There’s been a lot of hay made lately about how click-through rates for the top spot on Google search results has dropped.
Just a few years ago, the top rank accounted for 33% of all traffic; today, it’s closer to 20%. So does that mean that chasing the elusive top spot is no longer a priority for online marketers? Hardly.
Look more closely at the numbers and you’ll see that, while algorithmic changes and smarter SEO tactics overall have leveled the field a bit, the first three spots still account for almost 50%—and the first page over 90%—of all traffic.
So how do you make sure you’re on top of the competition when it comes to consumer search? Building solid SEO into your e-commerce inventory can make all the difference.
Below are 9 areas you should focus on—or revisit—to ensure your site is driving the traffic you need to generate the revenue you deserve.
1. Keyword Research
Consumers perform millions of product searches every day. Your task is to know what they’re searching for within your industry. Once you’ve got a list of common search terms, you must identify the cross-section of terms that have the greatest search volume to competition ratio. This will likely include a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords.
Head terms are the short, open-ended search terms we often use when first starting our search, usually less than 25 characters. For example, “running shoes” or “body lotion.” Long-tail keywords are the more specific terms we use to narrow in on exactly what we’re looking for, typically longer phrases of 26-40 characters. For example, “running shoes for low arches” or “anti-aging body lotion natural ingredients.”
While head terms receive much larger search volume, long-tail keywords tend to generate better click and conversion rates. Not as many people will be searching for a specialized search term, but when they do, they are more likely to find—and buy—exactly what they were looking for.
When you build your set of target keywords, try to narrow in on keywords that have a high enough search volume to drive meaningful traffic, but low enough competition to still rank for that term.
There are many free and premium tools you can use to help build out your list of keywords. As the leading search engine, Google offers many of the most popular tools—AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Autosuggest, and Google Related Search.
2. Site Architecture
The structure of your site is important for two reasons: SEO and user experience (UX). Your site architecture is what maps how a visitor will navigate your site. Good site architecture helps visitors quickly find what they are looking for and guides their path toward key pages. Bad site architecture = bad UX, which will frustrate visitors and limit conversions.
Site architecture is relevant to SEO because it affects how search engines interpret your site. Page hierarchy and organization tell search engines which pages are related to one another and which take priority over others.
Refer back to your keyword list as you design your site architecture. Head terms make strong category page titles, such as “running shoes” and “loafers,” while long-tail keywords will find their place in product descriptions and metadata.
Bottom line: The more organized your site is, the more user- and Google-friendly it becomes.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is the behind-the-scenes meta information that gives your content the best chance to rank in SERPs. Things like schema markup, URL structure, and internal linking are all technical SEO.
You set up most elements of your technical SEO when you first designed your site. However, it’s never too late for an SEO clean-up. There are several improvements you can make that will have a significant impact on your site’s discoverability.
You’ll want to clean up all URLs and broken links. Broken links and 404 error pages are a dead end for search engine crawlers, preventing your site from being properly indexed. The best solution is to establish a 301 redirect for 404 pages that will automatically route users from old, unavailable pages to updated, active pages.
Complicated dynamic URLs can also slow down and impede search bots. A dynamic URL is one with lengthy strings of letters and numbers. It’s more intuitive to both users and crawlers to use a clean URL structure. A clean URL is intelligible enough that a user can read the URL alone and have a clear idea about what page it will open on your site.
Dynamic URL: www.yoursite.com/index.php?.id_sezione=9a67h5yrb38477
Clean URL: www.yoursite.com/shoes/green-arch-support-sneakersClean
URLs use hyphens, targeted keywords, and lowercase letters to create an organized and highly navigable organizational structure for your site.
Another technical SEO update is to introduce pagination into your inventory browsing layout. While infinite scroll is the uncontested preference in terms of UX, it has an adverse effect on indexing and search rankings.
Pagination divides content into smaller sections and helps search bots understand the relationship between different sections. Without proper pagination, you risk pages being penalized for duplication and/or lacking authority because they live too deep in your site.
A good compromise between UX and SEO is to feature a “load more” style of pagination. Customers can interact with the site much like an infinite scroll, but content is still divided into bot-friendly “pages.”
6. Responsive Design
Make sure your site is optimized for mobile. Google penalizes non-responsive sites, so if you’re not mobile friendly, you don’t have any chance of making it on the first page of SERP, much less claiming the coveted top spot.
7. On-Page SEO
Your product pages themselves can be a gold mine for SEO. On-site SEO includes both visible elements (like content, pictures and reviews) and meta elements (like page titles and descriptions).
The key elements of on-page SEO are:
The page title that will appear in SERP results. Use keywords and action verbs to motivate purchasing behavior.
What appears under the title in search results. Should be keyword rich and less than 140 characters—like a tweet promoting the page content. Why should someone click this link?
Ideally, the body of your product page will contain at least 1,000 words. That doesn’t mean your product description has to be 1,000 words long! Word count can also come from lists of features, product specs, alternative options, and customer benefits. Reviews also count toward your word count. Your keyword(s) should appear 3-5 times throughout the copy. Avoid keyword stuffing!
Image File Name:
Without including an image filename and alt tag, your image cannot be indexed or come up in search. Keep it short and sweet, using keywords.
Image ALT Tag:
Should be a keyword-rich description of the image content.
8. Content Marketing
Because you want each of your site pages optimized to rank for very specific keywords, you’ll leave a lot of unused keywords on the table. Blogs and other content marketing offer opportunities to incorporate those keywords and capture the searches of consumers who may not be as far along in the buying cycle.
Studies show consumers feel more comfortable buying online from brands they’ve learned about through helpful content rather than ads and promotions. So make sure your content is compelling, relevant and informative.
Avoid keyword stuffing and blatant self-promotion. Providing high-quality, shareable content is a great way to build additional links to your site to increase your domain authority—along with your traffic.
Watching a product video can make consumers more confident about the quality of a product, increasing conversions. Videos also increase site engagement and time spent on site, both of which can boost search engine rankings. Product videos should be under one minute long and of professional quality.
As the old adage goes, the devil’s in the details, and that’s certainly true of SEO optimization for e-commerce sites. These may feel like fussy behind-the-scenes adjustments that won’t be seen on the surface, but they’ll show up where it counts—your bottom line.
Wondering if your site has the SEO strength it needs to get the job done? Request an SEO Health Check today—it’s FREE!