While there are many ways to draw customers to an eCommerce website, sometimes the simplest mechanics are the best. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of these building blocks for online retail success. SEO is a blanket term that describes tactics and techniques used to make your website easier to find through Google and other search engines. Best practices will change over time, as both personal preferences and search engines' controlling algorithms evolve. Therefore, even if your site has had strong SEO performance in the past, it's always worth reviewing current practices and considering improvements.

The following are a few of the fundamentals of good SEO for your eCommerce site, with a special focus on one of today's most popular search magnets: articles focused on your products. Content is one of the core SEO items because of its dual focus. The terms used in the articles let search engines know what your business offers, and the content itself is designed to give customers the information they'll want and need when researching a next purchase.

The basics of SEO
While SEO changes over time based on changes made behind the scenes, primarily to the way Google ranks pages, there are a few practices that never go out of style. For example, creating content is a reliable way to get your keywords in front of an audience. Online marketing expert Chris Kilbourn, contributing to Neil Patel's SEO guide, gave a few hints for keeping this material relevant to human readers and search algorithms alike:

  • Keywords should be present, but not in excessive amounts – the latter approach is called "stuffing" and both people and search engines dislike it.
  • There is room for content variety. Not everything has to be a blog post, and you can create helpful ebook content or detailed product guides.
  • Product pages should be optimized to suit specific keywords. Blog posts can add variety.

Moz's latest SEO guide pointed out some of the back-end work you can perform on a website to ensure its performance stays strong. For instance, you can edit your website's "robots.txt" file, a simple document that tells which pages are most important from SEO purposes. Directing the "crawlers" sent out by search engines to your high-quality product and blog pages is a good practice, as is sending them away from outdated pages or promo sites that weren't created with SEO in mind.

"If people like what they're reading, they'll recommend it, boosting your SEO footprint."

Getting links to your website is another essential building block of an SEO strategy. These links are more important when they come from trusted third parties, according to Moz. Receiving this attention is largely a matter of making your content interesting enough to earn attention from outside sources. If people like what they're reading, they'll recommend it, boosting your SEO footprint.

Growing stronger over time
It's a great idea to keep expanding your SEO profile and boosting performance over time. Even if your website is ranking well, you should keep thinking of ways to strengthen your position rather than moving on to other priorities. The key to this type of continuous improvement comes from goal-setting. Simply resolving to "focus on SEO" will likely be too vague to drive real results.

Practical Ecommerce recommended several directions strategies can take in 2019 and beyond. For instance, it pays to take a granular look at page performance. Some of your resources will appear prominently in a performance analysis, while others will make negligible impact. Methodically improving poorly performing articles, landing pages and more is a goal-driven way to drive SEO. Practical Ecommerce also offered a reminder that efforts should be relevant to your company's overall goals. Improving ranking for an irrelevant keyword won't do much long-term good.

A separate resource for Practical Ecommerce took a different look at the 2019 SEO agenda, pointing out a few specific items that will draw attention in the new year. For instance, many websites have room for technological improvement. When websites load quickly, search engines rank them more favorably and users experience greater satisfaction. Sites that don't work well from an IT perspective may be holding your SEO back. Practical Ecommerce also mentioned the continuing importance of content marketing, noting that this method is worth ongoing attention, though it has been relevant for years.

An SEO word cloud.What's powering your eCommerce website's traffic?

How to avoid SEO mistakes
Creating an SEO-friendly site isn't an automatic process. There are some potential pitfalls to dodge on the road to better content performance. According to Search Engine Journal, these questionable practices fall into a few distinct categories. Naturally, some of the most popular mistakes seem like great ideas at first. SEJ warned, for example, that it's common for sites to pattern their SEO approaches after competitors' rankings. Aiming for the exact same keywords and backlinks as a rival means your company will always be stuck playing catch-up rather than carving out its own lane.

There are also some eCommerce-specific steps to try in 2019. SEJ suggested such approaches as creating redirects for out-of-stock pages, changing up product descriptions that duplicate one another, increasing and improving your use of customer-generated content and optimizing the pages for your new products. Optimizing your site is a multifaceted process, which means identifying the most effective uses of your time and prioritizing them.

Maximize your eCommerce website
Working on SEO is a full-time role for an eCommerce business, one that doesn't end after reaching any particular milestone. Ranking well is a competition with other brands, and the rules of the contest are evolving over time. If your company can't afford to devote time, technology and personnel to keeping your SEO performance strong, there's no need to panic. Working with a third-party eCommerce provider is one way to stay on top of SEO while maintaining the rest of your brand.

Your objectives, best practices, available budget and best possible SEO tactics are unique – no brand is quite like yours. Top-quality eCommerce partners will acknowledge these factors and work closely with your own personnel to ensure performance reaches acceptable levels. A significant portion of your brand's audience comes from curious customers typing search queries into Google. Your overall success may depend on how well you serve these shoppers' search needs.