Opening up an eCommerce store with BigCommerce is a big first step toward building your online business.
You’ve chosen an extremely powerful eCommerce platform with many great capabilities. The next, and most important, step is figuring out a way to get traffic that will turn into revenue consistently going to your site.
This guide will take you into BigCommerce SEO boot camp and get your site above and beyond industry standards.
Overview of SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best ways to drive organic and interested traffic to your site. The concept of ranking a specific page above the rest of the competition may sound simple, but, without any prior experience, the meticulous work of executing an effective strategy can be daunting.
At the root of an effective SEO campaign is focused keyword research, which will allow your page to show up in search engines whenever users search that specific keyword. Some keywords, such as keywords like “cheap running shoes” or “iPhone case coupon” that show buyer intent, are more competitive since they have a higher probability to convert into sales. Before you perform SEO, you want to know the keyword phrases you are targeting and what pages are targeting those phrases.
By utilizing high-quality SEO strategies, online retailers will be able to unleash the full potential of their store to increase sales and conversions. A few of the strategies that can boost your site traffic and conversion, off the bat, include:
In the last decade, online retailers have shifted from traditional marketing methods and, instead, flocked to using SEO services. As search engine rankings get more competitive, understanding how to get ahead of the curve and putting this knowledge into practice is going to ensure your eCommerce thrives in a highly competitive environment.
On the other side of the coin, since the first search results page gets 91.5% of clicks, those online retailers struggling to make it past the second page are doomed to obscurity. Without careful attention and an active, ongoing SEO strategy, a business could lose its traffic to competitors executing better strategies.
Thankfully, eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce have included SEO functionality to give online retailers a fighting chance to rank their website and product pages for a shot at traffic. Although BigCommerce has great “out of the box” SEO capabilities, it is recommended to go above and beyond what is offered in order to get ahead of the competition.
A few of the features that make BigCommerce a competitive eCommerce platform is their search friendly themes, automated sitemaps, microdata, and optimized URLs that make using it much easier “out of the box” than other platforms.
For online retailer beginners with limited SEO experience, this is a perfect tool to get started, because of the interface, and there is a smaller margin for error. 30% of all organic traffic comes from organic search, highlighting the ability of eCommerce sites to capture traffic for free with a good SEO strategy.
There are two main ways to optimize your BigCommerce site for SEO. The first is on-page optimization, where you are optimizing your web pages for search engines, and then off-page optimization, where you are optimizing for external factors like backlinks and social media shares.
Keyword research in 2017 requires a much more creative approach than just using a keyword planner. First, gather search terms that you believe your target customers would enter. The next step involves brainstorming to figure out as many word associations with those keywords as possible.
A few other strategies include using tools like SEMrush, analyzing what keywords competitors are tackling, and monitoring trending keywords on social media platforms.
After sifting through the dozens or hundreds of potential keywords, you want to make sure you target the ones that are likely to earn the highest payoff. This is also a great opportunity to gauge how competitive the root keywords are.
For example, the keyword “iPhone case” yields 117,000,000+ results. If we were to get a bit more specific with our keywords, “metallic iPhone cases” yields 1,070,000 results. Still no walk in the park but much more realistic than the former root keyword.
You want to have a comprehensive list of what keyword phrases you target per page. We talk more about on-page optimization and not just targeting keywords later, but it is still important to understand what keyword phrases will target each page. You want similar phrases to be incorporated on each landing page.
For example, you wouldn’t have different landing pages targeting “Black Hat” and “Blackish Hats.” You would want one page targeting both of those phrases.
Once we have our keywords for each page we want to target, we can execute our on-page optimization for these keywords.
The big changes with on-page optimization are how to do the optimization of the content. Five years ago, you would want to optimize your content solely based on keyword phrases and, now, you want to target keywords, keyword phrases, click-through-rate optimization (make calls to action to entice clicks), and searcher intent.
In short, do not optimize for a keyword but optimize for a user. Entice them to click, and tell them why they should click on your list.
For BigCommerce SEO, you want each of your category, product, blog, and CMS pages to have well-optimized meta descriptions, headers, quality content, and keyword-focused page titles.
Meta Descriptions: These are the descriptions that pop up in search engines along with your page. Meta descriptions are important because they showcase what visitors can expect to see on the page, and visitors determine whether or not your link is worthy of a click. You must pay special attention to the meta descriptions because, if you don’t manually change them, Google will either naturally select an excerpt from the page or show nothing at all. This takes the power away from the search result and eliminates some of the effectiveness of your click.
Headers: Search engine crawlers give importance to headers throughout your page when it comes to determining what the content is. For example, if your page is targeting the keyword “cheap shoes,” you would be doing your SEO a disservice by assigning an <H1> or <H2> header tag to something like “Our Products Under $25” instead of “Cheap Shoes Under $25.”
Keyword-Focused Page Titles: Similar to the use of headers, your page titles should also give search engine crawlers the opportunity to index your site properly. You want to have strong calls to action and brand differentiators in here to entice people to click on them because, like meta descriptions, this is what shows up in Google search.
Semantic Keywords: Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update expanded the capabilities of its search engine to understand the contextual meaning of user queries. For example, a Google search for the iconic quote from the movie Scarface “Say hello to my little friend!” now brings up search results primarily about Scarface. This also gave rise to rich snippet optimization.
Schema: Using schema markup allows users to insert microdata into their HTML code. This helps search engines to understand your content better. For example, if you use schema markup to tell search engines the following text is a recipe, search engines will understand that your page has to do with food and recipes, rather than just a myriad of measurements and ingredients.
Have you ever Googled something like “steps to change a tire,” and the first result wasn’t a page but an ordered list of steps? That’s a good schema markup. This schema also helps users create rich snippets that could possibly pop up in search results as a primary result since it is so well organized and matched to the keyword.
