The Quick and Easy BigCommerce SEO Checklist
Who Is This BigCommerce SEO Checklist For?
If you are a BigCommerce customer who has already done your keyword research, optimized your content to rank for those keywords, placed your important meta tags, and are looking for more ways to climb the ranks on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), then this BigCommerce SEO Checklist is for you!
The type of SEO we’re going to engage in is called “Technical SEO”. Technical SEO refers to server and website optimizations that help search engines crawl and index your site more effectively in order to improve organic rankings. We’re essentially giving instructions to Google on how to view your BigCommerce store and where to direct customers.
Table of Contents
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a security protocol that creates an encrypted connection between a web server and a user’s browser. An SSL certificate is required in order to maintain PCI compliance and comes standard with all BigCommerce plans with custom domains. All you have to do is flip a switch in the BigCommerce backend and you’re good!
Why is Site-Wide SSL Important?
Aside from establishing trust with your customers and letting them know that their sensitive credit card information is not being broadcast to the internet, Google also needs to know that your customers are safe. In 2014 Google announced that it would begin valuing websites with site-wide SSL very highly and would give preference to those sites in search results over those that are not secure. In fact, as of July 2018 Google’s Chrome browser started marking non-HTTPS sites as ‘insecure’.
How to Enable Site-Wide SSL in BigCommerce:
I. Navigate to Store Setup › Store Settings.
II. Scroll down to HTTPS and select ‘Use HTTPS for entire site’ in the drop down.
III. Save your changes.
You should now see a lock and ‘HTTPS’ as the protocol on all pages:
If you have a BigCommerce Pro plan or above and want to install your own 3rd-party certificate, click here to learn how.
Pages with valuable content should be accessible in as few clicks as possible. We like to set a target of 3 clicks to get to any page on a website.
It’s important to ensure you’re using a BigCommerce theme that does not hide important information in unsearchable content such as media elements or flash. Contact Cloud Navigators if you’re interested in customizing your BigCommerce design so as to ensure nothing is being changed that could affect page accessibility.
Remember, Google’s job is to help people find what they’re looking for so our on-site strategy should follow suit.
A 301 Redirect is the most efficient and SEO-friendly way of telling a search engine that you’re permanently redirecting an old URL to a new one.
For example: If you have a blog post entitled “Top 7 Activities To Do While Visiting Dallas, TX” and you’re getting great traffic to it but find an additional 3 activities you’d like to add, you’ll want to change the title of the post to ‘Top 10 Activities” and then update the URL.
If a reader is searching for things to do in Dallas and clicks your ‘Top 7’ post, they should be automatically redirected to the ‘Top 10’ post. If they’re not redirected they will go to the old post and get a 404 error, as it no longer exists. The more 404 errors your site has, the farther you will fall in search rankings.
How to Add a 301 Redirect in BigCommerce:
I. Go to Server Settings › 301 Redirects.
II. Click ‘Add redirect’
III. In the field under ‘Old URL’, type the URL of the page preceded by a /. This should include all of the URL that comes after your domain name. In our example, it would be /my-old-page, but it could also be something like /category/old-category.html.
IV. Select whether you want your redirect to be manual or dynamic.
- For Manual Redirects, you’ll have to enter the new URL you want the customer to be redirected to. If you change the URL again, you’ll also need to manually update the 301 redirect again.
- For Dynamic Redirects you’ll have to select the category, product, brand, blog entry, or webpage that the customer should be redirected to. If the URL of the selected page changes later, the 301 redirect will update automatically. We recommend selecting the Dynamic option if you have a lot of pages.
V. Save your changes.
Duplicate content can be confusing for search engines and customers alike, so it’s imperative that we only have one version of everything. If you do have content that is very similar, for example a printer friendly version of a page, you’ll want to use a canonical url to differentiate it.
Google says, “A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site. For example, if you have URLs for the same page (for example: example.com?dress=1234 and example.com/dresses/1234), Google chooses one as canonical.
Note that the pages do not need to be absolutely identical; minor changes in sorting or filtering of list pages do not make the page unique (for example, sorting by price or filtering by item color).”
As of May 3rd 2019, the BigCommerce admin does not have a field for individual page canonical URLs, so the only way to place the “rel=’canonical’” tag is to do so programmatically. Cloud Navigators is also an SEO agency so we would be happy to help you with that!
Search engines want your site to be as fast as possible and will punish you if it’s slow. Here are some easy ways to speed up your site:
- Minimize ‘HTTP/S requests’ by keeping the use of scripts and plugins to a minimum.
- Use one CSS stylesheet (the code that’s used to tell a browser how to display your website) instead of multiple CSS stylesheets or inline CSS.
- Ensure your image files are as small as possible without being too pixelated.
- Compress your web pages by using a tool called GZIP.
- Take advantage of the BigCommerce Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve the delivery speed of images and files.
What is an XML Sitemap?
XML stands for ‘Extensible Markup Language’ and is a standard machine-readable format that is consumable by search engines and other data crunching tools. In layman’s terms, an XML Sitemap helps Google understand the flow of your website while crawling it by listing all of your site’s URLs in a structured manner.
A good XML Sitemap should serve as a treasure map that shows Google where all of your important pages are.
How to Create an XML Sitemap:
There are many free sitemap generators on the internet today. One of the easiest tools is https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/.
Just enter your BigCommerce store URL and you can either download the sitemap after they’re done generating it or you can have them email it to you. After you get your sitemap and upload it to the root folder on your web server, you’ll want to open up Google Search Console and submit it to be crawled and indexed.
The end URL result should look something like this: https://cloudnavigators.com/page-sitemap.xml.
Don’t worry if things seem a bit complicated right now. One of the great things about SEO is that it can be done over time; you don’t have to be perfect right away. And remember, we’re here to help.