an introduction for beginners.

SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING FOR ONLINE STORES

If you own an eCommerce site, one of your top priorities should always be keeping your store at the top of the ‘SERPs’, or Search Engine Results Pages. The higher you are up a given SERP, the greater the chance that people will choose to visit your website and purchase your products.
If, for example, you own an online bakery, your ultimate goal should be that when potential customers search for ‘chocolate chip cookies’, a link to your website is the very first thing they see.
With a well optimised ecommerce store, you will unlock all the benefits search engine marketing has to offer, from generating more sales, increased marketing opportunities to the possibility to increase sales internationally
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know to begin using search engine marketing for your eCommerce store. We’ll discuss both organic and paid strategies that you can use to generate more traffic from search engines, as well as how to best implement these strategies for maximum impact.

Preparing your inventory for online sales

Preparing your inventory and product images are the most crucial steps when planning to launch an online store. Your inventory consists of all the products you plan to sell in an online store. It’s the heart of your online business. With an organised inventory list, you can monitor the products you have available for sale, record sold items receive returns, and note when new stock must be ordered. It also allows you to take note of sales trends. Modern inventory management systems allow you to manage your complete inventory in one place and export it to other business functions that need it, such as your eCommerce store and in-store point of sale.

Once your inventory management is set up, you can choose which products you will sell in your online store. Some inventory management systems are able to connect directly with your Woocommerce, Shopify, or Magento store. If your inventory management system cannot integrate with your online store, or if you maintain your inventory on an excel or Google sheet, you can upload it with a CSV file . If you just have a few products, can also create your online catalog manually by adding product posts/pages in Woocommerce and Shopify.

Product images are a crucial part of an online inventory and will make or break the success of your online store. That is why organizing your images is an integral part of preparing your inventory. When choosing product images, take the following into account:

People are more likely to buy when:

  • they have different views on a product. More images are better. Use up to three images per product for the best results.
  • products have high-quality images. Buyers use product images to judge the quality of a product and even of you, the seller.
  • more images per product are better. People are more likely to buy when they have different views of a product
  • real images are used. Stock images raise questions such as whether the product is too good to be true. It’s also difficult to maintain visual consistency across your product range when using stock photos, which will make your site look as if it is slapped together sloppily.

The most important factor when organising images are image file names. A good system for naming image files will make it substantially easier to manage your online catalog and increase the usability of your images for marketing purposes. Image file names should be meaningful so that you can look at any file and have an idea of what it is without having to open it and know to what category it belongs.

Set Up eCommerce Marketing Campaigns with Data Feeds

Once your data is structured you can list your products on third-party websites and online platforms to extend your reach to new audiences and get more sales. This includes:

  • Google Shopping
  • Facebook
  • Comparison platforms such as Pricecheck

A product data feed contains the following elements:

  • ID – the ID you use to uniquely identify your product
  • Title – the name of your product; this will be the text that is shown when your ad is served
  • Description – this text describes your product and will be shown when your ad is clicked
  • Product category – choose from Google’s predefined categories
  • Product type – defined by you
  • Link to item’s page on your website
  • Availability status (in stock or not)
  • Price

When you use any of the mainstream shopping carts such as Magento, Shopify, and Woocommerce, your product information is already structured in the right format. Some shopping carts require additional software plugins to make these feeds accessible to search engines through a feed URL. The most important places where product feeds are used for marketing:

Google Merchant Center is a tool that allows you to add products from your store so that they are displayed in Google shopping Ads and other Google platforms. To add products to the Google Merchant Center, you’ll need to create an account on the platform.
This is a free platform that users can take advantage of to have their products listed in Google search results without breaking into their budgets.

Facebook Page Shop– if you have a Facebook page, you can export and list your products from your website to your own Facebook shop. Once uploaded, prospective customers can browse your full catalog, save products they’re interested in and place an order on your website.
Facebook recently rolled out a new cool feature called Catalog Manager. With this feature, you can tag up to 30 products from your product catalog in posts. You can also create paid social ads on Instagram and Facebook and integrate products form your catalog
Shopping Campaigns

Product Listing Ads (shopping Campaigns/shopping ads) appear on various Google properties, such as Google Search, Google Shopping, Google Image Search, as well as on the Google Search Partner network.
When a search engine user searches for products like yours, Google matches your ad with a user’s query using the information in your product data feed. To advertise your products with product listing ads, you have to provide a product data feed to the Google Merchant Center.