Since you use BigCommerce, your themes generally have this implemented so Google can index the price, reviews, or other features of your products. If not, work with your developer to implement it.
Content Creation & Marketing
With great content, other authoritative sites have an incentive to link to and reference your content. Organic link building practices work very well and can help rank your page very effectively, but manipulative practices like spamming blog comments and buying links could get your site penalized or potentially banned by Google.
The Importance of Content Marketing
Savvy internet entrepreneurs and online retailers utilize content to build their brand or persuade visitors to convert into fans or purchase products by offering content that creates some sort of value.
This content can come in the form of articles, videos, or images, and it is created with the goal of providing visitors with the information that they are looking for. By building rapport and creating a relationship in which your business is seen as a helpful and trusting figure, visitors will become more likely to convert into leads and customers.
The benefits of a good content strategy are numerous. Not only will your content provide visitors more value than a simple transactional website, if it is good enough it will urge other authoritative sites to link to it. These natural inbound links will help to boost your page through search engines more effectively.
Executing Content Marketing
Before diving into writing or commissioning content, you must first approach your goal strategically. What are the behaviors and characteristics of someone who would purchase something from your store? Using Google Analytics, you can analyze what sort of traffic is coming to your site. If you sell car accessories and 80% of your traffic consists of males from age 24-35 years, then you are starting to put some flesh on the bones of your content marketing plan. This information will help you to gauge the tone in which your content should be written.
So, how do you find out what your customers want? The beauty of the internet is that it, essentially, opens the forum to make entering any conversation not only socially acceptable but encouraged for third parties and other brands. Just by scoping out pages similar to your industry on Reddit or questions on Quora, you can gauge what questions are being asked. You can even answer them on those platforms to get your name and brand out there. In this car accessories example, car-lover Reddit pages would be an excellent place to start.
After you find your target audience, think about what type of content would best address their challenges. If your customers were looking for car accessories, chances are they care about their automobile enough to go above and beyond to make it look better.
The goal is to find out what questions your potential buyers are asking and to be the one with the best answer. Search engines will reward anyone having the best answer (content) by placing their page higher on the results page. Those long-tail keywords we were looking for often come in the form of questions, giving you an excellent opportunity to address visitor concerns.
Off-Page Optimization – Backlinks & Social Media Signals
Off-page optimization becomes much easier if you already have good content on your site. Since we’ve already taken care of our content in the previous section, we now have an arsenal of value to offer our visitors.
In order to capitalize on this, we will want to get links to our content from other sources. If a visitor finds some useful utility from the content on your site, they might be compelled to reference your article on their site and include a link.
In a perfect world, your good content would seamlessly find people willing to link to it. Realistically, the process is nowhere near as simple as this. This is where content marketing comes into play. The first step is prospecting relevant authoritative sites that might find your content interesting and reaching out to ask if they would be willing to link out to it, as it may provide some value to their readers. In order to accomplish this, it’s best to build rapport and relationships with those sites.
Getting backlinks through editorial content is an excellent way to get links and traffic to your site. As a reputable authority with excellent content on your site, you could offer to submit editorial content on a relevant site in exchange for having a link or two on your article back to your site through the content or the author bio. Plus, having content out there promoting you as the thought leader is always a winning strategy in SEO for BigCommerce.
Beyond SEO: BigCommerce Is Also Loaded with Other Marketing Features
BigCommerce is a powerful platform that is packed with features that help users drive more traffic to their site and build awareness. Although BigCommerce has great SEO capabilities, it also has other capabilities to drive qualified visitors and sales.
Integration with Google Shopping
Since BigCommerce is integrated with Google Shopping, users can advertise to shoppers actively looking for products on Google. This is a highly valuable feature since, if utilized correctly, users will be able to target purchase-ready traffic and save precious resources. By automatically listing all their products on Google shopping, BigCommerce users are able to reach another source of traffic. Users won’t have to manually update inventory, manage feeds, or add new arrivals across multiple platforms.
This can be a great strategy when paired with a solid SEO foundation since the traffic from Google Shopping will send more users to your site. Since that traffic consists mainly of active shoppers, they will likely browse your store and spend more time around your site than average traffic. Since the on-site time can improve your search engine rankings, it is highly important to have a clean and navigable site that is attractive to users.
Use Email Marketing to Push Return Visits
BigCommerce allows users to sync their store data to HubSpot and MailChimp. This is very useful, as it allows store owners to promote certain products based on a few different strategic features, such as buying history and the length of relationship with the store. This information allows users to develop highly specific targeted lists to do everything from sending specific products and discounts to giving long-term customers rewards and incentives to re-visit your site.
While email marketing is useful for targeting the sort of traffic that is likely to purchase something from your site, it also gives you an excellent opportunity to experiment with different landing pages and editorial content. We will get into the importance of editorial content later, but, by sending targeted traffic to specific designated landing or power pages, it gives you an extra opportunity to qualify leads or upsell certain complementary products.
For example, let’s suppose you sell car accessories, and you’ve collected an email list of 1000 visitors who bought air fresheners. You could send one of two similar, yet very different, emails focused on upselling them other products from your site.
The first option is sending an email that says “Hey, you bought an air freshener, so why don’t you buy some seat cleaner, too?” This would likely be eagerly dismissed and force large unsubscribes.
The second option is to send a non-intrusive email with a link to a blog piece on your site titled “15 Beautiful Custom Car Interiors” or “The Cheapest Way to Revitalize Your Car’s Interior.” It’s not directly pushing a sale, but it builds rapport with your email list and gives you the opportunity to sparingly insert links to your products throughout the piece.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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