The New Year is notorious for spawning positive change—there’s something mysterious about the “new” aspect that makes us want to put forward better versions of ourselves and our endeavors. The key to setting realistic New Year’s resolutions is to plan goals that are challenging, but not so difficult that attaining them feels like a burden.
Setting resolutions for your work ventures is no different. For most ecommerce businesses, getting found by customers online is the first step in growing a successful and sustainable business model—and a solid SEO strategy is critical to achieving this. To get your SEO strategy in gear for the new year, here are eight simple SEO resolutions that can have a huge impact on your online store.
1. Expand your overall SEO knowledge.
Your first step towards being a successful online store in the new year is understanding SEO essentials. SEO practices have at this point become standardized rules that websites can apply to better compete for visibility on the web, but many websites are still missing the basics. This may have been acceptable in the past, but the landscape is becoming more and more competitive. By simply applying some basic SEO techniques, you can see significant improvements in site performance.
It’s never too late to learn new tricks from the experts. Volusion offers a variety of helpful SEO-focused guides, webinars, and more in our Educational Resources library, and the rest of our Ecommerce Blog features a number of SEO and online marketing articles as well. If you’d prefer to go straight to the source, Google offers a helpful SEO resource section in Search Central to help webmasters understand their quality guidelines and rules for engaging in safe SEO. They also offer an SEO Starter Guide for beginners.
2. Ensure that your site is organized logically.
How you organize your website will have a profound effect on your performance in search engines. Your website architecture should be logical, intuitive, and easy for site visitors to navigate, providing a better user experience. This will also give Google more contextual clues to better understand the focus of your site, like which products (and therefore keywords) are central to your store.
One exercise that can help you organize your site is to imagine it as a brick-and-mortar store. Which items would deserve their own aisles (categories), and which deserve their own shelves (subcategories) within those aisles? This can give you some insight into how to best set up your product category hierarchy.
3. Make crawling your site easy for spiders.
Your site should be easily accessible to search engines so that only important pages on a site get indexed. This step is vital to the success of any online store. Some of the important technical aspects to look at include:
- Sitemap.xml: This allows search engines to discover pages on your site by URL. This is a standard format most search engines prefer when submitting a large amount of pages to be crawled and indexed. Submit this sitemap to Google and Bing and declare it in your Robots.txt file.
- Robots.txt: The robots.txt file allows for greater control of pages you would like displayed in the search results. Think of this as a guide that instructs search engines on which pages you would like to predominantly show in the search results and which ones you don’t. As mentioned earlier, you can declare your xml sitemap in the robots.txt file so that spiders can locate it immediately upon crawling your website.
- 301 redirects: Properly 301 redirecting URLs can help preserve your organic rankings by forwarding visitors who land on 404 pages to pages with updated content or design. But remember—forwarding URLs should be handled with care. If you'd like more details, check out our blog post on 301 redirects.
4. Acquire more search result real estate.
Do a quick Google search for terms that your site ranks for, or terms that you would like to rank for. Next, compare your results against this helpful SERP infographic from Brafton to help you understand where opportunities lie for gaining more real estate and exposure in Google. This will help you decide which content pieces are worth pursuing to reach and engage your audience.
Simply put, you want to appear in as many areas of the page as you can. Perhaps your store would benefit from optimized product videos, local SEO, PPC advertising, or shopping feeds. While channels such as PPC and Shopping Feeds are paid, they drive valuable traffic which can enhance organic performance.
5. Optimize keywords for a specific audience.
In a rush to attract as much organic traffic as possible, many storeowners target keywords that are too broad and competitive in nature, which makes ranking for them nearly impossible or very expensive. An easy solution to this problem is to define a target market and focus keywords based around your target audience. Some quick tips for this include:
- Develop an authentic understanding of your market and industry. You may want to focus on an untapped segment in a competitive market, a completely new market, a market in a geographic area, or a completely exclusive market. Once you define your market, work on defining what your audience thinks, reads, visits, or has interest in.
- Incorporate terms that specifically apply to your target segment in your keyword research. For example, rather than targeting a general term like “women’s dresses,” you might target a more descriptive and target-market appropriate keyword like “boho dresses” or “vintage style dresses.” These phrases not only more accurately describe the products, but they frame the product in the context and language of your target market. They are also far less competitive and further down the purchasing funnel, meaning these phrases will convert better.
6. Publish relevant, optimized content.
Getting to know your audience will allow you to create great content ideas. Your main goal when creating content for them should be ensuring that it is relevant (i.e. they will actually find it interesting or useful) while guaranteeing that it can be found in search results for the keywords you’re targeting. The longer consumers spend viewing your content, and the fewer alternative results they click on after viewing your page, the more Google will consider the content you are publishing relevant for the keywords at hand. This in turn will help you rank higher for those keywords.
7. Increase engagement by cultivating a fan base.
If search engines see that your content is experiencing a lot of engagement, they will assume that users are finding it helpful and boost it in rankings in this case as well. Posting content that is engaging in and of itself can help, but building up a base of followers who will continuously check out your new content and engage with it adds even more. Consider these initiatives for attracting fans and followers:
- Blogs: If you haven’t already, start a blog for your business centered around the products you sell. If you specialize in dog supplies, you could write regular content about puppy health, fun toys, dog fashion, and more in an effort to build a following of dog lovers. Ask your readers questions and encourage discussion in the comment section to demonstrate high engagement. Additionally, you can get to know dog lover bloggers and ask about their advertising guidelines, content promotion options, or other ways to promote your brand on their site seamlessly. Finding these blogs isn’t hard—simply start with a search in Google or use search operators like this in Google to find them: dog lovers inurl:blog (you can modify “dog lovers” with your own keyword).
- Forums: Participate in forums, but don't spam. Forum owners are well aware of shameless plugs and can ban you entirely from their community. Instead, get in touch with forum owners, find out how they handle promoted content, and work out a partnership that can benefit both parties. Using our dog example, you could start discovering these forums by typing dog lovers inurl:forum (you can modify “dog lovers” with your own keyword).
- Social media: Find out what successful social media players in your space are doing. Identify the kinds of content that gets shared often, and then try to build your own innovative versions. If you are just starting out or looking to increase your fan base, many social media sites nowadays offer great advertising platforms.
- Email list: Reach out to your existing contacts and help build new fans and lifetime customers. Make them aware of your presence on social media sites and your content strategy plans, like your new blog.
8. Eliminate duplicate content.
Search engines don’t like duplicate content, so it’s important to make sure that none appears anywhere on your site so that your pages aren’t penalized. Check that each landing page has a title tag, meta description, website URL, and on-page copy that is unique to that particular page. If you are using a manufacturer’s product description on your website, there’s a good chance that many other retailers are doing the same, so you’ll want to rewrite these descriptions to ensure that you have original content on your site.
These are just a few of many SEO “resolutions” that can be easily implemented to improve your ecommerce store’s online presence. Begin now and reward yourself next year as you look back on all that you’ve learned and accomplished.
Looking for SEO experts to take on the work for you? GrowWithStudio’s seasoned SEO Strategists specialize in ecommerce stores and are available to help you get your online business on the right track.