You may or may not have read my post in April on SEO and Ecommerce websites, it discussed the need for a change in mindset as well as covering some of the basic technical problems ecommerce websites face.
This post expands on the change of mindset based on conversations and experiences I have had in the last few months, in my opinion people are still struggling to understand what Google want from them. Rankings are declining, organic traffic is dropping and business owners just don’t understand what to do.
If you have an ecommerce website there is one simple truth you have to understand, Google only want to rank you organically if:
A) You’re a brand (aka the result people want and search for)
B) You add genuine value on and above the average ecommerce website
Historic Ecommerce SEO
For the last 10 years it has been pretty easy to rank ecommerce sites, you build your category page and then you get as many links to it as possible. You didn’t worry if the content justified the links, or even think to yourself ‘Why would anyone link back to a list of products?’, even if you did think about it you couldn’t overcome the undeniable fact that it worked, it made you a lot of money.
So for the last decade ecommerce site owners have been using link building tactics to rank their category pages and make a ton of cash.
If you have a list of products that you want to market through Google, Google want you to pay for it.
Afterall, they can do a good job on there own of finding and listing products:
Do you remember when Google shopping used to be free, happy days.
The fact is Google can find and index products, and then make you pay for it on Google shopping, and if they can’t find the products they can send you to Amazon
Google does not want to list your page of products, for free, and let you make a load of money, it’s that simple really.
Making Conent Unique
Of course, any good SEO will always advise unique product descriptions, and ensuring that canonicals are set up as to avoid duplication across categories, this should be the foundations of your SEO strategy. However, this is not going to get you the best rankings possible, because you’re still only displaying a list of products.
Your content needs to be unique, yes, but it also needs to add genuine value. If you sell wallets, why would someone visit your website over any other?
– Do you use videos and other rich media?
– Do you have expertise, insights or even a qualified opinion on your products/industry?
– Are you creating compelling offline campaigns that are driving brand search?
– Are you investing in creative digital campaigns that drive natural links, citations, traffic and brand engagement?
– Are you considering the user journey and developing content/campaigns that aim at engaging customers at different points in that journey.
If you aren’t thinking about the above, then you’re going to struggle organically moving forward.This is why content marketing/strategy is such a buzz word at the moment, because a sound strategy helps to add that value, gives people a reason to share/link to your site and ultimately allows Google to award you with organic traffic.
How do I know it will work?
Despite all the buzz around content, I feel there is still some hesitation in investing in great content and creativity. I think in part it is due to the fact this is real marketing and not link spam, therefore it requires a greater investment, but also I think some are struggling to accept that the good old days are over.
12 months ago we began work with a client in a really competitive industry, flooded with link spam and blackhat tactics, yet we insisted on a campaign fuelled by content and creartivity. Yes, the investment was greater, yes results weren’t fully realised in the first 3 months, and no we didn’t deliver 100 links every month, in fact link targets aren’t even set, we’re measured against what really matters, results.
As of today this client has more traffic, higher rankings (dominates a lot of keywords), better engagement, increased social following, and importantly more conversions than ever before. All this despite disavowing previous poor links, never using exact anchor text, and only ever acquiring links to pages that genuinely deserved it.
A content/creative strategy can work for every website, of course the thinking behind it has to be sound, and the execution planned and implemented well, but it will work.
How can you measure this?
Traffic – Not just from Google, a content strategy should increase referals from social and other websites as well as from search engines
Links/Shares/Citations – Your campaigns should always include a promotional element, in fact it should make up a major chunk of your time. If done correctly this will always produce buzz in the form of mentions.
Brand Search – Brand search almost always increases as you invest in real campaigns
Sharing/Following – Your social stats across the board should increase
What about engagement?
This is a difficult metric. If you start investing in content when historically you have had a page full of products, then you might see decreases in time on site, and increases in bounce rates. This is due to the fact people will leave as soon as they have read the content, they’re not coming to browse your products, they are coming to engage with the value you have added. However, they have engaged with your brand and now stand a better chance of returning and buying from you when they are ready.
You can decrease the risk of increasing bounce rates by producing content that catches people whilst they are in that buying cycle, but this has to involve a lot of tact, we’re looking to add value at this point, not sell directly.
If you want to understand the commercial value of the content you’re investing in, then you can do this using page value in Google analytics. This will help you understand how each page contributes to your sites conversions by giving it a value based on how it fits in to the conversion funnel.
I could write another post on this but Stephen Kenwright does a much better job than I could: Using Page Value in Google Analytics to measure the ROI of content marketing
If you aren’t willing to invest in content, and producing real digital marketing campaigns, then I suggest putting all your budgets into paid media. If you’re paying for SEO services that are focussed on building links to category pages that don’t add value, then I suggest you stop, you’re paying for something that won’t pay dividends and potentially land you in trouble in the long run.
Hope to see you all there.