So, you opened up your new eCommerce webstore on Bigcommerce. Congratulations! But, whom are you going to sell to if you don’t have any traffic to your site? It’s time for some Bigcommerce SEO love.
One of the most important traffic generation strategies you will need to understand is search engine optimization (SEO). This is the art and science of ensuring the different pages on your site rank well in search engine results for the keywords that are related to your business.
This is not a challenge that is unique to Bigcommerce users. Every website must think about how they will execute their SEO strategy. But, this article is about Bigcommerce!
Let’s dive into what Bigcommerce offers in terms of SEO functionality, and how it can help you generate more website traffic.
Bigcommerce SEO Features
Bigcommerce does a good job spelling out the specific SEO features they offer, so it won’t do anyone any good for me to just repeat them. Instead, I’ll talk about some of the more important ones and explain why they are important.
The most fundamental Bigcommerce SEO features offered help you manage your on-page SEO. If you ask me, these features should be a non-negotiable requirement for any website management platform. These features are the bear minimum (and most important) functionality you have for managing your SEO.
Performing on-page SEO means understanding the keyword(s) for which you want to rank, then tweaking the HTML on the webpage to optimize for that/those keyword(s).
This has little to do with strategy. This is pure execution. It’s making sure your webpage obeys critical SEO laws like:
- Ensuring the focus keyword is used in the page <TITLE> tag and ideally in the <H1> header
- Adding a rich meta description that describes the page and includes the focus keyword
- Defining a human-readable page URL that uses “-” for spaces and includes the focus keyword
- Ensuring images include ALT tag attributes that ideally include the focus keyword
Managing on-page SEO is usually a page by page thing, but you’ll find that SEO tends to follow an 80-20 rule…20% of your pages will generate 80% of your traffic. Make sure understand which pages are your most important.
Bigcommerce gives you the ability to perform all this basic on-page SEO optimization. It won’t help you decide what keywords to target nor will it write you a meta description that works like a tractor beam for qualified traffic. But, once you’ve done your SEO homework, Bigcommerce gives you the ability to execute on it.
Microdata & Schema Markup
Traditionally one of the problems with how search engines worked is that HTML, the language that actually defines what is on a webpage is too generic to reflect any kind of specific context. Go ahead, right click on this page and select “View Source”. You’ll see what it looks like.
HTML helps you define what text on a page is a header versus a sub-header versus a paragraph. It helps you specify that this thing is an image and this other thing is a link to another page. It helps you structure tables and lists of information.
But, it doesn’t help you define what the contents of the page are about.
To a computer (like the ones that power Google’s algorithm), a paragraph describing a bike that is for sale looks a lot like a paragraph reviewing a restaurant in Chicago or a paragraph explaining the efficacy of a pharmaceutical drug. The limits on the language of the web became the limits of Google’s, Bing’s, and any search engine’s intelligence.
Google, Microsoft, and others collaborated to create Schema, a microdata standard that allows you to define the contents of a webpage in more detail. It allows you to specific that “this page is a description of a movie” and “this other one is a recipe”. In an eCommerce context, it means marking up your data to explain things like:
- Which text is the product name versus the serial number versus the brand name
- Product properties like color and height
- The product’s SKU
- Which content represents the product’s customer ratings
Bigcommerce sites have this critical microdata built right in. As a result, your site will be eligible for richer search engine results like the one shown here (notice the rating):
Read more about Schema here.
Content Delivery Network
Bigcommerce uses a content delivery network (CDN) to distribute Bigcommerce-hosted webstores to your customers. I find this term confuses many eCommerce merchants, but it’s an important one to understand.
First, let’s take a step back to talk about what’s important here…
One of the critical factors Google uses for deciding how web pages rank is their page performance–in other words, how quickly the page and its contents load. By doing this Google incentivizes website owners to improve the experience for their users, therefore improving the experience of the Internet as a whole. Speed is important in Bigcommerce SEO, just as it is for every site.
