Tag Archives: ecommerce SEO

12 SEO tips for large ecommerce websites

Approaching SEO for large ecommerce sites can be overwhelming.

With more pages than you can even get your head around and issues like product variants, complex filtering systems and expired products, SEO for ecommerce sites requires a different kind of SEO strategy.

Let’s be clear: all of the same keyword research and onsite optimization practices apply to ecommerce sites as they would for your standard brochure site. That’s the first step in the process, and we won’t cover those points here.

However, for ecommerce sites, it’s necessary to take things a step (or ten) further. In this post, we share our SEO tips for large ecommerce sites. Optimization for ecommerce takes time, but we’ll also provide tips to help streamline the process without scrimping.

Here goes…

Ensure your site is on HTTPS

Safety first! Although this falls under general optimization for all sites, switching to HTTPS is particularly important for ecommerce sites. With exchanges of personal details and users trusting you with highly sensitive payment information, security is of the utmost importance.

As well as ensuring that your SSL certificate is correctly implemented, make sure to be transparent in communicating your security compliance to users.

Provide detailed information on the steps you have taken to offer utmost levels of security, and display any relevant logos to demonstrate that you comply with certain security standards.

Optimize category pages

Now that your website is more secure than Fort Knox, it’s time to focus on optimizing those all-important category pages. These are the pages on which to target those top-level keywords and should be high traffic generators.

Category pages often flop due to issues with thin content. Text is frequently left by the wayside in favor of showcasing the products. However, this approach is potentially catastrophic in terms of rankings. It always pays to have at least a solid paragraph of copy to describe the category.

To further bolster the ranking potential of your category pages, try to focus your link-building campaign on generating links to them. Since the category pages serve as gateways to your products, it is a good idea to prioritize these in your site optimization efforts.

Optimize product pages

Product pages can cause a real headache for optimization. The same issues often occur for the products pages as they do for the category pages – except there are tons more product pages to deal with. Think thin content, duplicate content, and non-existent metadata.

A good place to start is with the product descriptions. Get into the habit of writing unique descriptions for each product. It can be tempting to copy and paste the description from the manufacturer, but this means placing duplicate content on your site. And that’s SEO suicide.

SEO aside, don’t forget that these descriptions are fundamental in actually selling the product and increasing conversions. Try to tell a story with the description – make it interesting, enticing and in line with your brand personality. Speed up the process by devising a format for the product descriptions.

For example, one format could specify a title, short description, bullet point list of features, and a final note on the product. This will ensure consistency and also speed up the content creation process for your writers.

Consider including user-generated content on the product pages, including social media mentions and reviews. This will provide social signals, as well as helping to increase conversions and bring further unique content to the page.

Don’t forget to write unique title tags based on careful keyword research. Again, it’s worth creating a standard format for these titles, for ease and consistency. Enticing meta descriptions may not help you rank higher but they will increase click-throughs from the SERPs. Try to include popular, eye-catching words or phrases, such as ‘free delivery’, ‘buy now’ ‘sale’, ‘reduced’ or ‘new’.

If you have thousands of products then you’ll need to prioritize. You may be an SEO whizz, but you’re not Superman/Wonder Woman/insert superhero of choice. Adopt a top-down approach and start by optimizing the most popular products first.

Product variants

One of the questions we get asked a lot is what on earth to do about product variants. By this we mean different styles, sizes, colours and models of one product. If flicking between these different options generates a new URL for each variant, then you’ll be running into some serious duplicate content and keyword cannibalization issues.

So what’s the fix? The best approach is to display options where the user can change the color, size or model but without the URL changing in the process. The exception to this would be if different colors or other variables are crucial to the product and will rank separately in the SERPs.

Ultimately, though, you don’t want these pages to be competing with each other. If you do have different product variants, then be sure to canonicalize the main product version.

‘Purchase intent’ keywords

We’re not going to provide a complete guide to keyword research in this post. But what we will say is this: be sure to include plenty of purchase intent keywords, e.g. ‘Buy [insert product]’.

