Most people think search engine optimization (SEO) is all about keywords, but that's not even close to the whole story.
To really nail SEO, you need to implement several behind-the-scenes technical fixes, especially if you're running an ecommerce site.
Here's how Adept combined technical and strategic SEO to gain significant increases in traffic and revenue for an online gifts retailer.
In late 2014, this retailer was at the tail end of a change in direction. Adept helped the retailer redesign its website and implement a paid search campaign as part of an integrated strategy to bring in traffic. However, Adept felt the retailer could get even more benefit and get organic traffic by improving SEO across the site.
Step 1 - Canonicals, XML Sitemaps and Robots.txt
From an SEO perspective, ecommerce retailers have a number of issues that can stop them from getting the traffic they deserve. One of the biggest is content duplication, which is a big no-no for search ranking. The duplication comes about because ecommerce sites are very product-based, which means the content can be a bit thin. In addition, there are usually multiple ways to reach a product, creating different URLs and fragmenting the authority of each page.
Adept fixed this by adding canonical tags in the appropriate places. Canonical tags tell search engines which URL to see as the primary and most authoritative one, even if there are multiple URLs. That ensures that the right page shows up in search results.
There's a science to choosing the right URLs to optimize too, explains Adept. You need to choose the page with the cleanest, most user-friendly URL (hint: if it's got a gazillion characters, that's not the one to pick). Other than that, it's about identifying the page that's already got the most page authority, links and visits and the best performance. In other words, the ones that web visitors like most.
XML Sitemap and Robots.txt
A key part of Adept's technical SEO strategy was letting Google and other search engines know which pages were important - and which ones to ignore. Sure, the crawlers will find this out eventually, but on an ecommerce site with pages changing all the time, it's useful to give search engines a helping hand. Creating and updating an XML sitemap for the site helps highlight the most important pages and improves how search engines crawl the site. For example, if there are pages that aren't linked anywhere but you want Google to find them, you need to include these in the XML sitemap. That's what Adept did for the retailer.
Adept also audited the retailer's robots.txt file. This file tells search engines what to ignore. For example, with ecommerce sites, you may have tons of customer account pages, but you don't want these to appear in search results. Auditing and fixing the robots.txt file is the way to make sure this doesn't happen. Plus, you want to be sure that your most important directories ARE crawlable and haven't been accidentally excluded.
Step 2 - Tweaking and Optimizing Keywords
While keywords are less important for some aspects of SEO, they still play a crucial role in letting you know what people are searching for. In addition, where the keywords are located also has an effect on search traffic.
Adept did keyword research to find out which keywords were most likely to bring in traffic and revenue. The research proved that the keywords you THINK are the best ones aren't always the right ones to use. For example, the ecommerce retailer had good descriptions of their products, but the words in the description didn't always match what users were searching for. To address this, Adept used keywords found via research to update title tags, H1 tags and meta descriptions for the top level pages, category pages and the top product pages. One example of this in action was switching "gifts" for "bouquet" on some pages, because people were specifically searching for bouquets rather than the more generic term.
Step 3 - Optimizing Local Listings
Adept's comprehensive SEO audit found that the local listings for the ecommerce retailer were inconsistent. As well as profiles with duplicate or incorrect information, some profiles had links to competitors, and who wants to send traffic to the competition?
Since consistency leads to online authority (both with customers and search engines), Adept ensured that all local listings included the right address and main phone number (instead of more than 5 found in the audit), linked to the right social media profiles, showed good reviews and generally enhanced the retailer's reputation.
Results - Technical SEO FTW!
The technical SEO strategy immediately paid off with some great results:
Previously, the retailer was ranking at #3 for a branded term. Tweaking the placement of this term moved the retailer to #1 for this term. Since the top position gets most of the clicks on any search results page, this immediately increased traffic to the retailer's site, and boosted revenue too. Monthly sessions doubled from under 5,000 to approximately 15,000 in just five months.
At the same time, their top competitor saw its traffic fall by a similar amount.
Second, the retailer's share of organic traffic also increased. Adept has an in-house tool to assess this by measuring search volume, search position and expected click through rate from a bucket of around 150 keywords. Before the SEO strategy, the retailer had 8% of organic traffic.
After implementing the strategy, organic traffic share increased to 22%. While that doesn't mean all of those visitors will click through, it improves the retailer's chances of getting clicks and sales.
Beyond the Foundation - Holiday Content Optimization
Once Adept had laid the technical foundation, it was time to see how further optimization could help the client realize additional benefits.
For any gifts company, holidays are big earners, and Valentine's Day is one of the biggest. With the 2015 holiday on the horizon, Adept capitalized on the previous work by:
- doing more keyword research to update existing content with seasonally appropriate search terms.
- creating and optimizing new holiday pages where necessary.
- continuing technical optimization for top product pages.
Thanks to this strategy, the company had an extremely successful holiday period. In February 2015, session numbers rose by 67% over the previous February, with revenue increasing by 65%.
Adept has used this optimization strategy for other major holiday periods, seeing good results for the Christmas period. In the birthday gift section, the SEO strategy has increased page ranking for some of the most authoritative pages.
The bottom line: laying the technical foundation puts companies in the best position to undertake a more strategic approach to SEO and focus areas of optimization that drive business growth, traffic and revenue. It certainly worked with this ecommerce retailer.