most important pages from your site menu. It should always be easy to reach shopping pages and the shopping cart, as well as customer service information and FAQs covering essential information like shipping costs and payment options. If users can’t find these pages, they’ll find it difficult to shop on your site.
4. Use SSL and security seals
Here’s one vital thing about creating trust: If your site has an SSL certificate, your site will have that nice green padlock in your visitors’ browser address bar, and you’ll let them know they are shopping in a safe environment. These things will help customers to insert their home address, credit card details, or whatever other personal information you ask them to provide, with confidence. You could also add security seals. Find more tips like this in our trust article.
5. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
Don’t forget mobile users! Making purchases via mobile is becoming a popular option for many shoppers. So be ready for them and don’t miss out on those transactions. Read our ultimate guide to mobile SEO to get started.
6. Get things up to speed
When we say speed, we mean the speed of your desktop and your mobile site. People have short attention spans these days, and we’ve all got used to faster internet everywhere. However, there are loads of places around the world that have to make do with less than perfect mobile connections and a small data allowance. Don’t take your situation as gospel. Also, Google tends to rank faster websites higher, which is another reason to make sure your website is as fast as it can be.
7. Add an ‘About us’ page if you don’t have one
People like to know about the company they’re buying from. Who is behind it? What’s their story? What motivates them? If we share the same values and beliefs, people are more likely to return to that shop and buy more products. Adding an about us page, and perhaps a team photo will help build a connection between your company and your customers. If you want some inspiration, Patagonia and Dopper are nice examples.
While you don’t necessarily need to optimize the homepage of your ecommerce site for SEO, you shouldn’t just ignore it completely either. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure any visitors landing there will continue to shop and make a purchase:
8. Show featured products
You also need to reserve a prominent spot on your homepage for featured products or something similar: usually your core products or the items you currently have on sale. This will provide an immediate trigger for visitors, and it’s also a good way to let them know whether or not they have come to the right online shop.
9. Include a compelling call to action
Your homepage needs a compelling call to action. It may change over time; for example, if you want to promote particular products, or run seasonal promotions like a Black Friday sale. But whatever your CTA is, you need to make sure it’s always easily visible and that it meets the needs and expectations of your visitors.
Product search and categories
Having a great site is one thing, but if visitors can’t find the products they want to buy it won’t be much use to anyone. That’s why the following section of our ecommerce checklist is all about making your products easy for customers to find when they’re searching on your site.
10. Add a search option
Every online store with more than 20 products should have a search option. Make sure you put the search option in a visible spot, as this will probably be the navigation of choice for your visitors. Besides optimizing your search option, be sure to give the search result pages some TLC as well. More on that later.
11. Use product categories
How you set up your categories and make these accessible for visitors matters – a lot. Categories help visitors get to different groups of products as quickly as possible, especially those who aren’t sure which specific products to buy. Amazon has a large list of categories (or departments), but makes the kind of products a category contains as clear as possible. That has a lot to do with naming these categories and using subcategories in a logical way. Put yourself in the place of your visitors and go over your shop’s categories. Do they make sense? Are these the terms a visitor would use? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
12. Add introductory content on category pages
Besides being clear about the name of your category, be sure to add a nice introduction to your category pages as well. This introduction is like the glue that holds the collection of products on that page together. This is really helpful in determining the subject of the page, especially for search engines. This also helps the category pages function in a similar way to cornerstone content.
13. Add thumbnail images for your products
In most cases, product images say more than a thousand words. This is especially true for those pages that simply don’t have space for a thousand words about a single product, such as your category or internal search result pages. Adding a stunning thumbnail image of that dress or painting will encourage more clicks to that page. Good thumbnail images make it easier for visitors to choose from a wide variety of products in category or search result pages.
