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Connecting the Digital World to the Outdoor Industry

SEO for eCommerce

Yes, search is still the same basic concept thing it was ten years ago -- a bunch of strategies that, if you execute them, will help you rank better in search engines and drive traffic. The strategies change because search engines algorithms change and search engines are founded on reflecting how people are actually searching.

However, the number one building block for your brand's search strategy is understanding who your customer is and what they are looking for online. Identifying the needs, wants, opportunities, challenges, moments, and mindsets of your customers is critical in designing a search strategy to find the right information about your products or services as they move through discovery and decision-making. Today you have to organize your online information in a manner that caters to our research obsessed drive to get the best out of this moment, this product, this experience. Why?

The truth is, today’s shoppers like to browse and research online, even in cases when they intend to buy in a store. In fact, 83% of U.S. shoppers who visited a store in the last week said they used online search before going into a store. Factor in things like video and apps, and 93% of shoppers say they’ve used online resources.

In a resource posted by BigCommerce, Bill Widmer stated:

"Search engine optimization is a low-hanging fruit for ecommerce websites. Despite the fact that SEO has the highest ROI of any ecommerce marketing campaign, most online shops are put together with little to no consideration of search engines. SEO....requires effort up front — once you rank, you practically make sales on autopilot with no recurring expense." 

Current state of search

Before there were online sales, there was search. In the beginning we searched and today we still search. Our desire to search has been the most fundamental behavior in our relationship to the Internet. But like most relationships, our search behavior has and is evolving. Changes in search patterns reflect changes in how we think, the different ways we express ourselves using the written and spoken word, our desires, and our expectations of what we should receive for the time we invest in a search. Google has stated that "we're officially in the era of the research obsessed consumer." With the growth in mobile search, this means that no decision is too small to be searched. 

Mobile and desktop searches have been fluctuating in dominance in the past year years, at one point Google announced that we had passed the tipping point whereby the number of Mobile searches had taken over that of Desktop stating...

“more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.”

 In 2017 mobile accounted for 50.3% of all web traffic generated worldwide.

Percentage-of-all-global-web-pages-served-to-mobile-phones-2009-2017-700x471

The number of people using internet search engines is increasing year on year and is almost unfathomable. Google's Eric Schmidt has stated, "that every two days, we create as much information online as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003." Google's data is also shows that the average consumer is now seeking out twice as much content in making their purchase decisions as they were just a few years ago. 

Using the above Market Share chart and the data from Internet live stats, we can see the number of daily searches on Google - 3.5 billion, which equates to 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. In 2017 46.8% of the global population accessed the internet and by 2021 this figure is projected to grow to 53.7%.

Worldwide-internet-user-penetration-700x475

It is interesting to note how far search engines have come - in 1999 it took Google one month to crawl and index 50 million page, however in 2012 it took less than one minute! The internet is moving at a much faster pace and it is important to keep up in order to keep your content seen.

Whether it's going out to a restaurant, looking for a good or service you want for yourself or as a possible gift, figuring out new adventure spots, checking on what outdoor brands are utilizing sustainable sourcing in their production channel or finding out what's trending in music, movies or books, more and more people are using search to improve and optimize their real-world experiences and find answers. Search provides a means for consumers to curate the way in which the manage and engage in opportunities and challenges presented them on a daily basis. Searching provides information that in turns provides insights and answers which reduces anxiety, increases confidence, stimulates excitement and helps them create the best experience possible. Searching in and of itself is growing in becoming part of the overall shopping experience itself. 

Pro-tip: Make sure your web pages are utilizing heading hierarchies appropriately.

