Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Monday, January 29, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
7 SEO Tips for Your E-commerce SiteAny business that makes money through its website has to make SEO a priority. Showing up in the search engines when someone’s looking for what you sell is quite simply one of the best ways to make sure customers can find you. But those spots on page one for popular e-commerce search terms are competitive. It takes some real work and know-how to make your website one of the ones in the running for those top spots. Here are seven things you should be doing to improve your e-commerce website’s SEO so you start reaching more of your customers.
1. Do keyword and topic research.Keyword research is an important step in any SEO plan because it’s one of the best ways to learn what your customers are thinking about. If you base your SEO efforts around assumptions of what people are searching for, then you could end up putting a lot of effort into trying to rank for the wrong things. Keyword research shows you what people are actually looking for on the web, both in terms of the specific phrasing they use and the kind of topics they’re concerned about. There are a number of tools that can help you in this step. The top of the list is Google’s Keyword Tool, which pulls directly from Google’s data on what search terms people use with the most frequency. While the information provided is geared toward people using Google AdWords for pay-per-click advertising, it’s also useful for people planning their strategy for SEO. You can put in a list of keywords related to your business that you’ve brainstormed and get an even larger list of related terms back from the tool. And you can input keywords you’re interested in to see how they compare in terms of traffic and competition levels. There are also a number of paid tools you can use to get even more detailed keyword information and help you organize the keywords and topic ideas you come up with in your research, such as the Moz Keyword Explorer and SEMRush. And it’s smart to devote part of your time during this step going directly to the source. Do customer surveys to find out questions and interests your audience has and the language they use to describe them, and talk to your customer service department to get a good list of the most common questions and comments they hear from your customers. Your keyword research should form the strategy of your SEO plan, but to be clear here, that doesn’t mean doing a lot of keyword stuffing. That’s an old-school SEO tactic that can hurt you now, and Google’s recent move toward Latent Semantic Indexing means that they’re better at recognizing what webpages and content are about based on context clues. So you don’t need to use the same term five times on your page to get the point across, but knowing the best terminology to use is still valuable.
2. Always use on-site optimization.This is luckily one of the easiest parts of SEO. For every page on your website, you have a number of spots in the html you can optimize based on the terms you’re aiming to link for:
- URL – The URL of the page should reflect the content on the page and to include the keyword you most want to rank for. As an example, if you have a page that’s focused on organic pet food, your URL could be something like www.companyname.com/organic-pet-food.
- Title – Your title tags should always be used to clearly communicate what’s on the page and incorporate your chosen keyword. That’s good for your readers and your SEO.
- Headings – Using headings in your content is a good way to make your content more structured and readable. It also gives you additional opportunities to incorporate relevant keywords. Make use of those <h1>, <h2>, and <h3> tags.
- Image alt tags – For every image you include on your website, you can add an image alt tag which gives you one more place in the page’s html to signal what the page is about to the search engines.
- Image titles – Before loading an image to your website, take a minute to give it a name that uses your target keyword.
- Meta description – Your meta description won’t influence how well your website ranks, but it will show up in the search results page, giving you a chance to use the teaser text to convince searchers to click.
3. Make sure your site structure is intuitive.Your site architecture is how your website is organized. A simple website (left) may have a menu with five main categories, and a few pages included under each category. An e-commerce site (right) with a lot of different products may have hundreds of categories and subcategories and thousands of product pages.
The more complicated your website is, the more important it is to make sure that you organize it in a way that’s both intuitive to your users and makes sense to the search engine algorithms. A good rule is to come up with a plan that groups related pages together in categories that make sense to your average site visitor, while keeping everything within a couple clicks from your home page. So you don’t want a product page to be grouped inside a category that’s a subcategory of a subcategory of a subcategory – you want to keep it simpler than that. Ideally, you plan out your site structure in advance, but if you missed the boat on that, take some time now to sit down and work out the main categories present on your website now so you can start organizing the pages you already have better and have a structure defined for the ones you’ll add in the future.
