BigCommerce SEO: 17 Tips For Boosting Organic Traffic to Your Store
October 19, 2022
BigCommerce is one of the top ecommerce platforms available, providing merchants with powerful features for nurturing leads and increasing sales.
You can further boost your organic acquisition strategy by investing in search engine optimization (SEO) for your store.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the easiest SEO tactics you can implement to build visibility and drive targeted traffic to your BigCommerce store.
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The importance of SEO in ecommerce
Unlike paid advertising like Google Shopping campaigns and social media ads, SEO costs far less to implement and maintain.
An optimized store also generates traffic continuously, compared to paid campaigns that stop performing when the budget runs out.
SEO is an affordable and consistent way to generate leads. And the statistics back up its authority:
- According to HubSpot, SEO is the second most-effective channel for acquiring new customers (after social media).
- If done right, leads from SEO have a close rate of 14.6%.
- The average cost of SEO ranges from $750 to $2,000 per month, but its affordability for ecommerce manifests in its ROI, which is about $2.75 for every dollar spent.
These numbers demonstrate that elevating your BigCommerce store with the help of SEO is worth the resources.
What is BigCommerce SEO?
BigCommerce SEO follows the rules of regular SEO. The platform allows users to optimize their BigCommerce stores by offering several SEO features from the onset, some of which include:
- Optimized URLs: BigCommerce automatically generates SEO-friendly URLs for your webpages and allows you to tweak their settings.
- Unique URLs: The ecommerce platform prevents duplicate content that could compromise your store by guaranteeing each unique page has only one URL.
- Microdata: Microdata, or “rich snippets,” are built into your product pages and enhance your search result listings with information like brand, ratings, stock levels, and pricing.
- 301 redirects and URL rewrites: BigCommerce’s auto-populated URLs adjust and reflect changes when you rename a product. Old URLs are also redirected to new ones.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): BigCommerce’s CDN sends photos and other files as fast as possible, which improves your site speed—a metric Google and other search engines use as a ranking factor for search results.
The BigCommerce platform understands the importance of optimizing for search rankings, especially for a growing ecommerce business.
17 BigCommerce SEO tips to boost your rankings
To maximize the above functionalities, we’ll walk you through some best practices for your BigCommerce SEO initiatives.
These tips will grow your rankings and refine your content, so the right consumers find you.
1. Register with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
Registering your BigCommerce store with these services informs Google and Bing that your site exists and ensures it’s crawled.
Here’s how you do it:
- Google Search Console: First, set up your account. Then, select + Add Property and follow these instructions.
- Bing Webmaster Tools: This process is similar to that for Google Search Console, but you’ll select Add a Site instead. Then, follow these directions.
Afterward, you’ll be required to submit an XML sitemap so Google and Bing can index your site.
Think of this as code that acts like a catalog of your most important pages. Search engines use it to crawl your website properly.
Luckily, BigCommerce will automatically generate your sitemap. To access it, go to [yourdomain].com/xmlsitemap.php.
Finally, familiarize yourself with these resources that show how to submit your sitemap:
2. Optimize key pages first
Typically, the most visited site pages are your home, category, and product pages.
Optimizing these pages with great on-page SEO considerably increases their search engine visibility, allowing you to attract more website traffic.
To pinpoint what pages you should revise first, implement tools like the Ahrefs Site Explorer and Google Analytics that show you which ones receive the most visitors:
- Google Analytics provides real-time reporting, as well as insights about acquisitions, conversions, visitor behavior, and your audience.
- Ahrefs Site Explorer tracks your page visits and lets you analyze both organic and paid search traffic data.
3. Craft content that prioritizes the reader experience
Search engines rely on your content to comprehend your website.
However, your content’s most critical role is to serve as the bridge between you and your customers. Here are some tips to help your content do its job:
- Always publish compelling and original material, whether it’s for blog posts, videos, images, or product descriptions.
- Avoid being keyword-heavy, as your content may seem unnatural to consumers.
- Make sure it’s relevant. Tailor your store and content according to what resonates with your audience.
Delivering a superb shopping experience will bring you one step closer to higher rankings.
In turn, search engines provide users with the most appropriate results for their search queries, so you want to ensure your content appeals to both parties.
