Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, is an aspect of digital marketing that, if done correctly, can help retailers amplify their brand, products and revenue. Navigating the SEO world isn’t simple, though. Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms and advertising policies, causing digital marketers to either quickly adapt or risk becoming obsolete.
Here, Tansy OBryant, SEO Specialist at ChannelAdvisor, shares her insights into SEO priorities that online retailers should keep in mind for the year ahead.
Q: How is SEO different for retailers?
A: Unlike other types of companies, retailers often have thousands and thousands of SKUs to manage — which means thousands of product listings and even more keywords in their “keyword universe.” Optimizing all these, plus keeping up with what competitors are doing, presents retailers with a unique struggle. When it comes to product URLs, for example, each listing should have optimized titles, headers and schema (more on this see below). Updating these elements increases your Google Quality Score, which then increases organic rankings and decreases cost per click in paid search.
Q: What are some common SEO mistakes you notice retailers making?
A: With the rise in profitability of paid search ads and product listing ads (PLAs), many retailers have foolishly begun to write off the importance of a good SEO strategy. Big mistake. SEO and paid search should both be part of a diversified digital marketing strategy. Another mistake I see is that retailers either aren’t setting SEO goals, or their SEO goals are poorly defined. Your goals should be specific and solve a larger business problem. A well-defined goal could be, “I want to lower my cost per click by X percent,” or “I want to better understand what my competitors are doing in a specific keyword sphere of influence.”
Q: Many retailers forget that social media contributes to a successful SEO strategy. Can you give an example of this?
A: Sure. When a shopper plays a YouTube video embedded on your site, that’s a one-to-one relationship between YouTube and your site. Google likes and measures this type of interaction and uses entities to measure how your site is used and shared. Google’s Hummingbird algorithm also measures the common co-occurrence of vocabulary between your site and entities — including social media — that point to your site.
Q: What’s the most important thing that retailers can do to optimize SEO for 2015?
A: In a word, schema. Schema is a type of markup you add to your site that tells the search engine exactly what product data is on the page. Many sellers use schema to define price, availability, brand and product name for search engines. Though implementing schema requires some legwork on the front end, it will ultimately save you time. Because schema markup closely matches Amazon’s data feed structure, once you pair the correct schema to fields in your web database, it’s easier to create a feed for Amazon, or even Google Shopping.
Q: Do you have any last words of wisdom for retailers?
A: Plan and be patient. Create some budget and human resource slack so you can react to changing market forces as they happen. That way, you won’t be left scrambling when a Google algorithm lowers your organic ranking, or when a marketplace or comparison shopping engine introduces a major update you need to adapt to. And finally, don’t expect measurable results in the short term. The value of an SEO campaign is calculated over the course of one year and is measured by sustainable increases, not temporary spikes and dips.
This article was originally published in Internet Retailer’s January 2015 magazine.
Blog post by Jordan Nowlin, social media and blog manager, ChannelAdvisor