Users typing in such search terms are likely to be further down the sales funnel and therefore more likely to convert. Remember that SEO is not just about driving traffic; it’s about driving conversions, and therefore revenue.

Images

Let’s not forget the images: humans are visual animals at the end of the day. Deploy only the highest quality images to entice potential customers. Ensure product images are not too large or they could slow the page speed.

Plus, don’t forget the importance of image search – add appropriate alternative text to all images.

Be wary of filters

The vast majority of ecommerce sites have some form of filtering system to help users find the products most relevant to them. Although these are super handy for the user, the trouble is that some filtering systems generate unique URLs for every type of filter search.

What’s so bad about that? Well, it means that one site could have thousands and thousands of indexed pages, all with duplicate content issues. As a result, it can make your site look frighteningly like a content farm in the eyes of Google’s pet Panda.

Check Google Search Console to see how many pages have been indexed for your site. If the number is unfathomably high then the best solution is to add a meta robots tag with parameters noindex, follow to the filtered pages. It will lead to these pages being dropped from the index, and you’ll no longer have to lose sleep over them.

Expired or out of stock items

One of the key issues with ecommerce sites is that products come and go a lot. There’s no need to remove out of stock items from the site, as you could be missing out on valuable search traffic.

Instead, leave the product page live, but specify when the product is due back in stock and provide similar options in the meantime.

If a product expires and will no longer be sold then you’ll need to remove the page. However, do not forget to redirect the page! Set up a permanent 301 redirect for a newer version of the product, a similar product, or to the relevant category page.

Site architecture

Providing seamless internal navigation is essential not only for good user experience but also to help Google crawl and index your site. Ensure that categories are linked to from the homepage and that products are linked to from the category pages.

Provide links to products in blog content in order to continue the user journey and funnel them towards making a purchase. Try to link any new products from the homepage, as it will increase their chances of being indexed quicker by Google and getting found faster by users.

Breadcrumbs are also an important addition, as they ensure that every part of the user’s path is clickable. This helps users navigate back to parent categories as quickly and easily as possible. Plus, they also appear in Google’s search results, giving users an immediate overview of the site structure.

Pay attention to URLs

With large ecommerce sites, it’s all too easy for URLs to get overly complex. Keep them clean and ditch parameters to ensure they are devoid of jumbled, nonsensical characters.

Be neat and tidy by sticking to lower case letters, utilizing hyphens instead of underscores and keeping them short but sweet.

Schema for product pages

Adding schema markup to your product pages is absolutely crucial for improving the appearance of your site in the SERPs. Enhanced results means greater click-throughs.

There are two types of schema that you should add to your products: product schema and review schema.

Each product page should use the same template and therefore have a consistent layout. This means you can add schema markup to the template using microdata and the schema will be generated for each new product page.

Just make sure that you regularly test your schema using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, and if you’re new to it all, then utilize Google’s Markup Helper.

Monitoring

As with any SEO strategy, you need to be continually monitoring and analyzing the results. This is even more important for ecommerce sites, due to the scale and constant changing of products.

Stay on top of identifying broken links and error pages. Analyse what’s working and what’s not, note popular keywords and pages, and address those not performing well for organic search. For the best results, it’s always worth engaging in some A/B testing – whether this is for keywords, product description formats or images.

There’s no doubt that SEO for large ecommerce sites is time-consuming. That’s why so many ecommerce sites don’t have the level of optimization they should, which presents a fantastic opportunity for those who are willing to put in the grind. Small, incremental changes can make a big difference.

The 5 SEO mistakes holding your ecommerce site back right now

Ecommerce sites are so different from other web platforms that SEO for them can almost be considered a separate branch of the industry.

While many fundamentals are the same, ecommerce, especially of the marketplace variety, introduces complications that could almost be ignored if they occurred on a smaller scale on a different type of website.

Let’s talk about five SEO mistakes that could be holding back your ecommerce site as we speak.

1. Duplicate content

Duplicate content is the bane of the ecommerce site’s existence, and I can almost guarantee you right now, if you have an ecommerce site that you haven’t audited for duplicate content, you have duplicate content. Especially if your site is on a marketplace model.

