Launching your e-commerce site is an exciting thing!
However, after you launch then you have to consider how you are going to get visitors to your brand new website. While there are tons of different ways to drive traffic to your website, today we’re going to focus on increasing your organic, search engine traffic by following a few practical steps.
Our guide to Bigcommerce SEO will walk you through the ideal setup and strategy to get more organic visitors to your Bigcommerce store.
Quick Intro To SEO
Let’s set the table by clarifying what we mean by “SEO.”
Many people talk about SEO like it’s a Staples’ Easy Button that you push and BOOM – you get more traffic from the search engines.
If that’s what you’re thinking, I’ve got some bad news:
It’s not that easy.
However, that is actually good news for you! Like I’m sure you’ve heard before, if it were easy then everyone would do it.
The great news is that while SEO isn’t like pushing a magic button, it also isn’t difficult to implement a winning SEO strategy for your Bigcommerce website. You simply need a solid plan that you can follow consistently.
If you’re starting at the beginning, “SEO” simply stands for search engine optimization. To put it plainly, it is a set of actions you can take to make your website perform as well as possible in the Google search results. These “actions” consist of both things you can do on your website (on-page SEO) and off your website (off-page SEO).
The most common form of off-page SEO is getting backlinks to your website from other high quality websites. You can read more about that here. Today I’ll spend most of our time talking about on-page SEO that you can do with Bigcommerce. After all, the process of off-page SEO doesn’t change much if you are using Bigcommerce, Shopify, WordPress, or any other website builder.
A Winning Bigcommerce SEO Strategy
I briefly mentioned the importance of finding a “winning” SEO strategy for your site. Ideally this would be a blueprint that you understand and feel comfortable implementing and maintaining.
The strategy we’ll cover is very much a project that you can do yourself without any special technical knowledge. However, if you are considering outsourcing your SEO, check out this guide to the 7 questions you should ask before hiring someone.
As a new e-commerce store, it is critical that you understand what long tail keywords are and why they matter to your business.
A “keyword” is simply a word or phrase that someone searches in Google (or any other search engine). A long tail keyword is also something that gets searched, but “long tail” means that the keyword is more specific in nature, and generally isn’t searched all that often.
Here’s an example:
Let’s assume you sell health food or nutritional products of some kind. “Gluten free” might be a keyword that you’d like to rank for. However, “gluten free” is very much a “short tail,” generic keyword. It’s also SUPER competitive – meaning that your site has little chance to make it to page 1 when people search “gluten free.”
Here is a look at the competitive analysis for “gluten free” in our software, Long Tail Pro.
At the very top, we see that this searched 74,000 times per month and that the average keyword competitiveness is 60 – which is extremely competitive.
On the other hand, here is a long tail keyword that still fits into the “gluten free” category. Check out “gluten free snacks for kids:”
This search is much more specific in nature – making it a long tail keyword.
While someone searching for “gluten free” could be looking for a variety of things, like a definition of the term, recipes, allergen info, etc.; the person searching “gluten free recipes for kids” has pretty clearly defined exactly what they are looking for.
Notice that this is searched 1,300 times per month and has an average KC score of 22 – meaning that you’d have a much better shot of ranking in the top 10 for that keyword.
Ready to try it? To search for low competition keywords in your niche with Long Tail Pro, Click Here to Start For Free
Now that you’ve seen what long tail keywords are, let’s discuss how this can drive your SEO Bigcommerce strategy.
As illustrated above, the mistake that many people make when starting out is not doing any keyword research at all – let alone effective keyword research.
The result is that people target keywords that are way too competitive with their content, or perhaps target no keywords at all.
So before we cover the specifics of on-page SEO for Bigcommerce, you need to understand that on-page SEO is almost pointless when you don’t have a keyword, or set of keywords that you are targeting with your page or blog post.
Okay – I’ll move on now…
To close out our earlier example, the nutrition store would be wise to create a page full of gluten free recipes for kids since that keyword is being searched by many of their target customers and has low competition. Even if they don’t sell gluten free snacks directly, they can still gain authority in their niche and use this page to link to related products that they do sell.
After you’ve setup the basic foundation of your website, you should start seeking out low competition long tail keywords in your industry or niche. Start compiling a list of these keywords and then consistently create content that specifically addresses one of the low competition keywords in your space.
While you won’t start ranking overnight, by consistently following this strategy of targeting the low hanging fruit first you’ll be ahead of many of your competitors. As the weeks and months roll by, you’ll also start to see your number of organic visitors rising. Best of all, since those visitors are coming to your site from a specific, long tail keyword – they’ll likely be close to making a buying decision.
Now that we’ve given an overview of a winning strategy, let’s look at the nitty gritty of what you need to do in Bigcommerce to execute on this plan:
First Things First
One of the first things you should do after creating your Bigcommerce site is submit your sitemap to Google. Google can still find your site without a sitemap, but a sitemap is kind of like a road map that helps the search engines understand the structure of your website.
