Your ecommerce company is trying to figure out a way to make more sales and find new customers. As you research different ways to do this, you may have come across the term SEO, or search engine optimization. SEO can look intimidating to many business owners, because there are a lot of different elements that make up a good SEO program. Many ecommerce companies, whether they have small or large operations, hire an SEO agency in order to truly capitalize on all the capabilities SEO has to offer. This can help lead to increased visibility for your company, improved search engine rankings, higher levels of organic search traffic into your website and even more sales from the organic search channel. Let’s take a look at what ecommerce SEO consists of, and how you can find the right agency to help you grow your business with organic search.
What is Ecommerce SEO?
SEO is the most important marketing channel for ecommerce companies. It contributes to a brand’s sustainable growth over the long term and gets your brand in front of more new customers than most other channels can. SEO brings “free” traffic to your website — but free is not exactly the correct term, though, because time and effort goes into good SEO, which means for most companies, there is a cost associated with it (whether that is an outside agency that specializes in ecommerce SEO or an in house SEO expert or team). But this traffic, free or not, can lead to more sales, which makes it worth the costs associated with it.
Ecommerce SEO generates organic traffic for your website by increasing visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs). Most traffic comes from the first page of Google, with more than 90 percent of all traffic from search coming from that very first page. Ranking on page 1 is important for traffic and conversions, and SEO is the way to get you there.
When a page is ranked well by a search engine for a certain keyword, it will be higher in the rankings, leading to more eyes on the listing and more clicks to the page. That’s why it’s so important to have good SEO on your website to bring in this traffic. But how do you get good SEO and what steps do you need to take to ensure you can drive organic search traffic to your products?
What Goes into Ecommerce SEO?
Ecommerce SEO brings traffic to your website, but what exactly goes into getting that traffic from Google or another search engine to your ecommerce site? There are several elements that make up a good ecommerce SEO strategy. Content, technical work and backlinks all create an SEO plan that can drive keyword rankings and traffic, leading to more sales for your business.
Content: Creating and optimizing content with the best keywords you want to rank for is the foundation of a good SEO program. Content is what your customers are looking for when they type that term into the search engine, so giving them quality information (in the form of a product description, blog post or other landing page) is important to ensuring they have a good user experience and want to buy from you. Content includes the product description or blog post itself, as well as other content items that can be used for SEO like the URL, headers, meta description and meta title.
Technical setup: A good technical setup will ensure your website functions properly for both customers as well as the search engines. You need to optimize your ecommerce site for things like HTTPS/security, mobile friendliness, page speed, and the XML sitemap for Google. Each of these things contributes to the way your website works and the way your content is presented to customers. Having a good user experience will help Google rank your pages higher, as well, as they look at user statistics to determine their SERP rankings. Some of the key stats they look at include bounce rate, conversion rate, load time and time a customer spends on the page.
Backlinking: Backlinking consists of internal links (from other pages on your own website) and external links (from other websites). Having both link types in your SEO strategy is important to show Google that you are an authority in your industry. High quality external links boosts credibility and reputation for your company’s brand online. In addition to helping SEO, building backlinks is a good way to get your brand out there as well as bring in even more traffic that can lead to conversions.
Why Top of Funnel Keywords are Key to SEO Success
When you’re selecting keywords to focus on for SEO, you or your team should take a look at all keywords, not just branded terms (those with your company name in them). Some of the most important keywords to rank for are called top of funnel keywords, which puts your website in front of people early in their buyer’s journey. These people are searching for something like “running shoes” as opposed to your brand name. They aren’t tied to any one particular brand of running shoe, but are curious or in need of a new shoe for running. These people are the ones that you can grab by optimizing your site for top of funnel keywords. The visibility these types of keywords bring can help find and convert new customers for your company.
Benefits of Working with an Ecommerce SEO Agency
Let’s face it, it takes a lot of work to run a business. Even if you are very hands-on in every aspect of your business, there’s just not enough time in the day to be an expert at everything you need to be successful. Working with an ecommerce SEO agency can be one way to have an expert in your corner on SEO, while freeing up your time to focus on other areas of your business, like sales, product development or customer service.
