Creating an online store with BigCommerce is incredibly easy. You just need to set up an account and your store will be almost ready to go. I love how its interface is very straight forward. You can easily choose a theme and add some products and watch your online store magically come to life.
However, selling online doesn’t end with just having an online store. An online store is just the first step after all. You still need to promote your store in order to get some sales.
One of the ways to drive more people into your website is through SEO. SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of tweaking aspects of the website so as to make it rank higher on the search engines.
Today, you’ll learn how to do SEO on your BigCommerce online store.
5-STEP BigCommerce SEO Guide
BigCommerce SEO is not that hard. All it takes are 5 simple steps. You’ll find that each step will build upon one another. As you learn one, the other becomes easier to do.
STEP 1: Keyword Research
STEP 2: Competitor Analysis
STEP 3: Onpage Optimization
STEP 4: Content Marketing
STEP 5: User Experience Optimization
Unlike other guides that shows you a brief description on the importance of each step, this guide will provide an overview as well as the importance of each step for an eCommerce website owner.
Get ready to learn more about eCommerce SEO below.
STEP #1: Keyword Research
You cannot expect your online store to rank higher on the search engines if you are targeting the wrong keywords. Only through focused optimization will you be able to rank a page for a particular keyword. What is focused optimization? This is when you already know the keyword that you plan to rank for and you focus on that. How can you know? Keyword research.
Lucky for you, keyword research is quite easy to do. Thanks to Google, there is a free keyword tool called the Adwords Keyword Planner that you can use to find keyword ideas and see the monthly searches and competition level for each keyword.
NOTE: You may need to set up a campaign to be able to use the Keyword Planner. Just set up an account on Adwords and set up a campaign. You can then pause the campaign and just use the Google Keyword Planner.
The Keyword Planner is very wise. You can input one word or phrase and it will immediately generate some related keywords and phrases.
For example, let’s search for a keyword.
You’ll then see the search volume and the competitor level.
One of the things I love about the Keyword Planner is that you can use it to steal keywords from your competitors.
All you have to do is key in the URL of your competitor in the landing page section.
This will show you the keywords that your competitor is currently targeting.
But there is a problem with using Google Keyword Planner.
First, it doesn’t really provide an accurate view on how competitive a keyword is in terms of SEO. Remember, the tool is designed for Adwords advertisers. This means that the competition level that you see in the tool doesn’t really pertain to how hard it is to rank on the search engines. Instead, it pertains to the volume of competing Adwords advertisers. Those two are completely different from each other. This is the reason why depending on these metrics will hardly give you the result that you desire.
Fortunately, there are other tools that you can use.
First is Ahrefs.
Ahrefs is a set of tools designed for SEO and marketing. When you sign up, you can honestly say that there is no other tool like it. It is like an all-in-one tool that has everything you need. It has tools for keyword research, link research, competitor analysis, etc. I personally prefer working with Ahrefs because it has all the tools you need in one location. No need to subscribe and spend on multiple tools.
Doing keyword research on Ahrefs is quite easy. You just need to learn a few terms along the way. In Ahrefs, there are two concepts that you must learn. These are KD or Keyword Difficulty and UR or URL Rating.
What is Keyword Difficulty?
Ahrefs has set up a system to determine the difficulty of a keyword. This is where it came up with KD and it goes like this.
As you can see on the scale, Ahrefs created the KD score based on the number of referring domains that competitors have. If a competitor has 0-10 referring domains, then that keyword is easy to rank for. However, if it has over 200 domains, ranking for that particular keyword can be quite hard.
I love the KD factor in Ahrefs because it tells you straight away on whether a keyword is worth ranking for. If it is too hard, it will tell you to just look for other keywords.
How does Ahrefs come up with KD? Well, it computes this number based on the first 10 pages on the search engine results. Why does it focus on the top 10 websites? Well, Ahrefs thinks that websites below the top 10 is not really worth examining. You need to triumph over the top 10 to rank in the front page anyway.
From here, they look at the trust factor as well as the backlinks and user behavior in the website. They used this to determine the KD factor.
What is URL Rating?
