SEO for Developers

As an eCommerce developer, you know that Search Engine Optimization is important to drive traffic to the sites you build, but Search Engine Optimization also might not be your primary concern.

Because both content digital marketing and the technical side of web development are part of SEO, there’s joint responsibility across marketing and web developers.

But the technical decisions that you make when building an eCommerce site can have a sizeable impact on search result rankings, so it’s critical for the web development team to understand the basics of SEO.

In this blog post, we’ll define some of the terminologies around SEO, like On-Site versus Off-Site.

Then, we’ll run through a few of the key points to consider when optimizing SEO resources and outline best practices for building a discoverable website.

By the end of this article, you’ll take away some actionable technical SEO experts tips to make your client’s website rise above the competition.

What is SEO?

Organic SEO (search engine optimization) is a significant technique that may help you increase the amount of traffic your site receives by improving its organic search visibility.

This generally entails enhancing the position of your site within the list of results provided by a search engine for particular keywords/phrases.

There are a number of items that may be included in an SEO plan. Hundreds of separately weighted criteria are used by search engines to determine if and where your site should appear in its results pages.

On-site SEO, however, includes a number of smaller variables that may be divided between two bigger strategy buckets: 1) On-Site SEO and 2) Off-Site SEO.

On-Site SEO is all about the elements on your site that may be improved, such as page markup, content quality, and speed. External factors that influence your rankings, such as backlinks, social media metrics, and user generated content sharing are known as Off-Site SEO.

Off-Site SEO elements return value back to the site, which will assist improve your search engine rankings. On-Site SEO, on the other hand, helps search engines index your context correctly and efficiently for relevant keywords/phrases.

We’ll concentrate on On-Site SEO in this post, how developers may use the BigCommerce platform to interact with the many components that fall into this category.

SEO Checklist

It’s worth noting that search engine optimization has become a worldwide effort.

It implies that you must outperform your competition in the same ways as outlined above, or develop a method to distinguish yourself from them.

Content, Content, Content…

First and foremost, content reigns supreme. Creating product descriptions, landing page text, blog articles, keyword research, and so on would not normally be considered a web developer’s job.

However, this is one of the most essential elements of an SEO strategy, so you should understand it.

For example, when editing your web page titles and meta descriptions, make sure the material used is consistent with a planned keyword strategy.

The top results in a search engine query provide you with the page titles and descriptions of the most significant pages.

Rather than merely including your keywords in the title tags and meta descriptions, which can be tedious and time-consuming, you should use them to make your site appear more interesting in comparison to the rest of the results.

A good general guideline is to produce high-quality, descriptive, and user-friendly material.

Avoid duplicate content, for example, a product description that has been copied and pasted across many similar items. Try to be as relevant to the page’s theme as possible, and always strive for unique material.

For a product page, there are numerous places where you may adapt content to the page’s goal, such as the Product Name, Description, associated Images and Videos, Custom Fields, Product Reviews, and more.

When it comes to tags, attributes, and other details associated with those items, you should make sure they’re all correct.

Even if you have items that are quite similar, coming up with unique content might be tough at times. It’s always a good idea to include Product Reviews on your items in order to generate product-specific unique content.

URL Structure

When creating a URL structure for a page, keep in mind that users should be able to determine the purpose of your page based on the URL. As a result, the major keywords and non-essential phrases should be included.

URLs should be avoided being overloaded with a specific keyword. Attempting to improve your ranking chances by repeating the same term numerous times is only going to result in an unappealing URL structure that may work against you.

While URLs are not required, they should be consistent for data management purposes. Two URLs with the same terms but different capitalization will be seen as two separate URLs by search engines.

This is also true for URLs with the same keywords, but which are separated by hyphens vs. underscores. While the above situations can all be handled using different methods, the lack of a formal structure is one that we should try to avoid. 301 redirects and canonical URLs, as seen in following sections, may assist with some of these cases, but attempting to maintain a consistent structure should always be a top priority for effective indexing of content.

Although you might be tempted to use non-standard characters in URLs, you should generally try to avoid them. Special characters, on the other hand, still have their place in URL parameters for a variety of legitimate reasons.

The following parameters can be utilized to direct visitors to a specific portion of a website, filter content, and so on. When utilizing URLs with parameters such as these, you should always ask whether each URL should be indexed separately or not.

