TJ Welsh is a guest contributor to Dsco’s blog. Currently, he’s the VP of Marketing at Stryde, an ecommerce digital marketing agency. He has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has worked with numerous enterprise level businesses to generate more revenue through online SEO strategy and execution. He writes for Forbes, Shopify and numerous other industry publications. You can follow TJ on LinkedIn.
In my previous post, I discussed how events in 2020 have led massive closures in brick and mortar retail, huge shifts in consumer buying habits towards online shopping, and a re-centering of retail strategies around ecommerce.
A key element to running a succesful ecommerce operation is catching as much organic traffic to your website as possible. This is low hanging fruit for most companies and can show large returns on even basic SEO investment.
In this post I will discuss three important SEO tips that enterprises can use to win online.
1. Information architecture
Image Source: SearchEngine Journal
Information architecture should be leveraged to structure websites in such a way that enhances findability and usability for both search engines and end users. In more simple terms, it takes website complexity and turns it into a comprehensible structure. A strong rule of thumb, if you can’t find something on your website, Google search bots won’t be able to find it easily either.
Organizing site information gets more complicated the further down you get into the site’s taxonomy. Sites are structured to have categories and subcategories and then faceted navigation pages.
Take REI for example, the top level categories shouldn’t be too complex to figure out. Their header navigation includes things like: camping & hiking, paddle, run, cycling, etc.
However, when you move down to the actual product listing pages (PLPs) or product matrix pages (PMP page) for example, things get more challenging. You have to organize filtered content in a simple and effective way while giving users options with how they filter and find information.
Not only do you need to organize all of this information, there are other areas like blogs, community forums, or guides that need to be structured in a way to help search engines understand how relevant you are to a search query. Once you organize all of this information, you can build a plan around how to better arrange this information on your site to make it easier for search engines to crawl it.
As you organize a site’s taxonomy, you need to consider the types of information a consumer would need as they move through the buyer’s journey to conversion.
Many enterprise sites organize topics into keyword buckets around overarching topic ideas. This allows them to understand if they have organized and created content around the core topic areas. Planning all of this can be very tricky but I suggest first nailing down your content buckets.
In the case of REI, they could take the main bucket of backpacking and start to organize things like this:
Image Source: Stryde
Pro Tip: There are tools like MarketMuse that can help organizations start to understand the gaps in your SEO strategy. Once you get that data you can organize information on the site based on an SEO plan that deals with these gaps.
Now that you have collected and organized your site information, the two most important things for optimizing your information architecture for SEO is findability and usability.
This isn’t a problem with smaller sites, but when it comes to large enterprise sites it can create hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pages that Google has to sift through to find information that a user would find useful.
Google Search Console Data
A great way to understand what information Google is finding on your site is by looking at Google Search Console data (GSC). This data will give you a snapshot of the pages Google is crawling on your site as shown in the Crawl report chart above. The goal is to help Google be efficient when they come to your site and find useful information as quick as possible. By looking at GSC data, you can quickly understand what pages they are finding and indexing. You can use this data to make sure you are using robots.txt protocols or meta robots noindex tags appropriately, as explained here, to let Google know they should not crawl and index these pages.
Key Takeaway: Using a Robots.txt protocol suggests to Google they should not crawl the page. However, it does not guarantee that they will not crawl in index the page so you might still see the page indexed. If there is a big problem, in most cases you can do the following:
1) Insert “noindex” meta tags in the URLs you want to be removed.
2) Be patient and monitor GSC to see if Google removes the pages once they are crawled by Google. sss
3) Manually check to see if the URLs have been removed from Google’s index by doing a site:URL search.
4) Add the URL parameters into the robots.txt file to be disallowed in order to save crawl budget.
Usability is commonly referred to as User Experience, the combination of user interface and information architecture. Google announced in May they will unveil a new ranking algorithm specifically designed to judge and rank pages based on how users perceive the experience of interacting with your web page.
In creating an effective information structure for SEO, it is crucial to keep in mind which pages are most valuable to your organization. The higher up in your site’s architecture a page is, the more likely it will be able to rank for competitive keywords.
Start broad and drill down to conversion-focused pages. This approach takes users from the top of the sales funnel down to bottom-funnel conversion pages in a natural way as users research, learn, and convert.
For example, some variations to consider when building out your information architecture include:
Gender (male, female, unisex), color, size (small, medium, large, etc.), size type (regular, petite, maternity, etc.), age group, and size system
Brand, gender, product type (top, bottom, dress, etc.) and attribute (color, size, material, etc.)
Seasonal products like swimwear, backpacks sometimes use occasion as an attribute in the title along with product type, attribute, etc.
Leveraging keyword research will help guide the decision on how to structure the site most effectively for organic search.
In the example table above, you can see that knee high socks have a much larger search volume (33,100 searches a month on average) than does the term crew socks (search volume of 18,100 searches a month on average). If you sell both styles of socks and you had to decide on a link to add to the navigation, you would want to put more emphasis on a knee high socks category/subcategory/facet given the larger search volume.
If you follow these three tips for boosting your SEO strategy, you should experience a noticeable increase in organic traffic and conversion to your site without having to pay extra for adspend. This will increase overall margins for your ecommerce operation and free up money to be used for other strategic initiatives.
In my next post I’ll discuss various strategies for improving your site optimization for SEO.