SEO for CRO: The basics and not so basics of getting it right

SEO for CRO: The basics and not so basics of getting it right

How to leverage SEO for eCommerce customer conversion

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Talking about SEO for eCommerce businesses can get super complex super quick. The topic has been abundantly covered, with many experts detailing all the moving components that need maintenance for the most effective SEO results. There are just two problems: hiring outside experts can quickly run up your operating costs, and doing everything yourself is a time-consuming undertaking that can detract from other business-critical activities. As a compromise, eCommerce business owners need to pick and choose a more balanced approach that can get them just as great of results without running up the marketing costs and compromising other critical operations. Here is where many of the same experts exalting SEO best practices fall flat. Advocating best practices is often done under the presumption that readers are in a state where they can dedicate the right resources and have all the time and money necessary for the tasks. For small business owners, that is not the case, so to help, here are the basic and not so basic SEO activities that you – as an eCommerce business owner – should be doing.

THE BASICS

I. Keywords

Keywords are the foundation of every SEO strategy. They allow your business to target buyers by creating a nexus between what your eCommerce website offers and what your target buyers are looking for. Keywords allow search engines, like Google or Bing, to contextualize your website and offer it up as a solution to online shoppers looking for your products. While finding the right kinds of keywords requires intensive research, this process itself is not complicated. You may already have some idea of what these keywords might be, just based on what your eCommerce website offers. However, this is just a start. You need to dig deeper – and without guessing – refine down your ecosystem’s keywords. Knowing what your customers are searching for, what your competitors are ranking for, and most importantly, what your competitors are not ranking for but that your customers are searching for will help generate the best keyword phrases.

The kinds of keywords you should be prioritizing on your eCommerce website will also depend on your industry. Businesses looking to sell big-ticket items like vehicles and boats or offering local shopping and entertainment experiences will likely need to give locality-based keywords a more prominent consideration. However, other types of eCommerce websites specializing in more general, lifestyle, or hobby transactions will likely need to rely more on object names, brands names, and other industry keywords that are more important to your buyers. Generally, the smaller the average price of the items you sell, the less likely you will need to lean into geographical keywords.

Overall, finding low competition, refined to your niche keywords, is what you should be aiming for, as these will allow you to rank higher in the searches, with less effort on your part. In short: a higher return on your investment of time and energy, and money (if you’re outsourcing). That’s your starting point for basic CRO minded SEO.

II. Content

‘Content is king’ shouts every marketing expert from the proverbial internet peaks – and this is true. Content is what tells your story and builds trust between your buyers and your eCommerce store. Content signals to buyers that you are serious about your products and are unafraid to give transparent reviews, feedback, help, and industry insights because you, as an eCommerce website, are a trusted resource, and your visitors shouldn’t hesitate to do business with you.

Still, eCommerce websites frequently misunderstand and underuse content because of a running assumption that it only refers to blogging or social media. This assumption isn’t particularly accurate. While having a blog helps generate website traffic, funneling visitors to product pages, and converting visitors into buyers, there are other forms of content that your eCommerce product pages should lean in on. The nice thing about product pages is that they are generally already well optimized for customer conversion – especially if you’ve built your website through an eCommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. Both of them do this type of optimization automatically. The product pages will already have a visible and well-placed header, product description, a ‘buy-now’ button, and other visual cues. However, there is more you could be and should be doing. Take advantage that buyers are already trained to use eCommerce product pages to seek additional product information, like FAQs and user reviews at the bottom of the page. If you do not offer at least some of this type of content, your buyers are a lot more likely to click away into a different tab to do additional research and buy from a competitor who does offer this information. Even if you’re not in the position to provide reviews, consider what types of questions your buyers are often looking up when shopping for your products – add those to your FAQs. A bonus to this approach is that the search engines will pick up on your product pages carrying this type of content and will more likely push your website to more prominent positions in the search results.

