Owen Gill introduced a talk on the subject of ecommerce SEO. He covered 3 main points:

  • Changes in SERPs in 2016
  • How mobile usage is changing
  • Importance of content for ecommerce sites and generating prominent SERP visibility

Changes to SERPs in 2016

The SERPs have changed significantly over the past 12 months. Primarily, changes to the ad formats mean that there is less space for organic results and paid ads are taking up more space.

We’ve also seen organic results start showing ad extensions. A study from SearchMetrics in 2016 showed that there are an average of 8.5 organic search results on a mobile and 8.6 on a tablet.

The first organic result is further down the screen now. AMP is also showing more prominently on mobile. In October 2016 SMX, Google celebrated the success of AMP and said they will focus on it more.

Growth in Mobile Usage

In 2014, mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time. The mobile conversion rate has grown quickly too, and we anticipate more growth in ecommerce conversions on mobile devices.

Increased PPC activity has made PPC more competitive than ever, and more businesses are questioning their use of the channel as it becomes more expensive.

What Will 2017 Look Like?

Owen expects:

  • Adverts occupying more premium retail space on SERPs making it harder for organic results to gain visibility
  • Google has been testing larger meta descriptions for position 1, 2 and 3 in the organic SERPs, and Owen expects this to increase further

How Buyer Behaviour is Changing

Users are becoming much more savvy in terms of looking for deals and getting the best price. They use their various devices to browse around and it is essential we engage with them at every touch point.

The importance of soft content will therefore increase, according to Owen. Long tail search, with lower competition may seem an old school technique today but it’s still so valuable in engaging prospects before they’re even ready to buy, making sure you’re in their mind when they come to convert.

Another way to differentiate your company in a more browse-driven world. Use of schema markup will be even more important to help Google surface key elements of your product page in the SERPs.

Google is pulling even more information than ever into the SERPs. In order to stay visible and competitive, ecommerce websites will need to have as much information as possible and make it as easy to access as possible too.

Owen also suggests the use of third party aggregators to showcase your products in more competitive terms.

Retention is Key to Success

Retention is more important than ever and to retain customers, we need to dig more into our own data. This means looking at Analytics to find areas for improvement, trialling new layouts, use of AMP and so on.

The importance of user behaviour as a ranking factor is increasing. Think about your users.

Key Takeaways

Owen’s presentation was well thought out and provided a brief overview of a range of topics. Essentially, understanding that the marketplace, particularly for ecommerce, is more competitive than ever before; SERPs are surfacing more information than ever and users are more savvy than ever in their hunt for the best deal.

He also talked about the increased competitiveness of PPC, and even suggested that some businesses are questioning the value of paid ads as it becomes more expensive (we’d argue the value of PPC lies in identifying those terms which are profitable for your business and place your products in front of your audience when they want them – including search, shopping and remarketing campaigns).

Nevertheless, users are still loyal to brands where they see value in being so. Here at Impression, we work with a range of ecommerce businesses across B2B and B2C industries and we’re seeing the same thing time and again; those businesses able to position themselves as humans and to speak with personality always do better when it comes to conversions.

What does this mean? Well, for your business, it means getting the basics right. It means investing in the SEO techniques that are proven to benefit websites (well optimised pages, use of schema markup, strong links to your domain) as well as in newer techniques where we see the value in doing so (things like AMP, for example, are still discussed in terms of how beneficial they will be in the long term, but trialling them for now could be worthwhile if you have the time and the budget).

It also means investing in those areas that we might consider more the remit of traditional marketing. Things like brand voice, look of the brand (from your logos to your colours to the style of photography), telling the story behind your business – these are all areas where you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Most of all, in my opinion, 2017 will push digital marketers to be more user-centred than ever before. We’re already seeing the evolution of ‘user-experience’ to ’emotional experience’ (check out Nathalie Nahai for anything on web psychology) and the growth of neuro-marketing (Lab have an interesting event coming up on this topic which I’ll be attending). Understanding the people you’re selling to is an essential part of any ecommerce business’ success. Those businesses able to engage with their audience across channels and devices will almost certainly win out.

Useful further reading

Laura Hampton: How to Create Useful Audience Personas to Guide Your Digital Strategy

Aaron Dicks: How to Achieve Awesome Mobile Experiences Without AMP

Liam Wade: 4 Advanced Search Query Techniques You Must Be Using In Your Shopping Campaigns

Nathalie Nahai: The Science of Online Persuasion

Lab: Neuromarketing Event

Google on AMP

Laura Hampton

Head of Digital PR

Head of Digital PR at Impression working with colleagues and clients to deliver link acquisition campaigns that support SEO visibility and wider marketing goals. Regular speaker at industry conferences and contributor to industry publications. In my spare time, I jump out of planes.

Laura has specialist knowledge in Digital PR and Content Marketing.

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