Piggybacking off the most popular free CMS in the world (that being WordPress), the WooCommerce plugin offers a massive amount of functionality at no additional cost, transforming a basic blog site into a fully-featured ecommerce store.
But as anyone familiar with ecommerce knows, having all the handy functions under the sun won’t do you much good if no one can find your website. That’s where SEO comes in. Search engine optimization is all about tweaking your content and your technical setup to make your site exactly what search engines like Google are looking for.
Since WooCommerce is very welcoming to beginners, it’s quite likely that a significant portion of its user base isn’t all too familiar with SEO in general, let alone SEO specific to WooCommerce (and WordPress by extension). But fear not — we can fix that!
In this piece, we’re going to take a detailed look at WooCommerce SEO, laying out how you can turn your WooCommerce store into prime Google fare. Let’s get started.
Set realistic goals and expectations
SEO is an interesting discipline because there’s a layer of abstraction between the work and the results. Search companies closely guard the secrets of their algorithms so people can’t exploit them so easily, so there isn’t a clear one-to-one relationship between SEO changes and specific ranking improvements. As such, when I talk about goals here, I’m talking about work goals —- not result goals.
Setting an SEO result like ranking number one for a particular term as a goal is only advisable if you have a massive budget and can throw money at every conceivable angle, and even if you’re absolutely sure that your website beats every similar page out there, you’re still not guaranteed to hit the top spot.
Instead, base your SEO goals on what you can justify, which will depend on your budget, your free time, and what changes you think you can make. Using a self-hosted solution like WooCommerce is trickier than using a hosted solution, and tends to attract smaller businesses without huge sums of money to spend, so money is presumably still a concern — as such, I’m going to focus on efficient and cost-effective improvements.
Review competitor sites
It’s always important to know what you’re competing with, particularly when you’re running a relatively small store and will invariably be compared to well-established retailers. Do some wide-ranging research across other ecommerce stores in your field, other WooCommerce sites, and any large retail sites you think work particularly well. Take note of what you like and what you don’t like, paying particular attention to easy opportunities for improvement.
Think about elements such as tone, readability, density, style, colour, and layout. All of this information will prove useful when it comes time to optimize your site. Remember that you’re not looking to steal specific pieces of other sites — rather, you’re looking to gauge the general quality levels so you can find simple ways to beat them.
Ideally, you’ll find some notable elements that are A: not that impressive on the sites you find, and B: straightforward to improve upon. This is all about what’s known as the skyscraper method, something very important for time-starved content creators — it consists of finding the best site for something, beating it (however narrowly), and winning its traffic.
Conduct keyword research
When a prospective customer searches for a term relevant to your business, your store is very unlikely to appear in the search results if the term they searched for does not appear anywhere on your site. Whether you’re looking to bring some traffic to your blog or drive people to visit (and buy from) your store, you need keyword-focused copy that makes it abundantly clear to any search crawlers what topics are being discussed.
To that end, carrying out keyword research is a vital and unmissable step before you make any changes to your site. Having identified important keywords, you’ll be able to scatter them appropriately throughout your content, thus improving your chances of ranking for those search terms. There are numerous good keyword tools out there, but I suggest you start with Ubersuggest, Keyword Tool, and Google Trends.
Type in topics and terms related to your ecommerce area and see what results you get. For instance, if you sell hats for cats, you might want to look up “hats for cats” or “cat hats” to see what other terms come up for the topic. You may find that unfamiliar terms like “caps for kitties” or “fedoras for felines” are more common than you’d have thought, making them important inclusions in your revised content lineup. With some keywords picked out, we can move on to the exciting WooCommerce-specific parts. Let’s do it!
Install vital plugins
WordPress is a system that relies heavily on plugins, and even though WooCommerce itself is a plugin, you can still use other plugins alongside it. Yoast SEO is one such plugin — in fact, it’s one of the most commonly-used and acclaimed WordPress plugins out there. What the Yoast SEO plugin does is greatly expand the range of SEO-related actions and reporting options available to the WordPress admin.
You can visit the Yoast SEO site right here, and either download the free version or pay £79 (at the time of writing) for the Premium version. Given that the Premium key functions indefinitely, I recommend buying it, as it’s likely to serve you well for years to come and the cost over that amount of time isn’t significant.
If you need some assistance, you can check out the installation guide linked in the download pop-up window. It should all be simple enough, and once you have it installed, you just need to keep it updated when you can. Pretty easy! At a minimum, you should start using the Yoast SEO plugin to ensure that every page has content that meets or exceeds a solid standard, because consistent quality is important for site authority.
