SEO for CRO: The basics and not so basics of getting it right
How to leverage SEO for eCommerce customer conversion
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.
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.
‘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.
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