9 Advanced eCommerce Marketing Strategies for Medium or Large Online Stores to Use in 2020

Apply these supercharged eCommerce marketing strategies to your online store and watch sales climb.

Editor’s Note: As we navigate a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic, these are tried and true eCommerce marketing strategies and methods that have proven effective even as businesses change. We are adapting to the short-run, however, the importance of having longer-term strategies in place ensures longer-term business success and health. Here are additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.

If you go to Google and search “eCommerce Marketing Strategy,” you’re more than likely to turn up articles that provide beginner-friendly and surface-level advice.

While these posts are useful for people getting started with their first online store, merchants with established businesses need to know about specific marketing strategies they can use to gain a competitive edge.

In other words: You already know that using tactics such as pay-per click (PPC) campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are important in general.

What you actually need to know are specific digital marketing strategies that work right now to aid your marketing efforts.

The 9 eCommerce marketing strategies below are tailored toward medium to large businesses, but they will also work for a small business, too. Whether you implement one strategy, or all of them, into your eCommerce marketing plan, your store’s performance will improve.

Note: Want to talk to someone who can help with your eCommerce store’s digital marketing? Get in touch.

eCommerce PPC Marketing Strategies

see think do

#1: Use a “See, Think, Do” Social Media Ads Strategy

The cost of ads on social media platforms is rising steadily. To get a great return on ad spend (ROAS) depends on generating purchases while minimizing ad spend. This means finding new, cold audiences with a high ROAS.

Segmenting and optimizing social media ads to each stage of the marketing funnel is key.

Some stores can take a bottom of the funnel only approach to their ads to get a return, without focusing on converting a cold audience. However, this is not true for all online stores. Ideally, your store can test a full funnel strategy like the one we outline below against a bottom of the funnel (BOFU) campaign and come to a clear conclusion.

The full funnel that a customer goes through prior to a purchase is generally outlined as Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.

In the context of paid social media ads, we’ve found great use from reframing the marketing funnel under Avinash Kaushik’s See, Think, Do business framework for categorizing prospects along their buying journey.

Note: Below is the definition for each stage of this framework, and a real Facebook Ads campaign we applied it to for a client that got a 10x ROAS.

“See”: The largest possible audience that would buy your products, but haven’t shown intent.

For the “See” audience, we want to inexpensively get targeted prospects to the website and looking at your products.

  • Goal: Cheap impressions at scale
  • KPI: Cost per mille (CPM)
  • Ads: Brand awareness to introduce the store and/or products (“Reach” in Facebook Ads Manager)

“See” Ad Example:

"See" ad example from Aviator Gear on Facebook

“Think”: A subset of the ‘See’ audience who have shown intent by engaging.

For the “Think” audience, we want to show the prospects who engaged with your ad the same products that they showed interest in on their last visit. We collect them as a custom audience using a Facebook Ads pixel.

  • Goal: Landing page views
  • KPI: Cost Per Engagement (CPE)
  • Ads: Remarketing product ads based on engagement / products viewed (“Conversion” as the campaign objective in Facebook Ads Manager)

“Think” Ad Example:

"Think" ad example from Aviator Gear on Facebook

“Do”: A subset of the ‘Think’ audience who are the most likely group to buy because they shopped for the longest amount of time.

After the past two stages, we attained a 10x ROAS for the ‘Do’ stage ads that we created for this client. The key thing we did was retarget the top 25% of landing page website visitors from the “Think” stage based on how much time they spent on site.

  • Goal: Conversions
  • KPI: Cost per purchase
  • Ads: Retargeting ads to the top 25% of the “Think” audience based on time spent on site, with bold graphics, copy, and calls to action (CTAs).

“Do” Ad Example:

"Do" ad example from Aviator Gear on Facebook

You can scale Facebook ads performance just like this by structuring campaigns to bring in new potential customers at the top of the funnel, and then filter only the most engaged prospects down the funnel to a purchase.

Note: Check out the original post with the full details of our ‘See, Think, Do’ eCommerce Facebook Ads strategy here.

#2: Use Facebook Ads and Google Ads Together

With a limited ad budget, eCommerce merchants often assume that they have to choose between Facebook Ads and Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords).

In reality, your business can probably use a cross channel advertising strategy that incorporates both platforms. Though, you may scale ads on one channel more than the other.

eCommerce companies can maximize their brand exposure, conversions, and profitability from PPC by using Facebook Ads and Google Ads together strategically.

What does this complementary strategy look like?

How Facebook Ads and Google Ads Complement Each Other

Social ads create brand awareness; People search Google for brand and products; Google Search and Shopping Ads capture searches relevant to your brand; Remarketing with Social Ads and Display Ads

Facebook (and Instagram) are great for getting new audiences on social media exposed to your brand.

This added brand awareness can create more branded searches for your brand and products in Google, which helps signal to Google that they should associate your website with your brand.

As Google recognizes your brand as an entity, it helps add traction to your branded search marketing campaigns, ensuring that you show up at the top when people search for your brand. Including brand+keyword search terms like “annemarie body lotion:”

"Annemarie" body lotion Google search

As audiences continue engaging with your Website and Facebook Business Page, you can remarket to them across the web through Google’s Display network and Facebook’s pixel.

To get the full details on using this multi-channel strategy, see our guide to Google Ads vs Facebook Ads for eCommerce.

#3: Optimize Your Product Data Feed

When we onboard new PPC clients, reviewing their product data feed is a crucial step of our initial audit. If products don’t have enough data, or are missing from the product feed altogether, this leads to missed opportunities for better Shopping Ads performance.

An unoptimized feed makes it harder for your products to appear when buyers search for them. It also leads to wasted ad spend. We often see a particularly high volume of low converting search queries being triggered in product listing ad (PLA) campaigns as a result of an unoptimized data feed.

As an absolute bare minimum, add in a featured image for your product, pricing, and availability to make sure you show up in Google Shopping’s product feed.

"instant pot duo plus" Google search results

The more information you add about each of your products in the feed, the more Google will show them, and the more they will stand out from the competition.

