Mastering the SERPs: The Importance Ranking Product Pages and Category Pages

Introduction

With the digital marketplace expanding at an unprecedented rate (the market is expected to reach $667 billion in 2024), the importance of standing out and being intentional about your overarching strategy has never been more relevant. A cut-and-copy campaign just doesn’t cut it nowadays! Every brand and website has its unique offering and your strategy should be designed specifically with those factors in mind. Often considered the foundation of any marketing efforts online, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can form the basis of your plan and inform the other parts of your strategy. When it comes to the e-commerce space, it’s all about the real estate you occupy on Google and SEO forms a major part of this.

Mastering the SERPs through strategic SEO practices is something you want to understand and put resources towards as your retail brand grows. Perhaps you’ve built yourself up in the early stages of growth through ad campaigns (whether in search engines or via social channels), but for long-term success, earning those top spots for product searches is well worth the time and effort. It’s about ensuring that when potential customers use Google to find the products they need, it’s your brand that greets them, not just once, but consistently.

What are SERPs?

Think of SERPs as the digital storefronts where your e-commerce products are displayed. Just like in a physical store, where products are arranged to catch the customer’s eye, SERPs organize information in a way that aims to present the most relevant content to users. They’re composed of several key elements:

Organic Listings

These are the OG of SERPs, the results that have earned their spot through their relevance and quality, not because they paid for placement. For e-commerce, being listed here means you are generating free traffic over time. We are increasingly see product images for these searches particularly in the e-commerce space.

what is SERP

Paid Ads

Often seen at the top of the page, these slots are reserved for those willing to pay for visibility. They’re quick routes to visibility but require an ongoing budget.

Paid Ads

Organic Shopping Listings

Organic shopping listings are essentially free product listings that appear based on the relevance to the user’s search query, rather than paid advertisements. Unlike paid ads, these listings are not influenced by bid amounts or ad spend. Instead, they’re determined by how closely a product matches the user’s search intent, the completeness and accuracy of the product data provided by the merchant, and the product’s perceived value to the user.

Organic Shopping Listings

Featured Snippets

These are concise answers or summaries that appear at the top of SERPs, designed to provide quick information without needing to click through. Often appearing for informational-based searches, featured snippets often answer questions that users may have about just about anything. Excellent for branding, there is a whole discussion to be had about how to optimize for these.

Featured Snippets

Rich Snippets

Rich Snippets operate in a similar way to featured snippets in that they show page content within the SERPs so the user needn’t click through to the website. Generally this term is used for info that appears further down the page or in the information panel on the right (usually a business or personal profile). They may be less specific to the search but related in some way. We are frequently seeing these appear in the People Also Ask section of search results.

Rich Snippets

Now, why is SEO so crucial for e-commerce, especially for product pages? SEO is the process that helps your products get found organically. It’s about understanding what your customers are searching for and optimizing your pages to meet those queries. This could mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity.

Strategy Consideration for Mastering the SERPs

Broad and Specific Search Terms

Keyword research is an imperative part of the process when it comes to SEO – it’s the work involved with identifying high-intent keywords that potential customers use in their searches. It stands to reason that you would go after keywords that have a high search volume (you can check these numbers with the right SEO tools), however it’s equally important to consider the intent of the user and the competition. What do we mean by that?

Well, some search terms are more generic and thus generally have a higher search volume given that they are more broad. Naturally, the more broad and ‘all-encompassing’ a keyword is, the more pages it is relevant for. If it is more relevant for more pages and less specific a term, chances are the competition is higher and is therefore more difficult to rank for.

An example is seen above – the search results for ‘shoes for men’ is going to be relevant for all sorts of different websites. Someone searching for this may be looking for information and discussion about shoes on blogs or review sites. But even assuming they are looking to buy shoes, we have no information about the shoes they are looking for, whether they are running shoes, sneakers or boots, whether they are on a budget or looking for something higher end and we have no idea how far down the buying cycle they are. So supposing you start ranking for this term and earn a click from Google, it’s anyone’s guess if the landing page is going to give them what they want. Ranking for this keyword is akin to throwing out an enormous net into the ocean; you don’t know exactly what you are going to catch.

In comparison, a search term like ‘air max 95 premium grain’ will not have nearly the search volume as the previous example, but there is evidence that the searcher is much closer to making a purchase, and we know the exact kind of page we need to send them to in order to make the most of the click. To use our previous example, by optimizing for this search term, you are fishing with bait that your target is interested in and in an area where you know they are active. 

You can see that implementing a strategy that helps you rank for specific, low-volume and long-tail keywords or keywords that are more product-specific, can potentially be more beneficial and impact your revenue in a clearer way.

