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How to tame E-Commerce SEO – Part 1. A checklist for a successful ecommerce startup.

Search engine optimization for ecommerce websites is often a difficult area to tackle and most smaller SEO firms will avoid taking on this task or fail at succeeding good results.

It is true most SEO companies can offer strategies that will boost the rankings for standard websites with less than 20 pages of content and for a small range of niche keywords. Ecommerce SEO requires a lot more planning and resources to become successful, this first guide in a series will aim to provide a checklist to those that are about to start-up their own ecommerce empire.

The Problem with start-up Ecommerce SEO

  • E-Commerce websites often resell goods by big brands, the top 10 search results are often dominated by the big players with deep pocket.
  • E-commerce website platforms are notoriously difficult to perform on-site SEO.
  • E-commerce websites are prone to duplicate content penalties, or do not offer good content value for search engines.
  • And in most cases ecommerce website owners fail to budget SEO into their startup costs. Spending a fortune on website design but zero budget for SEO.

Plan ahead for success

If you are just beginning your journey to start an E-commerce website, plan ahead for your success by following these steps and head over to out guides page to download the accompanying checklist ,

Budget at least 30% of your investment for search engine optimization.

This includes SEO both onsite and ongoing costs. For example ( from a $10,000 investment, $3000 should be proportioned for SEO. This includes $1000 for keyword research and onsite optimization, $2000 for ongoing SEO, which should get you 3 – 5 months of ongoing SEO.

Search hard for a good developer, do your due diligence.

For ecommerce websites, I would certainly recommend a larger firm with proven experience in producing e-commerce websites. Also be on the look-out for companies that can offer all-in-one services, this will save you time and money in the long-run, where both aspects of your online business can be managed together.

Choosing the right e-commerce platform.

Going Open Source. Will you be using an open-source platform such as OSCommerce, Zen cart? The advantages are generally

  • lower development costs,
  • portability ( meaning if your developer goes bust you are not stuck with a lemon )
  • Wider community support base ( if you are developing the site yourself, this is a good option. )
  • Loads of free plug-ins and add-ons.

Going Custom. A custom-built platform will offer the best flexibility and customization options, which may set you apart from your competitors. The down-side of this is higher development costs and SEO firms may have difficulties working with your system.
Refer to the e-commerce SEO checklist for what to ask your developer.

Search hard for a good SEO.

Part of your pre-planning should also include selecting an SEO firm that has proven experience in e-commerce SEO. They should also be comfortable working with your chosen e-commerce platform, longtail SEO campaigns and preferably content generation. Refer to the ecommerce checklist for questions to ask your SEO.

Know your competitors and start small.

To be successful you must indentify who your competitors are. I would recommend splitting this into a Global competitor list and a local competitor list and further separate them by short term and long term competitor. Your SEO should be able to help you create this list. Start small by first eliminating your local competitors in the search results, once you have the momentum look at tackling the big players. Be honest with yourself, SEO’s are not magicians – your SEO budget will directly affect your SEO performance.

Going Longtail.

The best ecommerce SEO strategy for those that are on a small budget is using a long-tail SEO strategy. If your products are not niche, and your competitors are dominating the generic search results. Focus on developing a long-tail SEO strategy to capture traffic from less competitive keywords or phrases, by combining a good content creation plan and good Keyword research.For example – rather than focusing on “Digital Cameras” which would be highly competitive, a longtail strategy may include keywords such as “Cheap Sony digital camera” + “buy Sony digital camera” which may be less competitive, but still bring favorable results. A longtail strategy will involve more content creation ( see below ) and onsite SEO rather than link building.

Content Content Content.

Yep, content is king in most cases of ecommerce SEO, and especially where you are using a longtail strategy. Ask yourself if you are willing to participate in writing good unique descriptions for each product category and product description. If you are not be prepared to hire a content writer. Copy and pasting the vendors product description is not going to win you favors with search engines. Remember Google can not see the awesome photography which you have paid a fortune for. They can only see the text on your website.

To blog or not to blog?

Most ecommerce websites now-adays will sport a blog as well. But a blog will only be useful if you have fresh relevant content. If I had to choose between creating content for product descriptions and a blog for SEO, I would choose product description creation. A blog can work in a social marketing concept. SEO wise, stick with the product descriptions.