Effective retail SEO strategies to help marketers optimise across complex consumer journeys and convert as much traffic as possible.
Optimising a retail website for search is one of the most challenging things you can do in SEO. For one thing, you’re not only competing against other retailers but Google’s own products too – Google Ads, Google Shopping and local search to name a few.
This is just to get your brand seen by consumers.
Then, you have to optimise for a complex consumer journey that takes shoppers from casual browsers all the way to the checkout, often across multiple sessions and different device types. Leads are precious in this business and success largely depends on converting as much traffic into paying customers as possible.
Here are five retail SEO strategies that will help you do this.
#1: It all starts with navigation
Aside from being a ranking factor, the navigation of a retail website dictates the browsing experience for users. The challenge for retail brands is to create a navigation system that makes it easy to find, sort and filter products while also providing categories, related products and other contextual navigation features that allow shoppers to move from one place to the next.
The more products and pages you have, the harder it is to create a seamless navigation that ties everything together.
The image above shows an example of a website structure for an eCommerce site that breaks products/pages into categories, subcategories and product pages. This is a classic setup for retail brands with a large range of stock – for example, a fashion retailer selling clothes, shoes and accessories.
Website structure isn’t the only thing you need to think about though. You also need to decide how people are going to compare different products on your website, continue shopping after adding an item to their basket and complete the checkout process when they’re ready to pay.
There are a lot of gaps for users to slip through on a retail website, but a highly-optimised navigation system will keep them moving in the right direction i.e. adding more products to the basket and completing the purchase while minimising the number of quit sessions and cart abandonments.
#2: Optimise for E-A-T & YMYL
Just in case you’re not 100% familiar with these terms:
- E-A-T is an acronym for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
- YMYL stands for “your money or your life” pages (which includes eCommerce pages) and Google is more strict about its E-A-T requirements for these.
So, essentially, E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness) is important for every website, but especially for retail websites. Google considers eCommerce as YMYL.
In July 2018, Google updated its Search Quality Rating Guidelines telling its human quality raters the five key things it wants to see from web pages:
- The purpose of each page
- Expertise, authoritativeness & trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- Main content quality and amount
- Website/publisher information
- Website/publisher reputation
This gives you an idea of how important E-A-T is for websites. You can learn how to optimise eCommerce stores for this in an article we wrote for The Drum.
#3: Use structured data
Structured data provides Google with important information about your pages/content. Google can use this information to deliver your content to more relevant users and create more contextually relevant, visually compelling results listings (rich results).
Google has dedicated rich results for product listings (above). You can also make use of other formats for content types like blog posts, product reviews and other parts of your eCommerce SEO strategy.
#4: Get your free product listings on Google
In early 2020, Google rolled out free product listings, allowing retailers to showcase their goods in Google Search, even if they’re not paying for ads. The rollout was expanded internationally in response to the coronavirus pandemic, bringing its plans forward to help retailers around the world deal with the strain of the pandemic.
Free product listings lower the entry-point for retailers to showcase their products on Google, even if they don’t have the budget to start advertising at the present time. It also opened up a new organic channel for retailers that cut their advertising spend in response to the pandemic. Likewise, retailers who are paying for Google Shopping campaigns can also expand their reach by getting their organic listings to rank across Google Search, the Shopping tab and Google Images.
The move is a response to Amazon overtaking Google as the most popular search engine. In fact, Amazon has climbed even further ahead of other search engines since the Covid-19 outbreak with 63% of all product searches happening on the marketplace, according to The Future Shopper Report 2020 from Wunderman Thompson Commerce.
To show your products across Google for free, you’ll need to sign up for Merchant Center and submit a product feed containing all of the relevant information for your products. Existing Merchant Center and Google Shopping users should already be eligible for their product listings to show across organic placements for free.
#5: Optimise for mobile and desktop
According to the latest data from StatCounter, almost 53% of traffic comes from mobile devices. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story about the role of mobile traffic in digital retail.
Looking at global data will tell you that mobile generates slightly more traffic but significantly lower conversions. However, as we can see from SaleCycle’s latest Ecommerce Year in Review (2019), the story for retail brands was very different last year.
The study shows that almost 65% of all traffic for retailers comes from mobile while half of all sales are also attributed to mobile devices. For online fashion retailers, mobile is the clear priority with 75% of all traffic and 67% of all conversions taking place on mobile.
However, when you look at data for the travel industry, the numbers start to look more familiar. We’ve got a slight majority of traffic coming from mobile (53%) with mobile conversions actually below the universal average with just 29%.
There are two key takeaways from this:
- Mobile traffic and sales volumes vary significantly by industry
- Desktop still accounts for a large chunk of revenue, even when more traffic comes from mobile
In all instances, mobile tends to generate more traffic for brands selling online but customer journey takes place across multiple sessions and devices. In many cases, consumers complete more purchases on desktop but the numbers are evenly split for retail brands.
Either way, it’s imperative that you optimise for cross-device experiences because there’s a lot of action taking place across mobile and desktop. Even if 75% of traffic from fashion searches is mobile, that’s still 25% of your potential audience that you alienate by failing to deliver a positive experience on desktop.
Retail SEO is one of the most challenging areas in search marketing, but the good thing about this is that you can climb above a lot of competitors by getting the finer details right.
The most common mistake retail brands make is focusing all of their search marketing efforts on maximising visibility and traffic without paying enough attention to the quality of traffic, on-site UX, multichannel marketing and other aspects that determine how many of those visitors convert and return in the future.