If you’ve been in the e-commerce world for any length of time you know when it comes to driving traffic, Google is king. Unlike the days of brick and mortar, customers are no longer the only ones we have to please. More and more, managing a successful e-commerce store is about leveraging customer experience with search engine optimization.
Known in the biz as SEO, search engine optimization is really where it’s at. I like to think of this as making Google happy. When Google is happy with your site it shows in your traffic. Happy search, happy sales.
So how do you please the search engine gods without throwing your customers to the wolves? Luckily, Google and other search engines have been moving in the direction of pleasing customers. This means they are rewarding sites for things that make the customer’s life a little easier. For instance, Google knows most people don’t like to be bombarded with nothing but ads when they open a page, so it penalizes sites that use those spamming techniques. For e-commerce store managers like us, this is great news. It means the struggle to align customer experience and SEO is a little less daunting.
While Google still has some seemingly unexplainable pet peeves we have to worry about, there are a few tips that can help your store get more love from Google and your customers alike. Here are five things I recommend implementing on your site:
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m always blown away by the number of sites I come across that have really poor navigation.
If your customers can’t find what they are looking for FAST – they will leave the site. It’s that simple.
The days of listing out every single page link on the homepage are over. Shoppers today are savvy and have low attention spans. I recommend using a multi-level navigation with links to your top-level pages on the top or left column. From there your site pages should branch out like a tree with sub-categories that make sense to your customer. This will go a long way in making your customers and Google happy.
If your on-site experience is poor, Google will push your site down the list and show sites that customers find easier to use. Commercial Industrial Supply practices these efforts, providing all main category pages and subcategory pages within once click of the homepage: view site navigation.
Easy Access to Company Information
This one is slightly less obvious, but also very important. Online store managers know a vital part of the buying equation is trust, and showing customers who you are is a great way to earn it.
Savvy customers will expect professional and fully functional service pages, and Google likes them too. The more established and up-standing your store is in the eyes of Google, the better. And don’t think you can just stick these pages in the background, either. Search engine crawlers want them to be easy to find.
Unique Product Descriptions
If you’re a reseller you’ve probably been tempted to use the copy and paste method for filling in product descriptions on your site. If someone else has already written a perfectly good description why should I bother changing it?
For one, Google is not a fan of copied content. In fact, if the search engine finds duplicate content and decides your site is not the original source, it often will not show that page in search results. Not good! By writing your own product descriptions (unless you are legally obligated to use the seller’s materials) you can feed Google’s appetite for content AND engage your customers with something they won’t find on any other site. Get creative with it and try to make it as substantive as possible.
Think of questions your customers may have about the product and answer them in the description. After all, customers are more likely to buy if they know exactly what they are getting.
Category Level Content
When I say Google loves content, I mean it. The more unique content you can include without making your site seem ridiculous and bloated, the better-rounded it looks to search engines. This makes category pages prime real estate that many sites don’t take advantage of.
Just like with your product descriptions, you want to use quality unique content to provide your customers with information about the group of products they’re looking at. What makes this category different from others, and what is special about the selection you offer? By making your category and subcategory pages a little more dimensional and relevant to the product, you are also creating great potential landing pages for your site. You don’t need a five page essay here, just enough to describe the category and give some information.
An Active Blog
Adding a blog to your store’s site is a great way to add some dimension and authority – not to mention content. By entering the blogging world, your store is also able to reach a larger audience and develop a more interactive role with potential customers.
Take a few hours out of your week or month to write some unique posts or ask guest bloggers to write a post for you. This is your opportunity to talk about topics that aren’t necessarily straight advertisements for your store, but broaden your site’s scope to the greater market or industry. Look at this example on a commercial supply site. PVC pipe may not seem like blogger-friendly material, but by including articles with useful contractor information and DIY tutorials, this site is able to convey a sense of authority on all subjects PVC. By branching out from just product pages, your site will look more legitimate to customers and search engines.
Keeping up with SEO trends is a daunting task for any site manager, but by taking advantage of some of these basic principles you can build a site with a strong foundation in both SEO and usability. If your site is already up and running, a few of these changes may seem daunting, but in the end they are worth it. Remember – happy search, happy sales!
About the Author: Amanda is a seasoned e-commerce content and merchandising specialist and is currently a content manager for Commercial Industrial Supply. Have your own advice for making Google happy? Leave a comment or reach me on twitter @amandablogspvc.