Link Building Is Not Always the Best Way to Boost Rankings in eCommerce

In some situations, additional backlinks won’t do much for your rankings. Here’s how to know if backlink building is the right move — and other tactics to use when it’s not.

Typically, when eCommerce marketing teams strategize about improving Google rankings and growing SEO traffic, a lot of the conversation inevitably focuses on link building.

Link building is important, but, we’ve found from helping hundreds of eCommerce sites with their SEO, that for many sites with good domain authority and a solid foundation of existing backlinks, there are other tactics that can often move the needle better or faster than link building.

In fact, for some websites, we recommend not spending time just building general backlinks. When we’ve worked with companies like these, we’ve instead spent time on other, non-link building SEO tactics and have generated nice results.

In this article, we discuss how to determine when to focus on link building vs. when not to. Then, we outline the other tactics besides link building that we often deploy on eCommerce sites that have yielded good results.

Note: If you’d like to talk to our SEO experts about whether they’d recommend link building or other SEO tactics on your eCommerce store, contact us here.

When Backlinks Matter

First of all, it’s important to remember that acquiring many high-quality backlinks is still foundational to achieving a high SERP ranking.

For newer sites, building up high-quality backlinks should be one of the very first things you focus on. To rank on the front page of Google, you usually need at least one high-quality backlink.

But at some point, aggressive link building could yield diminishing returns because the site may already be attracting links to quality content passively.

That’s not to say there’s no place for ongoing creation of new content that also continues to attract links. But investing resources in additional aggressive link building may not be the best use of their time and some of the alternative SEO tactics discussed below may yield a higher business ROI for the company.

Let’s explore why.

What It Looks like to Have a ‘Strong’ Backlink Profile

To find out if link building is worth the effort for your site, you’ll want to open up a tool like Ahrefs and check your site for the following signs:

A High Domain Authority/Domain Ranking

Domain Rating (DR) in Ahrefs is an estimate of your site’s reputation in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm. It’s not a perfect measure, but it will give you a sense of the strength of your backlink profile. The same is true of similar metrics such as Moz’s Domain Authority (DA).

Generally speaking, the higher your DR or DA, the more high-quality backlinks, and linking root domains you have.

For the purposes of this article, it’s actually quite telling to look at the distribution of sites in different DR ranges and how many referring domains (links from unique domains) that sites in each range have, on average.

In the following table by Ahrefs, you can see this distribution:

Generally, the higher your DR or DA, the more high-quality backlinks you have, as shown here. 

DR 0–5: 146,455,043 domains (1 d.ref.domains)

DR 6–10: 10,322,431 domains (30 d.ref.domains)

DR 11–15: 5,171,577 domains (44 d.ref.domains)

DR 16–20: 3,085,066 domains (57 d.ref.domains)

DR 21–25: 2,499,437 domains (85 d.ref.domains)

DR 26–30: 2,493,952 domains (137 d.ref.domains)

DR 31–35: 1,377,630 domains (547 d.ref.domains)

DR 36–40: 861,493 domains (314 d.ref.domains)

DR 41–45: 494,599 domains (263 d.ref.domains)

DR 46–50: 313,324 domains (352 d.ref.domains)

DR 51–55: 268,988 domains (444 d.ref.domains)

DR 56–60: 152,985 domains (708 d.ref.domains)

DR 61–65: 93,021 domains (956 d.ref.domains)

DR 66–70: 64,713 domains (1,374 d.ref.domains)

DR 71–75: 64,898 domains (2,789 d.ref.domains)

DR 76–80: 21,209 domains (6,761 d.ref.domains)

DR 81–85: 7,368 domains (16,425 d.ref.domains)

DR 86–90: 3,175 domains (36,811 d.ref.domains)

DR 91–95: 967 domains (637,650 d.ref.domains)

DR 96–100: 22 domains (8,891,919 d.ref.domains)

The most important thing is the number of referring domains you must acquire to continue improving your DR, which is the number in parenthesis in each line (the “N domains” next to the DR is the number of domains that Ahrefs has indexed that have a DR in that range).

You can see that as DR increases, the number of additional referring domains you need to move to the next tier of DR grows exponentially. For example, sites with DR 6 – 10 have on average 30 referring domains, and the tier just above it (DR 11 – 15) have on average 44 referring domains. That’s a difference of 14 linking root domains.

But that difference keeps growing as you go up in DR.

Look at the difference between DR 86 – 90 and DR 91 – 95. Sites between those two DR ranges have, on average, a difference of 600,000 referring domains!

So, this begs the question: if you already have a large mass of high quality backlinks from a variety of linking root domains, is an SEO strategy that can be summarized as “Let’s just keep building more links” really the best use of resources?

It may not be. SEO is complex, so of course there are certain situations that call for more link building, but in this article, we want to challenge eCommerce marketers, directors, and founders to think beyond the view of “link building is always most important”.

As we explain below, you can often find lower hanging fruit by thinking more strategically about how to deploy SEO resources. To be fair, you may end up deciding that building additional backlinks to certain pages is the best use of time, but even if so, that is a far more strategic approach than just focusing on link building as the be all end all of your SEO strategy.

An Example of a Naturally Large Amount of Backlinks

Knowing the above concept of diminishing returns, we first check to see how many backlinks and referring domains an eCommerce site we start working with has.

What we’ve found is that many established online stores with high-performing content often already have organically attracted plenty of backlinks, so spending our time doing manual link building for them likely isn’t the best way to increase organic traffic.

For example, Moving.com has done a lot of great blogging and therefore has a variety of foundational and strategic content designed to optimize their SEO.

Using Ahrefs, we can see how their content strategy has helped them acquire nearly 10 million backlinks from 10,400 referring domains with 91% of them coming from dofollow links, giving them an Ahrefs DR of 83.

Moving.com's content strategy has helped them acquire nearly 10 million backlinks from 10,400 referring domains.

As we see from the table above, with a DR of 83, sites in the higher DR tiers have, on average, tens of thousands (or for even higher tiers, hundreds of thousands) more backlinks than Moving.com.

So, in situations like these, you should ask two questions:

  1. How is our link profile and site quality (DR, DA) relative to our competitors?
  2. How much effort would it take to build the amount of backlinks necessary to equal or outperform competitors by moving up to higher DR ranges?

In the example above, anyone who has done link building knows that tens of thousands of backlinks is non-trivial. So this would be a good situation to explore other SEO tactics and site optimizations that could boost SEO results, and give us a greater ROI on time and resources spent.

As a final note, make sure to check where your backlinks are coming from. One very easy way to optimize your SEO is to see if you have any broken referral (incoming) links and if there are any significant clusters of links originating from the same IP range.

Fixing these small issues can greatly enhance the SEO of your eCommerce site. Again, if you want us to look for you, feel free to reach out.

3 Ways to Improve SEO without Building More Backlinks

At Inflow, once we’ve identified that an eCommerce site may not see huge returns from additional link building, we’ll explore the following 3 SEO tactics:

1. Create or Improve Strategic Content

At Inflow, we often refer to two types of content types on eCommerce sites: foundational and strategic.

  • Foundational content refers to key pages in your store—like product and category pages.
  • Strategic content, however, are pages where you’re strategically targeting mid to long tail keywords that aren’t best represented by a foundational page in your store.

This content can come in a variety of forms: blog posts, buying guides, infographics, videos, resource sections — whatever fits your audience and brand the best. Good strategic content resonates with your target audience(s), educates them, and builds trust in your brand.

The key is that the content is strategically designed to rank for certain mid to long tail keywords that your foundational content (product and category pages) are not or cannot rank for (because including those keywords on product and category pages, for example, may not make sense).

At Inflow, we often look for keyword gaps as opportunities to create strategic content. One way to find keyword gaps is by conducting keyword research on your competitors to see what keywords they rank for that you either don’t rank for at all or don’t rank as highly.

While these keywords will typically have a lower search volume, they will let you rank for terms that your target customers are searching for but your foundational content would not otherwise rank for.

Think about a yoga store wanting to rank for “how to do sun salutations” — their yoga mats, yoga clothing, or yoga accessories product or category pages are likely not going to rank for that, but a blog post could.

So while just general, active link building may increase the overall rankings of all keywords you rank for, often strategically creating content to go after new, specific keywords that your target customers are likely searching for could give you better ROI on your SEO efforts.

