Search engine optimization is crucial for gaining online traffic. Organic search accounts for roughly 50% of all visitors to websites. In a single month, Google gets over 100 billion searches! Thinking that your website can thrive without a strong focus on SEO is a fool’s errand.
The problem, however, is that many online retailers still utilize some bad SEO habits that are actually hurting them more than helping. In order to better understand what you should be doing, let’s first focus on six of the key problem areas ecommerce companies run into when trying to improve their SEO.
Low Quality or Repeated Content
In a survey of 256 marketing influencers by MarketingCharts, the number one most effective and also most difficult tactic in SEO is creating relevant content. With 57% of influencers siting content creation as most effective, and 48% as most difficult, it’s easy to see why creating quality content is both a pain point and an opportunity for many retailers.
One of the major tasks is making sure that the content is relevant to what your business does. For instance, ROI Revolution is a digital marketing agency, so a post like this on the topic of SEO makes sense. It wouldn’t make sense if we were posting stuff like Top 10 Cat Memes of All Time, or How to Make Great Guacamole, even though both of those topics are certainly dear to our hearts!
Keep your content relevant, use keywords that make sense for your industry, and make it interesting.
Speaking of keywords, there’s a good way to use them and a bad way to use them. Tactically placing them throughout your copy when applicable is good (1/100 words of copy is a good baseline). Repeating them over and over simply to try and optimize your page for web crawlers is bad.
Not only will readers be turned away by this tactic and leave your site on droves, but search engine algorithms can scan for this type of approach and your website can be severely penalized. The goal should never be to try and game the system with keywords. There’s a natural way to incorporate them: hire a quality copywriter!
And don’t get clever and think that if you just make the text white and put it on a white background you can fool the search engines. This isn’t 1998. Those keywords will be invisible to the viewer, but not to the site crawler.
Bad Internal and External Links
Generating backlinks from external websites is an excellent way to improve your search ranking. Organic backlinks from shared content can help to efficiently grow your site reach. However, forcing backlinks by signing up for link directories that may be banned or flagged by search engines, paying for backlinks, using mirrored sites to create many backlinks from the same domain, or linking to or from broken websites are all quick ways to get your site flagged and removed from SERPs.
Instead of focusing on these tactics, focus on writing content that people will want to share. Reach out to some influencers to see if you can write a guest blog and have it link back to your site. Talk to people with a big social presence to see if they want to test your products and then write about them and share it on social. There are many opportunities to increase your backlinks without resorting to the above-mentioned tactics.
Internally, if there is poor navigation throughout your site, it will generate a poor user experience. People will get frustrated and leave quickly, which reduces page visits, time on site, and your overall search ranking. Make sure that your pages link to each other in an efficient manner that focuses on user experience. Think of it from the perspective of a user and how they would navigate your site, then optimize for that.
Neglecting Social Media
By the end of this year it is estimated that there will be 2.34 billion active social media users. As of April, Facebook alone had 1.59 billion users. If your company isn’t using social media, or your website isn’t linked to your social media accounts, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to reach potential customers.
Aside from being able to pitch directly on social media platforms, there is also the added benefit of people sharing your content and creating additional backlinks for you. Don’t neglect this constantly growing medium, embrace it!
If that doesn’t motivate you, perhaps this will. Research has shown that companies which build out a strong social media following which showcases their site content have improved search rankings over those that don’t. So get out there on social networks and start creating some buzz about your content.
Get “Above the Fold”
A picture is worth a thousand words. Yes, that’s true. But where you place that picture can be worth many thousands of dollars in revenue. Website real estate is incredibly important to think about, and can have some major ramifications on your overall SEO.
While it may look pretty to have large images at the top of every page that fill up your whole browser screen, it can actually negatively impact your ranking. Sites like Google are now running page layout algorithms, and if all of your meaty content is only available below the fold (meaning you need to scroll down to see it), your site could be penalized and reduced in the rankings.
Make sure you’ve got a balance of high-quality images and high-quality content near the top of each page to fully maximize your SEO.
Cloaking, though always frowned upon, used to be a tactic that could improve your SEO. The idea was to show a different destination for a link to users than was shown to website crawlers. Basically, this allows sites to show a completely different experience to a user than to the website crawler. A highly SEO optimized page is shown to the website crawler, while a much prettier page is shown to the user.
The problem is, search engines are all easily able to detect cloaked pages now and will either flag them or completely ban them.
It’s important to note that cloaking isn’t always bad, and it won’t always get you banned either. If the intent of cloaking is positive for both users and engines, such as content that is cookie-based and locked behind a subscription, or geo-targeting your website by location to best optimize a user-experience, you are most likely in the clear. Basically, if your intent isn’t deceptive, it’s probably ok.
These six tactics are just some of the many that can cause problems for your SEO. If you’re looking for additional information how you to improve your website, read our two-part article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Website Optimization.