Header tag hierarchies tell search engines what is most important versus less important on a page. Aligning your page content accordingly helps your ranking. Including keywords and keyword variations in these header tags also plays a role in page ranking as well. Bulk Title Tag Checker


Trends in Search by Consumers

  • Framing Questions Better is Driving Better Answers - With the growth in natural language coupled with the power of artificial intelligence and increased processing power, we have moved from consumers taking a shot at searching based on what they think is a relevant keyword to asking full sentence questions from which the search engine will provide suggestions for how to reframe it to yield a better result. (Almost 20% of searches lead to a change in search query and 21 percent of searches lead to more than one click.)
  • Local Reference is Skyrocketing - Omnichannel purchasing by consumers is for real and that includes adding the phrase "near me" with increasing frequency. Use of this search term has doubled over the past two years according to Google Trends. So even if your product is available through your online eCommerce store, consumers are increasingly adding the search dimension of is it "near me" to go see and feel.
  • As Consumers Want Personalization in Their Interactions with Brands, They are Seeking Personalized Search Information- Consumers want optimized personalized experiences in their shopping experiences. This extends to their search for information about a solution to an opportunity or challenge. For example, Google has reported a growing number of searches that include "best" and "for me", no longer searching for backpacks or tents, rather consumers are increasingly searching for the "best tent for me."
  • Onsite Searching has Shifted to Searching Where You Shop, at Least to BeginStudies have reported that a majority of consumers now go first to Amazon when looking for products, rather than to a search engine. However, as consumers become increasingly wiser, they are not always making the final purchase for their product on Amazon, but using it as a quick gateway to comparison shop and often times leading the customer to go to a particular brands eCommerce website to obtain more detailed information and reviews.

KISSMetrics reports from a sample of 18,000 eCommerce sites, that 30.5% of all traffic to these eCommerce stores came from organic searches performed on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and a variety of other search engines. That means that about 1 out of every 3 visitors to your store will come from organic searches.

Organic-Search-Facts-by-SERP-watchSource: Digital Marketing Trends for 2019 by SERP Watch

What channels are people using to search for Products

For outdoor brands, search is a critical part the process consumers use to discover new products and decide on the purchase of what particular type of product within a category.  Amazon seems to be the first option when it comes to specific product discovery, with search engines coming in second at a percentage of 36%. This serves as a great reminder of the power of SEO for eCommerce businesses and how search can lead to consideration and sales.

Amazon may be the primary choice for product finding, but we cannot ignore how SEO can play a critical role in affecting consumers’ decisions for their next purchases.

Where do you begin your search for Products?

Rise in Social Media as a Search Tool for Product Discovery

Another interesting observation has to do with the role of social media in product discovery. Search is becoming more contextual for everyone. Facebook, Instagram and also Pinterest can play a key role in the stage of awareness and consideration. Brands can involve social media in their funnel to help move users in their next stages that lead to a sale. 

Social media’s primary value to consumers is its peer recommendations. For example, Ecoconsultancy issued a report that provided that 75 percent of people 18-26 used recommendations on social sites in product research before making a purchase.

Whereas search is primarily used to create a list of purchase options, social media recommendations are used to validate the relevancy of our choices with the people in our social graph. Even simple acts of brand affinity (Likes, @ mentions) can sway a friend’s purchase decision, based on the social connections between all parties concerned.

As consumers discover your products while searching social media channels, the new tools being baked into social channels allows consumers to move directly to your eCommerce store. Instagram also lets you include links and mentions in your stories, which will make it easier for viewers to browse and shop your products. Facebook business pages have traditionally been a great way to connect with your audience and promote products and events. Now you can feature your eCommerce page directly on your Facebook page with the StoreYa app for Facebook. One of Pinterest’s most promising new business features is Showcase. It acts as a virtual storefront for businesses and lets you put your best products on display in a rotating gallery that can easily be updated. 

There are specific tools now for consumers to use in searching social media. For example, Social Searcher allows a consumer to enter keywords in a search toolbar that will yield results across all major social networks, including FB, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Tumblr. 

Fundamentals for a Winning SEO eCommerce Strategy

eCommerce services provide a means to create powerful SEO for outdoor brands over other non-sales websites. There most certainly is a science to eCommerce website design and operation of eCommerce fulfillment services. And while a certain approach may work like a charm for one outdoor industry brand, it’s never assured that it works across the board for another. As SEO continues to evolve into an ecosystem of interfaces and devices, linked together by searches – both typed and spoken – the need for a unified view of strategy is greater than ever.

Pro-tip: Create a detailed, valid sitemap

A sitemap.xml file is used to list all URLs available for crawling, as well as provide a quick road map for search engine crawlers to follow. It is the first place crawlers look for new or updated content on your website. Without a map, pages and parts of your site might not be discovered and cataloged for ranking.