4. Provide detailed information on your product pages.Product pages that only have a product’s name or just a line of description don’t give you much chance to signal to the search engines what the product is or what it’s about. On a related note, it doesn’t tell your potential customer much about what makes the product worth buying. Take some time to craft descriptions of your products that provide more information to readers and search engines on what the product is and the types of features and uses it has. This gives you a chance to let the search engine algorithms know more relevant terms to associate with the page (although you still want to be careful here not to keyword stuff!), while also providing useful information to your prospects. Here's a great example from L.L. Bean:
5. Create relevant, high-quality content.All that research you did back in step one wasn’t just good for figuring out which keywords to focus your main website pages on, it will also form the foundation of a good content strategy. Content has a hugely important role to play in SEO for a couple of main reasons:
- Publishing fresh content lets the search engines know your website is current and up-to-date – Google doesn’t want to rank some old site that no one’s updated since 2011 that could be full of outdated information.
- It gives you the chance to start targeting a high number of long-tail keywords. These are easier to rank for and the more you start to rank for long-tail keywords, the stronger your website authority will be in the eyes of Google, helping you to over time rank more for more general, competitive terms.
6. Promote your content.You have to create content to be competitive in the search engines these days, but unfortunately, so many other brands are already doing so that just creating great content isn’t enough. You also need to do the work to get your content in front of people. That means promoting it on social media, sending it to your email list, and may even mean paying for ads that get it in front of people. This part is especially important if you’re in the early stages of your content program. You’re competing with brands that already have traction in the space that you don’t have, so you need to put extra effort into getting those first followers who like and share your content. If you have patience and put in the work, you’ll likely see those numbers grow exponentially over time.
7. Build links.Not that everything else on this list is easy, but this step might be the hardest part of doing SEO. You can control what goes on your own website, but it’s harder to convince other websites to change what’s on their site for your benefit – and that’s what you need to really demonstrate your authority to Google. Having other high-quality, relevant websites include links back to your website on their own site is hands down one of the biggest factors in how Google decides who to rank. While this is a big topic with a lot of different tactics you can try, there are a few good strategies to start with:
- Guest posting – If you create content for another website for free, you’re providing them with value, which may make it worth it for them to let you include a link back your website. Look for websites in your industry that have big followings and accept guest posts and start pitching.
- PR pitches – PR people have been doing this kind of things for years, while not always with the focus on a link. Look for journalists or writers who write about topics that relate to your product or content you’ve created and pitch them on a topic that’s a good fit for their audience that also relates back to your brand. You’ve got to be thoughtful in what you pitch to who for this to work, but it can get results.
- Look for name mentions without links – Look for examples around the web where your brand or product is mentioned without a link included and reach out to the webmaster to ask them to add one.
- Look for bad links – If you can find broken links that used to point to content or products similar to yours, you may be able to convince the webmaster to update their website with your link instead.
SEO and Your E-commerce SiteSEO isn’t easy, but for e-commerce websites that live and die based on how accessible they are to potential customers, every little bit you can do to help people find you will make a difference to the sales and revenue you achieve each year.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Define Your 2018 E-commerce Marketing GoalsThe online world moves fast. Each year, it’s a good idea to consider the goals you have for your website to see if they need some updating. For an e-commerce website, some goals will always stay consistent, but others will evolve or change completely year by year. This year, here are a few good goals to consider setting for your website.
1. Increase relevant traffic.Increasing traffic is probably a familiar goal for you. For pretty much every website, accomplishing whatever it’s meant to do requires people visiting the site. But not all traffic is created equal. If your marketing is bringing in traffic, but it’s mostly made up of people who will never have a need for your products or services, then it’s not doing you much good. For instance, a B2B software company probably wouldn’t benefit from a huge amount of traffic if most of it was coming from teenagers In addition to continuing your marketing efforts for raising traffic, this year take some time to analyze if the traffic you’re getting seems to match up with the target audience you’re trying to reach. In the Audience section of Google Analytics, you can find a lot of information about the kinds of people visiting your website, including:
- Demographic information like age and gender
- Interests they have, based on their other browsing information
- Geographic information
- Tech information like the device and browser they use
2. Grow your email list.Getting people to your website is a big part of being successful, but getting them to come back so you can form an ongoing relationship is even more important. One of the best tools you have to do that is your email list. When someone opts into your email list, they’re opening the door to ongoing communication with your brand - which is a big deal! It’s no surprise that email marketing has one of the highest conversion rates of the main online marketing activities. That means that one of the best ways to improve your website’s success in the coming year is to put more of an emphasis on growing your email list. You can do that by offering deals to your customers for signing up, promoting it on social media, and including CTAs throughout your website urging people to subscribe. And make sure you keep the emails you send relevant and useful so you keep those subscribers once you get them. They’re too valuable to lose lightly.
