The best place to start is from the bottom up. Every little tweak or change you do can make a difference. To help, here’s an outline of a few important places to get started to get the most return for your time and effort.
Choose your keywords.
First things first, and that means you need to decide on what keywords you want to rank for. Make a list of no more than 50-75 and stick with them. This list will become your keyword Bible that you will refer to over and over again. Don’t use the same terms for every single page or category – make a keyword ladder that shows what terms are for what pages. If you’re selling clothes, for example, you’ll want relevant and different keywords for shirts, pants, jeans and socks. You can always add terms, but making sure you reinforce your key terms throughout your site is step one.
Set up your navigation, with your keywords in mind.
Your navigation and the breadcrumbs you’ll use on your site will be what the Google spiders follow to index your site. Try to create categories on your site that match your keywords, so your breadcrumbs will look something like: women’s clothes > designer > Versace > shirts. This not only makes your site easy to navigate from a customer UI standpoint, but also adds bonus long-tail keywords to Google’s view (someone very well could be searching women’s designer Versace shirts – bonus traffic!).
Choose one main keyword per page.
Don’t overstuff keywords into the copy on every single page. All you’re going to do is confuse Google – and your customers. Look at each product description or page, decide which keyword phrase is most relevant and go for it.
Create a left-side navigation.
This is the first place the Googlebots look, so if you can, you want this to be quality, helpful stuff. This is not the place to put your contact link – use it to list your product categories (which, of course, are your main keywords).
Keep your product URLs simple.
Don’t use URLs that with useless IDs or keywords. Keeping your URLs simple (such as /product/productname.html) ensures two things: First, that Google knows exactly what is on that page, and second, if you move a product to a different category or section of the site, the URL will always remain the same because it is product-specific only. You’ll thank me later!
ALT tags for images = bonus keyword spot!
Don’t forget to use alt= tags in your image attributes to get a keyword use in. Many people forget that optimizing images for Google search is a great way to drive extra traffic. Make sure you name your product using a keyword in each tag, so Google knows exactly what is in that image.
Link between your content and products.
Internal contextual links not only keep customers moving around your site, they also reinforce page importance with Google. Just be sure to use smart keyword anchor text for you links, and not just “click here.”
Never use the manufacturer product description.
Everyone else – and their mother, brother and dog! – have this same description on their site, which means it won’t help you in any way at all. Even if you just rewrite it slightly, make your content unique. And, of course, make sure you work in your keyword phrase for that specific page.
Links in product descriptions.
Along the same lines as above, but more specific: If someone is on a page looking at something, they are likely interested in similar products. Your product description (which you KNOW they’ll read!) is a great place to not only snag a little link juice, but also help direct the customer to other possible items they might purchase.
Keyword up your copy, but in a readable way.
Yes, you want to get that darn keyword in there three more times, but don’t force it. Keywords in copy are important, but make sure the copy reads decently, so you don’t turn off customers. Google might just see keywords and be happy, but your customers aren’t as easily amused… and will likely be turned off.
Create product feeds and category blogs.
With a minimal amount of work, this can supercharge the amount of unique content you have on your site and the amount of pages that are linked between your site. You’ll earn a few new indexed URLs every day, keeping your site constantly fresh and updated, which encourages the Googlebots to keep coming back and coming for new products and pages.
Product tagging. Everybody’s doing it.
We’re all so used to tagging pictures and things in our social networks, that people are just inclined to do that all over. Start with tags that you decide, but let people tag items with their own words as well. Who knows, you may end up ranking for some slang or new term that everyone knew about but you!
Allow product reviews.
Enabling product reviews is a great way to boost your search rank. Letting people review products not only gives you fresh, likely keyword-loaded content (that you didn’t have to pay for or write yourself!), but it also gives customers reinforcement on