I was recently invited to David Szetela’s show on Webmaster Radio: “PPC Rockstars.” His show is focused on paid media, while my specialization is on the organic side. That set us up for a nice talk about the intersection of PPC, search engine optimization and content – and how retail brands can embrace content to drive traffic and enhance the shopping experience.
I thought I’d recap the talk here in this post.
The SERP Relationship: Organic Content and Paid Content
One thing retail brands may not be thinking of is how their marketing channels can work together to drive more traffic, although I believe the habit is on the rise.
According to data I’ve been seeing, eCommerce brands in particular are starting to embrace content and the organic search channel instead of just PPC (the traditional method for retailers).
In fact, a recent study by Shop.org showed 41 percent of retailers said organic traffic was the most effective customer acquisition tactic. And, one study by Custora showed that customers coming from the organic search channel had a higher lifetime value than other acquisition channels.
And, the organic search channel and PPC have synergy. A report by Kenshoo in September 2013 showed that when a Web page was in Position 1, 60 percent of the clicks came from organic and 40 percent came from an ad from that company on the page. But, that ratio ebbs and flows … when the organic listing falls on the page, PPC picks up the slack with more clicks.
Bottom line: It’s always good to think about how you can be present in multiple ways on the search engine results page.
Using Content and SEO to Be Found
If you want to be found in organic search, you need content. And, to help the search engines better understand what the content is about, you need to optimize it.
Optimization is comprised of a great many things, but in its simplest terms, it’s about understanding the search engines and your users so your content is found at the right time.
For the purposes of this post, we’ll talk about using long-form content as part of your organic content strategy (Web pages, blog posts, etc.); this is in contrast to video, for example. Long-form content is usually appropriate for the research phase or comparison stage in a person’s shopping journey, when people are still learning about or making up their minds on a product.
As a retail brand (or any brand for that matter), the first thing you should do is ask yourself who your customers are. If you don’t have a lot of quantitative data, don’t worry – it doesn’t have to be 100 percent accurate to start, but you do need a picture of who that target customer is so you can create content for that person, or “persona.”
You’ll also want to do some keyword research to see what people are searching for, and you can do that in the AdWords Keyword Planner tool. Online advertisers should already be comfortable using that tool to perform that function.
Keyword research in itself can be an undertaking – but it only has to be as complex as you want. In other words, it doesn’t have to be complicated if you just want to see what variations of a term are driving more demand.
The next step is mapping useful content to those terms that people are searching for. Oftentimes you can back into this step – create the great content first, then modify some of the terms in the Web page or post to match the search demand.
When talking about “optimized” content, we’re talking about all those things that go into making a Web page more understandable by search engines. Optimization tells engines what the page is about, and can make it a candidate to match a searcher’s query on Google or Bing (or your search engine of choice).
This includes making sure the pages have Meta information, and that the Meta information clearly explains what the page is about. Remember the Meta information serves as your Web page’s snippet results on the search engine result page – so you want it to be good to entice click-throughs.
And while it’s slower going in terms of adoption, Schema markup is the next wave of optimization, helping brands have richer snippets in the SERP. As an example, think about when you see star ratings in the search results next to a listing.
Beyond the Click: How to Create a Great Experience
Once a user clicks through from the search results, how can retail brands create a better shopping experience with content?
Let’s think about product pages specifically for a moment. You want to ensure that whatever content you have on a Web page supports what the user is trying to do. So, put yourself in the shopper’s shoes, and ask: What type of information would be helpful?
A good exercise is to define the purpose of the page, even if it’s something very obvious. If the purpose of the page is to “sell pink dog sweaters,” write it down. Then, list everything that would help a shopper decide on a pink dog sweater and move them to the next step – the shopping cart.
What content on the page would be useful to pull in? Would a buying guide be helpful? Would a video of the product help? What about multiple views of the product or reviews of the product?
I highly recommend having a blog on the site, as a blog is a great way to add useful information on a consistent basis so the search engines keep coming back to the website to index the content, and so that users keep coming back, too.
You can then pull in any relevant blog posts onto a product page that might help a shopper on his or her journey (hint: write a series of posts on choosing dog sweaters, for example).
Retail brands may want to consider a resources section of their site filled with buying guides, videos, articles and so on, and then pull in related content onto product pages as needed. Of course, this takes some technical work. So work with a developer, technical SEO and content strategist who can advise on the implementation.
Examples of brands who are embracing some of these content concepts are:
- Overstock with their buying guides.
- Zappos, which has some useful videos to accompany their products on product pages.
- REI, which leverages in-depth blog posts and links to product pages where relevant.
Here’s a screenshot of Overstock’s buying guides integration:
Here’s a screenshot of Zappos’ video integration:
For more information on creating a great shopping experience through content, check out this post I wrote for Search Engine Watch.