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How To Attract New Customers For Free Using eCommerce SEO, Without Never-Ending Ad Spend (Even If You Had to Google What 'SEO' Stands For)
The idea of using eCommerce SEO to bring strangers to your online store for free is an alluring one. Yet, the topic of eCommerce SEO is often misunderstood.
Here are seven tips to help you navigate eCommerce SEO and get more free traffic to your online store.
Tip #1 - Understand Why You Want eCommerce SEO
Sometimes eCommerce leaders don’t understand why they would make SEO a priority. It seems like a lot of work (and it can be), with little to show for results in the short term. So why wouldn’t you redirect your limited resources from eCommerce SEO to something else?
The answer is in the data. Here are five stats to be aware of.
- 5.6 billion Google searches each day (63K per second)
- 80% - 90% of clicks on Google are organic search results (e.g. not ad clicks)
- 90% of people never scroll to page 2 of Google search results
- 81% of people research online before buying
- SEO has the highest ROI of any eCommerce Marketing Strategy
At the same time, we see many eCommerce sites that are driven by a hybrid engine of social media and paid ads. This engine can be a great way to get started, and to gain traction. But, social media can be finicky. And paid ads require constant, if not growing, cash requirements per customer.
So why don’t more eCommerce sites take the high ROI, proven, eCommerce SEO approach?
Because Google makes it so confusing. People throw their hands in the air and pick more straightforward approaches.
No need to despair! eCommerce SEO is a navigable maze, and our six other tips will help you make progress right away.
Tip #2 - Create a Keyword Strategy for eCommerce SEO
Before you dig in, you will want to create a keyword strategy. Why?
Because you don't get to implement eCommerce SEO in a vacuum.
Many other businesses have their own keyword strategies, and you need to build around them. You need to find the intersection of two things:
1) Search phrases that are relevant for your products
2) Search phrases that you can reach page one of search results for
“Start with the end in mind”
– Stephen Covey
This isn’t as bad as you might think. We can create an eCommerce SEO strategy in three steps.
Step 1: Pick your dream search phrases. What are some phrases you would want to own? What phrases would your ideal client search for when they are ready to buy now? Forget about the constraints of everyone else’s SEO strategy for the moment.
If you make chocolate chip cookies - then pick "chocolate chip cookies". What are some two or three-word phrases you would like to be found for? (Assume you have all the resources you would need to succeed in this step.)
Step 2: Pick your long-tail phrases. Now, back to reality after suspending it in Step 1. Here you will drill down and start to use some tools. You can use tools to determine whether you can compete your way to page one for this phrase. Check out Moz or SEMRush - two powerful tools with free trials.
Step 3: Check your promising keyword candidates in Google. Who is on page one for your long-tail phrases? Is it realistic to expect to compete with them, or even displace them? Perhaps you are a local or regional business, so you only need to compete in a certain geography. If not, you will want to go back to step two and repeat in an iterative fashion.
Tip #3 - Adopt Inbound Marketing to Grow Using eCommerce SEO
"Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have".
Many business leaders and entrepreneurs are much more comfortable with sales than marketing.
Sales is a form of hunting and makes instinctive sense to any human.
Need a whale? Grab your harpoon!
Many businesses are comfortable with outbound tactics like advertising, sponsorships and cold calls.
But, you will want an inbound marketing approach to get the best results from eCommerce SEO.
Why? One simple statistic explains it.
Less than 5% of people who come to your store are going to buy anything.
In fact, the median ‘conversion rate’ for all Shopify sites was recently reported to be 1.6%.
The median ‘conversion rate’ for all Shopify sites is 1.6%.
What are you going to do about the other 98.4%?
This is where you need inbound marketing. You need to offer something of value to those who are interested, or at least curious - but not ready to buy yet.
This is called 'nurturing prospects’ and is a very valuable companion to eCommerce SEO activities.
Your inbound marketing strategy will focus on creating fun and relevant content. You might create ‘pillar pages’ that deliver valuable information to searchers in a one-stop approach. You could create regular blog and video content. You can also offer sign-up discounts and offers.
Creating great content is what you need to establish ‘Discovery & Relevance’ with search engines. This is one of the two ‘musts’ to get the SEO results you are after.
Tip #4 – Build Your Authority to Build Your eCommerce SEO Results
The second 'must' to get SEO results is to build authority.
You can build authority by getting lots of high-quality backlinks to your site. A back link is a link from someone else’s site, to yours.
Backlinks are the primary signal Google uses to decide how to sort search results. Google doesn’t know itself who is authoritative on any given topic. It relies on who has the most links from other, authoritative sites.
So how do you build your backlinks? There are many ethical ways to build your backlink portfolio, including:
- Joining business directories
- Arranging for links from your clients and/or your suppliers
- Fix broken links on other sites that are trying to reference you
- Find unlinked mentions online, and ask them to add links
- Guest blogging
- Getting featured in the media
- Arranging for more links from high quality domains who link to you already
One word of caution – do not fall victim to get-authority-quick schemes.
There are tactics that can trick Google, at least for a period of time. These are known as ‘Black Hat SEO’ tactics.
