What tools are available to Ecommerce websites to help with SEO?
I’d put them into three different categories and that’s:
- Desktop Software, which runs on your computer or your laptop.
- SaaS, which is “Software as a Service” and is a tool accessible from a website
- Plugins, which are software add-ons that extend the functionality of your existing Ecommerce platform
These all have free and paid options. Usually, the free options are quite restricted with what you can do with them though and they’ll try to get you to pay for an upgrade.
What tools do you need for SEO?
The core tasks for SEO (and what tools can help with), are:
- Keyword Research
- Backlink Analysis
- Checking Search Rankings, and
- Adding SEO elements to your Ecommerce site.
Why would you do Keyword Research?
I’d use it to learn about what my potential customers are searching for. So you can know which keywords to target on your website and in the content. You can understand what questions your customers might have, plus understand what demand there might be for certain products. You can even learn which individual colors or sizes will be more popular, before you even invest in any stock. For example, around 3,500 people a month search for the keyword
[mens black shoes] in the UK and only 1,400 search for
[mens brown shoes]. So you can see that there’s twice as much demand for black shoes for men, as there are brown shoes for men. So you can not only get an idea of what the keywords are that people are using to find these websites, but also how many people are actually looking for these products that you sell.
Which Keyword Research tool would you recommend?
SEMrush is probably still the leading tool for keyword research. Their backlink data is still very poor, unfortunately, but it probably has the highest number of keywords and also the most accurate search volume data as well. It costs $99 a month and I would say that it’s basically essential when you’re researching your market. There’s no annual contract, it’s a month by month deal. So you could just buy it for one month, download all of the data for your industry, everything that you might possibly want to know about your own website and your competitors, and then cancel before it renews the following month. I’ve kept my subscription though and use it every week.
There’s also a free tool out there called AlsoAsked.com and it’s a relatively new tool made by a UK based SEO, Mark Williams-Cook. It scrapes and visualizes Google’s new “People also ask” boxes. You have probably seen them on search results before, they actually appear on the majority of them these days. It’s a box which shows you related questions to what people are searching for. So if you search for [mens shoes], it will come up with related questions such as [what sizes do men’s shoes come in?] and [what is the cost of a designer men’s shoe], for example. It’s great for finding some new keywords that you might not already be targeting. It’s also a way of finding ideas for articles. Because if people are asking these questions, your Ecommerce store could be the one which answers those questions for them. It doesn’t just show the questions which appear on that keyword either, but also all of the related ones from there as well. You can even download it as a CSV file, totally free. So I definitely recommend checking that out.
It’s also worth mentioning Google’s own tool for keywords, which is Google Trends. It allows you to research keywords or topics of interest over time. So you can look at it over the past 12 months for seasonality, or over the past five years to understand if it’s trending up or down. How many people were still interested in that product or that niche? You can use it to spot growing trends as well. So if you want to know what’s hot in your market, you can use Google Trends to understand what products you should be selling and also identify new countries that you could potentially move into. Maybe for an American ecommerce store, the UK or Australia would be the next best countries to target, rather than Canada. You can also compare different niches and keywords as well, to see which one’s most popular.
Why should you crawl your website?
A site crawler is a type of software that mimics how Google visits your website. You give it a URL to visit and it finds every link on that page and then visits all of those links, and so on until it has visited every single page on your website. For each page, it stores important on-page SEO and structural data along the way. You can use it to find Technical SEO issues that you might have on your Ecommerce store. It’s probably the most important tool in an SEO’s toolkit, and the main thing that they’ll use when kicking off an SEO audit. That’s because it’s a good way of understanding the structure of a website, and flagging key SEO issues that a site might have. You can find broken links, fix redirect loops and highlight duplicate content issues as well.
But it does take skill to do all of this. Most of the tools just give you raw data or give you very basic advice. You really need to look at the data yourself and understand what it means. That takes time to learn, but it’s well worth investing in that time.
I use different website crawlers for different purposes. So for example, I’ve actually coded my own website crawler, which is specifically built for large Ecommerce stores with tens of millions of pages. So it can scale up over hundreds of servers just like Google does, but you probably don’t need that on your day to day basis.
For everyday use, I use something called ScreamingFrog, a desktop application that runs on any Windows, Mac or Linux computer. There’s a free version of it, but that’s heavily limited in functionality. You can only crawl about 500 pages and a lot of Ecommerce stores are bigger than that. The paid version is quite cheap though, at around £149/$200 a year. It’s probably the best value SEO tool you can invest in.
