April 26, 2021, is a day that will live in advertising infamy.
It shocked the digital advertising ecosystem, ending a nearly decade-long “arbitrage” opportunity for marketers.
Some brands were prepared for this sort of catastrophic event. Others were blind-sided by Apple’s iOS 14.5 update that reduced ad tracking and effectiveness.
While the short-term impact has been overwhelmingly negative to most brands, the long-term effect is better marketers with a more diverse marketing strategy.
One of the more important initiatives for e-commerce brands is SEO. Search engine optimization is one of the most sustainable and highest-converting channels for e-commerce brands. “If your e-commerce store isn’t ranking on Google, you’re losing money,” says Keval Shah, who runs an SEO e-commerce agency.
In this article, we’re going to dive into the basics of SEO for E-commerce to take your brand to the next level.
Like a lot of ecomm brands, a brand I own was overly reliant on paid ads. About nine months before the iOS 14.5 updates, we began investing in growing our organic channels.
Now, 80% of our revenue can be attributed to organic channels like SEO.
Here’s why SEO can be such a powerful driver of growth.
There are a lot of variables that contribute to a page ranking, but once a page ranks in the top 1-5 search results it can generate traffic and sales many months or even years after you’ve published the content.
With paid search or paid social, you’re paying for each user.
High-ranking pages that generate revenue are as passive as it gets.
Most e-commerce brands will have success targeting long-tail keywords. Generally, the more specific the search the greater the conversion rate.
Here’s a real-life example. If I’m a user searching for an Excel spreadsheet, I will get a broad set of results. If I’m searching for an Excel spreadsheet for accounts receivable with conditional formatting, my results will be much more specific to my need.
If I’m that specific with my search, likely, I know what I want and am more prepared to make a purchasing decision.
Now, it’s time to convert that high-quality traffic into revenue!
Converting your organic traffic into revenue is a function of how much your page actually aligns with search intent, whether or not the search is based on a need or an expectation of a purchase, the price, the perceived quality of the product and so forth.
Even if a purchase is not made on that first visit, you’ve at least captured a potential customer ripe for a retargeting ad. Sorting the revenue source is easy when you are using the right tools for tracking.
Think of search engines like you would a friend you lean on for advice. Would you ask a 3-year old for relationship advice or a 35-year old? Would you ask your friend who has never been in a relationship or a friend who has a long history of dating but is now married?
Search engines operate within the same framework! They don’t want to surface brand new sites that have no ‘signal’ as to being reliable, as with our example of getting relationship advice from a toddler.
They also don’t recognize sites as credible who have no authority on a specific topic, as with the latter example. That means if you have 100 high-quality pages about armchairs, you’ll likely rank better than a single page on a website about armchairs.
What this means for your e-commerce brand is the more you invest in SEO, the better results you will see as Google will take you more seriously on the topic it deems you an authority.
SEO is made to seem much more complicated than it is. I used this exact process to position our brand for success.
In 2021, we had 83,000 organic visits to our website.
In 2022, we’re on pace to triple that number, 250,000+ organic visits to our site.
Here is a quick cheat sheet you can use for your e-commerce brand.
Google doesn’t want to send a user to a site that is slow. It doesn’t want to send a user to a site that is not optimized for mobile. There’s more to technical SEO than these two things, but if you can make your site fast and the experience for mobile a good one, you are ahead of the curve.
Depending on the number of SKUs you have, this could be easy or not so easy. For my brand, we have 100+ unique SKUs. The product is unique and requires explanation on how it works. I invested hundreds of hours in writing tutorials and the benefits for each product. Many of these pages are now ranking as they are very long-tail.
Invest in creating product pages that will rank, but also convert users.
Category pages are important for search engines as much as they are the user experience. Category pages are less likely to rank, as they are generally more competitive than individual SKUs, but they can be high-value pages that funnel users to exactly what they are looking for.
They also create easy internal linking opportunities which also builds topical authority. Speaking of internal linking…
Internal linking is the practice of linking your pages to other related pages on your website. The goal is not to link totally random pages, but pages that are relevant to your audience. Google usually looks down on sites that have a high bounce rate. By internally linking to pages your user might actually want to click on, you reduce the chance of an unnecessary bounce.
We’ve compared search engines to people for good reason. It makes sense. External links signal to search engines that your site is credible. In real life, this would look like Justin Bieber bringing you on stage. Everyone watching is now wondering who you are and is more likely to give you a chance with such an incredible co-sign.
Google is the same. If you have high-authority sites, like the news or old sites that have been around awhile, pointing back to your website it’s a sign to Google that you are doing something right.
There’s a lot of strategies for this, but the best one is to create great content and products that people share and think of when distributing their own content.
Part of ranking for search results is telling search engines what you want to rank for. This may seem obvious, but the second half of it is writing stuff that keeps people around. Google measures whether a search result is any good for a specific term based on metrics like how long people stick around or if they go on other pages on your site. Invest in a good writer.
SEO is not simply search… anymore. It’s also video. Google populates search pages with videos from YouTube and even YouTube Shorts.
In the last month, my site has generated 6,000 clicks to our YouTube videos from Google Search. Our videos point back to our product which leads to revenue.
Videos not only can rank on Google, but also can lead to higher-quality product pages that keep your users more engaged and can influence a purchasing decision.
A lot of people think they can trick the algorithm. Maybe some people can, but the vast majority of people are better off doing the work and creating pages and posts that are high-quality and serve the interest of the searcher.
That means creating content that is educational and entertaining, not keyword stuffing just to rank, and focusing on how to create a better site experience in general.
Your e-commerce brand may not be able to compete with the Nike’s or Apple’s of the world and that’s okay. There’s plenty of digital real estate that is valuable for your brand to capture.
By creating a lot of quality content, and structuring URL’s and the site hierarchy the right way, you’ll have a leg up on other sites simply from Google recognizing you as someone who knows a good amount about the topic you always add content about.
SEO is a long-game. It may take as long as 6-months to see any traction, depending on your strategy and how competitive the space is.
As it relates specifically to e-com, it’s hard to justify such a grand investment with such a long payback period. We’re used to the Facebook slot machine where we put $1 and get $3 back. Imagine not getting that $3 back to 24 months.
Those that continually invest in doing SEO the right way will see outsized returns for a long period of time and sleep better knowing your growth channels are diversified and solidified.
Try Triple Whale’s Pixel to ensure you are properly attributing your organic and paid efforts.
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