eCommerce websites have a lot of moving parts, with hundreds to thousands of product pages and dynamic elements. Today, search engine optimization (SEO) goes hand-in-hand with providing a great user experience (UX) on your website.
When you focus on SEO keeping UX in mind, you’ll build an eStore that not only brings in a ton of organic traffic but converts those visitors into customers too.
Here are five actionable SEO tactics, direct and indirect, to improve your search visibility while also ensuring a stellar customer experience in 2020 and beyond.
Improve your store’s loading speed
Speed is one of the most important factors that can make or break your eStore’s customer experience (CX). Your modern online shopper simply doesn’t have the patience to wait for your website to load, and won’t hesitate to bounce and visit a competitor.
Since 2010, speed is an official Google ranking factor as well. And so, improving your store’s loading speed is vital to both customer experience and search rankings.
However, with the sheer number of images and dynamic elements on a typical eCommerce website, it can be challenging to make your store load fast.
First off, evaluate your current speed by running your site through a free tool such as GTmetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out how your site performs currently. To evaluate mobile performance specifically, you can use Google’s Test My Site tool.
These tools will provide you with a list of recommendations that you can then work on to improve your site speed. For instance, you may have image files that are large and need to be compressed using an image compression tool. You may have yet to enable browser caching so repeat visitors don’t have to completely reload the entire page every time.
Likewise, there may be too many unnecessary redirects or render-blocking resources which can slow down page loading time. Once you have these suggestions generated from the tool, you can devise seo strategies to improve on every aspect and thus, optimize your store’s loading speed.
Optimize your content for uniqueness and relevancy
Google wants to find quality unique content on every URL, and for eCommerce stores, this can get quite tricky.
That’s because, in addition to creating unique, keyword-optimized, and descriptive content for each product page, you need to be wary of filtered search pages and product parameters creating too many low-value duplicate pages that can be indexed by Google.
And from an SEO perspective, duplicate content is an absolute no-no. So to deal with this issue (for example, multiple colors and sizes of the same jacket), you essentially have three options: include a canonical tag on product variation pages that points to the main product page, place a “noindex” tag on the page, or block the variation within your robots.txt file.
Furthermore, you need to have a plan for dealing with outdated content (products that are sold out, out of stock, or discontinued). The plan needs to prioritize your customer and make sure the SEO value is not lost.
Usually, implementing 301 redirects is the optimal choice. It provides users with the most up-to-date content on the product they are looking for (thus ensuring consistent customer experience), and all the backlinks to the original URL with their link juice are correctly passed on to the new page.
Prioritize mobile shopping experience
In the last few years, with mobile devices becoming commonplace, consumers have started shopping online using their smartphones. Simply put, in 2020, mobile is where the money’s at.
Consider the recent holiday shopping seasons, when mobile dominated sales:
- On Black Friday ($6.2 billion in online revenue in 2018), nearly 40% of sales on the traditionally brick and mortar shopping day came via a mobile device.
- On Cyber Monday ($9.2 billion in online revenue in 2019), 54% of visitors came from mobile devices, while around 33% purchases on their mobile device, up over 40% from the year before.
In 2021, 53.9% of all retail eCommerce is expected to be generated via mobile eCommerce. So, it’s now statistically far more likely that your store visitors will be from a smartphone or tablet than a desktop.
Even so, 84% have experienced trouble in completing mobile transactions. This means that the opportunity for you to capitalize on conversions (and SEO) by creating a mobile-friendly website is massive.
With Google’s mobile-first indexing, the mobile version of your website will be the baseline for how Google indexes your site and determines your rankings.
Here are some best practices for better mobile SEO:
- Use a responsive web design. The advantage of responsive design is that you are able to serve the same HTML code and URLs regardless of the user’s device. All the content on your store automatically adjusts to the screen size.
- Mobile page speed is an official ranking factor for Google. So, optimize mobile page speed by enabling compression, avoiding redirects, improving server response times, minifying CSS and JS, leveraging browser caching, and optimizing images.