That brings us to our first benefit of working with an agency for ecommerce SEO: frees up your time. There are so many different things that go into good SEO programs, and spending your time working on content, backlinking and technical elements will just pull you away from the day to day operations of your business. But leaving it to experts not only means it will be done right, but it will be done in a more time efficient manner for you. You will still have the opportunity to review the content that’s being created, without having to put all the hours into creating it yourself.
By hiring an agency instead of bringing a team in-house, you can also save money. An agency is usually more cost effective than hiring an employee (or most often, multiple employees) to dedicate their time to SEO, because you will be paying for a package deal with people at the agency working together to get the job done. These costs are offset by the revenue the SEO agency brings in for your company.
An ecommerce SEO agency has the industry expertise needed to do the job right. SEO best practices change all the time, and search engine algorithms are often updated to meet new needs and expectations. A good agency is up to date on all of these changes and they know what they need to do to make sure you don’t see any negative impacts or interruptions when changes do happen. They will also keep an eye on your website, traffic and keyword rankings, so they can jump in if something needs to be fixed, updated or improved.
Many SEO agencies specialize in working with certain industry types, like law firms, ecommerce stores or medical practices. When you find an SEO agency that has the experience in your industry (and have the case studies to prove it), you know they know what they’re doing. They will be able to drive results for you, much like they’ve driven results for their past clients featured in the case studies.
Because a lot of what goes into SEO is on the more technical side, an agency can do it more efficiently and safely than you may be able to. Implementing certain SEO strategies in the wrong way can negatively impact your brand on SERPs, bringing your traffic down (or even halting organic search traffic altogether). That’s the exact opposite of what you want to do! But an ecommerce SEO agency knows the white hat SEO strategies (or the good strategies) to use for keyword optimization, backlinking and technical implementation on your website, getting the work done more efficiently and greatly reducing the chances of messing it up.
7 Questions to Ask During Your Ecommerce SEO Agency Search
You need to be able to trust that your SEO agency has your business growth in mind. Your SEO team needs to understand what your goals are, so they can develop strategies that will help you achieve them. But beyond a relationship of transparency and communication, you need to know that your SEO team is employing good SEO techniques that can grow your keyword rankings and organic traffic.
Don’t feel tied to the first agency you find in your search. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the agency and it’s completely normal to talk to several about their plans, strategies and ideas before you sign any contracts. Having a good feeling about the company you hire to run your SEO campaigns will help you put your trust in them as they take over this aspect of your marketing plans. As you search for the right ecommerce SEO agency, here are seven questions to ask each one you interview so you can compare and contrast the answers before you make your decision.
1) Do they have any case studies, success stories or testimonials? You may even be able to find some of these things on their website. If not, or if you want examples that can be more relevant to your business or industry, ask them to give you a few client stories that show the work they have done and the growth they have helped other clients see.
2) How do they charge? Some companies charge by a monthly ecommerce SEO package and others have a pay for performance model. These different models may work better for different companies, so understanding the payment model this agency uses is key. Performance based SEO is usually not right for businesses that want long term SEO growth.
3) Can they tell you about their strategy to increase the organic traffic to your website? Search engines update their algorithms, like the recent Google update that incorporates Core Web Vitals. You need to work with an SEO agency that stays up to date on these latest trends and best practices, so that your website won’t fall behind. If they have a long term strategy, an agency is in a better position to keep your website improving.
4) How do they measure the success of an SEO campaign, and how long do they think those results will take? Good SEO takes time. If an agency is telling you they’ll have results within the first month, it’s probably not good SEO. However, results will probably start to be seen after a few months. KPIs can start being tracked even earlier. So ask about what KPIs they’ll track and how long it will take to see those results. Find out about the monthly reports or updates on changes in rankings, traffic, and onsite metrics, and a timeline for some more concrete results.
5) What are their link building practices? This one can also give you some insight into whether the SEO methods they use are considered “black hat” or “white hat.” White hat SEO is key for sustainable organic search and keyword ranking growth. By ensuring the agency you select only uses good backlink building practices, you reduce the chances of being penalized from Google and other search engines in the chance that bad link practices get caught.