4. Perform in-depth keyword research
The root of successful SEO for a BigCommerce store is keyword research.
You want to find keywords with high search volumes that are easy to rank highly for or those that match your audience’s search intent.
Proper research reveals the words and phrases your audience employs to find the products you sell.
It’s important to improve your brand’s search visibility because 32% of online shoppers begin their journey with a search engine.
While the terms they use can vary based on intent, the final destination is the same—the purchase of a product.
Your goal is for them to buy from your BigCommerce store.
Optimizing your store for the search terms shoppers are likely to use increases the odds customers will find (and choose) you over the competition.
Keyword research also prevents you from building content around the wrong keywords, which could lead to missed sales opportunities.
Start by creating a targeted keyword list.
This list will contain head terms as well as long-tail phrases that relate to your products, categories, and business. Head terms are short, simple keywords that drive high traffic because they’re heavily searched.
An example of a head term would be “running shoes.”
Meanwhile, long-tail searches are lengthier phrases like “best running shoes for long-distance marathons.”
While these see less traffic, they’re more specific and are far more likely to convert because the customer intent changes.
Most customers use narrower long-tail keywords when searching for products, with one study revealing over 90% of keywords searched were long-tail keywords.
Compose a list of head and long-tail terms for each of your products.
Certain SEO tools (like the ones listed below) can help you find such search queries, as well as provide suggestions for other long-tail search terms you may have overlooked:
- Ahrefs Keywords Explorer presents thousands of keyword suggestions, precise search volumes, traffic potential, and other data from multiple search engines.
- Semrush Keyword Research Tools glean insights on a keyword’s advertising value, uncover keyword gaps for targeted campaigns, and more. You can also run competitor analysis to see what they’re targeting.
- Google Keyword Planner leverages the data of one of the most used search engines in the world, Google. It can display search volumes per keyword and more.
- KWFinder will show you keywords related to your target term, as well as an overview of the search results that are ranking well for your terms.
Keyword research is simple but slightly time-consuming. But it’s worth the effort, as BigCommerce makes the rest of your search optimization much easier with it.
5. Build backlinks to your content
Featuring comprehensive posts about subjects people are invested in brings a respectable SERP ranking within reach.
High-quality backlinks from other websites that point to your content will also help you achieve it.
Think of backlinks as endorsements for your BigCommerce store.
They prove to search engines that others vouch for your content and that what you deliver is highly relevant to users. To build backlinks, adopt tools for conducting competitor backlink analysis:
- Ahrefs Site Explorer, mentioned previously, has a backlink checker that gauges the backlink profile of any website or URL.
- Semrush Backlink Analytics analyzes your backlink profile and finds your niche’s existing inbound links.
Next, review your results to identify backlink opportunities, then leverage a tool like BuzzSumo to find influencers or key opinion leaders who resonate with your target audience.
Partnering with them can help you produce relevant content and build your brand.
6. Refine your page titles
Your page title is what appears in the SERP or when your page is shared on social media. You should also target a short-tail and a long-tail keyword, but limit each to 60 characters or less.
Additionally, write your title for audiences rather than search engines.
It delivers your brand’s first impression and gives users a feel for your page’s content, compelling them to visit.
Note: Page titles use an element called a title tag, which is automatically included in BigCommerce.
7. Write succinct meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are short statements seen beneath your page title, typically composed of a couple of sentences.
But, as can be seen in the Razer’s example above, they can also highlight your brand’s key selling points, followed by a succinct explanation for your site.
Stuffing them with keywords is less effective than in the past, but they can still attract an audience’s attention.
Meta descriptions aren’t a direct SEO ranking factor, but since they can affect click rate, there’s an indirect effect. As Google notices your content is highly engaging, it may move up in ranking.
Focus on making your description straightforward yet compelling, and limit it to 160 to 165 characters. Showcase what makes you stand out.
As another consideration, Google may take the following actions to better match search queries:
- Change your meta description and title tag
- Create a dynamic description based on the content of your page.
BigCommerce SEO is made simple with certain built-in features and fields, so you never have to enter or adjust your online store’s code.
