This is a guest post from Danny Wong.
From startup owners to Fortune 500 CEOs, there’s one question that continues to spark debate: Do you use email marketing or SEO to drive business success?
Truthfully, you need both to help you target and find potential customers. After all, your goal is attracting new consumers into your ecommerce ecosystem, which means implementing a smart SEO strategy to attract visitors, and a personalized email marketing strategy to secure them into your communications.
You also need to think about SEO and email marketing in tandem. Both depend on smart content that’s valuable to your target audience.
Savvy ecommerce marketers know data-based content can boost engagement and sales, making the content you use for emails and search engines crucial: Consistent messaging and positiver user experiences should be top of mind. We’ll discuss the importance of email below, but first, let’s discuss SEO.
Is SEO for ecommerce important?
As we touched on above, optimizing your ecommerce site for search engines is critical. For starters, in Q2 2019, Google was responsible for 93% of organic visits to brand sites, according to Merkle’s Q2 Digital Marketing Report.
And ranking isn’t enough. Where you rank for a keyword matters even more. In fact, the number one result for a Google organic search averages a click-through rate of 31.7%, according to this analysis of 5 million search queries.
So, if your article is at the bottom of page one versus the top of page one, you could miss out on a ton of traffic, sales, and customers. That’s because the first result in Google garners ten times the clicks than even the tenth result.
If you land on Page 2 of Google’s search results, the decline in CTR is even sharper: “Only 0.78% of Google searchers clicked on something from the second page,” Backlinko reports.
Even if your business seems to be growing without proper SEO tactics, the CTR data alone shows the relevance of ecommerce optimization. SEO-based choices need to be made to ensure brand awareness continues to grow.
But how does organic traffic translate to revenue? For one thing, it’s a numbers game: The more traffic you see, the likelier your conversions are to grow. But maybe that’s not enough to convince your leadership team to invest in SEO. If that’s the case, read on for data-backed reasons.
In this Neil Patel post, Patel outlines an organic search rate of 30.5%. This number comes from a traffic analysis of 18,000 small to medium ecommerce sites. So, let’s use this number for our example.
Now, let’s factor in conversion rate and order value. In Q1 2019, the conversion rate for U.S. ecommerce sites was 2.7%, according to Statista data. And a recent analysis by Growcode estimates the average order value at $128, based on a review of 10 ecommerce purchase studies.
Assuming conversion rates are flat across all channels (they’re not, but for the sake of this evaluation, we’ll assume so), this means a site that drives 1,000 inbound visits per month earns 300 organic visits from search engines, converts eight orders and generates $1,024 from SEO traffic.
At 10,000 visits per month, the same business would earn $10,240. At 100,000 visits, $102,400 in revenue. And if that ecommerce site drove 1 million visits, it could pull in more than $1 million in sales.
For ecommerce brands of all sizes, SEO has potential for a high return on investment because there is the opportunity to compound traffic as you improve your overall SEO profile.
Additionally, optimization can affect how buyers research your product, as well as when and where they start their customer journey. It can also help you build trust and credibility.
For ecommerce marketers who want to increase their rankings, here are seven suggestions to drive results.
1. Use keyword search and social listening when branding your products.
As an example, let’s say your ecommerce company makes trampolines. You might be tempted to give your children’s trampoline a hyper-specific name, but you could regret the decision after discovering your number one spot in the search engine results pages, or SERPs, is viewed by only one person each month (and that’s you checking your own ranking).
Instead, let your products stand out based on their merit—more than a catchy or unusual name—and use generic terms to reference them.
The Google Keyword Planner tool estimates the search term “kids trampoline” generates 32,460 monthly searches. Securing the top spot within the SERPs will net you 10,300 monthly clicks.
Label products with language customers are familiar with, and you’re more likely to capture a larger audience with high purchase intent.
2. Consistently create search-optimized content and promote it through your emails.
For lifestyle brands, interviews with industry experts and news coverage are two examples of compelling content your audience will love.
