It will come as no surprise to anyone living in the 21st century that online retailing has become big business. American consumers spent just over $230 billion online in 2012, and industry insiders expect that amount to increase to more than $370 billion by 2017. E-tailers may think the marketplace is crowded now, but it is destined to become even more competitive in the next few years.
Unfortunately, as e-commerce continues to boom, many online retailers are going to get lost in the shuffle due to poorly planned search engine marketing campaigns. The mistakes common to many e-commerce sites will have an even greater impact as the online marketplace becomes cluttered with more and more web based retailers. Before your online shop gets lost in the crowd, let’s review a few of the most often repeated SEO mistakes business owners make when operating an e-commerce website.
No SEO Plan at All
This may sound obvious, but it’s a biggie, and it needs repeating. For any online shop to find success they need to have a definite SEO strategy. It is not enough to simply get your website live on the web and expect customers to find you. Online retailers need to allocate a portion of their operating budget for a comprehensive search engine marketing campaign. They also need to develop a sound SEO strategy that targets high ranking search terms to achieve positive organic search results, as well as the use of pay per click advertising for increased online visibility. It is also important to set specific goals along a predetermined time line so you are able to measure the effectiveness of your current marketing campaign. Typically, these goals fall into only a few categories: conversions, brand awareness, or increased traffic.
Thorough keyword research is vital to any successful SEO campaign. Think of the keywords you want your e-commerce site to rank for in organic search results, and then spend some time thinking about alternate, or related, terms for the same topic. For every keyword you choose, there are likely to be a few alternates that may rank higher in organic searches. Remember to think like an average online consumer, and consider the most likely search terms he or she would use to find your website. Also consider any variations on your keywords and phrases, as well as common misspellings.
Keywords to Target Your Core Demographic
Broad search terms may earn your site a healthy piece of real estate on a given Search Engine Results Page (SERP), but if you’re not reaching your core demographic it’s a wasted endeavor. As you conduct your keyword research, concentrate on those search terms that are most likely to apply to the consumer demographic you are trying to serve. Your SEO strategy doesn’t need to target everyone surfing the net. Optimize your site to better reach potential buyers, not necessarily the public in general. The same applies to pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Make it a point to create ad copy that targets your specific consumer demographic. You should also routinely test your keyword and AdWords strategies using Google’s free Keyword Planner application.
Web Copy and Content
This area is critical to your success. Are you re-selling products or are the products genuinely yours? If they’re your own products, then the web copy for each of those products will undoubtedly be unique. But, are you speaking to your audience? If you’re selling snowboarding gear, then use words like “shred” and “grind” directly into your product descriptions.
If you’re a reseller, I can’t stress enough how you must use unique content on your products. A direct copy/paste from the manufacturers site will destroy any chance of your site ranking. This will trigger Panda penalties from Google. You must create your own web copy.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising and Match Types
Finding the best match type for your pay-per-click AdWords is vital to getting the best return on your investment. Match types can be set at three different levels – exact match, phrase match, and broad match. As the names suggest, an exact match type returns search results for a specific keyword, a phrase match for a general phrase, and a broad match for any pay-per-click key-phrase that appears in the user’s search query. Choosing the best match type for your PPC adwords can be time consuming, but it will have a direct impact on the overall cost of your PPC advertising, and the final return on your investment.
Paid Listings Aren’t Always the Key to Success
Every e-commerce site wants to grab some prime SERP real estate. Paid listings can put your website above the organic search returns, but they can’t necessarily guarantee any increased visibility. Online users have become pretty savvy over the years, and many have developed an unconscious blind spot when it comes to the paid listing banners at the top of SERPs. If you are thinking about a paid listing to increase your site’s sales figures, weigh the cost-benefit carefully.
Don’t Let Your SEO Strategy Trump User Experience
We started this list with a biggie, and we’ll end it with a biggie. An SEO campaign is vital to the success of any e-commerce site. However, it should never take precedence over providing a pleasant and valuable user experience for the consumer. Your SEO strategy can generate traffic, but if your website is poorly designed, cluttered, confusing, or difficult to navigate, your sales with suffer. Don’t make the most grievous mistake of concentrating on an SEO campaign at the expense of a user friendly website.
What are your thoughts on SEO mistakes to avoid? Feel free to share below in the comments and start a discussion.