Rather than directly manipulating the meta tags of your pages, BigCommerce gives you specific fields for adjusting the title, meta keywords, and meta descriptions of your homepage and the individual product and landing pages.
Craft a unique title and meta description for each product page using the best keywords you uncovered for each product.
The best BigCommerce SEO strategy will also optimize the metadata for each of your category, product, and landing pages, as well as your blog pages.
Along with contributing to your organic search rank, the title and description are the initial elements customers see when they encounter your site in search.
It’s the first opportunity for conversion, and the keywords that consumers search are boldfaced in your meta description if you use them.
Smart optimization and compelling copy can win you the click over competitor sites, even if you’re not the top result.
8. Leverage rich snippets
BigCommerce supports additional markup language to make rich snippets appear in search engines.
Typically, Google shows page title and meta description in the search results. With this extra markup, you can tell search engines how to display additional information about your store and products.
Employing rich snippets establishes relevance for products and provides customers with quick access to information that encourages them to click through to your product.
They show up below your page title and meta description, influencing what search engine users see in their SERPs.
BigCommerce can use the details you input to generate and enhance your SERP listings automatically with product information such as:
- Stock levels
Take advantage of BigCommerce’s support for rich snippets to improve your SEO and garner extra traffic from search engines.
Companies that leverage rich snippets increase their click-through rates (CTR) by 20%–30%, while the overall CTR sees a 58% boost.
You can see the difference in basic search results and those with variable amounts of featured product data based on rich snippets:
BigCommerce themes displayed in the marketplace include structured data for all product pages as a native feature.
That means you don’t have to take extra steps to benefit from rich snippets.
They pull microdata directly from the information you provide, so include all the details of your products when constructing product pages.
9. Use clean URL structures
Shorter and simpler URLs (i.e., those without “/page/” prefixes and “.html” sections) are better for SEO performance, and BigCommerce automatically generates these for product, category, and other types of pages.
You can also tweak your URL Structure Settings to customize and create cleaner URLs. All you have to do is:
- Navigate to the URL Structure tab
- Access Settings
- Select General
The options presented depend on the type of page you want to tailor URLs for. Product page URL settings, for instance, are as follows:
Options for category pages are:
Lastly, these are the settings for web content pages:
Before shortening and cleaning your URLs, remember to include at least one focus keyword so search engines and visitors can easily grasp your page’s content.
10. Optimize your category pages
Category pages serve a greater purpose beyond showing a gallery of related products.
With BigCommerce SEO, strategic navigation is important for a top-notch user experience, as well as to establish relevance between products and categories.
When designing your store, make sure the architecture is constructed in silos.
This represents a natural flow from homepage to category and possible sub-categories, and finally to the product pages.
When you use breadcrumb links, these product pages will point back to the leading category page and help search engines identify the importance and relevance of each category page.
Consider proper information architecture, accessibility, and content curation before building your category pages.
You can also link product-specific keywords to individual product pages or sub-category pages to support your internal link strategy.
Each page should be further refined where possible. This includes:
- Optimized page titles and meta descriptions
- Optimized title and alt tags for any images used on the category pages
- Relevant, high-value content optimized for search and the user experience
The content doesn’t have to interrupt the category experience.
Place your grid or list product layout first so it shows above the fold. Give it a clear H1 tag with a brief description that’s only a few sentences.
The rest of the optimized content can follow your category selections at the bottom of the page.
This placement won’t steal the customer’s attention, but even a lower position will contribute SEO value to your category pages.
Here’s an example of a BigCommerce client placing optimized content at the bottom of a category page:
Be sure you include valuable content your customers will benefit from rather than stuffing in keywords and junk content for the sake of optimization.
11. Employ headings to guide navigation
When building a store on a platform like BigCommerce, many sellers make the mistake of misusing headings.
They bold, capitalize, or italicize text to break up or structure content. We strongly advise against this since it can:
- Be detrimental to BigCommerce SEO: Without proper headings, search engines will have trouble fully understanding and indexing your content.
- Negatively impact readability: Your content will not only lack structure but also be difficult to read, especially for the visually impaired.
- Affect the overall aesthetic: Simply put, your content will look bad.