3. Provide visitors a personalized experience.Each of your visitors is a unique person who interacts with your website in their own way. Technology now makes it possible for you to track how people interact with your website and customize their experience on the site as they go. You can suggest items that are similar or complementary to what they’re looking at, or deliver up content on topics that are related to the piece they clicked on. One study found that providing a personalized web experience for visitors can cause an 18% uptick in sales. When you make it easier for people to see the parts of your website that are most relevant to them, it increases their chances of having a good experience and continuing their relationship with your brand.
4. Make your website responsive.By this point, the reasons to make your website mobile friendly are well known and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already taken that step (you have, right?). In the coming year, Google’s planning to roll out mobile-first indexing, meaning that their algorithm will give greater priority to your mobile website in determining rankings. That means you want your mobile website to have the same content and information on it as your desktop website, just visually optimized for a mobile screen. Making your website responsive is one of the best and easiest ways to do that. And in general, make it a goal to make an effort to pay attention to your mobile experience and make sure your website is easy and intuitive for people on mobile to use. Mobile’s not going away and is likely to continue to become more important with every passing year, so you have to treat it like the priority it is.
5. Go beyond blogging.By now, a lot of businesses have blogs – and that’s usually a good choice. A blog is a powerful marketing tool. But because there are so many blogs out there already, making your content stand out is increasingly hard. One way you can shake things up a little this year is to consider other types of content to explore. Branching into podcasts, videos, or interactive content can help you supplement the blog content you have now and may enable you to reach a new audience. Taking a broader approach to your content strategy by bringing in new format types also allows you to get a better idea of what your customers respond to. Some of the content may fall flat, but some of it may perform even better than your written content did. By experimenting with new forms, you can come to understand your audience even better and continue to refine your efforts based on what works for them.
6. Partner with influencers.With so many blogs and social media channels for people to move between on the web, getting your content in front of people is one of the biggest marketing challenges businesses consistently face. One good tactic for reaching more people is developing relationships with people and platforms that already have a large audience. That could be by creating affiliate marketing relationships with influencers, by guest posting on their blogs, or by collaborating with them on projects. Whatever form it takes for your business, working with influencers can help you catch the attention of new people in your target audience and get them back to your website where you can work on building a relationship with them.
7. Increase sales.For e-commerce businesses, this goal will remain consistent in all years. For your website and business to thrive, you have to be making sales. Everything else on this list is designed to help make that happen, but you should also look to your own analytics from past years. Figure out what tactics have worked the best for getting you sales – not just traffic or email signups (which matter too), but marketing activities specifically led to sales. While there are general trends each year that should guide what you try, the most important thing you should look to is what’s working best for your particular business. At the end of the day, your business is unique. Only you can work out what makes the most sense for you and your audience. Analyze your metrics and design your marketing plan to optimize doing more of whatever is getting you sales now.
Friday, January 19, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Are You Making These Common SEO Mistakes?SEO mistakes don’t just waste your time; they hurt you. Many websites have found themselves the victims of a Google penalty, which means a big drop in search engine rankings and a lot of work to get back on Google’s good side. Whether you’re doing SEO yourself or hiring someone to do it, it’s important to make sure you’re doing it right. That means avoiding both spammy, black-hat practices and missed opportunities. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make around SEO.
1. Keyword stuffingIn the early days of SEO, this was an extremely common tactic. To better get on Google’s radar for a specific term, writers would produce content that was filled with that particular term – even using it in contexts where it was awkward at best or nonsensical at worst. For a short time, it worked. But Google figured out that this keyword-stuffed content was creating a bad experience for users and was a lazy way to try to game the system. Year by year, they’ve been making updates to ensure that pages overusing a particular keyword won’t rank for it. And now they’re even using latent semantic indexing (LSI) which makes repeating a keyword pointless, since Google can recognize synonyms and related words on a page to better figure out what it’s about. If you’ve been filling your content with keywords, or you hired someone that does, it’s time for that to stop. Focus on making your content readable and relevant to your readers instead.
2. Paying for links.Backlinks are one of the most important parts of SEO and building links naturally is hard. For a long time, that created an industry of companies that sold (mostly low-quality) links for businesses that wanted an easier way to get them. But Google has caught on to that too. Anytime they’re able to identify links that have been paid for, or see trends that suggest link buying, websites get penalized. It’s tempting to try to buy your way around something that’s difficult to do legitimately, but it’s not worth the risk here. Focus on white-hat link building techniques like guest posting and building partnerships instead.
