E-commerce is an unwieldy beast. Choices abound when choosing what combination of selling methods suit your brand’s needs. Marketplaces such as Amazon and Target+ have very different needs and considerations versus a direct-to-consumer (DTC) website. One of the first questions you should ask yourself is, “Do I have the resources and knowhow to improve e-commerce SEO once the site is created?”
DTC sites aren’t for everyone, but they have a very valuable place in an e-commerce plan, as we discussed in our webinar, Are Shopify Websites Worthwhile? It’s easy to create a website rather inexpensively with minimal expertise. However, for your site to rank #1 on Google, Bing, and beyond, you’ll need to ensure it is search engine optimized (SEO).
SEO is the process of making webpages and the content within them discoverable by search engines, such as Google and Bing. This is how your product or service is found by your customers!
The difference between well-known and anonymity is thoroughly executed SEO. Those familiar with your brand will navigate directly to your website. Launch a website and send an email to your loyal customer base and they excitedly shop on your site. Unfortunately, this strategy does nothing to grow your business. To reach the right people at the right time, your site must be discoverable on search engines.
Discoverability used to mean filling your site with keywords and calling it a day. Search engines have evolved since then. The algorithm that determines exactly what is shown on the search engine result page (SERP) is highly guarded, but we know that the focus has shifted to identifying the intent behind the searcher’s query.
Your site needs to represent the best answer for their issue or question. To determine your site’s eligibility for the SERP, search engines rank a page based on the acronym EAT – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
To improve e-commerce SEO you need will need to:
Let’s break down each step to understand how they are accomplished.
As we already discussed, search engines today focus more on the reasons behind searches. Your site needs to go beyond what your product is and speak to the value customers will get out of it. If you own a vitamin company, you can tell the world, “Hey! We have Vitamin C!” A person who knows they want a vitamin C supplement will find your site.
But what about those who don’t know they need vitamin C? Ask yourself what problems your product addresses. Maybe they’re searching for “immune boosters” or “natural health supplements” or “cold prevention.” Your excited exclamation won’t help the less knowledgeable searcher who doesn’t realize that your product fits all of those search criteria.
To understand the benefits that customers see in your products, take the time to look through reviews and customer feedback. This provides a better grasp of the language your audience uses to discuss your product and benefits that mean the most to them.
Each page on your site should have one target keyword. The attempt to convey too much information on one page confuses e-readers. It’s also detrimental to SERP rankings as the algorithm views a jumble of topics as an attempt to keyword stuff, lowering your credibility.
So, how do you know which keywords to use? By conducting keyword research. More details on conducting keyword research successfully can be found in this blog, including how SEO for a DTC site differs from SEO conducted for marketplaces like Amazon.
As you’re mining for keywords, keep these thoughts in mind:
Answering these questions will give you a leg up in developing a robust keyword strategy. The next step is to develop a 3-tiered strategy.
The first tier is defining one overarching keyword that you want your site to rank for. Don’t go crazy with this! This easily becomes a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation. Choose no more than three keywords to base your site on.
The second tier is your service/category pages. Ineffective navigation leads to higher bounce rates (users who arrive and leave the site without spending time or navigating to another page). This indication of bad user experience affects conversion rates and search engine rankings. Organize your site in a way that feels intuitive. If customers cannot easily find what they’re looking for, they will look elsewhere.
If you sell painting supplies, this might be sections for brushes, acrylic paints, oil paints, watercolor paints, canvases, etc. Each of these category and product pages should have their own target keyword.
The third tier is your content strategy. Not every site should bother to create content. This decision should be based around what you sell. In an episode of our podcast, Master the Marketplace, Autumn Ledesma, Kapsien’s SEO Team Lead, explains that if your brand is in a fiercely competitive category, such as beauty, content can be very important. In the case for luxury beauty brands, consumers want to be informed about the ingredients going into their skincare and choose to buy from a brand that aligns with their core values. Content should reinforce this connection and educate customers on why they should care about the same things as your brand.
Ledesma goes on to explain that, in contrast, users looking for a construction company are not necessarily looking for blogs or podcasts to help choose the company. Decisions in this scenario are made by price, reputation, quality, value, and availability. If you decide it makes business sense to create content, choose a focus keyword that represents the topic and supports the overall keyword strategy for the site.
Content is where your expertise and authority can really shine on the EAT test. When attempting to improve your ranking on Google, choose topics that bring value to your customers. Give them a reason to choose you as a market leader. Choose topics that bring value to your customers and give them a reason to accept you as a market leader. For example, here on Kaspien’s Inbound Marketing Team, we focus on giving value before we ask for value. Blog posts like this are one example of how we do that. That bond and trust is important to both your customers and the algorithm.
As for the trustworthiness part of EAT, the search engine wants to determine if searchers, others in your industry, and companies adjacent to your industry consider your information to be reliable and useful. If customers think you are trustworthy, they will choose to click your link over others, they will stay on your site longer, and will come back for more. If other companies find you trustworthy, they will trust your information enough to link to it, citing your work as a source of truth.
By the same token, curate what outside sites you link to. Adding quantities of links to your site versus quality links to fool the algorithm into “checking off the outside link box” simply doesn’t work. The algorithm and customers alike learn that if you know enough to link to high quality sites, you are more likely to know what you’re talking about.
You don’t have to be a tech maven to know and fear the dreaded 404 error. Search algorithms hate them, too. They show a lack of attentiveness and undermine your efforts to establish EAT. Encountering errors is also a quick way to lose viewership, harkening back to the concept that a site difficult to navigate will have potential customers leaving in a flash.
There are services that will crawl your site for errors, but it’s good practice to regularly get on your site and click through it to test links are still working. Utilize a variety of browsers in these tests to confirm a consistent user experience. Google also provides a webmaster guide that assists with the technical side of SEO.
It takes an average of 6 months to improve Google search rankings and for the initial positive momentum. I’m sure you were hoping the answer to the question, “How do I rank #1 on google?” was going to be a mere checklist, but like most things in e-commerce and sales, it takes strategy, nurturing, and development. The 6-month timeline may be shorter if your site has already existed for some time with good domain authority.
Paid marketing efforts may expedite the process, if executed properly. You have already identified your highest value keywords, which are intended to target your potential customers by the issues they’re trying to solve. Your SEO efforts will place you within the organic search results, but paid marketing gets the top four and bottom four placements on each SERP.
Some people will click ads, some will only trust organic results, and others will have more interest in choosing a link that appears in both. Your strategy needs to address both organic and paid search. Ads have been shown to provide both a short-term result of increased traffic, but also have a longer-term affect, increasing the visibility and traffic to your site.
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