Ecommerce tech companies, on the other hand, might want to create instructional how-to content to demonstrate authority and show customers how they can get the most value out of a product.
The critical factor is that Google’s algorithms favor authentic and well-written content.
Many ecommerce companies rely solely on product pages to drive organic search traffic. But with only space to insert a thoughtful product description, brands lose out on the opportunity to publish in-depth stories that their customers will enjoy.
Longer write-ups and thoughtful pieces motivate longer time on the site, which will organically provide additional links and encourage additional sharing.
This is where email comes into play.
Your articles aren’t just for your site: Written content is perfect for email campaigns as a way to attract customers. What’s more, these same customers will often use terms from your emails for future searches—helping you to better perfect your SEO strategy.
Take a look at this example from Roadtrippers, which uses a lifestyle magazine approach to content. The Cincinnati company features a wealth of travel stories on its website.
Roadtrippers then translates those entertainingly to its subscriber emails.
Source: Really Good Emails
Roadtrippers aims to create unique stories for app users and to align its content with the brand’s vision: living life on the road. To do this, Roadtrippers creates much of its content in-house.
“The vast majority of content you see on Roadtrippers has come from our on-staff writers,” says Jonathan Richman, general manager at Roadtrippers. “They’ve written thousands of stories and even more reviews about specific destinations, hand-curating information about the world’s most famous places.”
3. Consolidate duplicative content but go deep when it will differentiate your brand.
A common SEO misunderstanding among marketers is that more content is always better. What actually works best is a balance between quantity and quality.
We’ve all been on a website that encourages click-throughs by creating multiple distinct pages for the same product. The blurb, even a thoughtful one clocking in at 225 words with ideal keywords, stays the same on all the pages. Perhaps the only difference is the image and color of the product from one page to the next.
What happens? Google has to pit these pages against one another and will downgrade their search ranking because of duplicate content.
To avoid this problem, consolidate pages like these on your site, and instead go longer on the “white space” content your audience wants (you can use SEO data to track audience interests). Think about how you can expand on content that performs well already and see how you can create ancillary pieces that extend the depth of this content rather than repeat it.
Now, based on that same search knowledge, use this new content for your email campaigns. You know your target audience is interested, so provide this content to drive them to your site.
4. Use custom content to optimize product pages for search engines.
Now that you’ve consolidated duplicate content, let’s take another hard look at the content an ecommerce business should produce for its product pages.
With every product description, ecommerce marketers have the opportunity to illustrate the appeal and value of their products. SEO plays a critical factor here. Use search data to inform how you improve your product descriptions.
Ecommerce platform Shopify recommends nine ways to improve product descriptions:
- Focus on your ideal customer. Curate the description for the target buyer.
- Tease buyers with big benefits. Again, go deeper about benefits rather than simply listing items.
- Include product details and features that customers value. Use social listening and sentiment research to craft a description that aligns closely with your target buyer.
- You can use superlatives, but use them only when you can prove them with facts.
- Help consumers imagine what their lives would be like if they owned your product. Craft descriptions so customers can picture using your products in real-world scenarios.
- Use storytelling. Customers will be likelier to buy from you if they feel connected to your product.
- Use sensory language. How can your products appeal to their senses?
- Apply social proof. Use authentic reviews and comments; people want to see other consumers like themselves.
- Format your product description with bullets and plenty of white space to make it scannable.
Every one of these tactics can and should be applied to your emails, too. Wildsam utilizes these marketing points in the email below.
Source: Really Good Emails
This email checks seven of the nine boxes above. The mobile-optimized site uses language and content that appeals to their target audience of travelers.
5. Implement 301 redirects to drive traffic from pages listing discontinued products.
Don’t disappoint your customers by serving up discontinued or out-of-stock product pages. Not only is it poor user-experience, but it’s also bad for SEO, particularly if the products were popular.
Instead of dumping the pages, use a 301 redirect to keep the traffic flowing. You can then send customers to similar products or services. Alternatively, you can maintain the same URL and highlight comparable items on the page.
