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So, you’ve just been assigned the responsibility of optimizing an e-commerce website to improve search engine visibility. Whether you’re working on a site that has a dozen products or 30,000+, the process of figuring out where to start can be a daunting task. To be effective, you need to find a balance between traffic and revenue opportunities, and business and executive-level goals. Whether you’re just starting a project or are a few years in, the following 6 tips for eCommere marketing will help you create an approach to identify opportunities that can positively impact your SEO campaign and overall business goals.
Support Top Business Priorities
Let’s face it, we all answer to someone, and if our work isn’t supporting our superiors’ goals, we’re not likely to succeed in the long term (or at the very least, frustrations will occur). When first starting SEO efforts, identifying the top priorities for the business will help locate the areas that are going to be in the spotlight. Success on high visibility business priorities can lead to more support from high-level management in the company. With support, SEOs can be more effective at their job and contribute successfully to the overall campaign.
You will need to ask them to help you identify their top products and understand which ones are:
- High margin and desirable to push
- High volume low margin, or loss leaders
- Typical accessories or complementary products that increase basket size and average order value
- New brands or products that need to prove themselves
- End of life or distressed inventory
Then starting with keyword research, identify both directly related phrases and alternative ways users are searching to ensure that the content supports how the users are looking for solutions. In this step, you can learn the differences in how industry professionals identify products versus how consumers search. For example, Vizion helped Lennox discover that consumers search more for “ductless air conditioners” than for the industry jargon phrase of “mini-split air conditioners.” This gives top priority items the longest time to mature in search results.
From a merchandising perspective, look for complementary products to increase the basket size and average order value (AOV) for these products that are soon to be heavily marketed. From an SEO standpoint, these related/complementary product pages and links increase the number of relevant pages and internal links, helping the overall category.
Once these steps are completed, it’s time to move to the next priority.
Focus on Top Revenue and Unit Drivers
Nothing shows success more than a rising revenue figure. By focusing on products and categories that drive high ROI or unit sales, you have a better chance to increase the bottom line. Review the top performers for your site, and if the products and categories don’t have high organic visibility, but they’re still top drivers, you’re looking at pages that could have a positive impact on an organic search campaign. If the products and categories are already optimized, review the timeline and visibility to see if a content refresh is needed.
Once the top revenue and unit drivers are optimized and there’s not an opportunity for refreshing content, the next step is to align optimizations with marketing calendars.
Align with Merchandising Marketing Calendar
A merchandising marketing calendar helps marketing teams plan where they’re going to spend advertising dollars, usually months in advance. This advanced plan works great with an SEO campaign. If your calendar is planned two to three months in advance, you can line up your content optimization efforts to show SERP results as the marketing in other channels starts to increase customer awareness.
Sample Content Calendar Aligned with Merchandising Calendar
Your content calendar can have multiple “tracks” that record events from different business units. Once they’re all overlayed, you can coordinate messaging and tactics. This also helps determine if any organic increases in traffic are due to the halo effect from other channels.
- Product seasonality
- New partners/vendors/products
- Corporate news/updates/PR (e.g., key hires, acquisitions, funding)
- Philanthropy/charity events
- Online/offline sponsorships
This timing can also benefit from search volume spikes that other marketing campaigns typically cause. As people see marketing around specific products, they tend to search more through the organic channel for that item to see how strong the offers are. This provides a lift in both branded product-related phrases as well as non-branded product-related phrases. With the time SEO work can typically take before seeing results, you can easily get a head start to increase visibility right when other marketing channels are starting to drive search behavior.
Find Phrases with Traffic but Low Visibility
Review Google Webmaster Tools’ search query data to potentially find phrases driving traffic to the site that rank outside of the prime search results. This can be a huge signal in areas that either have poor results above your listing or phrases that result in a huge amount of search volume. Imagine your site ranks #12 for a phrase that is a top 10 traffic driver. To drive results to the first page, strive for basic optimization on the landing page, increase the number of pages that support the phrase, identify other pages of your site where you could intuitively link to the pages or acquire a few more inbound links on the topic. You can also review the type of content currently ranking for these phrases. Google may determine that reviews, how-to guides, or unboxing videos are better matches for a query, so use these ideas to help shape your content strategy. Moving from the second page of results to the first page can show very strong improvements with relatively low effort.
Additionally, you may want to review the URL in the search results and evaluate if a refresh of the page content or other on-page elements could improve performance. If the page was optimized within the last six months, look for areas where adding supporting pages could help that page improve. If your landing page is a category page, try optimizing a few child products or subcategory pages to help build support for that category. If the URL is a product detail page, add a supporting article page or optimize a related accessory product that adds support for the phrase and incorporates a link to that page from the detail page.
You can also use this strategy to identify topics for content marketing, such as articles and infographics. A few gains of targeted links can typically move a result up a handful of listings.
Review the Email Promotions Calendar
Along the same line as working with the merchandising catalog, make sure products featured in emails are optimized to capture the search traffic that the email generates. Marketers know that targeted emails drive traffic, but what is often overlooked is the impact those emails have on search behavior. When a company sends out an email about certain products, the search volume for those promoted products will typically spike for a day or two after the email goes out.
Capitalize on this increase in search volume by making sure the relevant products are optimized ahead of time. By doing this, you could start seeing results a few days before the email gets sent out. This way you can capitalize on that increased search volume before your competition realizes what’s happened. You can also review historical emails from competitors to map out marketing schedules (most companies advertise certain products on a regularly scheduled calendar) and focus efforts to improve your results as they increase search volume.
Vary Your Efforts to Maximize Your Visibility
Remember these tips are only some of the ways you can identify areas of opportunity. You may notice that if you stick with just a single way to identify areas to optimize, you may end up optimizing the same categories over and over. Vary your tactics to ensure you’re not missing any opportunities. If you stick with using one tactic, such as only optimizing areas that the merchandising team is focusing on, you’ll likely miss out on those long tail opportunities for phrases that you rank on the fringe of the search results.
On many sites, the site search is usually the last resort someone uses to try to find a product. It can lead to insights into how you update the main navigation menus and how related products or alternative products can be merchandized or even lead to insights around gaps in the SKU selection. Many sites don’t have Site Search set up in Google Analytics, which is an easy fix. Check out how to set up Site Search in Google Analytics here.
Frequently, the built-in search functionality is limited in its ability to return relevant products/content and features. Some are limited to just the SKU catalog, whereas you might find that people are using site search to look for support documentation.
Often, the default site search cannot handle manual overrides, like suppressing certain types of content or promoting others. For example, if you’ve had to issue a press release about a corporate position or a product recall, you may not want that showing at the top of the search results. If the default site search doesn’t have the capability to fine-tune the results, look into third-party site search solutions that allow for this type of fine-tuning and provide much better analytics around search behavior.
There are many additional elements to consider for ecommerce SEO. Enterprise Ecommerce SEO efforts involve just about every skillset that an SEO can bring to bear, from deep technical aspects, image optimization, schema, CRO, content/duplicate content concerns, XML sitemap generation, URL structures, category page tactics, product detail page optimizations, utilizing blogs/social in coordination with broader SEO efforts, use of breadcrumbs/internal linking and intelligent competitive analysis (and SERP analysis) to identify trends.
Stay tuned for future posts detailing each of these areas, in the coming months.
At Vizion Interactive, we have the expertise, experience, and enthusiasm to get results and keep clients happy! Learn more about how our SEO Audits, Local Listing Management, Website Redesign Consulting, and B2B digital marketing services can increase sales and boost your ROI. But don’t just take our word for it, check out what our clients have to say, along with our case studies.