Finally, these new strategic content pieces can often be crafted to attract natural links – e.g. data-based or resource-based blog posts on a keyword gap you identify. These types of content pieces often attract links naturally over time, without you having to spend time proactively finding link building opportunities.

2. Remove, Improve, or Consolidate Pages

One of the very first things we do at Inflow during our content audit process is to locate and weed out any low-performing pages that may be lowering the overall “quality” of the website.

While Google continues to remain secretive about what variables affect a site’s search engine ranking, we know that having a significant number of low-quality pages will damage your SEO.

Often, we’ll have new clients come to us with thousands of pages that generate little to no organic search traffic and in many cases have little to no value to users. This is content that does nothing but damage their search rankings.

Using the Cruft Finder Tool we found that one of our eCommerce clients had over 38,000 useless pages on their site — 90% of which we ended up removing entirely.

Sometimes, the answer isn’t as easy as removing the page from your site. If the page in question is strategic content or vital to your online store, we’ll either “improve” or “consolidate” it.

Improving a page can be as simple as republishing that piece of content or increasing the number and variety of the targeted keywords. If there are multiple pieces of content on the same or similar topics, we will consolidate them into one big authoritative post.

3. Improve Internal Linking

Finally, we often look to see if we can improve the internal linking architecture of an eCommerce client’s site to strategically improve the rankings of high converting pages which also have an opportunity to drive more organic search traffic.

Here are a few reasons you might undertake an internal linking strategy for your site.

  1. Improve your site’s architecture; ensure good link equity is being fairly spread across important pages to the site.
  2. Increase the number of links to high priority pages – in general, the more internal links a page has, the higher its relative value to Google. This could include product pages, category pages, Page 2 Opportunities (see below), high revenue pages or new pages being launched.
  3. You have page(s) that receive a lot of organic search traffic and/or attract external links, but the page(s) have little conversion value. By strategically placing internal links from these pages to relevant “money” pages, you can create more value from those pages as well as funnel some of the “link juice” to these pages as well.
  4. You want to remove internal links because pages (typically in the header and/or footer) are sending internal link juice in too many directions. Wayfair recently reduced the number of internal links on certain page types and it resulted in a 10% increase in Organic traffic.

At Inflow, we’ll often use this for client pages that are ranking at the bottom of page 1 or near the top of page 2. We call these “Page 2 Opportunities”. In those cases, if strategic internal linking can move the page in question up a few spots, that can exponentially increase the amount of click throughs it’s getting – in particular if it makes to the top half of page 1 (where the vast majorities of clicks go).

How does this work?

Well, internal links can carry value, similar to how external links can carry value. In particular, we’ve found that keyword rich anchor text can send a very clear signal to a crawler about what it can expect when it goes from page A to page B (but don’t overdo it). We’ve found his can often boost rankings of page B.

(This effect is similar to best practices in paid search: having the ad copy include the search keyword and have the landing page also have that keyword so all 3 steps align around the same keyword.)

We’ve found that sending those keyword rich signals with a handful of internal links can often be enough to boost a certain page up the rankings a few spots, without building any external links.

Another way to apply this tactic and give certain pages a boost is by having those links come from your best-performing pages. Although, do keep in mind that this tactic can only be used a handful of times as the more links you add, the more diluted their effect becomes.

Revamp Site Architecture to Scale Internal Link Building

Finally, in addition to using internal link building strategically to improve the rankings of certain pages, there are times where we have revamped the entire site architecture to improve internal linking on a site-wide basis.

This is, one could say, a way to do internal link building “at scale”. We only do this in certain situations where we think the resource investment in fixing this will pay off. If you’ve curious if your site could use this, contact us, and we’ll give you our honest opinion.

Conclusion

Link building is still a very important aspect of SEO for eCommerce brands. However, in our experience, after a good foundation of backlinks have been built, opportunities arise to get a higher ROI on your time and resources by deploying other SEO tactics besides link building.

Where this cutoff happens is dependent on each specific site and how much other “low hanging fruit” they have in terms of under performing pages, strategic content opportunities and more. But we encourage all eCommerce marketing teams to take a hard look at other factors that can improve SEO results besides backlinks.

You may find many opportunities you otherwise could have missed.

Note: Want a custom in-depth assessment of your search ranking performance? Contact us to get started.

BigCommerce SEO Case Study: How to Improve SEO When Moving to BigCommerce

Home Science Tools migrated from Magento to BigCommerce. Here’s what happened to their SEO after the migration, and how they’ve improved it tremendously since.

Late in 2017, one of our clients, Home Science Tools moved its website from Magento to BigCommerce.

The move went well in almost every area.

“We’re able to have better granularity and understanding of who our customers are,” said Brandy Hansen, Director of Marketing for the company, whom we spoke with recently.

This new functionality — the ability to better track who’s visiting the website and what they’re looking for — has been critical to the company’s efforts to better personalize the customer experience on the site.

“We’re able to get a certain level of understanding from what products they’re buying, the frequency, or the time of the year that they’re purchasing,” Brandy told us.

The SEO impact, however, was unexpectedly negative immediately after the migration.

“We did have some hiccups with SEO though, which we’ve been addressing.”

In this article, we’ll share with you what happened from an SEO perspective: why they had those hiccups, and how they’ve turned things around in a big way in the time since.

Note: We’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase conversions based on organic traffic. We can create a custom SEO strategy for your business. Contact us here.

BigCommerce Blog and SEO Challenges

In general, hosted eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce (also, Shopify) are not great places to host content like blog posts or educational resources. They all have out-of-the-box blog solutions, but the blogging tools that come with the platforms are extremely limited compared to the most robust blogging software ever: WordPress.

Thus, our recommendation to eCommerce brands for setting up your blog is to decide how much you will invest in it:

  • If you plan to have only a few posts, it will be easiest to just use the built-in, out-of-the-box blogging solution from BigCommerce, Shopify or whatever your hosted eCommerce platform is.
  • But if you plan to have, or already have, a lot of content (like Home Science Tools did) or if you want to customize lots of details about your blog (exact look and feel, social share plugins, email capture, pop-ups, etc.) then you’ll want to use WordPress.

Having a WordPress hosted blog with a store on BigCommerce has never been easy.

In fact, in mid-2018, BigCommerce came out with a new WordPress integration to address this exact issue. We don’t view the new integration to be a robust solution, but it does show that BigCommerce is aware this isn’t a strength for its platform.

In 2017, that integration wasn’t an option.

That was a problem for Home Science Tools, which had a large database of content (its “Learning Center”), which generated thousands of pageviews a month in traffic.

Its best choice was to move the learning center to a WordPress powered subdomain.

If you look at the site today, that’s the setup you’ll see.

The main eCommerce pages (built on BigCommerce) are on: homesciencetools.com.

BigCommerce SEO:  A view of Home Science Tools main eCommerce pages.

The Learning Center (built on WordPress) is on: learning-center.homesciencetools.com/blog/

BigCommerce SEO: The Learning Center is hosted on another URL.

An Initial Drop in Organic Traffic

Initially, the move to the subdomain caused a dip in organic traffic to both the main site and the learning center — a dip that alarmed everyone at Home Science Tools for a while.

It has not stayed that way, however.

In the past year, our team has worked with Home Science Tools to make steady improvement in the site’s SEO performance.

“We’ve been very judicious in how we approached SEO over the past six months, and we’ve seen some incredible results in that area,” Brandy told us.

What, specifically, has worked to turn things around?

As it turns out, the platform doesn’t matter nearly as much as you might think.

Regardless of whether your site is on Magento, BigCommerce, WordPress (WooCommerce), or something else, what matters for SEO is getting the fundamentals right.

Where the platforms do make a difference is the ease in which you can make the changes to follow the fundamentals mentioned below.

Here are two of the key “fundamentals” that have been leading to results for Home Science Tools. If you’re also looking to switch eCommerce platforms or simply improve the SEO performance on your current platform, they should hopefully be useful to you as well:

1. Getting Redirects Set Up Correctly

Home Science Tools has thousands of product pages and hundreds of content pages across its main domain and the learning center.

Unfortunately, BigCommerce doesn’t have a “smart” way of managing redirects built into its platform (like some other systems do).

Making the process more complicated, years ago, Home Science Tools was called Home Training Tools, with the URL: http://www.hometrainingtools.com.