3. Not customizing your URLs.On-site optimization is the part of SEO you have the most control over, so it’s important to take every opportunity you can to make your webpages stronger in the eyes of the search engines. One of the on-site factors that search engines look to in figuring out which pages should rank for which keywords is the website URL. Every time you publish a new webpage or blog post, you should therefore change the URL to include the main keyword you’re targeting. Don’t use whatever default URL gets filled in, especially if it’s just random characters. Put the title of the page (or a short but clear version of it) in the URL instead, with hyphens between the words. And pay attention to the URL structures of your website. If you have too many folders, your URLs will get more convoluted and the extra characters in the URL will drown out the keywords you want to focus on.
4. Skipping your meta descriptions.Meta descriptions won’t play a role in how you rank in the search engines, but the whole point of getting higher in the search engine rankings is so that people will see your website and click on it. And meta descriptions help with that part. You get the chance to write the teaser text that people will see when they’re trying to decide which link to click on. If you include the keyword they searched for in the text, it will show up in bold, drawing more attention to your link in the results. And in some cases, Google will look to the meta description when trying to determine which site to pull a featured snippet from. Including a relevant meta description increases your chances of showing up at the very top of the results, even if you don’t manage to get the top ranking.
5. Neglecting long-tail keywords.Sure, it would be great if your fishing supply website showed up on page one for the term “fishing supplies,” but gaining a top spot for a general keyword like that is a hard feat to manage. If you’re not one of the biggest players in the industry, your chances aren’t great. But if you switch your focus to trying to rank for more specific keywords with more words in them, called long-tail keywords, your chances increase. That can mean making it local (“boston fishing supplies”) or diving into specific topics related to the products you sell (“different types of fishing bait”). If you brainstorm the questions your customers have and the topics they care about, you should come up with a nice long list of long-tail keywords you can target. Creating content around those keywords will help you start making progress in the rankings for the long-tail keywords and more competitive general keywords alike.
6. Skimping on your content.If you’re trying to get by buying cheap content, that’s not cutting it. If you’re rushing yourself to put out content that’s quick and sloppy, that won’t cut it either. At this point, there are too many businesses doing content marketing for you to get anywhere with low-quality work. Your content needs to be well written, accurate, and formatted to make it easy to read. Giving a thorough treatment to each topic is also a good idea, as long-form posts tend to perform better than shorter ones. Yes, this means that you’re either going to have to pay more or devote more time to your content creation, or both. There’s no getting around that. But high-quality content is one of the most important parts of every good content strategy, so if you’re giving it short shrift now, it’s time to correct that mistake.
7. Having a slow site.Google has confirmed for years that one of the ranking factors they use for website is site speed. If your website is slow, not only will people be less likely to wait around for it to load, but your SEO will suffer. There are a number of steps you can take to speed up your website like keeping your scripts up to date and sizing your images correctly. But one of the big ones is making sure you have a web hosting provider and plan that can deliver the speed your visitors (and Google) expect.
8. Forgetting internal links.Internal linking isn’t as powerful for SEO as building backlinks from other sites is, but it is a useful way to give Google more information about what certain pages are about. You have total control over the anchor text of internal links, so if you want Google to associate a certain page with the term “office supplies” then you can make sure that every time the phrase or a similar one is used on your website, you link those words to that page. Internal links also help you get more out of your most popular pages. A page that gets a ton of traffic gives you opportunities to send people to other pages on your site once they get there. Look for opportunities on your most successful pages to link out to other relevant pages. You can help visitors discover more of your content and keep them longer on your website. While internal links are good to think about and use regularly, make sure you don’t overdo it. If all your pages include a large number of internal links, and especially if they all aren’t natural and relevant, then you risk making your website look like spam. And the more links that are included on a page, the less value each one has, so be strategic in which internal links you include on each page of content.
9. Not optimizing your images for SEO.A lot of on-site optimization has to do with the textual parts of a webpage - it’s about using the right words in the right places. That makes it easy to overlook the opportunity you have for optimizing your images. Every time you add an image to your website, there are a couple of ways for you to include relevant keywords:
- The image name (“blackhighheeledshoes.jpg”)
- The image alt tag (alt=black high heeled shoes)
10. Having a bad mobile site experience.A couple of years ago, Google announced that they’d start ranking websites that were mobile friendly higher in the search engine. This year they’re taking that a step further and creating a mobile first index, which prioritizes the mobile site over the desktop version in how the algorithm determines rankings. If you haven’t yet, you have got to make mobile a priority. If your visitors have a bad experience on your website any time they come from a mobile device, you’re alienating a big part of your audience and hurting your web rankings at the same time.
