10 Ecommerce SEO Tips

Whether you’re starting a new product line or have an established online store with 1000s of products, your website can benefit from search engine optimization best practices. From large brands to small businesses, there is no one strategy that fits all. There are, however, several things you can do to make your products more engaging to visitors and in turn improve your organic placement in Google.

In 2006, you could simply post products on a simple e-commerce website, add a few keywords to your tags and be on your way to riches. The days of a 100% organic strategy are nearing an end. You must have a paid and organic digital strategy focused on engaging customers. They game has changed, but for the better. Fewer spam sites will populate search results and trusted brands who engage their customers will rise to the top.

1. Create Unique Product Descriptions

With so much competition on the Internet, its difficult for any brand to stand out from the rest. What can help your products stand out is good copy. Don’t simply take the description from your manufacturer or list specs from a sell sheet. Use the 1-3 seconds you have to sell your product to a new visitor as a hook to keep them interested. Make sure the product description includes unique selling points. You’ll noticed I didn’t say stuff your product descriptions with “keyword rich” copy. Stuffing your product descriptions with keywords will only get you into trouble with search engines. Be very selective and strategic on what keywords you use. There are many different ways to describe the same feature or benefit. Don’t repeat yourself.

2. Use Quality Product Images

Images help sell. Make sure your e-commerce website has good quality product images. A white background is ideal for most products. Make sure you have at least one other version of the product by itself. Lifestyle photography is a great way to improve your conversions. It shows the application of your products as it applies to real life. Avoid posting one version of a product in one color when you offer several version in several different colors.

Its a hot summer afternoon. Imagine being cooled by this fan! I can.

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3. Use Product Videos

Videos help sell. If you have a short 60-second video clip of how to use your product, consider using that clip on your Instagram or Vine page. Vine is a simple social media video tool that can be used to demo products and linked to from your product overview pages or blog. Product videos do not have to be super high production quality videos to be successful. There is a certain level of authenticity from having a less highly produced video. Test to see what is most effective with your audience. Gap has some good examples of Vine videos that may generate some ideas.

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4. Get More Fans with Sharing Buttons

Getting your products shared is an important part of increasing your social media exposure and improving organic search performance. There is growing evidence that social discovery is as important as showing up in organic search engine results. Pinterest, for example, generates roughly $0.78 in new business for every pin. Social media tools are free just like Google organic search results and provide a diversified source of visitors. The opportunity to generate positive ROI from social sharing is real. There is also growing evidence that social media signals are impacting organic search engine rankings. Websites with few social media signals are losing out to sites with a strong social presence. Use social media to attract more fans for your fans! (sorry for the puns)

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5. Be Real

When describing your products, don’t oversell. Banging pots and pans will make a lot of noise but its not a good way to attract customers. While you may take pride in your business and think your product is the best on the market, avoid tooting your own horn. If the product has merit and its well reviewed by customers, the product will do well on its own. Making too many promises in your product description is a sure way to repel buyers. You could spend hours and wasted money on trying to figure out what’s wrong with your SEO or social media program, just to find out your copy is killing your sales. When engaging customers in social media, try not to push your agenda. Give your customers valuable content and they will advocate your brand.

6. Add Product Reviews

When you see product reviews on an e-commerce site, thats an example of “user generated content”. Whether you allow your customers to add reviews to products or pull reviews from an API, user generated content can be great way to improve sales. Since content is important to search engines, reviews will help create more search friendly content. Make sure you engage your reviewers and monitor feedback. Feedback can be very useful to improve products and customer service. Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.45.09 AM

7. Rich Snippets

Giving your products Schema.org tags can add additional product information in organic search results. Product reviews and brands become part of your organic listings (see above). If you host your own videos, you can also get rich video snippets to show up in organic results. Many of the rich snippet results will generally ranking higher than normal organic results.

8. Use a CDN

If you’re serving up your own product videos and lots of images, consider using a content delivery network to offload some of that bandwidth to a dedicated service. Using a CDN can speed up your site significantly and help improve your organic placement. Bootstrap CDN and Max CDN are just a few examples of services to help you speed up your site.

9. Don’t Over Optimize

The temptation when optimizing your products is to stuff the product title, description and copy with keywords. Avoid using too many keywords. Try optimizing your categories and product listings with just one or two main keywords, this will prevent your listings from appearing like spam. Shorter and more concise descriptions tend to outperform over optimized sites.

