With a new year ahead, it’s time to think about New Year’s resolutions. What do you want search engine optimization to do for your site in 2013? The most likely goals for any ecommerce site revolve around driving more traffic and converting more visitors. Let’s look at some steps for analyzing, planning and implementing stronger SEO programs in 2013.
Drive More SEO Traffic
Everyone wants more traffic. But before you can grow visitors, you need to understand where they’re coming from today. First stop, check your analytics to determine which keywords are driving organic search traffic, and to which URLs. This will tell you where your SEO performance is coming from today.
Next step, refresh your keyword research to determine what your customers are searching for. This is different than understanding which keywords are sending you customers, because more than likely potential customers are searching for keywords that your site isn’t winning today. Diving into the keyword research will tell you which untapped areas could be driving more organic search traffic to your site.
By comparing the keyword research to your analytics, you should be able to analyze whether your site is attracting its fair share of organic search visits for your relevant keyword market. If not, start optimizing by creating a keyword map and tackling title tags. Read more about optimizing content for SEO in my three-part series that starts with "Optimizing a Page for Search Engines, Part 1: Keyword Research."
If you’re sure your content is optimized for the most valuable keywords but your analytics are showing lackluster SEO performance, the problem could be accessibility or authority. With an accessibility issue, the site can’t be indexed optimally. Sections of the site may be invisible to search engine crawlers. Or the site may contain so much duplicate content that search engines ignore the whole mess. I addressed search accessibility, at "Five SEO Mantras for Website Redesign."
The other issue could be link authority. A site can be optimized perfectly for the right keywords and be perfectly accessible to search engine crawlers, but without links from other sites your ecommerce site may as well not even exist. Increasing the number of links from relevant, high-quality sites will do wonders for any site. It can help put a new site on the map and boost an existing site with slumping SEO performance. Read my article about earning links naturally at "SEO: 3 Ways to Grow Links to Your Ecommerce Site."
Convert More SEO Visitors
Driving more organic search traffic isn’t always the best goal for a site, however. Sometimes the issue lies with converting the visitors that already come to the site. As with driving traffic, the first place to start analyzing conversion is your analytics. What keywords are converting today via organic search? Which pages are converting? Are the search engines driving traffic to the pages that can convert or are your best pages for SEO pages that don’t have conversion elements on them?
In the quest to create great content to boost keyword relevance and links, some ecommerce sites build content sections that are completely divorced from the sales function of the site. If the goal is brand recognition rather than sales, traffic without conversion may be just fine. But for many ecommerce sites, the goal is boosting the keyword relevance and authority of the pages that can actually convert to sales. That means either adding relevant and compelling content to the pages that sell, or adding conversion features to the content pages that attract organic search traffic. Read more at "SEO: Convert More Before Driving More."
Implement More SEO Actions
Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” It's as true for SEO as it is for the laws of physics. Your site’s SEO performance won’t improve unless the site changes. Make a resolution today to avoid analysis paralysis and adopt an attitude of informed experimentation. Do the analysis necessary to optimize different aspects of the site’s content, structural and link authority, and then act on it. Measure the baseline before the change and the impact after.
If SEO isn’t the company’s highest priority, it may be difficult to get resources to work on the development or marketing aspects of an SEO project. That doesn’t have to stop SEO dead in its tracks. Focus on the areas you have influence, the areas you can make progress without assistance from other teams. Read more about areas to focus on when you hit a brick wall at "SEO: Working Around a Redesign."
Build Better Relationships
One of the most fruitful activities to breed long-term SEO success is building relationships. Internally, SEO tends to straddle the fence between development and marketing. While usually considered a marketing function, SEO has many technical aspects that require development knowledge and resources. As such, reaching out to form stronger relationships with key people on the IT/development should be a high priority. Oftentimes SEO recommendations can come across as telling the development experts how to do their jobs. To counteract this perception, a solid relationship helps lay the foundation for showing that you respect their talents and expertise and want to work together for the common good of the company and the customer.
As important as strong relationships are with developers, it’s also important to work well with the marketing teams. This may seem easy since you’re likely all part of the same marketing organization, but working across different functions may not be a high priority for everyone involved. SEO crosses the boundaries between press relations, product marketing, offline advertising, creative design, copy writing, information architecture, social media and many more. As with developers, some of those marketers will feel as if SEO wants to tell everyone how to do their job. Putting in the extra effort to cultivate key relationships can smooth that perception and improve the performance of projects across multiple channels.
Lastly, it’s important to build relationships externally as well. Take the time to identify key influencers in the media, social networks, industry forums, and relevant blogs. Some of these will overlap with press relations and social media channels, so be sure to work closely with those teams as well.
Reaching out to key influencers in your industry can be tricky, but think of it in the context of making a friend. In your social life if you want to meet and befriend someone you offer him or her a compliment or engage in a conversation. You don’t just walk up and say, “I want you to give me $50.” It’s the same with online relationships.
The influencer has a presence, a voice, a following you respect and find relevant to your business objectives. Offer him or her a compliment (sincerely) or engage him in a discussion. Ask his opinion or offer a comment or respectfully differing opinion. Once that contact has been made the influencer will likely be more receptive to offers to work together in ways that can benefit her as well as your business, such as guest blogging and sharing compelling content. See "SEO: Build Relationships, Not Links" for more on that topic.