It doesn’t matter what platform you’re using or how informed you are about SEO – if you haven’t checked for it recently, it’s probably hurting your rankings.

Consider what Ben Davis at Econsultancy noticed happened to pages on three of Sports Direct’s websites. The parent company hosted the same product with identical product descriptions and similar layouts, on three different sub-brands: Cruise, Flannels, and Van Mildert.

What he found is that none of the pages had a consistent presence in the search results. The brand’s strong authority with search engines allowed the pages to rank with some semblance of consistency on the second page, but with a very important caveat: only one page would show up at a time.

Whenever one page did well, the others fell well below position 100 in the search results, effectively impossible to find.

This type of duplicate content is common for ecommerce sites, in particular marketplaces that sell products, which can be found elsewhere. Large marketplaces generally use generic product descriptions provided by the product seller, but in doing so they are creating duplicate content and, unless they are lucky, they almost certainly will not rank consistently on the front pages of the search results.

Custom product descriptions and design templates are highly recommended in order to combat this problem. Ecommerce sites with very large marketplaces can’t necessarily hope to ever do this for every product.

But following the Pareto principle – an economic principle which states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained – updating your highest performing and most promising product pages with unique content is well worth the effort if you do so with a strong background in both SEO and writing copy for conversions.

However, this isn’t the only type of duplicate content that plagues ecommerce sites.

Another frequent issue is duplicates on your own site. The most common cause of this form of duplicate content is placing a filter in the URL parameter, such as a URL parameter for different colors of the same product, URL parameters to filter products on a category page, and so on.

While this form of duplication doesn’t typically lead to results as extreme as duplicates across different websites, it does dilute the search engine authority dedicated to any single version of the page, and if done en masse it can result in a downgrade in your site’s overall rankings because of Google Panda.

To deal with this type of duplicate content, you need to be sure to implement the rel=canonical tag in such a way that it consistently points to only one URL for any page with nearly identical variations.

2. Too many low-performing indexed content pages

The correlation between additional content on your site and additional search engine traffic is probably the most battle-tested strategy out there. A solid content marketing strategy is essentially guaranteed to increase your search engine traffic in the long haul, and we’ve seen it happen for literally every single client who stuck with it long enough to see the results.

Even so, there are circumstances in which a poorly optimized content strategy can actually backfire, produce too many irrelevant pages, and believe it or not, drag down your entire site in the search results. In fact, this happens a lot more often than many people realize.

Consider the case of Une Belle Vie. When they came to Inflow for help, they were seeing declines in search engine traffic.

After analyzing their site and performance in the search engines, Inflow concluded that the ratio of content to products was too high. This was diluting their authority with search engines and placing too much crawl budget and PageRank in the hands of low-performing blog posts.

After carefully identifying which pages to remove and which to keep, the site saw a steady increase in search traffic, a 30.04% jump in revenue, and a 5.25% bump in conversion rates.

So, does this mean you should shut down your blog?

No! I definitely wouldn’t recommend that, certainly not as a first resort at least.

The lesson here is more nuanced. Simply adding content to your site is a strategy that can do more harm than good by diluting your authority with search engines. If I had to guess, I don’t believe that Une Belle Vie’s traffic losses were the result of bad content, but of an unfocused content strategy without consideration given to search engines.

Your content efforts need to be focused, and it’s crucial that any authority built by your content strategy is channeled to your product landing pages.

As an important point, I would always first consider optimizing existing pages over removing them. Pages that perform relatively weakly often do so because they don’t send a message clear enough to the search engines, about their purpose.

It is also often the case that several thin pages of content should be combined into a single, comprehensive resource. Keyword research and knowledge of technical SEO are a big plus here.

Only after addressing opportunities for optimization should you start cutting pages. In the process, it’s important to ensure that the pages you remove:

  • Are not a source of existing search engine traffic
  • Are not capturing inbound links from external sources
  • Are redirected to related resources to capture any inbound authority they may have already had

3. User-generated content (not enough or too much)

User-generated content is a double-edged sword. It can work wonders. Wikipedia is entirely user-generated, and it wins the search results. It’s been central to Amazon’s success, with user reviews building more trust with buyers than any branding efforts ever could.