ConclusionSEO is such an important part of a website’s success. Doing it well will bring you greater visibility and more visitors. Doing it badly will waste your time, keep you hidden from your audience, and could mean penalties from Google. Don’t go one day longer making any of these mistakes. Contact HostGator to find out how our expert SEO services can help your website rank.
Thursday, January 18, 2018 by Kristen Hicks
Why Use Google Analytics?If you have a website, you should be using Google Analytics. There are no exceptions here – it’s a useful and important tool for every website owner. One of the first things we recommend website owners do when launching a new site is get tracking set up for Google Analytics. But why is it so important?
7 Reasons to Use Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is easy to figure out for even the greenest of new website owners and it provides you with loads of valuable information. Here’s a sampling of some of the most important benefits the tool offers.
1. You can see how people find your website.There are over 1 billion websites online right now. Each of them is vying for attention in the overcrowded world of the internet. For your website to do its job – whatever that might be – people have to be able to find it. Google Analytics has an entire section, Acquisition, devoted to providing you with information on how the visitors to your website found you. Google tracks how many people land on your website after clicking on a link in search results (organic results), how many people come from links shared on social media, from other websites, from paid ads, and by typing your website directly into search. If you do any marketing to raise awareness of your website, this section shows you which of your efforts are working.
2. You can track what people do when they’re on your website.Getting people to your website is the first big hurdle you face, but making sure they stick around and come back is just as important. Google Analytics tracks that information too. The Behavior section in Google Analytics provides information on which pages people often come to first on your website, what pages they click through to next (if any), and how long they spend on your website. This information will help you understand which parts of your website are successfully getting traction and determine if you need to rework the design or improve your content to keep people around longer.
3. You gain data on who’s visiting your website and how.Most websites don’t need to reach everyone. There’s probably a specific type of visitor that’s most valuable to you. Google Analytics provides information on who the people visiting your website are in terms of demographics, geography, and their general interests online. In addition, you can see what browsers they use and what devices they’re coming from. If your website offers a different experience on one device or browser versus another, you may be losing some visitors. Seeing how many people visit your site on mobile or through Safari lets you know how important it is to optimize for those people too.
4. You can find the most popular pages on your website.Pretty much every website will have some pages that get more traffic than others. And you’ll also have pages that keep people on the site or achieve conversions more than others. If you have content that’s ranking high or getting shared a lot that brings a disproportionate amount of your traffic, Google Analytics will help you identify it. Just as importantly, if some pages do particularly well at converting visitors to email subscribers or customers, Google Analytics helps you identify those as well. When you can pinpoint the pages that are working the best for your various goals, you can analyze why they work and shape a strategy for your website moving forward based on past successes.
5. It helps you track conversions.Different websites will have different actions they most want visitors to take. You can set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics for your website based on the actions you most want visitors to take, such as filling out a form, signing up for your email list, or making a purchase. For most websites, this data will be the most important measure of whether your website’s doing it’s main job. Google Analytics will help you gauge what’s working on your website to achieve conversions and why.
6. It’s free.If you have a limited budget, everything else on this list could sound awesome without convincing you it’s worth shelling out money for this tool. But you don’t have to shell out anything. Google Analytics is 100% free. No matter what your budget is, you can afford it – guaranteed.
7. It’s easy.If you’re not very tech savvy, hearing about great software tools can make you think how nice that sounds for other people who can figure out how to use them. But Google Analytics is very intuitive for even newbie website owners with basic level tech skills to figure out.
Get Started with Google AnalyticsTo get started, you only have to set up an account with Google Analytics, add your website as a property, and add the tracking code provided to the pages on your website. That’s a simple copy-and-paste job, and with Wordpress sites you have a couple of installation options that are potentially even easier than copy and pasting the tracking code on each page. Using Google Analytics once it’s set up is similarly simple. You can learn a lot just from clicking around in there on your own, but you can also find instructions how to see a few of the most important metrics here. If you could use more guidance, there are lots of tutorials and educational resources available to help walk you through how to find what you need in Google Analytics and even find valuable information you didn’t know you needed. There are lots of good reasons to use Google Analytics, and no good reason not to. Go ahead and get it set up on your website so you can start understanding how people interact with you online and measure the success of your website.