This E-Commerce SEO Trick Can Quickly Boost Your Product Search Rankings

One shift in strategy can make all the difference.

There’s a powerful e-commerce SEO strategy that’s too often overlooked by e-commerce merchants. According to some groundbreaking research unveiled at SMX West 2020 , there’s a larger opportunity in E-commerce category pages for ranking and driving organic search traffic than you typically get with product detail pages.

It’s all about where a shopper begins their search for a product.

Category pages are where a shopper begins their search. They are the top of the funnel. By the time a shopper gets down to an interest in specific models or features, a lot of the discovery end of a search has already been completed.

A product listing page containing those specific keywords is fine if they start out looking for a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV model DSLR camera, but most queries will probably just begin with “DSLR Camera.” And that kind of query will surface your category page– if you’ve remembered to optimize it.

The study examined 30+ top U.S. e-commerce sites and their rankings for more than 25 billion keywords. It demonstrated that category pages outperformed product detail pages to a significant degree. They got better keyword rankings, and captured more traffic.

E-commerce category pages were found to be ranking for 19% more keywords compared with product detail pages.

The additional keywords were more valuable too. Those resulted in 413% more traffic.

Certain kinds of sites and products benefit more than others from this e-commerce SEO strategy.

Sites that sold cordless hammer drills, table lamps and cowboy boots drove stronger performance with category pages where those generic “head” keywords were included. This was especially true on sites devoted to fashion, home goods and home improvement, as well as department store sites.

The one exception is the category of electronics, where product pages performed more strongly. Electronics keywords tend to focus on product attributes or specifications. Common TV searches include words like the size, or the type of display technology, for example. Electronics product names often need to contain attributes because so many products are similar..

Direct-to-consumer brands are excellent candidates for keywords on category pages rather than product detail pages. These brand manufacturers –selling their own products on their own sites – generated 202% more traffic with category pages/

Marketplaces are an exception–sometimes.

The phenomenon isn’t consistent when it comes to marketplaces. There, the results varied among the best known players.

On Amazon, keywords used for product detail pages performed approximately 18 times better than category pages. Traffic for detail pages was also exponentially higher.

Like with Amazon, Etsy showed stronger rankings for product detail pages, as crafted goods shoppers there usually have something very specific in mind when they’re starting their search. And on, product detail pages also performed better than category pages.

Target and Macy’s, which still retain the character of a department store rather than a marketplace with fewer third party sellers and more brands, showed stronger-ranking category pages. This was also true on eBay.

Why it matters

To boost your organic search rankings and traffic, focusing on assigning good keywords to your category pages can yield measurable improvements.

It’s all about the site’s taxonomy, which you can think of like a funnel. The head keyword sits at the mouth of the funnel, while the related, more detailed themes step lower to form the torso and long tail that move toward the tip of the funnel. Product keywords form the end of the funnel, where conversion takes place.

For example, an e-commerce site that sells clothing could have the following click path through a series of five category pages: children’s clothing > pants > knit pants > girls’ pink knit pants > Size 5 girls’ pink knit pants. Each of those five pages targets a unique keyword theme with its own slot in the sales funnel. By optimizing category pages, you can capture those searching customers as they explore their purchase options.

So the bottom line is, you can achieve higher rankings by focusing on category pages for your own e-commerce site and, depending on the marketplace, adjusting your category page strategy where it makes sense to do so.

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