Optimizing the data feed with as much information as possible will not only make your shopping listing look more appealing to customers, but it will also allow Google to show your product for more relevant results. This helps avoid wasting ad spend on irrelevant search queries.

We recommend optimizing your product data feed by following these best practices. Foremost among them:

  1. Adding all your products to your product feed (not just some).
  2. Optimizing the products in the feed with as much relevant information as possible (colors, patterns, scents, size, weight, etc.).

Note: In addition to helping with PPC, clean product data feeds are also critical for optimizing the quality of search engine traffic your eCommerce website gets.

If you really want to take this to the next level, we recommend going with a data feed optimization platform. We use Feedonomics for most of our clients and tend to see a noticeable increase in performance fairly immediately.

eCommerce CRO Marketing Strategies

#4: Personalize Your Shopping Experience to Each Audience Segment

The growth of microbrands is already encroaching quite a bit on the bottom line of consumer giants. Often, these smaller brands cater their entire shopping experience to very specific, niche audiences.

As a result, the little guys are able to beat out the big brands for those niche customers.

The process for personalizing the shopping experience of your eCommerce business can be boiled down to bucketing your audience segments into customer personas, and giving each persona a tailored user experience.

For example, our client with a used photography equipment marketplace provides separate shopping experiences for their prospects who want to buy equipment, sell equipment, or get equipment repaired. They built out separate sections of their website to cater to each prospect’s intention.

There is no one-size-fits-all with how to do eCommerce personalization. It will vary based on your customer personas and the way these different users behave on your site. So first, you have to do some research and collect that data. Then, use that information to personalize your website.

The steps to personalizing your eCommerce website’s shopping experience are:

  1. Brainstorm and group personas together from your overall customer base.
  2. Identify the characteristics and site behaviors specific to each persona.
  3. Track and analyze that data with Google Analytics Custom Dimensions.
  4. Narrow down the 3-5 data points that are the specific actions usually taken by each persona (this requires more testing and analyzing to confirm).
  5. Personalize your website accordingly.

Want to see how to complete each of the above steps in detail? See our full guide to eCommerce personalization strategies.

#5: Optimize Shopping Cart and Checkout According to Best Practices

We still see eCommerce businesses that have yet to adopt common conversion rate optimization best practices for their cart and checkout pages.

Here are the CRO tips we recommend testing that even big stores miss:

Best Practice #1: If most purchases on your website are for one item, make sure to send users straight to the cart.

Best Practice #2: On the other hand, if you typically sell more than one item per order, keep users on the product page and encourage them to keep shopping. For example, Gap shows the dollar amount customers have left to spend to qualify for free shipping:

You are only $32 away from FREE shipping

Best Practice #3: Don’t display a coupon code field in the checkout process by default. Most businesses display the field for customers to enter a coupon or promo code. For example, Tani’s checkout flow displays the coupon code field by default:

Tani's checkout automatically displays the Gift card or discount code on checkout

Our testing for some clients has shown increased cart abandonment when the checkout flow displays this field by default versus hiding it. This suggests that some customers may have been abandoning the checkout page to search for a code to use after seeing the blank field.

A better option may be to do what PACT Organic does in their checkout flow. Which is to ask the customer if they have a coupon first:

Pact's website shows: "Do you have a promo code or gift card?"

Once the customer clicks that text to confirm they already have a code, the field to enter it drops down for them to use:

pasted image 0 20

Be sure to test one version of the checkout flow on your site with the field hidden, and one with the field displayed. See if hiding the field results in less cart abandonment and if so, make that the default option.

Best Practice #4: Keep your checkout process limited to as few steps as possible, and keep it distraction-free by eliminating unnecessary sections such as your website navigation header. The only visible elements that should be there are the ones necessary to complete their purchase. In general, this best practice is commonly known, yet we have seen that some stores still have cluttered or distracting checkout processes.

Best Practice #5: Display an order summary throughout the checkout process that lets customers easily see that they got the correct items. People will sometimes abandon the checkout and go back to the cart if they don’t see their entire order displayed and want to double check something. For example, Aquasana keeps the shopping cart items visible at the top while taking payments, with a link to go back to the cart if they need to.

Aquasana's checkout page displays the items in your cart on the checkout page.

#6: Display and Test Trust Elements on Your Website

Trust elements are proven to help reassure customers and increase conversion rates. These include graphics such as:

  • Security seals
  • 3rd party verification badges
  • Industry certifications

That said, we have tested trust seals and badges and found that what “trust” means for one brand and their customers may differ for another brand.

Different industries, businesses, and their customers come from different backgrounds, and have different values and needs when shopping. This is why the best way to validate which trust symbol works best for you is through controlled testing on your website.

One test we usually recommend running is to include trust elements throughout the customer journey (on your homepage, catalog, and especially in cart/checkout). This helps to reassure customers at each step because the element is on every page.

Burt's Bees landing page with TrustedSite verification.
Burtsbees.com includes the TrustedSite certification seal as a floating graphic in the bottom left on every page in order to help reassure users.

We have linked trust certifications to increased conversions through our own independent testing below (which commonly includes a control group with no certification preset on the site):

In both of them, the major factors are the website the trust badge appears on and the company behind the trust badge itself.

To start, test out the best trust badges for eCommerce and find what works best. Or hire a conversion rate optimization specialist to test what works best on your behalf.

Note: In addition to the strategies above, you can see more effective CRO strategies in our annual CRO study of the best-in-class eCommerce stores.

eCommerce SEO Marketing Strategies

#7: Scale Strategic Content Marketing

eCommerce businesses can see a direct ROI from publishing strategic content such as buyer guides, resources, and how-to articles. The other benefit of scaling high-quality content is that it can dramatically improve the SEO quality of your website.

To scale high-quality content for inbound marketing you can:

  • Hire it out to an agency’s content marketing team
  • Hire a Senior Content Manager in-house to manage your own portfolio of freelance writers
  • Work with a freelance content marketing consultant with their own team of writers and editors

As a general guideline, make sure the content is tailored to your audience:

  • What are your customer’s questions about your products?
  • What are the problems they need help solving that your product can help with?
  • What tone and format (e.g. articles, resources, videos) will your customers find engaging based on their personas and interests?