That meant there were already thousands of existing redirects from the old domain to the new one — all of which needed to be managed as part of the migration.

Moving the learning center to a subdomain meant a lot more redirects needed to be created as well.

Combined, that left a list of many thousands of redirects to manually create, making it impractical to build every redirect that needed to be built pre-migration.

As a result, some the “link juice” from some of Home Science Tools’ backlinks got lost in the migration.

Solving this was a straightforward — if painstaking — process. In partnership with our team at Inflow, Brandy and her team identified the redirects that most needed to be built to improve organic traffic. They prioritized them, then sent them to the development team to be processed.

By doing so, we recapture a little bit of that lost link juice with every redirect we correct.

2. Removing Low-Performing Content

A relatively new tactic in SEO is the process of removing low-performing content from a website. It’s one we recommended for Home Science Tools and from which we’ve seen a very positive impact.

In the learning center, specifically, there were pages of content that had been created years ago, weren’t optimized for SEO, and weren’t getting pageviews of any kind.

For any page that met that criteria, we recommended either:

  1. Removing the content
  2. Improving it
  3. Deindexing it from Google

Anything outdated was removed or deindexed. For pages that had content that just hadn’t been updated in a while, these lower-quality pages could often be combined, creating one quality page from two or three pages that hadn’t been performing.

“We had this enormity of content,” Brandy told us. “It had been years since we’d intentionally pruned, removed lower-performing articles, or repurposed and republished pages. We started with our 16 top performing articles, improved them, and then we went down the list from there. It’s work that continues to this day.”

This aligns Home Science Tools with Google’s broader push to reward quality content for eCommerce brands, a trend that all SEO experts expect to continue.

Home Science Tools is Poised for the Best Year in Organic Traffic

Home Science Tools didn’t make the move from Magento to BigCommerce with SEO as its primary consideration.

But the move did expose a number of areas where SEO improvements could be made.

By addressing SEO fundamentals in a systematic, organized way, Home Science Tools is trending toward its highest year ever for organic traffic.

One additional SEO tactic that we have yet to implement is to move their library from a subdomain to a subfolder. Despite Google repeatedly announcing that it makes no difference, our experience — and that of many other SEOs — is that it usually does. It is possible such a move could further improve organic traffic.

Unfortunately, hosted eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce don’t make putting a WordPress-powered blog in a subfolder straightforward. There are tactics to make it happen, which we are exploring.

Nonetheless, even if we do move the library to a subfolder and see an increase in organic traffic, it will still be the execution of the fundamentals (e.g. quality content, proper redirects, on-page optimization, etc.) that will be responsible for the majority of their SEO success.

Note: Want a custom in-depth assessment of your search ranking performance? Contact us to get started.

Google decision to yank comments from webmaster blog highlights user-generated content challenges

If Google can’t filter spammy content from one of its own blogs, what hope do brands have when it comes to policing user generate content?

The post Google decision to yank comments from webmaster blog highlights user-generated content challenges appeared first on Marketing Land.

On Friday, Google announced it was turning off comments on its Webmaster Central Blog, the site that provides news and updates for website owners and search marketers.

“Sometimes they were extremely thoughtful, other times they made us laugh out loud, but most of the time they were off-topic or even outright spammy,” wrote Google’s webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes about comments often received on the blog, “If you think about it, the latter is rather ironic, considering this is the Google Webmaster Blog.”

Why you should care

Google’s decision to remove comments on its Webmaster Central blog puts a spotlight on the broader challenges marketers face when trying to monitor user-generated content (UGC). Google’s inability to effectively filter and block spammy or abusive comments from its own blogs drives home the time and effort needed to deliver an effective and worthwhile user generate content strategy. If Google can’t do it, does anyone else really have a chance?

And blog owners aren’t the only ones vulnerable to bad actors in the comments section. Publishers aiming to monetize website content via Google’s AdSense program are also impacted by spam and abusive comments. According to Google AdSense rules, publishers must ensure content on their websites — including user generated content such as comments — does not violate Google’s hate speech policies. If Google finds any content in violation of its rules, it will remove ads from the page.

Google’s choice to remove all comments shows that whatever benefits could have been gained from an open dialogue with readers were not worth the time needed to police the content. Google’s call to disable comments is worth taking note of for any marketers looking to launch a blog — or content marketing strategy — that relies heavily on user generated content.

More on the news

  • The “nofollow link attribute” Google introduced in 2005 as a way to prevent comment spam did not sufficiently deter bad (or annoying) actors.
  • Per Google’s announcement, the webmaster team will now use help forums and its Twitter feed to interact with its community.
  • In 2015, Marketing Land and our sister site Search Engine Land disabled comments after our research showed they were not driving beneficial conversations.

The post Google decision to yank comments from webmaster blog highlights user-generated content challenges appeared first on Marketing Land.

We Used Ahrefs to Analyze 25 Highly Competitive eCommerce Search Terms. Here’s What We Found

How can you rank your eCommerce product pages for competitive terms? What page elements help product pages rank well for trending and profitable keywords? Is building as many backlinks as possible really the key to ranking well? (Hint: nope) To help answer these questions, we identified 25 competitive eCommerce terms that have been trending upward

How can you rank your eCommerce product pages for competitive terms? What page elements help product pages rank well for trending and profitable keywords?

Is building as many backlinks as possible really the key to ranking well? (Hint: nope)

To help answer these questions, we identified 25 competitive eCommerce terms that have been trending upward in search volume in the past year (according to data from Google Trends and Shopify).

We used Ahrefs to analyze the top ten results for each keyword, then looked for trends among the results.

Some of our key findings:

  • Site authority and page authority helps product pages rank in the top 10—but they are not enough to get the top spots on their own.
  • For high authority sites, a few quality backlinks gave a strong boost to rankings.
  • Ranking in the first organic position was not a guarantee that a site would receive the most traffic.

Note: We’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase conversions based on organic traffic. We can create a custom SEO strategy for your business. Contact us here.

It’s Difficult to Rank in the Top 10 with a Low Domain Rating

Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR) is a measure of the strength of a site’s backlink profile and overall authority.

DR is measured on a scale from 0-100. Sites with a DR over 90 tend to be household names like Amazon and eBay. Sites with a DR over 60 are often more niche sites—but ones that have a strong backlink profile.

Here’s the distribution of DR for every page that ranked in the top 10 organic results on Google from the results of our 25 keywords:

eCommerce product pages: Ahrefs Domain Rating of Sites Ranking in First 10 Positions on Google

Most sites that rank for these competitive keywords have thousands of backlinks.

If you don’t have that many backlinks, don’t worry. We’ll talk more about ranking product pages on sites with lower domain authority scores.

Site Authority Helps You Get into the Top 10—but Not to Advance into the Top Spots

How important is your site authority to ranking for the first position of Google? We looked at the median DR of sites by ranking to find out more:

eCommerce product pages: Median Ahrefs Domain Rating by Google Ranking

From the previous graph, we know that having site authority is important to ranking in the top 10. This graph shows that once you’re in the top ten, more authority won’t necessarily push you to the top.

If there was a strong correlation between ranking in the top of the first ten results and overall authority, you would expect the median Domain Rating of the top spots to be better than the lower spots.

Page Authority Matters to a Certain Extent

Ahrefs has another metric to estimate the ranking power of a single page called URL Rating (UR). You can think of it as an estimation of how Google rates the page authority of a single URL.

Like Domain Rating, URL Rating is also based on a 0-100 scale. Here’s the median UR at each position for our eCommerce keywords list:

eCommerce product pages: Median Ahrefs URL Rating by Google Ranking

Like Domain Rating, increasing the authority of an individual page seems to have a point of diminishing returns.

That doesn’t mean that aiming for a higher UR is a bad choice. It may very well contribute to you outranking some of the bigger sites like Amazon. Consider the current rankings for “yoga mats”:

A sample of what's displayed in a google search for "yoga mats". Proving that some outrank bigger sites like Amazon when they have a higher UR.

The top three results are product pages from smaller eCommerce sites that are outranking the product page from Amazon.

The smaller sites’ product pages all have a better backlink profile and UR than the product page. That doesn’t mean that page authority is the only reason they outrank Amazon, but it definitely helps.

One of your advantages against a big company like Amazon is that you’re willing to spend more time ranking a particular product page. Amazon isn’t going to do as much link building or optimizing for a single product page.

