SEO School #2: 12 Most Important On-Page Ranking Factors in Ecommerce
I’m sure most online retailers will agree:
SEO is one of the best converting traffic sources in Ecommerce.
And there is data to prove it too:
According to this 2014 report by Wolfgang Digital, organic traffic was the dominant channel and sales driver in ecommerce last year.
It drove 40.1% of visits to online stores.
It also generated 41.4% conversions.
According to Screenpages’ 2014 benchmarks report, organic traffic on average generated 46% of visits with the average conversion rate of 2.44%.
And thus it goes without saying – you simply have no choice but to try and improve your organic rankings.
But I bet you’re wondering:
How the h*ll am I supposed to do it?
Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to be covering in the next few issues of the SEO School series.
Today’s topic – on-page ranking factors.
Did you know…
Google uses over 200 different factors to establish how to rank a site in search.
From the domain’s age, technical setup to content and the site’s authority, the search engine looks at various aspects of your website to establish where to display it in search results.
Now, we’re not going to cover all of them today.
But I’m going to show you the most important factors relating to how your pages are optimized.
Ready? Let’s do it…
1. Keyword in Title
The title meta-tag is by far the most important piece of content on a page (apart from its content, of course).
It’s one of the strongest relevancy signals search engine’s use to discern what the page is about.
Search engines also use the title tag to display the title of each search listing, i.e.:
Including a keyword in the title tag therefore sends a strong relevancy signal and tells search engines what phrases to rank the page for.
When writing title tags remember that the search engine typically displays the first 50-60 characters and might cut off the rest if they don’t fit on the screen.
To avoid that, keep your title tag below 55 characters.
The search engine also weights words to the left of the title tag more than those to the right. Therefore, when writing titles, position the most important words at the start of the title tag.
2. Keyword in Description Tag
Even though the description meta-tag seems to have lost a lot of its SEO significance, it can still send some relevancy signals to search engines.
Therefore, you should include your keyword in the meta-description tag too.
What’s more, search engines use it to display descriptions in search listings and thus, the description meta-tag is useful to increasing a click-through rate from organic results.
3. Keywords in the body copy
This goes without saying:
For your page to rank, you must include keywords in the body copy to make it relevant to the search query.
These days however you should be more strategic about how you use keywords in the copy. Simply stuffing the page with phrases you want to rank for is a surefire way to get your site penalized.
Instead, you should include them in naturally and write a highly relevant copy the search engine will deem worthy of showing to users looking for this information.
4. Keywords in H1 Tag
The main page heading, coded with the <h1> tag is the next, after the title tag, important relevancy signal telling search engines what the page is all about.
According to Chris Butterworth’s study for instance, pages with keywords in H1 tags generally ranked better than ones with keywords only in paragraphs or the body copy.
And thus, if possible, include your keyword in the H1 tag.
5. Content’s Length
There is an ongoing discussion about the length of online content and its affect on rankings.
But regardless of that, one thing is certain:
The more authoritative and informative is your content, the greater the chance that it will rank higher.
For one, pages with higher word count tend to attract more links.
By their nature, long and detailed posts provide a good reference others might use and link to from their posts.
They attract more social shares too.
Neil Patel discovered that his posts that were below 1500 words received less Facebook likes and Tweets than those over 1500 words.
(Image source: Quicksprout)
Longer content also attracts more long tail searches.
It’s only logical:
The more words on your page, the greater the chance of users finding it via long tail searches.
Long copy converts better than short one.
And lastly, longer content tends to generate a higher perception of authority and thus, converts better than shorter pages.
This is probably due to long content containing exhaustive information on the subject whereas short pages often only skim the information.
6. Presence of Schema Markup
Schema markup doesn’t affect rankings per se. Google has already stated that it doesn’t use micro data as a ranking signal.
It can however have a great effect on your click-through rate.
Including micro data however (i.e. online reviews, price or availability) will help a search engine to better interpret information on a web page, serve better results and increase your visibility and CTR.
Therefore, if you don’t have it already, include schema in your page’s markup to boost your SEO.
7. Images Optimized with Alt Tags
Optimizing images is a great way to send another relevancy signal to Google confirming what a page is all about. The easiest way to do it is by optimizing the image’s alt tag.
Alt tag is a little text in yellow box that appears when a cursor rolls over an image. The text itself is defined in the image’s HTML code and its role is to describe the image to Google.
Alt tag is a great opportunity to include a keyword on a page without risking over-optimization.
8. Outbound Links
This might be a very difficult ranking factor to comply with, especially on product pages.
Linking to other, authoritative domains in turn increases the authority of the linking page as well.
By linking out to another site, you send a strong trust signal to the search engine confirming that all you care about is to provide thorough information to users.
It’s hard to do that on product pages. After all, the last thing you want is to send visitors away.
If possible however, consider including links to external resources. And then set them to open in a new window to ensure that your page stays open in the user’s browser.
9. Frequency of Content Updates
It’s no secret that Google favors recently updated (or fresh) content. This is particularly important for time-sensitive queries.
It might however be difficult to keep on updating product or landing pages.
If possible though, keep the content on your site fresh. Even if you can’t update a particular page on regular basis, at least keep on adding new content (i.e. blog posts etc.) to make the site seem more alive.
Cross-linking pages on your domain is a great way to pass authority from more authoritative pages to those with a lower PageRank.
It is also quite easy to do on an ecommerce site. You could for instance refer users to documentation on another page or simply recommend other products they might be interested in.
11. Using Keyword in the URL
Including a keyword as part of your page’s URL is (apparently) another way to send a relevancy signal to Google.
Since your domain is set, the best place to include a keyword is in the URL slug – part of the web address after .com, .net or any other domain identifier, i.e.:
12. Duplicate Content
This is actually a negative ranking factor. Having content that’s identical or closely similar to another text on your domain could actually hurt your SEO efforts.
Duplicate content confuses search engines as to what is the original version of the content and what page they should display for a search query.
As a result, search engines might display a number of pages competing with one another or don’t display the content at all.
Creative commons image by ElWilliBobby / Flickr