Recently, someone asked me how to increase their site’s overall SEO rank. They explained how important it was to their business because it would help them cut spend and replace their current PPC marketing with a less expense channel. Plus, they reasoned, the lure of getting thousands of “free” visitors from Google for a high volume search term at little to no ad cost… who didn’t want that?
Admirable intentions, I thought; but flawed rookie thinking. Why? Because unless you approach it tactically and with a long-term strategy, an increase in SEO rank won’t translate into a sales lift.
So what should your approach consist of?
Focus on keywords and keyphrases that are converting
Depending on your business model, a conversion might be an opt-in, a form completion, a lead inquiry, a customer sale or something else. And whether you optimize for 200 keywords or 20,000, the end result in driving traffic organically from Google is to get people engaged early and have them convert.
For example, if you’re a music site selling drums, who cares that “ludwig drums” gets 200,000 searches a month and you’re ranked 10th on the page! I know it irks you that your competitors are ranked higher than you. But all the ludwig drum lookers coming to your site aren’t converting. Why bother trying to optimize for a non-converting term?
On the other hand, if you’re seeing sales conversions for keywords Zildjian or Wuhan you’d optimize to push your music store higher in the SERPs because you’re getting higher sales from a term that you know converts quite well. Pretty basic, but it amazes me how many people forget this.
Key Point: Optimize for what is currently converting.
Optimize incrementally by leveraging seasonality and geographic considerations
There’s a lot of ups and downs with the cyclical nature of e-tail. Whether you’re a site selling outdoor rafting supplies (Summer) or an e-tailer who sells fresh fruit gifts (Christmas) you’ll face peaks and valleys in your visits and online demand. Understanding this timing is critical to driving incremental sales because as a MCM it’s about driving new sales – incrementally – so you’re not robbing sales from other established marketing channels (phones, mail, catalog).
Don’t ignore geographic considerations either. For example, as a leading fresh fruit gift company, we love being in front of traffic from the Northeast U.S. when the snow falls. There’s nothing more appealing to a site shopper than beautiful juice-filled, sun-soaked Florida citrus on a -10F below zero day! Using creative content and link building you can grow your rank for current converting keywords and even long-tail search such as, “ship florida oranges in winter time.”
Key Point: Use recurring predictability of seasonality and geographic considerations to optimize on the short-head and long-tail.
Be tactical in the keywords you target and optimize for
Google’s Keyword Tool is a powerful and free tool that can help you hone your keyword research. It gives you an estimate of number of searches, competition with the keyword, and provides a quick link to Google Insights for Search – all useful for calendar demand and search interest.
Too often, though, I’ve seen many MCMs optimize for any and every term related to the products they sell. I understand this approach. After all, products—and product description pages—are one of the most important factors for ecommerce sites since they are chock full of content that Google loves.
But just because you’re a music store selling cowbells, if there’s no universal search demand for that keyword why bother trying to optimize your product page that sells cowbells? Sure, I understand it’s a product you sell in your catalog or online. But maybe it shouldn’t be.
Once you pinpoint the keywords (and know which convert!), use your own tactical kung-fu to grow your rank (ex: content build, link building, blog posts, social bookmarking). A reasonable time frame for upward, sustainable rank movement is 6 to 12 months.
Key Point: Narrow and focused wins the rank movement battle – but only in 6-12 months.
Get your mobile strategy set and don’t ignore mobile optimization
The growth of mobile site traffic and conversions is booming. Due to the rise in tablets and smartphones this trend will continue. Evaluate how much traffic is coming from smartphone and tablet users and what these conversion metrics looks like.
Typically their behavior is quite different than a desktop visitor because phones are used differently than PCs. For example, mobile traffic tends to use less keywords (fewer characters) when searching so Google uses predictive phrases on someone’s mobile browser to easily show them relevant search results.
Do you know the predictive search phrases that appear on a mobile device for your top 10 converting SEO terms? You should. Once you have your baseline, I suggest setting a budget to serve this audience. For example, if 15 percent is coming from this channel it warrants a healthy spend to serve it. Make sure your SEO strategy takes this into consideration.
Key Point: Know the mobile-specific SEO search phrases driving your conversions; optimize your content for these keywords.
Finally, as a multichannel merchant, let’s not forget there’s another equation at work with your SEO strategy: Channel leverage.
While an initial site visitor may arrive from a Google search, they might also decide to use the telephone channel to ask a question from your space advertising (sales impression); or ping your Live Chat (another sales impression); or mail an order form from a catalog they just received (a third sales impression).
These channels complement your sales process—and contribute to your conversions. They create a huge selling advantage over a typical pure-play online channel that can be one-dimensional (purchase vs. abandon).
Daryl Logullo is ecommerce manager for Southern Fulfillment Services.