14. Include calls to action in overviews
Besides having killer product thumbnails, your overview pages also need a call to action for each product and that means the ability for a visitor to add that product to their cart right from the category or search result page. Although it isn’t always possible for every product, you should do this wherever you can. There are online shops that allow you to choose the color and size of jeans, for example, without having to go to the product page. Choose the option you like, click add to cart and proceed to checkout, all from the overview page. Easy 🙂
You’ve probably already put a lot of effort into crafting your product pages. But are you sure there’s nothing missing, and nothing can be improved? This section of our ecommerce checklist will help you to make sure your product pages are looking the best they can.
15. Add great product images
Be sure to add great product images to your product pages. They should be zoomable and give multiple views of the product. Remember that even the filename and alt text of the product image matter for SEO. There’s a lot more on this in our detailed article on product images.
16. Write a fantastic product description
Optimizing your category pages is often a lot easier than optimizing all of your product pages. If you’re selling bolts, screws and nails, adding an awesome and unique product description to each page is a lot of work. If you need your product page itself to rank as well, be sure to invest some time and effort in optimizing your product descriptions for the product name and/or SKU. Our SEO plugin will come in handy if you have a WordPress site.
17. Be clear about pricing
We can’t emphasize this enough: be clear about your prices. If you add surprise costs like shipping or taxes later on in the checkout process, this will backfire and shoppers may abandon their purchase. Be clear about these additional costs (if any) right from the start. You could even leverage this by offering free shipping on orders of more than a certain value, say $20 or $50. Surprise costs are a major turn-off, plus it’s worth mentioning that they are now illegal in the EU.
18. Show product reviews
Creating trust is a good thing for all online shops. Genuine product reviews help a great deal with this. One thing we would recommend for websites that include user reviews from third parties is to copy a couple of those reviews to your own website. Including third-party reviews in, for example, a widget, would be a great solution. Add these near your call to action for the best results.
19. Promote related products
When you’ve got their interest, leverage it. If someone buys an iPhone from your site, then chances are they’ll need a cover, and might even want a pair of those really expensive wireless ear pods (they are expensive, right?!). But they might feel a bit less expensive when a customer has just paid full price for a new iPhone! Adding a related products section, or an ‘other customers also bought’ section to your product page will trigger upsells, allow for bundles and much more. We highly recommend adding these.
20. Add a call to action on your product page
Your visitor needs to click the Add to Cart button on your product page to start the purchase. Don’t hide that button! The number of shops that accidentally disguise the Add to Cart button is lower than it used to be, but we’d still urge you to take a good look at that button and make sure it stands out. This is especially true when you also have a secondary call to action like ‘Add to wish list’. Making sure that Add to Cart button stands out the most and is the largest and first major button on your product page is absolutely essential.
21. Show stock availability
These days, the availability of a product drives sales. With online shops everywhere, people want to buy things at a shop that will deliver the products they want tomorrow, or even the same day. If you tell users a product is in stock, people are more likely to buy it. But this isn’t just about competition, it’s about managing expectations. If your website makes it clear something isn’t in stock, people can still decide to buy at your shop and know they’ll have to wait a bit. If people buy at your shop and won’t get the product for three weeks because it’s out of stock, they’d probably rather have bought it somewhere else. Not making availability clear also reflects badly on your brand, by the way.
Shopping cart and checkout
It can be easy to overlook the details of your shopping cart and checkout process. However, these parts of your site play a vital role in the customer journey. So, in this section of our ecommerce checklist we encourage you to take some time and ensure everything is working seamlessly.
22. Make the shopping cart easy to find
Regardless of how noble your intentions are, in most cases, your main goal is to make as much money as possible, and that money is made through your shopping cart. For this reason alone, your shopping cart should be available and visible at all times – don’t make people look for it. We’d also recommend adding the number of products in the cart to the cart icon. It will help people remember if they have already added products to the cart.
A recognizable shopping cart icon that shows how many products are in the cart.
23. Show the payment options early on
Just like in number 16 of this ecommerce SEO checklist, this one is all about preventing surprises. It’s so frustrating to get to the end of the checkout process, only to find that your preferred payment option isn’t available. And again, if your ecommerce shop is in the EU, it is now a legal requirement to display your accepted payment methods to customers before they get to the checkout.