For example, we helped our warehouse industry client publish resources like warehouse-related checklists. Their customers tend to need help stocking and organizing their warehouses. This content helped to solve their problems. As a result, website traffic, signups, and conversions increased.

For other clients, a product buying guide often makes sense. For example, if you sell backyard playsets, a buying guide to the different materials they can be made of, configurations, and safety information is content that potential customers could find engaging.

Overall, make content that is tailored to the specific industries that buy your products. In the next strategy, you’ll learn how to make sure that your strategic content is highly optimized for search engines.

#8: Use Content Optimization Software to Supercharge Your Strategic Content’s Ability to Rank

If you can see what people are searching for and where they’re landing, then you can make sure those pages properly meet the search intent. What does “properly meet the search intent” mean, though?

It means providing the best answer to whatever it is they are hoping to get back from a search term. This is how you get your strategic content to rank higher in Google.

Some search terms indicate that users want to find specific products to buy (“burberry size medium topcoat tan check”). In that case, you want to provide the best product page possible for that Burberry topcoat, with those size/color/pattern modifier words like “medium,” “tan,” and “check” included on the page.

Other search terms indicate that the users have a problem or question they want to solve, like “how to care for leather luggage.” In this instance, you want to provide the best guide online for taking care of leather luggage compared to the competing leather luggage care guides at the top of Google.

We like to use Clearscope as an on-page optimization tool to make sure pages include the right type of content and keywords. It’s especially useful for strategic content like articles and blog posts.

Clearscope is a great tool for on-page optimization

Clearscope provides optimization suggestions based on the common keywords on the top ranking search engine results pages (SERPs). That makes it easy for you to include the right content and keywords for each page.

There are some other well-known content optimization tools out there (that we haven’t tried out), such as Ryte and Copywritely.

Once you know the keywords your customers are using, and have optimized your on-page copy to include them, there are more SEO tweaks that can make a big difference. Be sure to edit your meta tags, and add internal linking on category and product pages to incorporate those keywords in the anchor text.

Note: When optimizing a page for specific keywords like this, your goal is to publish a better version of the top-ranking content that ranks for the target keywords. This process is what doing content marketing for SEO entails in a nutshell.

#9: Add Schema Markup to Get Your Brand and Products Featured by Google

Now it’s time to help all of your content “pop” visually and rank higher in the search engines with Schema markup.

JSON Schema markup is code that indicates what’s on your webpages to search engines. Adding as much structured data as possible helps improve the odds of Google indexing and ranking your web pages higher.

Once Google recognizes the structured data on your pages, this increases the odds of visual elements being added to those pages in the SERPs. This can include beating organic rankings as a featured snippet at the very top of results:

"best electric lawn mower" Google search results
Google Featured Snippet for the search term “best electric lawn mower.”

You can generate structured data to add to your page according to Google’s specifications with their Structured Data Markup Helper.

Have a web developer implement the JSON code for relevant markup on your most important pages first, such as your highest trafficked and highest converting pages.

Once you’ve implemented structured data, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to double check it.

Here are some types of structured data eCommerce website should be using:

Products, Pricing, and Availability Schema

Product Schema is important for any eCommerce site to get those products recognized as entities and indexed by search engines.

Adding structured data markup for Pricing, Price Range, and Availability Schema is also important to increase the odds of showing up for “Popular products” results like this:

"wooden coffee tables" Google search results

Ratings Schema

As you see in the image above and below, adding markup for ratings helps those nice star ratings to appear in search results.

pasted image 0 11

This markup is built into some eCommerce product review software platforms as well.

Organization Schema

Use Organization Schema to build your brand as an entity in Google. This markup helps to get your logo in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Tuft&Need Google Business Information
Tuft & Needle in Google’s Knowledge Graph. Note how Google pulled additional information about their brand such as their contact info, headquarters location, and founders info as well.

Questions and Answers

People often input very specific questions about products and brands into Google.

This markup can increase the odds of a Q&A Snippet by telling Google that the page consists of questions and their answers. Such as this one pulled from Amazon:

Google's Q&A Snippet: "How good is Miracle Gro?"

Or this one pulled from a roofing and insulation supplier:

"when do I need to replace my roof" Google Q&A snippet

Video

As video results become more frequent, you can increase the odds of appearing in a video snippet. To do this, host it on YouTube and make sure to add video markup to the page of your site that it is embedded on.

"how to repair your iPad" Google results with a video on the top of the page.

A YouTube Video’s Featured Snippet

Sitelinks Searchbox

If you have site search enabled on your domain, you can have a Sitelinks Searchbox appear by your result, especially when people search for your brand or main keywords.

For example, searching for “etsy” yields their Sitelinks search box. Google provides the option to search Etsy’s site right there because it recognizes the site search markup on the page:

"etsy" Google search results pulls in Etsy at the top with a search bar into Etsy's actual site.

Just as you want as much information loaded into your product data feed for PPC, you want as much relevant structured data on your product pages as possible for SEO.

Overall, the more information you add to your schema markup, such as contact info and company heads, the more chances that information will turn up in search results (and in your PPC ads too).

The biggest brands already have their individual products in Google’s Knowledge Graph, such as this Knowledge Graph products result for “nintendo switch”:

"Compare similar products" shopping results with pricing and reviews

You can even compare products right in Google.

You can compare different products right from within Google

This is the direction Google seems to be going, so make sure your products get recognized by Google too.

Note: Google’s guidelines for structured data outlines their preferences for how developers should implement each type of markup data.

Ready to Supercharge Your eCommerce Sales?

With these 10 eCommerce marketing strategies, you’re well-equipped to increase sales.

The key thing is prioritize and implement them in your marketing plan, and that’s where eCommerce stores often need some help.

Our agency helps medium to large eCommerce businesses grow through PPC, SEO, and CRO.

Note: Want to schedule a consultation with us to see which marketing strategies your store should implement first? Get in touch.

Our Checklist of 11 eCommerce SEO Best Practices Proven to Increase Sales

Want to know which eCommerce SEO tactics create an ROI? Look no further than this checklist…

How can you make sure that you get a good ROI from SEO?

