My last blog outlined the main SEO tools that businesses need. Tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, when set up correctly, help you monitor both the positive and negative factors that affect your site’s SEO.
Mobile friendliness – The degree to which your site is mobile friendly will affect your SEO. In April 2015, mobile friendliness became a significant ranking factor for Google in determining a page’s position on the SERPs for Google visitors on mobile devices. Use Webmaster Tools (WMTs) such as Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to monitor and improve your site’s mobile friendliness. As a separate tool, Google offers a quick test that reviews your URL and reports whether the page has a mobile-friendly design.
Keyword rankings – When your site contains relevant, quality content related to search phrases frequently used by visitors of Internet search engines, then these are positive signals for your SEO. Use WMTs to see which keywords and pages rank highest; use this information to determine which content on your site is most influential. Avoid the temptation to pack more of those high-ranking keywords into every page of your site – this could backfire and send out negative signals. Instead, use the keyword data to guide your content development and focus.
Links from other sites to yours – The links you naturally earn from sites with high domain authority (like when you’re mentioned in an e-commerce industry article) equate to positive signals that increase your rankings. However, resist the urge to outright ask publications or associations to add a link to your site – Google has mysterious ways to discern whether a link is simply requested or actually earned. Instead, create standout blogs and provide valuable industry news through social media and PR efforts. When you deliver information that others want to share, you truly earn links that boost your overall SEO efforts.
Structured Data – Structured data improves the bots’ understanding of the entities (products, organizations, blog posts, video objects, etc.) referenced on your site. You can improve the visibility of your pages by marking up the main entities and ensuring organizational markup is present on all pages. Check that structured data used on your side is understood correctly using the tools provided by Bing and Google. Keep in mind that incorrectly implementing structured data might do more harm than good.
Negative signals to watch and minimize include:
Crawl errors – A common crawl error that triggers a warning from WMT is a soft 404. If search engine bots pick up on pages that no longer exist and a no-results page is shown but not accompanied with a 404 http return code, this is a negative quality signal against the domain. To be clear, showing no-results pages is not a bad practice in itself – there are even possibilities to engage with visitors on them. However, they always need to be accompanied with a 404. On spotting soft 404s, you should immediately engage with your web designers to ensure the no-results page behaves as expected. Once the fix is in place, you might choose to “fetch” or “fetch and render” the no longer existing page to ensure it is returning the desired 404 response.
Large number of URLs on site – WMTs will send you warnings if you use too many URLs on your site, which could negatively affect your SEO. To correct this problem, you need to take a hard look at the pages that are already found. The WMT warning message will contain some example URLs; go through the list and confirm whether you want all of these URLs to be indexed. In addition, check for canonicalization issues. Ensure you have blocked access to your site search so that the bots cannot crawl your search. Even if someone links to a result page of your local site search, you don’t want Internet search engine bots crawling the page and adding it to their indexes.
Also think about indexation depth within your site navigation so you can avoid too many pages getting indexed. Generate an impressions/clicks report from the top pages to understand how much attention your deeper pages generate. Limit access to deep pages and consider not allowing all navigation refinements to be indexed.
HTML signals for missing, duplicate, too long or too short meta descriptions or title tags – Meta data still matters, and it’s easy to add any missing meta descriptions or title tags. WMT offers HTML improvement suggestions to show you any meta data that needs correcting. Simply add a description or title that is relevant to the topic and content of the page, within the provided character limits, and then you’ve resolved your problem.
If these tips were helpful, feel free to download our SEO Guidebook, “How to Get the SEO-Driven Revenue You’re Missing.”
The time-honored tradition of buying new clothes, shoes, backpacks, pencils and notebooks in anticipation of the school year is a serious retail event – second only to the winter holiday season.
The National Retail Federation predicts the average back-to-school family will spend $630 while the average back-to-college family will spend $899 for an industry total of $68 billion this year.
But the tradition is changing. Shoppers are shifting how and when they will buy back-to-school supplies, according to recent surveys by the National Retail Federation and Deloitte.
