If the majority of your customers arrive at your website via organic search, then the search engine optimization (SEO) of your eCommerce business is essential to its success.
There are tons of resources available online that make grandiose promises about creating a perfect keyword library that will practically guarantee you a top-ranking on search engines.
However, many of these resources are gravely misleading. As a general rule of thumb, if any person, product, or service makes promises or guarantees of high rankings in the way of SEO, steer clear. Google is famously secretive about their processes that determine the search engine result page rankings.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of proven theories out there. Experts have conducted all kinds of experiments and have made some data-backed conclusions regarding the mysterious RankBrain algorithms. Most notably, Moz compiled their research findings and determined which factors play into rankings.
Since their findings are backed up by intensive research, it provides some great insight into practices that positively affect your SEO.
First of all, before you start anything, conduct a quick SEO analysis of your website to see if there are any obvious ranking killers. Things like broken links, spam alerts, or high bounce rates, could be hurting your rankings and no amount of strategy can overpower their negative effects. But, if there are no clear culprits and you want to boost your site’s visibility, there are some ways that you can ensure your eCommerce site meets RankBrain’s criteria for a better shot at a higher ranking.
Curious as to what these data-proven tips are? Let’s dive in.
1. Structure your website accordingly
The way that your website is laid out and operates can have an effect on how well it fairs with Google’s RankBrain. According to the same Moz report, 14% of local ranking factors and 24% of organic ranking factors are based on on-page signals, specifically that website’s domain page authority. This means that the website hosting service that your eCommerce store uses can actually influence its ranking depending on how it stands with Google.
Be sure to use a hosting service that creates a positive UX in terms of its layout and design. For example, a B2B eCommerce platform will need to include keyword placement throughout, along with features like onsite search bars, customizable navigation, and a smooth checkout process will help to create a better UX that Google will pick up on. The search engine also takes the domain’s credibility and trustworthiness into consideration, so if you are using a shady domain platform that has lots of issues (such as slow loading speeds or lots of 404 error pages), it could hurt your own page’s positioning.
Therefore, augmenting your pages for keyword optimization is one of the most straightforward ways to help your ranking. When you are comparing website hosts, look out for key e-commerce SEO features like customizable page titles, URLs, and meta descriptions. Added extensions such as blogging platforms or social buttons can help to create a map of links and increase the number of keywords available on your website. While some platforms have these features built-in, many more offer various extensions and add-ons so that you can pick and choose the ones you want.
Your website’s loading speed is also highly important; a slow webpage can increase your bounce rates, which will hurt your site’s reputation with Google. Be sure to conduct tests regularly with speed analysis, such as this one from Pingdom, which allows you to measure the speed from locations all over the globe to determine international loading times as well. Pingdom will even grade your performance and troubleshoot your problem areas with some suggestions for improvement.
Some eCommerce hosting services do support faster-loading speeds, so be sure to do your due diligence with research when picking a domain host. Furthermore, keep track of loading speeds and be sure to eliminate any obstacles that are slowing things down.
2. Don’t dismiss “low hanging fruit” keywords
No matter what resource you turn to for SEO tips, chances are that one of their top suggestions to improve your website’s visibility is to do LOTS of keyword research to find which ones are most commonly searched and drive the most traffic. And while this is great advice, it can also be slightly misleading.
When a keyword ranks up at the top of the list, it doesn’t just mean that it is commonly searched by customers. It also means that it is most commonly used by other websites, making the chances of your result reaching the top ranks extremely slim.
Let’s say for example that your eCommerce website is going to sell pet toys. If you look up the keyword “pet toys”, you will see that the competition is quite steep. It has 791 million results, along with a long list of similar findings. As you research the leading keywords for your eCommerce niche, you will be obviously tempted to go after the ones that are at the top of the list. Obviously, some of these keywords should be a part of your strategy, but since they are popular among your customers, they are popular among your competitors, too.
Therefore, your website will need to include additional keywords to attract customers and stand out from the crowd.
This is where the “low hanging fruit” keywords come in. These are the less common but still highly relevant keywords that your customers may be likely to search as their queries get more specific. For example, including keywords like “colorful”, “all natural”, “luxury”, “chew proof”, or “high quality” to your pet toy descriptions can help your webpages match up to more searches.
Online tools like KWFinder can be a great resource to help you discover these hidden gems. This site will actually rate the “difficulty” of each additional keyword in terms of how common it is and how fierce the competition will be for visibility based on page authority, social signals, and domain authority. You can even research other online retailers that sell similar products and KWFinder will give you lists of keywords that are not currently in use by other companies. In turn, giving your SEO strategy a true leg up on the competition.
Just because the keywords don’t make the top of the list doesn’t mean they don’t matter. By utilizing more of these unique but less popular keywords, your site can rank higher when these words are searched because there will be less competition and your result would be a better match with more specific online queries.