First, you need to setup Google Webmaster Tools and verify your site. Click here for help getting set up. Then, here are the steps for submitting your sitemap to Google according to Bigcommerce:
1. Log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account.
2. Click your website.
3. Click the Sitemaps bar on the right side of the screen.
4. Click the Add/Test Sitemap button.
5. Type xmlsitemap.php into the blank box, then click the Submit Sitemap button.
6. You will see a success message indicating your sitemap has been submitted.
Here is a video that explains the basics of submitting your sitemap as well:
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, you’re done with the first step. Google now has all that it needs to understand and index your website appropriately.
Implementing Your Keyword Strategy in Bigcommerce
We’ve covered why it is critical to target the right keywords with your content. Now let’s look at how you can target your keywords by doing effective on-page SEO in Bigcommerce.
Optimizing Bigcommerce Web Pages
Under “content” in your admin panel, go to “web pages” to see your list of existing pages. If you’ve had Bigcommerce for awhile, it might make sense to go back and tweak some SEO settings after reading this. However, for now we’ll click on the “create new” button to start from scratch.
Bigcommerce uses a WYSIWYG style editor for its pages and blog posts. Click here for more general information on how to work with the page editor.
The first thing you should do is setup your page name and URL.
It’s important to include your exact keyword in the page name, as this is one of the most important places that Google checks to understand what your page is about.
I’ll use my example from earlier, “gluten free recipes for kids” and show you how to optimize a page for this keyword in Bigcommerce:
Notice that the page name isn’t usually “just” the keyword and that’s all. You want to write a compelling title that includes your keyword, but also makes people want to click on your page. After all, Google displays 10 results on each page and you are competing against 9 other sites for the attention of that searcher.
If you need help, here are some ideas on creating better page titles from Hubspot.
By default, Bigcommerce will make the page URL be the same thing as your page title. This isn’t always a bad thing, but sometimes your title makes for a really long URL. It’s better to have concise URLS that are easy to read and share. If you can be concise and include part (or all) of your keyword – even better!
In my case, the URL of my page will be “www.MYSITE.com/gluten-free-recipes-for-kids”
Next, scroll down to “Advanced Options” and specify your page title and description:
First, remember that the page title should be about 55 characters in length, which is about all that will be displayed in Google before it is cut off. Likewise your description shouldn’t exceed 160 characters as it will be cut off after that in Google.
In case you are wondering, if you don’t specify a page title in Bigcommerce’s advanced options, they will use your page name as the title for SEO purposes. There are times where you may want a little longer page title for SEO purposes than you’d actually want to display on your site. The advanced settings are your opportunity to do that.
I simply stuck with my page name as my SEO page title.
Since it is cutoff in the screenshot, my full meta description is “Need a quick gluten free dinner idea? Try these simple, delicious gluten free recipes for kids and watch your children fight for the leftovers!”
The meta keywords no longer matter for search, so you don’t need to waste time with this.
IMPORTANT: Notice that both my page title and page description include my primary keyword target in a natural and compelling way.
After I’ve set my title, URL, and meta description there are just a couple of other things I would do in the content of my page:
1. Optimize my ALT text on at least one image to use my keyword. Click here to learn more.
2. Use my exact keyword and variations of it naturally throughout my content. (Avoid unnatural, overuse of the keyword)
3. Produce thorough, visually appealing content. Click here to learn why.
Optimizing Bigcommerce Blog Posts
The same “best practices” we talked about with pages are also true for blog posts.
No need to restate everything.
However, the process is slightly different so it is worth showing how to optimize Bigcommerce blog posts. First, you’ll set the blog post title, which also serves as your page title in search. There is no option to give a different SEO title like we saw with pages:
Under “SEO (optional)” you’ll find a place to add your meta description and specify your URL. You shouldn’t treat these as “optional.” It’s important to make sure your URL is concise and your description is enticing and includes your target keyword:
While this may seem a little out of order, I thought it might help to provide all the context around what makes for a solid page title, description, etc. before talking about your home page.
The same rules generally apply here, but just remember that Google ranks pages and not websites.
Referring again to our example, I would have a page dedicated to the keyword “gluten free recipes for kids” and expect that page to rank in Google for people searching that specific keyword. I wouldn’t really expect my store’s homepage to rank highly for that long tail keyword.
So while there may be some keywords that you’d like your home page to rank for, don’t lose your common sense and get crazy trying to stuff your homepage with keywords.
Stick to your brand name and the basics when it comes to your home page. If you were the owner of Jake’s Natural Foods, maybe your home page SEO title would be “Jake’s Natural Foods – Cincinnati’s Neighborhood Health Food Store.”
That would make more sense than something non-branded and keyword stuffed like “Best Natural Foods Cincinnati – Cincinnati Health Food Store.”
