The quickest path to earning more from an ecommerce site's organic search traffic is to convert more consumers who already go there. I addressed that topic previously, at "SEO: Convert More Before Driving More."
Many SEO strategies focus on driving more visitors. But what use is driving more searchers to a site that can't convert them? ZenithOptimedia, a large advertising and marketing firm, predicted in 2010 that "$56.8 billion will be spent this year on generating website traffic, but only 2%-3% of visitors will actually convert." Given, that's across all marketing channels, but the typical ecommerce site's organic search conversion rates tend to hover around that same 2 percent to 3 percent.
At the recent Search Engine Strategies show in Chicago, author and speaker Bryan Eisenberg offered a rapid-fire succession of tools to analyze and improve conversion rates for search engine optimization. He outlined several key tools and mentioned many more, from usability testing and heatmaps that show customers' focal points to call tracking and site speed tools. From Eisenberg's list, the following five categories are the most relevant, in my view, to an etailer's quest to improve organic search conversion.
Call Tracking and SEO
Ifbyphone, a voice-based marketing automation platform, estimates that 43 percent of all search-related conversions happen over the phone. If that figure holds true for your ecommerce business, you may be underestimating the value of the organic search channel by nearly half — since telephone conversions presumably are not tracked as closely as online shopping cart sales. In addition, the keywords that drove those telephone conversions are lost to marketers, as they presumably are not known. Optimizing a site with the ability to analyze only 57 percent of the converting keywords is among the things that could keep an SEO professional awake at night. Ifbyphone offers a solution to measure and analyze that data, as does Mongoose Metrics.
Site Speed and Conversion
Video and Conversion
Interestingly, adding video to ecommerce sites also seems to make a difference. Internet Retailer reports that video boosts conversion rates by an average of 9 percent, and that products that have videos are 95 percent more likely to be purchased. Forrester brings the video question straight to SEO with its findings that video increases the likelihood of a page-one ranking by 96 percent, assuming the page has also been properly optimized. That's pretty incredible, but many etailers assume that video is out of their price range. Hiring a studio, producer, writing the content or having a script written: It all takes time and money. But ecommerce video solutions such as Treepodia offer ways to automate product videos based on existing product imagery and descriptions.
Or sites could choose to test the waters first by creating videos the old-fashioned way with their most popular or valuable products to determine the results. Just remember that videos don't have to be professionally created and edited to have SEO benefit. A little creativity can go a long way with videos, so don't close the door on this conversion tool without giving it some thought first.
Heatmaps and Conversion
Usability testing is an effective way to find out how customers really use a site. So are heatmaps. Tools like Feng-GUI, EyeQuant and ClickHeat provide visual representations of customers' focal points. They're called heatmaps because the stronger or hotter the color, the more attention customers focused on that point on the page. Heatmaps can be useful in determining what customers are distracted by when they should be clicking on your conversion buttons. If a page has a couple of things the etailer wants the customer to notice or click on to guide him to transact, the heatmap will identify if the customer is indeed focusing on those points or spending too much time looking at related products or less important visuals.
Testing and Conversion
So far I've discussed tools to analyze elements of pages, tools to speed pages, tools designed to increase conversion. Some of these tools have worked well on some sites. But will they work on your site? The only way to know is to test. Change nothing, test nothing: Expect no improvement in search conversion rates. Change something, test it, analyze the results and repeat; that's the only way to find out what works on your site. Google's Website Optimizer is a popular and free A/B testing tool. Other testing tools include Omniture's Test & Target, Optimizely and Monetate, to name a few. At "How to Test Multiple Variables on an Ecommerce Site," we recently explained the details of website testing on multiple variables.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that it's less about the tool you use and more about how you use it. Eisenberg has put together a site — called "The Online Marketer's Toolbox" — with more than 150 tools. It's easy to go "tool crazy" and waste time researching and trying every tool to find the perfect one. There is no perfect tool. Focus instead on finding the tools that do enough of what you need to measure, focusing on the elements of the site that your analytics and intuition tell you are hurting conversion rates. Usually something free or low cost in connection with other free or low-cost tools can get you most of what you need to know. The rest is knowledge of your site and your business, and the willingness to experiment, analyze and iterate.