While site authority and page authority do seem to be necessary to rank for these competitive terms, Ahrefs’ DR and UR are not perfect estimates of how Google decides how to rank pages.

Consider this screenshot of the current rankings for “tank tops.” The second-to-last result has a lower DR and UR than the last result:

A sample of what's displayed in a google search for "tank tops". Proving that the second-to-last result has a lower DR and UR than the last result.

DR and UR are useful concepts, but take them with a grain of salt. Better scores in a tool like Ahrefs does not always mean you’ll get better rankings in Google.

The Quality of Backlinks Seems to Matter as Much (Or More) as the Overall Number of Backlinks

If you want to rank a product page, how many backlinks do you need to build? We analyzed the median number of referring domains by position to find out.

eCommerce product pages: Median Number of Referring Domains by Google Ranking

We can see a slight correlation between the number of referring domains to a page and its Google ranking.

At first glance, this seems to contradict the previous graph in which UR stopped mattering after a certain point. After all, UR is a measure of the backlink profile of a single URL.

How we reconcile this difference is to remember that Ahrefs UR takes into account the quality of a backlink. Our guess is that sites that rank in the higher position are more likely to have some low-quality backlinks. That means more referring domains but no meaningful change in UR.

All of this points to the importance of just building high-quality backlinks. We saw in our data clear examples of product pages ranking without a huge number of backlinks.

Here’s a screenshot for what comes up first in Google for “yoga leggings.”

A sample of what's displayed in a google search for "yoga leggings". Proving that product pages rank without a huge number of backlinks.

Yoga leggings a relatively competitive term with clear buyer intent. Yet, the first domain ranking only has one backlink (we checked, and it is from an authoritative site). The next two results have many more backlinks, but that hasn’t earned them a higher ranking. Take note that all have a DR above 50.

The rest of the pages ranking for “yoga leggings” have a UR between 11 and 20 and a DR above 40. This reinforces our earlier conclusions that building backlinks to a site and a page only work to a certain point.

Ranking First Doesn’t Guarantee the Most Search Traffic

Conventional wisdom says that the higher you rank, the more traffic you will get. This is almost certainly true for a single search as people mostly click the top results. But, pages that rank for competitive keywords also tend to rank for other long-tail phrases.

This means that it’s possible that a page that doesn’t rank at the top for a competitive keyword still gets more overall search traffic than the top ranking site.

For example, look at the top 3 results for “heat vests”:

A sample of what's displayed in a google search for "heat vest". Proving that it's possible that even if you aren't ranked at the top, you can still get quality search traffic.

The third result receives more overall search traffic than the first result. To be clear, this is not a measurement of traffic from this search alone. Instead, it’s a measurement of all search traffic when looking at all the keywords this page ranks for.

To see how often a page that doesn’t rank first for a head term gets more overall search traffic than the first ranking page, we looked at the position with the most traffic for each of our 25 eCommerce keywords:

eCommerce product pages: Position with the Most Traffic by Keyword

In only 10 out of 25 keywords did the top ranking site have the most SEO traffic overall. In the other 15 cases, a site that didn’t rank in the first position received the most SEO traffic.

So how important is it to rank at the top of a competitive keyword? We looked at how overall traffic is distributed amongst the sites ranking in the top 10:

eCommerce product pages: Median Overall Search Traffic by Google Ranking

The product pages we analyzed that ranked first did receive the most overall search traffic, but it’s not as disproportionate as is often portrayed.

You may have read that long-tail keywords are responsible for 70% of all SEO traffic. This graph shows why focusing on the long-tail is a much easier path to getting SEO traffic.

Instead of relying on just one search which fluctuates based on the ever-changing Google algorithms, ranking for hundreds or thousands of long-tail keywords can make your product page more resilient against Google’s changes.

Small Relationship Between Ranking and Total Keywords

We also investigated whether a page that ranks higher will rank for have more keywords:

eCommerce product pages: Median Number of Total Keywords by Google Ranking

The minor correlation between position and keywords reinforces how nebulous the long tail is. Still, there are general principles you can follow to maximize long tail rankings (as we’ve described here).

In Closing…

  • Increasing your site and page authority with a robust backlink profile can give you the chance to rank for keywords that you otherwise would have almost no chance of ranking for.
  • A handful of quality backlinks can help your product page break into the top 10 and even outrank some of the biggest eCommerce sites.
  • Instead of focusing on ranking for a singular term, try to rank for many long tail keywords.

Note: Want a custom in-depth assessment of your search ranking performance? Contact us to get started.

The Critical Element Missing from Many eCommerce PPC and SEO Campaigns

In 2004, looking for a change of pace, I sold my retail wine and liquor store and got a job at an internet marketing agency. This was back when all businesses cared about was building a basic website and getting ranked number one on Google. I was the agency’s first Strategic Marketing Manager, and my

In 2004, looking for a change of pace, I sold my retail wine and liquor store and got a job at an internet marketing agency. This was back when all businesses cared about was building a basic website and getting ranked number one on Google.

I was the agency’s first Strategic Marketing Manager, and my job was to reach out to our top clients to sell them on a more complete marketing strategy, as opposed to the individual SEO and paid search programs that they were already paying for.

When I was brought on, the owner of the agency had me sit down with all of the other experts — paid search, SEO, graphic design, etc. — to better understand what they did. Around that same time, I discovered a book, Persuasive Online Copywriting by the Eisenberg brothers and Lisa Davis. The book contained an afterword about “how to increase your website’s conversion rates.”

Persuasive Online Copywriting Cover Image

I was struck by the difference in what I read in that afterward and my conversations with various marketing specialists. Those specialists were myopically focused on driving traffic. I realized that conversions were critical, and no-one was talking about them.

Through my work at this agency, I became convinced of three things:

1. At the end of the day, nobody really cares whether they rank number one on Google or drive a bunch of traffic to their website. They just want to sell more. Because that’s what business boils down to. Sales.

2. Any traffic generating tactic — whether it’s increasing organic traffic, paid ads, having an amazing social media presence, or some other promotional strategy — none of it matters if you don’t also have a well-tested conversion strategy in place.

3. This conversion strategy improves the quality and buying power from all traffic, not just visitors gained from paid campaigns or search engine optimization.

Based on these convictions, I became one of the few conversion optimization evangelists of that time.

I think of my philosophy as the Milk and Cookies approach, because traffic strategies without an emphasis on conversions is like having cookies without milk. It’s just not complete.

Milk and Cookies Diagram

Three years later, I started an online marketing agency with three other partners. It was one of the first in the world, as far as I know, that was preaching traffic generation and conversion at the same time.

Basically, we based our entire agency around milk and cookies.

I was supposed to be the CRO expert, but soon after launching, we lost the partner in charge of sales. I volunteered to take over while continuing to help clients with conversion rate optimization. Managing my agency’s sales helped solidify my feelings around the importance of CRO. I tested out my “you don’t care about SEO or building a website, you care about sales” approach on our clients. And it worked.

I helped run the agency for seven years before selling my shares to my business partners and coming to work at Inflow.

Inflow runs on the same conviction: PPC, SEO, and CRO services compliment each other. We don’t push all three services on our clients, but we encourage them to have a strategy for each in place, whether it’s in-house or provided third-party.

In what follows, I want to share with you the Milk and Cookies approach to getting the most out of the investment you make in PPC or SEO services by combining it with CRO.

Note: Curious what conversion rate optimization might mean for your eCommerce site? Get started now.

Stop Thinking You’re Spending $$ on Ads or Traffic

Here are some of the things I hear on sales calls:

  • “We’ve been creating a ton of content for SEO, like buying guides and how-to articles, and we’re getting thousands more visitors a month, but none of that traffic is converting.”
  • “We offer skincare creams and have been doing social media, but our sales are really low. You’re experts in paid search. You can help us increase sales with paid search ads, right?”
  • “We only have three hundred thousand visitors a month but not enough sales, can you help us get more traffic?”

Every person I’ve worked with in 15 years has enlisted my help for one reason: they want to sell more products or services.

This is true regardless of how big they are, if they’re looking for help with SEO, paid ads, etc. In this perspective, no-one is really paying for traffic or an ad — those things are just a means to an end.

And the end is more conversions.

When you spend money on SEO or PPC, you’re paying for sales, not just traffic or rankings.

