With Google’s latest algorithm updates and a saturated online retail sector competing for consumer attention, it’s essential retailers adopt appropriate search engine optimisation processes to ensure their website is ranked highly in search results. Michael Jenkins, Managing Director from Shout Web Strategy lists the common faux pas, and how to avoid them.
Google changed its search results ranking algorithm in order to lower the rank of low-quality sites. Because of these updates, many retailers are now struggling to make their websites rank highly in search results. Michael from Shout Web Strategy shares his expertise on SEO best practices and how to avoid mistakes.
1. Targeting the wrong keywords
Selecting the highest traffic keywords won’t necessarily result in the most leads. You want to be optimising for keywords that relay your business model, service offering or product lines. In addition, you also want to be optimising for keywords that reflect products and services that yield you the highest margin and return on investment. Most business owners and SEO firms don’t do enough due diligence when doing a return on investment (ROI) analysis on keywords, and thus choose the wrong keywords for their business.
For example, one of Shout’s clients has a large electrical contracting firm, and analysis of his online advertising spend found that 90 percent of his leads were generating Melbourne small electrician keywords. By shifting the keyword strategy to electrical contracting based keywords, the client improved the company’s search relevance, and won a contract from a large hospital through Google search results. While his overall visits and leads dropped, the quality and lead relevance value increased substantially and led to an exponentially higher return on investment.
2. Spreading your keyword base too thin
Don’t embark on a keyword overhaul. If you choose too many keywords that you want your website to rank for, then you’ll be spreading your resources too thin, and won’t rank well for any of the keywords. It’s better to be selective with your keyword choice, choosing only the ones that are of most relevance to your site.
For example, we’ve been assisting Bevilles jewellers to optimise their website. Rather than targeting a number of categories at once, such as jewellery, watches, rings or necklaces, we’ve chosen to be exclusive with the relevant keywords. That way, building up a domain authority, and as this happens, Bevilles can then branch out with more keyword targeting as the positive effects start to show.
3. Over-optimising the site
Google has changed its search results ranking algorithm substantially over the past 18 months. Personally I feel that the changes have resulted in much more relevant search results. Google tweaked its search results ranking algorithm with the Penguin update. Penguin has essentially heavily penalised over-optimised websites. What is an over-optimised site? The first sign is over use of meta data and also unnaturally high keyword density on the page. It’s important when optimising your page that you write your content for the user and not the search engines. Provided the keywords are placed correctly in the meta data and the word is mentioned a few times on the page, Google should see relevance to the page.
The search engines also look at usability factors, and if people aren’t engaging with your content and it’s over-optimised then this will have a negative effect and your site won’t rank well. Ways of inspiring engagement include customer reviews and ratings, linking up social media networks so customers can share with their friends, and blog posts where people can leave comments.
4. Poorly crafted title tags and meta descriptions
While keyword stuffing your title tags can have you penalised, there is also another reason why you need to think twice about how you word your title tags and meta descriptions. Your title tag and meta descriptions appear in the search engine results. It’s going to look messy if the keywords are simply listed with no relevant context, and Google’s algorithm now replaces meta descriptions with its own version of what it thinks is on the page if it feels it’s badly written.
Most companies are so focused on rankings that they forget about the user. Take control of what is written about your website and get the increasing click-through rate (CTR) by actually inserting relevant and descriptive content that will inform consumers and make them want to find out more, but more importantly, make your website appear at the top of search results for its relevant content.
5. Backlink spamming
Backlinking is used to increase the relevance of a website online for SEO purposes. Search engines rely on external links to websites to help rank their relevance. The days of creating an artificial environment to create top search engine results are long over. Mass submitting free business directories, using automated software and sites to mass syndicate and mass submit articles are dead. Google’s Penguin update harshly penalises misuse, however the writing has been on the wall for a long time.
Google now looks at how authoritative and contextual your backlinks are, not necessarily how many you have achieved. It’s important that you focus on authority, not on sheer volume of links. Only link to websites that relate to your business or product offering, and try to make connections with websites that already have a strong authority online.
6. Incorrect URL structures
Many content management systems (CMS) naturally generate dynamic uniform resource locators (URLs) that the search engines find very hard to crawl because they are often long and messy. An example is www.aaaaa.com.au/sy-j44%. At the time of build, your web development team should consider this, or you can utilise an SEO consultant to advise your web developer on the best practices for creating high-quality URL structures for search. Google likes static URLs such as www.aaaaa.com.au/category/product as they are easier to read.
On the Google blog, webmasters are advised to use short URLs so that its easier for Google to analyse. Other tips include using keywords that relate to your product offering, using hyphens to separate words, and not using underscores, spaces or other characters.
7. Duplicate content issues
Having products in multiple categories across the site can cause duplicate content issues, which in turn, will mean your website will not show highly in search results. The search engines are unsure which page to index, so it’s important that you let the search engines know which page to index by creating canonical rules on your site, or more simply, have each product page in a solitary location. This will help your product related search and also avoid duplicate content issues across your site.
8. Not updating your site with unique content.
With Google’s new algorithm changes, its apparent that content is the key to ranking highly in search results. The more unique and relevant content you have on your website, the more likely it is that your website will appear higher. Google reads all content on a website. Google’s advice to online publishers on its blog is “to focus on delivering the best possible user experience on your website and not to focus too much on what they think are Google’s current ranking algorithms or signals”.
Content comes in many forms, from product descriptions, to non-product content such as blog posts or feature articles, video, tutorials and buying guides. There’s also user-generated content or reviews. Incorporating any or all of these will make you a friend of Google and increase site traffic.
9. Lack of internal links
Internal links help in two ways. First of all it’s a way of creating a connecting structure and assists the search engines in understanding which pages are important on your site. Internal links are valuable as they allow users to find their way around a website easily, and help to set up an information hierarchy on the website. A site map is another way of showing all of the pages that are available on your website, it’s a page that lists all of the internal pages.
10. Ignoring social media
Like it or not social media is here to stay and over time Google is going to be placing higher relevance on social graphing to determine your influence. Being active in social media is a simple way to harness user interaction, mainly because of the user-generated manner that social media invokes. It’s no longer sufficient to just have a branded Facebook page and Twitter account, you should integrate social media within your website with like buttons and other user-share elements like moodboards.