Navigating SEO strategies for online retail in 2023

The search-ranking landscape has changed and evolved a lot over the years. If you’re still using dated strategies to build an online presence, then you may have a hard time catching up.  

For newbies and seasoned pros alike, we decided to dedicate an entire blog post on the best way to enhance your eCommerce store’s search performance. You’ll get a thorough overview of all the multiple facets that drive your platform’s organic search presence.

  1. HTTPS is non-negotiable

We touched on this in a previous blog. Remember how we mentioned that HTTPS is imperative for SEO? Websites that use a secure HTTP protocol (HTTPS) have a better advantage over others, from a search-ranking perspective. Google’s algorithm favors these websites over the ones that are simply HTTP encrypted. Why does this matter?

If you’re still running your website on an HTTP certificate, then Google automatically ranks you below websites that have active HTTPS encryption, signaling that your website isn’t as trustworthy as theirs.

If you’re hosting your website on an established ecommerce platform, then there’s probably no need to worry about HTTPS encryption. Most platforms like Shopify, Amazon, and others come with an HTTPS feature out of the box. If you’re building your website, on the other hand, then be sure to fix this firsthand since it is crucial to getting your website ranked higher.

  1. Structure your pages right

If you’re not quite sure which category your products fit into, the shortcut method of doing this is simple: study your competitors. 

Use any standard SEO tool at your disposal to get a list of competing domains and pages. Pay special attention to sites that are able to attract high volumes of organic traffic. 

You can export this list, check the websites that belong to your industry and use them as a reference when it comes to sorting your own product categories. This doesn’t have to be a cut-copy-paste approach in its entirety. The goal is to find out what is working, and what isn’t. 

Better structuring helps with navigation and indexing

The way you organize and structure your internal web pages matters when it comes to optimizing your website. Traffic is a huge consideration that Google’s search algorithm does not overlook. Users are more inclined to stay on a website that is neatly organized, where they can easily browse through and find the products they are looking for.

 A logical way of arranging products on your online store is in the “category>subcategory>product” format. This is reasonable as opposed to randomly placing them all over the website. This type of arrangement is also more conducive to helping Google keep track of your internal pages by category keywords.

Site structure is how your website’s pages are organized and interlinked. 

The category page can be a brief overarching title of what the products entail. For eg: sneakers would fall under the category of footwear and the subcategory of sports shoes. 

The subcategory page is where you can use specific keywords to cue audiences into finding your product easily.

  1. Replace highly complex URLs

Without getting too technical, here’s a key disadvantage to using highly specific filter URLs for each product. Let’s go with an example: You’re filtering your shoe category based on color. 

When you create an entirely new page devoted to the product “coffee brown color leather shoe”, you unwittingly make it more difficult for Google to index your pages. How so? Because the more specific and filter-heavy your URL is, the more potential pages it can return in response to a query. 

For every “coffee brown”, there’s also another shade of brown, red, green, blue, and so on that can be indexed as a matching search result. And we’re only talking about the color combinations here. What would happen when Google has to allow for every other filter such as “laceless”, “sports”, formal”, etc.?

Since there are plenty of URLs that could potentially be returned for each search query, canonicalizing a particular URL as standard can help ensure that the search engine returns this particular page in response to any matching query. Again, just like the HTTPS certification, most of the popular ecommerce platforms come with pre-packaged URL canonicalization features, so you don’t have to worry too much about it.

Self-referential & canonicalized URLs

Canonicalizing urls under a category helps you make sure the Google algorithm doesn’t go indexing least searched and less-in-demand pages. However, what happens when you have a super-specific product page that you need to index?

Eg: Assume there’s a growing demand for “Nike winter wear padded shoes”

The URL would be somewhat like this:

The question becomes, how do you index a complex URL such as the above so that you don’t miss out on the growing search traffic volume for this particular product? Well, one thing you can do is make them self-referential.

  1. The key lies in winning through keywords

Keywords become relevant when you’re attempting to figure out how to title your product categories. Rather than go with a random or intuitive (to you) choice, it is best to see what users are searching for, and leverage that to your advantage.