Regarding the when, there is a trend toward procrastination. Deloitte’s 2015 Back-to-School Survey reveals 31% of consumers won’t complete their shopping until after school starts this year. Many are reusing supplies and restocking as needed.
How parents and students are shopping is also changing. Brick-and-mortar stores are still the main place of purchase. But for the first time in the Deloitte survey, online shopping was the second most common response when participants were asked, “In what types of retail environments do you plan to do your back-to-school shopping?”
In 2012, only 20% of respondents said online sites were among their top five back-to-school shopping destinations. This year, that number was 44%.
The top back-to-school spending categories are clothes, electronics, shoes and school supplies such as notebooks and backpacks, according to the National Retail Federation. Deloitte’s survey broke spending down even further to find that electronics are more likely to be bought online than other back-to-school purchases.
As online shopping gains popularity among the back-to-school crowd, the use of smartphones and tablets is also increasing. More than 40% of back-to-college shoppers are using mobile devices to research and price compare, and more than 30% plan to make purchases via their smartphones or tablets, according to the National Retail Federation.
Free shipping is a big selling point, but so is the option to buy online and pick up at the store, which will be used by almost half of back-to-school shoppers, according to the National Retail Federation.
Mobile shoppers are also using smartphones to find store locations and locate in-store products. Meaning retailers that want an A from parents and students should focus on providing a strong omnichannel experience, including mobile-friendly sites with geolocation services and accurate in-store inventory.
Just as in retail stores, making sure your online site is geared to sell most effectively can’t be overstated. Building online merchandising equivalents of in-store experiences promises that shoppers will not only find what they came to your site to find, but will also discover other products too.
Good in-store merchandising can:
- increase traffic by offering attractive visual experiences
- increase sales by featuring products through promotions and displays
- build loyalty through appealing, easy-to-access settings
As you build out the merchandising functionality on your site, keep these best practices in mind.
Let Your Data Drive Programs
Knowing what your shoppers are interested in helps you respond to current trends and anticipate future promotional opportunities. When customers search, they’re telling you exactly what they want. Leverage data from search keywords and browsing behavior to power your email and advertising campaigns to get the most traction for your time and money.
Make Discovery Easy
Isn’t it helpful when you enter a store and a sales associate helps you find the exact item you’re looking for? Make the same true for online experiences. You can do this in a few ways: first, offer search that provides the most relevant products in the first couple rows. Second, show the most relevant products visually as the search query is entered, through rich autocomplete. And third, tie the most popular keywords to promotions that you feature on your home page.
Merchandise Across Channels
Don’t forget the mobile experience! A streamlined mobile experience that works around the physical constraints of a mobile device will make it easier for shoppers to find (and buy!) what they want. For instance, keeping your search box front and center on every page is critical to keeping shoppers on your site so they don’t waste time navigating an entire site. Additionally, adding refinements in large, tap-friendly dropdowns lets shoppers narrow down to the most applicable results.
These ideas just scratch the surface of making your site a super-powered merchandising machine. We recently spoke with Sri PV, E-Commerce Internal Marketing Manager at Dressbarn, about how he puts these online merchandising fundamentals (and many more) into practice every day. You can hear the full discussion here.
For baseline measurement of your site traffic and SEO performance, not only should you have a GA account, along with Google and Bing WMT accounts, but you need to ensure they are set up correctly. They will provide valuable insight on your site’s performance and monitor the factors that affect your site’s SEO.
This blog covers offers tips on getting the most out of GA and WMT, as well as suggests third-party tools that are helpful to improve your SEO. This is part of our blog series on SEO.
Google Analytics (GA) offers all the basic knowledge you need to track your site traffic and evaluate factors that affect your SEO. When set up properly, GA provides analytics on:
- Search Traffic – amount and quality of traffic coming from search engines, including visitor demographics and how they found your site
- Keyword Effectiveness – which keywords are driving traffic and conversions
- Content Performance – which site pages and landing pages are driving the most traffic
- Sales and Conversions – which search results and pages users click on that result in a sale
- Engagement Metrics – which parts of your site have the best/worst engagement metrics
- Rich Segmentation of Traffic – specific segmentation of metrics (e.g. segmenting metrics by device type)
To get the most out of your GA reports, Google offers a setup checklist that includes steps for installing a tracking code, identifying goals for what you want to track, linking to AdWords and/or AdSense, optimizing keywords, and tracking e-commerce performance against keywords and marketing campaigns.