But the dark side of user-generated content is as ugly as its upside is beautiful. When Google first released Panda, eBay fell from #6 to #25 on Moz’s list of sites with the most top ten search result listings. The low quality content produced by seller/users on eBay was definitely a factor and likely central to those losses.

So, how should you deal with user generated content?

First, I want to stress that user-reviews are almost certainly a good move. Recent studies have shown that adding user reviews to your website improves organic search traffic by approximately 30%.

It’s difficult to estimate to what extent this is due to a subsequent reduction in portions of duplicate content, to rich snippets including star ratings in the search results, to Google ranking pages with user reviews higher directly, or to user behavior, sending more positive signals to Google after user reviews were added.

However, it is that these factors add up, the end result is clear. Adding user reviews to your site will almost certainly improve your search engine traffic.

If you’re afraid of user reviews trashing your reputation, that’s less of a concern than you might think. Believe it or not, products with diverse star ratings actually perform better than products with five-star only ratings. By including some authentication into the process, you can cut down on trashing from anonymous sources, and if you respond well to criticism, it can often improve performance better than never having been criticized in the first place.

Bear in mind that most people won’t leave a review unless you ask. Research by Trustpilot indicates that people are twice as likely to leave a review if you ask them (jumping from 14 to 29%).

So, what about the dark side of user-generated content? Consider the case of eBay versus Wikipedia. Both are user-generated content sites, but Wikipedia thrives under Panda while eBay suffered after its introduction.

The key is process. Wikipedia has processes in place to ensure quality. While those processes wouldn’t satisfy a college professor, they are sufficient to create a relatively trustworthy resource with the ability to consistently meet quality expectations.

Putting moderators and other processes in place to keep the quality level high are vital if you want user-generated content to work for your ecommerce platform. Giving users the ability to rate one another’s content also helps keep quality levels high. Take Amazon’s ability to sort reviews by “most helpful” as the gold standard here.

4. Not optimizing existing pages with better keywords

This is one change that every ecommerce site should make, preferably on some sort of repeated schedule.

Keyword research is one of those factors that’s so important for SEO that it’s taken as obvious, and for that reason it also paradoxically gets ignored more often than it should. This is especially true when it comes to optimizing your existing pages.

Here is a process that I recommend using that Darren DeMatas calls the “Double Jeopardy” technique, and he shares an example of using it to boost search traffic by an unparalleled 1780%.

Here is the gist of the process:

1. Go to Google’s Keyword Planner and add your product page URL to the tool. To narrow it down to informational keywords, you can add “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” as required terms. This is good for blog posts and similar content, but not a good fit for product landing pages.

2. Take the keywords to SEMrush or a similar tool in order to identify which keywords have competition you can beat. In addition to metrics provided by tools like this, you should also scope out the competition on the front page for those phrases in order to ensure that they have the quality levels you can beat.

3. Find your highest performing pages for the target keyword by performing a “site:domain ‘keyword’” search in Google. This will tell you which page on your site already performs best for the keyword.

4. Do an “inurl:forum” search for your keyword to see what information people have on the topic that you won’t necessarily find on the front page of search results. Forums are a great place to start the research, since they give you an idea of exactly what people want to know or are struggling with.

Whether you are using this to put together a blog post or a landing page that overcomes buyers’ objections, this research is incredibly useful. Other creative searches and sources of information are also encouraged.

5. Now update your content to ensure that it would be the most promising thing on the front page for that search phrase. That means your title should stand out and that the content on your page either solves users’ needs better than anything else on the front page, or that it overcomes buyer objections and understands their purchase intents better than any other landing page, on the front page.

We’ve developed similar processes internally and they almost never fail to increase search engine traffic, especially when applied as a strategy for your entire site, as opposed to an occasional tweak to a few pages on your site.