You might not convert all your visitors, but at least you’re aiming to provide a seamless experience, all while keeping your site optimized.
If the item is simply out of stock, create a replenishment email to notify customers when a product is back. Plus, once visitors have joined your list, they’ll begin receiving marketing materials from you.
Kaufmann Mercantile uses that approach, but subtly. This housewares etailer sends clean and direct replenishment emails, as you can see in the example below.
Source: Kaufman Mercantile
This email provides other shopping categories, gently encouraging subscribers to continue browsing the site.
6. Reduce your bounce rate by developing a linking structure strategy.
Some of the most brilliant SEO changes you can make are invisible to audiences but are incredibly important to Google. One of these is site architecture and the use of internal links, both of which affect how well search engines crawl your ecommerce site.
There are distinct SEO benefits from establishing a clean site architecture and inserting links that interweave your site’s content, as this Moz Academy video details.
Strategic internal linking keeps audiences engaged by directing them to related content. Inserting relevant anchor text in with your links also improves search ranking, and it helps direct Google to other pages on your site.
Keeping your audience engaged is important, as is driving down bounce rates, and you want positive rates for each. Why? Since Google aims to deliver the perfect search result, it tracks visitor engagement and bounce rates alike.
Because Google measures how visitors respond to your content, an ecommerce business should carefully monitor what happens when people visit their sites. Architecture and quality links can help.
7. Ensure your mobile site drives organic traffic.
Since early 2015, Google has included mobile responsiveness as a ranking factor. When you look at mobile use, it’s clear why: Mobile traffic has gone up 222% in the last five years, and the mobile share of organic search was 57% in Q4 of 2018.
Given the expansive use of mobile, ecommerce businesses need to devote resources to making their platforms perform well on smartphones and tablets. Smartphones in particular are important because of their effect on local searches.
You want your SEO efforts to lead to the first page of search results, potentially convincing a shopper to buy from your ecommerce site instead of the store or business around the corner. If they wind up on your site, the experience must be as mobile-friendly as possible, from searching to the checkout process.
In its “Mobile SEO Starter Guide,” Digital Current suggests four key mobile-first tactics:
- Design for performance: Quick-to-load pages are a must.
- Focus on user experience: Limit the use of Flash, plug-ins, pop-ups, and interstitials.
- Optimize for local search: With GPS tracking, local relevance is an increasingly important factor in mobile SEO.
- Inform Google that the site is mobile: Include the back-end code that signals whether your site is responsive or dynamic, or whether the site has a distinct URL from its desktop sibling.
And here’s one more tip: Track mobile keywords. Users often enter different queries on their desktops than on their smartphones; the top-performing keywords, therefore, can vary between devices for similar queries.
Ready to tackle SEO for your site? Implement quality content on your site and in email for best results, and don’t forget to do a little storytelling, too.
Here’s a reminder of the tips and tactics shared above that can help your ecommerce business take full advantage of SEO:
- Use keyword search and social listening when branding your products.
- Consistently create good content and promote it through your emails too.
- Consolidate duplicate content, but go deep when it will differentiate your brand.
- Enhance product pages with custom content.
- Salvage decommissioned product pages.
- Interlink your content and reduce your bounce rate.
- Craft a mobile-first experience.
From welcome emails to re-engagement campaigns and beyond, we seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platforms—BigCommerce, Shopify, and WooCommerce—so you’ll have all the features you need to exceed your goals.
CM Commerce features:
- Pre-made conversion campaigns to recover revenue from abandoned carts
- Follow-up segmented and personalized emails for cross-selling
- Product reviews that spotlight your happy customers and build trust (and sales)
- Automated feedback to increase repeat revenue
- Ready-to-go receipt templates or custom versions, coupons, and rewards with your branding
Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. In a former life, he co-founded Blank Label, a custom menswear company that generates seven figures in annual revenue through its website and locations in Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.