III. Site Structure & Mechanics

Another important component of any SEO strategy is optimizing the “underbelly” of the website. Structured data, microdata, and metadata are really the three kinds of hidden parts of the page that affect this, and making sure that those are all very, very well done is important. This optimization is a very technical component of your SEO strategy, and yes, many eCommerce platforms and website builders already provide an automated version of this. However, automating these components leaves you with generic blurbs that don’t do you any favors. Anyone with a similar product website who also relies on automated inputs will likely have language not much different from yours, thus lowering your search engine ranking along with anyone else relying on automatic website data. There are extra plug-ins that can help with these activities, but they still rely on manual finagling to truly optimize your eCommerce website.

If you’re not sure what these structural optimization activities are, a great place to start is to check out Search Engine Land’s SEO Periodic Table which outlines and prioritizes SEO activities that create the best immediate impact on your eCommerce website. Lastly, you should absolutely have Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Tag Manager all configured at this point

THE NOT SO BASICS

Once getting the basics down, the “not-so-basic” activities should be your next priority. Here is where your SEO for CRO strategy will make the most impact and propel you higher in the results and give better customer conversions. These activities can be broken down into two steps:

I. Bring it all together

By themselves, keywords are great, but they are even better when they are used strategically throughout all your content and website data. Your eCommerce product pages should most definitely include hyper-specific keywords in the content and underlying page structure. Search engines love seeing consistency, which also improves context, thereby also improving your search engine results and thus improving your potential of funneling clients to your eCommerce website.

Content is also a powerful tool, but it is even more powerful when it is linked and referenced to other parts of your website. Yes, keywords bolster your search result rankings, but these results also improve by creating backlinks throughout your pages. Mentioned a sister product on your product page FAQs? – Link it. Mentioned a brand name when speaking about a product? – Link it. Referenced a whole type of product solutions in your blog posts? – Link it, and link the product page back to your blog. Oh, and do not forget to update the metadata to include keyword references.

II. Measure, refine, re-optimize, repeat and repeat again

You’ve done everything above and are seeing improved results – more people are clicking on your eCommerce website, more transactions are taking place, and more money is coming in. Great! However, walking through these steps once is not enough. Search engines love websites that remain freshly updated and will prioritize those websites that continue to provide the most up-to-date, mobile-friendly, and engaging content, especially as new competitors filter in. So what should you be doing? Reference the analytics available to you via Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Tag Manager to give you a snapshot of your performance over a period of time and always go back and optimize for your lowest-performing activities. By tackling your weakest components, you will gradually elevate your website’s performance above and beyond what you can do in one sitting (unless, of course, you’re looking to spend a significant amount of $). This approach will also continue to ensure that your eCommerce website remains fresh and updated for search engines and your customers alike.

Lastly, don’t fall prey to “easy” shortcuts that are offered by black hat tactics. These are often substantially more labor and skill-intensive and are quickly discovered by respective platforms, resulting in bigger and bigger penalties in the long run. While they may provide an immediate boost, this boost is often artificial and can backfire, creating a need for a more expensive and intensive solution.

If you would like more content like this, or you want to learn more, join my mailing list or reach out.

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ECOMMERCE CONVERSION RATE OPTIMIZATION IN A MOBILE ERA

Ecommerce Conversion Rate Optimization in a Mobile Era

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Mobile eCommerce (“mCommerce”) has been increasingly accelerating in its prevalence across the Retail Landscape. In 2020 over 79% of U.S. smartphone users (that’s roughly 182 million people) have made recent purchases using their mobile devices. Additionally, over 80% of Shoppers use their mobile devices while shopping at physical store locations to supplement their retail experiences. Mobile shopping isn’t going anywhere and will likely soon be a primary method of shopping for most consumers. These trends are exactly why focusing on your retail website’s mobile-first conversion rate optimization approach is now paramount to any eCommerce success. Here are a few Concepts to get you started:

I. Consider how users interact with mobile websites.

Unlike using a desktop browser, the mobile experience is in portrait mode. This difference means that more attention and thought need to be given to the various elements of your website like button and link placement, image resolutions, layouts, loading times, pop-ups, and more from a visual and functionality perspective. User experience needs to be comfortable and not frustrate your eCommerce website visitors less they click away. A comfortable browsing experience it doesn’t frustrate website visitors yields more engagement and repeat customers. This kind of approach also prepares your website for the upcoming Google SEO update, dubbed page experience.