Using this process, you capitalize on your existing page data and authority, in order to rank for the kinds of terms that Google is already prepped to reward you for, as opposed to simply picking the highest traffic keywords off, of the list of suggestions that Google’s Keyword Planner gives you, after plugging in a generic and obvious keyword.

Keep in mind that you can also put a competitor’s URL into the keyword planner to get suggestions.

Another common issue with keywords on ecommerce sites is their hyper-focus on branded keywords. Most product pages are built around the product name and the brand name.

By no means should you remove this information or take it out of the most prominent keyword locations (like the URL, title tag, and first paragraph). However, in addition to this branded information, you should also make an effort, to include keywords related to the product that aren’t about the brand or product model.

These may be referred to as “generic” keywords, although it’s still important to make an effort to use highly specific keywords matching very specific user needs. The point is that you should step up your keyword game and indicate what the page will do for people who aren’t searching for specific brands or product names.

5. Poor internal linking

Ecommerce sites often have an enormous number of products, and as a result it can be incredibly difficult to reach any given page using the links on the site. This doesn’t just mean it’s hard for a user to navigate to a page, it also means that PageRank flow through your site can become diluted, leading to important pages receiving less authority with the search engines than they ought to.

Victorious SEO was able to help Blomdahl USA earn 440% ROI, in large part by repairing poor link architecture.

Getting your link architecture under control is an absolute necessity if you want your ecommerce site to be optimized for search engines. Issues with link architecture generally come in four different forms:

Poor semantic structure

A link architecture with this issue doesn’t organize the site, hierarchically. Pure PageRank is only one factor the search engines consider, and the relevance of the links is also a crucial consideration.

Site navigation, folder structure, and interlinking should be systematic. Some organic contextual cross-linking between categories is of course fine, even preferred, but if there is no clear hierarchy in place at all, your interlinking does very little for you.

Excessive link depth

Something is very wrong if it takes more than a few clicks to get from the homepage to any product page. Consider the six degrees of separation rumored to connect any two individuals on the planet. If it takes 10 degrees of separation to get from your homepage to a product page, even the most obscure one, you do not have an optimized site.

Too many links from one point to the next means it’s difficult for search engines to crawl your site and discover pages. It also means that those deep pages receive almost no PageRank.

No prioritization

This is the opposite of excessive link depth. It’s what happens when there are so many links on every page that the most authoritative and important pages on your site receive virtually no attention from search engines. This is a case of diluting your authority by not prioritizing what matters.

Not enough links

Related to excessive link depth, sometimes it’s the case that a page may not be reachable at all from links elsewhere on the site. The most common cause of this is using two different platforms to create separate sections of the site, then failing to interlink them.

Conclusion

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an ecommerce site that wasn’t suffering from SEO issues of some kind.

There is essentially always room for improvement, and these five mistakes are the typical places I find myself starting. If you run an ecommerce site, I highly recommend starting with these issues.

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Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

Black Friday kicks off a shopping season that lasts through Christmas each year, with online retailers vying for the profitable attention of consumers. With spending expected to rise by 47% this year, competition will be fierce.

SEO can make a significant ecommerce contribution; some final tweaks can make the difference between rising to the top of results and languishing at the bottom of page one.

The holiday season begins in earnest for ecommerce companies with the Black Friday weekend, bookended by Black Friday (November 24) and Cyber Monday (November 27).

Black Friday (the day retailers traditionally go ‘into the black’ due to the bumper sales) follows Thanksgiving in the US and kicks off a spending spree that typically continues through the Christmas period. The digital revolution has facilitated huge growth in spending worldwide, even spawning the online-focused Cyber Monday counterpart to satiate consumers’ desire to pick up a bargain.

Although dwarfed by China’s equivalent, known as ‘Singles Day’, which recently posted $12 billion in sales on Alibaba alone within just 2 hours, Black Friday holds particular significance for retailers in the US and beyond.

For context, the following statistics should paint a clear picture of the importance of this period for online stores:

  • 2017 spending is predicted to rise by 47% over the same period in 2016
  • Shoppers in the US spent $3.39 billion on Cyber Monday last year and $3.34 billion on Black Friday
  • The Black Friday week brought sales of £6.5 billion in the UK in 2016
  • The average American consumer will spend $745 over the Black Friday weekend
  • Target sold 3,200 TVs per minute during the first hour of Black Friday last year.

