Author: 08 Nov 2022minutes read
For merchants with ecommerce sites, search optimization represents one of the biggest opportunities to increase shopper traffic and sales. To gather some insights to help merchants enhance their SEO strategies, Buy with Prime’s SEO Marketing Manager Chris Redhead met with Jordan Brannon, President and COO of SEO agency Coalition Technologies. Below are some key takeaways from the conversation.
Jordan: We’re seeing increasing fragmentation of the user search journey. In the early days of SEO, when people were optimizing for search, there weren't many players in the space. Google dominated the market, with different challengers emerging and then eventually fading.
In recent years, there's been an increasing willingness of users to search for products in multiple ways across multiple platforms and devices. It’s no longer linear. For example, a shopper might browse products on their mobile device, and then re-engage later on their desktop to make the purchase. Google still dominates for research and discovery, but Amazon is also a leader, and we have emerging platforms playing an increasing role in product discovery, such as TikTok and Pinterest.
Jordan: Creating a focused keyword strategy is super important. If you’re not familiar with other brands in the market, you need to understand what's out there already and find a way to differentiate your brand. We usually recommend narrowly focusing your target keyword list and not spreading your budget too thin.
Be disciplined and don't try to reach for keywords that are too different from your primary target list—instead, look for adjacent keywords. It's not always a good strategy to go against the biggest competitors and the highest-volume keywords. There are lots of great tools to help with this, such as SEM Rush, Screaming Frog, and MOZ, to name a few. Don't miss out on the data that comes from Google, such as from Google Ad Keyword Planner, Search Console, and Google Trends, because they provide exceptional value for budget-conscious brands.
Jordan: In earlier SEO eras, we talked a lot with our clients about domain authority, which means search engines see your site as trustworthy, structured, and relevant. Establishing domain authority was important to gain exposure in search results for queries relating to your business or your competitors. Today, we point to Google's entity awareness and authority. As your audience grows, start thinking about how you can increase the strength of your entity signals and authority to Google.
Google is smart enough to recognize that not all valuable search content is posted on a single domain, and now connects all of the digital activity relating to your brand into a recognizable entity. An entity can include your brand's social media pages, activity carried out by higher profile employees or influencers, news content, and more. The more these entity signals reinforce your keyword strategy and SEO focus areas, the more you'll see them contribute to your ranking growth.
Jordan: It depends on the structure of the business, but generally we recommend more significant spend (often 50% higher than ongoing spend) during the first three months of a site or campaign launch to help clear some of the "one and done" technical onsite work and initial content creation. From there, we typically see a relatively consistent budget allotment for SEO in the first 12-18 months.
If a brand is satisfied with ranking on the terms it initially targeted, and assuming there are no significant changes to its site or industry trends to consider, we sometimes recommend reducing the SEO budget to an “always on” strategy. Any time a brand wants to expand its body of keywords, or has a significant change in its website or industry, the business should revise its SEO budget upward.
Jordan: We recommend thinking and acting ahead of seasonal changes, because SEO takes time to gain traction. For the Q4 holiday season, start planning in Q2 or at least 90 days ahead. Brands often make marketing strategies temporary and don't redirect older pages. This is a miss, because keeping ranking URLs alive over time to promote new content (e.g. reusing the same URL for Black Friday 2021 and 2022 campaigns) allows a brand to retain the Google cred they’ve built up.
Most consumer behaviors happen year in and year out and can be planned for, so to work hard to build SEO value in one year then let it go is just silly. I recommend tracking and documenting top performing URLs and then finding ways to reuse them. For instance, refresh an old blog, update a publish date, or revise web page copy, but keep the high-ranking URLs the same.
Jordan: One of the most common questions our clients ask us is how long does SEO take to kick in? The timelines we most often quote are three months for initial SEO work to begin reflecting in search engine's responses to a site, six months for initial meaningful metrics reflecting sustained positive trajectory, and nine to 12 months for meaningful monetization of SEO.
Another common question from clients is why they might be experiencing a dip in rankings. Brands often mistake SEO to be a linear progression to the right marketing outcome, but this misses out on a variety of factors that can and will drive dips in performance. Seasonality, shifts in consumer trends, and larger macroeconomic conditions all play a part in determining SEO outcomes.
Jordan: Probably the most "hidden" secret in the SEO industry is that SEO strategies and tactics have not changed that much over the years. Doing SEO the right way year in and year out is a sustainable marketing practice without much guess work.
I would also consider "hyper optimization" of certain pages for very nuanced terms to be not as widely known. Google spends more time evaluating the sites that already rank for keywords, which creates a bit of a bias against sites that are just getting started. Targeting very nuanced terms with very direct response pages can drive ranking more quickly than targeting more generic terms. I suggest looking for keywords and search queries that are five-plus words long, have a modest amount of search volume, and a strong likelihood of commercial intent by the search user.
An indirect SEO best practice that I recommend is reaching out to local publications with your company’s story or background. You can often find local journalists or bloggers who are more interested in sharing local stories, which can improve your likelihood of gaining valuable links that can improve brand exposure in search results.
Jordan: The most important action item is to ensure that each page they'd like to see rank has sufficient copy (that is, more than 250 words) that is uniquely optimized for the keywords they’re targeting. I would support that activity by planning a content map for the site, showing which pages relate to other pages by keyword or topic. Ideally, that map is then realized in the site navigation or in internal links from page to page. Finally, I'd look for low-hanging fruit that is negatively impacting page load speed. Specifically, unused apps or tags, and oversized images are big culprits in page speed and can often be corrected with limited technical knowledge.
Coalition Technologies is based in Los Angeles and specializes in SEO, design, and development services for websites.