A Simple eCommerce SEO Tactic We Used to Help Drive 46% More Traffic to Category Pages Over 18 Months

Here’s how adding descriptions to the top of eCommerce category pages helped drive 46% more organic traffic over an 18 month period.

In March of 2016, we began adding approximately 150-word descriptions to the tops of category pages for one of our clients, in addition to updating pages that already had some copy. This client was an eCommerce business offering a wide range of products grouped into 400+ categories. Our goal was to increase organic traffic to their category pages.

Over the course of about 18 months, we found these category pages to have 46% more organic sessionscompared to the 18 months prior. While we can’t attribute these positive results solely to the page descriptions because there were many other tactics being used simultaneously, we believe they are at least in part responsible for this increase in traffic to this page type.

In general, we think this SEO tactic (adding short 75 – 100 word descriptions to category pages) is something many eCommerce sites could possibly benefit from exploring as part of their overall SEO strategy.

While no tactic works 100% of the time, we feel that testing to see if adding short descriptive copy on category pages produces a positive impact is worthwhile for most brands (we discuss possible exceptions below).

In this post we will cover:

  1. Our process for creating the page descriptionsincluding reasoning behind specific decisions that were made.
  2. Which sites may be more or less likely to benefit from this strategy.
  3. Other tactics that we commonly deploy when optimizing category pages.
  4. Specific considerations that you should think about when making SEO decisions for your store’s category pages.

If you’d like to talk with someone on our team to see what actions could be taken to improve SEO for your eCommerce business, you can start a conversation with us here.

The Importance of Category Pages for eCommerce SEO

Before we dive into the process we followed for creating the on-page descriptions, I want to step back and take a look at where category pages fit in eCommerce SEO.

When we talk about foundational pages on an eCommerce site that we want to optimize, we’re typically talking about the (a) homepage, (b) product pages, and (c) category pages.

  1. Homepages are typically seeking to rank for the brand name and more general keywords related to that business, whereas…
  2. Product pages are optimized to rank for more specific search phrases when they’re most relevant to the user.
  3. Category pages are where we optimize for the many users who begin their search with a more general term of what they’re shopping for, when they would usually expect a list of products rather than get taken to a specific product.

Users who search terms that are best answered with category and product page results show high product/conversion intent, and that’s why these pages are particularly valuable to rank for.

Now let’s look at the steps we took to create category page body copy for our client.

Our Process for Creating the Category Page Descriptions

With this particular client, we started with a batch of category pages that we prioritized based on organic traffic and revenue potential. When we finished that batch, we moved onto the next batch of priority pages. And we’d work on 10-15 pages at a time.

For each batch of pages, we followed these 3 steps:

  1. Keyword Research and Selection
  2. Keyword Organization
  3. Writing the Copy
  1. Keyword Research and Selection

For each category page, we began our keyword research using Google Search Console and Keyword Planner (although today we typically use Ahrefs). We looked at current page rankings and competitor keywords to identify which phrases looked promising.

We selected keywords based on key criteria including:

  • They showed good traffic potential
  • Searcher intent matched the purpose of that category
  • Keyword difficulty wasn’t too high

  1. Keyword Organization

Once we chose our keywords, we organized them into primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords.

The following keyword type descriptions are from our eCommerce & SEO Copywriting Guide (updated last year) where we write about optimizing product and category pages in depth.

  • Primary Keyword – this keyword has the best combination of relevancy and search volume.
  • Secondary Keyword – this keyword has the 2nd best combination of relevancy and search volume, and should be rather unique from the primary keyword.
  • Tertiary Keyword – this keyword has the 3rd best combination of relevancy and search volume, and should be rather unique from the primary and secondary keywords.

  1. Writing the Copy

We then wrote 100 to 150 words trying to incorporate the keywords described above naturally within the copy, titles, and headers.

Back then we were recommending 150 words, but more recently we’ve been recommending 75-100 words. This is in part due to wanting to balance SEO with other factors like conversion rate optimization (CRO) and user experiencewhich we’ll discuss more below.

For Whom Does this Strategy Work Best?

As of right now, we think this tactic applies to the majority of eCommerce sites.