Finding subcategory keywords

Finding the right keywords to use is fairly simple. Provided you’re using a decent SEO tool like Ahrefs, or Semrush, use the keywords explorer section to input as many common terms as you can. You’ll find matching keywords that are related to the category you’ve just entered. 

One thing to keep note of when you’re sorting your products based on categories and subcategories: Make sure that it all makes logical sense. If you only have a few Nike shoe pairs in stock, it might not be wise to dedicate an entire subcategory titled with that specific make. 

The golden ratio to follow for sorting “category:subcategory: products is roughly 1:2:3.” Which is to say, you shouldn’t have more subcategories than you have products. And you shouldn’t have more main categories than you have subcategories.

  1. Categorizing right is a job half done

Zoning in on the correct product keyword might prove tricky, especially when the products you are selling are unbranded, raw stock items. For branded items like Addidas, Nike, etc. using these names in the title should suffice. 

When you’re dealing with unbranded items, you’d have to research what the generic term is for that specific product. 

Eg: You might feel like calling your footwear a loafer but if the most popular search term indicates that your audience is more familiar with the term cleats, then you’d have to switch to this usage. 

To do this, it is smart to use an SEO tool that allows you to try variations of different search terms that apply to your product. The keywords with the highest search volume are likely to be the most frequently used.

  1. Master the art of meta-text

Every single page on your website comes with its meta title and meta description. You can easily find this when you view the page’s source code. Ecommerce store owners generally prefer to use placeholder text for most of their page meta titles and descriptions. 

The task of crafting a unique title and description when you’re handling hundreds of product pages is strenuous, to say the least. 

One way you can solve this is by identifying which pages attract the most search traffic and clicks. Single them out and assign click-worthy titles and meta descriptions that include a fair bit of high-volume keywords to match the algorithm ranking. 

As we mentioned previously, any decent SEO tool comes with a search traffic explorer that allows you to find out which pages attract the most views. You can then leverage this information to craft unique, attractive, and keyword-optimized content.

We can hardly stress this enough: Ensure that your page urls are coherent and make perfect logical sense. Get your categories right. If you’re selling footwear, then shoes are the main category. Here, Sports is a subcategory. So is formal. Structuring your URL would then look somewhat like this:


Let’s say you’re selling a product called Y2K under the sports shoe category. The resulting URL is best arranged to look like this:

  1. Stay relevant in the long-tail keyword game

Apart from the general guidelines, such as keeping the product descriptions digestible, short, succinct, and catchy, you might have to plug in long-tail keywords as well. You can easily get this by:

  1. Entering your primary keyword into an SEO tool
  2. Check out the high-ranking pages that correspond to this keyword.
  3. Find other secondary keywords that this page also ranks for.

These secondary keywords will comprise a range of long-tail keyword variations that you can use on your product page to make it more competitive. Be wary of keyword stuffing though. This does not bode well for Google’s algorithm.

  • 8. Build a web of links the smart way

Link building is by far the toughest activity when it comes to SEO. This is mainly because it is hard to incentivize someone to link your website’s product page. We’re referring to organic traffic here.

Requesting a feature

  1. Getting featured on the “best of” or “products we reviewed” list:

Let’s say you have a top-selling footwear product. For eg: the Y2K sports shoe we mentioned earlier has topped your revenue charts this year. Find footwear reviewers that cater to your audience, and have access to a wide database of such subscribers. You can approach them with a free product asking them to review your product (if they find it interesting) and feature it on their list. 

Even if the product review isn’t entirely positive, you can still get them to link to your product page, which helps your SEO tremendously. Furthermore, you could give them an affiliate commission and offer the product at a discounted rate to customers. This way, the benefit is three-fold: 

  1. Your product page gets a link built
  2. You get featured on a publicly popular page
  1. You get to cater to more customers that approach you through the affiliate link.

Requesting a linked mention

Convert unlinked mentions into linked mentions:

This is another surefire way to build a product link that’s way more practical. First of all, find pages where your product or brand has been mentioned without a link. 