6) Do they have experience with your ecommerce platform? There are differences between Shopify SEO, WooCommerce SEO, Magento SEO, and so on, so finding an agency that has the expertise you need is key. However, no matter the ecommerce platform you are on, SEO is key to increasing visibility and driving traffic to your site. No matter the differences in these platforms, without SEO you will see fewer sales for organic search.
7) Based on what they can already see, what are the biggest areas of improvement and recommendations they have? If they have done research on your company and website, they should already be able to give you a few things they think should be early focuses for an SEO campaign. This may look like a list of key items (content optimization or technical changes) or a roadmap to future changes and SEO results.
Top 4 Things to Look for in an Ecommerce SEO Agency
After you’ve interviewed several agencies, you may know exactly who you want to work with. But you also may have just narrowed your list down a little bit. Take some time to review your notes and what they can offer you, with a special eye on these four elements that are some of the most important things to look for with ecommerce SEO:
1) The goal-setting strategy of the agency: Sometimes, an agency may set unrealistic goals they want to meet. It would be great if they could get you to #1 on all keywords, but that’s highly unrealistic. They may be trying to land a client, but they may also be less experienced in SEO and just don’t understand how challenging that can be. Make sure the goals the agency plans to set for your campaigns are realistic and in line with your goals and expectations.
2) Their timeline for implementation and results: Like discussed with questions you should ask and their goal-setting strategies, a timeline is important. You want to see results without waiting a year, but SEO is not a short-term plan. You won’t see results overnight, if the SEO is being done right. You want to understand the timeline, so you can have realistic expectations for the ecommerce SEO services you’re paying for, but not too short of a timeline that it sounds too good to be true (it probably is).
3) Their long term outlook for your campaigns: SEO is an ongoing, constantly evolving project. It’s not a one and done tactic. So your agency needs to have a long term outlook for the SEO projects as well. With a long term strategy, you will have a better idea of how your team plans to attract and engage a new audience, while also retaining the customers you already have.
4) The reports they offer you and the schedule of reporting: As they track KPIs that will measure the success of your SEO campaign, your agency should be able to provide you with reports on a consistent schedule (monthly is pretty common) to show organic traffic growth, keyword ranking improvement, and conversions from the organic search channel. Getting the information you need is critical to running your business, so these reports can help you make important business decisions to help you keep growing.
What an Ecommerce SEO Agency Will Do For You
The first thing a good SEO agency will do for your ecommerce brand is perform an analysis on your current SEO and your potential SEO growth. This analysis will look at your current rankings, existing content and competitor rankings. They will also look at the demand potential of your product and ecommerce store, so you know how much traffic is out there that could be coming to your website instead. Then, an agency might look at your keywords within striking distance (on pages 2 or 3 of Google’s results), so that you can know the true potential for the next few months..
From there, an ecommerce SEO agency will develop a plan for onsite optimization, content creation or keyword optimization, and backlinking for somewhere between 90 and 120 days of implementation. Conducting keyword research and identifying the ones to target is often the first place this plan will start, with the content, links and technical work coming later. Your agency will set KPIs and target goals for several of these metrics, so that they and you will know that this strategy is working.
Because SEO is an evolving channel for most brands, SEO agencies often reassess and reevaluate the current strategy, and make modifications as needed to meet new industry changes and trends to further your growth. If there’s an algorithm update or you redesign your website, making changes to the SEO program for your company is critical to keeping those rankings and organic traffic up.
SEO is also a great marketing channel to accompany many other aspects of a marketing strategy. PPC (also called paid search), organic or paid social media, website design and development, and traditional direct mailing methods all work well with SEO, each bringing in their own traffic but all generating touchpoints for your customers. This can be important for brand recognition, and it is a great way to ensure both potential and past customers are regularly engaged with your brand.
At ELK, our long term SEO strategy involves three key pillars: onsite optimization, content development and backlinking. These pillars combine to create a powerful force of organic traffic to your ecommerce website. Before we get started, ELK’s SEO Team puts together an analysis of your current SEO in just 24 hours, giving you a roadmap so you can see how SEO can grow your traffic, online sales and business. Our team takes a structured approach to show organic traffic growth within the first 120 days, so you can start seeing the results of those efforts in just a few months. Contact us today to get started developing an ecommerce SEO plan and get your free analysis to see your organic search potential.