II. It’s time to lean into a mobile-first approach When developing your pages.

There is a shift happening and has been happening for a while and how the public-at-large approaches the internet. They’re still an ample amount of desktop users, especially during work hours. Overwhelmingly, however, mobile internet use is tipping the scales. In 2016, For the first time, desktop devices accounted for less than half of all internet traffic! The 2020 Global events have accelerated the transition to mobile, especially with activities like shopping. Internet user behavior is changing, and that means website managers need to catch up. If you haven’t done a rebuild or an update in a while, now is the time – but consider doing it backward. Start with a mobile version of your website, and then we work it into a desktop version as its complementary component. This approach will help figure out which order to load your elements in, avoid unnecessary scripts, and improve the overall efficiency, all of which affect your website visitor experience and your conversion effectiveness.

III. Lean into technical tricks that help you optimize

First, consider using one of the many already optimized website layouts available for free and for purchase across the different website building platforms. However, if that’s not your flavor, don’t sidestep some of the more critical practices in the mobile era. Pay attention to and use of applications like lazy loading big assets, setting up screen resolution breaking points, integrating popular and secure autofill check at options, and giving higher priority to optimizing your product pages over your main landing website. Your goal should be to enable people to find what they are looking for quickly, load your website seamlessly and without headache, and finalize customer purchasing without unnecessary extra steps. This approach makes your customers, the Google search algorithm, and your bottom line happy, a win-win all around.

Lastly, be strategic about where you focus your efforts. While mobile eCommerce also includes the use of tablets, pay attention to your website’s analytics, and you will likely discover that this type of device use is not as popular and doesn’t garner as much of a demand from website visitors. At the same time, emerging platforms like crypto DeFi payment options are picking up traction, so they might make sense to consider in the future.


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Preparing your eCommerce Website for the Summer 2021 Shopping Season

Preparing your eCommerce Website for the Summer 2021 Shopping Season

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While eCommerce was already on the rise, 2020 was the year it took off. With more people stuck at home, especially during the summer vacation months, eCommerce websites experienced a surge of new customers and order volumes. With the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, still grimacing at the possibility of a ‘back-to-normal’ 2021 summer season, it is likely we are headed for a repeated state of affairs for eCommerce websites during the upcoming summer months. 

But where do consumers shop? – There are many options as new websites continue to pop up in the online retail ecosystem. The ones that take advantage of Customer Conversion Optimization best practices, are the ones that ultimately benefit from stay-at-home shoppers. 

Here are 4 ways to instantly boost your chances of retail success and elevate your eCommerce venture: 

Be wary of big eCommerce platforms

This is not to say that there is no benefit from doing business on big retail websites like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, or others. However, it is essential to understand how optimization and customer conversion on those websites work, which hurdles you face, and which strategies exist to overcome the obstacles you face. Shoppers on those websites are significantly more likely to purchase products listed atop their search queries. These products are typically there because they either are a part of Amazon Basic’s brand or belong to retailers who were first adopters in that space. Therefore, trying to place your products at the top of those search queries is an arduous task since you will be competing against Amazon itself and retailers who have already proven themselves through existing volumes of sales and customer engagements. Unless you are the first comer in your niche, you may instead want to focus on a different tactic: referred sales, aka “advocacy campaigns.” Adjusting your marketing efforts to work with influencers who can funnel their loyal followers to do business with you can yield much better results. The benefits are that you will not be fighting against big platform search engines and their AI-based optimization, and you will be outsourcing your conversion activities to a person who already has built up trust among the target group.

Moreover, affiliates create content that help with that other thing you should be doing: Content.

Yes, content is still the king.

However, it is also often misused in favor of quantity over quality. Consider what your shoppers are looking for. Yes, your products are “it,” but there are other pieces in what your customers are looking for in their conversion journey, and that is a combination of reviews, how-to’s, ideas, and other content that depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling toothpaste, it may not be obvious. Still, an article on how else the product can be used (i.e., cleaning that engagement ring or removing soap scum) can lead to increased sales, especially with well-placed product links in the body. Content can also be repurposed to drive new website visitors from other platforms, including social media and other blogs. Content creates a hook for the consumer to become your customer and builds a relationship by turning your website visitors into repeat customers.