For clients that have category pages that are ranking well but coming up just short of page one (with page two performers for good related general keywords), we have seen that these sites can really benefit from adding body copy.

We have also seen cases where clients saw no improvements in traffic.

If a client comes to us and their category pages are already ranking well for the general keywords that we would want them to, we may not see much additional benefit from adding descriptive copy to those pages.

And if you’re an extremely large brand like Nike or Home Depot, with a lot of authority, this may not be a high priority tactic to test (along with other common SEO tactics).

But for the vast majority of sites, by signaling to search engines about the contents of the page, the body copy can be both helpful for the user and give a better shot at getting that bump from page two up to page one.

Let’s now take a look at some other tactics we use to help them get that bump.

Other Tactics We Deploy When Optimizing Category Pages

Adding page body copy is just one of a number of other category page SEO tactics we can test. Here are some others that we’ll also analyze and/or use when we think they’re necessary or appropriate.

Descriptive Title Tags

A title tag is the category name and it should be descriptive and specific. For example, if the category page only contains yoga pants for pregnant women, we’d use something like “Pregnant Women’s Yoga Pants” for the title tag instead of just “Yoga Pants.”

Interlinking

Interlinking is the tactic of linking to 1-3 related categories or subcategories contextually within the category description. Sometimes it’s a mix between categories and links to popular products within that category page.

Category Maintenance

This is the practice of making sure we maintain categories by fixing broken links (from other pages) as categories and subcategories are deleted.

Checking Technical Aspects

  • Canonical tags
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Site speed

Reviewing How Filters/Facets Are Currently Working

In an effort to not waste crawl budget spending time on thin pages that are essentially duplicate content, we check to see if filter/facet pages are indexable and crawlable.

Other Considerations for Category Page SEO: Conversion Rate and User Experience

Because context is so important when it comes to SEO, tactics like adding category page body copy is mostly used on a case by case basis, and not just simply done no matter what.

When we consider using this tactic of adding on-page descriptions, we think about balancing SEO with conversion rate optimization (CRO) and user experience concerns.

In particular, one of the biggest issues to consider when adding descriptive text to category pages is the risk of conversion rate reductions due to pushing products down the page. At Inflow, since we also have a CRO team, we have the privilege of discussing these issues with them on a case-by-case basis when working on SEO for a client.

To make decisions about balancing CRO with SEO, we think about things like:

  • Are the products going to be pushed below the fold?
  • Will the content take away from the product browsing experience?
  • Is it possible to add the content elsewhere besides the top of the page?
  • Would this page benefit from using “read more” links?
  • Is endless scroll being used (which would prevent us from being able to add content at the bottom)?

And when we consider balancing user experience with SEO, we ask questions like:

  • Could the user benefit from some explanation of the category and/or links to popular products to help them start exploring?
  • Is there helpful content that the site has produced that we could link to for those that need more information before browsing products?

Adding Descriptions to the Bottom vs. the Top of Category Pages

Before we wrap up, I want to touch on the tactic of adding copy to the bottom of category pages, as this topic comes up often in eCommerce SEO. Our overall stance on this topic is that it could insinuate to search engines that the content is not important.

Google has suggested that content this far down the page is deemed unimportant (because if it was important, why would it be at the bottom of the page?). Most readers may not get this far down the page and the content can be seen as over-optimized.

To summarize, for clients with opportunity to improve rankings for category pages, we explore the possibility of adding content if we believe there’s a lot of opportunity, but also keep in mind all of the possible issues mentioned above.

When it comes to the time it takes to see results from tactics like adding category page body copy, it could take as little as a few weeksand on the flip side, it could produce little results.

The key is to always be thoughtfully testing and trying to make improvements to overall site quality.

Are you in eCommerce? You can always reach out to see if this or other SEO tactics would be a good fit for your business. It’s what we do!

“Probably the most important thing you will do for your business,” says Urban Forex, a financial education company

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The post What is a Conversion Rate? What is a Good Conversion Rate? appeared first on Conversion Sciences.