There are a number of common mistakes made with GA setup that can significantly skew your results – and therefore, the quality of the data you’re using. For Google Analytics to be effective, you need to make sure you filter out fake traffic from botnets and avoid using too many profile filters. Also, it’s a good idea to use other analytics tools to double check your GA numbers. For more on common mistakes to avoid when setting up Google Analytics, watch this SLI recorded webinar.
Webmaster Tools are both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools (WMTs) provide you with important information needed to monitor factors that will influence your site’s SEO. WMTs go beyond Google Analytics to provide insight on how your site is viewed by search engines. It will notify you of broken links, crawl errors, HTML errors and other potential problems. You’ll most likely want to set up Google Search Console first. With recent changes to traffic distribution, however, Bing’s Webmaster Tools (showing data for both Bing and Yahoo!) should not be ignored.
To decide which WMT to focus on first, check your GA statistics for insight into which organic search sources drive the most traffic to your specific site. Then set up your WMT account. SEO expert Bruce Clay has a free online newsletter that goes through the WMT set up process in detail. Or you can get yourself started with Google at www.google.com/webmasters/tools.
Once your analytics, Webmaster Tools, site pages and URLs are properly set up, it’s time to monitor, tweak and repeat on a regular basis. Your Webmaster Tools will become your best friend, as they offer insight into how you can increase the positive signals and reduce the negative signals that will affect your site’s SEO
Third-party SEO Tools
There are hundreds of third-party tools available to further improve your SEO. Take a look at a few of these resources to see what might work well for you. Also, don’t forget to look at what third-party tools your direct competitors are using – if they’re more successful than your site in SEO, it’s a good idea to know what they’re doing to get there.
Here are a few third-party SEO tools that are popular:
- Moz, SEM Rush, Search Metrics: Several inexpensive, powerful tools that track your ranking of keywords over periods of time include Moz, SEM Rush and Search Metrics. These tools can also show you when a competitor started a campaign that targets your keywords.
- SpyFu: For between $79 and $1,000 per month, SpyFu shows you your competitors’ most profitable keywords and ads. This offers insight into their success so you can build a strategy to beat them at it!
- Screaming Frog: This low-cost tool crawls your site and provides an onsite SEO audit so you know where to improve SEO elements like URL, page title, meta description or duplicate page issues. Screaming Frog can also reveal issues with your site navigation and discoverability of content.The free version may be sufficient for spot checks. Make sure your site can sustain the load the tool might generate.
- Google Instant Search: For an incredibly simple, free tool for keyword discovery, start typing a keyword into a Google search box to see which suggested, common search phrases pop up first. As an example, when you type “pants for,” you’re shown different suggestions than when you type “jeans for.”
- Ubersuggest: Another easy-to-use tool for keyword generation, Ubersuggest.org is a free resource where you can plug in keywords, choose a language and source, and receive further keyword suggestions.
For more on improving your site’s SEO, please download our free white paper, “How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing.” Also take a look at SLI Systems’ solution for improving SEO, SLI Site Champion.
Like many, I wasn’t planning on a shopping spree this week, but now I feel it’s unavoidable. I started making a mental wish list as soon as I heard Amazon’s Prime Day described as “more deals than Black Friday.”
Now with Walmart and others joining the frenzy, Wednesday will be a must-not-miss shopping day. Just like that, the power of the words “Black Friday” have magically created a shopping holiday on a normal weekday in the middle of the year surrounded by no real shopping occasion.
Of course, Christmas in July sales aren’t new, and there’s a reason they work. We aren’t feeling the pain from last year’s holiday purchases and we aren’t yet concerned about saving for the upcoming holiday season, either. In fact, it’s the perfect time to buy something you’ve been eying for yourself.
