In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), best practice advice changes more frequently than the weather. As an e-commerce business, your company’s best tool is your website, and a finely-tuned site that adheres to Google’s “rules of the web” can be your best friend. Conversely, an unorganized e-commerce website can cause you and your organization headaches. In this white paper, we’ll advise you on small changes you can make to your website strategy that will have a big impact on your bottom line.
E-Commerce Meta Descriptions
What is a Meta Description?
A meta description is an effective, yet often overlooked element of a web page that summarizes the content of the page to search engines. This snippet of HTML code in a web page’s header forms the bulk of your search engine results page. While it pulls no weight from a page-ranking standpoint, a well-written meta description acts as the copy for your web page and can have a heavy influence on click-through rate (CTR). In essence, the formula is simple: the better your meta description is, the higher your CTR will be, which will drive more traffic to your site.
Not all meta descriptions are created equally. Although best practices remain constant across the web, the scale of many e-commerce websites makes creating meta descriptions seem like a daunting task. A local dentist’s website, for example, with few landing pages will require far fewer meta descriptions than a large e-commerce website with thousands of unique landing pages. So what differentiates a poor meta description from a great one in an e-commerce environment?
Internet users generally input search queries with the intention to solve a problem. This remains constant on e-commerce sites as users are typically looking for more information on a product or comparing prices and/or features between brands. The e-commerce meta descriptions must try to help readers solve these problems. If the copy in a meta description is similar to a search query, the CTR will improve.
For the vast majority of e-commerce websites, manually creating unique meta descriptions for thousands of web pages is a nightmare and not worth the money from a return on investment (ROI) perspective. As mentioned before, a meta description’s influence on page ranking is minimal at best. With optimizing for a high CTR in mind, it is best to manually create meta descriptions for high-value, high-traffic pages such as your homepage and product category pages while creating a customizable template for more mundane pages, like seemingly endless product description pages. This way your site developer can give each page a unique, accurate meta description without wasting time creating distinct copy for each product.
Let’s pretend you sell a variety of socks online, each one with a different landing page:
The Best Selection of (PRODUCT TYPE) Socks is Found Here! Buy One Pair, Get One Pair Free on All (BRAND NAME) Socks. Free Shipping on Orders Over $25. Shop Now!
Instead of wasting countless hours and dollars creating custom meta descriptions, you can make a simple list that prompts your employee to only change the key terms, as follows:
(Wool, Jollie Goods)
The examples above equate to the following meta descriptions:
The Best Selection of Wool Socks is Found Here! Buy One Pair, Get One Pair Free on All Jollie Goods Socks. Free Shipping on Orders Over $25. Shop Now!
The Best Selection of Ankle Socks is Found Here! Buy One Pair, Get One Pair Free on All Stance Socks. Free Shipping on Orders Over $25. Shop Now!
Duplicate copy is a red flag and a penalty than can easily be avoided. Small changes in copy (like the wool socks example above) are enough to avoid being penalized. Duplicating copy in meta descriptions may save time, but it’s not worth it from a penalization standpoint. In fact, completely omitting meta descriptions is a smaller penalty than duplication.
Use Search Phrases
The closer your meta description is to resembling a search query, the more likely the viewer is to click on your page.
Call To Action
A good meta description must have a call to action. You want to convert sales, so phrases like “Shop Now!” or “Buy Today!” are ideal.
Accuracy Is key
A meta description should accurately describe the content of the web page it correlates with. Don’t mislead your potential customers by having inaccurate information in your meta description.
E-Commerce Web Content
Content that Answers People’s Questions
The advantages of a successful online content strategy is that it can do wonders for a business. These benefits include increased brand awareness, higher organic page rankings, an influx of traffic to your site, conversions, and more. While content strategies are easy to map out for certain websites, like online publishers, they can be more of a challenge for e-commerce sites. Sales and product description pages do not provide much opportunity to create award-winning, share-worthy content. So, how do you accomplish the benefits listed above for an e-commerce website? Below are a few tips to help you create content on your e-commerce site that will increase conversions:
Guide Visitors Through the Sales Funnel by Catering to Their Intent
When writing copy for your e-commerce site, keep your visitors’ intentions in mind and create content that provides practical information to help them make a purchase decision. People come to your website in all phases of the sales funnel – some of them may have clicked on a paid advertisement, while others may come to the website organically through a recommendation from a friend. Great e-commerce content should never make a visitor feel like they’re reading a sales pitch and should seamlessly guide them through the sales funnel. The Nike iD customizable shoe campaign (shown) enables users to self-select and create their perfect shoe, which makes them feel like they’re in control of the buying process. They are able to research and learn more about the product and move onto a purchase at their own pace.
This Nike campaign highlights that a well-executed e-commerce content campaign doesn’t have to be too text-heavy. In many scenarios, high-quality and compelling imagery might be the most effective way to reach an audience. However, implementing a text-only strategy is not recommended.
Engaging product descriptions are a great tool to bolster an e-commerce content strategy. Product descriptions are typically read toward the end of the buying process, so a well-written product description can help nudge someone from just a visitor to a buying customer. Use these tips to write product descriptions that are catered to your audience and encourage readers to make a purchase:
- Use a bulleted list (like this one!). Readers often overlook large blocks of text, so breaking up the information in the form of a bulleted list helps them digest valuable information.
- Use keywords. Product descriptions are a great place to use keywords, but don’t overdo it. Make sure the keywords you choose are relevant to the landing page and the product.
- Watch your word count. Descriptions should be at least 250 words. This is congruent with SEO best practices and should be more than enough room to provide valuable information.
- Show it off. Utilize rich content like photos and videos.
- Get social. Incorporate social proof by showing testimonials, reviews, ratings, media mentions, press releases, etc.
