How to build an e-commerce SEO strategy for large retailers

Online retailers face a whole host of relatively unique search engine optimization (SEO) considerations most other websites don’t deal with.

Most discussions about those differences focus on issues such as tags, uniform resource locators (URLs), link structure, duplicate content and so on. In this post, I want to zoom out a bit and start talking about strategic approaches.

I’ve decided to focus specifically on three factors that deserve special attention in developing an SEO strategy for online retailers: keyword research, mobile crawling, and customer reviews. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe it’s a useful starting point.
Long-tail keyword research

To build a solid keyword strategy for your e-commerce site, you will need to determine how critical long-tail keywords are to your industry and your products, as well as to what extent you should focus on them.

Many SEO are still under the impression that long-tail keywords are naturally longer keyword phrases, or keyword variations listed at the bottom of your keyword tools when you sort through traffic.

This impression is fundamentally incorrect.

Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that:

Will not turn up in any keyword tool.
Will only show up in Google Analytics and the Google Search Console (if that).
Individually have very little traffic.
Are sometimes not searched more than once.
Make up the majority of search traffic on the web.

A pure short-tail keyword strategy is focused entirely on keywords that you will be able to find in your keyword tools.

A pure long-tail strategy is instead focused on addressing topics, questions, and problems that your audience is concerned with and elucidating those in comprehensive ways so that you can capture as many of these kinds of long-tail queries as possible. These terms tend to be closer to the bottom of the funnel.

For example, let’s take a look at Google Keyword Planner recommendations for “flowers”:

Short-tail keywords show up near the top:

“Medium-tail” keywords are those you can find in your keyword tools when you sort by minimal traffic, seasonality or niche, like this:

Capturing exact long-tail traffic isn’t just about working these medium-tail phrases into your content. It is about exploring these more in-depth queries in depth and addressing them in such a way that almost any foreseeable question somebody might ask about the topic is discussed.

Short-tail keywords tend to be associated with product pages, landing pages, lead magnets, blog posts targeting specific queries and related content, while long-tail keywords tend to be related to long-form blog content and guides. These are usually related to the top of the funnel.

Most good strategies will tackle both to some extent, but it’s crucial for you to understand how important the top of the funnel is for your business, how long the customer lifecycle is, how vital brand loyalty and customer retention are and so on, to prioritize how you approach your keyword strategy.
Voice search

The rise of voice search is an important consideration that is closely related to long-tail.

As more consumers use their phones to conduct searches, more of them are searching with conversation-like queries, as opposed to just typing in a few of the most relevant keywords and hitting “enter.”

While Google Hummingbird revamped the search engine individually to better interpret these kinds of queries, the importance of conversational search is not something CEOs should ignore as they develop and hone their strategies.

Decisions made here will often mirror those of a long-tail strategy, as opposed to a short-tail plan, but you will also need to factor in elements related to mobile vs. desktop behavior. For example, since shoppers tend to browse on mobile but buy on the desktop, product pages are still more likely to be visited from a desktop.

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