Traffic generating strategies (like SEO and PPC) don’t operate in a vacuum apart from conversion rate optimization. They impact each other. And what gets in the way of conversions often isn’t what clients expect.

Here’s the analogy I use with prospects and new clients.

You Wouldn’t Spend Money on Ads for a Run-Down Store

If you ran a brick and mortar store, you might spend money on all sorts of ads to attract people to the store.

Now imagine spending all that money luring people in the front door…

But the store is a mess.

It’s not laid out well, labels are missing, and people can’t find what they’re looking for. So they leave without buying anything. And you’ve wasted your money.

Of course, the reverse is also true. If you spent lots of time and money creating a great customer experience, but no-one knows your store exists, you’ve also wasted your money.

The sweet spot is having a store offering a great customer experience plus an advertising campaign to let people know you exist.

It’s the combination of promotion (traffic) plus experience (CRO) that makes people thrilled to find a store and make a purchase.

Minions Shopping Gif

It’s milk and cookies, and the same is true for eCommerce.

If visitors don’t eventually convert into paying customers once they make it to your site, it doesn’t matter how they got there, your plan didn’t work.

The Impact of CRO Across All Traffic Channels

eCommerce owners who want to sell more are often thinking about “getting more traffic”.

More website visitors are great, of course, but don’t overlook the impact that conversion rate optimization can have on sales. Even small improvements in your conversion rate can cause a strong lift for sales.

Here’s an example that’s hypothetical—but also not uncommon for eCommerce companies we often work with.

Table showing 0.05% conversion rate increase and 33% increase in total sales

With a 0.5% improvement in conversions, sales go up by 33%. That’s the power of CRO: it improves results from all the traffic sources people are using to find your site.

In addition, in highly competitive markets, improving conversion rates might be mandatory to make a marketing channel profitable at all. PPC efforts, in particular, might require improved conversion rates to see a positive ROI on your advertising spend.

Unless You Have ZERO Traffic, CRO Should Be Just as Important as Traffic

Back in 2004 when I started in digital marketing, few people were talking about conversion rate optimization. It wasn’t as big of a deal because there was less competition.

People would search for what they wanted, find the one or two online stores that sold it, then make a purchase.

Since then, nearly every market has become incredibly competitive.

There’s more interest in conversion rates than there was a decade and a half ago.

But even today, I still see far more interest in eCommerce SEO, PPC, and other traffic-generating strategies than I do in conversion strategies for the traffic you do have.

If you find yourself thinking mostly about driving traffic to your site without thinking as much about increasing conversion rates—you’re probably leaving money on the table.

It’s cookies without the milk.

What’s the ROI of SEO for eCommerce Websites?

How we calculate the ROI of SEO services for eCommerce sites: a detailed analysis of how increases in organic traffic will likely impact revenue.

It is easier than you think to estimate the ROI of SEO improvements for eCommerce websites.

In this article, we’re going to show you how we do it.

We Recently Improved Our Method

We recently improved the way we calculate the expected ROI of new SEO improvements for our eCommerce clients.

In the past, when talking to a new client, we used our years of experience working with hundreds of eCommerce clients to give our best guess about the ROI they could expect in three to six months.

We called this the “eyeball method,” and it’s still a part of the method we use to calculate ROI (as you’ll see below).

Essentially, we’d say, “We believe your organic traffic will grow by 10%, 20%, or so on.”

That was fine, but it didn’t demonstrate for clients the revenue impact SEO improvements would have on their business.

Now, with the addition of data, we see much better buy-in from prospects considering our services.

If you need to sell someone on the value of improving organic traffic to your eCommerce site, this is an ideal way to present the opportunity in a way that better demonstrates its direct impact on revenue.

Note: We’ve worked with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase conversions based on organic traffic. We can create a custom SEO strategy for your business. Contact us here.

Calculating the Opportunity

The first thing to calculate is the opportunity available if you improve rankings across a set of keywords you’re targeting.

When we’re investigating a new client’s account, we start by using a tool like SEMRush to determine how a site is already ranking.

Use SEMRush to determine how a site is already ranking.

Using SEMRush, we’d filter down the list of keywords they’re ranking for on the bottom of page one (slots 7-10), as well as pages two and three. These represent their top opportunities for SEO improvements and new conversions.

We then add up the average monthly search volume based off of those keywords, which represents the majority of the traffic and revenue potential for improving your rankings.

The Eyeball Method

Now that you know the opportunity that’s in front of you, the next step is to estimate how much of that opportunity you can capture.

For this step, it will help tremendously to be working with an SEO expert with experience working with other eCommerce sites.

When a new eCommerce company is interested in working with us, the first thing we do is review their site’s current and past performance, including:

  • Rankings for target keywords
  • Organic traffic
  • Revenue from organic traffic

This gives us a good idea of how the site is doing overall and what impact we believe we can make on the site.

We give each prospective client a detailed breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses we find in their search ranking performance. When assessing a site, we label different opportunities with red, yellow or green lights based on some of the factors listed below. This light system helps us set proper expectations around time to results and is one of the elements used in eyeballing and communicating the final ROI expectations.

We estimate the impact we expect our SEO improvements to have on rankings, traffic, and revenue.

From our experience, we estimate the impact we expect our SEO improvements to have on rankings, traffic—and ultimately, the most important factor—their revenue.

We’d say something like: “We expect to increase your organic search traffic by 30% over the next three to six months.”

Because our team has been doing this work for so long, we tend to get extremely close with our estimates.

What we’ve changed is what we do with this assessment.

It’s good to tell a new client that we expect to increase their organic search traffic by 20% or 30% over the next few months.

But something was missing.

Stats.

Adding the Numbers to Demonstrate the Revenue Opportunity

When a company is going to invest in something like SEO services, they want to know how it’s going to pay off for them. They want to see the numbers. And our “eyeball method,” didn’t cut it.

So we began developing a new method that more strongly tied potential new revenue to an increase in organic search traffic.

Because seeing the numbers can help you grasp the realistic potential behind your SEO work.

When we look at the SEO of an eCommerce website, two of the most important metrics are:

  • Annual revenue from organic traffic
  • Average revenue per session

For example, a typical eCommerce client might have numbers that look like this:

ROI of SEO: Sample numbers of a typical eCommerce client.

Using those numbers, we can estimate what monthly revenue would be if we increased the number of monthly sessions that occur from organic traffic.

ROI of SEO: we can estimate what monthly revenue would be if we increased the number of monthly sessions that occur from organic traffic.

Impressive numbers right?

We still tell prospective clients that we expect to increase their average number of sessions by 30% in six months, etc. (By the way, when we pick a projected increase and timeframe, we make our estimate conservative.)

The difference is that now they can see what it means in terms of increased revenue.

If we increased sessions by 30% for a client with numbers similar to those shown above, we’d increase their monthly revenue by $249,999.

Subtract our fee, and that gives them an ROI they can take to their boss or whoever needs to sign off on committing resources to SEO.

It’s Not an Exact Science, But It Can Get You Approval to Move Forward

When you’re working with your boss or an executive—hoping to get approval for SEO improvements to your site—don’t be vague.

Find those keywords where you rank in positions 7-10, as well as on pages 2 and 3 of the search results, then work with an experienced SEO specialist to calculate the numbers as we describe above.

That way you’re taking a number to your boss that’s directly tied to revenue, instead of just a traffic number that may or may not be meaningful to them.

None of this is an exact science of course. Some of those keywords might not convert; others might not be as relevant as you thought they were.

But in our experience, this method is better than any other for demonstrating the eCommerce opportunity to decision makers without having to spend countless hours doing detailed keyword research and complex ROI calculations.

Note: Want a custom in-depth assessment of your search ranking performance? Contact us to get started.

eCommerce & SEO Copywriting Guide

Looking for actionable tips for SEO eCommerce Copywriting? Improve your product & category pages with dynamic descriptions. Find out how.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June of 2015. While a lot of the original content still stands, algorithms and strategies are always changing. So our team has updated this post for 2018 and we hope that it will continue to be a helpful resource. If you’d like to learn more about producing strong copy for your eCommerce site, please contact our SEO team today.

eCommerce & SEO Copywriting - Image from @lonely_planet via Unsplash.com

Table of Contents

What is SEO Copywriting?

