E-commerce is an extremely competitive market. According to a recent study, online spending is increasing at a faster rate and consumers are buying more online than ever before. Whilst these facts might not be surprising, it highlights the importance for shopping sites not to overlook SEO as a central part of their digital marketing strategy.
SEO is more than just setting up shop…
Some retail businesses tend to assume that once they have launched and set up their live e-commerce site, perhaps using a CMS like Shopify or Magento, that their site is SEO ready and will begin ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Although platforms like Shopify are well designed for online retailers, setting up shop is just the first step to accelerating a retailer's online presence and driving traffic to the site. A full, long-term SEO strategy needs to be implemented in order to build site equity, and start driving organic traffic to the site. An important initial step is submitting your sitemap to Google via Google Search Console.
Don’t forget the ‘evergreen’ products
Unlike paid search spend or ads, SEO cannot be turned up, down on or off quickly to align with seasonal trends. SEO however, should not be overlooked in this instance because it provides a well-optimised foundation for 'evergreen' or non-seasonal products on a shopping site. Moreover, paid traffic might not actually be directed towards continually relevant or consistently performing products, so it is vital to use SEO to optimise these product pages and keep the organic traffic flowing at all times of the year, come rain or shine. Therefore, with a robust SEO strategy in place, retail sites have less need to worry about a reduction in traffic if ad spend is ‘decreased’.
On-site SEO and UX
According to a study by KPMG, the customer experience is more important than ever. Whilst this study mostly applied to traditional bricks and mortar retail stores, it is a fair prediction to suggest that this also applies to customer user experience on retail websites too. Customer experience is central to best practice optimisation and logical usability. Moreover, an exciting and unique online experience can grab the attention of users and in turn, will increase SEO benefits.
Content is also a key facet of on-site SEO. It bears high relevance to e-commerce sites because of the importance of product descriptions. Product descriptions not only offer 'calls to action' (CTAs) and transparency of information to the potential consumer, but provide unique content for the search engines to index. And whilst a picture may speak a thousand words, a bare product page with little information will not provide value to the search engine or to the customer. Therefore, retail sites must not neglect the significance of on-site SEO and the value it can add to the user experience and to its ranking in the SERPs. E-commerce sites should implement an on-site SEO strategy that creates compelling, unique content and product descriptions which encourage the buyer to convert, and make sure they do not match the original supplier's product description to avoid creating duplicate content.
Furthermore, whilst PPC helps to increase CTR to particular product pages, it is vitally important that this calls SEO into play. To prevent a user from bouncing, the landing page must provide the shopper with a smooth and informative experience. This includes optimised page loading time, compelling and informative copy, and a simple and seamless conversion journey.
Moreover, URLs are extremely important to e-commerce SEO. Pages must use readable URLs which make sense to the user instead of a generic numbered product listing. This does not provide any useful information to the user or to Googlebot, and if the potential consumer is intending on finding a product page more easily in the future, confusing numbered product URLs do not allow for this.
Much like the importance of informative and descriptive product descriptions, the overall user journey must be smooth and logical in order for your retail site to increase its performance efficiency. Users must be easily able to navigate around your site and have their queries answered quickly in order to prevent them from visiting another site that may be able to offer a similar product. A great way to improve this would be installing a live-chat feature on your shopping site, which helps to improve the user experience by providing clear and quick communication. Find out more about the benefits of installing live chat software in another recent article '3 reasons why your automotive website needs to install a live chat feature'
Mobile speed is also a highly important and topical factor for the user's experience. All too frequently when auditing new potential customers sites, the mobile pages aren't optimised and more often than not, mobile makes up a high percentage of overall traffic. The capabilities of mobile phones and tablets are ever increasing, and so, consumers will increasingly continue to make purchases using their phones. Therefore, never neglect the importance of SEO for mobile sites.
Overall, it is fair and logical to suggest that e-commerce sites must implement a comprehensive SEO strategy if they want to stay ahead in the ever-competitive marketplace. SEO is a highly important ongoing strategy which helps to improve user experience, sustain the relevance of evergreen products, and prevent users from bouncing. In addition to this, new retail sites must remember that retail designed CMS software does not provide ‘out the box’ SEO. Moreover, SEO and PPC complement each other in this space and when implemented effectively, will help to drive and sustain traffic and sales of your e-commerce site.
Written by Alice Pelham