Posted by Carlos Munoa, Principal, Ecommerce Marketing
Almost any ecommerce endeavor these days must include a plan for search engine optimization (SEO), but despite the widespread realization of just how important SEO is, many retailers address SEO too little, too late or not at all. Here are some important steps to take to be sure retailers are giving SEO the attention it deserves.
1. Define SEO processes early
Typically, retailers start building ecommerce websites with an eye toward cutting edge design, offering a wide range of products, including a sophisticated shopping cart and adding a recommendation engine. Then they bring in someone to help out with SEO. It needs to be done the other way around. From the beginning, organizations need to be thinking about site architecture and be sure search engines can crawl all the content. Too often SEO specialists are called in to fix what’s broken.
2. Set KPIs and objectives
It is important to establish goals early on. This will vary depending on the size of the company, the other products in the industry and the maturity of the industry in some cases. For a new site, it might be having the company name rank in the top 10 position in Google, or occupying the entire first page of search results. Other retailers may want to rank in the top five for key phrases around their product or achieve a significant conversion rate per query. The important thing is to define these goals, track them and adjust as necessary. In next month’s SEO-focused article, I’ll discuss the Top KPIs ecommerce businesses should be tracking.
3. Improve your plans and strategy
Search engine optimization changes all the time. Take, for example, 2009 when ecommerce sites around the world were submitting their URLs to mass directories to get themselves listed. When Google decided those listings were no longer valuable and adjusted its algorithm, the rest of the world had to adjust. This mandate for change extends beyond simple link building and keyword optimization. Site structure can play a major role. For example, right now if you don’t have schema.org on your site you are losing out in a big way. If you have schema and consumer reviews, those will appear in Google results and make a significant contribution to your click-through rate.
4. Always take note of revisions
With search engines evolving constantly, it’s important to document every change you make. That way, should any of your changes cause results to suffer, you can roll back to previous versions. And, if people leave the company or get transferred, the people that replace them will have something to refer back to.
5. Content migration must be flawless
All too often, great plans, goals and adjustments are undone by mistakes that could have easily been avoided. Have a great plan for migrating your content to a new website? Make sure you get those 301 redirects in on a 1-to-1 basis to equivalent pages or Google just might forget you exist. One major retailer, for example, broke up its products into categories that were easily identified by customers and made for a great customer experience. However, the solution they used for creating those categories was not SEO friendly in a way Google can crawl and index, destroying any value they might have received. It’s incredibly important to check and re-check. And don’t rely on just one person. Recruiting a detail-oriented person with an analytical mindset can go a long way.
6. Measure your outcomes
Once you have goals and KPIs in place, it’s vital to keep measuring them and doing so on a weekly basis. The frequency is going to depend on your industry, the size of your website and other factors, but weekly check-ins are a good place to begin. If you measure monthly and something changes with a Google policy, a month may be too late.
7. Refine and optimize
Never stop tinkering and learning. As you progress, you’ll see how close you are to your goal. That often requires someone with knowledge of not just site but the industry, as well as all things happening with SEO. That means tracking everything. Never stop learning by attending SEO events and reading what you can get your hands on and refine. Check out blogs like Moz, SEObook , Google forums and, of course, subscribe to our blog to follow this SEO blog series.
In the next SEO article, I will provide some technical tips for optimizing an ecommerce website including all of the strategic steps such as managing keyword research, developing quality content, leveraging multiple channels and more.
Want to learn more about SEO? Read the other articles from our SEO Strategy Series:
Got other vital steps in executing a successful SEO strategy? Share them below in the comments section.