SEO for web shops – the guide to 2024

SEO optimization for an online store involves more than you think. Compared to optimizing a B2B website (for example, that of an SEO specialist), an online store has more challenges. In this article I will tell you how to optimize a shop for SEO and which pitfalls to avoid.

Optimizing SEO for web shops: Where do I start?

SEO consists of content, technology and link building. For web shops, this is often a little different than for B2B websites. One major difference between the two is the faceted navigation on the website. Briefly how the three components differ:

  1. Content should be written more broadly and is even more clearly divided between category pages, PLPs and the blog (the blog is really for informational intent!).
  2. Technical SEO involves crawl budget problems a lot more often. This is due to the sometimes thousands of URLs in faceted navigation, often including many products. This must be handled properly.
  3. In terms of link building, I would say (from experience) that a clear distinction should be made between category page link building and link building for product pages. Where product pages are more longtail/specific and category pages are for short tail. This also applies to content, by the way.

SEO content for web shops

In SEO content for web shops, it is important that each page to be found on a competitive keyword gets unique (and most importantly, quality) content. Here I am thinking especially of:

  1. Content for product pages (not too much content so it doesn’t get in the way of conversions, but enough to come up for competitive search terms as well).
  2. Content for category pages (this is often in practice more because the search terms are more competitive than for product pages, some is above the products and some below the products).
  3. Content for the blogs: This section is written for informative keywords related to the products sold on the website.

What do I pay attention to when writing SEO content for web shops?

I have written my complete guide to SEO content here, so I will not be naming general points. Specifically, SEO content for web shops:

  • The information density of texts should be relatively high: People don’t have forever to read through your texts; they want to be informed quickly. By the way, this does not further help in getting higher in Google either.
  • The texts cannot all be above products (this further does not help SEO). Again, you don’t want to get in the way of the customer journey by putting all the text above the products.
  • Product pages should have short but powerful text. Think 200-400 words of content much of which is below the fold.
  • Category pages get 20% of the content above the products and 80% of the content below the products. In doing so, I always use a read more button with an HTML link to the bottom of the page where the rest of the content can be found.
  • The images/products should always be at the center of the design.
  • Make sure that where relevant, reviews are also shown on the website (for both conversion and Google).

These are some of the things I think about beyond the usual stuff.

Technical SEO for web shops

Technical SEO is an important one in web shops. Some of the things I immediately think of are:

Duplicate content:

  • Product pages: Many products may have similar descriptions or nearly identical pages, which can lead to duplicate content problems.
  • Faceted navigation: These can lead to different URLs with the same content.

URL structure:

  • Dynamic URLs: Web shops often use dynamic parameters (e.g. ?sort=price&category=shoes), which can result in a plethora of indexable URLs.
  • Canonicals: Setting canonical tags correctly to direct search engines to the correct version of a page is crucial.

Pagination:

  • Pagination of product listings: Correct use of rel="next" and rel="prev" to help search engines navigate clustered content and pagination.

Charge time:

  • Images: Web shops often contain many high-quality images, which can slow down load times.
  • Scripts and plugins: E-commerce platforms can rely heavily on scripts and plugins, which can negatively affect performance. Often web shops need more such scripts to handle logistics, for example.

Internal link structure:

  • Internal links: A well-thought-out internal link structure is essential to pass on linkjuice and strengthen key product pages.
  • Breadcrumbs: Using breadcrumbs helps both users and search engines navigate the site.

Mobile optimization:

  • Responsive design: A large portion of traffic comes from mobile devices, which requires an optimized mobile experience. This is often less important in B2B.

Crawl budget problems are common

The crawl budget is the amount of time and resources a search engine spends to crawl a website(1). If you do not properly optimize an online store for SEO, the search engine cannot crawl the pages properly.

Webshops often suffer from this. This is due in part to:

  1. the high number of URLs;
  2. many parameter URLs;
  3. not properly optimized faceted navigation.

You can recognize these problems by looking closely at when you modify a page title of a page, how long does it take for this modification to come through in Google? This is an important one. If you feel this takes longer than 2 weeks, there is often something going on (depending on how much authority your shop has in Google, of course).

