Guest blog for Big Commerce: November 2016
As 2016 draws to a close, it’s easy to get caught up reflecting on the trials and triumphs of the past year, when what we should be doing is focusing on the future. In this article we’ll look at how marketers can maximize their SEO and prepare their ecommerce sites for the year ahead.
1) Spot the trends in what your customers want
A good method for spotting trends early is to explore Google Trends, as this tracks popular search terms and even tells you the geographic locations these terms are most popular in, which is particularly helpful if your business is looking to target a specific area.
In the screenshot above you can see that a search for ‘sports 2017’ not only brings up the areas of the global this term is most popular, but it also reveals other related topics and queries, which could lead to unique opportunities others in your industry may have missed. This image clearly shows that it’s never too early to start marketing your products, as there are plenty of people searching for terms related to business already. Spotting trends and being the first to the market with next year’s content is going to help your SEO. If you can produce a round up of next year’s most anticipated sports games or trends likely to influence the gaming market in 2017 and then optimise your articles, you’re likely to rank your pages highly and as a result attract more traffic to your site. There are plenty of consumers out there, you just have to get ahead of the competition and find them first. If you get your content out there early, it can be steadily building up authority with search engines way before your competitors have even gotten around to thinking about their own content on next year’s trends.
2) Merge similar pages into one
You might also want to conduct a digital clear out before next year. It’s easy for your site to become cluttered, especially if multiple people are responsible for updating it. Now is the time to get your house in order by shifting the furniture about and plumping up the cushions. Conduct a review of your website using Google Analytics. This tool will reveal if you have a lot of pages that receive very few visitors, and with a little lateral thinking you can usually discover the reasons for this. A common explanation is having multiple pages that have a very similar topic. For instance, an ecommerce site might have multiple variations of one particular product, such as different size TVs, and you may have created separate pages for 40, 48, and 55–inch variations. Pages that duplicate information could be classed as ‘thin content’, setting off alarm bells at Google and hurting your SEO efforts. A better solution is to have one page only, but include a drop down box for your users to choose different sizes. Making this change will have SEO benefits, because it makes it abundantly clear to Google that this one page is the most important and appropriate page to satisfy a range of very similar search queries. The page will also be easier to maintain, as you won’t need your web developer to implement canonical tags, or worry about the up keep of multiple versions of similar pages. To further help your SEO, remove any exact duplicate pages and 301 redirect them to a relevant page.
3) Test your site’s user experience
When it comes to spotting what might be going wrong with your website, you and your web developer are about the worst people in the world to judge, as you know the site inside out already. It’s vital then to test your site with people who match your target market and who are also unfamiliar with it. Use services like UserTesting or WhatUsersDo to test how easy your website is to navigate. These sites get people to test your website on their own devices and provide you with videos of them narrating what they’re doing. You can see exactly which elements of your site they struggle to use, and if multiple users have similar problems, then it’s obvious that this area needs some attention. These services are also great for testing out your customers’ user journeys, or the route they take to find and then purchase a product. You want to make this journey as smooth and easy as possible by removing any unnecessary steps. The insights gained from these sites are vital for improving your website’s conversion rates.
4) Offer the right mobile user experience
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t see the merits of having a website for a business in 2016. Websites have well and truly become part of the furniture. However, just having a lovely looking website is no longer enough. As smartphones become ever more popular, a website that isn’t optimised to work well on a mobile is bad for business. This is because in 2015 Google changed its algorithm to favour sites that are ‘mobile-friendly’. A non-friendly site is one that takes ages to load, or only displays a tiny part of the screen so you have to scroll about the page to read the content, or that has tiny buttons or links you struggle to click on. If you want to rank well on Google search pages (because Google are now actively rewarding sites that do), then you have to get your house in order. Your web design needs to be thinking of mobile users first and desktop users second, because these days most people are discovering your website on their mobile phones. It is expected that next year 75% of global web traffic will be via smartphones, so it is more important than ever to optimise your site so that those on mobiles can navigate it with ease. Making user journeys as easy as possible will increase your conversions. Some may argue that redesigning your site to prioritise mobile users is foolhardy as mobile conversions still lag behind desktops. However, mobiles play a huge role in the research process, with consumers first checking out sites on their phones before following through with a purchase on their desktops. Users are unlikely to return to your site if they’ve struggled to navigate it in the past. High conversion rates will not come unless your mobile site is well designed and offers a great user experience.
If you follow these simple steps, then you’re sure to get the jump on your competitors in 2017, as well as offering your customers better user experiences that will lead to more conversions.