While many retailers have mid-summer sales, the idea of many retailers having them at the same time creates an event – and compels shoppers to buy. (Think of the original Black Friday and Boxing Day.)
But why should Amazon and Walmart have all the fun? It’s not too late to ride the tide of Prime Day with your own better-than-Black-Friday sale. The beauty of online retailing is merchandising can be changed quickly based on what’s trending. In this case, it’s a mid-summer sale, and I say, the more the merrier.
Amazon’s practice of misleading customers with search results is again on trial, after the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling on a trademark infringement suit by Multi Time Machine, Inc. (MTM).
MTM charged Amazon with infringing on its trademark by creating “a likelihood of confusion” when customers search Amazon for “MTM Special Ops Watch,” which is the name of a military-style watch sold by MTM. Amazon uses the MTM Special Ops name multiple times on search results pages, even though they do not sell MTM watches.
Now MTM is entitled to a new trial, or Amazon may try to settle. Either way, it’s time for Amazon to stop fooling its shoppers. Whether they win or lose the case, Amazon should think more about site search best practices that will win loyal customers.
Here’s some advice on how Amazon and other retailers can expertly handle searches that turn up zero results:
- Be honest. Search results should never be tricky. The search box is the one area of your site where customers get to tell you exactly what they want. Smart retailers either give customers what they ask for or apologize for not having it. If you mislead customers into looking at other items, they’ll soon realize that you aren’t showing what they want. They’ll feel fooled and will leave frustrated.
- Think of the customer experience first. Online businesses depend on repeat customers. You’re not a temporary pop-up shop trying to get quick impulse buys without the concern of having buyers return to your store. When you show customers that you understand what they’re requesting and you’re doing your best to help them find it, it builds lasting respect.
- Be smart about merchandising on no-results pages. When you don’t have the specific product or brand that a customer requests, you can still offer alternate items without insulting his or her intelligence. There are a number of possible responses, like “We’re sorry we don’t carry items from that brand, but the following brands are popular with our customers.” In the case of MTM watches, Amazon should state up-front: “We don’t sell MTM watches, but here are similar products you might like.”
- Give suggestions for better search results. Sports Authority handles the no-results page by offering a “Did you mean _____” suggestion, along with the text: “You may have typed your word incorrectly or are being too specific. Try using a broader search phrase or try one of our most popular search phrases,” followed by a word cloud of popular searches.
- Reduce the number of no-results pages. Be sure your site search provider includes synonyms and alternate spellings in your search to reduce the number of “no result” searches. After implementing this practice with SLI Systems Learning Search®, Sports Authority saw a 300% reduction in no-results searches.
- Study the search terms that end in no results. In its Big Book of Site Search Tips, SLI encourages clients to review their Top No-results Search Report regularly to see what customers look for that does not come up in search results. Paying attention to no-results searches often uncovers opportunities for new items to add to the inventory. It also allows businesses to craft creative responses to a specific no-results result.
Beyond potential legal ramifications, Amazon should change the language on its search results pages for the sake of delivering what customers want. Other retailers can follow best practices from the start, and not have to worry about trademark infringement.
The U.S. Supreme Court opened a new opportunity for merchandising on Friday, June 26. Whether or not you agree with the 5-4 decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, it’s undeniable that it’s a prime marketing opportunity for retailers. Earlier this week, Multichannel Merchant published more than 20 examples of “How E-commerce Responded to the Marriage Equality Decision.”
For e-commerce businesses wanting to capitalize on the surge of online shoppers looking for items related to gay pride and same-sex weddings, below are my recommendations:
- Watch and respond to top search terms: Pay attention to changes in shopper behavior over standard baseline behaviors prior to the Supreme Court ruling. In particular, look at search keywords for new or increasingly popular terms. For example, a jeweler may see a sudden spike in a phrase like “men’s engagement ring.” Because the search box is the one place on your site where shoppers can articulate their shopping missions without being channeled by your site navigation, search terms are strong early indicators of changes in shopper intent.