Do remember that this may require some creative thinking, especially since you want these keywords to be included naturally in your website content. Try to write long and detailed product descriptions that include multiple lower ranking keywords and incorporate them whenever possible into your content marketing posts as well.
3. Make reviews part of your strategy
Customer reviews can actually do much more than just calm consumer’s nerves about making the first purchase. While they are certainly an incredibly powerful marketing tool, they can also do some double duty performance and be a valuable addition to your keyword strategy.
Going back to Moz’s report, their study found that review signals made up a significant portion of ranking factors. Rank Brain considers the number of reviews, the frequency in which they are written, and how diverse the content is in order to determine the validity and trustworthiness of your business. Obviously, if the majority of your reviews are similarly worded or were posted years ago, it could be a sign that they are fake or irrelevant. Therefore, it is up to your brand to not only encourage customers to leave reviews, but also to ensure that they are accurate, real, honest, and thorough.
One way to do this is to utilize a customer review management program that is a verified Google Review Partner, such as Feefo or Trustpilot. These can be used to send out automatic review invitation emails to customers and encourage them to leave feedback. These programs will organize your customer reviews so they can be displayed throughout your website based on the product page layout. Most online programs also check for spam signals that indicate when feedback is fake and will automatically delete them. But, what makes these tools really beneficial in terms of keyword strategy is the fact that they create the perfect portion sizes of content for featured SERPS and Rich Snippet Stars, of which can attract more clicks on search results.
Incorporating lots of customer reviews and feedback on your webpage can make your search results more attractive, even if they aren’t the top result. If your reviews include a star rating system, this can potentially appear on Google searches, too.
The reason why customer reviews can help your site become more optimized for snippets is that their language is often similar to the way a query is phrased. Lots of curious customers will often pose their Google search as a question, like “Where is the best place to buy cute clothing online?” or “Which online stores sell brand name sneakers?” So, if your customer reviews answer these questions, Google will pick up on the keyword match and may feature it. Of course, there is no magic formula to guarantee that your content can be featured as a Rich Snippet Star, but adding more customer review content to your website can certainly help your chances.
4. Focus on topical relevancy
In order to truly compete against online retail giants like Amazon, Jet, and eBay, the content on your eCommerce site will need something to make it stand out. One effective way to do so is to knock your topical relevancy out of the park.
So, what does topical relevancy mean exactly? Well, your website’s relevancy is based on several factors. Obviously, the number of keywords that match up to a Google inquiry will determine whether it is relevant as a result or not, but the number of links associated with your content plays a role, too. The more backlinks that your webpage has from external and internal sources signals to Google that that page is a commonly used resource and is therefore likely to be helpful for searchers. This can have an impact on its position in search results because RankBrain certainly takes a look at the number of backlinks and external links on your page when determining ranking position.
You can increase the number of backlinks to your page by participating in content marketing-driven campaigns. This can be as simple as consistently posting links through your own branded social pages (again, according to Moz’s report, RankBrain does take social signals into consideration, too). You can also try to be featured on other website’s blogs. For instance, many brands are now partnering with Buzzfeed as a way to build up their external link library and reach thousands of customers who check out the online blog on a daily basis. Buzzfeed now even includes an entire category of shopping-related posts that recommend various products, along with links so that customers can purchase them instantly.
In order to determine your site’s current topical relevancy, you can try using an online program, such as the SEO analysis tool from CanIRank. This program curates an analytical report that compares your website to your top competitors based on factors like keyword order, page strength, and relevancy. It will even run a test on your website and offer suggested terms and keywords to include to help boost your numbers.
You will need to have a strong grip on your customers’ intent when compiling lists of keywords and phrases to incorporate into your pages. Are the majority of your customers driven to make a purchase immediately when they visit your site or do they prefer to engage with content and learn about your product before? What drives the majority of your visitors to your website – are they coming from social media, external sites, or organic searches? Be sure to take these factors into account when ramping up your topic relevancy.
The eCommerce industry is certainly not all rainbows and butterflies. It is a battlefield full of retailers fighting for their customers’ attention. Since consumers are lucky enough to have nearly limitless options these days when it comes to online shopping, your website must be extremely strategic with its design and keyword placement to get in front of the right eyes.
Remember, thanks to Google’s extremely secretive practices, there is no way to truly guarantee any positive changes in your page’s rankings, and there are certainly no secret formulas that will provide immediate results. However, it is smart to take the information that we do know about RankBrain’s algorithm into consideration. Pay close attention to the factors that Google monitors, eliminate any obstacles and errors that could be hurting you, and keep your customer’s true intentions in mind.
Guest author: Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. With over 10 years of experience in the Technology and Digital Marketing industry, Manish is passionate about helping online businesses to take their branding to the next level.