10. Have an Advertising Budget

My final and most important tip is to advertise. Pay-per-click text ads have been around since the early days of Google and are still effective. Product ads and shopping ads are relatively new to search results. Both product ads and text ads take up valuable real estate in search results. On mobile devices, the number of organic results becomes even smaller. If your competitors are listed in those positions, you are potentially losing market share to those listings. Make sure you have a budget set aside for paid media advertising. Relying 100% on organic clicks is not a good strategy.

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11. BONUS – Use Social Advertising

Social media advertising is becoming a bigger part of a marketers tool set. Reaching customers through organic search alone is not a sustainable way to grow business. Companies must have an integrated approach to reaching customers that crosses both media channels and devices. Think beyond SEO and think beyond your website.
Posted in ecommerce

What is Inbound Marketing?

For those of you who are new to digital marketing or are more familiar with traditional marketing tactics, the term “inbound marketing” may seem straight forward enough. You post a blog or video on your website, people visit to your site, you get leads. It’s the opposite of “outbound marketing” where you send out mailers, bulk email your customer list, etc. Sounds simple, right? While the concept is simple, how you successfully execute those activities can vary greatly based on your experience and the expertise of your team.

Lets take a look at the major differences between “outbound” and “inbound” marketing.

Outbound (or Push) Marketing is Higher Risk

Unfortunately, there are still many businesses using those “push marketing” tactics for much of their marketing budget. Blasting out emails and press releases every few weeks is a bad idea. Once you lose a customer through overly aggressive marketing tactics, they’re gone (likely forever). Generally, push marketing produces more lost customers and program opt-outs than inbound tactics. If you annoy someone enough with self promotions, they will tune your message out completely.

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Types of Outbound Marketing Tatics

Push/outbound marketing can take many different forms. Examples of outbound marketing:

  • Email blasts
  • Traditional press releases
  • Cold calls
  • Direct mail
  • Broadcast faxing
  • Display advertising
  • Media inserts
  • Voicemail marketing
  • TV advertising

Inbound Marketing is Lower Risk

What inbound marketing has advantage wise over push marketing is sustainability. Your content will live on for as long as you keep your website running. Its much easier for a customer to passively ignore irrelevant inbound content and tune in when its relevant to them. Passive consumption of content is what social media is all about. You don’t need to be on Twitter or Facebook almost every minute of the day to gain value. By tuning in when you have time, you can passively get the information you need when you need it.

“Passive consumption of content is what social media is all about.”

A worst case scenario is that you produce very poor content that no-one reads or shares. Generally, companies that overly self-promote are the ones who get ignored in social. With the right strategy in place, you can produce great content that many people enjoy and are willing to share with their friends. If people are inspired by your content, you gain loyal followers. Its a win-win!

10 Inbound Marketing Tactics

Reaching customers through inbound marketing can take many forms. Below are ten ways you can attract customers without the use of push tactics.

  1. Run a social sharing contest with prizes
  2. Run a product giveaway
  3. Create an insightful graphic
  4. Share inspirational quotes
  5. Sponsor an online event
  6. Host a free webinar
  7. Distribute slide shares
  8. Write an in-depth article of 1000+ words
  9. Create simple monthly video tips
  10. Interview an industry expert
These are just a few ideas that can spark your creativity. Again, sometimes its not what you do but how you do it. If your contest fails, thats ok, you’ve learned something and can apply those learnings to your next contest. Best of luck!

More on Inbound Marketing

Neil Patel of KISSmetrics put together a great overview of inbound marketing. Check out his slides from a recent webinar:



photo credit: quinn.anya cc
Posted in Inbound Marketing

3 Easy Ways to Track Competitors

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“How is your company doing online?”

That’s a pretty vague question unless you give it context. One of the best ways to know how your company is doing is to perform a competitive analysis. Keeping an eye on your competitors is an important part of digital marketing.

Your company may be growing sales and leads but how does that stack up to your competition. Are your competitors growing online at a faster pace? Are they investing more in specific areas? Do your competitors have a greater share of social media than your company? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, you may need to rethink your budgets and strategy.

Below are three simple ways to keep track of competitors in search engines and social media.