There’s also something called SiteBulb, which is another desktop crawling app and a friendly competitor of ScreamingFrog. I don’t use SiteBulb personally (I’m happy with ScreamingFrog), but have used it a few times in the past. I also know some very talented SEOs that swear by it. In fact, a friend of mine said that SiteBulb generates about 90% of his Technical SEO audits (I’m sure that the other 10% he discovers is worth every penny though!). SiteBulb is more focused on providing SEO recommendations and prioritizing those recommendations, rather than raw crawling power. So it’s probably better than ScreamingFrog if you’re less technical, or if you can’t spend time sifting through the data. There’s no free option for SiteBulb and the best option to go for is their Pro package at £25/$35 a month.
There are of course enterprise-level site crawlers as well. They mostly/all fit into the SaaS (Software as a Service) category. The main contenders out there are DeepCrawl and Botify. You only really need to use them if your website is larger than half a million pages, which starts to get quite hard to manage with a desktop crawler. Both companies hide their pricing on their website, but you should expect to pay enterprise-level prices, likely to be thousands of dollars a month. Only go down that route if you have a huge Ecommerce site, we’re talking millions and millions of pages. If you don’t have that, you basically get just as good data with one of the desktop alternatives.
Should Backlink Analysis be a one-off or regular task?
It should be a big upfront project to the start with, then updated preferably every month, a link profiles are always changing. You lose some links and you win some links – so do your competitor. This is the main reason why rankings go up and down, whether someone’s won a link or lost a link.
You basically want to find out who links to you, why they link to you, how beneficial (or dangerous) they are by linking to you, which of your pages are the most popular, and why they’re the most popular. Lastly, who links to your competitors, but don’t link to you. Unless your website is Amazon.com, links are essential for your store pages and a major factor for your site going from Page 5 to Page 1 of Google.
If you know who links to you and why, you can try to do the same again to attract new links from new websites. Try to understand why that website decided to link to you in the first place. Or maybe if you do a similar content campaign again, you can attract new links.
If you know that a very bad website is linking to you, you can protect your business by sending them a C&D (Cease and Desist letter), asking them to remove that link, or tell Google to ignore it, using Google Search Console.
If you know how powerful your competitors are, you also know how much you need to do in order to win traffic away from them. You can also start to target the sites that link to competitors and get links from those websites yourself.
Which tools help with Backlink Analysis?
To understand who links to you and get this information, you need a link data provider. There are three primary providers of link data – Majestic, Ahrefs and Moz. Google Search Console also offers link data, but only for your own website, not competitor sites. Google also doesn’t give you any quality scores/metrics, which are basically essential to understand which links are important/dangerous. I mentioned SEMRush earlier and they do offer link data, but I wouldn’t recommend using it. SEMRush is amazing for keyword research, but their link data is nowhere near good/useful enough yet.
Personally, I use Ahrefs and Moz. For me, Ahrefs has the most comprehensive link data (finding the most links) and Moz has the best quality/trust score metrics.
Which tools can you use to check your website’s Google rankings?
You can do this for free using Google Search Console, but it only shows you the keywords that you already ranked for, not what you want to rank for. So if you really want to rank for the term
[pink slippers], you need to find out who actually ranks for it at the moment, get a list of those websites and be able to monitor those. Then you can understand how competitive it is, how much the rankings fluctuate, but Google won’t give you that data.
Now, if you already have a Moz, Ahrefs or SEMrush subscription, you’re already paying for a rank checking tool. They all offer keyword ranking and website ranking reports within that subscription. So if you’re already paying for those and you don’t need to monitor too many keywords, then there’s no need to use any other tools. Those will work perfectly fine for basic monitoring.
There are many keyword ranking tools on the market, that only do this one task. I don’t use any of them personally. I use my own technology for client projects and sometimes Ahrefs for test/fun projects. So just use the one that you’re already paying for if you can.
How do you act on the SEO recommendations made by these tools?
All ecommerce platforms have their own set of SEO plugins. These usually give you all the features that you need and all the functionality, to fix the issues that these site crawlers and tools a flag up.
For WooCommerce, I would recommend the WordPress plugin Rank Math actually more than Yoast SEO. I think that Rank Math has more comprehensive features and it really integrates well with WooCommerce. Plus it doesn’t spam or overtake your WordPress admin control panel like Yoast SEO tends to.
For Shopify, I tend to use SEO Manager, which costs $20 a month and is available in the Shopify app store.
For Magento, I recommend MageWorx SEO Suite, which is a plugin that you can buy and install. It’s very comprehensive and covers all of the on-page issues that crop up with Magento.
If the listeners are looking for an SEO plugin for another ecommerce platform, then please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to provide some recommendations. Also, if any listeners have an SEO tool or plugin question, we’re more than happy to help as well.