Evaluate what drives your summer sales and optimize it

There is a notable difference in what drives shopping behaviors across the different seasons. Fall has more back-to-school shopping activities, and winter takes the lead on buying big-ticket wish list items for the holidays. Summer is a different beast where shoppers are a lot more likely to be spontaneous, picking things up on the go as they traverse their more lackadaisical days. These purchases tend to be less in monetary value but happening more frequently and often with a sense of urgency. During this time, customers appreciate expedient fulfillment.

There are also many more chances to grow customer loyalty during the summer months than the winter ones. Even though customers may be buying a lot cheaper items, smaller items mean that they are a lot more likely to return to your eCommerce website if they had a great experience. So make sure that the checking out process is as flawless and straightforward as possible. If you see lots of cart abandonment, this is a telltale sign that you should revisit that portion of your website and soon! There is always room for improvement.

Consider how your existing products fit into social causes

Are your products ‘Made in America’? – Great! You should absolutely advertise that. What about products you sell that are made conscientiously? – You probably have some in your inventory, too. This might seem like a minor thing among the greater scope of marketing activities, but consumers are fond of certain social causes, and if you’re already doing good, why not also do well by promoting your products in these less-than-obvious ways. You might not care, but your customers do, and very often, they are more likely to purchase a product that aligns with their values than the product of a less savory competitor. Shoppers prefer to support small businesses, locally made products, ethically managed manufacturing processes, and various other social causes, so it makes sense to lean into what they value. This type of marketing builds trust, loyalty, and advocacy, promoting long-term success.

Whichever niche your eCommerce website belongs to, summer is a great time to elevate your success and improve your marketing flows. More people during this time explore new products, take on new hobbies, and are looking for easy solutions. Catering to these shopping interests will help you improve your sales, customer retention, and ultimately, customer loyalty.


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4 tips to help convert your website visitors into customers this holiday shopping season

4 tips to help convert your website visitors into customers this holiday shopping season

This year’s rollercoaster of global events has made it more difficult for traditional retailers to operate. Ongoing events and their correlating unpredictable and ever-shifting social circumstances make attracting new customers a drastically different and substantially more complicated process. With the Holiday Season upon us, the inability to know if, how, or when retailers can let customers back in only exasperates how unprepared and vulnerable many retailers continue to feel.

But here is the thing – consumers faced with the same problems have solved it by turning to online, mobile, and digital shopping without so much as a second thought!

… and this means online marketing strategies for retail businesses need a renovation. The more traditional and well-known marketing tactics (i.e., working around social media and online advertising) are sometimes good enough to get people to click a product or visit an eCommerce website. Still, they are not enough to substantively help convert online strangers into repeat customers.

During this year’s holiday shopping season, conversion rate optimization could mean the difference between ending a crazy year on a high note or locking the doors for good.

Here are 4 tips that will help you convert website visitors into customers:

I. Have your mobile website ready

A significant portion of customers now shop via mobile devices. According to the Salsify 2020 Consumer Report, 77% of eCommerce shoppers begin their online shopping search from a mobile device. Additionally, a recent 2020 Covid-19 U.S. Consumer Behavior Report from Worldpay by FIS revealed that 58% of consumers felt that they are spending more on eCommerce during the ongoing pandemic. With more shopping being via eCommerce, and much of that shopping originating on mobile devices, retailers should be optimizing for that type of user experience. Ignoring the impact of mobile shopping on your eCommerce website can lead to customer alienation and spell disaster in the long run. If your visitors are inconvenienced in their customer journey, they are likely to go to a more accommodating competitor. It then becomes more expensive and burdensome to rebuild that customer relationship – so avoid losing your customers altogether, especially on something so simple.

During the holiday shopping season – a time when customers are increasingly more engaged with retailers, including eCommerce – it is imperative to capitalize on the surging web traffic. To start, it’s best to pay attention to your analytics, which give insight into how your existing customers are browsing and what devices they ultimately use at checkout. A high bounce rate or a low conversion rate on your mobile devices will be the first signs that something isn’t right with the mobile version of your online store. You can then go from there to experiment and building a more agile and user-friendly mobile version of your website.