1. Competitor Social Engagement & Market Share

How well is your company doing relative to competitors on Facebook? Are you gaining ground or losing ground? Insights, Facebooks’ built in analytics tool, provides a simple way to keep tabs on your competitors. Simply pick five related Facebook profiles from your competition and enter these into the Facebook Insights “Pages to Watch”. Insights is a great way to see how you measure up to similar brands in new likes, posts and engagement. Dig deeper into why these brands are doing well to help build a better strategy.

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There are also several free tools from Simply Measured to help you track Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and more. Using all of these tools together can give you a better picture of what’s happening in social.

2. Competitor Paid Search Footprint

Its difficult for a website to generate leads and sales with no digital advertising. Digital ads help drive brand awareness and grow sales. Ads and sponsored listings are taking more clicks from search engines and social media as new ad offerings from Google, Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook take up space on the page. Companies know this and are investing more in Internet advertising, up 32% in 2013.

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Are you spending enough, too much or worse yet are competitors bidding on your brand name? One easy way to see is by running a competitor in Semrush.com to see their paid spend. From here, you can begin to see why some competitors are doing better or worse in search.

3. Competitor Media Ads & Current Offers

Are you competitors running display advertising or special offers? Try Semrush again to see what creative and deals your competitors are running. These could be clues to what products are doing well or how your deals stack up. Do your competitors offer free shipping and you’re still charging customers + $30 for shipping? These types of questions are the same questions your customers ask when trying to decide which product to buy or which vendor to contact.

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Build a Winning Strategy

Reviewing competitors are a great first step in assessing your online performance. I hope these tools will help you in your quest to create a winning digital strategy. If you’re struggling with a plan, contact us today for a free analysis.
Posted in ecommerce, paid search, search marketing

5 Digital Branding Mistakes

branding-mistakes
Maybe you heard it from a college buddy or read it somewhere online. We often take advice from friends and colleagues on products to buy, books to read, cars to drive, movies to watch and more. There is no doubt, friends can be very helpful in making purchase decisions big and small.

When it comes to growing your business, do you lean on the same advice from those same friends? If the answer is yes, take a moment to consider their background. Someone who is a great chef or successful banker is a master of their craft. They have spent many years fine tuning their talents. Those years of hard work have paid off in making them who they are today. Does their expertise in cooking or corporate finance also make them an expert in digital marketing? Most likely no.

Avoid These 5 Digital Branding Mistakes

What works for one business or industry does not work for all. There is no secret sauce that all businesses must tap into for success. Below are five common mistakes companies make when trying to market their business online.

1. Poor Domain Name Branding

Did a buddy, or worse yet a black hat SEO, tell you that “Cheapiphonecase.com” was a great domain name for your company? Domain names stuffed with keywords are more likely to be flagged for Google spam in 2014. What may have been a strength in 2008 is now a liability. Have a domain name that fits your brand. If your company name is “Pete’s Home Electronics”, stick with that name and branding for your domain name. Better yet, if you can shorten that name to something easy to remember and share, go for it. Long domain names and keyword filled domains have a very tough row to hoe.

Poor: Cheapiphonecase.com
Good: Peteselectronics.com

2. Under-Investing in a Website

How can you tell the story about your brand with a logo, text and few links to white papers? Under-investing in a website can give a poor reflection of your actual services. If you want to be viewed as “best in class”, have a “best in class” web presence. Just because your friend paid $599 for a website for his pizza shop doesn’t mean your high profile law firm should do the same. Have a website budget that matches your industry. Higher paying customers expect you to have a high quality website.

Ignore the competition and stand out! Which leads me to my next point…

3. Copying the Competition

Competitive analysis is an important part of monitoring your industry. Competitors can provide insights into strategies and tactics. Your gut instinct may be to find that top competitor and copy everything they’re doing to be successful. The problem with being a copy of your competitor is just that. You’re a copy, not original or special in any way. If you copy most or all of what your top competitor does in marketing, you will be seen as “the same” or inferior if you are trying to under-cut your competitors on price. Find something that makes you stand out.

4. Be the Cheapest (and the Best)

Pricing is an important part of branding your product or company. Do you want customers to see you as “the cheapest” or “the best”? “The cheapest” and “the best” are usually not the same company or product. Think about how you want to position your product in the minds of customers. Apple products, for example, are not the cheapest. Apple does however rate high on product satisfaction. Being the cheapest means being the cheapest always. If customers expect to you to be cheapest, they will expect you to always lower your prices even if it means cutting your margins down to nothing. Provide value and you will get valuable customers in return.

