Previously, we've talked about how consumers today conduct product research before making a purchase and how e-commerce businesses can drive sales with content marketing in general. This article will dive into specific SEO (search engine optimization) strategies that can be easily applied to improve your content marketing and ultimately drive your e-commerce business sales.
This will be a beginner-level, actionable SEO guide which is based on data-driven marketing strategies and easy-to-implement solutions. Providing you with a step-by-step checklist, this guide points out issues that are possibly harmful to your business and critical SEO areas you can improve upon. Correspondingly, it also provides a useful problem-solving toolbox.
In the SEO universe, most articles talk about how to attract more traffic to your websites. But often times they are only focused on driving traffic and forget the most important part - how to convert visitors once they are on your site. To fill in this gap, I'll focus on explaining how to apply various e-commerce SEO strategies to maximize the ROI of your content marketing and transform your web-shop visitors into actual customers.
To help you navigate, here are the topics we’ll be covering:
The Convergence of Content Marketing and SEO
The convergence of content marketing and SEO has been discussed for many years. Finally, digital marketing experts agreed that content marketing and SEO must be integrated.
The figure below illustrates the interrelation between SEO and content marketing. As Forbes points out, "SEO without content marketing is like a body without a soul.” Reversely, content marketing without SEO is like a soldier who fights without a weapon.
Why exactly should you, as e-commerce business owners, care about SEO while doing content marketing? Imagine this: If you create content (e.g., product descriptions and blog posts) without knowing what your targeted customers are currently looking for, the likelihood is low that your content will reach them. Beyond that, without understanding your customers' concrete demands, your content cannot convince and lure them to make a purchase.
In the following three sections, I will provide you with a step-by-step guide of actionable SEO strategies that can effectively improve the conversion rate of your e-commerce website.
Step 1: Technical SEO strategies for better UX
Before jumping into more complex tactics that focus on content and links, Google's prioritized ranking factors, I will first start with some easy-to-implement technical SEO strategies. The technical SEO aims to provide a better user experience via a faster website, a better mobile experience and a more secured data exchange.
In March 2020, Google announced that all sites will be officially switched over to the mobile-first indexing. In other words, if your site is optimized for mobile devices, it will be favored by Google's algorithm as well as customers who visit your website via smartphones.
First, you can turn to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out whether your website is optimized for mobile. If not, you can follow Search Engine Journal's guidance to optimize your site with Google's mobile-first indexing best practices.
Page speed is not only a confirmed ranking factor for Google Search but also a critical factor that affects user experience and conversion rates. Amongst numerous statistics that show the significance of e-commerce site speed, a study by Akamai shows that the bounce rate increases by 103% when a web page load time delays for 2 seconds. But don't freak out. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your web page performance and receive suggestions to make that page faster.
If possible, I recommend your e-commerce site to choose the HTTPS version, which can provide your customers with a more secure user experience. Customers will like it and so will Google's algorithm. As Google Search Central Blog claims that HTTPS is considered a ranking signal.
These three checkpoints provide a simple starting point for finding out where your e-commerce business may have opportunities for improvement. It is as simple as that: If you perform these three technical SEO audits for your e-commerce website, you can considerately improve user experience and conversion rates.
Now, let’s return to the two ranking factors that the Google algorithm cares about the most:
In the next two sections, I will continue with the SEO strategies concerning content optimizing and link building.
Step 2: On-page SEO
On-page SEO includes keyword research and integration. In this section, I will guide you through how to embed the right keywords in the right places on your content pages. In doing so, your e-commerce site can rank higher in search engines and attract more potential customers.
This section unfolds a 2-step on-page SEO guide:
1. Conduct keyword research to find out the right target keywords with high buyer intent.
2. Embed the target keywords in your blog posts, product and category descriptions, (title tags, meta descriptions, image alt texts and URLs.)
How to search for the right target keyword?
First of all, it's fundamental to distinguish between information keywords and commercial keywords. The examples in the figure below describe their difference:
As an e-commerce business owner, you primarily care about commercial keywords that represent buyer intent.
