Online search is one of the most important channels of customer acquisition, and a marketer’s ability to increase their site’s searchability is imperative to growth. Hubspot’s Search Engine Optimization Statistics page notes that organic search through Google alone gets over 100B searches per month, not even taking other engines like Bing or Yahoo into account.
These engines constantly crawl the internet, updating their respective databases so they can deliver relevant content related to user search queries. It’s up to the marketer to leave clues about content that search engines can track, and provide a clear path from a user to the content related to their search.
SEO is the marketing practice that focuses on increasing site visibility through organic search to increase web traffic and drive unique visitors to a site.
According to a 2016 study by Smartinsights.com, “34% of all e-commerce traffic comes from Search.” At the same time, a study by Advanced Web Ranking showed that 67.7% of all clicks go to the first 5 ranked search results.
These statistics show that strong SEO values are imperative to e-commerce enterprises. Optimizing search with the right combination of keywords, links, and site authority can bring in thousands of unique users, but the wrong combination can bury a site beneath its competition.
The good news for e-commerce marketers is that SEO can be greatly improved by focusing on a single, very specific page type. Product Listing Pages (PLPs) are where e-commerce companies list items that fall within a particular category or item type, and account for more than 50% of all e-commerce traffic.
By optimizing SEO on the Product Listing Page (PLP), e-commerce companies can significantly raise their site visibility and increase unique traffic by orders of magnitude.
Why Product Listing Pages?
First, PLP pages are keyword rich:
One of the most important factors for search engines is the amount of relevant keywords that closely match a particular search query. According to both Hubspot and marketing strategy firm Brafton (brafton.com), 50% of search queries are more than 4 words long.
Consumers utilize search strings that contain long-tail keywords. Meaning, instead of searching for “jackets,” they’re likely to use a more specific search string like “red men’s fleece jackets,” to get as close to their target product as possible.
E-commerce homepages and product detail pages will rarely contain strings of long-tail keywords for any given search query. The homepage includes keywords for all site offerings as a whole, and the amount of keywords unrelated to a given search query drag the SEO score down.
Product Detail Pages (PDP), contain focused and long-tail keywords that describe a single item, so its SEO score for a search query will rank higher than the homepage. However, because the focus of the page is on a particular item, the product detail page is keyword limited.
The PLP page differs from product pages because it contains a wide variety of items in a given category, and all the keyword rich descriptions for each item. For example, if you were to Google “men’s shoes,” Nordstrom's “Men’s Shoes” PLP page is the top result, because it contains a large collection of items that include the queried keywords and related keywords. (Links above the example are paid ads.)
Nordstrom's PLP page on the right contains 72 products on the first results page alone, each of which has a detailed link and a description that includes “men’s shoes” keywords. Each individual product title, description, and associated keyword contributes to the overall SEO value of the page, significantly raising its visibility.
Product listing pages naturally contain a much larger concentration of highly relevant keywords than any other page type, so unless you search for an exact product title, searches will almost always direct to PLP.
PLP Pages are heavily linked to
The most unintuitive aspect of SEO in e-commerce is that the number of Product Detail Pages (PDPs) exponentially outweighs the number of product listing pages, but PLP’s are far more important for search traffic. While keywords are only one contributing factor to a page’s SEO score, another very important consideration is the number of internal links to a given page.
SEO values are heavily influenced by the amount of links that direct to a page, both internally (within the website) and externally (backlinks and outside sources). The more inbound links a page has, the more SEO authority it gains. While each product detail page will have a few links directing to it, EVERY product page will always directly link back to the associated PLP page.
Going back to the Nordstrom example - there are 72 links to individual products on each PLP page and 50 pages of men’s shoes. Each individual product within that category links directly to the “Men’s shoes” product listing page. That means that there are 72 products on 50 pages, or 3,600 individual links, directing users right back to the same PLP.
Even if a product page contains keywords very relevant to a search query, its SEO authority will be minimal in comparison to a product listing page with hundreds or even thousands of backlinks.
Improving SEO on PLP pages
Now that we’ve discussed the reasons why PLP pages are of the utmost importance to e-commerce SEO, there are a few basic strategies that retailers can utilize to increase PLP SEO scores, site visibility, and conversions.
1. Increase the number of relevant keywords included on PLP pages by adding plain text descriptions and related keywords.
Plain text has a higher SEO authority than individual links, so including this text within the PLP page helps add weighted keywords that would otherwise be un-captured.
At the same time, e-commerce companies sneak additional keywords in through things like “related searches” or “related categories.”
This strategy extends the number of potentially relevant keywords on the page, which is very helpful for companies that don’t have 3000+ products to list in any given category.
2. Embed keywords within the URLs of PLP pages
Search engines rely on the keywords within the URLs themselves among other things to figure out relevance of pages to search queries.
For example, look for the common traits in these three URL’s:
Each of these PLP pages was the top search result for the query entered, and each page URL includes the keywords associated with the relevant categories (including parent categories). Essentially, embedding names of categories within the URL helps search engines categorize the page and makes that page more relevant to the right queries.
This strategy actually applies not only to the PLP pages but also to the product detail pages. Both page types hugely benefit from embedding relevant keywords within their associated URLs.
3. Raise SEO authority by decreasing bounce rate
In this 2016 Moz.com post, we see that while Google’s use of ‘bounce rate’ is often debated, there’s a direct correlation between high bounce rate, low click through rate, low time on page, and low search rankings.
Search engines are concerned with a page’s relevance, so they want to know that the page they send a customer to satisfies user intent; as such, SEO scores for pages with a large number of links are greatly affected by click-through and bounce rates.
When a potential customer arrives on a PLP page but doesn’t click through - in any context, not just search - that exchange sends a signal to search engines that the content on that page is not relevant to the query or click that brought them there. This negatively affects the page’s value. To improve PLP page SEO, it’s imperative to improve the click-through-rate of the PLP page for all users (meaning not just users obtained through search or paid ads.)
This is incredibly difficult within PLP pages because it requires the ability to recognize users, understand their preferences, and sort content in real time for each individual user accordingly.
Jetlore’s Predictive Ranking™ was designed to accomplish just that. The artificial intelligence that powers Jetlore’s Prediction Platform™ generates a deep understanding of each customer’s preference in semantic product attributes; because of that, all content is sorted immediately at the time of interaction. Jetlore’s ranking engine then automatically sorts and surfaces the best content for each customer on the PLP page, which increases click-throughs, reduces PLP bounce rate, and adds positive values to the PLP search rank.
A strong SEO strategy is integral to any e-commerce business’s customer acquisition efforts; while strengthening SEO ranking is not easy by any means, strengthening your PLP pages through these methods will go a long way for your site’s visibility, traffic, and overall site usability.
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