II. Optimize your landing pages for customer experience

The holiday shopping season can be overwhelming for both the retailers and the customers alike. It’s the end of the year, things are moving fast, budgets are tight, and nerves are high. But, that is no excuse to drop the ball on fine-tuning the landing page details. It makes your eCommerce website look neater, the user experiences better, and the shopping process more sensical. Customers do not want clutter, a complicated checkout process, unclear information, or a website that doesn’t “feel” right – and that’s where optimization comes in. Without it, you may have lots of website visitors, but a low conversion rate lowers your overall revenue and makes it difficult to build customer loyalty. Optimization, the tool to rapidly build trust, establish value, and allow customers to checkout without undue frustration, helps combat the problems mentioned above.

This process doesn’t need to be complicated!
Here are the basics to get you started:

  • Increase your white space. It reduces the appearance of clutter and helps customers quickly find essential information without getting overwhelmed.
  • Improve your calls-to-action (“CTAs”). Using single or low-count verbs like “subscribe,” “submit,” and “start shopping” comes off as emotionless and fail to resonate with website visitors. Instead, elaborate on the core value propositions and get creative.  For example, if selling protein powder, instead of describing it as “a great source of protein” and adding a “buy now” button, try “Get the body of your dreams!” with a “Stop Procrastinating!” button. These little tweaks will make you stand out from the hoards.
  • Organize your navigation. Don’t let users get lost or confused trying to navigate your site. Ensure the navigation makes sense – in fact, ask a friend who has never seen your website before trying it. Was it easy for them to find information and products? If it takes more than 3 clicks to find a product or a solution, reorganize.
  • Make sure your links are not too close together on mobile. Like I said earlier, most shoppers are mobile now. Nothing will frustrate a visitor more than trying to click on one thing, only to end up clicking its neighbor.
  • Give your search bar the spotlight. It should be visible at the top of every page. Unlike physical retail stores, there isn’t much value in browsing. The first thing online shoppers like to do is find a search bar and fill it out. If your search is hard to find or hard to use, shoppers won’t stick around.

III. Make getting in touch and customer service fit your customers

Brick-and-mortar shoppers and eCommerce shoppers don’t have the same habits, but they do share the desire for easy and responsive customer service when they need help. There is a pivotal moment in the customer journey we all experience when shopping. Once a customer is almost ready to make a purchase, there is a need for validation. In brick and mortar stores, customers typically look for store clerks to help answer any final questions. Online, customers instead prefer to look for the most convenient way to answer those questions. If your website does not offer a convenient way to get in touch, it may send your customers to other forums and review websites where your competition makes their bid for conversion. Look at your customer demographics and how those demographics prefer to get in touch – and offer that.

IV. Diversify your payment options

Only offering credit card and PayPal options at checkout won’t cut it anymore. Retail shoppers have already gotten accustomed to more than that at the checkout counter, and they expect more from eCommerce websites too. While security – which required tedious inputs – is a priority, consider payment processors who offer more flexibility without security compromises. Payment options like Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Google Pay allow customers to checkout with a single click, without additional steps like filling out information. Allowing this type of flexibility will result in fewer abandoned carts and happier customers. New trusted payment options, like Klarna and PayPal Credit, are always emerging, so keep this in mind when doing your annual updates.

Action Items

At the end of every coaching session, I like to send everyone away with at least a few action items to improve their conversion rate right away. Here are four things you can do to make sure your site is secure and ready to convert visitors into customers
Here are your final action items:
  • Test your shop thoroughly on more than one mobile device. Make sure to test it with different platforms (Andriod, Google, Apple) and different screen sizes.

  • Make sure elements of the site are well spaced out, especially clickable/touchable links on mobile.

  • Update the language of your calls-to-action. Stick to more emotional, less literal CTAs
  • Add several methods to contact someone at your shop without delay. Leaving a visitor waiting has the same effect online as it does in your store.
  • Add a few instant payment options to your store. Don’t make your unfortunate mobile users fill out a twenty field form to buy your products.
Want to learn more about how you can grow and convert your customers? Subscribe to my blog and follow me on social for regular updates. Shoot me a message with your question, and it may be featured in a future post.

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