In my time as an SEO, I’ve noticed that eCommerce shops usually have the absolute worst time in terms of getting their organic search presence up to par. Whether it’s because they rely so heavily on marketplaces like Amazon or on paid search like Google AdWords, most eCommerce sites’ SEO practices, to put it bluntly, are hot garbage. Usually, by the time they seek the help of an SEO professional, things have totally spiraled out of control. It just doesn’t have to be that way.
I specialized in nothing but eCommerce SEO for over two years and almost every client that came to me was in the same position. They were completely bewildered as to the reasons why their PPC spend was through the roof, their cart abandonment rate was stupidly high and Google didn’t seem to know they were a thing in terms of organic traffic.
In a previous installment here at the Smokehouse, I discussed five methods to help eCommerce SEO get started so I won’t talk about that today and instead I’m going to talk about the top five reasons your eCommerce site is tanking based on the most common issues I’ve seen from personal experience.
Also, I’m going to be even more blunt than usual this week because, again, I’ve previously spent two solid years of my life doing nothing but eCommerce SEO and I’ve heard all the excuses of why they can’t fix this or that or how ‘IT JUST CAN’T BE SO!’ and now that I don’t do client work anymore, I no longer have to tip-toe around things and choose my words carefully to appease a potential angry client.
5. Your Site’s Technical Framework is Garbage
This is one of the most common issues with every eCommerce site out there.
I don’t care what CMS you use, who your web developer is or how long you’ve been in business, I bet you anything if you do a Pagespeed insights test right now, your store page will be like a 44 on mobile and around 50 on desktop.
I bet you anything that you’re going to see suggestions to ‘Minify CSS’, ‘Compress Images’, ‘Leverage Browser Caching’ and, my favorite, ‘Reduce Server Response Time’.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
See, told you so.
Look, some of these might be a flat-out limitation of your CMS or platform that you simply can’t do anything about but if you’re sitting there and your site is telling you it takes over three seconds to load, I think we just solved the mystery of why you aren’t converting.
If you still don’t have a mobile version of your site – and I mean 100% mobile friendly, not halfway, not partway, not ‘kinda sorta’ mobile – we just solved the mystery of why Google is ignoring you.
If you aren’t using the complete and proper schema (not just whatever schema you randomly pulled from thin air one day), if you aren’t using canonicals, if you have a ton of pages 404’ing and a list of crawl errors two miles long, we’ve got problems.
I don’t care what your dev team tells you or how much ‘better than it used to be’ it is, it ain’t good enough. Would the Olympics care that you’re ‘better than you used to be’ if you still take three days to finish a race? Exactly.
If you’ve relied on nothing but an automated plug in (and I’m looking at you WordPress users, with your Yoast SEO) to ‘do SEO’, trust me when I say that’s not good enough.
If you can’t fix these problems due to your current CMS or platform limitations:
MIGRATE TO A PLATFORM THAT WAS BUILT IN THIS CENTURY.
I don’t care if you ‘don’t trust’ Pagespeed insights.
I don’t care if you ‘don’t believe’ what an SEO auditing tool tells you.
If Google thinks your site is garbage for whatever reason, then you better find that reason and fix it whether or not you agree with the reason they give you.
Facts are facts, no matter how much your IT team wishes it were different or doesn’t ‘believe it’.
Yeah, every time I had a client ask, “how come I’m not even showing up for my own name?”, I wish I could’ve just said “You know, I don’t trust that search engine results page. I bet you’re on there somewhere and it’s just a problem on your computer’s screen.”
4. Poor Social Media Presence
Believe it or not, your social media presence has a lot to do with your organic traffic. I know, I know, Google says it doesn’t and there are some articles out there that say it doesn’t and correlation vs causation and blah blah blah but all you need to know is that it does.
Some places have social media profiles that are completely blank, some have profiles on Facebook or Twitter and think that’s all they need because of their ‘industry’ (pro tip: if you think the only social media profile you need is Twitter, you’ve already failed.) and others are still trying to figure out what a ‘Book of Faces’ is in 2017.
Come on, man, the internet has been around for over twenty years now. If you choose to be in the online business, you have no excuse for not knowing how social media works and why you should have it done.
This is your business. This is the line of work you chose. If you don’t want to do what it takes to compete online – meaning doing social media right – then maybe you should sell your online business and go knit sweaters you’ll never be able to market online.
In fact, I’ll list out how most businesses fail at this for you. I’ll just lay it all out on front street:
If you cheap out on this and get either a guy you pay to do this part time for minimum wage or an intern who really has no clue what they’re doing, you’ve failed.
If you get Jane from Accounting to be your ‘social media guy’, you’ve failed.
If you get your buddy’s kid who is always ‘chatting those snaps’ to do this, you’ve failed.
If you keep sending out nothing but Dynamic product ads without brand building first, you’ve failed.
If you send out nothing but unpaid posts (talking to yourself is fun, right?) and boring content (My social media presence is just one big commercial!), you’ve failed.
Fail at social, you’re going to lose a huge portion of potential audience.
I don’t care who tells you otherwise, if you don’t do social properly, you’re leaving traffic, customers and money on the table. Period.
3. Tripping Over (Local) Dollars to Pick Up (National) Dimes (and Vice Versa!)
I’ve talked about the ‘Mr. Big Shot’ Syndrome again and again so while I won’t go into too much detail again, this is basically when a business owner seems to think that just because they have a website for their T Shirt shop in Peoria, they should suddenly (as in two weeks from going live) be competing with and beating Amazon.