- Consider which products are a fit. The types of products you offer will vary based on your industry segment. The above example cites a change in jewelry preferences, but a florist may see an increase in desire for rainbow floral arrangements or a party supply retailer might sell more rainbow-colored decorations. You may decide that none of your products logically tie in to this current event, in which case you’ll want to wait until you have related products or skip this merchandising opportunity entirely. Shoppers are less likely to respond to a promotion that seems forced.
- Look at top search terms with poor click-through rates. Search terms with low click-through rates can identify recent demand that your site and inventory are not meeting. Sometimes you can solve these shortcomings simply by adding synonyms to your database. Other times you can address them with special promotions or merchandising information. In the long term, these terms may reveal new areas for inventory expansion.
- Create just-in-time merchandising campaigns. Create campaigns for products expected to be popular among supporters of gay marriage. Use custom banners and landing pages or even tune search results and recommendations to more ably direct shoppers to the products they are likely to want in this area. For example, a retailer may create a custom landing page around a phrase like “Pride party” with a themed banner and curated product results.
- Remember SEO/SEM. Keep your SEO/SEM team apprised of top trending terms to ensure your keyword strategy is up to date.
Among the SLI Systems customer base, we have noticed the word rainbow coming up as a term with poor results so far this week. We advise appropriate retailers to examine the word rainbow specifically to see if it is a trending term that deserves one of the responses detailed above.
Current events, as well as holidays, seasons and trends, are great positioning points for retailers. If you keep an eye on what your shoppers are already searching for online, you’ll find an endless number of ways to merchandise your products.
For more merchandising strategies to drive your online revenue, download our white paper “Use Site Search Data to Improve Merchandising.” Also, take a look at this video to see what you can do with our latest merchandising solution, SLI Landing Page Creator.
Summer is officially here. But before your shoppers can splash in the pool or lounge on the beach, there is one necessary item of attire that must be purchased – a bathing suit.
Is there anything quite like bathing suit shopping? Or should I say, is there anything quite like purchasing undergarments to wear in public in front of friends, their husbands and their children?
Traditionally, beachgoers could look forward to the following shopping experience:
1. Drive to the store.
2. Locate the ever-disorganized bathing suit selection.
3. Find a print and pattern that isn’t revolting.
4. Rifle through racks for the correct size.
5. Head to the fluorescent-lit dressing room walled with multiple, full-length mirrors.
6. Try it on. Hate it and deeply regret not sticking to those lose-weight-get-in-shape New Year’s resolutions.
7. Exhaust all options at that store.
8. Repeat the entire process, losing hours (and a good portion of self-esteem) in the black hole of bathing suit shopping.
Could someone please bring me a mai tai? I’m having anxiety just thinking about this.
Luckily, we live in the era of online shopping. Smart and thoughtful online retailers have the opportunity to transform the bathing suit buying experience into something that feels like a vacation. Here’s how:
1. Showcase your summer selections with editorial-style landing pages. You can create an entire poolside look – hat, sunglasses, bag, skirt, sandals and bathing suit – and drive potential shoppers directly to the tailored landing page by using dedicated URLs in email campaigns, social media posts or pay-per-click advertising.
2. Guide visitors to the perfect suit with a product finder that feels like a personal shopper. By asking a series of questions, you can lead shoppers to a great selection based on budget, style and even body type. For instance, one shopper might want a bikini under $80 to show off her athletic frame while another might want a one piece that will make her look 10 pounds slimmer regardless of the cost. Either way, your shoppers will appreciate your expert guidance.
3. One swimsuit definitely does not fit all. Make sizing simple and boost buying confidence by including measurement guidelines. Taking Shape does this right with an easy-to-understand sizing chart on its website tsplus14.com.au.
4. At a minimum, visitors should be able to search by style, color and size. But make sure they can also easily see what’s in stock along with ratings and reviews. No point in falling in love with a suit that’s not available in your size, and a rave review (“I look so good in this thing it’s all I wear!”) can help seal the deal.