- Think like a customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Provide them not only with benefits of the product, but also a clear answer as to how the product solves a problem or fills a void in their life.
A well-curated blog is the perfect tool to get high-quality content onto your website. A blog should be updated regularly (at least twice a month), and provide useful information to readers. This is a great area to incorporate keywords into your content plan as the parameters of blog topics are entirely up to you. A blog can provide a voice for your brand that you aren’t able to articulate as comprehensively with other website tools. Blogs can be about anything, but to help get the ball rolling I’ve laid out a few topics:
• Product reviews and/or demos (ideally augmented with videos).
• Related industry news or updates.
• Frequently asked questions (FAQs) from customers.
• Updates from the field (showcase actual clients who use your product or service).
Google Search Console & Proper Analytics Setup
Google Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) is a complimentary service provided by Google giving you the tools, diagnostics, and data necessary to monitor and maintain your website’s authority in Google’s search engine results. Having a Search Console account tied to your website is not a requirement to be included in Google’s search results, but it is the only way to gather valuable SEO insight about your site directly from Google. Because Google essentially writes the rules of the world wide web, an in-depth understanding of Search Console is a great way to make sure your website is in the best standings from Google’s point of view.
What are the Benefits of Using Search Console?
Search Console enables you to monitor your website’s performance. Benefits include:
• Ensuring that Google can properly decipher and index your website utilizing XML sitemaps
• Monitoring and eradicating malware or other spammy issues within a website and locating page and site errors
• Receiving HTML improvement alerts
• Maintaining your site and seeing areas in which you can improve your site’s performance
• Easily submitting new web content to be indexed by Google
• Easily removing content that you do not want to see in the search results
• Seeing which queries and keywords triggered your site to appear in the search results
• Determining which websites are providing links to your site
• Viewing mobile performance
Track E-Commerce in Google Analytics
If you haven’t set up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics as an e-commerce store owner, you’re missing out on invaluable insight into your business’ performance such as:
• Revenue of the entire online store
• Revenue for individual products
• Total number of specific products sold
• Total number of transactions
• Number of products sold within a predetermined date range
• Number of unique purchasers
• Time of transactions
• And much more!
E-commerce targeting is particularly helpful when attempting to re-target customers. An abundance of data is readily available to target specific audiences and enhance conversions within that space. Most business owners are aware of Google Analytics and use it for in-depth search analytics, real-time web traffic, and user behavior/intentions, but they might not be utilizing the e-commerce tracking function. To enable e-commerce tracking, simply log into your Analytics account and click on the “Admin” tab in the upper right corner of the page. In the third column on the right side, you’ll see the “e-commerce” tab. Click on that tab and toggle the options to enable e-commerce tracking. You’ll have to embed the e-commerce command into the Analytics code before it takes effect. Enabling e-commerce tracking on your website will give you access to priceless customer data. Use those findings to optimize your website to create an unparalleled customer experience.
Don’t Forget About Bing!
There’s no denying that Google dominates the e-commerce world. That does not mean, however, that other search engine and online advertising platforms should be ignored. To close out the fourth quarter of 2014, Bing Ads – the overlooked, red-headed step child of Google’s AdWords – experienced its highest market share since the company’s inception in 2008 at 26 percent. While the numbers pale in comparison to Google’s robust network, Bing Ads still owns a nice slice of the pie. However, Bing could never be successful by just being a carbon copy of Google. To set themselves apart from the competition, Bing offers many ad innovations and flexibilities not available from Google.
Tablet Bid Modifiers
Choice of local or toll-free phone numbers in call extensions
Skype logo on call extensions
What Sets Bing Apart From Google?
Barring an earth-shattering event, Google will always have the upper hand over Bing as far as numbers go. While this is an inherent advantage for Google, Bing has capitalized from their smaller audience in many ways and offers advantages to advertisers that Google simply cannot match.
- Less Competition = Cheaper Cost Per Click (CPC)
- CPC on Bing Ads is often up to 30 percent cheaper than clicks on Google. Overall, ads tend to rank higher on Bing’s platform as well.
- Customer Service – Google Can’t Compete
- Bing Ads support is active on Twitter offering live chat for paid advertising questions.
- Bing assigns actual representatives to accounts meaning you won’t speak to a new rep every time you call.
- Social Extensions
- Bing will show how many Twitter followers an advertiser has next to their ad.
- Google does the same with Google+, but that network has a much smaller reach than Twitter.
- More Control at Campaign and Ad Group Level
- With AdWords, you must establish network, location, ad scheduling, language, and ad rotation settings at the campaign level.
- Bing gives advertisers the option to change these settings at the group level resulting in more customization.
- Bing allows advertisers to assign different campaigns to different time zones.
- This is big for advertisers with an international reach.
- With AdWords, you must establish network, location, ad scheduling, language, and ad rotation settings at the campaign level.
Bing & Google Complete the Picture
Bing will never replace Google as the king of the web, but it should not be dismissed. If any online advertiser is searching for new ways to expand their reach and they’re not using Bing, they’re missing out on opportunities. Bing Ads will expand your reach to both Bing and Yahoo! search result pages. If you have an existing AdWords campaign, you can easily import the existing campaign onto Bing’s platform.
Like all digital marketing, one medium will never be enough. There is an abundance of tools out there to increase efficiencies, expand your reach, and build a more robust business.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when piecing an SEO strategy together. Best practices are all over the map, and it’s tough to know who has the right plan. When in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Imagine you’re navigating the web looking for your products. What path would you take to find the right product? The rules of the web are consistently optimized with the user in mind, so taking a step back and thinking like a customer will yield greater results. In the end, the customer is always right, so the very best practice is to make your customer’s online journey a simple, seamless process.
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