The Best Approach

The ideal strategy with regard to SEO obviously incorporates both of these strategies. After all, the name of the game is owning as much real estate as you can. You want to be showing up in SERPs for both general and specific searches. Get your brand out there by ranking for general terms related to your products and send users to your category pages or home page. And while you’re doing that, work on your individual product pages to make sure that they are showing up when a user has their heart set on a specific product that you supply.

It’s worth noting that Google Ads (particularly shopping ads) can help you show up in SERPs for those specific product searches. Some online retailers will use ads to ensure they are targeting these searches, skew their SEO efforts more toward general terms, and provide information on products in their blogs and other places. The idea here is to appear in SERPs for informational based searches, whether via rich snippets or conventional listings. This, again, is about casting a wide net and capturing more users at the top of the sales funnel, a viable strategy that can be very effective.

Understanding Your Brand

Often, the best strategy will also depend on your brand and what point of growth it is at, as well as the kinds of products you stock. If you are somewhat established, you may find it easier to rank for competitive general keywords. If you are starting out, going niche and specific is a better option.

  • For niche products with specific search queries, focusing on product pages might be more beneficial.
  • For stores with a wide range of products, optimizing category pages can attract users at the top of the funnel, guiding them to specific products through internal linking and navigation.

At the end of the day, knowing how your customers intersect with your brand is super important. Here are some things to be mindful of regardless of your strategy for SEO.

Understand Your Audience: Use keyword research to understand how your audience searches for your products.

Optimise for Intent: Tailor your pages to match the search intent, whether it’s informational (category pages) or transactional (product pages).

Use Internal Linking: Strengthen the relationship between category and product pages with strategic internal linking.

Content Quality: Ensure both product and category pages have high-quality, unique content that provides value to the user.

Essential Tactics to Enhance E-commerce SEO

This post wouldn’t be complete without actionable steps and practical tips to achieve your SEO goals, regardless of what pages on your online store you are trying to rank. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most important things to tick off the list to get the most out of your SEO efforts.

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO is vital for both your product and category pages, serving as key elements in your e-commerce site’s structure. To optimize these pages effectively, focus on developing compelling, keyword-rich titles and descriptions that resonate with user interest and accurately reflect search intent. This approach is crucial for both types of pages, as it helps capture the attention of potential customers and search engines alike.

For product pages, detailed and enticing descriptions alongside high-quality images showcase your items’ features and benefits, directly influencing user engagement and conversion rates. Similarly, category pages benefit from clear, engaging descriptions that summarize the products within, helping users navigate your site more effectively.

Images play a pivotal role across your site, with optimized, high-quality visuals being essential for both product and category pages. They should load quickly to improve page speed—a critical SEO and user experience factor—without compromising on quality. This ensures that users have a positive browsing experience, whether they’re looking at individual products or exploring product categories.

Technical SEO

The backbone of your site’s search performance, technical SEO, ensures that search engines can easily crawl and index your pages. A mobile-friendly design is no longer optional, with a significant portion of online shopping occurring on mobile devices. Site speed is another critical factor; a fast-loading site enhances user experience, keeping potential customers engaged and reducing bounce rates.

URLs for both product and category pages must be concise, descriptive, and structured in a way that is both user-friendly and search engine-friendly. Clear URLs help guide users and search engines through your site, making it easier to find products and understand the hierarchy of your offerings.

These technical aspects are fundamental in propelling your site to the top of search engine results.

Schema Markup

By implementing Schema Markup, you’re providing search engines with a detailed understanding of your site’s content. As we’ve discussed, this structured data helps to display your pages more prominently in search results, with rich snippets that can feature price, availability, and reviews. This not only boosts your visibility but also makes your listings more appealing to potential buyers, setting your products apart in a crowded market.

User Experience Optimization

The overall user experience on your site can make or break your SEO efforts. A site that’s easy to navigate and explore encourages visitors to stay longer, reducing bounce rates and increasing the chances of conversion. From clear categorization of products to an intuitive site design and a seamless checkout process, every aspect of your site should aim to provide a smooth and enjoyable shopping experience, especially if you are getting traffic from further up the sales funnel. This not only supports your SEO goals but also builds loyalty and trust with your customers.

Conclusion

By understanding the nuances between broad and specific search terms, optimizing both product and category pages, and leveraging both organic and paid search opportunities, brands can significantly enhance their online visibility. Implementing on-page and technical SEO practices, along with schema markup and user experience optimization, are key steps in this process. Ultimately, the goal is to occupy valuable digital real estate in SERPs, ensuring that your brand not only attracts but also retains customer attention. By tailoring your SEO strategy to align with your brand’s unique offerings and growth stage, and by focusing on the quality and intent of your content, you can effectively navigate the complexities of online search and secure your place at the top of the search engine results pages.