Organic ranking signals that affect SERPs

SEMrush has found that the number of direct website visits to your site will positively impact your organic SERPs position. Metrics that show higher engagement rather than what content is written on the page have a larger impact on ranking. Time on site, pages per session and bounce rate are metrics that indicate a higher quality of result to Google and therefore are prioritized higher.

SEMRush-ranking-factors-700x600

Some of the reasons websites don't rank well with Google are:

  • They do not create fulfilling, thorough content that addresses searchers' needs improved your chance to earn top rankings.
  • People are "bouncing from your site." If a visitor conducts a search and your site comes up in the search results, but that visitor in clicking your first link website, then immediately hits the back button to try the second link, this indicates they were not satisfied with the first result and "bounce" off your site.
  • Your website is not very user-friendly. Usability and user experience are second order influences on search engine ranking success. They provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site's external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality.

Remember, attracting a visitor through keywords is meaningless if your content does not actually help them. Think about your visitors and the content they are looking for more than how many people you can attract to your website.

The real trick is in finding your niche. Here are three reasons that eCommerce marketing methods for your outdoor industry brands eCommerce strategy can help you stay ahead of Google’s constantly changing algorithms. 

Pro-tip: A good rule of thumb is to make it easy for your visitors to reach your product pages from your homepage within three clicks.

If you can build your store that way, navigation will be easier for humans and the structure better for search engines to crawl.

 

eCommerce Sites Lend Themselves to the Use of Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are two, three or four-word groupings of words (sometimes more) used to create a very specific search term. These longer search terms are perfect for use in an eCommerce store's product descriptions and listings.  can get you ranked for your store’s products and listings quickly. They also are powerful traffic drivers that can help you attract more visitors each month. One of the most respected names in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Neil Patel, uses a long tail keyword strategy to rank websites time and time again, in particular, eCommerce websites.

long-tail

With the proper research, an outdoor industry brand can easily create thousands of these traffic-driving long tail keywords for placement throughout well-written product descriptions. These can be used to easily rank that product on the first pages of the search engine results. Doing so will result in more traffic and more conversions over time. 

Pro-tip: Product searches on Amazon do account for a lot of initial search traffic. However, the second most popular resource consumers use in their product search process is a search engine such as Google: 20% start searches for new products with search engines, 36% use them to check prices, and 32% use them to check reviews.

Use a 3 prong strategy. Selectively advertise your product on Amazon to counter competitor product listings; insure you are getting reviews posted to Amazon by your fans; provide rich product descriptions with value propositions and specific use cases; and work to get your products ranked higher in the other search engines to better capture those that start their product search and review search in a place other than Amazon.

 

Reviews Drive SEO

Hosting verified product review on your site is also beneficial to SEO, too. Since the reviews add a steady stream of fresh, relevant content to your product pages, they also can help your pages rank higher than your competitors’ because they feature more content that’s constantly refreshed. Combined with the aforementioned statistics, they represent an easy way to help give your sales a strong boost.

Online product reviews have been shown to be a powerful tool that can help you improve brand loyalty and customer retention as well as helping you attract new customers to your business. According to a Marketing Land report, “90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.”

product-reviews

Image courtesy Marketing Land

Video Provides Rich SEO Opportunities

Good video content is necessary to present your brand's products. Ideally, you want a video for all your products that consumers want to enjoy and share. Video content can be responsible for successfully attracting a substantial number of inbound links and social shares for the website in question. In an analysis by Kissmetrics of videos used by Dollar Shave Club and Moz, they prove that, when used correctly, videos really can provide a huge boost to your SEO campaign.

Embedding a video on your eCommerce website not only will increase the length of time that visitors stick around, but, also, the number of conversions to paying customers, which, ultimately, is what SEO is all about.

12 media consumption daily is video

Product videos are perhaps the most common way that retailers increase the conversion rate of their website using video content. Hundreds and thousands of retailers are making use of product videos these days, and it’s easy to see why.

According to Invodo, 52% of consumers say that watching product videos makes them feel more confident about going ahead and making a purchase.

