Setting up shop is only one of the first steps to actually making consistent sales on your online store. There are many strategies to bring traffic to your site, but one of the best long-term strategies by far is with search engine optimization.
Search engines have become a ubiquitous element of the online experience for millions of users. The Search Engine Journal accurately assesses the critical importance of search engine optimization to ecommerce success with this statistic: 93% of online activity begins with a search. Avoiding search engine optimization could quickly place you in the minority of online experiences, a status which could be lethal to your ecommerce goals.
As such, online businesses have pushed to optimize their search engine strategies to better target the right kinds of traffic to great success. Search engine optimization has reached such a degree of familiarity that even individuals whose profession falls far outside the realm of digital marketing can still explain the relationship between keywords and their listing on search engine results.
With that in mind, it would initially seem to be somewhat of a ‘no-brainer’ that business owners should optimize their on-page content in order to make themselves more competitive within the online arena.
Whether or not SEO gives more traffic is answered by thousands of case studies proving it has, but when asked HOW it may contribute positively to something as vital as e-commerce, for example, it’s much more difficult for most eCommerce Directors to deliver a clear and concise answer.
This should not come as a surprise. Internet technology and industry best SEO practices have evolved far more rapidly than users have been able to assess its full potential.
You must translate a basic understanding of SEO into an actionable set of tactics to build E-commerce traffic. Here is a brief primer which will examine more deeply the connection between savvy optimization, customer engagement and revenue.
Traffic Creates Sales, and SEO Creates Traffic
On a very fundamental level, it could be stated with confidence that the more targeted potential consumers visit your website, the greater the odds that one (or several) of them will become paying customers.
It’s no secret that a properly implemented search engine optimization strategy can drive an increased number of web visitors to your website. With a 2.5% conversion rate, on average, it is relatively safe to assume that for every 1000 additional visitors you receive thanks to your SEO strategy, 25-30 new customers may emerge.
With this in mind, not only does SEO seem a viable method for improving both non-paying and paying traffic, but it also becomes clear that the increased number of conversions produced as a result of your SEO strategy could easily pay back whatever money you invested in initially developing your optimization framework. When compared to other strategies such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC), search engine optimization involves a much more front-loaded effort. As opposed to “leasing” your traffic, a proper long-term SEO strategy can build equity in your site that will not disappear as soon as your ad campaign ends. A strategy incorporating both short-term and long-term online marketing methods such as PPC and SEO could great improve eCommerce traffic.
Although such monetary gain from search engine optimization would likely not be possible until months after optimization has been completed, it is absolutely certain that you will receive a significant expansion of your client base as a result of such policies, especially if you manage to successfully rank for high value keywords.
Of course, potential customers who do successfully convert on your website and become customers could quickly become repeat customers in the near future. A positive experience lends itself to repeater consumer interactions, and part of a long-term SEO strategy focuses on nurturing a positive experience even after the initial transaction.
Because of this, it could also be stated that, due to the increase in traffic and conversions as a result of SEO, merchants may also consequently enjoy improved consumer retention and return site visits.
SEO Could Reduce Your Overhead
It would be a critical mistake to believe that businesses which rely exclusively on ecommerce are saving tremendous amounts of money by avoiding the traditional brick and mortar sales platform.
Whether it’s pouring money into other advertising means or purchasing space for ad targeting on popular websites, ecommerce businesses are often forced to spend astonishing sums of money on programs which may or may not yield a legitimate ROI.
Sound like a lot of money? It is, but keep in mind that such investments are not luxuries, but rather a smart investment within a highly competitive and rapidly evolving economic ecosystem that is only now revealing its true potential on the world’s stage.
Think of it this way: if, for example, you were to invest heavily in an online advertising campaign promoting a new product instead of funding an SEO improvement team, you could reasonably expect a significant boost to general search traffic throughout the duration of your ad spend following by an equally large drop-off once the campaign was completed.
The reason for this is as follows: although advertising can create a massive pool of audience interest, it does not offer meaningful improvements to your general SEO and, thus, your page ranking on major search engines. Once your ad campaign ends, therefore, your website will almost immediately drift back into obscurity.
As a general rule, the following could be stated: without SEO, you can expect no sustainable improvements to your organic search traffic.
Although search engine optimization almost always requires a significantly larger investment of time in order to yield results, the gains from such strategies are all but guaranteed to create long-lasting improvements to your search traffic.
In exchange for your patience, therefore, search engine optimization will provide you with an expanded stream of potential clients for the foreseeable future, ultimately exceeding the visibility of your ad spend at a fraction of the cost.