Meanwhile, you’ll also see an acronym called UR. This pertains to URL Rating. It is the rating on the level of quality of the links of a particular website. The makers of Ahrefs takes multiple factors into considerations. First, they look at the the traffic, then they look at the surrounding text. Third, they look at the anchor text as well as the number of links that a website has. Even the speed on how the links are acquired are considered.
Why learn about UR? Well, you will need to learn more about your competitors in order to rank above them. You need more than just numbers. You also need to learn about their quality. UR is a very good indicator of that. In fact, it seems that Ahrefs even recommends it as a top factor for ranking on the search engines.
Use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
Now that you know what you are looking for, it is time to use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer.
In here, all you need to do is plug in your main keyword in the search bar then it will instantly generate metrics for that particular keyword.
The first thing that you will see is KD. This the reason why I told you earlier that you must understand it before you use the tool. If you don’t understand KD, you’ll not be able to assess the quality of the keyword you just plugged in.
Aside from KD, you’ll also get other details such as search volume as well as other keyword ideas. I think that these are valuable because it allows you to create keyword spreadsheets on the fly.
Another keyword research tool that I love is SEMRush. Like Ahrefs, SEMRush also offers multiple tools in one place. It has tools for keyword research, link research and even has the capability for tracking traffic.
First, I think that the tool is amazing when it comes to looking at a keyword’s metrics. Just look at all the metrics that it generates.
One of the metrics that it provides is the search volume. This is a good metric because you need to know if a keyword is worth ranking for. There is no use ranking for a keyword that will only get trickles of traffic each month. With this, you need to make sure that the keyword gets a considerable amount of traffic. You need good traffic for it to be profitable.
The other thing that SEMRush provides is the trend. I think that you will not see this in Ahrefs. Why does it show the trend? Because it wants to give you an idea if the search volume for that keyword will be consistent. If the surge in searches is just a one-time thing, then it will hardly be profitable for you. You need to target keywords that will have a consistent number of searches all throughout the year.
If you need some keyword ideas, then you will also love the phrase match option. This will show you keywords that has your main keyword in it. Aside from showing metrics, this makes SEMRush a great keyword idea generator. The best part? You get metrics for each keyword idea. You also get the search volume, KD, CPC, Trends and others for each keyword.
Once you are done, you can choose to export all of your keywords into a spreadsheet file. This will allow you to use the list in other programs.
Going through the list, you may find that some keywords may not be useful for your BigCommerce store. That’s okay. You can always tick off keywords that are not as useful to you.
SEMRush is really useful when it comes to generating lots of keyword ideas. But its power doesn’t stop in Phrase Match. If you have tried phrase match, you’ll see how it generates a list of keywords like the one below. You can also easily export this list into a spreadsheet.
But there’s more to it than just a list. You can also use the tool to uncover some longtail keywords. Finding longtails is as easy as clicking ‘advanced filters’ and choosing the Number of Words. I suggest that you choose 3 to 4.
When you do this, the tool will automatically create a list of only 3-word keywords.
And if you want longer keywords, you can just change the number.
Here’s what the tool did when I did that.
You can also experiment with the tool some more and see if it can generate longer keywords.
NOTE: You may have also heard of longtail keywords. Longtail keywords are keywords that has 3 or more words. This can look like phrases but they are usually typed in together when someone search for it. It may be good to target longtail keywords for the low competition. The longer the keyword, the lower the competition.
However, merely focusing on longtail keywords rarely works. While it can give trickles of traffic into your website, it will not rank as high as it used to in the old days. Here’s the thing. When you heard the advice that you should optimize your online store for longtail keywords, a million other eCommerce website owners heard about that as well. With that, it may be better to look at what your competitors are doing instead.
STEP #2: Competitor Analysis
You will need to do competitor analysis if you want to beat them on the search engines. Have you ever wondered about what your competitor is doing to rank? Well, there are now some tools that can help you with that.
What is Competitor Analysis?
Before we go into the process, let us first define what competitor analysis means. Competitor analysis simply pertains to the process at looking at the characteristics of a competing website so as to find out how it managed to rank highly on the search engines. It is a process that has been used by SEOs since year 2000 and it is a good way to get higher rankings for a shorter period of time.
One of the things that you can analyze is your competitor’s keywords. For that, you can use Ahrefs.
When you input a competitor website in Ahrefs, you’ll instantly see the KD of its top pages. From here, you can look at the keywords that each page is using.
