Why SEO Is Vital for Ecommerce Brands
My career in SEO (aka, search engine optimization) started like a lot of others — writing content for affiliate blogs and big B2B companies. I wrote about coffee shops, AI & machine learning, stock trading, and a hundred other topics I had to learn about.
But back in 2017, when I was freelancing, ecommerce SEO was barely on the radar. Unless you were Nordstrom, Macy’s, or Amazon, SEO was an afterthought for most online retailers. This was pre-Shopify, pre-pandemic, and what feels like a lifetime ago.
By mid-2020, every entrepreneur was moving their business online or starting a new ecommerce business — trying to capitalize on the online shopping boom that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
To start, all of these businesses scaled through paid media, particularly Instagram and Facebook ads. It was a huge revenue driver for these brands, and they could see a clear ROI very quickly.
They spent $10,000 in a week. They made $30,000 that same week in revenue. That’s a 3x return. Easy math. And, you get to connect with a relevant audience.
I’m a certified coffee nerd (I run all my SEO experiments on a coffee blog), and Facebook constantly serves me ads like the one below:
Eventually though, brands started getting tired of giving all their money to Meta and Google. They were hungry for a new way to build their audience and scale online, without being so reliant on paid media.
Why Invest in SEO As an Ecommerce Website?
Around that same time is when I started working here, with GR0, and I was thrown headfirst into ecommerce SEO. It was a perfect storm of the ecommerce explosion, people getting sick of paid social fees (not to mention Apple’s iOS 14 privacy update that made the ads significantly less efficient/more expensive), and brands looking for new channels to scale as the pandemic evolved.
My experiences scaling brands like Venus Et Fleur, Sound of Vinyl, and dozens of other fast-growing ecommerce stores during that time were invaluable. I cut my teeth in this industry at a time when everyone was figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and how to not just grow blog traffic—but generate real, meaningful business outcomes (think 3-5x increases in monthly organic revenue).
Another example, and one of our biggest success stories, is FUNBOY, a luxury pool floats company. For the last 2 years, we’ve helped them maintain a top position for pool floats, even above retailers like Amazon and Walmart.
The ranking on this page drives a huge amount of value for them, especially going into spring/summer, and unlocks a new audience that they don’t have to pay for.
And that’s the reason to invest in SEO. You can build an organic, owned audience that you don’t have to keep paying for. A common analogy you’ll hear is that paid media is like turning on a faucet.
You can turn it off and on and get as much water as you need, but you have to keep paying for that output. Of course, there’s a time and place for this, and no marketing strategy can be successful without paid ads.
That said, investing in SEO is like building a well. You can’t control when the rain comes, but when it does rain, you get to collect on that investment over and over again without having to rebuild the well. Whenever there’s social interest in the terms you rank for, you get a piece of that traffic.
How To Do SEO for Ecommerce Sites
When GR0 thinks about an ecommerce SEO strategy for any ecommerce business, there are essentially four pillars we prioritize, and you should do the same in yours:
• PR & Backlinks
• Technical SEO
We’ll break these down one by one.
When it comes to ranking on organic search, the first thing we think about is your site’s content.
The first thing that often comes to mind is a blog, and this is important in most cases, but content ranges much wider than this.
Content is anything on your web pages that provides value to your customers. So this could be a blog post, or it could be the description and FAQs listed on your product page. In other cases, it may be a video you’ve included on your homepage showcasing how your product works.
This page from FUNBOY is a great example of combining keyword-optimized copy and great images and videos. And
In our campaigns, we typically prioritize building relevant, high-quality content within the niche of your product and including internal links back to those key product pages. We’ll talk more about that in the next section, but the gist is you want to show Google that you are an expert in your topic area.
This is vital not only to ranking those pieces of content, but also to ranking for real money-making terms and relevant keywords for your business.
There are a lot of steps that go into content creation, from keyword research and understanding your target customer to avoiding duplicate content to choosing the right medium to actually publishing that content on your website.
Unless you have a dedicated SEO Content Manager within your business, it’s often more cost-effective in the short term to outsource this work to an agency or contractor. You get to leverage their expertise without having to add to your long-term payroll.
PR & Backlinks
In addition to creating content, you’ll also need to generate some digital PR around your brand. At GR0, we call this Performance PR.