In this post, you’ll get a checklist of proven SEO best practices for eCommerce sites.

We have directly tied these best practices to increased traffic, transactions, and/or revenue in documented case studies for our clients.

Why This eCommerce SEO Checklist Leads to Sales

Together, the tactics on this checklist will help your online store continually become a better traffic and conversion generating machine.

Why? If you can identify search engine optimization (SEO) quality issues and improve those issues as a KPI, it can help your other KPI’s: rankings, traffic, and revenue.

While no SEO tactic works 100% of the time, testing multiple tactics greatly increases the likelihood of a positive impact because of their compounding effect. For this reason, we believe that finding different ways to improve your website’s SEO quality is a marketing benchmark to continually improve on.

We routinely utilize the SEO tactics in this checklist for our clients. Our #1 focus is growing our client’s stores, but when our team has the opportunity, they will document the results of their work in case studies.

Below, we’ll link to almost a dozen of our own SEO case studies throughout to show you that they clearly produce a positive ROI through increased traffic, sales, and revenue. Reading them is optional (but recommended).

Note: If you’re looking to improve SEO results for your online store, you can chat with one of our eCommerce SEO experts to learn how we can help you increase your ROI from SEO investments. Talk to an eCommerce SEO expert.

eCommerce SEO Checklist of Revenue-Driving Tactics

Without further ado, here is our checklist of eCommerce SEO best practices to implement for more sales.

#1: Improve or Create Strategic Content

eCommerce businesses are catching on to the power of strategic content marketing. Chances are, your business is already doing it in the form of blogging, writing informative articles, or making videos.

But when it comes to creating content, too many businesses today waste money on content creation due to mostly guessing about what content will actually perform well and drive results.

However, a strategic approach to content marketing does yield a positive ROI.

Why Content Marketing is Great for eCommerce SEO

Content marketing is not a quick or low-cost strategy. However, scaling quality content production exponentially increases traffic, leads, and customers over time.

As you continue to publish more quality content, you gain more Google search engine equity from it. The other pages you link to from that content and your entire site as a whole also share in that increased authority.

That means more ranking power for your eCommerce product and category pages (and thus more sales) when you link to them from your best-performing content!

We went into more detail about why this works in a previous article: Why Content Quality Matters for your eCommerce Website. The bullet points are:

  • Creating or improving content helps to drive more organic traffic from search engines and more referral traffic from inbound links.
  • This also helps the ranking power of your entire site, including your product and category page SEO.
  • Your website’s authority is more protected against the competition by increasing its SEO quality, rankings, and backlinks.

Here are a few concrete examples of how content we’ve created for our clients has directly brought in more revenue:

eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#1):

$100k From One Buying Guide

We created an eCommerce Buyer Guide for a home improvement eCommerce store. $100,000 in sales were generated from that article alone.

eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#2):

$40K+ in Sales From eCommerce Blogging

For the same site in Case Study #1, we published blog posts that answered relevant questions the client’s target customers were searching for in Google. In well under a year, these blog posts were attributed to $40,000 in additional sales.

eCommerce SEO Content Marketing Case Study (#3):

+53.78% Growth in Organic Transactions From Video SEO

We implemented a video SEO strategy for a subscription-based health and fitness video platform. It led to 45.96% growth in organic search traffic and 53.78% growth in transactions from organic traffic.

As you’ll see in the next best practice, strategic content isn’t the only type of content to optimize.

#2: Add Copy to Product and Category Pages

To help product and category pages rank higher, increase click-through rates, and convert better, one of the most important best practices is to add unique content to these pages.

Most of the pages on eCommerce websites tend to be product and category pages. Yet, a mistake we see stores make is to leave their product and category page content mostly blank. They might put in several short lines of description or copy-paste the original product description from the manufacturer’s website.

Unfortunately, this makes those pages thin or duplicate content and they won’t rank as high in the SERPs as they potentially could.

Google’s guidelines detail the various aspects of a website’s quality. In general, they like to see that your catalog pages are of a higher relative quality than your competition’s in order to rank them higher. Thin product and category pages with little information on them is a signal to Google that they are not of particularly high quality.

Additionally, Google likes to see that the copy on your product and category pages is completely unique to your website. If you paste in product copy (or any copy) that was originally on another website, this opens the risk of a duplicate content penalty from Google that lowers your rankings.

To create a significant improvement to your site’s SEO, we recommend that you perform keyword research using SEO tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz and add copy to your category pages at scale. Do keyword research for each page to find the best keywords to include. Then, add at least 150 words (or more) of copy that includes those keywords.

We added 150-word descriptions to the tops of category pages for one of our clients to increase the amount of unique page content. It resulted in a 46% increase in search traffic in an 18 month period:

eCommerce Copywriting Case Study (#4):

46% More Traffic to Category Pages Over 18 Months

While we were doing other SEO improvements at the time that also contributed, we believe that adding category page copy at scale helped to drive more organic traffic to them.

Another note: Customer reviews are a valid form of content that Google likes to see.

So make sure you collect product reviews and post them on your product pages as both an SEO and conversion tactic.

#3: Optimize for Long-Tail Keywords

One of the biggest misconceptions that business owners have about SEO is that high-volume keywords are the ones they should be going for.

Working in eCommerce SEO for over a decade, we have seen many online stores waste time and resources chasing only the specific keywords with the highest search volume.

However, this approach usually requires you to outspend the competition in order to rank. It also takes a varying amount of time to start ranking for those top keywords.

Let us spare you that pain and uncertainty in favor of the approach that works the best today: ranking for long-tail keywords. These keywords make up the most searches on the web and have the lowest competition:

Long tail keywords vs short tail keywords: Short tail keywords have high competition and low conversions, long-tail keywords have low competition and high buying intent.
The eCommerce keyword competition to conversion curve with the low competition, high conversion keywords in the long tail.

