The EZ Ecommerce SEO Checklist
In brief: Some aspects of Search Engine Optimization may be a bit arcane but the main principles are pretty clear. As an ecommerce company you need every bit of help to secure the competitive edge. The following checklist form a baseline for what I call a "search friendly" site. Failure to adhere to these principles will definitely harm your business.
The Ecommerce SEO Checklist
The goal of all SEO is to achieve "keyword mojo" in the mind of Google. To do this, we have three areas of concern.
- On-page: Refers to the keyword optimizations you make in your web page code. This has fairly little SEO importance but is easy to control.
- Sitewide: The navigation and linking structure you use across your site. This is very important and within your control.
- Off-site: The links coming into your site. This is extremely important but very difficult to control.
For items #1 and #2 you should define good company policies. For #3 you should have an effective link-building strategy -- and that strategy should be integrated into your business process.
#1 On-Page Search Optimization - Basic Keyword Clarity
Google advises: "Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it." (Google Webmaster Guidelines)
To achieve good keyword focus, limit yourself to just one keyword per content page. Appropriate use of your keyword won't shoot you to the top of the search engines but it can help a little, especially if your keyword is not highly competitive.
Consider on-page keyword optimization to be a freebie because it's so easy. Just don't go overboard and annoy your visitors.
- Distinguish between "content" and "administrative" pages - then optimize only content pages.
- Choose just one keyword phrase per content page (how? see Building a Keyword Ladder)
- Use the keyword in your page's file name; delimit with dashes (eg. keyword-marketing-ladder.html)
note: modify your forum and CMS software to do follow all these rules.
- Use keyword in the page title, "meta description" (twice if possible) .
- Place the keyword in the "meta keywords" area. This is only for your own reference.
- Use keyword in a headline (use H1 or H2). Usually this is your page title.
- Use keyword several times in the body text where reasonable.
- Make sure your content is useful. Ok, search engines aren't that smart, but visitors are.
- Don't stuff the keyword everywhere. It destroys your content without helping.
- Don't stuff the keyword in alt tags: It doesn't help and you go to hell for screwing with blind people.
#2 Site Optimization - Search-Friendly Site Structure
Site Optimization is the most powerful SEO area over which you have total control! Site optimization is all about how you link your pages together. If done properly, it can have a significant impact -- all the more so because most companies cannot or will not make the effort.
The core idea is this: the search engine primarily knows your pages by through links and link text. Always link to a page with the same URL and try to use the target keyword whenever possible.
- Don't use both www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com. Pick one or the other and stick to it. (Otherwise your SE Mojo will be shared with a 'ghost' site.)
- Don't link to your home page as index.html. Google only knows pages by link target -- so you can easily divide your home page mojo by four just by linking to it in these four different ways: http://mysite.com/, http://mysite.com/index.html, http://www.mysite.com, http://www.mysite.com/index.html
- Each content page should be linked to with one consistent keyword-friendly URL, and never with parameters -- ever.
bad link: "click here for split testing tools" - this just confuses the search engine
good link: "click here for split testing tools"
- Don't link back to your home page with the link text "home"... unless you're Home Depot.
- All links to non-content pages, such as your "Login" page, should include rel="nofollow".
This conserves your precious search engine mojo for real content pages. Warning: highly controversial tactic!
eg: <a href="contact.htm" rel="nofollow">Contact Us</a>
- Interlink between content pages from within paragraph text. These links seem to "count" more.
eg: As I was saying, ebiz-monitor is a free tool which protects your site from downtime!
- When linking to external websites, always use rel="nofollow" unless you are willing to vouch for the quality of that site. Remember, a link is a "vote" for which your site is held responsible.
#3 Off-Site SEO Optimization - Your Link Building Strategy
Offsite optimization is all about acquiring quality inbound keyword links. It's by far the most important area of SEO -- and also the hardest because you can't use Jedi mind-control to get webmasters to link to your site (confirmed with extensive testing). And when webmasters do link to your site, how are you going to get them to use the correct keywords? Moreover, nowadays you need lots of "deep links" into your content, not just home-page links which are easy to get from directories.
Conventional wisdom says that the best way to get lots of incoming links is to have great content. We'll, that's just a dumb thing that people say because they don't have a good plan. The best way is to have good content and a good plan of action!
You're in business on the internet so you should treat traffic acquisition through link building as a business necessity. For the long term success, you must try to develop a link-building strategy which is completely integrated into your business process to keep those links building over time.
- Submit your site to all the standard directories, at minimum to DMOZ:
- Submit article-style content to for syndication, making sure your content contains many keyword links back to your other content pages. This will get you hundreds of quality keyword links.
- Periodic press releases. They don't have to be expensive, here are some free ones that get items into Google News:
- Create a Google site map and submit it to Google. (Effectiveness yet unknown.)
- Create RSS feeds of your content and submit to various feed lists. This method will get you several hundred minor links per content page. Here is a huge list of sites that accept feed submissions: RSS Submission
- Have a mailing list of loyal customers? (no? stop and learn about email marketing) Offer them a free surprise gift for "help getting the word out" on a new product page. Provide link text which they can use in their blogs and home pages.
- Add a "link to this page" box on every content page to encourage deep-linking with the right keywords
- Bribe casual visitors to link to you. Offer them something cool, a free product -- anything in exchange for a home-page link. Those links are gold -- especially since you provide the keyword-correct link text.
- Give away free stuff like software. With software create a PAD file and upload it to the ASP PAD Repository. This will get you several hundred minor links per item.
- Even better, give away free web tools or scripts that perform some service but also add links back to your site. Ever notice all the high-ranking web counter sites? Now take it a step further by making sure your keyword is in the link text. For example, check out eBiz-Monitor.
- Locate quality sites linking to your competitor - contact the owner and suggest that they mention your site as an alternative option for their visitors. It's amazing how many quality links you can get just by asking politely.
- Don't bother with reciprocal links, classifieds, search engine submission etc.
- Don't pay anyone to "submit your site to the search engines". All you get for your money is spam.
- Come up with a strategy to make link growth a part of your business process. So you can keep your focus on the business while your link base keeps growing.
- As you discover killer link-building strategies, remember not to give them all away. ;)