You can easily add headings to your content through BigCommerce’s WYSIWYG Editor, which you can access by going to Storefront and then selecting Web Pages.
Simply click on the formatting drop-down menu (as shown in the screenshot above), then select the type of heading you need (seen in the image below).
Also, limit yourself to a single H1 per page and make sure it doesn’t copy your page title, or else Google may see it as excessive optimization.
12. Improve your image alt text and file names
While indexing your website, search engines will examine your images and pay close attention to two crucial elements: your alt text and file names.
This serves as your image’s description and contains focus keywords.
Search engines use alt text to categorize and understand the context of your image. It’s also what users see when your image fails to load and what screen readers pick up from the image.
Thanks to that, it’s a requirement for ADA compliance, helping your website meet the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design.
Importantly, it can help you appear in Google’s image search results.
Adding alt text can be done through BigCommerce’s WYSIWYG Editor.
Go to Storefront and choose Web Pages, like when including headings. From there, though, click on Insert/Edit Image as shown in the screenshot below.
A menu will then appear, asking you to upload your image. After doing so, click on the Appearance tab.
You can then input your alt text in the Image description field.
A file name also helps search engines comprehend an image’s content. Make sure it’s brief, straightforward, and contains your focus keyword.
Most importantly, double-check it before uploading the file—this will avoid the hassle of re-uploading because the file name needs tweaking.
13. Maximize page load speeds
A reliable platform like BigCommerce introduces a cleaner and faster ecommerce experience.
Virtually all the prebuilt themes and templates are designed to provide smooth shopping for consumers.
However, if you’re not careful about the media and apps you implement, you can slow down your store’s performance.
In 2018, Google announced page speed would carry greater weight as a ranking factor in search results, especially mobile search.
So, how fast your store loads is vital to both search visibility and conversions.
According to research from MachMetrics, most websites have a load time of around 7.2 seconds, bumping to nine to 11 on mobile devices.
Unfortunately, research from Google has shown the probability of bounce rates increases 106% when going from one to six seconds of loading time.
Even going from one to three seconds increases the chance of someone leaving by 32%.
That means your goal is to ensure your website loads as quickly as possible—within one to two seconds.
You can use free tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test factors impacting your load speed.
Once you run it on your site, Google will make optimization recommendations.
Because BigCommerce uses shared hosting, there’s little you can do to improve load speed in that regard.
However, you can optimize other areas by taking the following actions:
- Only use essential scripts or code. External or custom scripts can slow your site, so keep them to a minimum.
- Minimize third-party apps. These enhance functionality but can hinder your BigCommerce site’s performance. Only include what you need.
- Avoid a large variety of web fonts. Use safe fonts that load quicker.
- Compress images. Smaller file sizes equate to faster image load speeds. Tools like TinyPNG can help you do that, but exercise restraint since images can become pixelated. Be sure to shrink decorative and product images as well to load faster.
- Enable Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This framework displays fast-loading versions of your BigCommerce pages and content in mobile search results.
- Use Cache plugins, so pages don’t load dynamically on every visit. Try to consolidate any apps and plugins that may be slowing store performance.
- Audit your redirects and simplify any long redirect paths that may be increasing load times.
The Shogun Page Builder app can assist with many of these SEO areas.
By default, it compresses images and employs lazy loading (if an image is below the fold, it doesn’t load until the visitor scrolls down and can see it).
In a single app, you receive a page builder (which includes custom forms, slider menus, countdown clocks, and other elements that often come as standalone plugins), an analytics tool (to review total sessions, sales conversions, bounce rate, etc.), and much more.
When choosing extensions to your BigCommerce store, you only want the best BigCommerce apps so you get the most without slowing down your store.
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14. Adopt a mobile-friendly theme
Alongside ecommerce expansion is the growth of the mobile user.
Roughly eight in 10 Americans are online shoppers, with 79% having made an online purchase of any type (up 22% from 2002).
However, more consumers are using mobile devices like phones and tablets to shop online, either to complete purchases or perform initial research before buying on a desktop device.
In the U.S. alone, consumers spend 234 minutes each day on a mobile device, and mobile commerce commands a 72.9% market share among total ecommerce sales.
To capture that traffic, you need to optimize your store for mobile users. This accomplishes more than ensuring a smooth shopping experience, though.