Brands have been planning for the holidays for a long time already, so the focus will now turn to any last-minute changes that can help tempt consumers to their site and provide a seamless transaction experience when they get there.

SEO is quite rightly considered a long-term investment and strategies take time to come into effect, but some fine-tuning can still reap dividends in the immediate short term.

The tips below are intended to give ecommerce sites an SEO performance boost – just in time for the holiday period.

Focus on keyword groups with a high ROI

All brands are aiming to maximize revenues over the holidays, which leads to an increase in activity as their marketing strategies kick into action.

Search demand patterns change too, as consumers seek inspiration across a range of digital media.

This opens opens up new opportunities; search results are affected by these forces and they change in response to the surrounding stimuli. Intelligent targeting of the right queries at the right moments can see brands move into top positions and capitalize on demand peaks.

Historical data from Google Trends or Keyword Planner can highlight the types of queries that tend to increase around this time of year. Typically, modifiers including ‘best’, ‘gift’, ‘deals’, or ‘cheap’ will be popular with shoppers on the lookout for the right present.

There’s nothing revolutionary about that, but adding these terms to basic SEO elements like internal links, title tags and meta descriptions can make all the difference.

Our guide to advanced keyword research is a great place to start this process, as it helps marketers to isolate short-term opportunities and strategize accordingly.

Use existing landing pages for high-volume terms

It helps if you are using an authoritative page to target profitable queries at the most competitive time of year. With only a couple of weeks until Black Friday, it would be a pretty tall order to launch a brand new page and rank in positions 1-3 for the most important terms,

And yet, many brands do exactly this every year. Rather than having one static Black Friday page and another for Cyber Monday that can be updated every year, they launch a new page every time the holidays roll round.

After all, the trend is predictable; we know searches for [black friday] are about to take off:

The retailers that make the most of this will have had a Black Friday page in place for years already, which benefits from the backlinks that have been sent to the site every year. Small updates, such as adding the year 2017 into the copy and title tag, will help the page gain relevance for this year’s searches.

Once the holidays pass, update the content to move shoppers to more relevant deals and allow the page to accrue SEO value until next year.

Add new content to cover new SEO opportunities

There are less obvious trends to make use of, too.

Recent analysis of BrightEdge data by Eugene Feygin revealed a very significant increase in the number of rich snippets returned for ecommerce queries over the past year. In fact, the research found that there has been an increase in the number of rich snippets of over 26% within the last five months.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon has benefited to a greater degree than most:

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

But the same opportunity exists for all retailers.

Given the prominence that is afforded the these quick answers, in what has come to be known as ‘position zero’, it seems too great a prize to ignore.

The question, then, is how to format content to increase its likelihood of being pulled programmatically as a rich snippet.

There are no black-and-white rules to this, but there are steps we can take to help our chances. For example, using Schema.org mark-up to provide Google with structured data about product features or prices will help greatly, and tools like Moz Keyword Explorer can help identify popular questions.

Repurpose old content to create gift guides

According to Google’s trend report from 2016, more than 70 percent of digital shoppers started their holiday shopping without something particular in mind that they wanted to buy.

The search journey doesn’t end when someone clicks through to a website, of course. With user engagement factors continuing to play a pivotal role in SEO successes, we need to understand the consumer’s intent and match that up to the experience they receive when they land on the site.

Walmart provides a good example of how this can be achieved. They have a range of gift guides, which are categorized by the type of gift the consumer is thinking of, and also for whom they are planning to buy.

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

It is possible to go further still, through segmentation of content by the consumer’s level of certainty about the product they want to buy. The site can ask these questions to use as prompts to personalize the experience, with live chatbots playing an ever greater role in this area.

This must be complemented by an oft-overlooked aspect of ecommerce SEO: optimization of internal search. A report by Visualsoft found that 17% of UK retailers do not pay attention to the effectiveness of their internal search engine, but this should be taken into account by all ecommerce sites. To do so means making use of autocomplete searches, product recommendations based on search history, and personalized results.