Once you sort the KD, you’ll be able to find plenty of opportunities from just one website.
You can find more keywords by clicking Top Pages and then choose Organic Keywords.
Just look at all the keywords that it generates.
I always make it a point to sort the KD from lowest to highest. This shows the keywords that are easier to rank for on the top of the page.
Another way to use Ahrefs is to use it to harvest longtail keywords.
You can do this by clicking the Anchor Text option and click on ‘4-word’. This will give you a list of longtails that you can export.
You may need to look through the list to find some hidden gems. Not all of them will be useful but you’ll be surprised that there are some keywords that are incredibly easy to rank for.
Aside from stealing keywords, you can also use competitor analysis to steal backlinks. All you need to do is plug in the website in a competitor analysis tool like Ahrefs and it will immediately show you all the backlinks that a particular website has.
Here’s an example.
From here, you can visit every competitor backlink and find out how you can get the same ranking.
BONUS: You can also see the lost backlinks of your competitors in Ahrefs. This allows you to visit these links and steal them.
NOTE: While the idea of competitor analysis may seem easy, you’ll find that some links are just too hard to get. When you hit this roadblock, I advise that you look for links that are of the same quality but are not necessarily from the same website.
ANOTHER NOTE: Having content that is worth linking to may put you a notch higher than your competitor. It is useless to ask for a link if they don’t have a reason to share your website. Unfortunately, website owners are not as kind as to share your site just to help you. You need to give them a good reason to do that.
STEP #3: Onpage Optimization
Next, you’ll need to optimize your website for better rankings. For this section, you will need to do multiple steps to get your website ready for search engine indexing.
A. Start with the Title and Description
First, begin with the title and description of your online store. This should include the main keyword that you like your store to rank for. You can edit the main store by going into Store Setup and then choosing Store Settings.
From here, you can scroll down and look at the Search Engine Optimization Box. This will contain the Home Page Title, Meta Keywords and Meta Description. Be sure to include your main keywords in these places.
B. Sort Your Products into Categories
Another strategy that may help you in ranking is sorting your products into categories. Aside from the fact that this make your website easier to navigate, categories can also help you rank higher on the search engines for category keywords. This is really helpful if you have brand names or custom names for your products. It will allow you to connect them to a particular keyword that you want them to rank for.
You can change your product’s categories in the Products > Product Categories in BigCommerce. From here, you can use your keywords as category names.
C. Add some Breadcrumbs
Do you see the navigation text with arrows at the top of a product page? Those are breadcrumbs. This helps you in two ways: First, it informs the buyer on where they are in your site. Second, it includes your category and sub-category keywords in your product page – pretty neat, huh? It is very useful for SEO for it will automatically populate your content with related keywords. If you know the new policy of Google on related keywords (they call it LSI keywords), they have the tendency to rank pages higher if they contain related words instead of repeating the same keyword.
D. Optimize your Photos
Every eCommerce website has thousands of product photos. Since there are too many photos, website owners are usually too lazy to optimize any of them. Some website owners just copy the photo from another website and paste it into theirs. They don’t know that this is bad for SEO.
You see, search engine robots are image-blind. This means that while they understand words quite well, they still don’t have the capability to discern images like the human mind. Because of this, ALT text is created. This is the tag where you can insert a description to an image so as to inform the search engine robot on what the image is about.
While some items in your website may be similar, it is important to include a unique description for each photo. This will help you avoid the duplicate content penalty.
Having an ALT text has its benefits. First, it increases the chances of your photo being indexed in Google Images. This will give your website more exposure. Second, it also allows you to track people who may have used your images. So when someone searched for one of your images and copied it, you can ask them to give credit to you (It is also good for image reclamation for getting extra backlinks).
You can edit your product images in BigCommerce by going to Products > View. From here, you can click on a product and it will show this dashboard. Click on the Images and Videos tab on top.
In this section, you will be asked to drag and drop your product image. Once you do that, it will be uploaded and you’ll be asked to change the description. For SEO purposes, it will be include your main keyword in this section.
Don’t worry if you typed in the description wrong. You can always click on the ellipsis and you can edit the description anytime you want.
If you need to upload items in bulk, you can also use the built-in image manager in BigCommerce.
