In the course of two years, the CTR for organic results has dropped significantly on desktop and mobile. Seems to be a sign of Google making it much harder for businesses to get good results without paying for it. While CTR has dropped, the search volume and traffic to the website has stayed the same. If you’re responsible for organic channels and your traffic hasn’t dropped, you’re swimming against the tide.
Technical SEO is key for ecommerce sites as they tend to have more issues than others due to the sheer size of them. Sometimes, however, the simple things go wrong. Ian gives the example of Bingbot being blocked in their robots.txt file. Another example is one Boom’s clients who implemented infinite scroll in such a way that the content could not be crawled effectively.
Pagination can also cause issues if not implemented correctly, potentially preventing search engine crawlers from seeing the full range of products – issues can come up with both robots.txt and canonical tags. On the other hand, if canonical tags are missing for pages with different search filters, you’ll probably end up with loads of unnecessarily indexed and duplicated pages.
If sites are built on AJAX, you’ll get hashed URLs for different pages in a category. Google won’t see the hashed URL as a separate page and won’t index it. Products on the second page and beyond won’t show up in search engines.
Structured data mark up (schema.org mark up) provides information about products. Structured data can cause more information to show in SERPs, for example, pricing and stock levels or reviews. You can’t force Google to use structured data for rich snippets; it will decide whether or not to use the data you’ve highlighted. Schema mark up also provides product information on mobile image search to make it easier for people to buy from the image results pages (if they’re on mobile).
Depth of content is one of the best ways to increase organic reach. Hidden content will normally be ignored by Google. If you can’t see content without having to click on something to reveal it, Google will consider it hidden and it won’t contribute towards rankings. Experiments have shown that removing hidden content will help with rankings.
However, this is going to change when Google fully rolls out its mobile-first index. They recognise that hidden content on mobile is a more common and sensible way to approach content if there’s a lot of text on a page. Accordions and some kind of tabulation is normal and helpful for mobile users; it will therefore not be devalued in the new index.
Expand content depth with ‘hub’ and ‘spoke’ pages. The hub is the main category page and the spokes are additional content pages that provide more information, all based on keyword research. Content hubs like this bring more traffic from medium- and long-tail keywords. Good performance in content hubs is an indication to Google of a good user experience. In Boom’s experience, content hubs have demonstrably improved conference.
To build a content hub, carry out in-depth long-tail keyword research and find questions that people are actually asking. You could implement the hubs on category pages with links beneath the products to a tips and advice section, or with a side menu. Try and make pages 500+ words long to make sure the information is suitably deep and good quality.
Getting links is a challenge for ecommerce sites. The point of links is, of course, to build domain authority and to funnel link equity to hub pages. They also build brand awareness through content marketing. By creating content, you’re feeding other marketing channels with resources that they can use.
Classic infographics can still get loads of shares if they hit the right audience. It can be easy to gather data through Google surveys and simple research. You can keep coming back to shareable resources every time a relevant story comes up in the media. If you choose the right topic it will have a broad appeal (even if it’s not directly related to products on the ecommerce site), but the broader you go, the more opportunities you get for links and shares and the more the biggest sites (like newspapers) are likely to link to you.
The difficulty with clients is convincing them of the value of these broad link building campaigns. The value is that you get the high-level links, which contributes to the site’s overall SEO value. Think laterally, think broadly and think laterally to come up with these ideas.
If you can draw on themes from popular culture you can really see rewards (e.g. tapping into the market around Star Wars or Game of Thrones).
You really need a blog (preferably WordPress) to host this kind of content on the site. You also need creativity, good research and high production values, all backed up with good outreach skills. This is a multi-skilled, multi-person approach. The graphic designer is unlikely to also want to send emails to 400 people and cope with rejection!
Content that is directly related to the products you sell is great if you can pull it off, as you’ll get links straight to the category pages, but this is very tricky! If you can pull it off, do it.
You have to keep chipping away at these strategies, they don’t produce results overnight. The good thing is, the momentum increases as you go along. You need to generate that momentum through marginal gains at the start of the process.
- Conduct deep and regular techinical audits.
- Structured data very important!
- Be aware of mobile-first indexing
- Add informative content pages (hub and spoke)
- Consider broad content for link building