Ranking for long-tail keywords is a strategy that can increase sales for a few reasons:

  • Less Competition: In most cases, you are far more likely to rank for long-tail keywords than high volume keywords because not as many websites are targeting them.
  • Lower Cost: You can rank for these keywords with less investment into building links to their associated content because they are less competitive.
  • Better Conversion Rate: Product pages and long-tail keywords go hand-in-hand because likely customers will search for a specific product using a long-tail target keyword that contains the brand, product name, model, etc. This high commercial intent means your pages that rank for their long-tail product name will have a better conversion rate.

We do long-tail keyword research for our clients using a variety of methods that you can read about in this article. In there, we describe a certain pattern we’ve noticed: long-tail keywords that get more than the estimated number of searches.

The example is a website in the moving company niche that ranks for two long-tail keywords showing “0” estimated volume. Yet, those keywords have hundreds and thousands of clicks from search traffic:

Query, Volume, Clicks, Impressions: "how old do you have to be to rent a uhaul" or "how much does a pod cost"
Two long-tail keywords that show 0 Volume, yet have recorded 559 and 1724 Clicks from search traffic.

In our view, the long-tail keyword strategy is a more sound investment because you have more of a chance to rank for many long-tail keywords like these, that together, bring a lot of relevant traffic. Compare this strategy with placing every effort into one or a few high-volume keywords and your site may or may not ever rank for them, or at least not very soon.

We also update alt text for product images, page title tags, and meta descriptions to include long tail keywords and further optimize each webpage for them.

The last important thing to mention about long-tail keywords is that if your eCommerce site starts to rank for a lot of them, this actually helps to increase its ranking power for one of those top-competitive, high-volume root keywords.

The next strategy makes that even more likely:

#4: Build Links to Your Strategic Content

Link building is the process of increasing the number of links to your website’s content. The goal being to increase their authority and ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Content that ranks high in Google often gets some backlinks naturally. However, this is a catch-22 if your website doesn’t have as much authority from inbound links as your competition on the first page of Google.

To help your strategic content to rank higher in the first place, you will want to intentionally build links to it with the goal of outranking your competition.

Link building can be done in a number of ways. Some methods are more sound than others. If too many low-quality links from questionable websites point to yours, this can hurt (rather than help) your site’s authority.

The eCommerce link building strategy we recommend is leveraging your strategic content such as guides and blog posts into more links by sharing it far and wide. We recommend using social media and targeted outreach through email to expose it to the type of people who are likely to link to it (and what this is depends on the content and industry).

For example, in the case study linked below, we created an article and interviewed multiple bloggers as experts to feature in it. In addition to our promotion efforts, these bloggers/influencers shared our client’s content with their email lists and social media channels. The end result from this chain reaction of promotion was 188 new backlinks.

Link Building Case Study (#5):

188 Additional Backlinks From One Article

These links are of a higher quality and bring in more relevant traffic from the client’s target audience because they are organic links from legitimate websites (not spammy ones).

Creating content and advertising it on social media using paid ads is another good method of obtaining backlinks more quickly.

In the case study below, we created a “linkbait” piece that was relevant to our client’s industry. In less than a month on social media, it obtained 121 links and more than 4,200 social shares.

Link Building Case Study (#6):

121 Links From Advertising Linkbait on Social Media

Studying the direct effect of link-building on overall SEO rankings is a tricky thing to do (which is why creating link building case studies is a difficult task).

However, website rankings tend to go up with more referring domains and backlinks. Link building’s effect of increasing rankings and referral traffic often correlates with more traffic, transactions, and revenue. This is why links are still relevant as an eCommerce SEO strategy today.

#5: Content Audits and Pruning

By this point, you might have noticed that these eCommerce SEO best practices build on each other to improve your website’s overall SEO quality. The best practices are targeted toward this because Google consistently updates its algorithm to reward quality.

We’ve mentioned how low-quality content can negatively impact your authority. If you have too many low-quality and/or underperforming landing pages on your website, this bloated index can affect your overall website’s ability to rank.

Running a content audit to identify low-quality pages and then pruning them helps improve your website’s overall quality by keeping only the beneficial pages indexed.

As eCommerce websites tend to have a high volume of pages, we usually recommend running a content audit and pruning thin/low-quality content when onboarding new clients.

The main causes of index bloat we’ll find are:

  • Too many pages with thin content.
  • Old content that gets little or no traffic, conversions, and links.
  • Site search results pages that are getting indexed by Google.

Typically, we start to see the changes register at the 3-month mark after making most SEO improvements. This includes deindexing low-quality content and underperforming pages.

After pruning 200 blog pages from one of our client’s blog subdomains, it took a 3 month period to see their remaining content perform better. In this case, a marked increase in the KPI’s of traffic, transactions, and revenue from their strategic content.

Content Pruning Case Study (#7):

+104% Organic Sessions, +102% Transactions, +64% Strategic Content Revenue

Sometimes, we find websites with far too many low quality pages due to technical errors created by their software.

For example, the eCommerce software one of our clients was using in the case study below created a large number of automatically generated product and category pages that we deindexed for a positive impact.

Content Pruning Case Study (#8):

+28% Organic Traffic and +2% Organic Revenue

Content audits should be done periodically as part of your Technical SEO process. In a previous article, we wrote about how to track your ROI From a Content Audit.

#6: Improve Internal Linking and Fix Crawl Errors

Internal links around your website are a factor of its ability to get indexed.

As we mentioned earlier, internal links transfer their equity (colloquially called “link juice”).

If there aren’t enough internal links, or if they are broken links, this can affect your entire site.

Optimizing your internal linking and setting up redirects for any broken ones helps prevent any crawl errors as Google checks out your website.

We routinely find and correct these internal errors for our clients as part of the content and SEO audit process. As in the case study below.

Internal Link Cleanup Case Study (#9):

+83% Organic Transactions, +96% Organic Traffic, +7.54% Average Order Value

As another important facet of internal linking, we also optimize the link anchor text to help the pages rank for their target search term.

#7: External Link Cleanup

In addition to internal link cleanups, we also audit for low quality backlinks to disavow any that could negatively impact our clients’ websites.

Google’s Penguin algorithm update was targeted toward unnatural link building. Unfortunately, many sites have spammy backlinks pointing toward them without knowing it.

