The holiday selling season is in full swing. If your natural search visits and sales are falling short of your goals, try these quick search-engine-optimization tips to give them a boost. Focus first on what you control — on the pages and keyword phrases that will actually make a difference.
Find the Sweet Spots
Before you touch a single title tag, do a quick analysis of your natural search performance. It’s tempting to skip this step to get right to making things better, but it’s just as likely you’ll make things worse. An hour spent with the data will tell you where to focus and what to tweak.
Start with the natural search visits and conversions reports from your analytics, specifically on the entry page and keyword reports. Which entry pages and keywords drive the most natural search visits and conversions? Then move to your Google Webmaster Tools account and match the entry pages and keywords from your analytics with the entry pages and keywords in the “Search Queries” report. This will give you an idea of how you’re ranking for those entry pages and keywords, as well as how many natural search impressions you’re getting.
How do you use this data? Your brand name is probably among the top performing natural search keywords, both in terms of rankings and impressions, as well as visits and conversions. Your home page most likely has the highest visibility. Tweaking these already performing pages and keywords is likely to have little benefit to performance.
Nudge the Lazy Middle
It’s far faster and easier to nudge an underperforming page up a couple of ranking spots than to improve a page with nonexistent performance. And there is typically more benefit to squeeze from the underperformers than the pages and keyword phrases that are already performing strongly.
It’s far faster and easier to nudge an underperforming page up a couple of ranking spots than to improve a page with nonexistent performance.
Identify the pages and keyword phrases that drove some natural search performance, but should be able to drive more based on the keyword research. Compare your impression, ranking, visits, and conversion data to keyword research to identify which keywords are underperforming.
Look for keyword phrases that capture between 0.1 and 1 percent of the available keyword market. These keyword phrases are visible enough to drive natural search traffic to your site but not relevant or authoritative enough to perform strongly. Then look for ones that pages that rank between positions 5 and 20 in Google. These pages are visible enough to rank, but not optimal enough to rank well.
These pages are your lazy middle. Whip them into shape with some of the optimization tips below to help them drive the natural search visits and sales you need.
Optimize for Relevance
Take another look at your keyword research and keyword map. Are the lazy middle entry pages you’ve identified as opportunities to grow SEO performance optimized as strongly as they can be for the terms assigned to them in the keyword map? Does the keyword assigned mesh with the reality of the keyword phrases driving customers to that landing page? This is the time to re-optimize the pages to reflect the keyword phrases that the data suggests are best suited to that page.
Starting with the pages that represent the best opportunity, rework the title tag, meta description, main heading, and body copy. The changes likely won’t be huge, and may just be a matter of swapping one phrase for another or changing up a sentence or two to make the keyword phrase more prominent.
You’re probably thinking, “But that’s just basic SEO.” Yes, it is. And the reason it’s basic SEO is that it’s foundational to everything else. Without strong on-page SEO to send a clear relevance signal, everything else in your SEO strategy is just amplifying a muddy signal. Most merchants can find basic on-page SEO elements to improve on at least half of the pages they are targeting if they just take the time to do it.
Cross Link for Authority
Rankings require authority signals as well as relevance signals. Cross-linking and cross-promotional elements can help funnel additional link authority from throughout the site to the pages for which you most want to improve natural search performance. External links from other sites would have a much larger benefit, but they’re also more difficult to acquire quickly and ethically. Start with elements you can control for faster performance improvement.
Thinking about those lazy middle pages. Which of them has the potential to drive the highest natural search visits and conversions? Create a list of pages on your site that are relevant to that high-potential page and design a cross-linking element to drive link authority to that page.
If you can do it quickly and professionally, consider a visual element like a call out box with a relevant image and a line of text that contains the keyword phrase for which you want your high-potential page to rank. If you don’t have the resources or the access to your platform to make larger changes, perhaps you can insert selected links into text fields on relevant pages. These cross-linking elements should also double as relevant cross-promotional elements that, if done well, will improve customer experience.
For example, if you sell Christmas sweaters and your sweaters featuring reindeer are not getting the natural search visibility they need, a cross-linking element on the Santa Claus sweaters and Christmas tree sweaters pages pointing to the reindeer sweaters page may help. In other cases, the page you have linked to may be a single product page or an informational page.
Drive More Clicks
Even pages that are ranking well can be optimized to drive more clicks from the search results. If your high rankings aren’t driving the visits you’re expecting, consider optimizing specifically to attract searcher clicks to your search result instead of your competitors’.
Each search result has a limited amount of real estate to work with. The typical elements are:
- The blue underlined link, typically taken from the title tag for the ranking page.
- The green text displayed beneath the link, typically the URL of the ranking page or the breadcrumb pulled from the ranking page.
- Two lines of black descriptive text with searched keywords bolded, typically pulled from the meta description or body text of the ranking page.
- Rich snippets, which are any additional data or media such as bulleted product listings, price, reviews, video thumbnails, and author photos.
The easiest way to impact search result clicks is to optimize the title tag and meta description with a targeted keyword phrase and a call to action. The keyword phrase gets bolded in the search result, and a strong call to action attracts their attention. Both increase the likelihood that searchers will consider your search result long enough to decide to click on it.
Rich snippets are another effective attention grabber because they style your search result differently than the surrounding results. Video, recipe, author, and other rich snippets are especially beneficial because of their highly visual nature. Data-based rich snippets like pricing, availability, forum listings, product listings, ratings stars, and others will provide a more subtle visual difference, but they also highlight the relevance of the page to the searcher.
Depending on your team’s resources and available media and data assets, rich snippets may or may not be a quick SEO fix. For those who already have video content, using microformatting around the video in the template could be a fast way to increase natural search visibility. But if your site doesn’t already have video, reviews, recipes, forum posts, or other assets that can be pulled in to rich snippets, this won’t be a quick-turn project.
Convert More Visitors
You work hard to get visitors to your site, and the easiest way to increase sales is to convert more of those visitors to customers. Every single crawlable page on your site is a landing page for natural search. But many sites aren’t designed to convert visits to sales on every page.
Take another look at the pages that are driving natural search visits with lower than average conversions, especially those where the conversion rate for natural search is lower than conversion rates for other channels. Remember that searchers may not know your brand, your site, your product, or have any bias toward purchasing your product whatsoever. They may have missed steps in a sales process, explanations of brand goodness, and any manner of other marketing you present direct visitors with on your home page or other intended landing pages.
Load the page you are interested in improving, pretend you’ve never seen it before and maybe have never even heard of your brand, and ask yourself, “Does this page make me want to buy? Can I buy on this page or are there choices and clicks I have to make first? Are the choices and clicks easy and obvious?” Or better yet, ask a brutally honest friend. If the answer is no, or if the data tells you that the answer is no despite the opinions you seek out, identify the issue and solve it.
Timing and Speed
Keep in mind there are degrees of complexity in all of the things discussed here. Each of these can be a huge, months-long project or a quick test sketched out on a whiteboard and launched in a couple of days.
Not all sites will be willing to experiment with a new cross linking element or conversion optimization during their holiday season. However, those businesses with an experimental mindset can turn a quickly implemented element intended to boost SEO for a short period of time into a proof case for a larger optimization program when the holiday season has passed.
Regardless, to boost holiday sales the time to start is now. Ideally, the time to start was months ago, but each day delayed at this point is another day of potential lost. Start today and plan well but don’t get mired in analysis paralysis. Go with the quick SEO projects that are most likely to be approved in your organization and implemented quickly based on available resources.