Increasing the download speed of a website is expensive, when you pay for the hosting. You need to buy more servers. You need to buy faster ones. You have to set them up and optimize them according to hardware best practices. You need to distribute them all over the world, so that a request for a page coming from Taiwan doesn’t have to travel to a server in Oklahoma.
The first few points are solved simply by going with a SaaS platform like Bigcommerce. You pay them a monthly fee (as do all of their customers). They handle all the infrastructure optimization.
The last point, about geographic distribution, is what a content delivery network does. CDNs, like the one Bigcommerce offers as part of their platform, saves cached versions of your website in specific servers around the world. Then, it sends website visitor requests to the closest one, increasing the speed for every user.
That includes increasing the speed for the crawlers that fuel Google, Bing, and other search engines, meaning that they now see your site as more performant. This scores you points in the search ranking department.
There isn’t much in the way of configuration Bigcommerce’s CDN, but it’s an important SEO (as well as user experience) feature to understand.
Bigcommerce SEO Best Practices
Bigcommerce provides solid documentation that explains how to use their SEO features. They also provide an SEO Overview that explains the practice of search engine optimization, and helps guide you toward the right Bigcommerce SEO decisions.
To augment that, here are some best practices that you should follow…
Do your keyword research up front–before you start building product pages and trying to optimize. Simply filling the Bigcommerce fields (like meta description) out with arbitrary values–like your product name, because why not?–is not thoughtful.
You should understand what terms people are using to search for topics related to what you sell. There may not necessarily be a one-to-one relationship. In other words, you won’t be able to optimize every product page for a low competition, high search volume keyword. That’s why some of your pages will be really important for SEO. Others for other reasons. Remember the 80-20 rule.
None of this thoughtful strategy is possible without keyword research.
Moz provides a good overview of keyword research as part of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Use What You’ve Got
I can’t tell you how many times I see merchants simply not using the SEO features that are available to them, because they don’t have time or don’t have the knowledge. Ignoring SEO will not make it go away.
Make an effort to take advantage of every Bigcommerce SEO feature that is offered to you. If you don’t understand one, figure out what it’s for. Make an intentional decision to use it or not to instead avoiding it altogether.
Use SEO-friendly Templates
If you are selecting a vendor’s custom Bigcommerce templates or you are paying someone to build you a custom template, make sure that it still adheres to SEO best practices and supports the Bigcommerce SEO features.
Inadequate templates can limit–even break–core functionality in an eCommerce platform, like Bigcommerce. It’s not likely that a developer would do this intentionally, but a novice Bigcommerce developer may not know they are making mistakes.
Stick to trusted template marketplaces, select templates that have been reviewed by the community, and/or work with trusted and verified Bigcommerce developers. There are plenty of people doing it right. Don’t work with someone who does it wrong.
It’s hard to rank for relevant keywords with your product pages. Part of this is because your product names may not align nicely with your researched keywords. Part of it is because Google is unlikely to consider a product page from a small vendor as authoritative enough to rank in the top 10.
Blogging is your way to work on this problem!
By blogging you create non-product content that appeals to your audience/customers in other ways. It gives you the opportunity to create web pages that target non-product keywords. It helps you garner inbound links and social activity, all of which makes your site more authoritative to search engines.
Blog to build your brand. Blog to build your domain authority (SEO). Blog to connect with your audience. Bigcommerce gives you a blog. Use it.
Consider Google Shopping
Google Shopping gives you the ability to list products in Google’s eCommerce specific search engine rankings, at a cost. Just like with Google AdWords, you pay for position for certain keywords.
You don’t want to use this as the sole traffic generation technique, because it’s expensive over the long term. But, until you build enough brand awareness and domain authority, this is a great way to get your products in front of your customers.
Bigcommerce offers tools to help you push your products to Google Shopping.
What To Do Next
Yes, you need to understand the Bigcommerce SEO features. But, you need to understand SEO as a practice to really make use of them. Take advantage of some of the educational links throghout this article to learn the practice. A fundamental understanding of SEO makes a huge difference.