24 ways to improve SEO ranking for retailers – and get more customers
Want to reach more customers? Find out smart ways to get discovered online with these expert tips.
Every business wants to get more traffic to their website. After all, more traffic equals more potential customers – and more sales.
The secret to getting discovered online lies in smart search engine optimisation, known as SEO. (You can read our beginner’s guide to SEO here.) [Need to add link here] SEO plays a critical role in reaching new audiences and driving traffic to your website or physical store.
Here are 24 ways to improve SEO rankings for retailers:
SEO keyword research tips
1. Research competitor keywords
Creating a list of keywords to target is a fundamental part of any SEO strategy. A more advanced tactic? Find out which keywords your brand’s competitors are ranking for, by using a tool like SpyFu.com. Although you should avoid blindly using the same keywords as them (as they won’t guarantee you will rank higher), researching competitor keywords will likely offer valuable insights into how to improve your own ranking.
2. Strategically place your keywords
Using keywords in content is a balancing act. Each keyword should appear frequently enough for your content to rank. However, it’s important to avoid ‘keyword stuffing’, as users dislike it and Google may penalise you for it. Instead, aim to use your main keyword within the first couple of sentences of your content. Then use that keyword, and variations of it, sporadically throughout the rest of your pages.
3. Consider topic clusters
Google’s search algorithm is sophisticated, so targeting keywords may not be enough to achieve a coveted spot in the first page of search results. That’s where topic clusters come in.
Topic clusters are essentially secondary keywords and phrases that relate to your original keywords. To identify topic clusters, type your target keywords into Google with a ‘keyword modifier’ (or additional word/s). For example, if you sell watches, you might type in ‘buy watch’.
When you search ‘buy watch’ on Google, there will be a section titled ‘People Also Ask’ that will list variations of that keyword, such as ‘Which is the best website to buy watches?’, ‘Where can you buy designer watches?’, and ‘Where can I sell my watches in Australia?’, etc.
The next step is to write short articles based on each of these questions and internally link those articles to your existing ‘pillar’ pages that focus on your original keywords (like ‘watch’).
SEO link tips
4. Take advantage of online business directories
Want to increase the number of all-important backlinks to your site? Not only are online business directories a great way to list your business so people can find it, they are also a clever way to find relevant businesses that you can approach for potential backlinks.
Online directories include everything from the online Yellow Pages to Yelp, Yahoo Local to Afterpay’s Store Directory and your industry’s chamber of commerce website or peak body association.
5. Offer editorial content
There’s little point in securing links from disreputable websites that don’t attract traffic. As a retailer, try to aim for links from credible sources that are also relevant to your content. After all, the ultimate goal is for people to click on the links and visit your website. Research and brainstorm a list of websites and publications that your target audience visits, and pitch the editors of those publications editorial content in exchange for a link back to your website.
(And don’t be afraid to think laterally - if you’re a jeweller, you might target blogs about jewellery or fashion, as well as those about art or mining.) To pitch to an editor, email them directly.
While it may be unlikely to expect coverage in major national news outlets, many smaller, industry-specific websites accept opinion pieces and submissions. Alternatively, you can sign up to a service like Source Bottle in Australia or Help A Reporter in the US or Response Source in the UK, which are online notice boards where journalists look for experts, case studies or sources. When a journalist posts a relevant callout, you can put yourself forward as an expert or case study - and they will link to your business in the article.
6. Ask suppliers for a backlink
Collaborations with other websites are a great way to obtain backlinks and overall improve SEO ranking. But reaching out to numerous websites can be time-consuming and backlinks aren’t necessarily guaranteed. Instead, consider asking suppliers, with whom you have an existing relationship, to link to your website.
7. Research your competitors’ backlinks
Just as you can use competitors’ keywords to get a sense of which keywords you should be targeting, you can also search for the backlinks obtained by your competitors. This will help you identify relevant (or the same) sources to approach for your own backlinks. You can check your competitors’ URLs using Ahrefs Free Backlink Checker.
8. Fix broken links on your website
Over time, links can become broken as websites you are linking to change or delete their old content. An abundance of broken links could result in your site being penalised by Google, so it’s important to remove them whenever you can. This can be achieved by creating a 301 redirect to another related page, or you can contact the site owner of your backlink for assistance. Want to check whether your website has any broken links? Brokenlinkcheck.com is a great free tool for this.
9. Use internal links
Don’t just look to link your content to other websites. Link pages together within your own site to create a more structured online experience. Not only does a highly saturated internal linking structure make it easier for Google to crawl through your website, it also makes it easier for your customers to navigate your site and find more information. A good example of internal linking to look at is Wikipedia. Visit a Wikipedia page and notice how they link keywords within the content, to link to other relevant pieces of content on their website. So, if you have a blog post talking about a product that you stock, add an internal link to the product page.
In-depth content marketing tips to improve SEO ranking
10. Create click-worthy, shareable content
Don’t forget that your goal is to convert clicks into sales. One way to do this is to create engaging content that inspires, informs or entertains – and ultimately creates a long-lasting relationship with customers.