Like most shortcuts, these tactics don’t work in the long run. In fact, they can result in Google delisting your site altogether!
Tip #5 – Your Content Needs to “Speak Google” to Grow eCommerce SEO
So far, so good. You committed to eCommerce SEO. You have a keyword strategy that makes sense for your business. You are creating great content and great backlinks. Congrats! Great progress.
There is one more dimension you need to add in to your plan, unfortunately. Your content needs to be able to be read easily by Google’s crawler. But, Google doesn’t read in English. It reads in code!
You need a thorough approach to scan - and if necessary, repair - your content to allow Google to understand it. Broken links, errors, duplicate titles, duplicate meta descriptions, multiple H1 tags, duplicate content, slow page loads, and differing mobile vs. computer content are some of the issues that need to be cleaned up.
Note: technical components of SEO make up a complex topic that we won’t cover in this blog. You can review "How Search Engines Work: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking in the Beginner's Guide to SEO” by Moz for more information.
Tip #6 - Understand What 'Free' Means In eCommerce SEO
The allure of SEO is that it provides free, limitless traffic to your store. It seems like nirvana.
Like many things that seem a bit too good to be true, it’s not that simple.
eCommerce SEO is "free like a puppy", not "free like a beer". Perhaps "free like a well behaved grown up dog" would be more accurate. A well-behaved mature dog is not free - at the start, or at any point along the way.
SEO isn’t free to get started. It takes 6-9+ months of sustained effort, with 20-60+ person hours per month, to rank on page one for your targeted keywords. That is not free, as it requires either internal or external resources to do that work.
Once you've gotten it started, SEO isn’t free to keep going either. SEO is like going to the gym or practicing an instrument. If you miss a few days, you’re not going to see a massive difference. But over time, you lose your ability.
For SEO, stopping a campaign won’t make a difference right away. But, within six months of ending an SEO campaign, a website’s keywords drop off the first page of Google - sometimes even out of the top 100 pages.
SEO, like any other digital product, constantly evolves. New competitors arise, new algorithms are implemented, and new software is developed. Without a sustained investment of time, SEO efforts fall flat. Google values content with regular updates. Also, new keyword opportunities will emerge if you are engaged.
SEO is the highest ROI marketing tactic for eCommerce. It is true.
But, the investment is still non-zero, with some activity required to start, grow and maintain your eCommerce SEO.
Tip #7 - Decide on 'Who' or 'How' To Get Started with eCommerce SEO
If you are like a lot of other eCommerce entrepreneurs, you are a gritty, determined and hands-on type of person. You like to move quickly and you like to know how to ‘turn the dials’ yourself on the business model.
If this sounds like you, your instinct will be to dig into SEO and start on the path to becoming an eCommerce SEO expert. This is doable.
Please be aware that this is not a short journey, however. SEO is quite a bit more complicated and tedious than say, an eCommerce store setup, or Facebook Ads.
You will need to create and iterate your keyword strategy.
You will need to identify, plan and implement all of the required content work. This can include blog post creation, pillar page creation, duplicate content fixes, optimization of current product pages, web pages, landing pages and email campaigns.
You will also need to conduct the required optimization work - such as 301 redirect mapping, excess H1 tag removal, nofollow tag insertions, site speed optimization, login credentials testing, onsite broken link repair, canonical domain and tag implementation, and robots.txt and sitemap.xml creation/tuning.
You will need to implement user experience enhancements to reach your goals, such as mobile speed optimization, social media icon integration, video/image implementation, web page create/change/delete and menu edits.
You will want to increase your trust by adding or improving your Google My Business profile, local business citations submissions, classified business listing submissions and Google Maps integration on your website.
You will need to implement offsite content marketing - like aged article inclusion, article engagement, website bookmarking and business directory submissions.
Finally, you will need to set up and monitor your analytics, so you can tweak plans and strategies monthly to protect and grow your traffic. SEO will need to feed into your eCommerce KPIs such as traffic, conversion, customer acquisition costs and lifetime value.
Before you jump to becoming an SEO Master yourself, consider that there is another option.
You can decide to figure out ‘WHO’, instead of figuring out ‘HOW’.
You can think “WHO not HOW”, from the book by the same name. Too often we are trying to figure out HOW to do something when we could be trying to figure out WHO can do it for us. What may take hours of your valuable time to figure is another’s area of expertise. How much time and frustration would you save by staying at the strategy level for SEO and outsourcing the tasks?
Only you can answer, however you should consider it before jumping down the eCommerce SEO rabbit hole yourself. There is no wrong answer, if you make an informed decision.
Looking for a ‘WHO’ for eCommerce SEO?
If you’re looking for an eCommerce SEO expert to take the heavy lifting off your plate, Second Spring has a team of specialists waiting to take it on.
We have a templated process (The eCommerce SEO Booster™) that we will use to create a thorough SEO strategy with you. You will direct the strategy and fully understand it before we begin. Then, we can take the tedious monthly work away, and report back on the results and recommended tweaks.
If finding a WHO for eCommerce SEO is of interest to you, click on the video image below for more information.