2017 eCommerce Ranking Factors Study Takeaways
eCommerce SEO is a fickle beast. Doing Search Engine Optimization for “The Big E” the right way takes a lot of time and diligence, especially as your site adds more products and shuffles inventory. eCommerce ranking factors have always been a bit ambiguous between on and off page factors as well as user experience. We just know it has to be air tight.
As we all know, third party integrations, duplicate content issues and a real content marketing strategy seem to be the main issues for most eCommerce sites, but as you can see here, eCommerce sales are continuing to rise and SEO is going to be a large segment of any e-store’s online growth strategy:
Searchmetrics recently compiled various reports based upon search data from the top ranking websites in 2017, split by niche. After looking at their whitepaper dedicated to eCommerce, here is a bit of an overview of what they found to be the top ranking factors for the year.
Adsense & Adlinks
Paid Advertisements may be a staple across many websites and niches, however, according to Searchmetrics’ data this isn’t recommended for eCommerce domains. Out of all the top ranking sites on Google, 9 percent made use of AdSense or Adlinks compared to only 3% when looking at eCommerce sites, most likely because of niche itself. Therefore, it’s probably best to avoid the use of external ads on these websites.
This is pretty intuitive as most sites trying to directly sell an item should not be using banner ads to pull you to another website. No major news here, but good to see the data make this intuition more definitive.
Total Facebook Signals
Facebook is a powerful marketing tool for nearly any business, but the data discovered about social signals was pretty similar to the disparity in paid advertisements. The eCommerce URLs shared having only around a quarter of the total signals (both likes and shares) from Facebook as the other niches. This suggests that the eCommerce niche provides more of a challenge to market on social media at the same level as other businesses.
Not saying that facebook signals are a “real” rankings factor, but they do provide an engine to gain more visibility which lead to more chatter and visibility for any page. This chatter and visibility to the right audience will gain inbound links in quantity if done correctly. This is no surprise here as content for many product pages is not really considered “link-worthy,” but it showcases the low hanging fruit for eCommerce sites that are not leveraging a blog or fresh content stream the right way. Quite honestly, this is something I see most eCommerce sites really not committing to and thus not outranking their competitors (who have simply been around longer, are bigger brands and are not doing this either).
Total Page/File Size
Page load speed is critical to conversion efforts and keeping viewers on your page. For eCommerce this presents a bit of a challenge as these sites are heavy on images and these images take more space and time to load. In the top results diagnosed, eCommerce websites were over 30% larger than others industries.
This does showcase the need for better compression on images and highlights another low hanging fruit for most sites to optimize both for UX and SEO.
The mean number of “interactive elements” on the eCommerce results were almost 40% higher than other niches. Things like menus and links that help users navigate a site are likely responsible for this. But what is even more interesting is the fact that eCommerce pages contain a higher density of these elements, with one every 7.12 words versus the benchmark rate of just one every 7.84 words.
Landing pages for any eCommerce site should leverage enough interactive elements that provide a clear path to conversion. It is important to be doing ongoing conversion rate optimization through this funnel to ensure there are no gaps in this process and make it as frictionless and positive of an experience as possible.
Total Bullets in Lists
Lists are important to any type of marketing, but there is a sweet spot in figuring out the proper length of your content, and it largely depends on the niche. The study showed that not only did eCommerce websites have more structured content overall, containing more lists than the average, but its lists were often longer– with an average of 24.4 bullets per list versus the average of 14.4. Again, with the additional information and studies often associated with eCommerce, this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
This does start getting into the on-page content discussion which is broken down further in this article. As Google has shifted to a mobile-first index, a lot of site owners seem to think that this means Google is going to this completely sexy UX experience away from content. This is far from true as Google simply cannot read images that well. Sure there is some metadata pieces like alt and title tags, but for the most-part Google needs to rely on content to tell what that page is about. Elements like having more total bullets in a list lead to a more thorough description helping to answer any searchers query.
Internal links are another important factor to attribute to both credibility and usability. From the report, eCommerce pages had more internal links than other types of sites. A website with lots of information that is easy to navigate inevitably means a website with high numbers of internal links. Likewise, specific formats that use a high density of internal linking, like landing pages, are common practice in the eCommerce sector.
The strategic takeaway here is to analyze your internal linking leveraging elements like bread crumb navigation and stepping up the linking between product pages as well as between the blog and category pages. This technique is not only good for user experience but will disperse the domain authority across all categories and products when done correctly.
Online Store Above The Fold
According to the report, successful eCommerce businesses are taking much more advantage of online shops than other businesses, at a rate of 56% compared to the average of 23%. That’s a large margin and may suggest that successful eCommerce websites are better at meeting searches based on conversion intent from the user’s end.
This comes as no surprise and if this is not a 101 piece of your strategy in 2017, it might be time to go home and rethink if this whole world wide web situation is something you really want to take on.
“Dot Com” Domain Name
Having a .com tag on your domain name seems to be the only option for successful eCommerce businesses, according to Searchemetric’s data. A strong 99.9% majority of the the top eCommerce results are all a .com domain, while across all other areas it was a bit lower at 86%. A simple explanation for this could be that .com is old, common, and generally trusted, or at least remembered, by most everyone.
Technically this should not matter, but for “brandability” it is simply more authoritative and memorable. If you are a new site, it is simply not worth taking the risk to go the .io route.
Video was found in just about half (49%) of the top Google results, while in the eCommerce sector this was lower (36%) or about one-third. This might be explained by the nature of eCommerce products, where video keywords like “unboxing” or “review” and other physical traits are not searched for, and most of the popular search terms are more transactional/digital nature.
Sites we work with that leverage video on product pages gain a multitude of benefits including longer time on the page and higher conversion rates (better UX). This is definitely a large undertaking but a project worthy of the investment as sites like Zappos report a 6-30% uptick in conversions on pages that have video versus those that do not.
Total Word Count
Total word count was the last factor Searchmetrics looked at, and what it found was a bit interesting. eCommerce listings had about 25% higher word count than non-eCommerce listings in the top rankings in search. Therefore, these eCommerce sites often showed off many different types of product information, sometimes including testing data, customer reviews and answers to user’s questions.
So many sites that i see use the same ~150 words of content above the fold / ~250 words below the fold formula. This is a good starting point (and did great things a few years ago) but relevance really trumps these days and more useful content will keep a prospect on your site longer. Google wants to know what your page is about and this is the best way to tell both the search engines and answer your searchers query. As you can see from the above graph, pages in the top 10 have roughly 2,000 words of content. Though this may be impossible for every page of your site, we recommend getting 1000 words on to the top 50-100 pages that are of highest priority.
eCommerce Rankings Factors Bottom Line
At the bottom line, eCommerce sites showed some big ranking differences than other sites. To recap the major variations, eCommerce showed less on-site ads and videos and had more overall data, information, interactive elements, internal links, shopping (stores), have roughly 2000 words on them and almost all end in .com. Though these are the status quo numbers, most eCommerce sites can simply be doing it better and leverage a lot of the above takeaways to outrank bigger brands online.
Here is the roundup of the case study findings:
Let us know your takeaways on the study. Feel free to contact one of our eCommerce Gurus today for an evaluation of your site and the opportunity that it holds!