Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is something every e-commerce website owner should learn because it plays a large role in whether your site will become a success. It sounds scary, but SEO is basically just making sure that your target market can find you in a search engine.
Unfortunately, search engines have become pretty good at ranking only those websites that genuinely provide relevant content to browsers, so you can't just saturate your site with keywords and leave it at that. Keyword-rich content is an integral part of any SEO strategy, but it isn't the end-all, be-all.
What do you have to do to create a great e-commerce SEO strategy that not only works but is also sustainable? Here are the steps you should follow.
Before anything else, you will want to know the parameters of your SEO strategy. Presuming you already have a working website and products available, you need to find out who you're selling to.
Find out important user demographic and behavioral information such as:
Google Analytics is a good way to check this out. If you don't have it yet, well, you're a bit behind the times, but you can still sign up here for free.
If you do your research well, you'll be able to pattern your content, promotions, and ad placement to a few key patterns that are easily maintained. For example, if your product niche is for very young children, you want to target young mothers who will frequently visit baby advice sites and check product reviews.
A millennial mom will be frugal and social, so you may want to establish an attractive discount for mothers who will upload pictures of their children using your product and write a review (hopefully positive). You can then share these reviews on appropriate social media sites and blogs. User-generated content is always a big help to your e-commerce SEO.
You could have several segments in your target audience that may not fit into one neat category. Many of your visitors may be doting aunts or grandparents, or young fathers. For these visitors you will need to establish a different set of parameters, which is where buyer personas come in.
Buyer personas are what this article describes as a strategy to target several categories of people by using different content in separate sections in your site. This may sound complicated, but think of it in terms of a home: each person in the family is different, but they all live in the same house so they have to establish harmony to continue living together.
Buyer personas let you do the same thing in your website; you cater to different needs but you lead them all to what they have in common — interest in your products. The trick is to get them there in the first place, and you can accomplish this by dedicating certain content, promotions, and marketing to each buyer persona.
Now that you know who your target audience is, the next thing you need to do is search for the winning keywords you will need to develop in your site's content. This can be a complicated process and you should go about it methodically.
Set up a spreadsheet that specifies which keywords should go into what category and where they should appear within your website. For example, you could schedule holiday themed content during the month or so preceding Christmas, offering big discounts for holiday-specific products. Keywords would be specific to your products and include identifier like “holiday sales” or “Black Friday discounts”
You can use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool to get started on your plan. The tool is free as long as you don't purchase any suggested keywords. The important part in this activity is to select keyword categories with relatively low competition and a respectable number of searches for the most efficient use of your efforts.
Search engines will look at content, but they also examine links to and from your website. This is because the typical search engine can find you more easily if you put yourself out there. This is why inbound links are so important.
Inbound links are simply articles, blogs, announcements, or reviews outside your site that link back to a specific page on your site. You can create inbound links by placing articles and blog posts on appropriate sites and including links, or establishing a presence on social networks for people to like, tweet or otherwise spread the word about your website. Of course, the higher the authority of the inbound link, the higher the impact on your e-commerce SEO.
Establishing links to non-competitive external websites that have a good reputation is an important pillar to successful SEO strategies. Google looks favorably on websites that establish these kinds of links, especially if you are also affiliated. It would be a great idea to request affiliations with established organizations related to your industry and get that backlink.
Any e-commerce SEO strategy will benefit from a good monitoring system. What may work for other sites may not work for yours. Every time you try something new, be sure to check your data and results to see if you are getting what you expect. Let me state the obvious: if a particular strategy isn't working, you should rethink it.
How often should you check? Daily is good, but some strategies take some time to take hold, so a weekly check may yield more accurate results. For more ambitious strategies like a survey or contest, you should probably give it a month or so to see if your traffic improves. And don't forget to factor in seasonal fluctuations.
An effective e-commerce SEO strategy is dynamic; the rules of the game change quickly so you shouldn't be too surprised when a strategy that worked last month doesn't seem to work as well now. You have to remember that there are new players in the field every day, and the competition can be a real killer if you don't develop a keen sense of situational awareness. Keep your eyes and ears open, and be ready to turn any new developments to your advantage.
What SEO strategies have worked best for you? Let us know in the comments.