A revealing statistic from the Search Engine Journal helps place all of these ideas into perspective: of all links clicked on the web, 70% of them have been found organically as opposed to ad placement.
SEO Is Simply The Industry-Standard
If the debate over the effectiveness of SEO as a tool to promote e-commerce has yielded any conclusions over the past few years, perhaps the most important is this: SEO’s ‘worth’ as an e-commerce utility is sourced directly from the fact that a website which has foregone optimization will be unable to compete with those who have invested in this service. This is due in large part to the fact that un-optimized websites will be relegated to the lower regions of search engine results which very few, if any, potential customers actually ever see.
Once SEO reached the level of ‘industry-standard’, it became a requirement for businesses of all interests and sizes to adhere to its guidelines. In a study released by Informza, it was revealed that nearly 75% of web users never actually travel past the first page of search engine results. Given the fact that it is virtually impossible for ecommerce platforms to reach these valuable rankings on Google or other search engines, the correlation could therefore be made that an absence of SEO leads to an almost certain absence of visibility.
When we discuss SEO as the ‘industry-standard’ formatting protocol for major search engines, it is also important to remember that this method improving visibility is also directly linked to improving the general experience for those visitors who find their way to your website.
Google now factors in a host of parameters as part of their search engine ranking methodology which are a complete departure from the earliest iterations of SEO. The presence of a mobile-friendly website, for example, dramatically improves search engine rankings, while those business owners who have not yet adapted their websites to accommodate mobile devices and tablets can expect a noticeable drop in page ranking.
Likewise, websites which take abnormally long amounts of time to load are dropping in search results lists in favor of those which are capable of loading quickly. Both the mobile-friendly parameter and page load time are strong evidence that the customer’s overall visiting experience remains a high priority for search engine providers.
SEO Optimization Improves All Aspects of Your Ecommerce Experience
Referring back to the two topics we just mentioned, page load time and mobile-friendly browsing, it is plain to see that optimization in 2017 and beyond is as much a question of appeasing the automated ‘bots’ which analyze and rank your website as much as the consumers who will be visiting it to shop.
Knowing that Google’s emphasis has become the comfort and agency of online audiences, it now is commonly accepted that ecommerce websites which score highly in search engine rankings are delivering a more polished and high-quality shopping experience than their peers.
Because of this, the statement could then be derived that SEO is, at its core, a tool to help you produce create and maintain a quality shopping experience for your customers rather than a strict set of guidelines with no real connection to the average consumer.
While it is possible to ruminate on the various niches of search engine optimization and how to ensure optimal compliance, a more general statement must first be made, and that is as follows: search engine optimization will leave you with a better and more professional website than you had prior to the initiation of the optimization process.
Whether or not you have begun the process of optimizing your website, it is essential that you understand why such changes are necessary rather than simply following the status quo. It is a unique indicator of the somewhat opaque nature of digital marketing that an astonishing number of business owners confess to investing in online promotion tools and strategies without even coming close to understanding how these systems truly function.
Search engine optimization has gained a reputation for being somewhat murky, due in large part to the rapid evolution of the SEO algorithms and, thus, the demand placed on consumers, but also due to the fact that most business leaders simply cannot find an honest, no-nonsense description of how optimization can boost your bottom line.
It is essential to approach search engine optimization in as methodical a fashion as you would any traditional form of advertising. Identifying the myriad of parameters which can contribute immensely to search engine rankings is the first step towards solidifying an effective and worthwhile SEO strategy.
Analyzing both the fine technical details of your website as well as creating a more holistic overview of user experience may shed light on aspect of page design which, while not necessarily an SEO infraction, could benefit from being improved nonetheless.
As a final thought to consider, it is also worthwhile to mention that search engine optimization remains significantly more affordable than a bulk of the digital advertising schemes in existence today.
In fact, were someone so inclined, they could fully optimize their own website without relying on a third-party service provider. In conclusion, SEO has become its own highly effective and, in many ways, equalizing force among small to medium-sized business owners around the world today.
For those who are willing to spend the time and energy pinpointing and improving various shortcomings in general SEO cohesiveness, guaranteed boosts in ecommerce success are just around the corner. This is not only a commonly accepted facet of the new, 21st century digital marketing and ecommerce arena, but also an undeniable truth of doing business with a website today. Without optimization, there is virtually no way to effectively compete with those who are truly dedicated to bolstering the visibility and success of their own platform.
Therefore, we strongly recommend search engine optimization for all business owners, regardless of how long their e-commerce platform has been online or how successful they have been previously.
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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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