The Core Functions of Content

The Hard and Fast Rules of Content

Formatting Content for Online Readability

Internal Linking Helps Other Content Rank

Optimizing Meta Data

eCommerce SEO Copywriting for Page Types

In this guide, we’ve standardized Inflow’s best practices and writer’s guidelines for SEO/eCommerce copywriting techniques which we use for our clients. You are free to use any or all of this in your project / job description when hiring freelance SEO copywriters, content agencies or even when creating a copywriting process to train in-house staff.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

What is SEO Copywriting?

SEO copywriting has evolved over the years, and the key to successful copywriting nowadays is what it always should have been: authoritative, natural, compelling content that gracefully uses keywords and semantically related verbiage that is both directly and indirectly relevant to a user’s search query. Awkward, keyword-stuffed content does not win the search engine wars anymore, and it never should have. Modern SEO copywriting is much more evolved, and with good reason.

This guide outlines SEO copywriting tips that we as an agency use for our copywriters when producing search engine optimized content.

The Core Functions of Content

When you are creating and/or editing your content, always keep the following in mind. Your website content performs two functions:

  1. It communicates your message to the reader and convinces them to take an action (i.e. contact you, make a purchase, etc.)
  2. It communicates to the search engines what the page is about and what keywords are important on the page.

The Hard And Fast Rules of Content

The following rules are absolute musts in terms of creating well optimized website content:

  • Content breadth (word count, semantic relevance, etc.) is very important to Google. Each page on the website has different word count expectations. Here is a general rule of thumb:
    • Home Page: 400-600 words of unique content offers more to say, more keyword variations to use naturally, more internal linking opportunities, etc. It also helps keep the home page focused on a core group of keywords.
    • Category Pages: ~100 words of content atop the category page. Categories on eCommerce sites list product grids. Additional content can be placed at the bottom of category pages such as promoting downloadable (gated) content for email acquisition and linking to helpful articles related to the category page. 200+ words of content at the bottom if possible.
      • Category page content should orientate the visitor to the topic of the page, and help them decide what to do next. For example:
      • ABOVE PRODUCT GRID example: (86 words)
        • Snowboards come in many shapes and sizes, and it can be tough to find the perfect ride for you. That’s why we’ve made choosing the right board easy with filtering options that help you buy the best snowboard for your needs based on terrain, experience, height and weight. Whether you’re looking for an all-mountain board or something that will power through powder, you’ll find an awesome selection of boards from top brands like Burton, Arbor and Salomon here. Still unsure? Check out our snowboard buying guide!
      • BELOW PRODUCT GRID
        • When buying a snowboard it is important to get the proper width and height for your body, as well as the right shape for your snowboarding style and terrain. General guidelines are to choose a board length that ends somewhere between your chin and nose. Park and freestyle riders should choose the shorter end of the range, while mountain and freeriding should consider a longer board. See the sizing chart below for more detailed recommendations, including weight and experience level. [CHART].
        • Product Pages: At least 100-200 words of unique content. If the product is complex and/or highly competitive, it is recommended that the page have 250-500 words of unique content.
        • Articles/Blog Posts: Content marketing has become more competitive and “big content” is winning the search engine wars in today’s marketplace. Therefore, articles and blog posts should have a minimum of 500-750 words in order to rank for long-tail keywords. 1,000-5,000 words are needed to completely exhaust the topic, wow the audience and attract links needed to compete for more competitive/highly searched keywords.

  • Rich Media is critical to engaging your audience. Embed high quality imagery (including animated gifs/infographics) and videos to the page in order to prevent high bounce rates and increase time on site. When users bounce back to Google’s search result, that low “dwell time” is recorded by Google and negatively affects your web page’s organic ranking.

  • Throw in Bucket Brigades in Increase Time on Page Bucket Brigades are an old tactic sales people used to use to engage readers in their material for longer. Bucket brigades are phrases help improve bounce rate, expand the average time on page, and improve the overall user experience! These could be phrases like, “wait there’s more”, “but you might be wondering”, “look”, and more. This tactic is most effective when used in places a reader might typically jump off of the page.

  • It’s preferable to have each of the keywords listed in the keyword matrix added to the content in the exact same format, with variations. For example, if one of the designated keyword terms is luxury vacation rentals, it should be placed into the copy in that exact order (if it sounds natural). Use variations of the term, such as rentals for a luxury vacation or luxurious vacation rentals, for extra brownie points.
    • Here’s an instance where the exact-match keyword sounds awkward. The keyword is “arm workouts 10 minutes”: 
      • Our arm workouts 10 minutes are designed for people who are in a time crunch. You’ll find a variety of arm workouts 10 minutes listed below, including bicep curls, tricep dips and more. Browse our arm workouts 10 minutes now!
    • And here’s an improved version that incorporates the exact match keyword as well as variations:
      • In a time crunch, but want to do some arm workouts? 10 minutes is all you need to burn through these arm exercises. Build muscle and strength with bicep curls, tricep dips and other 10-minute arm workouts that are guaranteed to work up a sweat.
        Copywriting Hack: In the above example, you’ll notice that there’s a question mark between the phrases “arm workouts” and “10 minutes.” Don’t sweat it — Google will still read this as “arm workouts 10 minutes.” Same goes for other punctuation (exclamation points and dashes)

  • Keyword density and LSI/TF*IDF keywords

Keyword density (the amount of times a keyword is used on a page) used to be one of the only ways that google could evaluate ranked a page, and as a result, SEO’s and marketers began keyword stuffing. Google quickly became wise against this type of rankings hack, and nixed it in one of their algorithm updates.

LSI keyword shave become the next evolution of keyword density, LSI keywords or Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords are semantically related to the target keyword you are attempting to optimize. The keywords are not necessarily synonyms but are keywords that are frequently found with your target keywords because they share a similar context (i.e. semantically related).

For example, if you’re writing SEO copywriting, and your target keyword is “SEO copywriting” you may want to target words like “keyword research”, “meta description”, “title tag” or “copywriting tips” since they are semantically related.

You are probably wondering, how do I find these LSI keywords? Well that takes us to TF*IDF tools.

  • Finding TF*IDF using Ryte

While LSI keywords are the type of keywords we are targeting, TF*IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency) is the concept/methodology. TF*IDF is a complicated formula, but basically it’s the way Google evaluates and analyzes where they should rank you based on semantically related LSI keywords which gives us a better look at some of the keywords, topics, and phrases that Google deems relevant to the type of content you are serving. Like keyword density, “TF” (term frequency) shows how frequently a phrase or word appears in the content. “IDF” (inverse term frequency) tells us how important and relevant the repetitive word is and scales more unique words (vs. “stop” words such as “the,” “but,” “a,” “how,” etc.).

Currently, our SEO team loves using the tool Ryte, which uses the TF*IDF methodology to identify these semantically related terms for us and even lets you compare your current page to others ranking for your target keyword. This tool allows you to display either 1 word or 2 word keywords, our team finds the 2 word LSI keywords more helpful. We then include these keywords throughout the copy, either adding sections to cover the keyword, or including them naturally throughout the copy.

So, is keyword density still important? Yes, but the keywords should be included in the copy naturally and stuffing should be avoided.

  • WE CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH. Use keywords naturally. Re-read the content after it is written and ensure that nothing sounds awkward. Search and readers are very aware of over-optimized content nowadays, and it will limit engagement/linkability of the content in the long run, and could impact rankings negatively. The primary goal of the content is to help users and provide them with what they are looking for. Engaging, informative and well-written content is everything. Help the user solve what they are trying to accomplish.

  • Use the more important keywords more frequently than the less important keywords, preferably 2-4 times on the page for a primary or target keyword if the content is long enough to warrant (500+ words). There is no magic number or ‘density level’ that we are trying to target; however, if you only use the keyword once in a 400 word page, it is not as clear to Google what the focus of the content is…and thus, it won’t rank as well without several external/internal mentions to the content involving those keywords.

  • The primary/target keyword, along with unique words of the secondary keyword phrases, from the keyword matrix should be used in the headline and meta page title. The primary keyword should be used as close to the beginning of the meta page title as possible, as this position holds more weight with search engines. Using unique words from the secondary keyword phrases later in the meta page title, and not repeating words used in the primary keyword phrase, allows for a more semantically descriptive and keyword-rich meta page title.

For example, “how to choose hiking boots” (primary), “how to choose trail hiking boots” (secondary), “how to choose mountain hiking boots” (secondary) could be combined into the following meta page title: How to Choose Hiking Boots for Mountain Trails.