Product Feed Optimization

Product feed optimization is the process of improving the quality of your products’ titles, images, and descriptions in order to increase sales from your online retail store. Including eye-catching and appealing images, appropriate keywords and accurate, well-written product descriptions will all increase customer faith in the quality of your brand.
As well as driving more customers to purchase your products, this will also improve your SERP ranking. The more time customers spend reading your content and interacting with your website, the more ‘authority’ search engines such as Google and Bing will believe you have. Search engines will then move your website up their rankings – helping even more potential customers to find you.

Here’s how you can implement product feed optimization for your online store:

Product Titles

Generally speaking, the title of each of your products will be the very first thing customers see from your company before they’ve even arrived on your website. The title you choose should be between 20 and 50 characters, feature relevant keywords, and emphasize your unique selling points. Here are two different potential product titles, for instance:

  1. ‘Buy Our Car Parking at Airports’
  2. ‘Secure Airport Parking | Book Today to Save 60%’

Title 1 is pretty bland and unappealing. It doesn’t say anything about why your car parking is different from any other company’s. Title 2 on the other hand, manages to include a unique selling point (‘secure’), a call to action (‘book today to save’), and a valuable keyword phrase (‘airport parking’), all while staying under the recommended limit of 50 characters. This small difference in phrasing could ultimately make a huge difference in the profitability of this website.
So what are keywords? Simply put, they are the words that potential customers enter into the search bar on their chosen search engine. Including relevant keywords in your product titles is crucial to ranking well on a search engine when customers search for that word or phrase.
You can use platforms such as Ahrefs or SEMrush to research the common keywords that your potential customers use when looking for the products that you sell. Once you’ve included these keywords into your titles, keep a record of your ranking on different search engines to track your improvements.
Do also be aware that the keywords with the most ‘volume’, or most people searching for them, will change over time. To allow for this, you should be updating your titles regularly to reflect current keywords.

Product Images

The images that you display with your product listings on your store also play a role when it comes to optimizing your product feeds.
Pay close attention to the resolution and size of the images you use for your products. For instance, the best resolution to optimize your product feeds for Google shopping is 800×800 pixels. Ensuring that your product feed images have this resolution will increase the likelihood of them appearing in Google’s search engine results.
Opt for high-quality, eye-catching images that fit with your overall branding and help your customer to imagine themselves using and enjoying your product. Avoid images that have an excessive amount of pixels, as these can take longer to load.

Product Descriptions

Just like titles and images, the way you describe your product has an impact on product feed optimization. Using keywords in your description will help you to achieve a better position in search engine results. Aim for descriptions that are not too wordy but which do emphasise the unique selling points of your product.
Make sure that you are using keywords in a way that feels organic and natural within the rest of your content, or you will confuse your customers and could be penalised by search engines.
For example, if your store sells earrings, a description containing the phrase ‘these elegant silver and emerald earrings will be the perfect finishing touch to your outfit’ seems organic, while managing to include the keywords ‘earrings’ and ‘emerald earrings’. If we were to add more keywords containing the word ‘earrings’ into this sentence, it would feel awkward to readers and would ultimately lead to the store dropping rankings, not gaining them.
The description of your products should include all the necessary information that users will need to know about the product, as well as including your brand’s personal touch. For example, you may choose to write in a more relaxed, chatty tone for a ‘modern’ feel or to use more formal wording to add a sense of sophistication.

SEO and Paid Search For eCommerce

Paid Search Advertising

Pay per click advertising allows businesses to advertise their products and services at the moment their potential customers are looking for it. It gives you a chance, no matter how big or small your business is, to influence the decision a potential buyer that searches for a product or a service will make.