Creating engaging content can:
- Build trust and credibility
- Create a sense of relevance by offering fresh content
- Build buzz or desirability around your product
- Create a relationship with your customer (or potential customer)
Great content will also reduce your bounce rate (the speed at which users land on your site and then ‘bounce’ back out) and help you acquire new customers if the content is so good that it’s shared.
When coming up with ideas for content, think about your brand or product’s USP (unique selling proposition), your own expertise, questions your customers frequently ask, and any upcoming key events or anniversaries you can create content around.
For more tips, watch our introduction video to content marketing.
11. Avoid duplicate content
Don’t copy from elsewhere on the internet. Google can detect duplicate content and it will negatively impact your search rankings. It can also be a deterrent for your customers, as it demonstrates a lack of professionalism or legitimacy. It might seem time-consuming, but creating unique content is a practice that will pay off in the long-term.
12. Aim for longer content
Longer content tends to result in higher user engagement, and other websites linking to it as ‘resource level quality content’. This often results in a higher chance to improve SEO ranking and therefore receive better traffic. But this doesn’t mean that every product description should be the length of an entire ebook. The goal is to write long content when relevant and possible, but to structure it into digestible portions.
To get a sense of how long your content should be, review the top 10 search results for your target keyword, and then run their URLs in SEO Review Tools’ bulk web page word count checker.
13. Mix up your media
Don’t just stop at text. High-quality images, sounds and videos create an engaging experience that customers are more likely to return to – and recommend to other people. This is also a great way to sell your products, as you can show them off in greater detail to your audience. Interesting media also means people spend more time on your pages, helping signal to Google that they are worth ranking.
14. Avoid content decay by updating old information
Over a long period of time, content can decrease in organic traffic due to increased SEO competition from other websites or even changes in Google’s algorithm. Not only will updating this content reduce the issue, but it’s often easier to update existing content compared to starting from scratch.
15. Optimise your meta title and description
Your meta title and description relate to how your website will be shown on Google. To that end, you want them to be short and to the point – containing your keywords, while telling your audience in as few words as possible why they should click on this content.
To make sure that your meta title and description are the right length, visit a SERP generator, such as Serpism, to preview how yours will look in search results.
16. Improve your page-loading speed
There are few things more annoying, or more likely to deter customers, than a website that takes too long to load. Page-loading speeds are an important part of your customer experience – affecting bounce rates and conversions rates – and should be prioritised (whether you’re trying to improve your ranking in Google or not). You can use a tool like Pingdom Website Speed Test to see what element on your site is slowing it down. Often large images (+200KB) are the source of a slow-loading page. Try a tool like tinypng.com to compress images prior to loading them onto your website.
17. Select a CMS that works for customers – and you
There’s no doubt that user experience is vital when it comes to a successful online store –and ideally all products should be no more than three clicks from the home page. However, it’s also important that your website is easy for you to use.
If you’re using a templated CMS, ensure that it:
- Offers the functionalities you need (e-commerce, contact forms, newsletter sign-ups, etc)
- Is easy to update with content
- Is simple to customise with SEO information like meta titles, meta descriptions, headings (H1, H2, H3, etc), URLs, and image alt-titles
Examples of content management systems that work well for retailers include WordPress, Shopify, BigCommerce and Squarespace.
18. Optimise for mobile
It’s one thing for a website to look beautiful on desktop, but with shoppers increasingly buying straight from their phones, it’s also important that your website works on mobile. Google announced in 2015 a mobile-friendly update to their algorithm that preferences pages on mobile-optimised websites above those that are not.
19. Use Google Analytics to measure your traffic and performance
Google Analytics is an SEO tool that provides you access to information about how customers are engaging with your website. It can offer information relating to bounce rates, conversions, and engagement time. You can then use this to inform your approach to SEO going forward, making this tool even more valuable.
20. Use Ahrefs for keyword research
Ahrefs is a tool that can be used to conduct keyword research by analysing a website’s link profile, keyword rankings and SEO health. This is a great way to research keywords and backlinks from competitors that are performing well, and there is a free tool available.
21. Use SEO plugins in your CMS of choice
A lot of content management systems, such as WooCommerce and Shopify, come with comprehensive SEO plugins that offer a wide range of tools to make the process as easy and effective as possible. It is essential that you use these plugins, as they’ll help you optimise for SEO and improve your ranking.
General tips to improve SEO ranking
22. Use HTTPS to secure your website
HTTPS is an encrypted version of the standard HTTP protocol. A HTTPS in a URL signifies that the website is secure, and any data entered when making a purchase is protected. Not only is this reassuring for customers, but secure websites rank higher on Google.
To switch to HTTPS, check with your website hosting service to find out whether they offer the service. (Managed platforms like Shopify and Squarespace do.) Otherwise speak to your developer.
23. Check Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a must-have for any online enterprise. It’s a free and easy-to-use tool that will help you manage the online presence of your business in Google’s search results. To register with Google My Business, simply visit the website and follow the instructions, which will ask you to enter your business details, including your phone number, website and a summary of your business.
24. Engage in social media
Social media is no longer an optional method of engaging your audience. If you don’t want to be left behind your competitors, you need to use social media to display your products and link back to your website. This will also signal to Google that you’re receiving traffic from sources other than Google.
Brett Melville is an SEO strategist and founder of Digital Treasury
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