Additionally, product videos increase your ability to create video rich snippets that help you stand out from the other nine search results on that particular page, and, therefore, searchers will be more inclined to click your result, which will increase traffic to your website.

You’ll be able to show searchers a thumbnail of your video and the length of your video. Make sure the thumbnail stands out and sums up what the video is about if you want to maximize conversions.

Pro-tip:  Make good use of title tags and create a meta description with clarity.

Title tags and meta descriptions are fundamental pieces of SEO best practice. They factor into your pages relevance and selection in search results. These two items are also what are displayed on search result pages, potentially being the first thing a new visitor will see about your brand and product. The context of these elements should be informative and captivating. Depending on the platform your site is constructed with, many CMS systems can add these critical elements to your pages.

When you have a digital storefront, you have all the usual pages plus product category pages, sub-category pages, brand pages, and product pages. In fact, some eCommerce sites have even more page types. eCommerce pages have tons of images where you can add unlimited amounts of pictures with optimized alt-text. Not to mention the potential rankings on each eCommerce page for the page title, URL, meta description, H1 tags, and product or category descriptions optimized with your target keywords. You are looking at a goldmine of opportunity. 

Each individual page comes with its own topic which makes writing and optimization so much easier! Combine all of these on-page optimizations for keyword and pillar topics with a consistent blog editorial calendar to create amazing results. Even if you simply start with just meta tag optimization for your eCommerce pages plus an H1 tag, and skip the product description content, you are already going to start seeing crazy results.

Many businesses also add new products over-time which means that this growth can be expected to continue. There are also so seasonal sale category pages and products, clearance products, etc. I've even seen individual product pages get linked to a product review, case study, and testimonial pages internally linked. That's another page for each product! One product can create 5+ pages that can rank for your target topics and keywords. 

While we’re discussing content strategy and attracting users to your site with your internal pages, you should become familiar with how Google Analytics eCommerce data works with SEO.

There is a basic logic within the tool that will show you the number of organic searches that ended up on your site, and the keywords that lead them there. In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, and then clicking on “Organic Search.”

This report will provide you with the most common search terms successfully leading consumers to your site. It will also provide information about how visitors who used the individual terms perform. For example, maybe the keyword “outdoor industry SEO” brings the most people to your site, but the keyword “outdoor industry marketing” leads to the most sales. With this information, you can focus more on using “outdoor industry marketing” in your SEO strategy. 

Using this tool in Google Analytics can assist you in tracking your progress on your current SEO strategy. You will want to continually review and assess your real traffic data to know how close you are to the mark.

For more detailed SEO data, you should add Search Console for Google Analytics eCommerce. This add-on provides exclusive SEO figures including the number of URL impressions in search results and post-click engagement for bounces or conversions. Make sure you add your website to the Search Console registry. 

Yes, it is a lot of work but SEO isn't about easy, it's about creating opportunities to make your competition R.I.P. 

In this highly globalized and competitive digital world, you need to use all the tools and options that are at your disposal. There are some aspects of SEO that is weighted in search algorithms a little less impactful than others, however, the variables that are available on eCommerce sites are very valuable and can give you the gains that you want.

Pro-tip: Insure that your store architecture is user friendly. 

You want to have a simple, user friendly site hierarchy, which separates your homepage from your product categories and your products listed within them.

If you want to improve your eCommerce sales and increase revenue, you need to increase your visibility with search engines. To achieve this, you need to start using the type of SEO strategy and best practices presented above. It may appear hard, but it's not really and we are here to help. Besides the information presented here, you can find more resources in other articles I have written and our guide to SEO

Depending on the platform you are operating your eCommerce store on, you also may want to consider integrating it with one of the leading marketing and management platforms, HubSpot

Using HubSpot’s industry-leading tools and resources integrated with either a BigCommerce or Shopify storefront gives eCommerce businesses the knowledge and resources to develop effective SEO strategies. Essentially, integrating HubSpot into holistic digital marketing efforts will enhance and improve overall results.

Additional resources are:

Ultimate Guide To Ecommerce SEO

BigCommerce SEO Success Essentials

The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2019

BigCommerce SEO Case Study

Grow your online eCommerce Sales

Topics: Search

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