SEO > Merchant Voice

WooCommerce and SEO

Every ecommerce site presumably needs to be found by potential customers. Here in the U.K., and indeed in Europe, Google remains the single search engine giant. In the U.S., Bing is slowly catching up — or so I understand. Nevertheless the basic goal of optimization applies regardless of the search engine: Make your site attractive to the engines and let them know what your site is about.

However, before you even think about link building and other SEO practices, sort out critical on-site elements. The first step is to ensure that the basic building blocks for the site are search engine friendly. I covered this for Magento in my post “SEO and Selecting a Magento Theme.” The principals are the same for WooCommerce, so I will not repeat them here.

The objective is to find a template that looks professional, is in line with your theme, makes it easy for your shoppers to navigate, and has all the correct header and alt tags that help so much with search engines.

With WooCommerce, it is easy to edit your template and tinker with the tags, to better suit your site. If you do this, rather than edit the main template, consider creating a child theme that will not be overwritten every time the template is updated.

First, Focus on Content

Once you have the basics covered, start the long task of optimizing the site. This is done by getting the content right. To aid in this, Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin is essential. It allows you to tailor your site to best present it to search engines. I am not going to detail all that this plugin can do. But I will describe how I use it.

The page title is one of the most important elements of on-site optimization. Not just the title of the home page, but also the category pages and the individual product pages. Far too many sites are lazy in this. They have a well-crafted title for the home page, but then waste it by duplicating it on all the other pages.

It is important that each page has a unique title that reflects what you are trying to sell on that page. Normally this is done by repeating the product name, which Yoast can do. However a product name may not be good enough for optimization. On the ecommerce site, the product name is visible to the shopper and has to be clear and obvious what it is. It must be displayed in a sensible order when there is a list, so the shopper can easily select what she wants.

On first thought this might seem to be just what you need for search engine optimization. But that is likely not always the case. For example on my site that sells Doctor Who (a science fiction character) items, for search engine purposes every title should begin with “Doctor Who.”

But on my ecommerce site, that would look silly. The Yoast plugin allows the title and meta description of every product page to be generated from the product title and lets you insert text at any point. So for my Doctor Who site, I can if I choose prefix all the product titles with the text “Doctor Who.”

Optimizing Each Product

Then there are the individual products. The Yoast plugin adds an admin section to the product setup and edit page. This section highlights the important search engine items of the page and allows you to edit them. It then produces an analysis of the page and how effective the SEO is based on a keyword or phrase you have selected for this page.

Whilst this is a good tool and using it will help you understand the use of phrases in a page, it is not necessarily a good judge of your page. This is because you can only enter one keyword or phrase for analysis. If you follow all its recommendations and tailor your product page just for this keyword, it may not be very good for any others.

Search engine optimization is not an exact science. It is a series of compromises. It is unlikely that all your potential customers will all use the same keyword or phrase to search for your products. It is far more likely that three or more similar phrases will be used. So do you optimize the page just for the most popular phrase, or try to go for an amalgam of the phrases? I never concentrate on a single phrase because it will not only twist the content too much, but will probably have too much competition in the results.

Takes Time, but Worth It

On-site optimization is not a fast process. To do it properly, you should spend several minutes per product. Good content is the key to SEO success.

Start slowly. Pick 10 products to start with and upgrade the default content for each of them. See how the products rank in Google before you start the upgrade process, however. Revisit the products after a couple of weeks to see if there is any improvement.

There is no point in conducting a huge exercise and updating every product if the first 10 do not improve. Keep adjusting and experimenting with these 10 until you know what works. After that, you can then take the time to roll out the changes to all of your products.

Search engine optimization is a long process. It can take months to see any real results. But it is worth investing the time. The sooner you start, the sooner it gets done.

Richard Stubbings
Richard Stubbings
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