Complete Guide to SEO for Ecommerce

I recently came across a very comprehensive SlideShare presentation by Adam Audette of the Rimm-Kaufman Group that covers some of the key aspects of SEO for ecommerce websites.

There’s lots to digest here and so, in order to make it a more useful ongoing reference for me, I thought I would summarize the key points raised in the presentation.

How do you compete in ecommerce SEO?

  1. You need a brand
  2. You need to differentiate
  3. You need a social strategy
  4. You need to be technically strong
  5. You need a content strategy

Technical SEO

  • Improving your site from a technical perspective is #1 priority
  • Very broad topic so do create a list of top priorities and don’t create a giant SEO audit
  • Typical highest priority technical issues:

Duplication (usually occurs at the product level):

  • Use forensics to investigate issues
  • Focus on what is indexed
  • Always crawl the site yourself
  • Keep it actionable
  • Faceted navigation* (can cause crawling challenges):
  • Use rel=nofollow on non-essential facets (e.g., color, price)
  • Make non-essential facets rel canonical to a superset page with all products listed
  • Other options – use robots.txt to exclude facets (not ideal), use GWT parameter handling tool (risky), use meta noindex (questionable how Google is applying this)


  • Don’t crawl sorts/views
  • Consolidate pages using rel=prev/next and rel=canonical

Site speed (crucial):

  • 40% of visitors will abandon your site if loading > 3 seconds
  • 1 second in loading time < conversion by 7%
  • Use online tools to measure performance and identify issues

Site search

Should be fast, offer a valuable experience, lead to conversion, have high engagement. Ask these questions before taking action:

  1. How much organic traffic are search pages responsible for?
  2. What do engagement metrics look like?
  3. Are search pages causing issues with site crawl space?
  4. Are they causing duplicate content issues?


  • Make your site accessible by building a responsive site
  • Minimize redirects
  • Serve tablet users the desktop site

On-page and content SEO

  • Native content is limited (e.g. category pages, product pages, guides, reviews, blog) so the user experience is critical
  • Options when a product is permanently out of stock:
    1. 301 the URL to a replacement product
    2. 404 the URL if no newer product exists
    3. Continue to serve the page and provide alternative product recommendations (preferred)
  • When product is temporarily out of stock – serve the product page with messaging and recommendations
  • Present useful content on category pages as they are important content hubs
  • Your inventory is your content (e.g., buyers’ guides, reviews). Be creative in how you present it.
  • Spend a lot of time on SERP presentation – impacts search CTR and even rankings

Social media

  • On the whole, Facebook drives the most social visits, with Pinterest growing the fastest
  • Traditional sales funnel no longer reflects the online retail environment – more open ended now
  • 4 functions of social media:
    1. Monitoring
    2. Responding – reputation management, customer service
    3. Amplifying – recommendations, brand advocacy, fostering communities
    4. Leading – brand awareness, product launches, deals, consumer input
  • Social media takeaways:
    1. Consumer journey has changed
    2. New model reflects stages where brands can exert influence
    3. A user’s brand experience occurs on social media

Analytics and reporting

  1. Don’t focus on keywords – track topics or page types rather than keywords
  2. Focus on bottom-line metrics – revenue from organic search, organic traffic by search engine, organic conversion rate, group content
  3. Engagement metrics are important – bounce rate, time on page, avg. pages/visit, time on site
  4. Use more than one analytics package – use a variety of tools

Organizational considerations

  • SEO bridges the gap between different teams
  • Break down intra-company silos

I found this presentation to be a useful overview of where to focus when embarking on SEO improvement for an ecommerce site. It’s well worth clicking through.

One thought to “Complete Guide to SEO for Ecommerce”

  1. Some great points here. I think of these components of SEO as similar to jigsaw pieces where you need ALL of them to form the full picture for Google at the end of your optimisation 🙂
    Each individual part of SEO is important and need to be combined with other good practices to give you the best results.

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