The war for customer attention and mindshare has moved to the digital front. Brands address this through digital strategies that always include search engine optimisation (SEO) investments. This article looks into why the eCommerce platform, the foundation of the Digital Flagship Store, should work hand-in-hand with your SEO strategies, and how it should support these initiatives.
As customers turn online to conduct research and inspiration for their next purchase, it has become imperative for retailers and Brands to have a strong presence online, and for their Digital Flagship Stores – the eCommerce site – to be the digital representation of their brand and customer experience. As bricks-and-mortar flagship stores are discovered as customers walk along High Street, so are Digital Flagship stores discovered in the customers’ journey online.
But how do you make sure you get noticed? How do you make sure you turn up on the equivalent of High Street online, and provide the solution to the customer’s immediate need? The best-looking eCommerce site with the greatest customer experience waiting to happen will be just that – waiting to happen – if no one knows it is there.
Taking SEO for eCommerce websites means giving your brand the best opportunity at being found by your target market – the digital equivalent of being the shop on the coveted High Street corner. Getting your SEO performing on a beautifully designed and easy-to-use website helps to support the performance of your bricks-and-mortar stores and also maximises your presence with established and new customers.
A Digital Flagship Store has three main requirements for success:
- Discoverability – easy to find via digital channels like search engines and social media.
- Accessibility – making digital content available and usable for as many visitors as possible.
- Experience – time spent browsing your website is an enjoyable and intuitive experience for the visitor.
SEO is a science: the perfect mix of content and experiential details aimed at delivering customer satisfaction, and ultimately, sales.
How to optimise your eCommerce website?
SEO is the systematic process of explaining to Google (and other search engines) why your eCommerce store is better and more relevant than your competitors through a series of optimisation techniques, including:
- Providing relevant, up-to-date content.
- Not skimping on site architecture details like index-friendly sitemaps, canonical links, redirects, mobile friendliness etc.
- Taking the time to enrich HTML (not as scary as it sounds!) with keyword-rich meta tags for page titles, descriptions, header tags etc.
- Providing interactive social media options.
- Having security measures in place.
eCommerce SEO is all about the detail. For example, if a fashion eCommerce site posted a new product online, they would need to prove to Google that people searching for this product would want to find their website. What is going to be more helpful to Google in guaranteeing their searcher will be delighted with their find? Simply listing ‘New dress – $279.00’, or providing the visitor with a smorgasbord of interactive product information?
The Country Road product page ticks many SEO boxes, helping to give Google the confidence that their searchers will have a delightful experience by clicking through to this page. Google picks up that the page has:
- Helpful descriptive text.
- Media-rich content including four photos and a video.
- Links to other related products and content.
- Image tags.
- Been added/updated recently.
- Keywords naturally scattered throughout the text and HTML code.
- Mobile–friendly layout.
- Secure payment methods.
Google, in their bid to provide their customers ever-better experiences by providing the most relevant search results, does not necessarily make SEO easy for eCommerce websites. But by building a strong foundation on a robust and flexible platform, and making sure that the critical search factors are treated correctly – mobile-friendliness, security, quality content and a focus on relevant keywords, as well as optimisation for local search – your website is on rock-solid footing to be discovered online by its intended market.
Search Ranking Factors and Google
While SEO may seem like a daunting task at first, there is actually a science to it.
Respected SEO publication Search Engine Land provides a “Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors” that aims to provide guidance about important ranking factors and best practices for optimal success with both search engines, and in reaching your target market. These factors are classified under two groups: on-the-page factors, or factors that you can have direct control over such as content and use of keywords; and off-the-page factors, or factors that are influenced by your readers, visitors, and other publishers such as links back to your site, trust rating of your website, and engagement.
On-the-Page Factors Content:
Content is king! Right messaging. Relevant content. Up-to-date.
This covers the technical implementation side of things. Index-friendly sitemap and custom robots.txt. Descriptive URLs. Canonical Links. Redirects. Mobile-friendliness. Security. Speed and performance.
A little technical, covers the front-end implementation side of things. Keyword-rich page titles, descriptions, header tags. Rich snippets support enhanced search engine results page (SERP) listings.
Subject matter authority. Quality of customer engagement measured by clickthroughs and bounce rates. Quality of social media engagement measured by Likes and Shares. Historical performance. Identity verification.
Link Building and Ranking
Third-party links back to your site. Quality over quantity.
If your content or your site is not deemed relevant to a particular country or locale, then you have less chance of showing up in country-personalised or local searches4. Proximity, we know, is the primary ranking factor in local searches but personal preferences based on browsing histories will determine the presentation of the search results.
Social media engagement and social sharing of your content. Quality over quantity.
You do get penalised for trying to game the system. Penalties range from ranking degradation to outright removal from search results. A lot of it has to do with content. Activities that will be penalised include:
• Keyword stuffing
• Hiding text
• Advertising bombardment
• Backlinks gaming
• Link spamming
• Paid links
To learn more, download the eStar Guide eCommerce Platform + SEO = Maximum Discoverability