Is SEO Really That Important for eCommerce? Here’s What You Need to Know
by Ron Dod
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Social media is ubiquitous.Email marketing dominates in terms of return on investment. Paid ads push businesses and products to the top of the SERPs.
Given the gargantuan power contained in these tactics, is SEO really that important for eCommerce retailers?
In a word, yes.
In the modern era, conducting product research without the likes of digital platforms is nearly unfathomable for most consumers. While themajority of product searches begin on Amazon, Google still receives one out of every five initiatory product searches.
That amounts to potentially hundreds of millions of queries per day.
Therefore, those that rank in the first positions for a given search are going to undoubtedly prosper. As is reported byBacklinko on Google CTR stats compiled from analyzing over five million searches:
“The number one result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 31.7 percent. The number one organic result is 10 times more likely to receive a click compared to a page in number 10 spot. . . On average, moving up one spot in the search results will increase CTR by 30.8 percent.”
So, yeah,eCommerce SEO strategies matter. In fact, one could argue that they are more important than all traditional marketing tactics (television, radio, print, etc.) combined given that when users search on Google, they are actively looking for a retailer’s offerings.
If all these factors are objectively true, then why is it that so many merchants neglect SEO?
Answer: Because retailers are also not impervious to today’s culture of instant gratification and implementing a proper search strategy is playing the long game.
The fact is that search engine optimization is a time-consuming process that only some business owners are prepared to invest in, despite producing the highest return in the long run.
Let’s go ahead and unpack that notion.
SEO is The Industry Standard
Firstly, when speaking to online sales (or digital anything else, for that matter), search engine optimization is just the way of the world. The reason for this is twofold:
Those who fail to optimize for search cannot compete with those that do as visibility is vital to clicks and conversions
The plain fact is that those who refrain from implementingon-page SEO tacticswill be relegated to the portions of the SERPs that earns considerably less traffic than those at the top, as illustrated earlier.
“The first page of Google captures 71 percent of search traffic clicks and has been reported to be as high as 92 percent in recent years. Second-page results are far from a close second coming in at below 6 percent of all website clicks.”
Given that it is virtually impossible for eCommerce retailers to reach these valuable rankings in various search engines without optimization strategies in place, the correlation is clear that the absence of SEO efforts results in a near-complete deficit of visibility.
While customers conduct more in-depth research than ever when it comes to various purchases, if they never become privy to a brand’s existence, retailers cannot compete with those that consumers are aware of and offer their item of interest.
Therefore, when SEO is done right, and a site ranks well, consumers can organically uncover an online retailer.
In fact, organic search is a massive part of most businesses’ online performance and overall health, which leads us to our next point.
Traffic Creates Sales and SEO Creates Traffic
The facts are clear: It does not matter if a company is a scrappy startup or a Fortune 500 powerhouse, search engine optimization is needed to maximize an eCommerce organization’s profitability. If SEO tactics are not employed, sellers leave considerable amounts of money on the table.
This idea is evident in the fact that if the overwhelming majority of eCommerce retailers log into their Google Analytics account at this moment and examine where they bulk of their sales comes from, they will see that organic search tops the list.
For those that find this assertion to be untrue, there is a significant chance they have been neglecting their search optimization duties.
Technology has had a tremendous impact on the way shoppers research, discover and buy products, with online search serving as an integral part of the decision-making process.
Backing up the assertion that search plays a vital role inthe modern consumer decision journey, “49 percent of consumers reported that they rely on search to inform purchase decisions, and 19 percent of respondents identified search engines as the most influential source in driving their purchase decisions.”
For those that are keeping score, that’s a full 68 percent of shoppers claiming that search plays a pivotal part in their purchase determinations. Therefore, ignoring SEO as a marketing methodology means that retailers are astronomically increasing their chances of not surfacing during the customer’s journey to conversion.
When a store’s pages aren’t visible, fewer people know about the brand’s offering, meaning that sales and grow both become limited. Meanwhile, competitors that are ranking well in the SERPs are increasing their sales, profits and market share.
Follow the trajectory down the line, and the less visible business will ultimately wither and die.
Given all this information, it is clear thatthe right way to look at SEO is through the lens of profitability and growth. Search engine optimization builds visibility. Visibility generates traffic. Traffic leads to sales. Sales beget more visibility, thereby creating a positive feedback loop.
When analyzed in this manner, it becomes apparent that the increased number of conversions that SEO generates can easily recuperate the money invested in the optimization framework and implementation. This is particularly true when considering that the traffic generated is sustainable, as opposed to “leased” like that of similarlyoptimized PPC campaigns.
Whileintegrating PPC and SEO together is the best approach to search engine success, what may not be so obvious about the influence of SEO is that is can also help to minimize a business’s expenditures.
SEO Can Reduce eCommerce Overhead
Does it cost money to optimize a website for superlative search performance?
Yes, it does.
Is SEO relatively cheap when stacked up against similar marketing strategies?
Yes, it is.
When one juxtaposes the costs of SEO to other tactics like content marketing, PPC advertising, influencer marketing and comparable modalities, there simply is no comparison to be had as far as pricing is concerned.
