Congratulations! If you’re reading this, then you’re totally serious about growing your online store. Our previous article on How To Plan Launch & Grow a Successful Ecommerce Business showed that with some careful planning and determination, it’s relatively easy to launch an online business; the hardest part is – making it pay. The hardest challenge you will face when launching or growing an online business is to drive traffic to it that converts into sales. This guide gives you an actionable ‘20-point checklist’ that will help your increase your rankings, traffic, and sales.
Even if you already have an established e-commerce business or you have just launched your website, or simply want to audit your own site then this guide and checklist will help you. Simply plough through the checklist and assess your site against every checkpoint and we guarantee that these actions will help to increase your rankings, traffic and conversions.
#1 – Submit Your Site To Google
If you haven’t already, submitting your site to Google will help you get your site indexed in the search engine’s results pages (SERPs) quicker. You can do so here: Submit Site To Google Here.
#2 – Submit Your Site To Bing & Yahoo
Bing & Yahoo! have a much smaller worldwide share of the search engine market place but is still another free source of traffic. They are the same company now so by submitting to one, you’ll submit to the other. Submit Site To Bing & Yahoo Here
#3 – Create an XML Site Map
Creating a sitemap will inform the search engines of every single page of your website in the hope that they will index them in the SERPs. Most e-commerce platforms will automatically generate an XML sitemap. Check with your e-commerce software if it does by typing in the search bar [www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml ] if one appears then great, check that it has all of your websites pages in it. If it doesn’t then you will need to generate one or find out the specific URL your platform generates.. Depending on how many pages and products your website has you should be able to generate one for free. Simply search ‘free xml sitemap’ on Google and they’ll be plenty to choose from.
#4 – Submit An XML Site Map To Google
Submitting a full site map of all your pages and products will help Google crawl your web pages quicker in the hope that they will index them in the search engines. You will need to do this by creating a Google Webmaster Tools Account or Search Console as it’s now called. This is highly recommended as this is a powerful tool to improve your sites standing and performance on Google.
#5 – Robots.txt File
After you have created a Google Webmaster Tools account, even if you have submitted a sitemap to Google you must check that Google can crawl your site. If it can’t, it won’t index any pages at all. You can do this by checking your crawl status:
Google will tell you if there are any errors preventing your site from being crawled and will also provide help to show you how.
#6 – Structured Data & Rich Snippets
‘Structured data mark-up’ is a standard way to annotate your content so machines can understand it. When your web pages include structured data mark-up, Google (and other search engines) can use that data to index your content better, present it more prominently in search results, and surface it in new experiences like voice answers, maps, and Google Now.
You can provide Google detailed product information that we can use to display rich snippets (for example, price, availability, and review ratings) right on our search results pages. Using mark-up to enable rich snippets lets you:
- Attract potential buyers while they are searching for items to buy on Google.
- Control your product information. You can maintain the accuracy and freshness of your product information, so your customers find the relevant, current items they’re looking for.
#7 – HTML Improvements
If your site has duplicate metadata (meta titles & meta descriptions) which is code that tells the search engines what you wish a webpage to be found for, then Google may ignore both pages and not rank either of them at all or much lower in the SERP’s. Duplicate tags (titles or descriptions) are more often than not an indication of duplicate web pages.
Every page of your site needs to target a different search term and have a different meta title and description so correcting these will improve rankings and performance.
#8 – Manual Actions
While Google relies heavily on algorithms like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird to evaluate and constantly improve search quality, they are also willing to take manual action on sites that use spammy techniques, such as demoting them or even removing them from our search results altogether. If you have been given one of these penalties then your site will suffer drastically so it’s worth checking. Removing manual penalties can often be easier than removing algorithm penalties as you have an open line of communication with Google. You can check this as identified below:
#9 – Crawl Errors
The Crawl Errors page provides details about the URLs in your site that Google could not successfully crawl or that returned an HTTP error code which will prevent them from indexing in the SERP’s. There are two types of errors;
- Site errors: This section lists errors that prevent Googlebot from accessing your site at all.