Key Takeaways from PegaWorld 2019

This week, I attended PegaWorld 2019 in Las Vegas, where Merkle participated as a sponsor, exhibitor, and thought leader. Our colleagues and clients were among 5000 business leaders from more than 700 brands across 50 countries. What attracted us to th…

This week, I attended PegaWorld 2019 in Las Vegas, where Merkle participated as a sponsor, exhibitor, and thought leader. Our colleagues and clients were among 5000 business leaders from more than 700 brands across 50 countries. What attracted us to the conference was the pursuit of intelligent automation and customer engagement excellence, with a focus on innovation, leadership, and collaboration.  

In the first customer keynote of the event, VodafoneZiggo’s Nicole Verburg talked about the concept of meaningful customer dialogue. Her brand sees success coming from putting the customer first; delivering next-level marketing that goes beyond the big idea, with a sole focus on insight that leads to business transformation. VodafoneZiggo achieved this by driving and accelerating convergence across its customer base with hero propositions that create happy customers. This is delivered by a central decisioning capability with adaptive learning with a feedback loop of essential real-time interaction history. The company’s success factors include strong internal branding, having clear ownership and governance, and getting real executive sponsorship — right up to CEO and COO level.

Themes from the Conference

A common topic of conversation at PegaWorld was centered on the pitfalls and mistakes peers make on their journey to enhancing customer engagement – albeit with the best intentions. These pitfalls can be summed up as:

1. Arranging engagement around the channels and not being organized around the customer, or the customer journey. The pitfalls of this are that systems become brittle.

2. Focusing on tasks not outcomes. This is a blinkered approach that can be to the detriment of the customer experience and commercial rewards.

3. The presence of operational silos and not an end-to-end, common perspective business-wide. This is where empathy has an all-important role to play.

The way to avoid the above drawbacks is to drop intelligence into every channel with a single decisioning brain that can bridge across channels and has the capability to unify and mediate. Brands including VodafoneZiggo, RBS, BT/EE, and Verizon exemplify how to do it successfully.  

Another theme of discussion at PegaWorld was effective delivery. The common success factors were identified as the ability to achieve benefits in an iterative and agile manner. On this, Pega’s founder and CEO, Alan Trefler called out an evolution in the way businesses should focus on enhancing customer engagement: One micro journey at a time. Trefler extends that a successful “microjourney” architecture ensures that once you’ve engaged, you can execute. He says that takes heart, confidence, and most importantly, empathy.

PegaWorld 2019 was one for the books and certainly explored the increasing importance of intelligent automation and customer engagement excellence.

Want to learn more about Merkle’s award winning Pega partnership? Find out more here.

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U.S. podcast ad revenue grew by 53% in 2018

The market totaled $479 million last year and is predicted to exceed $1 billion in 2021.

The post U.S. podcast ad revenue grew by 53% in 2018 appeared first on Marketing Land.

U.S. advertisers spent an all-time high of $479 million on podcast ads in 2018, up 53% from $314 million the year prior, according to research by IAB and PwC. The report also predicts that domestic podcast marketplace revenues will double to over $1 billion by 2021.

Why we should care

Fifty-one percent of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast and 22% have listened in the past week. Seventy-eight percent of listeners say they don’t mind branded sponsorships. Combine that with audio-first technologies baked into smart speakers and cars and advertisers are realizing that podcasts are a marketing platform that is a constant companion to millions of potential customers.

The report also indicates that tracked direct response ads have declined from 73% of all podcast ads in 2016 to 51.6% last year. This decline coincides with the rise of branded content campaigns and brand awareness ads, suggesting that podcasts may be more efficient for campaigns that do not require tracking via a unique code or URL.

More from the report

  • More than half of all ad revenue came from D2C retailers (22%), financial service providers (21%) and B2B (14%) ad buyers.
  • Baked-in ads still accounted for the majority (51.2%) of podcast ads delivered in 2018, although dynamically inserted ads did grow to 48.8% from 41.7% in 2017.
  • Host-read ads are still preferred over pre-produced and supplied ads, making up nearly two-thirds of ad types.
  • Cost-per-thousand remained the dominant pricing model in 2018, with cost-per-acquisition becoming no longer significant.

The post U.S. podcast ad revenue grew by 53% in 2018 appeared first on Marketing Land.

Free podcast of our entire book, Making Websites Win

We’ve created an audiobook version of our best-selling book. And as an experiment, we’ve decided to give it away as a free podcast. See how to get the audiobook podcast

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