If you just have a rough query idea in mind, you can start by typing your search query and browsing for more keyword ideas. For this purpose, you can use three free tools:
Google search autocomplete feature
Amazon search autocomplete feature
Your top competitors' websites
I will take Google as an example here to explain how the autocomplete feature can help you with brainstorming relevant keyword ideas. Then you can repeat similar steps with other search engines, such as Amazon.
You've probably already noticed that after you start to type in your query, Google Search will automatically predict and suggest relevant queries to you based on what other people are searching for. In addition, at the bottom of the page, you can also find some other relevant search queries:
If you already have a basic keyword idea in mind, the search engine’s autocomplete feature can serve as a goldmine for discovering more keyword ideas.
As another alternative option, you can simply turn to your top competitors' websites and discover keywords that they are using.
Then the next question is: How can you choose the right target keyword after collecting numerous keywords? To compare several keyword options and find the best one, you can use Google Keyword Planner (free), or other paid SEO tools, such as Ahrefs and SEMrush.
I’ll focus on Google Keyword Planner here since it's the free tool. With this tool, you can roughly figure out the search volume, competition and cost-per-click (CPC) of a keyword. Remember that you want to find the target keyword with high search volume but relatively low competition.
It is also useful to check the CPC which indicates the degree of buyer intent, as it is based on how much other businesses are willing to pay for this keyword for AdWords ads. If other businesses are paying more for this keyword, it implies that this keyword contains a higher buyer intent and greater commercial potential.
💡 A final note concerning local SEO: Don't forget to change the settings of language and location according to your targeted market.
How to integrate target keywords in the right places on your content pages?
Concerning embedding target keywords to content on your e-commerce site, there are three main types of pages to optimize: category pages, product pages and blog posts. After knowing which keywords to target, you can integrate them into your product and category descriptions and blog content. Most e-commerce businesses write descriptions on product pages, but don't always add descriptions on category pages. This is a golden opportunity many neglects, as adding content on category pages can definitely increase SEO.
Remember to avoid thin content by simply repeating the keyword. Instead, you are encouraged to write long product descriptions with smoothly embedded keywords. Customers won't hate extra product information as long as it is relevant and useful.
If you still have some extra energy, here are some other site features that can be optimized:
1. Include target keywords in meta descriptions and title tags.
2. Include target keywords in alt texts for images.
3. Include target keywords in URLs.
It's a huge task to optimize all your product and category pages, so my advice is to start with your best-selling products and/or the timely / trendy ones.
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Don't worry, here’s a simple infographic by Brian Dean that lists the places where you can optimize on your product pages:
Step 3: Link building for SEO
Link building is important for SEO because Google relies on internal links to discover new content. Also, as Google states, "The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page."
In addition to pleasing Google, link building is also important for increasing the ROI of your content marketing. A recent study discovered that nearly 90% of consumers conduct product research before making a purchase. Our recently launched Content Recommendations feature can maximize the use of the content you have already created (e.g., blog posts) by automatically connecting it to relevant products, categories and additional content.
For example, when a potential customer lands on your blog post about rosé wine, you can easily reduce the bounce rate by linking relevant products and categories to your post (as displayed in the figure below). This internally linked banner makes it easy for visitors to continue their purchase journey by immediately presenting shoppable products that are directly related to what they are researching.
In a similar case, when a customer is viewing your product page of rosé wine, you can link related blog content to this page (as the figure below shows). This way, you can help those customers who wish to do a bit more product research before clicking add to basket by providing additional information instead of exiting to return back to search.
Building a good site structure with internal links also contributes to a better user experience. With Clerk's Content Recommendations feature, you can automatically display relevant products, categories and content on your blog posts or any landing pages, which makes it possible to provide your customers with a long-desired seamless shopping experience.
By applying Clerk.io’s Content Recommendations feature and its contained SEO best practices, you can easily achieve a better user experience and a higher rank in Google. Doing so can let your e-commerce business enjoy a sustainable increase in conversation rates and sales with effortless AI automation.
To wrap up, here's a quick checklist that summarizes this three-step SEO guide for driving sales on your e-commerce website:
Being the #1 rated e-commerce personalization platform, Clerk.io can help you implement these SEO strategies and take your business to the next level. Get started by booking a time with one of our specialists today 🚀.