However, ensure the meta page title reads naturally and is compelling since this will impact CTR…and thus, traffic. To get titling ideas, review the paid search ads at the top of Google’s search results. Part of the reason they rank there is that their titles/messaging are compelling and get higher CTR. Engagement is very important.

  • Primary and secondary keywords need to be used within subheaders of the page. These locations are viewed as important areas within the body content since they outline the focus of the content. Use primary and secondary keywords here via <h2>, <h3> and <h4> sub-headlines.

Formatting Content for Online Readability

Online readers have much lower attention spans than print readers (novels, magazines, etc.). Most online readers are scanning/searching for information most relevant to their specific needs or query. Therefore, it’s important to break up content with different formatting styles in order to create an easily scannable (and visually appealing) web page of content. Such formatting creates hierarchical relationships between different elements of the page. We’ll discuss the popular methods below.

Boldfacing & Italicizing

  • Bold/italicize key information and points to emphasize them to both readers and search engines.
  • Try to spread these out on the page, rather than clustering them.
  • Don’t overdo it.

Subheadings

  • Subheadings (aka “subtitles” – h2, h3, h4) help to segment content into sub-topics.
  • They are good places to put primary, secondary and tertiary keywords, as they are given a little extra weight by search engines.
  • Subheadings should provide transition, flow and organization to the content.

Using Lists

  • Lists help users to quickly scan content and comprehend it…and also make it more attractive.
  • Lists should indent slightly (20-50 pixels).
  • Bulleted lists should be used to detail user benefits of the topic at hand.
  • Numbered lists should be used to outline steps of a process, prioritize or order the topic at hand.

What to Avoid

  • Table HTML interferes with most mobile designs. As users go mobile, websites are following with responsive design. In order for the content to reshape itself (via CSS, not magically!), fewer restrictions are required. Table HTML is very restrictive.
  • Lack of whitespace can make content difficult to read. Ensure that there is ample “breathing room” in between sentences, between images and paragraph content, between the end of a paragraph and a succeeding subtitle.
  • Overly large or overly small fonts make it difficult to read. Typically, 11-13 point font for the main paragraph text should suffice.

Off-color subtitles and other stylistic elements can make great content look like a circus of color. It’s important to keep within the scope of a color palette to ensure that content appears professional.

Internal Linking Helps Other Content Rank

  • Within the content on each page, link to 1-3 other related pages on the website. Internal linking passes link equity throughout the site, and helps the other pages rank higher in search engines. It also helps users to click deeper into the website.
    • Use keyword rich internal text links to point to the pages. Keyword-rich internal links are much, much safer than keyword-rich external links to your site.
      • As a starting point, use the primary keyword for the page being linked to as the anchor text (be sure it sounds natural).
      • Vary the link text and do not use the exact same text every time you link to a page. It’s not natural to do so.
      • The higher up in the site structure an optimized page is, the more internal links should be pointed at it.
      • Try to spread the links throughout the content instead of clustering them together, unless there is a valid reason to do so (such as a bulleted list of links to related resources).

Optimizing Metadata

Web pages use metadata to allow search engines and social media sites to better understand different elements of the page, and how to use them for their own purposes. Common metadata include: meta title tags, meta description tags, meta keywords, alt tags, image title tags and link title tags.

Meta Title Tags

When creating title tags for the pages being optimized, follow the following rules:

  • Use 65 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation). Google will use ellipses after roughly 65-70 characters. Push your luck = lose your message. Target 50-60 characters.
  • Use the primary keyword phrase (exact match is preferable) at the beginning.
  • When appropriate, use unique words from the secondary and tertiary keywords later in the meta title to help naturally include more keywords.
  • Limit unnecessary words such as conjunction words (use “&” instead of “and”), prepositions and other unnecessary words in order to keep character count under 65 and focused on keywords.
  • Get creative. You can blend keywords to maximize space. For example, if your keywords are “diamond earrings” and “earrings made in USA,” you could use “Diamond Earrings – Made in the USA | YourBrandName” as your meta title.
  • Make your meta title compelling. It has the biggest impact on your CTR. Look at the paid ads atop Google’s search results to get ideas of what titling gets good engagement for searchers.

EXAMPLE: Here is what an optimized meta title looks like within the SERPs. Notice the primary and secondary related keywords, and how they are bold faced by Google in the SERP. Also notice how character count is kept within the ideal limits.

Here is what an optimized meta title looks like within the SERPs.

Meta Description Tag

Create a meta description for each of the pages being optimized, follow these rules:

  • Meta descriptions used to be 156 characters or less (including spaces and punctuation). Google would use ellipses after roughly 145-155 characters. This has recently changed.
  • The meta description does not directly impact rankings in Google, however it can impact CTR which can lead to other engagement metrics that Google does monitor.
  • Google will boldface keywords in the meta description, so here are some tips:
    • Use the primary keyword phrase (or a variation) somewhere within it. Variations to consider:
      • Singular/plural
      • Synonyms
      • Different word order
      • Different tense
      • Different word form (noun to verb, etc.)
    • If you are unable to include any of the researched keywords in full/exact order in the page title, try to include them here.
  • Understand that the meta description tag is an “elevator pitch” for a web page within search engine results and it should:
    • Be compelling to the search (focus on the benefits to them)
    • Have proper grammar
    • Include a call to action
    • Promise what the page delivers

EXAMPLE: The following meta description example shows how ellipses are used by Google when the meta description is too long. Notice, however, the compelling nature and call to action in addition to keyword usage.

The following meta description example shows how ellipses are used by Google when the meta description is too long.

Meta Keywords Tag

Search engines don’t use them, so neither should you.

Image Alt and Title Attributes

One commonly overlooked on-page optimization technique is to optimize the image alt attribute and title attributes. Image alt attributes are used by search engines to help the visually-impaired know what images are used on a page. Image title attributes are used to display a message when readers hover their mouse cursor over the image. Basic tips include:

  • Accurately describe what the image is
  • Keep it relatively short (10-15 words max)
  • Use one of the keyword terms assigned to the page or a variation of it or a part of it.
    • Note: If a lot of images are used on the page, it’s important not to use the same keywords in each alt tag, as this will make the content appear over-optimized to Google and other search engines.
  • Image title tags are great places to put compelling messages and calls to action related to images and the overall goal of the page. Use them creatively!

Link Title Attributes

Also a commonly overlooked web page feature, link title attributes display a message to the user when hovering a mouse cursor over them. So, just like image title tags, these should be used creatively to combine keywords with calls to action.

eCommerce SEO Copywriting for Page Types

Category Page Optimization Details

We offer the following specific guidelines to copywriters and clients (who are doing their own copywriting) to ensure that we get a relatively consistent end result. We’ve found that, without providing these specific guidelines, both copywriters and clients cannot easily read our minds. Go figure!

Keyword research – to be conducted using any of the following tools:

  • AHREFs (for current page rankings, competitor keywords, and keyword ideas)
  • SEMRush Keyword Tool (for current page rankings, competitor keywords, and keyword ideas)
  • Moz Keyword Explorer (for current page rankings and ideas )
  • Google Search Console (for a current pages ranking keywords)

Inflow has also created a guide on competitor keyword research using SEMRush, this can be replicated using AHREFs as well.

Once your find the keywords, sort them using the methodology below to find the following keyword types, and used by copywriters within elements of the category page.

  • 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.

Meta Title (under 55 characters, including spaces) – Target primary keyword first, then secondary keywords, needs to accurately describe category

Meta Description (under 150 characters, including spaces) – Target all keywords, action-focused, mention core benefit(s)

H1 tags On-Page Title (typically 2-5 words) – This is the category name, which should target the primary keyword phrase and be very specific. For example, “Men’s Outdoor Hiking Boots” instead of just “Men’s Boots” if the specific products are all outdoor hiking boots for men.

Basic Descriptions (75-100 words minimum atop product grid, add extra 200+ words of content to the bottom of product grid if possible) – Target all keywords once (primary, secondary and tertiary keywords) and target multiple keywords with one usage where possible (such as when the primary keyword is part of a longer secondary keyword phrase). Boldface the primary keyword once using <strong></strong> tags.

Interlinking – link to 1-3 related categories/sub-categories contextually within the category description.

Category Maintenance – The client should maintain categories by fixing broken links (from other pages) as categories/sub-categories are deleted.

