Search engine optimization isn’t a project you can do once. For lasting success, SEO needs to be built into the core of how you manage your ecommerce business.
Fifteen years ago it was possible for an SEO professional to improve organic search while sitting by himself in a dark corner. He’d cram keywords into copy after it was already written, create sitemap after sitemap, and build links like crazy — on article sites, wikis, and blog comments. Not today.
Search engine optimization still includes keyword relevance and link authority. But the implementation of those important elements must be expressed in the way that the site is structured and built; in the products that are offered and how they’re named; and in the content marketing offerings on and off the site. That’s why it needs to be built into the core of your digital operations.
… SEO needs to be built into the core of how you manage your ecommerce business.
Modern SEO is about influence.
SEO professionals are, in fact, responsible for very few deliverables. Yes, SEOs need to conduct deep keyword research on an ongoing basis to inform strategy and taxonomy. We need to audit the site periodically to be certain that it continues to meet best practices and advise on optimization efforts. We need to optimize content and write metadata for new content.
Advising Other Teams
But the really interesting and arguably most valuable SEO input comes in the form of advice on a range of projects, from creating a new content section to removing old, out-of-date content.
For example, a client recently asked me why its recipe section wasn’t performing as it had anticipated. A quick review of the content in question revealed a lack of navigational access for the search engines. In essence there was no path for search engines to crawl to the recipes that the client hoped to rank for. This meant that the recipes had no link authority to speak of even though the XML sitemap ensured that they were indexed. In addition, the recipe pages lacked structured data that would enable rich snippets when the pages were actually able to rank.
Resolving both of these issues enabled the recipes to drive organic search traffic to the site, to convert into purchases.
This issue illustrates what happens when SEO is considered after a project is complete. Had SEO been integrated from the beginning, the costly rework to fix the SEO issues wouldn’t have been necessary and the recipes could have performed strongly sooner.
From Strategy to Testing
SEO needs to be involved in everything, from strategy at the very beginning of a project to development and testing at the end. Keyword research and analysis should inform strategy, site taxonomy, navigation, page names, and copy. Deep knowledge of bot capabilities and algorithms should inform navigation, design, development, and platform choices.
Each of these areas can either improve SEO performance or hurt it.
Integration of SEO into the digital processes of an ecommerce company drives the highest SEO value at the lowest project cost — both in terms of dollars and hours.
When it comes to integration, silos are the natural enemy. If multiple teams submit unrelated requests for digital projects and tasks without coming together to prioritize them, the priorities of the development team will determine which are implemented first as opposed to the combined priorities of marketing, development, ecommerce, and other groups.
Those same silos also make it difficult for an SEO professional to determine the interdependencies between projects and how they will impact organic-search-driven ecommerce revenue as a whole.
If an SEO professional only has visibility into one silo, the projects in another silo may conflict with the recommendations made in the silo in which he has visibility. Or the projects the SEO professional doesn’t have visibility into may decrease SEO performance and the SEO professional won’t have any idea why performance actually decreased. Lack of visibility means an inability to resolve the issue without lengthy analysis to identify the originating issue.
Thus, allowing silos to persist will cost you in terms of organic search performance.
Assign Responsibility, Access
If you want to prioritize organic search performance, you need someone dedicated to SEO that has visibility across all of the marketing, digital, ecommerce, and development functions in the company. That person can be internal, with at least 50 percent availability to focus on SEO. She can also be an external contractor willing to spend some time in your office, or an SEO agency.
Hiring an SEO professional in-house is the most effective way to ensure that SEO becomes a part of the fabric of your organization. I’ve addressed this previously, at “How to Hire an SEO Pro, for Ecommerce.”