If you build it they will come, right? Don’t count on it – certainly not in the crowded and competitive online retail industry.
Once you’ve got your web store operational and can accept payments through an online payment gateway (such as DalPay!), the next step is to get people through the door. Just like for brick-and-mortar stores, the most important thing for marketing your business is visibility.
This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.
The purpose of SEO is simple: to make it as easy as possible for online shoppers to find your website. It consists of a set of techniques designed to make your website appear as high as possible in the search results page on Google, Bing, etc.
Key Elements of SEO
To put it simply, how search engines work is by sending out millions of robots to comb the internet identifying which websites would be the most useful to their users. There are 4 main elements they use to determine how highly each site should be ranked in their results:
- Keywords: Keywords are the terms browsers are searching for. The main function of SEO is to leverage keywords. For example, by modifying the structure and content of your website, you can incorporate keywords that are relevant to your products and that your target market is using to search for similar products on the web.
- Link Building: Both on-site and off-site, it’s important to build a network of links that direct browsers to your most important pages. Search engines will base the legitimacy of a webpage on how many other pages link to it, and how highly ranked those other pages are.
- Usability: Your website navigation should be straightforward and easy-to-use. Not only does this make for a more pleasurable experience for your visitors, but search engines look down upon websites that are convoluted or have too many levels, and will rank them lower on their results page.
- Analytics: Another way to identify the legitimacy of a website is to measure how many other people are using it. Each visitor you have, especially if they remain on your page for a significant amount of time, is a vote of confidence and signals to search engines that your website is indeed useful to their users.
If you’re worried that SEO is no longer effective, too expensive, or not worth the effort, you couldn’t be further from the truth. 90% of consumers use search engines when making purchase decisions , do you really want to ignore that potential audience?
How to Increase your SEO Score
It’s important to target keywords that your potential audience would realistically use. If you simply leverage the most popular search terms in order to attract anybody and everybody to your website, many people will realise immediately that this is not what they’re looking for and will return to the search page. This is called a “bounce”. Bounces signal to search engines that visitors to your site have decided that it is not what they are looking for. Sites with a high bounce rate are ranked lower by search engines.
Optimise your Website:
Slow loading speeds and errors on your website can have a serious effect on your rating. The slower your site loads the less valuable it will be considered by search engines, since most users will abandon a site after only 3 seconds of loading . Errors such as 404 pages, duplicate content or broken images need to be identified and fixed before the search engines have a chance to notice them and punish you by lowering your rating.
Use tools such as:
- Screaming Frog, a free tool which tests your site’s links, images, CSS, script and apps “from an SEO perspective” and provides you with a summary of any flaws and errors it finds.
- Pingdom, a free tool which tests the speed of your website so that you can identify whether you need to buy more server space to lower your loading times.
Eliminate Duplicate Content:
Depending on what kind of products you sell or the way your website navigation is designed, it’s easy to find yourself with duplicate content. If your products have multiple colours or sizes you may have several pages for each variation; however, this appears to search engines like spam and can get you ranked lower.
Find a way to include products variations within the same page, or if you must use several similar pages you can use the canonical tag to identify pages that you do not want indexed by search engines. You can also add nofollow attributes to links that point to areas of duplicate content in order to turn away search engine crawlers.
Leverage Social Media:
Social media is a boon to SEO practitioners for its utility in link building, user-generated content and reputation management. Signals from social media, including the number of followers, community engagement and content sharing tells search engines that your brand and website are valuable to their users.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is especially important for new and small online businesses. While mastering SEO allows you to get your website into the top position of search engine results for free, it takes a long time to build the network of links and the audience to get search engines to turn their heads. SEM, on the other hand, can give your company visibility right away by letting you purchase ad space on the results page for keywords that relate to your business, and the visitors you get through SEM help improve your SEO ranking as well.
Always keep it fresh. SEO best practices are constantly evolving as search engines develop better ways to get their users to the right places. By keeping a watchful eye on your website analytics you can identify which of your SEO campaigns are performing well and how to deploy your resources most effectively. Pay attention to your bounce rates, paid vs. organic traffic, brand vs. non-brand keyword performance, and long-tail vs. short-tail traffic.
Don’t Forget the Classics:
Good customer service never goes out of style – it’s even more important to the overall success of your business than SEO. In the age of social media, a bad review can spread like wildfire and severely impact your ability to reach new customers. More traditional forms of marketing can be effective as well, such as email marketing, maintaining a social media presence, and getting your business reviewed by popular blogs and news outlet.
If you have any questions about implementing good SEO practices for your web store, feel free to contact us, and keep visiting the DalPay blog for more e-commerce advice and tips! We’ll be posting articles that can help you get the most out of your e-commerce business each week. If you have suggestions for an article, or questions you’d like to have answered, let us know.