How to optimize eCommerce category pages
Whether it’s your first time working on an eCommerce website, or you’ve got a whole portfolio of online retail projects under your belt, there’s always room for learning new things. It doesn’t matter if you prefer tinkering with the technical side, or letting your words flow into beautiful page copy; sometimes we all need a refresh of the fundamentals.
A major part of SEO for eCommerce is all about the on-page work; getting pages to outperform those of your competitors in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
This year more than ever, getting your product category pages well optimized is important. Not only are more shoppers relying on the internet for both essential and non-essential purchases, but there are more competitors taking up real estate online too, such as direct-to-consumer brands. Check out this article on Business Insider for more information on that.
That’s why we wanted to put together this resource; you may find it helpful for the coming weeks and months ahead. Want to know how to optimize eCommerce category pages? We’ve broken it down into two main sections: investigation and action. Let’s begin…
The investigation stage
The most successful projects always start in a good sleuthing session, and that isn’t any different when it comes to optimizing eCommerce category pages. The investigation stage precedes any action, as the idea is to gather as many insights as you can before you start to make a plan or strategy.
We think some of the major elements of the investigation stage are:
- Keyword research
- Competitor analysis
- SERP analysis
- Backlink checks
Aside from these areas, you’ll also need to spend a fair bit of time trawling over your analytics data to better understand user behavior and export relevant quantitative data.
The first stop on the investigative journey: keyword research. Even if you’ve done a keyword research project for the same eCommerce brand in the past, it’s time to consider whether your keyword set needs a bit of a refresh.
Seasonality, consumer demand, trends, and public needs can all affect search volumes and real traffic numbers, so it is sensible to revisit your keywords every so often.
As part of this work, you’ll want to make sure that each of your eCommerce category pages is assigned to different ‘buckets’ of keywords so they are not competing against each other (keyword cannibalization).
Next, you’ll want to snoop on your competitors. What is on their equivalent category page compared to yours? This is essentially a mini content audit, allowing you to start making comparisons and seeing trends.
Look at the page titles, subheadings, and metadata for a fuller understanding. And don’t be afraid to take a look at the code and see if there is any schema markup.
Now you’ll need to head back to the SERPs and manually search for your most important eCommerce category page keywords. By doing this, you’ll see which competitors are appearing in the results, and what type of results are listed as well.
Take note to check whether other category landing pages show up in the SERPs, or if there is a mix of different content. This may take the form of multimedia or could be informational content such as guides or how-tos.
This exercise can be helpful to understand how likely your own webpages will perform and compete with the other listings.
Lastly, don’t forget to check what is going on with your backlinks. Use Search Console and any other trusted tools to get insights on fresh and historic referring domains, and to see which pages they’re linking to.
Chances are that you may spot some broken links that you can solve with a redirect (or old school outreach), giving a slight boost to your category page. For all organic backlinks, it’s also interesting to see what anchor text the author used; maybe this is something to add to your keyword research piece.
As a bonus, you may also discover some technical issues by searching through backlinks. Think along the lines of users linking to an alternative URL that isn’t your primary category page. There may be some remedial work that comes from this exercise.
The action stage
Now for part two: the action stage. This is basically where you take all of your findings from your investigations, and turn them into tasks. Here are just some of the actions you may take:
- Adapt page length and quality
- Improve internal linking
- Refresh metadata
- Update headings & subheadings
Page length and quality
After checking the type of content that ranked for your important keywords, you should be able to piece together a plan for overhauling key category pages. At the moment, your page may be nothing more than some internal links, and this may not represent the market average.
Do you need to add more? Does your copy need to be more unique? Do you need to improve readability and accessibility? These are all questions you can ask yourself as you make your plan.
It’s important to remember that adding content just for the sake of it isn’t worthwhile. You need to make this decision based on the research you did in the first phase and remember not to compromise on UX in the process.
Internal linking strategy
If you’re adding a new category page, make sure to give it some love from other pages on your website. No web page wants to be all alone in isolation, or it may prove hard for users (and search engines) to find it in the first place!
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to new pages; a wider internal linking strategy may lead to gains across other pages too.
It’s probably fair to say that the bigger the eCommerce website, the more likely it is that metadata will be generated by a script or at least some form of spreadsheet logic. This works to tick the box for making sure each web page has the required metadata, but the lack of manual input can leave some pages a bit frosty.
Add some warmth back to the pages that you need to perform. Spend some time overriding the scripted metadata with some bespoke copy instead. You may find that you’re able to increase the relevancy of keywords used and may be more compelling for users to click-through from search engines too.
Headings & subheadings
Finally, give the same attention to your headings and subheadings. If there are a whole bunch of irrelevant subheadings at the h2 and h3 level (usually created as a design specification rather than denoting the importance of the text), get these resolved with your dev team. If this can be done at the template level, even better.
This will allow you to create much more relevant headings and subheadings on the category page, which is always an SEO win.