- Focus on mobile usability. Make your mobile store easy to navigate. Enable autofill for contact forms. Make buttons large enough. Google rewards a great user experience regardless of the device.
Also, avoid common mobile SEO mistakes for your eCommerce website, such as:
- Unplayable video content due to Flash
- Small font size
- Touch elements too close to each other
Long story short, smartphone shopping is an upward trend and Google is focusing more on the mobile experience. So, do not ignore your store’s mobile-friendliness, rather, prioritize it for better rankings and customer experience.
Garner more social proof
By now you’re aware that ranking high on Google is synonymous with providing a great user (in your case, shopping) experience. And to provide a truly compelling eCommerce experience, your site visitors need to be able to trust your brand.
Your business needs to appear credible and authentic if you wish to convert human visitors into customers and convince Google bots to rank you high. For that, you need as much social proof as you can possibly garner.
84% of people trust online reviews and testimonials as much as they would a personal recommendation. What’s more, 69% of online shoppers want more reviews from eCommerce sites, and 77% of customers read product reviews before making a purchase.
And so, social proof in the form of product reviews and testimonials (on your own site, social media, and review platforms like Yelp) is pivotal to the shopping experience and indirectly, your rankings.
Reach out to your customers via good old-fashioned email and request them to take a minute to drop an honest review. Send them warm follow-ups twice or at most thrice, and consider incentivizing reviews using coupon codes or loyalty discounts. This would also boost customer retention and brand loyalty.
Apart from this, a clear display of your store’s shipping and returns policy adds credibility to your brand. Likewise, having easy-to-find contact information (email and phone numbers) with an easy-to-fill contact form is a must. Furthermore, not having live chat on your eCommerce storefront is like having a retail store with no employees — poor customer experience.
Social proof is an indirect yet powerful signal to Google about your site’s authority. And so, If you’re aiming to rank towards the top and be deemed as a trustworthy brand, then you need to have an abundance of social proof.
Make your store more accessible
Yet again, an indirect yet highly impactful tactic to improve your search rankings is one that revolves around enhancing your store’s user experience, making it more all-encompassing.
That is, to allow everyone, regardless of their physical or mental ability, to do business with you using your website, you need to have an accessible store.
Today, having an accessible ecommerce website is mandatory as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is applicable to digital properties too, which means your eStore must be easily usable by visitors with disabilities (such as the visually impaired).
However, website accessibility is crucial not just to avoid ADA lawsuits from potential customers but to improve your search rankings and customer experience.
With an estimated 26.9 million adult Americans claiming that they either have trouble seeing or are unable to see at all, it’s likely that you’re shunning out a considerable slice of your customer base from doing business with you if you’re not having an accessible website.
Here are a few steps you can take yourself right away to make your store more accessible:
- Ensure sufficient color contrast on every page.
- Write a descriptive alt text and caption for every image.
- Include closed captions for videos (if you have any).
- Make your site keyboard-friendly (usable without a mouse).
- Write descriptive anchor texts for hyperlinks.
- Devise a coherent content hierarchy (using subheadings H2, H3, and so on).
- Write descriptive labels for form elements.
- Publish an accessibility statement stating your store’s target level of accessibility.
To ensure the highest level of accessibility and total ADA compliance, consider using a web accessibility tool like accessiBe that’ll scrutinize your entire website and help make every element compliant with the WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) published by the World Wide Web consortium.
Long story short, better accessibility translates to better user experience for everyone, and more credibility as a business — indirect factors that Google takes very seriously when ranking a website. So, if your website is accessible, it results in better rankings and customer experience for all.
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The modern consumer expects and demands a seamless online shopping experience, and search engines have evolved to a point where they can almost directly assess and reward outstanding customer experience with better rankings.
And so, understanding and leveraging the connection between SEO and CX can not only improve your store’s search rankings and drive exponentially more organic traffic but also lead to a memorable customer experience that customers keep coming back to.
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He has more than seven years of experience in digital marketing. He likes sharing his knowledge in a wide range of domains ranging from eCommerce, startups, marketing to human capital management and much more. His work is featured in several authoritative business publications. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter at @belanigaurav.