General Copywriting Tips:

  1. The purpose of introductory/descriptive content on category pages is to help users understand what types of products are available in this category, the benefits to them and to be clear about the category topic (using researched keywords such as big purple widget or large purple widgets for a category page that sells particularly large purple widgets).
  2. A secondary purpose is to assist with navigation, which is why it’s suggested to link to 2-3 related categories/subcategories.
  3. To bring attention to a popular product or time-sensitive promotion related to this particular category. As things change (popular product removed from site, promotions end, etc.), however, the category description needs to be maintained in order to stay up to date.
  4. The category page introductory/descriptive content can also be used to build the brand’s credibility about the topic at hand within the user’s mind. For example, if “Brand X” is the largest retailer for “big purple widgets,” then that should be expressed in order to build buyer confidence and potentially increase conversions.
  5. Avoid usage/overuse of exclamation points as they tend to trivialize the content. Also avoid putting words IN ALL CAPS since it reads as if you are shouting at the potential customer. The words and user benefits, as they are written, should make points clear to the customer on their own.

Optimizing Product Pages

Product pages are a completely different animal, compared to category pages. Almost always, you don’t have to do keyword research for product pages. Guess why. Yep, the product name or model number is the keyword (including brand/make/model/color etc…). These are highly converting pages, so make them read naturally, make them compelling (focus on the benefits to the customer) and make them unique. Be specific in your descriptive details. Get excited, dammit (but hold the exclamation points). You want someone to buy this product? Earn it.

You’ll typically have many more product pages than category pages, so this is where most eCommerce sites can separate themselves from the pack and convince Google’s algorithm that their product page content (and overall site) is of higher quality than competitors. If your CEO disagrees, then ask him to start putting 85-octane gas in his Ferrari. You’ll probably get fired. Don’t do that.

Product Page Optimization Details

Keyword research – to be conducted using a keyword research tool like AHERFs, SEMRush, GSC, etc, to quickly find secondary, and tertiary keywords that can be used by copywriters in conjunction with the product name (which is the primary keyword) within the various elements of the product page.

Meta Title (under 55 characters, including spaces) – target product name then generic keyword and at end. If room is available, the brand name can be added to the end as well. However, Google will only show the first 55 characters in its search results before ellipses are used. Example: “2015 Nike Air Jordan – Basketball Shoes | Foot Locker”

Meta Description (under 150 characters, including spaces) – target product name and generic keyword, action-focused, mention core benefit(s) to the potential customer.

Headline 1 On-Page Title – simply use the product name.

Interlinking – do not link to any other page from within actual the product detail/description content.

Product Detail Description Length Options:

Basic Descriptions (75-100 words) – This is for standalone short descriptions and should use the primary and generic keyword 1-2 times.

Standard Descriptions (130-200 words) – Ideal for long product descriptions where product pages have both a short (top of page) and long (bottom of page) description. The first paragraph (25-50 words) could be used as the short description, and the full description can be used as the long description. Use product name and generic keyword 2-3 times.

Premium Descriptions (250-500+ words) – This is for clients’ top products, so they should dive deep into the details and benefits of the product. Use product name and generic keyword 3-4 times. Answer common questions about the product, such as “What does the fabric feel like?” or “What kind of material was used in its construction?”

General Tips:

  1. Focus on user benefits. The content should be written with the user’s perspective as the focus, not the store/website.
  2. Use bulleted lists where it makes sense to illustrate user benefits.
  3. Do not embed images into the actual product description, however, adding video (only of the specific product) can be a nice complement and usually increases conversions.
  4. Avoid usage/overuse of exclamation points as they tend to trivialize the content. Also avoid putting words IN ALL CAPS since it reads as if you are shouting at the potential customer. The words and user benefits, as they are written, should make points clear to the customer on their own.

Product Page Examples

Standard Product Copy

Short + Long Descriptions – This is probably more typical of a product page, in which there is a short description followed by a tabbed area with lots of bullets/specs: The short description is only 34 words, and is repeated in the long description area below. The entire long description, which includes the short description, is 136 words (excluding the boilerplate disclaimer in bold).

Main Description + Tabbed Content – Here is a product from Gaiam with typical content. 100 words in main description area. 300-400 words at the bottom.

Expanded Product Copy

Expanded Descriptions Including Tabbed Content – Here is a product from Best of Signs with expanded content. It has 172 words in main description area. 300-500 words in other tabs.

Expanded Descriptions with User Benefit Bullets and/or Word from Author – Here is a product from Artists Network that focuses on user benefits at the top of the product page along with a word/excerpt from the author to add unique value to the product page compared to any other store where this product is sold. 412 words.

Expansive Product Descriptions – For high end products (and in a more ideal world), a product description may be as expansive as the ones found on Crutchfield.

SEO copywriting and eCommerce copywriting can be tricky, but with the tips and tricks listed above, you should be in good shape to start writing or rewriting your current on page copy and improving your metadata. These tricks should help you rank better for the keywords you are targeting, therefore increasing traffic and conversions, and ultimately making your site more revenue. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!

Understanding Google Webmaster Tools

As much as you might think Google is making it hard to get traffic, they really aren’t. They have tools like Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. The difference between the two are the fact that Google Analytics measures your traffic, and Google Webmaster Tools tells you how Google actually sees your website. This article…

The post Understanding Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on Diamond Website Conversion.

google-webmaster-tools-logo-thumbnailAs much as you might think Google is making it hard to get traffic, they really aren’t. They have tools like Google Webmaster tools and Google Analytics. The difference between the two are the fact that Google Analytics measures your traffic, and Google Webmaster Tools tells you how Google actually sees your website.

This article is written to help you understand Google Webmaster Tools better. In fact, this article is part of a series, so there will be other parts to check out so you can become more familiar with Google Webmaster Tools.

Understanding Google Webmaster Tools

As mentioned before, Google Webmaster Tools is designed for you to see how the search engine (Google) sees your website. Consider it kind of like the doctor promoting healthy search for websites. Some of the results are:

  • Sharing what type of markup data format the search engines are seeing in your site, like Schema.org
  • Suggesting how to improve user experience and performance
  • Allowing you to demote specific areas of your site from Sitelinks
  • Giving a details list of search queries done on your website
  • Giving a list of links to sites linking into your website
  • Listing internal links
  • Showing Index status
  • Giving a list of keywords that are organized by the most significant one first
  • Allowing you to remove URLs from your website
  • Displaying crawl errors, as well as what types of errors
  • Having the ability to block URLs from the search engines
  • Being alerted if there are any security issues

In order to be able to use Google Webmaster tools, you must sign up and submit your website. The process involves putting a verification code somewhere on your website or verifying it through your domain registrar. After you verify the site, you need to submit a sitemap, once that is a valid Sitemaps.org sitemap.

The Sitemap.org valid sitemap allows Google to easily crawl the site. The markup used that search engine crawl is XML. For website owners that use WordPress and have the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, finding the link to the sitemap is easy. For other content management systems, there is a somewhat equivalent method to find the sitemap. For static websites (ones not powered with a database and may be solely HTML), building a sitemap may be necessary.

Once the sitemap has been submitting, Google may take a little while to crawl the site. Some site are lucky to be crawled within the week, and others, two weeks. After your site has been crawled, you can view information on what Google is seeing.

search-queries-gwt-screenshotYou probably will want to make sure that there are no crawl errors like a page not found, or any server issues. You will also want to make sure to observe if you have any duplicate meta descriptions and duplicate title tags to improve your search results. You obviously don’t want the same article description for several posts, right? 😉

Another area you might want to check out is the search queries. It’s probably good to check out the first time in order to make sure that the keywords are relevant to what your website is about. If they aren’t, you might need to go back and improve your content.

One last area that you should check is to make sure your site isn’t flagged for spam, duplicate content, or has any security issues. If you’re accepting paid links, you probably should stop. Google has gone to great lengths to discourage website owners from accepting paid links. If you have any alerts, fix the issue. Once done with fixing anything that was flagged, you can reply to Google’s team and they will review to make sure your site is not violating any of their rules.

It’s important to understand that Google Webmaster Tools can be a powerful tool in making sure your website is listed as accurately as possible on the search engine results.

Do you use Google Webmaster Tools?

The post Understanding Google Webmaster Tools appeared first on Diamond Website Conversion.