Some tips from me for this

Crawl budget optimization can be persistent. Often the solution lies with:

  • Blocking pages that are not important to Google via the Robots.txt.
  • Deleting pages that are also not important.
  • Optimizing faceted navigation so that it generates fewer URLs.
  • Don’t leave too many product pages live that are out of stock.
  • Do not place too many redirects in the website.

Here are some of the options. Make sure that every URL you use on your web shop actually provides value to your visitor.

Faceted navigation for webshop SEO optimization

Faceted navigation is a useful feature for web shops, provided you optimize it properly for SEO. If not, it can have a negative impact on the SEO performance of the web shop. Below I’ll give you some tips that will help you optimize faceted navigation for SEO:

  1. Avoid content duplication: faceted navigation can lead to content duplication if the same products are displayed on multiple pages. So you need to make sure that each page has unique content, because you want to avoid penalties for duplicate content.
  1. Use canonical tags: with canonical tags, you let search engines know which page it should consider the original page. This helps with avoiding penalties for duplicate content.
  1. Use URL parameters: URL parameters inform search engines about the filters that apply. This also reduces the chance of duplicate content.
  1. Use clean URLs: clean URLs make navigation easier for users and search engines. Dynamic URLs with many parameters are best avoided.
  1. Avoid indexing irrelevant pages: avoid indexing irrelevant pages. These are pages that contain no or few products or non-relevant content, for example. When search engines don’t index them, you optimize their crawl budget.
  1. Make use of robot.txt: use the robots.txt file to tell search engines which pages they should and should not index.(2)
  1. Provide a good internal link structure: a good internal link structure helps search engines find and index the pages in the faceted navigation.

By following these tips, website owners can optimize faceted navigation for SEO. This will improve the search engine performance of the web shop. Check faceted navigation pages regularly to ensure that SEO performance remains optimal.

Link building for web shops

In terms of the three components and how they differ from B2B websites, link building is the one that is most similar to the trajectories I do for B2B websites. Some of the differences I’m thinking about:

  1. The distribution between receiving pages is wider than with a B2B route. Specifically, this means: More different pages will receive inbound backlinks.
  2. Because of this, the links may be of slightly lower quality (because you also need more in numbers).
  3. Make sure you still give the authors of the blogs enough authority through a bit of link building. This still has value.

Otherwise, the normal “rules of the game” for link building apply. Quality over quantity, make sure you have a good anchor text profile and do not obtain too many backlinks at once.

How do you perform an e-commerce tracking implementation?

E-commerce tracking is the collection of customer data in your webshop. It is an important method to measure your shop’s SEO performance because it tells you how your shop visitors behave. Below I briefly tell you the steps to perform an e-commerce tracking implementation:

  • Create a Google Analytics account: if you don’t have a Google Analytics account yet, create one and link it to your shop.
  • Configure goals: set goals for the web shop, such as completing a purchase or filling out a form. This way you can better track important conversions.
  • Set up e-commerce tracking: enable e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics and configure it for your webshop.
  • Add tracking codes to the webshop: examples of tracking codes in your webshop are the Google Analytics tracking code and the e-commerce tracking code.
  • Set appropriate values: set appropriate values for the transactions. Examples include amount of purchase, currency and product information.
  • Test the implementation: testing the implementation is important because it allows you to verify that all tracking codes have been implemented correctly. Only then will transactions be tracked correctly.
  • Analyze the data: analyze the data you collect through e-commerce tracking to gain insight into your shop’s performance. Then you can make improvements where needed.
  • Keep tracking performance: keep tracking the performance of the web shop and adjust the implementation as needed. This way, your webshop will continue to perform optimally.

By following these steps, you as a Web shop owner can implement e-commerce tracking. This gives you important insights into the performance of your shop. Regularly checking and updating the implementation is important, as this will help keep the data accurate. This keeps your webshop performing optimally.

Conclusion

There are some challenges associated with performing SEO for an online store. In particular, the amount of landing pages combined with faceted navigation creates many different pitfalls. A long-term strategy and a clear vision of URL structure, crawl budget and faceted navigation are essential. That way, you can rank for many (mainly long-tail) search terms at the same time with your shop.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 7 June 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.