Keep it simple.
To setup your homepage’s title and description, look under “Settings” and then “Store Settings.” In the first menu of “Website Settings” you’ll see the SEO section as you scroll down. Simply enter your desired page title and description:
Notice that the home page title is whatever you provided as a store name – nothing more. Also, your meta description is non-existent which means it will be somewhat randomly selected by the search engines.
Make sure you specify both of these items so you can control what people see when they search your brand.
SEO for Bigcommerce Product Categories
In Bigcommerce, you have the ability to create and manage “product categories.”
As it sounds, this allows you to manually group sets of products together in a category that makes sense for your customer.
On the SEO side of things, Bigcommerce’s product categories present a nice opportunity to optimize for things that your audience is searching for.
As you dig into Long Tail Pro, you’ll likely discover that your customers are giving you category ideas!
For instance, people could be searching for “Best Laptops Under $500.”
If you sell laptops, why not make a category that helps those people find what they are looking for?
Besides just adding the products, you can also use the content of the page to do a write up on the pros and cons of laptops at this price point, discuss common questions, etc. so you have a complete buying guide for that customer.
Along with the helpful content, you can also use Bigcommerce to display the products in your store which fit that category – so people can get more information and make a purchase all in one place.
As for SEO, setting up a page category is exactly the same as what we showed earlier with standard web pages. The difference is a shift in mentality for you, and being open to sorting your products in a way that your customers are searching for.
If you get into creating more specific categories, be sure to review Bigcommerce’s guide to controlling your site’s navigation menu. You definitely don’t want a navigation menu that is overwhelming and difficult to use. By default, your categories get added to your navigation menu and if you have dozens of categories you won’t want them all to be in the main site navigation…
A Quick Word About Product SEO
We’ve covered page titles, meta descriptions, URLS and more in the previous sections. The same principles hold true for your product pages.
The SEO settings when adding a new product page aren’t obvious, so don’t forget them!
When you add a product, you’ll find SEO options about half way down the page under “Other Details.”
The only point I’ll add for product SEO is to use your SEO title and description to add some descriptors to your products. If you are selling a deck of playing cards, don’t just make the SEO title of that product “Deck of 52 Playing Cards.”
Try to sprinkle in some words that better describe the cards, that someone may be searching for in Google. Obviously you shouldn’t be dishonest here, saying that your product is something that it’s not. However, you should be descriptive!
What might someone be searching for when they want to buy a product like this?
Maybe the SEO title for your product could be “Collectible American Flag Playing Cards – Made in USA.” Then in your SEO meta description, go into more detail about your “patriotic” playing cards, what they’re made of, etc.
This is a simple step to take, but it gives you a chance to pull in traffic from people who are searching for very specific kinds of playing cards, like those with American flags on them or people looking for patriotic cards.
The key thing to note is that if you add your product with a very generic SEO title and description, then your odds of pulling in some of that very long tail traffic are very slim because you haven’t differentiated your product in the eyes of Google.
Hopefully at this point you agree that doing common sense SEO for your Bigcommerce store isn’t hard, but it does take some time for planning and execution.
The good news is, most people don’t take the time to do the things we’ve covered in this article. So if you’ll take the time to find the best keywords, cover your bases with SEO on pages, blog posts, and products – you’ll have a leg up on many of your competitors!
If you’re still in the research phase on Bigcommerce, I’d encourage you to start your 15 day free trial to see if it’s right for you.
If you’re already up and running with your store, then diving into keyword research is the next step. Click here to start a no hassle 7 day trial of Long Tail Pro.
Thanks so much for this very informative post! I have already started applying this to my new website, and look forward to seeing the results.
I am also a big fan of Longtail pro (lifetime subscription). Cheers again!
I appreciate it and thanks for being a lifetimer!
Hi, we use Bigcommerce for our store. A lot of your posts and in Long Tail University you talk about Yoast SEO as a plugin for WordPress as a valuable SEO tool. How can I ensure my content is optimised with keywords once I’ve selected them via Long Tail Pro on something like Bigcommerce? Any on-site tools you recommend?
Hi Colin that’s a good question. I don’t know of any tools off hand for Bigcommerce, but once you get a feel for the things to include you can work without one. For instance, making sure you are including your keyword in the title, description, and early on in the content. Here are some other tips for on page seo: http://backlinko.com/on-page-seo
Thanks, Jake, do you recommend a site bases its categories titles and product titles on keyword research in LTP? Are we better renaming categories that get zero searches a month too long tail category titles that gain higher search volume? Or does that not really matter too much?
Hi Colin – I don’t think it matters all that much, but I do like the idea of creating category pages (could even be just a custom-made page) where you make categories based on keyword ideas. For instance, if you find out there are good keywords like “Best Widgets Under $500” then I’d create a page focused on that which has a mix of written content and a list of products that fit that criteria.