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9 rules to follow for effective ecommerce SEO and product descriptions
Search engine optimization (SEO), the process of improving your site to help it rank highly in search results, drives organic traffic to your online store, boosting your reputation and authority over time.
But for most business owners, ecommerce SEO seems complicated, technical, and confusing. You know you need to pay attention to the details—like the number of keywords you use on your product pages and where you put them—but you don’t know what the ‘rules’ are.
This guide shows you exactly what you need to do to create better ecommerce SEO and product descriptions.
You’ll walk away with nine rules to follow to improve the visibility of your product pages and the experience of your customers—leading to higher conversion rates and increased customer satisfaction.
9 guidelines to write amazing product descriptions for search engines and people
According to research by Digital Commerce 360, most visitors arrive at a Top 1000 ecommerce store through organic search. If you want more traffic to your site, optimizing organic search is key to making that happen.
In addition to increasing traffic and leads, SEO helps your ecommerce business build authority. Search engines see your site as more trustworthy and relevant, leading you to rank higher on results pages. When you rank higher, you increase your visibility and brand awareness and reduce spend on paid ads.
Writing for search engines may bring traffic to your site, but it won’t help it convert. And as Google gets better at processing content, it’s now more important than ever to write for users.
So, how do you optimize for search engines and still write product descriptions for real human readers? At the end of the day, the two goals are not too different: a search engine is a tool that helps real people get answers to real questions. The end goal is to improve the experience for users by connecting them with what they need.
Let’s look at nine ways to write effective SEO product descriptions that will also improve your user experience (UX):
1. Keep the search intent top-of-mind
When in doubt, frame every decision you make from the searcher’s point of view.
Understanding a shopper’s search intent—what they’re looking for and why—is the key to choosing keywords that helps your site rank higher and draws the right customers to your page.
There are four types of search intent:
Informational intent is when a searcher looks for more information on a topic. For example, they may google ‘What gear do you need to ski.’
Commercial intent means a searcher intends to purchase, but they still want to gather research on the item. For example, they may type ‘best ski jacket’ into the search bar.
Navigational intent is when a searcher looks for a specific site or page. For example, they may search for ‘Backcountry’ or ‘Backcountry customer service.’
Transactional intent, also known as purchase intent, means a user searches with the specific goal of buying an item. For example, they might look for ‘Helly Hansen ski jacket.’
Kai Cromwell, the founder of ecommerce SEO company New Seas, says, “For product and category pages, choose keywords that have a high buying or purchase intent. When someone searches for these keywords, they’re at the bottom of the funnel and ready to buy your product.”
For example, while you might optimize a blog with ‘best gear for skiing’ for informational intent searchers at the beginning of the customer journey, you’d use the keyword ‘buy men’s ski gear’ for a category page.
But you don’t need to be a mind reader to determine what searchers are thinking. Hotjar’s Ask tools help you understand users’ intent better. For example, you can put a Feedback widget on a product page or launch a short Survey that asks questions like, “What brought you here today?” or “Did you find what you were looking for?”
2. Don’t skimp on keyword research
You know choosing the right keywords is essential for great ecommerce SEO. But with so many possibilities, where do you start?
1. Brainstorm first: start with the most obvious search term and then add descriptors or modifiers that people might tack onto it to create long-tail keywords—questions or longer search queries. For example, you might start with ‘tea kettle.’ Then build off that to create options like ‘electric tea kettle’ or ‘tea kettle with infuser.’
2. Modify your list with search auto-suggests: this will give you more ideas of related, commonly searched-for terms. For online stores, Google is a great place to start, but ecommerce websites like Amazon or Etsy might give you even more inspiration.
3. Research competitors’ keywords: continue expanding your list by looking at what competitors are using as keywords. Check for commonly used phrases in their product titles and descriptions.
4. Use free or paid SEO keyword research tools: these tools help you generate more keyword ideas or whittle down your existing list. Look at each term’s search volume (anything over 20 is worth considering) and difficulty (a score between 0-100 that indicates how competitive the term is—the lower the score, the easier it is to rank).
3. Use keywords strategically
It’s easy to go overboard on the keywords—this is actually a case where more doesn’t equal better.
Keyword stuffing often decreases the quality of the user experience, causing a potential buyer to bounce. Google’s algorithms are more sophisticated than ever, and the user’s average session duration is important, too (but more on that later).
For ecommerce SEO purposes, it’s more important to position your target keyword strategically throughout, than randomly placing keywords on your pages and risk overwhelming users with unnecessary content.
Kai suggests including them in the page title, meta title, meta description, URL, headings, image alt text, and file name. He says it’s also helpful to work your keywords into the first or last couple of sentences of your content.
Use your target keyword naturally throughout the copy. There’s no magic number you need to hit.
4. Create engaging descriptions
By using clear, descriptive product descriptions, you give shoppers the information they need to make their decision to buy from you, making the UX less stressful and more enjoyable.