You can then approach the publisher with a request to link the mention to your product page, where readers can learn more about the product first-hand and buy it, if interested. 

If you’re using Ahrefs as a tool, finding unlinked mentions is pretty straightforward using the Content Explorer.

  • 9. Emphasize problem-solving

Here’s a quick content-related tip to help you improve your product’s SEO. Use a good tool like Ahrefs to find what questions related to your product are most frequently asked. If you’re using Ahrefs, you can use the Keywords Explorer’s Questions section to browse through a few of these. 

Find specific keywords that are relevant to address the problem that your product can solve. Eg: Winterwear shoes help keep your feet warm for long hours during the cold. You might also find questions such as: what to do when my winter shoes lose padding? While directly addressing this specific problem in a blog post, you can also plug in a link to your product page where users can buy a brand-new pair of winter shoes.

Now, this is a three-fold process:

  1. First, we find which problems are most frequently raised. These are pressing concerns where you’ll detect high levels of search. Based on this research, you can conclude that a blog post or content piece that addresses said topic (eg: worn-out winter padding in shoes) can attract a great deal of traffic from interested audiences.
  1. Secondly, you aim to keep your content informative for audiences that visit your page to know more about how they can solve this particular problem (here, worn-out winter padding in their shoes). 
  1. Simultaneously, you can plug in a product link for visitors who’d be interested in buying your brand of products (eg:winter-wear shoes in this case). 


It is important to be sensible about which blog topics you devote an entire content piece to. Visitors who own a pair of worn-out shoes are likely more open to chucking them for a new pair. 

On the other hand, questions related to “what fluid is best to use for cleaning my winter shoes” is not so likely to fetch you any new conversions. The reasoning behind this is simple. The former is a customer because they’re potentially in need of replacing an outdated product. The latter is simply looking for a way to improve or maintain its appearance. One has to do with basic function and the other is more about aesthetics.

10. Use the two-fold approach to finding niche markets

Here’s something that even SEO experts often overlook:

1. Search volume does not always have to be your guiding north star.

 A high search volume could just as easily be met with high competition. You’ll find there are plenty of sellers who cater to popular search keywords. 

What’s smarter is finding the relevant niche market where you can thrive and profit off of the relatively low-stakes competition. 

Let’s break it down: Let’s say there’s a high percentage (80%) of the sportswear market searching for “sportswear shoes”. The competition is almost impossible to outmatch. 

But what happens when you discover that of the remaining 20%, almost 2000 search keywords are related to “sports shoes to wear in winter? “. That right there is a niche market. If the competition is low in this segment (not many brands are specifically targeting these audiences with their messaging), you’ll have a clear advantage. You can align your messaging to target this segment and position yourself as a niche brand specializing in “winter wear sports shoes”. This whole tangent is just an extended example of how to recognize an opportunity. 

Customers who are specific in what they’re searching for generally aren’t casual browsers. They are buyers with intent and might even be open to converting instantly as soon as they find the product they’re looking for. 

2. What’s the hottest selling point for your product? 

Keyword explorer tools offer a wealth of insights into this. Not only do you get to know what these customers are searching for, but also what the key deal-breaker (or deal-maker) for them is. 

  1.  If 2500 users are searching for winter shoes under $500, then the price could be your hottest selling point. 
  1. If most of your search traffic indicates that users are searching for winter shoes that last longer, then durability is your key selling point. 
  1. If a great number of users (let’s say 4500) are looking for waterproof winter shoes, then weather resistance becomes a selling point you can zone in on. 

Key Takeaway Points

1. The key thing to remember about SEO strategies is that it is a long game. Quick results are rare and almost impossible to achieve. 

2. As Google and other search-based content platforms keep updating their algorithm, strategies to stay relevant will also change over time. You must make sure you’re staying updated on the latest trends. 

As SEO evolves, your online store has to evolve accordingly if you’re planning to stay relevant and successful. 

For more blog posts on online selling and financial planning, bookmark our page and feel free to get in touch with any queries you may have. 

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