Additionally, despitethe power of influencer marketingand PPC campaigns, these efforts tend only to yield results while the push is active. Proper SEO implementation, on the other hand, will continue to serve as a source of traffic and revenue for years after the campaign’s inauguration. Furthermore, investment in search optimization will also feed off itself, producing results that produce more results.
Of course, as the market evolves, it is best to follow the trends and changes closely. For instance,Google’s recent BERT updateis slated to be the company’s most significant change in a decade, meaning that retailers will have to alter their blueprint to stay on the cutting edge of the SERPs.
That said, even sites that haven’t implemented a considerable amount of intense optimization efforts will improve from basic SEO best practices being employed on an honest website with a decent user experience. Moreover, the more SEO time, energy, and resources that are put forth, the better and longer a store will stand as a worthy competitor in its market.
Therefore, search engine optimization provides a powerful boost in terms of organic search visibility and general traffic simply because it offers sustainable, enduring improvements to general page ranking in a way that paid advertising simply cannot.
Again,the benefits of PPC advertising are typically only seen while a campaign is in motion. Once it ends, the increased visibility, traffic and sales drop back to approximately pre-campaign levels. Now, this is not to say that incredibly valuable data cannot be harvested from PPC campaigns to apply SEO strategies. However, on its own, paid advertising just doesn’t produce the same long-term results that save brands money in the long term.
As a rule of thumb, it can be safely stated that without SEO, merchants can expect no sustainable improvements to organic search traffic. When a site consistently ranks among the top spots, searchers are likely to find those pages valuable, as those types of signals are what got the site promoted in the first place.
Therefore, logic follows that SEO, at its core, is a tool to help store owners create and maintain a quality user experience (UX) for customers, rather than a set of guidelines with no connection to the average consumer.
SEO Optimization Improves All Aspects of eCommerce Experiences
While all online businesses want better organic rankings and maximum visibility, few realize thatproducing an optimal user experience is a major consideration for achieving that goal.
The fact is that Google has reached a level of sophistication to where it can interpret what is or is not a favorable user experience. This is precisely what has made positive experiences ascend to become a pivotal element of success in the SERPs.
Consumers (largely) know what they are looking for, and Google is there to help them achieve their aim. If a website’s experience is a hindrance to that goal, performance will suffer.
A clear example of Google’s intention of building stronger user experiences is how the site has increasingly become an answer engine, offering sought-after information directly through the SERPs via the Answer Box. That feature intends to provide users with the information they are seeking in fewer clicks and more conveniently.
Quality SEO incorporates a positive user experience, leveraging it to work in a brand’s favor. This can also be seen in the fact that site speed is a ranking factor alongside security, the relevance and perceived value of content, mobile optimization and other facets that all directly link to the user experience.
Knowing that Google’s emphasis has become the comfort and agency of online audiences, it is now commonly accepted that eCommerce websites that rank highly in search engines are delivering a more polished and high-quality shopping experience than their peers.
The bottom line is that SEO and UX are almost always congruent in their aims: To fulfill the user’s intention as quickly, easily, and pleasurably as possible.
Since SEO elements like the value of content, site speed, security implementations and other aspects that enhance rankings provide a heightened user experience, there is another benefit of search optimization that is rarely discussed: Customer loyalty and retention.
Whenturning our attention to customer retention, it is evident that site visitors who find pages easy to navigate, free of clutter, fast, secure and generally meet their needs to be valuable. Because they find these pages to be a beneficial resource in their lives, they are more likely to frequent a site again in the future when similar needs arise, be it informational or transactional.
When a consumer can easily find a site (due to its SEO optimization efforts) and pleasantly use it to fulfill their desires (thanks to its focus on UX), rates of retention are likely to increase significantly.
This idea intimately ties in with the next point.
SEO Builds Trust and Credibility
The ultimate goal of SEO is to enable search engine users to find a website quickly and easily. By employing various on-site tactics that enhance the user experience (as well as behind the scenestechnical SEO implementations), a site can rise to the top of the SERPs.
When a site is listed among the results that lead the pack, this shows users that Google finds the site credible and trustworthy, meaning that they should view it in the same light.
This translates to a recurring theme in this piece, which is that the more users trust a website, the more Google will trust that site and elevate it in the SERPs, thereby leading to other users to trust the destination thanks to the positive feedback loop established via visibility.
In the long run, what this means is that by establishing the authority that comes as a result of proper search optimization, retailers are likely to reap more benefits from SEO than most, if not all, other digital marketing strategies.
But again, SEO is a long game that takes commitment, patience and a heck of a lot of hard work.
Implementing an effective and well-thought-out SEO strategy is no simple task, but it is one that eCommerce retailers cannot neglect in today’s online ecosystem. While there are a variety of other marketing modalities that are incredibly valuable (social media, email, content, etc.), there is still nothing that compares to the power contained in search engine optimization tactics.
While SEO is an indispensable component to achieving success online, we understand that not all merchants have the necessary time, resources or knowledge to climb the SERPs and procure the traffic they deserve.
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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