Our internal and external link auditing process led to improved performance across the board for the case study below once we cleaned up their links.

External and Internal Link Cleanup Case Study (#10):

+77% Overall Revenue Lift

Links matter. We’ve observed the direct effect of cleaning up unnatural backlinks along with optimizing internal links and solving crawl errors.

#8: Host Your Online Store on SEO-Friendly Platform

The eCommerce platform that you host your online store on can greatly affect its SEO. Some eCommerce platforms are better for SEO than others.

The platform you use depends on the size of your product catalog and other strategic goals.

When you aren’t aware of the SEO implications of the platform you’re currently using, it’s good to check and see if it might be affecting things. Especially if your website seems to have an “as-yet-unknown” SEO error affecting it.

This has happened to a couple of our clients. Their platforms were causing some really bad errors that made it hard for Google to index them.

The case study below details how a client migrated to a new platform, which caused errors that required a whole lot of work to correct. Once we corrected them, traffic increased and their yearly revenue doubled.

eCommerce Platform SEO Case Study (#11):

Organic Revenue Doubled Year-Over-Year

The last few SEO tips on our checklist don’t have documented case studies. However, they are widely-agreed upon eCommerce SEO best practices that are so important, we can’t in good conscience leave them out of this list.

#9: Have a Mobile-First Site

You may have heard that it’s important for SEO to have a separate mobile version of your website.

This is because Google indexes mobile websites separately and factors the mobile version of your website into its overall quality. The prioritization of Google’s algorithm toward mobile sites is called mobile-first indexing.

But it’s not enough just to have a version of your website for mobile devices. Optimizing your mobile site is a further source of revenue.

Mobile eCommerce sales are projected to make up 54% of all eCommerce sales by 2021. Surpassing the 50% mark for the first time.

Mobile shopping and eCommerce sales only continue to grow. Customers need to find your mobile site and be able to use it seamlessly. This steady upward trend has made optimizing mobile SEO an important best practice.

#10: Have a Good Site Speed

Google has stated that site speed is a ranking factor in their algorithm for both search results and Google Ads.

Improving user-experience is the stated purpose of Google’s updates. Clearly, a fast website helps people find what they are searching for quickly as well.

Google doesn’t want to rank slow websites and frustrate its searchers, and neither should you. It’s not just about the rankings, Shoppers are less likely to complete their transactions on a slow website.

In terms of creating an ROI, improving your eCommerce website speed helps contribute to:

  • Better search engine rankings
  • More traffic
  • Lower bounce rates
  • Higher conversion rates.

You can use Google’s own tools such as Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and the Chrome User Experience Report to check your page load times and see other user behavior metrics.

#11: Consistently Check for Issues and Solve Them to Improve Overall Website Quality

Being proactive with your eCommerce SEO by using the techniques above is crucial. We’ve talked about issues related to website quality related to the content, links, and platform.

As a tool for your business, we recommend creating an SEO quality scorecard for your online store. This will help you and your team stay focused on the important components of SEO to improve and the tactics to use such as the ones on this list.

As another recommendation, SEO auditing is a good protective measure to couple with your proactive improvements.

Conclusion

We know that all of the different things you could do for your SEO seem overwhelming.

We hope this list helps to focus your SEO efforts on tactics that are far more likely to lead to growth in traffic, transactions, and revenue.

Note: If you would like us to make recommendations or implement the tactics here for your store, our SEO experts are ready to help. Get in touch with us here or use the form below.

4 Step eCommerce Keyword Research Strategy (Advanced Guide)

A no-nonsense eCommerce keyword research guide to catapault your products to the top of Google’s search engine results pages!

In this guide, we’ll share our go-to eCommerce keyword research strategy.

This keyword research strategy is great for eCommerce in particular because it is based on intent marketing to optimize every type of page on your eCommerce website.

In other words, this process will show you how to find the right keywords to add to your website’s:

  • Homepage
  • Product descriptions
  • Category pages
  • Landing pages
  • Blogs and articles

…that lead to higher search engine rankings and more search traffic.

We recently helped a client to find and optimize the underperforming blog articles on their site. One of these articles had only 59 organic sessions total since it was published in October 2018:

Google Analytics data showing about 12 organic visitors.

During this article’s best month in February, there were only 12 organic visitors from Google (and only 59 total since October 2018).

 

We used our eCommerce keyword research process to find missing keywords and made copy edits to the article in order to include them.

After we implemented our SEO optimizations to the article, it began ranking #1 in Google for several of our target keywords (while additional target keywords also moved up in the search engine rankings).

As a result, organic traffic skyrocketed to 2,030 sessions over several days alone (December 1st – 4th, 2019):

Google Analytics data showing about 2,030 organic visitors after Inflow made updates.

After implementing our keyword research, the article’s traffic increased dramatically to 2,030 organic sessions within several days.

 

Want to learn how to do keyword research that has the potential to get quick results like this? Keep reading.

Note: Our eCommerce SEO experts can perform effective keyword research like this for your online store to make profitable recommendations. Talk to one of our SEO experts here.

Why Does Our Approach to eCommerce Keyword Research Work?

Most of the guides about doing keyword research for eCommerce cover the same ground by focusing on the basics of keyword research in general.

For example, many keyword research guides recommend using Google’s Keyword Planner to find keywords. However, this tool is specifically for finding keywords to use in PPC Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) campaigns. There are better keyword research tools for SEO.

Additionally, we’ve seen some guides recommend to qualify keywords based on high search volume and CPC. However, this strategy isn’t sound because it leaves you with only the most competitive keywords (the most difficult keywords to rank for).

The underlying principle of an effective keyword research strategy today is to identify and meet the searcher’s intent for that keyword. This makes your content more likely to rank higher in search results and be engaged with by potential customers.

The rest of this post will help you:

  1. Avoid keyword research mistakes that are rooted in past techniques that no longer work.
  2. Use intent marketing in your eCommerce keyword research for better search engine rankings and traffic.
  3. Follow our process for finding good keywords for your eCommerce website.

