Top 5 SEO Considerations for Online Retailers

Perry Pearcey Headshot

Perry Pearcey

28th October 2020

In the U.K, the estimated value of online retail for 2020 is just under £100 billion, with companies like Marks & Spencer reporting a 39% increase in their online sales and announcing they aim to employ 500 people at their online distribution centre as they prepare for an online-heavy shopping season. Meanwhile in the U.S online sales have continued to climb throughout the year, with September increasing 43% vs 2019 and predictions that October will be even higher. 

If you’re an online retailer then you will know that SEO is crucial to the success of your business; if you’re not ranking higher than your competitors in searches then you’re missing out on conversions. With over 2 billion shoppers purchasing digitally as of 2020, it’s increasingly important that you have your SEO strategy in place.

SEO might not necessarily be the most glamorous part of marketing and it is by no means a one-click fix, but it is arguably one of the most important! With the constant evolution of ranking algorithms, requirements, and measures it’s sometimes hard to keep up with everything that changes and knowing what to prioritise. In a dream situation, we’d all be able to perfect our SEO strategies, allowing us to focus on our amazing content and sales. But with so much to consider, where do you start? 

We’ve recently covered in our blog articles your important on-page SEO, and we’ve also put together some tips for optimising your marketing strategy for online retailers, so in this article, we’ve taken a look at five areas that you might not have considered when you’re focussing your SEO efforts in the upcoming months.

1. Optimise for Google’s Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are focused on optimising the user journey and this is the next step in Google’s ongoing attempts to improve the relevance and quality of sites created and set loose on the web. Related to speed, responsiveness, and visual stability, the Google Chrome team announced these metrics will be used to measure the all-important user experience when online.

The Core Web Vitals that Google will be taking into consideration are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint: This measures loading performance based on the largest image or text block and is encouraged to be below 2.5 seconds.
  • First Input Delay: This measures the time between a browser beginning to process the page after a user has started to interact with it, i.e: clicked a link. First Input Delay should be below 100 milliseconds for optimal user experience.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift: This new metric analyses page stability when it loads and considers things like images, buttons, icons, etc moving around the page as it loads. It is advised that visual stability should be less than 0.1.

These will factor alongside Google’s other considerations to form a wider measure of a site’s performance.

Google intends to roll this out in 2021 and has said that we’ll get a six-month heads-up as to when it will go live. There’s plenty of time for you to be ready for this update and to get ahead of the competition, so start to look sooner rather than later to get your site up to speed.

2. Ramp up your website security

There’s no point improving your SEO if it results in sending more visitors to a hacked site. It sounds simple, but a secure site is crucial for ensuring not only user safety but also in ensuring that your site is going to be showing in the rankings.

  • Keep your SSL certificates up to date: HTTPS has been a ranking factor for some time now and it is a clear signal to both Google and users that you’re doing the right things. 
  • Keep alert for website hacks: It is reported that around 30,000 websites are the targets of attacks every day. Hackers can not only damage your website reputation in many ways but can also create huge problems for you and your customers. Recently, the notorious hacker group Magecart affected over 2,000 e-commerce sites using a payment card skimmer through the Magento platform. 

Google can detect hacks and report them through its Search Console, and when a site is blacklisted for its security issues it can take time for a site to be reviewed and whitelisted by Google. During that time you will be losing customers who either see Google’s warnings and turn back or simply don’t see your site appear in searches at all. 

3. Use Google Shopping Listings

This one is quick and simple. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Google announced that it would be offering free Google Shopping Ads listings for retailers, initially in the USA. As of mid-October, this has been further rolled out to the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Once you’ve set up your Google Merchant Centre you’re ready to go. You can include product information directly in the ads, group types of the product together, and overall have a broader, more useful online presence for users who are looking for your products. Having access to the ‘Shopping’ tab in Google search gives you another tool to use to optimise your efforts. 

4. Don't forget Bing

Of course, Google is the market leader in search engines and it’s hard not to focus all of your efforts on making sure that all of your SEO work goes towards achieving Google rankings - but don’t neglect Bing entirely.

Google started 2020 with 70.38% of net market share according to NetMarket Share, which is huge but is a decrease from its 75.36% share at the start of 2019. It’s unlikely that we’ll see a huge upsurge in Bing’s share of the market searches any time soon, but at SilverDisc we’ve often observed higher conversion rates even though overall traffic volume is lower.

Bing has deeper focus on elements such as keywords, metadata and titles on pages, so you can use these tools to help if you’re looking for some ways to improve your ranking there. Of course, you should avoid old tricks like keyword stuffing and make sure that you are still creating pages that Google will reward, but by spending some time on the metadata of your site you could help to get some more conversions through Bing. 

Also it’s worth considering that Bing places more value on social media signals than Google does. If your pages are being engaged with socially then this will be rewarded in Bing’s rankings, so make sure that your social media strategy is up to speed as it will help to support your SEO.

We’d advise that you implement Bing’s Webmaster Tools and dedicate around 10-20% of your SEO efforts towards Bing. 

5. Focus on the user and all else will follow

This is Google's #1 Philosophy and it should be yours, too.

All of the machine learning, number crunching, algorithm appeasing, and ranking measurements in the world will mean nothing if you’re not looking at the heart of what search engines are doing: making it easier for people to find what they’re looking for online.

The people behind the searches, your potential customers, are what should drive your efforts more than anything else. Considering the current - and ever-changing - world that we live in and what people want is going to help you to service their needs better.

For example, in 2020 we’ve seen a continued shift towards ethical and sustainable products with 55% of shoppers claiming sustainability is more important than value and quality. This is information you can use to create new content based on your products and categories which will show in search engines. If you know that your products are sustainable and ethical but maybe you don’t talk about it much, then now is the time to create some new pages on your site dedicated to talking about this. 

Tell people how your products are sourced and created, how they can be recycled, what sustainable efforts your processes support and so on. You could even have enough to produce whole new product categories in Google Shopping Ads or areas of your site. If you’re able to, then try to make a video. Videos are an increasingly common way of consuming content and will improve your overall user experience if you can utilise them. 

Tools like Google Trends are useful for keeping up with consumer trends, giving you real-time information on what people are searching for online. Retailers who focus on health and fitness or gardening are especially poised to capitalise at the moment, with rises in searches for people who want to improve their living spaces, which have inevitably become exercise and working spaces. Doing your user research to optimise your content and improve your overall SEO efforts is the key to success. 

All of these SEO considerations we’ve mentioned above essentially roll into this concept of putting the user first. Sometimes it's useful just to take a more human approach to it. Take a step back and think about what you as a person are searching for when online. What things do you look for in a website when purchasing? What turns you away from sites or adverts when browsing? All of these things will form the basis of a strong SEO strategy that will keep you in good stead.

At SilverDisc, we love working with companies to support and grow their SEO. If you need help with any aspect of your SEO then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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