In 2016, Google adjusted its algorithm to include mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. As a result, sites not considered “mobile-friendly” would struggle to rank in mobile search.
Thankfully, BigCommerce makes it easy to comply with the update: Virtually every theme available in the BigCommerce marketplace is designed to be responsive and mobile-friendly.
Stencil, BigCommerce’s theme platform, allows you to choose between various themes optimized for different catalog sizes, promotions, and content. It comes with fully mobile responsive designs and mobile-optimized checkout.
If you’re constructing a custom frontend for your store, make sure the design is optimized for the mobile user, including fast load times and an intuitive layout.
Tip: Shogun Page Builder allows brands to build responsive pages and design content unique to certain screen sizes. This helps you ensure the best buyer experience on any device.
15. Strengthen your website security
A lack of security measures can negatively impact your website’s SEO rankings.
If you have an unsecured site, web browsers will display warning messages telling users to avoid it. As a result, you’ll lose visitor trust.
The most important yet simplest way to protect your store is by securing an SSL Certificate, which shows “https://” rather than “http://.”
Luckily, BigCommerce offers its Encryption Everywhere product to all plans.
To obtain this free SSL Certificate, you’ll have to meet requirements that include a custom domain name, ensuring your account information is up to date, and the like.
It activates automatically once the full requirements are met, and your custom domain is applied.
If you want more security, you can pay for a better BigCommerce SSL certificate or install one from a third party.
16. Track your BigCommerce SEO efforts
Measuring your SEO performance lets you determine what does and doesn’t work for you.
For instance, did targeting a certain keyword increase your traffic and CTRs? Or were you targeting the right search query, but your content failed to draw them in?
Finding answers to such questions will help you adjust your strategies accordingly, and BigCommerce’s built-in ecommerce analytics suite equips you with the tools to make these tactical changes.
It provides in-depth reporting that covers:
- Merchandising: Tracks sales by products, even at the SKU level
- Marketing: Details all of your activities and campaigns
- Customers: Shows data on new and repeat customers, including their purchase behaviors
If you want more comprehensive metrics, you can supplement it with another tool like Google Analytics.
17. Monitor page permalink changes
Over time, you’ll likely have products and custom landing pages created for campaigns moved or deleted.
However, external links (and even internal ones) could still point to those pages.
A customer landing on an error 404 page is more likely to search elsewhere online for the product rather than dig through your site for the right page.
Fortunately, BigCommerce automatically sets up 301 redirects if you make alterations to a page, like changing the product name.
BigCommerce not only adjusts the current URL to reflect your changes but also creates an automatic redirect so any traffic pointing to the old URL won’t get lost.
This only applies to changes you make to live pages, though.
If you delete landing pages or products, you’ll need to set up the redirect on your own. Thankfully, BigCommerce provides a simple interface for setting up 301 redirects in your dashboard.
Do this for every page you delete.
Set the redirect to a relevant category or product page. If you don’t have something relevant, the homepage is a safe fallback.
Your guiding principle is to avoid confusing your customer.
If they expect information on a promotion or specific product, being sent to an incorrect page could result in them leaving to find it through a competitor.
To prevent this, consider updating the page or creating a custom landing page that informs them the information they’re looking for is expired, discontinued, etc.
Use that custom landing page to make suggestions for similar products, promotions, or categories that’ll keep them engaged and shopping.
Boost your BigCommerce SEO to supercharge leads
SEO is more important than ever with the growing competition in ecommerce.
Without proper optimization, you’ll spend more time and budget on paid advertising to acquire new customers.
The right approach to organic SEO will ensure your BigCommerce store gains better search visibility and a higher volume of organic targeted traffic.
SEO is a long-term game, though.
It typically takes four to six months before you notice any organic growth in your website’s performance, meaning you won’t see immediate results.
Optimizations for each market, vertical, and product will behave uniquely, so take your time and do it right.
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Rachel is a remote marketing manager with a background in building scalable content engines. She creates content that wins customers for B2B ecommerce companies like MyFBAPrep, Shogun, and more. In the past, she has scaled organic acquisition efforts for companies like Deliverr and Skubana.