Effective retail SEO strategies to help marketers optimise across complex consumer journeys and convert as much traffic as possible.
Optimising a retail website for search is one of the most challenging things you can do in SEO. For one thing, you’re not only competing against other retailers but Google’s own products too – Google Ads, Google Shopping and local search to name a few.
This is just to get your brand seen by consumers.
Then, you have to optimise for a complex consumer journey that takes shoppers from casual browsers all the way to the checkout, often across multiple sessions and different device types. Leads are precious in this business and success largely depends on converting as much traffic into paying customers as possible.
Here are five retail SEO strategies that will help you do this.#1: It all starts with navigation
Aside from being a ranking factor, the navigation of a retail website dictates the browsing experience for users. The challenge for retail brands is to create a navigation system that makes it easy to find, sort and filter products while also providing categories, related products and other contextual navigation features that allow shoppers to move from one place to the next.
The more products and pages you have, the harder it is to create a seamless navigation that ties everything together.
The image above shows an example of a website structure for an eCommerce site that breaks products/pages into categories, subcategories and product pages. This is a classic setup for retail brands with a large range of stock – for example, a fashion retailer selling clothes, shoes and accessories.
Website structure isn’t the only thing you need to think about though. You also need to decide how people are going to compare different products on your website, continue shopping after adding an item to their basket and complete the checkout process when they’re ready to pay.
There are a lot of gaps for users to slip through on a retail website, but a highly-optimised navigation system will keep them moving in the right direction i.e. adding more products to the basket and completing the purchase while minimising the number of quit sessions and cart abandonments.#2: Prioritise mobile browsing
According to Wolfgang Digital’s KPI Report 2019, 53% of traffic comes from mobile devices. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story about the role of mobile traffic in digital retail. This stat is skewed by the fact that mobile and desktop browsing habits change along the consumer journey. The same study shows that, despite a small majority of traffic coming from mobile, only 32% of conversions take place on mobile.
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What’s actually happening here is that the significant majority of early browsing and first visits to retail websites are happening on mobile. In other words, when users aren’t really sure what they want to buy, they’re often browsing or researching on mobile or their attention is being caught by ads on social media.
When things get serious, the majority of users move over to desktop, which brings the average share of traffic closer to 50/50.
The takeaway here is to prioritise mobile browsing, attribute traffic across sessions and then prioritise desktop conversions. For example, you might create separate landing pages for mobile that focus on getting users to browse your products and deliver pages that focus on conversions for desktop users. You can also target returning mobile visitors with your “desktop” pages to cater for those who are more inclined to convert on mobile.#3: Optimise for E-A-T & YMYL
Just in case you’re not 100% familiar with these terms:E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.YMYL stands for “your money or your life” pages (which includes eCommerce pages) and Google is more strict about its E-A-T requirements for these.
So, essentially, E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) is important for every website, but especially for retail websites. Google considers eCommerce as YMYL.
In July 2018, Google updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines telling its human quality raters the five key things it wants to see from web pages:The purpose of each pageExpertise, authoritativeness & trustworthiness (E-A-T)Main content quality and amountWebsite/publisher informationWebsite/publisher reputation
This gives you an idea of how important E-A-T is for websites. You can learn how to optimise eCommerce stores for this in an article we wrote for The Drum.#4: Use structured data
Structured data provides Google with important information about your pages/content. Google can use this information to deliver your content to more relevant users and create more contextually relevant, visually compelling results listings (rich results).
Google has dedicated rich results for product listings (above). You can also make use of other formats for content types like blog posts, product reviews and other parts of your eCommerce SEO strategy.#5: Get ready for organic product listings
Google has just announced a new search feature rolling out in the US that shows organic product listings in the SERPs. Users can already see product listings in search results but retail brands can only feature in these by paying for Google Shopping campaigns. The new “popular products” feature presents an opportunity for brands to get their products organically ranking on results pages.
This feature is only just rolling out in the US, so it’s not much help to retailers in the UK for the moment. However, this move is a response to declining product searches on Google, as Amazon is now the most popular place to search for products. So it’s only a matter of time before this feature rolls out beyond the US.
More importantly, this is a clear sign that Google may be forced to provide retail marketers with more organic opportunities as it squares up to Amazon. This kind of competition can only be good news for retail search marketers.
Stay tuned and get ready to optimise for new opportunities as they emerge.
Retail SEO is one of the most challenging areas in search marketing, but the good thing about this is that you can climb above a lot of competitors by getting the finer details right.
The most common mistake retail brands make is focusing all of their search marketing efforts on maximising visibility and traffic without paying enough attention to the quality of traffic, on-site UX, multichannel marketing and other aspects that determine how many of those visitors convert and return in the future.