Alongside Yoast SEO, if you haven’t done so already, you should install a basic Google Analytics plugin and link it to a Google account. There’s no way of retroactively collecting analytics data, so the earlier you start collecting it, the more you’ll have to examine in the future — and knowing what kind of traffic you’re receiving will be very important for SEO!
Review content elements
Using Yoast SEO, you should take a close look at the following elements, then address any glaring issues you can find:
- Product descriptions. Some online store owners use the default product descriptions provided by the manufacturers, but this isn’t a good idea because it results in generic, listless copy. Write your own product descriptions in a fresh tone.
- Page titles. Every page title should succinctly define the content and purpose of the page while including the primary keyword.
- Headings and subheadings. Each heading or subheading should sensibly introduce the following section in a way that a person or a search crawler could understand.
- Meta descriptions. Meta descriptions don’t affect how search engine algorithms view your pages, but they can affect how searchers view the results. A good description will lure people in, while a bad one will drive them away.
- Content uniqueness. Every section of content should be unique with no duplication. Google frowns upon duplicate content and sees it as spammy.
- Featured images. Breaking up your content is important for digestibility. Every important page should have a high-quality featured image with alt text that accurately describes (important for accessibility).
Content length isn’t inherently that important for SEO in the context of ecommerce (a focused ecommerce product page could contain fairly few words and still be a great page), but do make sure that you provide useful detail where possible. The better the on-page experience, the longer people will spend on your page, and the better Google will perceive it to be.
Check technical SEO factors
Outside of the content on your pages, there are various technical factors that affect SEO and can cause issues with your rankings. Use Yoast SEO and your general WooCommerce settings to look at the following:
- URL structure. The content hierarchy implied by your URL structure should make the structure of your site clear for search engines and visitors. If you sold a plastic car as part of a range of vehicles in your toy inventory, you could give it a URL of com/toys/vehicles/plastic-car — that would make it clear where the page fit into the overall site, whereas something like yoursite.com/plasca152 would not.
- Page speed. Shoppers are very impatient, and they won’t stick around for very long if your page is loading sluggishly. Try running a speed test on your site to see how it fares — perhaps PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom — and if it’s quite slow, look to speed it up by getting better hosting, lowering your image sizes, and/or installing a plugin such as WP Super Cache.
- Mobile responsiveness. Mobile buying has become the default in the ecommerce world, and the trend is only going to continue, so your site has to look great on mobile devices. Not only do you need a good touchscreen-friendly navigation, but you also need to make sure that all of your content renders well on smartphone devices. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how your site rates — if you get a poor rating, you may want to look into switching to a more mobile-friendly WooCommerce theme.
- Social media integration. Search engines look to the flow of recommendations to and from social media channels and use that information to infer authority and legitimacy. Not only can you find WordPress plugins to add social media links to your pages, but you can also make tweaks through Yoast SEO to ensure that your page looks professional when linked to through social media.
Since these elements apply sitewide, it’s usually advisable to address them before you worry too much about your content. It’s simply more efficient to do things that way.
Start blogging (if you can do it well)
Content marketing can be great, but it’s highly variable and quality-dependent. No amount of terrible content is ever going to bring in visitors and boost your rankings, so if you can’t write at all, or you have nothing to say, or you simply don’t have the time to blog, then don’t worry about it and don’t make any half-hearted efforts to try.
If you have expertise in your area, though, and you can commit a consistent level of time and effort to blogging, then go for it! Make each piece as good as it can be, optimising it for all the SEO factors we’ve covered, and make a concerted effort to get the word out about your content. Send links to people you know in the industry, share work through social media, and generally make a buzz.
Do this for long enough, putting out useful and/or entertaining content and sending it around, and you’ll pick up more relevant traffic — and the better-optimised your site has become, the more of those visitors will stick around and become customers. In the end, ecommerce SEO is about covering all the bases, making everything at least a little bit better so that there are fewer obstacles between someone wanting to purchase something and choosing to purchase from you.
Well, there you have it — your ultimate guide to WooCommerce SEO. We’ve gone through setting goals, reviewing competitor sites, conducting keyword research, installing helpful plugins, improving content, fixing technical issues, and getting started with content marketing (so there’s plenty to get on with).
Overall, WooCommerce (and WordPress beneath it) is a great platform for SEO, because it’s user-friendly, accessible, and supports a vast range of excellent plugins. With a bit of time and effort, you can turn a WooCommerce store into an outstanding search performer at a fraction of the cost of a comparable hosted store. Good luck!