5. Save the day with in-store pick up. As an online retailer with brick-and-mortar locations, giving shoppers the ability to shop online and find the item at the nearest location is a serious convenience, especially for those who may have delayed shopping until the day before the big swim party.
Let your shoppers save the mai tais for the beach by giving them a bathing suit buying experience that’s truly relaxing!
There is a compelling correlation between well-ranking webpages and them having user friendly URLs. Therefore, improving your site’s URLs is one of many simple ways you can optimize your SEO. Just follow these guidelines:
Identify the Top Keywords to Use – In the actual URL, use keywords that summarize the topic and content of the page. These are often the same keywords as used in the page titles. Making URLs SEO-friendly starts with the discipline of creating quality content where each page is focused on one main topic that can be described in 1-3 words.
Keep the URL Short – Use a few keywords only to keep the URL as short as possible. Any keyword required to state the page topic should be in the URL but nothing else. This not only helps in SEO, but also makes it easy for users to copy and paste or even remember the URL.
Use Real Words – Avoid use of numbers, special characters (with the exception of hyphens, which are recommended to separate words) or made-up words – unless they are a key component of your brand. Only use words that someone might search for. Try to stay clear of URL query strings (URL part following a “?” towards the end of the URL) entirely.
Remove Articles – Take out unnecessary words like “the,” “and” and “an.”
Use Hyphens – A simple hyphen is the best way to separate words; they’re found to be easier to use and to read than an underline mark, period or white space between words.
Use a Consistent Case – Be consistent in whether you use lowercase, uppercase or camelcase words in your URLs. Whichever you choose, follow the same style for all.
Avoid Canonicalization Issues – These issues can arise when multiple URLs direct to the same webpage. Most home pages, for example, can be called up by using any of the following structures:
However, you want to choose one preferred URL for each page and have the others use a canonical tag. Otherwise, your page authority for these pages can diminish, which negatively impacts your SEO. In addition, you are wasting crawl capacity that might prevent some pages from getting crawled.
Generally speaking, canonicalization issues are considered bad website design, and once they are spotted by Internet search engine bots, it will negatively impact the rankings of the entire site. It is common for duplicate content issues to be canonicalization issues in disguise. If content moves, you should set up a 301 redirect from the old URL to the current page. By grouping the duplicate pages together in this way, their combined ranking signals work together for better overall search engine ranking.
We will continue with this blog series on Improving Your E-commerce SEO. Please subscribe to our blog to ensure you are informed about new posts. Also, download our free white paper, “How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing” for more best practices on improving your e-commerce site.
SLI has been at every IRCE for the past 11 years, but this year was especially exciting as we hosted a live podcast from our booth, over-packed a room at Lawry’s for an invitation-only retailer dinner, revealed our latest merchandising solution and shared cocktails and e-commerce tips among many new friends, as well as existing customers.
The SLI booth was buzzing with activity – and with the enjoyment of free margaritas during the Tuesday night cocktail hour! Throughout the show, we offered live demos and taped podcasts with customers including Dollar Tree, Yarn.com, Carolina Rustica, Steiner Tractor and Zachys Wine and Liquor. Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed to be sure you don’t miss these podcasts, which offer advice and success stories from top retailers.
Hundreds of retailers approached us, seeking to understand how SLI can help them increase top-line revenue. Many wanted to hear about SLI Landing Page Creator, which makes it easier than ever to create SEO-friendly landing pages that display learning-based search results. Retail Touchpoints offered a nice write-up on how 2 Wheel Parts supply is using Landing Page Creator in PPC campaigns and other promotions.
We had many discussions about the increasing importance of video and other non-product content for retailers; there was a great deal of interest in how we integrate this content into the rest of the online purchasing experience. (We happen to have an e-book on this topic, “How Creative Content Convinces Online Shoppers to Buy.”)
Other retailers were interested in SLI Mobile, especially after seeing the effect of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” algorithm change in April. We also met up with long-time industry partners and established new partnerships at the show.
In short, IRCE 2015 was a great success. We look forward to working with both our newest customers and our long-time fans to ensure the rest of 2015 is filled with rising revenue.