5 top tactics to identify SEO opportunities on e-commerce sites

So you’ve just been assigned the responsibility of optimizing an e-commerce website to improve search engine visibility. Whether you’re working on a site that has a dozen products or 30,000+, the process of figuring out where to start can be a daunting task. In order to be effective, you need to find a balance between traffic and revenue opportunities, and business and executive level goals.  Whether you’re just starting a project or are a few years in, the following tactics will help you identify where opportunities lie that can have a strong positive impact on your SEO campaign and overall business goals.

1. Support Top Business Priorities

Let’s face it, we all answer to someone, and if our work isn’t supporting their goals, we’re not likely to succeed in the long term (or at the very least, frustrations will occur). When first starting search engine optimization efforts, identifying the top priorities for the business will help find the areas that are going to be in the spotlight. Success on high visibility business priorities can lead to more support from high levels throughout the company. With more support, SEOs can be more effective at their job and contribute successfully to the overall campaign.

2. Focus on Top Revenue and Unit drivers

Nothing shows success more than an increasing revenue number. By focusing on products and categories that drive high ROI or unit sales, you have a higher chance to increase the bottom line. Review the top performers for your site and if the products and categories don’t have high organic visibility but they’re still top drivers, then you’re looking at pages that could be very impactful on the organic search campaign. If the products and categories are already optimized, review the timeline and visibility to see if a content refresh is needed.

3. Align with Merchandising Marketing Calendar

A merchandising marketing calendar helps marketing teams plan out where they’re going to spend advertising dollars, usually months in advance. This advanced plan works great with an SEO campaign. If your calendar is planned 2-3 months in advanced, you can line up your optimization efforts to show results as the marketing starts to increase customer awareness. With the amount of time SEO work can typically take before seeing results, you can easily have a page start to increase in visibility right at the time other marketing channels are starting to drive search behavior.

4. Find Phrases with Traffic but Low Visibility

By reviewing Google Webmaster Tools’ search query data, you can potentially find phrases driving traffic to the site, which are ranking outside of the prime search results. This can be a huge signal in areas that either have poor results above your listing or phrases that have a huge amount of search volume. Imagine your site ranks #12 for a phrase that is a top 10 traffic driver. Basic optimization on the landing page, increasing the amount of pages that support the phrase, or even acquiring a few more inbound links on the topic, can easily drive that result into the first page. Moving from the second page of results to the first page can reflect very strong improvements with relatively low efforts.

Additionally, you may want to review the URL in the search results and evaluate if a refresh on the page content or other on-page elements could improve performance. If the page was optimized within the last 6 months, look for areas where adding supporting pages could help that page improve. If your landing page is a category page, try optimizing a few child products or sub-category pages to help build support for that category. If the URL is a product detail page, try adding a supporting article page or optimize a related accessory product that adds support for the phrase and incorporate a link to that page from the detail page.

This strategy can also be used to help identify topics for content marketing, such as articles and info-graphics. A few gains of targeted links can typically move a result up a handful of listings.

5. Review the Email Promotions Calendar

Along the same line as working with the merchandising catalog, making sure products featured in emails are optimized can help capture the search traffic that the email generates. Marketers know that targeted emails drive traffic, but what is often over looked is the impact those emails have on search behavior. When a company sends out an email about certain products, typically you’ll also see a spike in search volume for a day or two after the email goes out.

Capitalize on this increase in search volume by making sure the relevant products are optimized ahead of time. If you can time it so you start seeing results a few days before the email gets sent out, you can usually capitalize on that increased search volume before your competition realizes what’s happened. You can also review historical emails from competitors to map out typical marketing schedules (most companies advertise certain products on a regularly scheduled calendar) and focus efforts to improve your results as they increase search volume.

Vary Your Efforts in Order to Maximize Your Visibility. Remember these tactics are only some of the ways you can help identify areas of opportunity. You may notice that if you stick with just a single way to identify areas to optimize, that you end up optimizing the same categories over and over. Vary your tactics to ensure you’re not missing any opportunities. If you stick with using one tactic, such as only optimizing areas that the merchandising team is focusing on, you’ll likely miss out on those long tail opportunities for phrases that you rank on the fringe of the search results.