- URL errors: This section lists errors Googlebot encountered when trying to crawl specific URLs.
Fixing these will improve the performance of your site as broken pages can be fixed and indexed in the search engines again to increase traffic.
#10 – Site Speed
Improving your site speed across all devices will improve your traffic, rankings and conversions. If your web pages take too long to load users will simply leave the page before making a conversion or even browsing to another page. Google has some great tools to help you test and improve site speed.
#11 – URL Structure
Google recommends using a simple URL structure on your site. Your content should be structured in a way that is easy for both the search engines and users to follow (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers). With e-commerce sites you should use ‘keywords’ within your category, sub-category and product page URLs. Ideally use hyphens to separate keywords. They provide the example:
http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html.
More reading around Google friendly URL structures can be found here. Improving these will help more of your web pages indexed and ranked in the search engines.
#12 – Custom Landing Pages
Every category, sub-category and product page on your site should have a custom landing page. This will allow you to target as many search terms as possible in the search engines and will allow you to rank as highly as you can be optimising each page for a specific search term,
#13 – Content Duplication
Does every page of your website have unique content? Duplicate Content is a strict violation of Google’s quality guidelines. Content on your site must be as unique as possible. Two pages of the same content from any site will conflict and harm each other’s ability to rank. A common mistake e-commerce businesses make is to copy the manufacturer’s description for products. Google wants to deliver the best search results possible so if there are 1000’s of website selling the same products as you; why would Google render your product page instead of your competitors if you both have exactly the same product description? Make them better than the competition and unique!
#14 – Poor or Thin Content
Google will not rank a web page highly if it has little, no or low-quality content. You should ensure that every single page of website has the best and as much possible content on it. One page of a site that has no content will mark your quality score down, so it just makes perfect sense to help optimise and rank each page as highly as possible by creating great content.
#15 – Product Images
Every one of your products should have a high-quality image to promote your range of products. Ideally you should have several images to promote each of your products. Consumers like to see what they are buying in as much detail as possible and extremely high quality images will significantly increase the number of conversions.
#16 – Blog Content
An integrated blog is an essential tool for content marketing and raising awareness of your brand in the search engines and on social media. Creating interesting, valuable, unique, and engaging content will allow you to promote your brand as much as possible and raise awareness of your products across social media channels.
Publishing great content as much as possible is highly recommended as this will generate traffic and attract links (necessary for top rankings).
#17 – Social Sharing
As social media continues to play such a strong role in digital marketing, it is important that your e-commerce website is optimised for social sharing. This includes support for the Open Graph Protocol where you can easily specify the title, image and URL that will be shared when a visitor clicks on the “Share” button prominently displaying social sharing buttons to encourage your visitors to share pages raising the profile of your brand and increasing traffic to assist higher sales and conversions.
#18 – Recently Viewed
Allowing browsing customers to see their recently viewed items will increase the conversion rate of your site, as the browsing users search through the site it will allow them to easily go back to a product they have viewed and want to purchase.
#19 – Customisable Related Products
Allow the upselling & cross selling of ancillary products or services at point of purchase which will help increase Average Order Values. Suggesting additional or complimentary products is a great way of increasing sales at the checkout.
#20 – Pricing
From our experience; one of the most overlooked issues to increase conversions on a site is pricing. How does your pricing compare to your competitors? Consumers are extremely price sensitive when it comes to internet shopping. As well as for convenience; online shoppers generally use the internet to find a bargain. If your pricing is way higher than your competition, then you will simply not make sales on site. Regularly check your pricing policy to keep it in line with your competition. Pick a range of your top 20-30 bestselling products and monitor the price of these products once a week.
Hopefully you’ll find this checklist extremely helpful. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we chose some key factors that will help your online store increase traffic, rankings and conversions.
If you need some free help with your SEO to help identify other issues that could be hindering your performance in the search engines, then download a personalised Free PDF SEO Report which takes around 15 seconds and will highlight SEO issues of any page of your site completely free of Charge.