You should also avoid wasting space by keeping your higher-value keywords closer to the beginning of the URL so that Google does not truncate your URL in search engine results pages, which it typically does around 512 pixels rather than a particular character count.

Search engine results will also be shortened, so keep your URLs as short as possible while still making the most of the space you have.

By utilizing a lower case, hyphen separated structure that allows you to include keywords as well as short- and long-term keyword strategies, BigCommerce maintains URLs SEO-friendly.

The platform also manages 301 redirects and URL canonicalization, which we’ll get into in greater depth later.

Canonical URLs

Within each website’s page template, there are canonical URLs that tell Google and other search engines which URL should be indexed and ranked.

This will guarantee that the search engines index a single URL rather than numerous versions/versions of the same page, which can cause duplicate content problems.

Canonical URLs will ensure that the search engines see all of these URLs:

www.domain.com/mycategory

domain.com/mycategory

domain.com/mycategory?sort=newest

www.domain.com/mycategory?utm_source=1

And index them as a single page — www.domain.com/mycategory–within their search results.

The use of canonical URLs is generally advised, so BigCommerce creates these for you and ensures that they are included in the metadata for all pages on your site.

301 redirects

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirection that informs search engines that they should forward the page’s rank and value to a new page.

For example, if you’re replatforming, your URL structure may be different on the new platform. You’ll need to make a redirect from the old pages so you don’t jeopardize your search engine rankings.

Users can easily import 301 redirects in bulk if required, making it simple to set these redirects when a store first opens.

When you launch your store, it will be created from scratch. This means that all of the content and functionality on the site will be brand new. All of the necessary 301 redirects to take you back to this page can also be managed directly within the Control Panel.

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file determines whether search engines can or cannot crawl specific parts of a website. You may give instructions to “allow” or “disallow” user agents from crawling and evaluating your site’s pages and regions.

This file may be used for a variety of purposes, but let’s concentrate on SEO uses.

A major application is to prevent a sandbox store or a developing store from being indexed by search engines so that material may be indexed when it’s ready. Blocking certain parts of the site, such as file directories, account areas, or syndicated content, are all valid applications.

However, if you use 301 redirects and Canonical URLs to attribute the value of a page to a different URL, the pages will still be visited. Search engine bots will be unable to access or crawl certain pages or sections of your site by using the robots.txt file.

Because search engine bots only have a certain amount of time to index your site, this has value from an indexing standpoint.

Using this file in a correct way can help guarantee that search engines spend as much time as possible crawling and indexing the pages you want.

The robots.txt file may be accessed through the Control Panel of BigCommerce, which means it can be utilized for a variety of purposes.

Page Load Speed

Google has acknowledged that site speed and page speed are taken into account in the ranking algorithm. Given that Google and other search engines want to deliver the highest results possible, we should consider how a user’s experience can influence their next search.

User experience is significantly harmed if a website’s load time is too long. Bounce rates are higher for sites with longer load times, and users stay on the page for less time on average. Longer wait times have been shown to decrease conversion rates as well.

BigCommerce has chosen page speed as a major issue for several reasons. We provide all merchants on our platform with methods to improve their website’s performance, such as using a CDN with image optimization and optimizing the server response time.

We also take additional precautions to ensure that the store’s themes function properly. As a developer, it is still suggested that you employ best practices when customizing your themes for optimal performance.

Mobile Responsive and Google AMP

Mobile-friendly websites are becoming increasingly important given that mobile devices account for over 50% of internet usage. This will also have an impact on your search engine rankings.

Sites that are optimized for mobile display higher in search engine results. As a result, BigCommerce themes are all mobile responsive and include Google AMP by default.

In the same way that you should check to see whether modifications to your themes are optimized for page load speed, developers should also make sure that any customizations to themes are mobile optimized for your mobile SEO approach.

XML Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a document that contains the URLs and files of your site as well as information about their contents and relationships.

This is a method for you to tell search engines which things on your site you consider most important to crawl and index.

BigCommerce will automatically generate a sitemap for you that you can find at www.yourdomain.com/xmlsitemap.php.

It’s always a good idea to include your sitemap with each new site you create, to ensure that the search engines have a map of your site’s architecture.

Conclusion

There are a lot of components to an entire SEO strategy. The goal of this article is to shed some light on areas where developers may focus in order to ensure that a company’s site is in line with its SEO plan.

These are only a few of the tools and tactics that can be used in conjunction with one another to create an effective SEO strategy for your website.