I want you all to stop for a second and think about how wrong that is. If you can’t figure that out for yourself, I can’t help you.
However, there is another side to this issue and that’s the people who, in a desperate flail to control their search presence, shoot themselves in the foot by implementing local and hyperlocal search strategies they randomly found online that they really shouldn’t because, well, they have no actual local presence.
The biggest mistake I see, and this isn’t just limited to eCommerce sites but to many places that don’t target a specific area, is that they claim their Google My Business listings when they shouldn’t.
Here is a simple rule of thumb to know whether you should claim your GMB listing:
- Do you have a storefront where customers can go to buy things from you? If yes, claim it!
- Do you have a storefront where customers can go to buy things from you? If no, don’t claim it!
See how that works? Simple, right? It’s so simple that Google even made a rule about this that a lot of eCommerce-only shops somehow refuse to follow.
Long story short, here are my rules:
- No, sir, if you have a physical location, your business is not too ‘big’ to only go with organic and ignore local search
- No, sir, if you have no physical location, don’t cut the legs out from under you by claiming your Google My Business listing.
2. The Only Reason You Care About SEO is to Lower your PPC Spend
This is my personal pet peeve because I literally cannot tell you how many times I’ve had a client come to me from sales and say some variation of the following:
“Yeah, so I heard that you guys can fix my site with SEO so my AdWords spend will go down! Go do that and call me when it’s done! Results in a week, yeah?”
And by the time I hear that, it was already too late because they signed the SEO services contract.
Pay attention and I’m going to say this as slowly and clearly as possible and I really don’t want to have to repeat myself:
IF. A. SALESMAN. TELLS. YOU. SEO. WILL. DEFINITELY. FIX. YOUR. PPC. SPEND. THE. SALESMAN. HAS. NO. IDEA. HOW. PPC. OR. SEO. WORKS.
Salesmen sell. That’s their job. SEOs SEO and AdWords guys do…whatever it is AdWords guys do all day…yeah, I’m AdWords certified but I wouldn’t touch AdWords with a ten-foot pole, so I don’t really know what it is they do all day.
I have actually quit jobs so I wouldn’t have to deal with AdWords. TWICE.
That right there should tell you about the difference between SEO and PPC.
The reality is a lot of SEOs do know PPC and vice versa, at least to some degree and they will tell you that unless they know your specific account and have been working with you for a while there is absolutely no guarantee your AdWords spend will be lowered if you do SEO.
There is an article about this from a colleague of mine that says it better than I ever could (because he’s actually done both SEO and PPC!) so just read that to learn more.
Just take it from me though, SEO is SEO and PPC is PPC and while they’re related and yes SEO can help your spend in theory, one does not automatically lead to the other.
Also, if you go into SEO with a PPC mindset of ‘set it and forget it’, ‘I need more traffic so just throw more money at the problem so I don’t have to work very hard’, you will fail at SEO because, let me tell you, brother, SEO is a TON MORE WORK ON YOUR SIDE than AdWords and the results take SO MUCH LONGER to see.
1. You Aren’t Writing Unique Content.
Anyone who reads this blog knew this was going to be number one.
I say this so many times and that’s because it’s true.
eCommerce people, for some reason, still seem to have it in their heads that this is still 1994 and you can be a ‘drop shipper’ and have their ‘turnkey business’ and ‘make money from the internet while you sleep!’.
Wake up. Digital marketing doesn’t work like that anymore. Period.
Thanks to the Google Panda algorithm and Google’s Rankbrain Deep learning algorithm, if you are not writing quality, unique, relevant and helpful content for your site including your product pages, you are going to fail.
I’ll say it again: if you are not writing your own quality, relevant, unique content for your product pages, you are going to fail so hard at SEO and nothing else you do is going to save you unless your brand is so powerful already that you have so many high-quality, natural backlinks to your site that you don’t really need SEO anyway because your business just has it like that.
I don’t care if you don’t like it.
I don’t care if your cousins’ best friend’s ex-business partner who knows a guy at Google said it’s not true.
I don’t care what nonsense article you read online from ‘makealltehmoneyzwithSEO.com’ that said you don’t need to write content.
I don’t care if your IT department says it’s not true. I don’t care if your own mother says it’s not true.
If you do not write your own content, you are going to be filtered out by Google.
Period. End of Sentence. Take it to the bank.
Manufacturer’s content is trash. Everyone’s got it, Google has no reason to rank you higher.
If your products are controlled by a feed that you have no control over so you can’t write content, then either migrate to a system that isn’t completely ridiculous or forget about SEO because you’re not going to rank.
If you don’t want to write, you don’t want to rank.
Once you get your tech down, SEO in 2017 is basically content marketing with a few more things thrown in for good measure and if you can’t be bothered then don’t be surprised when Google can’t be bothered.
The Bottom Line
Harsh? Mean? Angry?
Yes. All of that.
I don’t have much to say here in summary because I think I’ve said everything that needed to be said. For all of you with eCommerce sites who may be wondering why their traffic isn’t catching on or what the problem might be with their site, go back and make sure your site isn’t making one (or all!) of these five common errors.
And tell your IT Team to go fix that page speed whether they like it or not.