Basic SEO Factors To Ignore At Your Peril
This blog often focusses on the bigger picture when it comes to running an ecommerce business and for that I make no apologies. After all, in order to be successful online there can be no substitute for a solid marketing strategy.
If however, you believe that you have a strong business model yet you are still finding the performance of your website underwhelming, this post will hopefully first highlight, and then serve as a checklist to ensure that neglecting these basic SEO factors does not hamper your business in the long run.
Regular Quality Content
There are a number of reasons why, when it comes to SEO, content is king. At its most basic level, regular pages of fresh content allow you to try and rank your website for a wider range of keywords and give search engines more opportunities to display your webpages. However there are far more significant reasons why you should probably be giving content much more attention.
Since Googles Panda update was first launched in February 2011, websites with “thin” content have continued to be penalised as part of the search engines bid to display ever more relevant SERP’s. Whilst many sites lost their ranking as a result of this algorithm change, as marketers it should be seen as a positive that we can now focus solely on producing the kind of useful and informative content that will benefit our customers and our brand, rather than trying to manipulate the search engines and risking the consequences.
With the aim of Panda being to continuously ensure that short and low quality content does not dominate search results, in order to get a high quality score it is suggested writing pieces over 2000 words.
Quality clearly relates to more than just length though, so you will need to be prepared to put in the time to research your topic to be sure that you are providing visitors with something unique and valuable.
This is important as the amount of time visitors spend engaging with your content is widely accepted to be a factor that search engines take into account.
Whilst there is no getting around the fact that this is a time consuming process, if you are serious about ranking highly then you should not be cutting corners, as quality content really is the foundation of your overall SEO efforts.
It is advisable to create a content plan and begin with covering the topics that are most relevant to what it is that you actually sell as this is another key factor in both page ranking and conversions.
Although there is most definitely a precedence of quality over quantity, Google does give a boost to content that is fresh (which typically diminishes over time), so in an ideal world you would be publishing new content daily. Understandably for many businesses this simply won’t be viable; however you should be aiming to post new content at least weekly.
For this you will need a dedicated area of your website separate to its core structure that you can easily update. Many businesses, we included, choose a blog as the vehicle for this, however a “news” or “latest” section may suit some brands better.
Another point regarding content which has been covered in more depth here, but worth repeating is the potentially huge benefits to your brand of producing high quality content. Regardless of the (proven) SEO benefits, if you are able to successfully position yourself as an authority in your market and can keep visitors returning as a result of your content, you can expect more sales and for your customers to be less price sensitive ,due to consumers propensity to purchase from “experts”.
This is another SEO tactic that is fundamental in order to get the most out of your paid and organic marketing efforts, although despite this it is often not given the time it deserves.
The most obvious reason why it is essential to optimise your keywords is to drive qualified traffic to your website, something that becomes all the more important if you are running a PPC campaign.
If your website is new and you have yet to begin any keyword optimisation, your page title tags are the first place to start. These are by far and away the most important factor in determining, firstly whether your page is displayed for a search and secondly, whether or not a prospect will click through.
As a result, your page title tag should always contain your most important and profitable keyword(s). As you only have a limited number of characters for this tag, you will probably have to experiment a little before deciding exactly what combination of keywords works best here. Lead with your most important keyword and don’t be tempted to repeat it as this is a waste of space and can appear spammy.
To successfully optimise the keywords on your website, you must first begin by researching the terms that searchers are using. Although a quick search will provide you with numerous free tools that can be used to find the most popular queries, SEO wisdom suggests targeting “long-tail keywords”, due to the fact that it is often very difficult for a new website to rank on the most competitive terms.
To recap, WordStream describe long-tail keywords as “longer and more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase”.
The aim of the long-tail strategy is to appear in front of consumers who are searching for a specific product rather than the product category name, something which is too expensive for many businesses to sustain and will always attract a lot of unqualified traffic.
To begin a successful long-tail keyword strategy two ingredients are required. The most important of these is relevance, which is enhanced by your choice of modifiers.