Paid text ad example

Pay Per Click, or PPC marketing involves buying advertising space on search engine results pages. Often, these Ads will appear at the very top of the search, ahead of natural results. Websites will agree on how much they are willing to pay the search engine each time a potential customer clicks on their advert. This is a strong strategy for increasing awareness of your brand and the online store and also for generating sales, although it can quickly become expensive if not budgeted carefully.
One thing to be aware of is that sometimes brands will bid for Ads to appear when their competitor’s name is searched. For example, when you Google ‘Pepsi’ a paid advert for ‘Coca Cola’ could appear at the top of the page, ahead of the organic results for Pepsi. This would mean that Coca Cola had deliberately targeted their competitor’s brand name as a search term and had outbid Pepsi to win that specific Ad.
Google ads is an example of a pay per click platform. Since Google still has the largest user base amongst all search engines, using Google Ads to make your store known to your potential customers is something you need to give priority to while building your digital marketing strategy. 

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

The following are some of the most important tasks for improving the visibility of eCommerce websites:


Optimizing your site structure for SEO


Y
our store’s navigation.
You need to make it easy for your users to move from one page to another. Search engines always give a higher ranking to websites that are easy to navigate, because users are less likely to ‘bounce’ from the website back to the search engine without visiting multiple pages or buying anything.

Using descriptive filenames for your images.
If you add an image to any of the website pages, make sure you name it using the item it represents. This will make the image visible in search results when someone queries a related term.

Using descriptive link texts for internal links.
Linking your pages within your content is a common SEO strategy and is known as providing ‘backlinks’. To get the best results from your backlinks, use descriptive text rather than short, unclear phrases such as “click here.”

Add alt text to your images.
Alt-text is what will be displayed whenever a browser fails to load a certain image on your website. It can also make your website more accessible for people with reduced visibility who use screen reading software.

Register with Google Search Console (GSC)

The GSC can be accessed within your Google account’s Google Webmaster Tools, wherein you can add your site as a property. You’ll also want to submit your sitemap to Google, which will appear in your Sitemaps report.


Adding frequently asked questions (FAQs):

FAQs are one of the proven tools that will improve the visibility of your eCommerce website in search engine results. While making an FAQ page, make sure you use questions with popular keywords in your niche. This will increase the chances of one of these questions appearing in search results.


One technique for finding the best FAQs to include in your website is to Google your most important keywords, then copy the exact wording of the questions listed under the ‘People also asked’ section of the SERP. Answer each question using your own wording whilst also including any relevant keywords.

Create regular content on your blog

Most eCommerce carts come with a blog function that you can use to create regular posts about your products or to discuss any topics in your industry. If this section is not present in your template, you can still add it manually through your template settings.
Creating regular content is one of the most important ways of getting free traffic from search engines. The idea is to create content that your potential customers will likely be interested in reading. The content you create on your blog should also be directly and indirectly relevant to the industry you are in, and where possible, include your keywords.
You should also aim to publish content on a weekly basis. The more content you have on your site, the higher the chances of getting your blogs to appear in search results. You could also share about each post on your store’s social media accounts, to increase your wider brand awareness.

Keep URLs short and descriptive

eCommerce Carts will automatically create URLs whenever you add a new page, blog post, or product to your online store. However, most of these links are too long and may not clearly describe the content you have added. Where possible, you should manually edit the URLs of the new pages you have added to give them meaning.
For instance, when you add an article to your blog page, make sure your URL contains the title for that article. This approach is not only good for SEO, it also makes it easy for your users to know which page they are on whenever they are browsing your website.

Avoiding using duplicate content on your site

Whether you are adding content to your web pages or creating a blog post, it’s never a good idea to copy and paste content from another website.
Search engines will negatively rank all the duplicated content on your website, which will then reduce the free traffic coming to your online store from search engines. Always use original content on your site to improve the performance of your web pages and blogs in search engines.

Final thoughts

So there you have it! We hope this beginners’ guide will help you understand the nuts and bolts of search engine marketing for eCommerce websites. It’s a lot of grunt work, and some of the tasks have a learning curve that takes a while to master. If you need any help, feel free to contact me for a free proposal to get eyeballs on your eCommerce site that leads to sales and profit!


Bonus list of resources for further reading :

Small Business Inventory Guide
Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping in 2020
The Ultimate Guide To Product Listing Ads from Visiture
Facebook Ecommerce: The Complete Beginner’s Guide on Wordstream

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