Search Engine Optimization for E CommerceSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a powerful technique to drive qualified traffic to a website and increase the likelihood of a sale as a result. I often get asked, “How should I optimize my ecommerce site for success?”

The truth of the matter is that good SEO practices are the same whether your site offers ecommerce or not. Not sure if something will help or hurt your site’s SEO? Ask yourself:

  1. Will this tactic drive more qualified and relevant traffic to my site?
  2. Will this tactic improve a site visitor’s experience?
  3. Does this enhancement make sense for your human visitors?

(Hint: The answer to all three of the above questions should be “yes.”)

In an article about search engine optimization techniques on, SEO consultant Hamlet Batista states,

The key principle is to first make sure the site, the content, the layout, and the instruction and navigation makes sense for the users because — as I tell my clients — the Google bot is not going to buy from you. It is not going to purchase your products. It is important that the bots can find all the content of the pages and that the pages make sense. But you are not optimizing the site for the search engine bots to make a purchase. You have to optimize it for the user. (Source: Practical eCommerce)

Let’s look at each of the questions above.

Will this tactic drive more qualified traffic to my site? The days of quantity over quality of site traffic are gone. If you are watching the total number of visitors to your site without considering whether the visitors will benefit from what you offer or if they are unlikely to convert, you are focusing on the wrong type of traffic.

Will this tactic improve the site visitor’s experience? Too often those in charge of an ecommerce site are all too focused on trying to beat the search engine algorithms at their own game. This urge drives them to make changes to their site that make no sense to the site user. Like Batista says above, the search engine bots aren’t going to buy from you–people are. If you design and optimize your site around your customer’s needs, both your customers and the search engine bots will reward you.

Does this enhancement make sense for your human visitors? This question makes me think of an inquiry I got a few months ago. An organization was concerned about ranking for its critical keywords and came to me with the idea of putting a keyword cloud at the bottom of each page of their site design to help increase their ranking for those keywords.  I was flabbergasted. (Keyword stuffing, anyone?) Not only does this break a number of SEO rules, it made no sense for their end user. When I asked what value this cloud would have for the end user, they told me that it wouldn’t and I advised them against the practice as likely to result in a negative outcome they weren’t anticipating.

Search engine optimization is an important factor ecommerce success–but creating a user-centered ecommerce experience is more important than any SEO technique. Follow the rule of making your ecommerce site effective and useful for your visitors and good search engine results ranking will follow.