Let’s start with what’s changed in eCommerce keyword research.

eCommerce Keyword Strategy: Past vs. Present

What works in approaching keyword research today is very different from what used to work.

One big misconception we’ve seen is the idea that it’s best to focus on optimizing specific content and pages for specific keywords.

The problem with the “one keyword, one page” approach is that Google’s algorithm has evolved from a focus on keywords to a focus on the semantics of content, search intent, and topical relevance. The strategy for doing keyword research has changed right along with it.

For example: The keywords “red rubber boots” and “red rain boots” have the same search intent because they are relevant to the same product.

Google search results for "red rain boots" and "red rubber boots".

Different search queries with the same intent. Notice the Amazon category page ranks for both.

 

It makes more sense to have a page optimized to rank for both keywords than to create a separate page designed to rank for each keyword.

Why Did Google’s Algorithm Change to Prioritize Search Intent?

Keyword placement and links used to be the primary focus on Google’s algorithm, and they are still important components of search engine optimization (SEO).

However, people began to recognize and abuse the way Google’s algorithm worked through spammy practices like keyword-stuffed articles with little real value and paying for low-quality backlinks to their websites.

The result was a prevalence of useless, unhelpful content and websites of dubious quality in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). But as a search engine: Google wants to show users search results that they find useful and relevant.

So they released a series of updates to help meet users’ search intent.

Three Major Google Algorithm Updates: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird

This section — which is optional — further details how Google’s algorithm updates have led to an intent-based approach to today’s eCommerce SEO strategy.

That said, becoming familiar with Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird broad core algorithm updates will help you to better understand why intent-based search engine marketing works.

Panda Update

To compensate for manipulative SEO practices within the content websites we’re publishing, Google released its Panda algorithm update in 2011.

Panda was aimed to reduce the amount of low-quality, thin content (often made by overseas content farms) in the SERPs in favor of unique, high-quality content users were likely to find useful.

We often recommend adding high-quality content to our clients’ websites and pruning low-quality, thin content as two beneficial and essential SEO tactics related to Panda.

Penguin Update

Not far behind Panda was the Penguin algorithm update. Google released Penguin in 2012 and has updated it several times since then.

The Penguin update analyzes website backlink profiles to identify whether the websites with links to yours are authoritative (“good” links) or spammy (“bad” links).

We recommend disavowing low-quality links that point to your website to avoid a potential site-wide Penguin penalty.

Hummingbird Update

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update was a major shift in the way the algorithm understands the connection between entities, topics, subtopics, and synonyms.

As a part of Google’s attempt to match a user’s search query with the answers they are looking for, Hummingbird understands the connections between entities and natural language search.

Namely, this algorithm update specializes in analyzing and ranking content in terms of topics instead of relying on exact match keywords.

To get a sense of how Hummingbird helps Google to organize knowledge, think about the way every Wikipedia article has a table of contents with related subtopics.

Along with the table of contents, every Wikipedia article on a different topic is connected with a link.

The Wikipedia page for "E-Commerce" with a Table of Contents.

Wikipedia’s page on eCommerce

 

The Hummingbird update helps Google to integrate this “style” of organizing knowledge automatically into its machine-learning algorithm.

Since Google values thorough content, is it any wonder so many Wikipedia pages show up on the first page of search results, and in Google’s knowledge graph (the visual type of search result below)?

Google's snippet for E-Commerce is pulled from Wikipedia.

Google’s Knowledge Graph search result for “ecommerce.”

 

What these Google algorithm updates mean for keyword strategy is: instead of trying to optimize for exact match keywords, you want to cover each topic deeply.

This increases the likelihood that Google will rate your content highly and rank it higher in the SERPs.

Hopefully this has helped you to understand why tapping into topical optimization and intent-based marketing is the best keyword strategy for eCommerce today.

Now, we’ll go into the actual process for helping your website’s pages to meet search intent and drive better traffic.

Our 4 Step eCommerce Keyword Research Strategy

If you focus on intent marketing in your keyword research, and topical optimization by adding high-quality content to your eCommerce website that contains those keywords, that content is going to rank better with fewer links.

Here are the steps to do it.

Step 1: Assign Search Intent to Your Different Page Types

The first step to doing keyword research for your online store is to understand the page(s) you’re doing keyword research for, and the searcher’s intent for each page.

Before we start: Are you doing keyword research for an existing page or a new page?

For optimizing an existing page on your eCommerce site: Perform Competitor Research

Focusing on older content is more efficient than generating new content. Updating your existing pages will usually improve page/site quality faster once enough articles are optimized.

The strategy for an existing page is to make your content more in-depth than your competitors’ content while including their same keywords.

Skip ahead to the Content Gap Analysis step below to get the keywords to include in your existing content that your competitors rank for and you do not.

For optimizing a new page: Match the page type to keyword intent

Are you doing keyword research for a:

  • Product page
  • Category page
  • Homepage

Or for other content, like an article?

These different page types will typically have different types of keywords and search intent associated with them:

Homepage: Keywords describing what the business is or does (e.g. “Flowers and Flower Delivery”).

Category pages: Mid-funnel keywords that show someone is shopping for a type of product (e.g. “fresh cut flower bouquets”). Brand keywords also come up here a lot, such as “Used Canon DSLR.”

Sometimes, category pages even rank for slightly broad product names (e.g. “used canon rebel t6”) because Google seems to want to show eCommerce category pages for a lot of long-tail keywords.

Product pages: Often, users search for product-specific modifiers when they are close to a buying decision. Modifiers like color, size, or item model just attached to the same category keywords (e.g. “one dozen red roses” or “used canon eos rebel t6s”).

Articles and blog pages: These types of pages often rank for questions and problems that people are searching for. For example, a blog post about “How to Make Flowers Last Longer”. Unlike home, product, and category pages — this content won’t usually have commercial intent associated.

Note: Some search results have an eye-catching featured snippet such as a knowledge graph box, instant answer, or “people also ask” dropdown ranking above organic search results.

The featured snippet for the Google search: "best flowers for valentines day".

An example of a featured snippet from 1800Flowers.

To increase the odds of winning this real estate for yourself, do keyword research for featured snippets and use structured data on the page you’re trying to rank.