Typically, writing 300-500 words is the sweet spot for SEO-friendly descriptions that provide the right amount of detail. Still, most people won’t read every word in your descriptions. Keep the copy skimmable with short sentences and paragraphs, formatting like bullets and bolding, and clear headings.
“Use multiple H2s [sub-headers] on your product page to break up the content and direct users’ eyes exactly where you want them to go,” Kai advises. “Be sure to include your target keyword in the H2, too.”
💡Pro tip: make sure your product descriptions work for SEO and real users. Not sure if your descriptions are clear or compelling enough to drive conversions? Use Hotjar Engage, which lets you schedule, record, and share user interviews.
Conduct five to seven interviews with people who fit your ideal customer profile (ICP) to see what works and what’s missing from your product pages. You’ll learn keywords they might search for, and get ideas about user interface (UI) design elements—like layouts and navigation—you can improve to increase visitors’ session duration.
Hotjar Engage lets you talk to people who accurately reflect your target demographic.
5. Write unique meta titles and meta descriptions
Sure, the URL slug needs to be unique, but the meta title and meta description do, too. You don’t want your products to have to compete with each other in search engines.
The meta title, also known as a title tag, is the clickable title users see in the search results and at the top of the browser tag.
“The meta title is one of the most important ranking factors, so it’s important to get this right,” Kai says. “Make sure each page has its own unique meta title with the target keyword positioned as close to the front of the title as possible.”
For product pages, Kai suggests this format: Product Name | Target Keyword | Brand Name. For category pages, the category name is often the target keyword, so he likes just using this format: Target Keyword | Brand Name.
On the other hand, the meta description—the explanatory copy directly below the meta title on the search results page—isn’t directly a ranking factor, but it’s still essential for ecommerce SEO. A great meta description increases your click-through rate (CTR), drawing traffic to your site.
Your meta description could be the difference between a user clicking on your website instead of the one ahead of yours. As a result, you may rank ahead of them the next time someone searches for that keyword.
6. Use structured data
Structured data, or information organized into a standardized format, makes it easier for a search engine to understand what your page is all about—and show more useful information to the searcher.
Product pages need a product schema and review schema. These schemas let you plug in essential information about the product, and then Google can display it as a ‘rich snippet,’ displaying extra details right in the search results.
While Google has said that using structured data won’t give your link a ranking boost, it will help your link stand out from competitors and help users more easily find what they need—which can indirectly improve your SEO.
7. Include product reviews
When in doubt, people look to their peers to help make buying decisions. A study by the Baymard Institute found that 95% of potential buyers consider product reviews while shopping at ecommerce sites.
Product reviews provide social proof; seeing that other consumers purchase and like the product makes shoppers feel more confident in buying the product, too. Plus, they give shoppers additional information beyond the product description, like how a sweater fits certain body types or what issues the focuser on the telescope has.
Product reviews are also good for SEO. Not only do they boost the word count, but they also show search engines, like Bing or Yahoo!, that you have an active page that’s continually updated.
8. Provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Including an FAQ or question-and-answer (Q&A) section on your product page allows you to get the word count closer to the desired 300 words. Plus, you can include your target keyword and internal links in your FAQs for even more of an SEO boost.
Even better? An FAQ section lets you anticipate and answer objections on your product page so buyers can purchase with confidence.
💡Pro tip: use Hotjar Heatmaps to visualize how your shoppers use the FAQs section, and make adjustments to your site as necessary.
For example, say you discover that the top question is, “Does this bed frame come with a headboard attachment kit?” This is clearly a feature your audience desires, so you may add the words ‘headboard attachment kit included’ to your product description. That way, you answer the question earlier on the page for your users, easing their concerns and improving their experience.
Hotjar’s Heatmaps tool lets you visualize aggregate data about how far users scroll down your product page (left) and where they move their mouse (right).
9. Test your product pages
One ingredient in the secret recipe for great SEO is average session duration. For visitors to stay on your site, they’ve got to find what they need and have a positive experience as they interact with the page.
Use Hotjar Heatmaps to identify what page elements visitors use the most, and watch Recordings to see customers’ mouse movements and clicks. If there’s an issue with the sizing selection buttons, you may witness users’ rage clicks. Or, if shoppers have trouble locating the call-to-action (CTA) button, you might see them moving their mouse erratically across the page.
Then, you can develop ways to improve the experience on that page—and apply it to other product pages if necessary, helping you increase user engagement and average session duration—a vital SEO metric.
Ecommerce SEO and UX work hand-in-hand
SEO helps you connect with people wherever they are in the customer journey and improve your ecommerce website’s UX. In other words, SEO is a tool that not only draws traffic to your site but also helps users get where they want to go and find what they need.
SEO is absolutely essential for ecommerce brands who want to invest in and create a sustainable business for years to come. Over time, it helps you lower your cost per acquisition (CPA) and increase your revenue while improving your bottom line. And though the ROI isn’t immediate, it more than makes up for it in the long run.