Having keywords that are highly relevant to your product is obviously paramount in ensuring that visitors landing on your website are displayed a product that they have already demonstrated an interest in, otherwise this will only lead to a high bounce rate and possibly no conversions. You should therefore make your keywords as descriptive of your product of service as possible.
Modifiers, in the words of Dan Thies, refer to words that when combined with your core keyword creates your long tail strategy.
The possibilities for your choice of modifiers are vast, but some of the most common will be generic terms that are likely to reflect user search behaviour such as “best” or “cheapest”. Geo-specific modifiers are also popular for businesses where this is relevant.
Creativity is helpful when developing an effective long-tail strategy however you will likely end up discovering ideas for modifiers that you wouldn’t necessarily have thought of by looking at the search terms that generated traffic for your website. Analytics and AdWords are both useful for this.
It is helpful to create a spreadsheet to assist you in coming up with long-tail keywords by listing as many descriptive and category specific modifiers that are relevant to your offering as you can.
As previously stated, the aim is to try and reflect user searching behaviour as closely as possible, and in this respect most users now tend to ask questions and adopt a more conversational tone in their search queries. This is beneficial for digital marketers as it means that there are many more potential modifiers that an individual may use during their search which we can use in our keyword strategy.
To understand how we can get the most out of this we need to look at keyword intent. By taking advantage of high intent keywords we can ensure that we are attracting visitors who are close to the point of purchase.
Keywords (search queries) fall into one of 3 categories of intent, which are as follows in ascending order:
Navigational, e.g. “John Lewis”
Informational, e.g. “websites selling homeware”
Transactional, e.g. “buy cutlery online”
For paid search campaigns you should be using transactional keywords as these will give you a better ROI.
This is not to say that for your on page optimisation you shouldn’t be experimenting with more informational keywords, as particularly for a relatively new website these can help gain free exposure and traffic.
Your page meta-tags are the place to optimise for these keywords, as these tags should serve as a description of the pages content, something which intrinsically lends itself to more informational keywords.
Inbound links have always been an important factor in allowing Google to determine the level of trust and authority to give a website.
Of course the days of trying to manipulate Google by purchasing lots of low quality links are long gone, and it is arguable that even the value of high quality links has decreased, however a considered organic link building campaign should still form an element of your SEO strategy.
This point is closely tied in with the production of regular high quality content, as this is the only safe way of obtaining organic links. To be a bit cynical for a second, there are ways that some online giants are still able to get around Googles algorithm with regards to paid link building, however for a small website it is simply not worth the devastation of getting caught.
So if we accept this then we need to incorporate our link building strategy into our content strategy and then focus on outreach. This is something that has been discussed in previous posts, but to summarise, your outreach strategy should be based on contributing to blogs and forums that are relevant to your target audience and making contact with a handful of website owners with whom there could be a mutual benefit of sharing content.
Once again, doing this successfully will very much be a case of quality over quantity but ultimately, if your content is good enough then your target audience should also be sharing and “liking” your contributions without the need for outreach. To read more about creating a killer content strategy, click here to discover how to choose what to write about and here for advice on outreach and getting PR.
Note that outbound links can also be useful for giving Google more of an idea of what your page is about and linking to authoritative pages of a similar subject will show that your page is a trustworthy source of information. Just use this very sparingly!
It is likely that the copy on your website is a factor that you will have given much consideration to before launching, however you may not have considered the influence this can have on SEO.
As with the content you should be regularly adding to your websites blog, copy on the core pages of your website should be long and richly informative. This is obviously important for conversion optimisation anyway as consumers like to have as much information about a product as possible; however search engines favour content heavy websites. Just ensure that you avoid duplicate content as much as possible.
Tying in to the previous section on keyword optimisation, whilst it is debatable how much descriptive keywords smattered in a block of text will benefit your websites SEO, it still is worth being as descriptive as possible.
SEO Friendly URL’s
This may not be a huge factor in boosting your websites rankings, however it is very simple to do with a CMS based website and can increase click through rates, as well as creating the impression of a well organised website.
This is done by making sure that all URL’s are informative, so for example;
As supposed to
Continuing on from this, you should also consider custom URL’s and dedicated landing pages for your paid search activities.
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