24. No account needed
Always allow customers to buy without forcing them to create an account. We really think that making customers create an account is bad practice. It’s only valid if creating an account gives the customer perks, like easy license renewal, managing recurring payments or things like that. These are tasks customers probably would want to do in a secure environment, so they wouldn’t mind setting up an account, but when they’re shopping for clothes, having an account only makes sense for convenience reasons (not having to fill in address details next time and so on) and therefore it should be optional.
25. Set longer cookie expiration times
Perhaps ‘cookie expiration times’ are a bit too narrow for what we’re trying to say. Our article on shopping cart abandonment will tell you a lot about how people use your shopping cart. Read that entire article and you’ll find out why it’s better to use longer cookie expiration times for your cart.
26. Use discount codes wisely
Discount codes and vouchers can be a great way to increase sales. But before you put a field to add a discount code on your checkout pages, think carefully about whether this is something you really want to do. Once users see the option to add a code, they’re going to want a discount code. And often that means they’ll stop mid-transaction and go searching for one! So if you do want to offer discount codes, it’s a good idea to make it easy for users to find a discount (even if it’s just to remove the delivery costs from their order). If you’re not planning to offer any discount codes in the near future, it’s probably better to leave the discount code field off your checkout pages, otherwise it might increase your cart abandonment rates.
Search and social appearance
Alright, by now your online shop should be ready to go. There’s just one thing left to do for our ecommerce checklist: make sure your site is looking its best, wherever it appears. That could be in the Google search results or on social media, so be ready to make a good impression!
27. Optimize your SEO titles and Meta descriptions
With ecommerce sites, more so than with all other websites, SEO titles and meta descriptions serve a very important purpose. Where Google is probably able to come up with a proper and keyword-related invitation to your website for information pages, the chances are your product page doesn’t have enough product information, or it contains details about your customer service or warranty that Google might use instead. Be sure to add a product-focused meta description to your product pages, to encourage Google not to show the wrong text in search results!
28. Add structured data to your pages
We recommend adding schema.org structured data to your product pages for technical SEO reasons. Schema.org markup will help search engines and, for example, Google Shopping understand the contents of your page better. Plus, it might help your page stand out in the search results!
Add at least schema.org/Product and schema.org/Offer, and see if you can extend this to even more detailed schemas. Adding schema.org markup is more technical than optimizing your product description, so if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing please ask your web developer for help. Or, use our WooCommerce SEO plugin, which makes it a lot easier!
29. Make sure you look great on social media
Besides schema.org data, be sure to add OpenGraph and Twitter Cards as well. Again Yoast SEO can help you add images to your page that will be displayed on social. With Yoast SEO Premium you can even preview those! These ensure that when people share your content or products, they will be displayed as attractively as possible. This and more is explained in our article about product page SEO.
Keep reading: Positioning your shop in the online market »
One last thing…
30. Make ecommerce easier with Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO plugins can help you to optimize loads of aspects of your site:
- Making sure your texts are readable? Check.
- Keyword research and optimization? Check.
- Managing your SEO titles, meta descriptions and social outputs? Check.
- Adding structured data to your pages with minimal effort? Check.
- Extra features for WooCommerce with our dedicated WooCommerce plugin? Check.
Try the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress (available in free and Premium versions) on your site today. If you’re using WooCommerce, add on our WooCommerce plugin for the ultimate ecommerce optimization. Want to get both Yoast SEO Premium and WooCommerce? Enjoy extra savings when you buy our Premium + WooCommerce bundle!
Last but not least — boost your ecommerce SEO expertise with our ecommerce training in Yoast SEO academy! You can follow a trial lesson for free, or unlock the full course when you buy Yoast SEO Premium or Yoast WooCommerce SEO. Still want more? Check out our ultimate guide to ecommerce usability.
Edwin is a strategic content specialist. Before joining Yoast, he spent years honing his skill at The Netherlands’ leading web design magazine.
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