Why is using structured data important for SEO? According to Google’s information about structured data:

“Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help us by providing explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page. Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.”

Using structured data is a good best practice to do consistently. However, we normally recommend optimizing for featured snippets as an attempt to steal the current featured snippet for the keyword you are targeting. You should make your page content similar in structure and scope (but also better) than the ranking snippet.

Step 2: Brainstorm Optimization Opportunities

To get initial keyword ideas, start with what you already know about your eCommerce business and customers.

Ask the following questions. Note down the answers in a spreadsheet to create a list of different relevant search intents and topics for your site to target:

  1. What are people searching for?
  2. Who is searching for these terms?
  3. When are people searching? (Are there seasonality trends throughout the year?)
  4. How are people searching? E.g.
    • What words do they use?
    • What questions do they ask?
    • Are more searches performed on mobile devices?
  5. Why are people searching?
  6. Where are potential customers located — locally, nationally, or internationally?

With this spreadsheet, you can start to associate your existing or planned pages with their relevant topic and intent. Then, you’ll start to find the keywords people are searching that line up with each of your webpages.

Use a keyword tool like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Ubersuggest (free) to help you discover relevant keywords to target based on the intent and topics you’ve added to your sheet.

You can also look at Google’s suggested searches for long-tail keywords that people are searching for. Simply start typing in Google’s search bar to find these keywords and add them to your keyword list.

Google suggested search keywords everywhere for the search "home water heater".

Google’s Suggested Searches with their volume, CPC, and competition metrics from the Keywords Everywhere browser add-on.

 

If you pair Google’s keyword suggestions with the Keywords Everywhere browser add-on, you can see keyword data including: the estimated monthly volume, CPC, and keyword difficulty for the suggested search queries, as in the above image.

Note: Keywords Everywhere has recently moved from a free to a paid business model, but it is still a very inexpensive keyword research tool.

Keep track of this keyword research within your dedicated spreadsheet by assigning groups of keywords to their relevant topic or intent.

Step 3: Prioritize Your Keyword Targets

Now you should have a list of main keywords and their related long-tail keywords. If you did competitor keyword research, you may have those competitor keywords as well.

Here is how to organize your keyword research if you’re completely starting from scratch:

  1. Make a list of what the page is about.
  2. Include all kinds of search terms — from generic to highly specific — and put them into buckets.
  3. Input those search terms within your list into SEO tools to find monthly search volume, competition, etc.
  4. If you’re finding too many related keywords with good search volume that you know won’t drive conversions, get more specific.
  5. If you’re not finding any keywords with good search volume*, input some of the ones from your list of keywords into Google and do a simple search to find related keywords that do drive search traffic. *Note: Good search volume is relative, and you shouldn’t get hung up on it.

For example, one of our clients in a small, niche market has very low volume keywords (10-30 searches per month for many phrases). However, they rank for many of them because of the low competition. Additionally, those low volume keywords have a great conversion rate because the pages ranking for them align with search intent.

It’s better to optimize for highly relevant searches that have only 10 searches per month and meet user search intent than to optimize for irrelevant searches that have 500 searches per month.

To fill your list with relevant keywords:

Perform a Content Gap Analysis

Follow these steps to do a content gap analysis:

  • Login to Ahrefs, SEMrush or Ubersuggest. (In this case, we’re using Ahrefs.)
  • Add your website’s domain or page URL and click “organic keywords” at the top or on the left sidebar.

Ahrefs Organic keywords

  • Filter by position 1-10 and click “export” to pull all the keywords that are ranking for the domain or URL into your spreadsheet:

Export your report in Ahrefs.

  • Navigate to the Content Gap report and enter at least 3 competitor URLs.

Content gap in Ahrefs

  • Pull keywords that competitors rank for and you don’t, and then add these to your spreadsheet.

Export the Content Gap

Note: Google Search Console is also a good place for existing content because we often find phrases that our client’s site might get a few clicks for, but where the page doesn’t rank well.

We like to use the Keywords Everywhere Chrome plugin to see search volume data in Google Search Console.

Organize Your Spreadsheet

Follow the steps below to finish organizing your keyword research.

  1. Make sure you have a good mix of head terms and long-tail keywords.
  2. Remove duplicates.
  3. Remove keywords that you have no chance of ranking for (highly competitive).
  4. Unless they are for buy-intent/product pages, remove keywords that won’t move the needle (low monthly search volume).
  5. Organize by monthly search volume (best indicator if the keyword will drive traffic).
  6. Select a keyword that has solid search volume, that’s competitive enough for the website to rank well for, and that fits the page contextually.

Step 4: Optimize Your Content

If you do a typical Google search for one of your targets, you’ll quickly realize that the search results have a lot in common:

The Google search results for "backyard playsets".

Popular search results share similar content and even specific keywords. This is a signal that your page should have that type of content and keywords in order to rank higher.

 

The great thing about this? You can look up the intent of any keyword by typing it into Google and looking at the first page of results. Those results are ranking at the top because they successfully meet the user’s intent.

You can find the common keywords in the top-ranking search results by running the search query you’re targeting through an SEO tool like Clearscope.

The Clearscope landing page.

This tool will generate the relevant terms you should include in your page copy, help you uncover even more search intent, and assign a letter grade to your page copy based on your competitors’ content.

This step is very important because it sets up your keyword research and page optimization for success (remember Google is looking for semantic connections).

Use all this research to develop well written page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, and page copy (learn how in our eCommerce copywriting guide).

Conclusion

eCommerce keyword research can be overwhelming at first, but once you discover the keywords people are searching for when they want what you offer, it becomes a lot more straightforward.

Intent marketing and topical optimization are the eCommerce keyword strategies we have seen win time and time again.

That said, we know that many eCommerce marketing teams are too overextended to devote the time needed to optimize their website SEO and engage in content marketing.

Or, your business may simply be looking for a fresh approach to doing eCommerce keyword research that drives more revenue. Either way, we can help.

If you would like our eCommerce SEO experts to perform SEO improvements and make profitable recommendations for your online store, get in touch here.