E. Beware of Duplicate Content
As much as having thousands of products can make you lazy about creating titles and descriptions, you should make an effort to come up with unique descriptions for each product. Why? You have to do it to avoid the duplicate content penalty.
I have seen so many eCommerce website owners copy item databases and just paste it into their website. While this allows them to set up an online store from the ground up in just a few minutes, there is a danger of the duplicate content penalty in this setup. It is better if you take the time to go through each product to change its description.
As I have told you earlier, you can change a product’s description by clicking on the ellipsis on the side. Then, you can save your new description.
Don’t have the time to go through all of your products? No problem! You can always hire a virtual assistant. There are plenty of them online and they will be ever so willing to do the encoding for you.
F. Optimize Your Product Descriptions
While you’re creating unique product descriptions, you should also aim to optimize the descriptions for your target keywords. Remember the keywords that you have gathered in step one? Now is the time to use these descriptions.
How can you use these keywords?
As for me, I use my main keyword in the first sentence as close to the beginning as possible. This allows the search engines to easily see the keyword and relate it to my product.
Then, I sprinkle all the related keywords in the first paragraph. That’s it.
What about features?
I list them in bullets. I include images if I can and this will make the whole description completely unique.
Onpage optimization is a very important step in SEO. Some websites find that they can rank pages just by doing a few of these minor tweaks.
NOTE: Forget keyword stuffing. Use your keywords sparingly and be sure that they are highly relevant to your content. There is no use forcing keywords into your description if it will only make it look unnatural.
STEP #4: Content Marketing
Content marketing is perhaps the one thing that separates a good eCommerce marketer from a bad one. Some eCommerce website owners are merely contented with having a store. What they do is that they create a store, populate it with products and then go on their way to promotion. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, it can be quite a hard sell. Soon, these website owners find that it is harder to sell their products to a market that doesn’t care.
Then come the good eCommerce marketer. This marketer understands how to convince people to buy from a certain online store. You give them a greater reason than just giving them the product that they need. You need to give something more – and this can be content.
It is for this reason that some eCommerce website owners now have blogs. They now do more than just sell products. They also aim to help the community with information. Of course, content can vary from niche to niche. Common types of content are product reviews, product comparisons and tips and tricks that are relevant to the niche.
BigCommerce has a blog option that you can use. You no longer need to install a new blog in WordPress. Just go to Storefront Content and go to Blog. This will allow you to add blogposts.
You should then create your content based on some of the main keywords you found in your keyword research and competitor analysis. When you do your research, you’ll find that some keywords are geared towards providing information. You have to use these keywords in your blogposts.
if you scroll down, you’ll see that each blogpost in BigCommerce also has the option to edit the SEO details of each blogpost. It allows you to edit the Post URL and add a meta description. I think that this is quite neat.
STEP #5: User Experience Optimization
Don’t forget that you have created this website for your visitors. While your goal is to rank it higher on the search engines, user experience should still be your priority.
The first thing that you should consider is site speed. Most users will leave your website if it does not load in the first 30 seconds. Be sure to test your website’s speed from time to time.
For this, I love to use Google PageSpeed Insights. I love that it also has some advice on how to optimize your page so as to make it faster.
You may also want to test your theme to see if it something that your customer wants. In BigCommerce, you have the option to change your theme. In fact, you can change it right from the dashboard.
Just go to Storefront Design and click on My Themes.
There are also tons of themes in the marketplace to choose from.
The possibilities for design is endless.
Second, don’t hesitate to ask your users for feedback. Ask them if some aspects of your website is bothering them. Why ask them? Well, website owners usually view their website in a different light than users. It is important to take user feedback into consideration to get an accurate perspective on how users view the website.
An easy way to generate a survey for your website is to use SurveyMonkey. It is a tool that allows you to create a survey in minutes.
Another tool that you can use if you don’t have money is Google Forms. The best part is that it inputs all the answers in one Excel file.
This guide contains 5 steps to proper SEO: keyword research, competitor analysis, onpage optimization, content marketing and user experience optimization. They may seem very basic but I believe that all eCommerce website owners (BigCommerce users or not) should use them to rank their sites higher on the search engines.
What do you think of the guide? Do you need more tips on how to optimize your BigCommerce stores? Tell me all about it below.