Even if you have amazing content, if Google doesn’t crawl, index, and rank it — then it doesn’t really matter. Traditionally, this problem was solved exclusively through guest blogging or other forms of direct backlink acquisition — often where you just pay to publish a post on someone else’s website that links back to yours.
And while that still happens, there are new, more innovative ways to do this work. One of those is through digital PR (sometimes called reporter outreach). Instead of just trying to get specific placements in publications, we work directly with reporters to have our clients featured as sources in their stories.
For example, let’s say a reporter is writing an article on social media marketing strategies for Forbes. If we can pitch a great quote, we may be able to get our clients featured in that post organically. These are the best kind of links, and they are invaluable to building an organic presence online.
You can also create link-worthy content — overlapping with our first pillar. Creating valuable, engaging content not only helps to attract and retain potential customers but also encourages other sites to link back to yours. These backlinks are highly valued in search engine results and can significantly aid your SEO efforts and overall search rankings.
If you have any kind of original research or data based on your business or industry, you should be sharing that with the world. Especially if it’s related to anything current and trending. If you can create the right piece of content at the right time, you can get hundreds of backlinks from the best websites on the internet.
It’s not consistently reliable, but when it works, it can generate some amazing results.
If content and backlinks are like fuel, the technical SEO is the engine you put it in. It’s vital that your website is able to be crawled and understood by Google and other search engines — otherwise, all your other efforts will be pointless.
It’s not as flashy as creating content, and it often doesn’t show direct results immediately, but it’s foundational to any success.
It’s a broad category, but it includes things like:
• Setting up robots.txt files & XML sitemaps
• Ensuring proper implementation of canonical tags, meta tags, and directives
• Designing a cohesive site architecture and URL structure
• Creating structured data (schema) markup to show up in rich results
• Improving site performance and user experience by optimizing aspects such as site speed and page load times
• A lot more
This is by far the most complex and nuanced part of SEO for ecommerce. If you want to learn more on your own, feel free to check out our guide to technical SEO from our very own Seth Trammell.
If you want to get started on your own with this, here are the three areas I would analyze first:
1. On-page SEO, such as title tag, H1, and meta description across all product pages (Are they optimized for the right keywords? Are they within character limits?)
2. Site structure and navigation (Are our categories reflective of our product line? Are they organized in a way that makes sense? Do the URLs line up with the right target keyword for those pages?)
3. Schema markup/structured data (Do we have this setup for our product pages?
At GR0, the fourth pillar of our SEO strategies isn’t really SEO at all — it’s communication. When you’re running an SEO campaign for a fast-moving, evolving ecommerce company, communication is key to any kind of success.
You can’t allow your SEO team, whether in-house or an agency, to work in a silo. Their efforts must align with and support what’s happening across all of your other channels and vice-versa. Content creation is not just about writing blog posts — those posts should be leveraged on email marketing, social media, and elsewhere.
If your SEO team is making changes to the website, you should make sure those aren’t going to impact your brand image, any other web design initiatives, or other priorities in the business.
What Are Some Key Ecommerce SEO Tools & Platforms?
One of the most common questions I see around SEO is what tools and platforms business owners need to get started. There’s a seemingly endless list of tools out there, and depending on which SEO you ask, you’ll get a different answer. Most of the time, the answer you get depends on who they’re affiliated with.
Rather than give you specific tools, I’d rather tell you the types of tools you should use with a couple of examples you can go explore on your own. In order to get started, you really only need a few things:
• A spreadsheet tool (Google Sheets or Excel)
• A keyword research tool (Ahrefs, KWFinder, SEMRush)
• A backlink analysis tool (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush)
• A site crawling tool (Screaming Frog is really the best option)
• A content audit & optimization tool (Clearscope, Surfer SEO)
• A data analytics tool (This includes Google Analytics & Google Search Console, but also something like Looker Studio can be helpful)
If you build a tech stack that includes a tool in each of these areas, you should be in relatively good shape.
Putting It All Together
If you read all of this and you feel overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone.
SEO isn't a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and adjustment to keep up with changing algorithms and market trends. It's a long-term investment that, when done right, can drive significant growth for your ecommerce business.
If you're ready to level up your SEO strategy, consider partnering with GR0. Our team of SEO experts can help you optimize your site, build a robust digital marketing strategy, and steer your ecommerce business toward long-term success.
Contact us today so that we can create a unique strategy for you that will “GR0” your business to its full potential!
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