5. Under-Investing in Marketing

You are a small business or startup. To see a return on your marketing investment is going to take time. It’s not going to happen in a few weeks or even a few months. The smaller your budget, the longer it will generally take to see results from your efforts. For example, your top competitor is spending $15,000 per month in Google AdWords. How much business do you think $500 per month is going to bring? Be realistic with your marketing budget and make sure your budget matches your expectations.

Having all your digital budget in one bucket is also a bad strategy. If there is a major disruption to one channel (like Google Panda) your business is going to feel the negative impact of that change more than competitors. Have a multi-channel strategy to make sure your marketing is sustainable for years to come.
Posted in branding

Why Did My Google Rank Drop?

One of the questions I get asked most often from new and prospective clients is, “How do I get my website back to ranking well again in Google?” I tell them, “Lets do a full website audit first, then check to see what needs fixed over time. After we assess your situation, we can dig deeper into why your site is performing poorly.” Sometimes this is enough to get the conversation steered more toward potential website issues and away from rankings, sometimes not.
Does your chart look like this? I hope not.

Does your chart look like this? I hope not.

Usually if a business owner is seeking a new search marketing firm or consultant, they have already seen some of their page 1 keyword listings drop down to page 2, 3 or out of the first 100 listings. Perhaps they only rank well for brand keywords. What ever the case may be, they know there is a problem that is only getting worse with time.

“What am I Doing Wrong Here?”

As a small business owner, your first thought would be, “what am I doing or what is my SEO doing that is causing my website to fall out of favor in Google?” In many cases, websites will drift down the list of results because of a variety of factors. Here are just a few examples:

1. Old Website and/or Not Mobile Friendly

“We launched a website in 2005 that has been doing well for several years. Why is this site not ranking well anymore?”

Times change, technology changes and what worked well in 2006 doesn’t work in 2014. If search engines like Google see the same code from 2005, why would they rank your site over a site with a new/mobile friendly layout from 2012? We now live in a multi-device world with product research performed on a variety of devices*. (*Google Study)

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The video below from Matt Cutts helps explain why older sites tend not to perform well in search engines:


2. Outdated SEO Practices

“We hired a link building firm to promote our website last year. We were doing great for a few months, now our website has fallen off Google completely. How do we recover from this?”

Having a link building company perform digital marketing is not a good practice. That link building company is going to build links, period. They have no other task than to build more links. They don’t care if you’re selling products or if your website disappears a few months later. They are not in the strategy business since they don’t have any insight into your advertising campaigns, products or business goals. Links are only 1 part of a larger strategy with several other factors.

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Before you hire someone to just do one marketing task, consider hiring a consultant or small agency that can provide you with strategic guidance. Strategy is much more valuable to your company than a few links or pages of optimized web copy.

I would argue that the days of specialized SEO firms are gone. You can no longer perform SEO in a vacuum (only focused on keywords). The goals of a company are much larger than a group of keywords. A good digital marketing agency will be able to handle all the paid search and social channels, as well as your organic strategy.

3. Technical Problems

“We relaunched our website several weeks ago, now our site is nowhere on Google. What happened to our rankings?”

This is a very common problem. A company hires a web design shop to redesign their site with a one page scrolling layout (called Parallax, see SEO problems here) that seems to be “all the rage” with designers. When the company launches the website, almost overnight their old listings are gone. What happened here?

Many times a web design shop isn’t hired to perform search engine marketing and doesn’t bid a web project with SEO included for budget reasons (or just to win the work by outbidding competitors). This is not a good practice and the company suffers by losing organic visitors. The web shop may be great at designing websites, but lacks the in-house expertise to deliver on search engine optimization. If you are going to spend $30,000+ on a new website, make sure you have a professional SEO take a look at the web design or have a quick pre-launch audit.

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Often, things like “page not found” errors and site structure issues can be prevented early if the right search marketing people are involved in your project in the beginning.

Always Hire Professionals

I hope what you read here can be helpful for a business owner considering a website redesign or looking into why their current site is performing poorly. As always, make sure the people you hire to do this type of work have experience in search marketing and can deliver on technical side as well. Technical SEO and a well built website is the foundation for online marketing performance growth.
Posted in seo

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