The moment a consumer discovers an eCommerce site is a magic moment for the eCommerce site owner. In a digital world, that discovery often starts with a Google search. This is why search engine optimization is so important to eCommerce site owners. Here are some things you need to know to rank highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) by putting the puzzle pieces together in a cohesive whole.
Why Is Google So Dominant And What Is An Algorithm?
Google is the dominant search engine in the world because they are the best at finding the right fit between the searcher and a website that can solve the searchers need. Remember, Search Engines work for the searcher and not for website owners. No matter what a searcher is searching for, the sheer number of websites that might have something of interest on a specific search phrase or keyword is staggering. In order to earn the searcher’s ‘business’ and become the ‘search brand of choice’, Google has figured out how to present the best answer the most often. This is done using algorithms, or programs that attempt to understand BOTH a searcher’s needs AND a particular website’s ability to meet those needs.
These algorithm programs follow formulas attempting to act in ways that a human guide might act. Let’s image a visitor to an art museum asks if there are any Picasso’s available. A guide might answer “YES!” and point to the Modern gallery, or – recognizing that the question is being asked by an art collector – the guide might say “YES!” and point to the museum store.
Similarly, a search engine algorithm has to understand BOTH the searcher’s need AND what your site offers. Like the museum guide, Google can learn things about the one asking the questions based on their recent activity online. Google can even understand when the searcher is using words that are not exactly mainstream.
Google invests a huge amount of money in understanding natural language searches and searcher intent as well as searcher buy cycle stage. Google knows if a person is merely curious, somewhat interested in problem solving, or very interested in shopping.
But Google won’t work that hard to understand your site. So you have to help it understand by optimizing your content. If your site is full of product descriptions and prices, Google might only send buyers ready to buy today. But you might want to meet buyers earlier in the decision making process, or ‘buy cycle’. This is where adding content can help.
For instance, people buying houses or cars often start shopping months before they make a decision. During this time, they may discover and take a liking to a particular real estate or auto sales website. This early discovery will pay off in the long run for the site owner. So, the more your site has both information or content, in addition to products for sale, the more likely Google will send searchers.
Winning the SERP means getting more traffic from search engines on your eCommerce site. After giving some consideration to content, and not just product descriptions and prices, an eCommerce website can use the following tips to attract searchers.
- Make sure the domain name includes the right keywords
- Make sure the home page title and meta description include keywords
- Make sure page headlines (H1 and H2 tags especially) include keywords
- Make sure the first few words on page, and the ‘alt img’ tags include keywords
- Make sure to be consistent, using the same keywords in all these places
These few techniques are old school, but are still the most important as far as a search engine ranking is concerned. Another blog post I wrote covers typical steps in an SEO project.
What Comes First: Products And Prices Or Content
This question reminds me of the one about what came first… chickens or eggs? You need both at once. Before optimizing content, you need to develop some! Content is often overlooked on eCommerce sites but is the ‘bait’ that most search engines look for first and reward with the best SERP. The products you sell are meant to solve problems for people. People start a purchase process to solve a problem. So content that solves problems will sell products that solve problems.
Mainstream Or Long Tail?
Some sites optimize for a topic that is the main topic of the website. Some optimize for a related topic that is popular, with a meaningful search volume, even if not exactly what the site is actually about. This last is called a long tail search because the searcher is not at the head of the line with immediate knowledge of what they want.
A long tail strategy can be very productive. A mainstream buyer for a phone case might search for a phone case. But a searcher looking for repair cost for a cracked phone screen probably needs a new phone, and a better case or cover. Maybe they just don’t yet know the cost of replacing a screen is ridiculous. A website selling phones and cases would do well to concentrate on content about phone cases and cracked screens because cracked screens are a related creator of the need for a phone case. This is why it could pay handsomely to have an article or two about the cost of replacing a cracked phone screen and a few articles about how a certain brand of phone case prevents cracked screens.
Putting The Puzzle Pieces Together
These ideas about how search engines can be invited to send traffic to your eCommerce site have pulled together several puzzle pieces that have to all fit together before the picture becomes clear. In bullet form, to recap, the main pieces are
- The search engine itself and its reason to exist
- The searcher and specific search intent or reason for searching
- Are they just beginning to search with a general interest, out of curiosity?
- Are they actually interested in solving a need?
- Are they looking for information or looking to buy?
- Are they seeking information from sellers, owners, shoppers, or peers?
- Are they decided on a specific product type, category, price, or brand?
- The stage of the buy cycle a searcher is in if shopping
- Do they only know they have a need or problem?
- Do they already know what they want?
- Are they looking to buy sometime?
- Are they looking to buy soon?
- Are they looking to buy now?
- The website category, breadth, and value offered to the world
- Does the site offer information about competing solutions to problems?
- Does the site offer content to help with pre-purchase research?
- Does the site offer several brands or offer only a few or one brand?
- Does the site offer choices among various price points
Based on the type of content your site has, the search engine algorithm can understand which searchers might find your site useful. Search Engine Optimization means grooming the content makes it easier for Google to understand the value your site offers so they can send the right website visitors. This means organizing the words on a website so that search engine algorithms understand what the site is about and what kind of searcher might find your site useful. You can learn more about Search Engine Optimization, how it is done, how long it takes to see results, and what kind of results can be expected from a well done SEO project on my SEO Blog.
Done correctly, SEO will get your site ranked highly on the right Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the right searcher at the right time with the right content, product, service or price. If your site already has great products or services and prices, then it is well worth the investment of time and energy to do SEO correctly. SEO is not everyone’s natural talent. If you would rather focus on what you do best, then hire an SEO Pro! Happy Selling!
Written by Lonn Dugan, Principal at BIGMARK Digital Marketing www.GooglePageOneSEO.com.