These points require the refinement and adaptation of existing assets for most brands, so they can still be considered quick win activities for the holidays.

Optimize for speed

Back in 2012, Amazon calculated that just one second of slowdown in page load speed costs them $1.6 billion in lost sales, a number that can only have grown in the intervening years.

The aforementioned report from Visualsoft made blunt a point of which we are all aware: when providing a great ecommerce experience, speed matters. It also highlighted how far a lot of online retailers are from meeting the benchmarks expected of them by their customers:

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

Source: Visualsoft

In addition, new research from BrightEdge (full report here) has highlighted the peak traffic days across devices:

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

This data shows that while mobile traffic peaks on Thanksgiving, it is desktop that takes the lion’s share of visits on Cyber Monday. Moreover, BrightEdge’s research found that desktop takes 67% of overall conversions in the holiday season, as its traffic converts at a significantly higher rate than mobile visits.

Marketers need to be in prime position to move these consumers through to their intended transaction, as they research on one device and come back to convert on another.

Therefore, if there is only one area of on-site experience that SEOs can contribute towards, it should be page load speed. Improved speed can help rankings directly, but it is also a proven way to improve conversion rates on mobile, desktop, and tablet.

The road to achieving this will depend on the website in question, but some best practices would be:

  • Minimize the number of HTTP requests required to load the page
  • Reduce the number of redirects needed to arrive at the final URL
  • Compress or re-size images.

Optimize mixed media assets

It stands to reason that with so many shoppers seeking inspiration, images and videos are essential components of an SEO strategy for the holidays.

At the last minute, brands are likely to have their media strategies set in stone, but SEO can always help to attract more traffic to these assets.

As such, we should be thinking about optimization for search engines like Pinterest and YouTube, and not just Google and Bing.

That said, Google’s universal results provide an excellent opportunity to draw more traffic if images and videos are optimized for the right queries.

Therefore, SEO research for the holiday season should aim to identify the keyword categories and types for which images and videos are returned in the SERPs. Keyword tools like BrightEdge and SEMrush provide a way to do this at scale, helping marketers to evaluate the best areas to apply their efforts.

Take lessons from other digital marketing channels

With such limited time left to test SEO changes, retailers should look to paid media channels to find quick, substantial lessons to apply to organic search. PPC ad copy can be a goldmine for these insights, as is reveals the triggers most likely to appeal to consumers when they are searching. Take the best-performing ad copy variations from paid search and incorporate these into SEO messaging to draw a higher click-through rate.

Recent research into social media ad performance also found that informal, conversational language works best. People tend to be in a different mindset when on social media compared to search, which is driven by their underlying intent and the different natures of the platforms. However, this tone of voice could still be worth testing within PPC ads to see if it helps brands stand out and connect.

That said, we need to bear in mind that consumers don’t think in terms of SEO, PPC, or social media when they are shopping for gifts. They move between these channels and expect a consistent tone in their interactions with a brand.

SEOs should look to broader consumer surveys to understand the role their channel can play to ensure that this consistency is achieved.

One such study from Astound Commerce asked, “Which of the following will most likely prompt you to visit a retailer online this holiday season?”

Consumers, who were prompted to select all of the responses that applied to them, revealed just how many factors can potentially come into play:

Black Friday SEO: Last-minute tips for the holiday season

This is a complex set of interconnected communications, but there are a few clear takeaways for SEO. For example, promotions are a key driver of traffic, so we should add any relevant deals into on-page copy and meta tags.

Make sure your servers are ready

The SEO team at any retailer has important responsibilities on the technical side of things over the holidays.

If all goes to plan, there should be a significant surge in the number of visitors to the site over a short period of time, which can play havoc with servers. Downtime is particularly disastrous at this time of year, so take steps to prepare.

It is worth visiting the site’s error logs to see if there is anything you can fix in advance of the traffic increase, and make sure you have a dedicated point of contact on stand-by if any issues should arise over the holiday season.