How to use SEO to build your eCommerce reputation — a quick guide
This SEO guide is a guest post is by John Doherty, the founder of Credo, where he helps businesses connect and work with the right SEO or digital marketing agency. John is a veteran of the SEO industry and has worked both inhouse (HotPads/Trulia) as well as in agencies (Distilled/DMi Partners), so he understands both sides of the market through deep personal experience. In his personal life, he lived in Denver and is married to Courtney. Together they have a black lab mix named Butterbean. You can find John most easily on Twitter @dohertyjf.
If you’re an eCommerce business, then digital marketing is paramount to your business’s success. You need the right products and the right platform, of course, but without great marketing, your products won’t get seen and you won’t make any sales.
Fortunately, there are many tried and true ways to grow your audience that you can leverage such as SEO, Facebook/Instagram advertising, content marketing, display advertising, sponsorships, influencer marketing, and many more.
The challenge lies in the fact that there are so many different channels and if you’re not a marketing expert, then it‘s hard, if not impossible, to know where to start or how to take your marketing to the next level.
If you’ve done the SEO basics on your site and are investing in content marketing and a link strategy with the goal of ranking better, there are ways that you can expedite that process to see results even quicker.
Today, I want to share with you four advanced eCommerce SEO strategies that you can use to crowd the search results in your niche and for your branded queries to build your brand and traffic so that you can accomplish your goal of building your business.
These four strategies are:
- Branded profiles;
- Barnacle SEO;
- Autosuggest and the information net;
- Content funnels (NBED)
How to use branded profiles for SEO and conversions
If you’re an eCommerce business, you should absolutely own your own platform and brand. Without your own website, you will forever be paying other platforms a percentage of your sales in exchange for their audience, and eventually, you may reach a ceiling on growth because their business doesn’t completely mesh with yours.
But I’m also not arguing that you should only sell your products on your own site! Platforms like eBay and Amazon do well for a reason, mostly because they have huge capital resources and have created a place where others can easily sell their own products. So, as is usually the case, a balanced approach is needed.
If you perform a search for a brand like GoPro, you’ll see that they have crowded their branded search results with profiles on other websites such as:
If you are a small store, then you can leverage profiles just like these to lend your site more credibility when someone searches for your brand. You can even do this as a person:
This is also known as reputation management when an undesired article or site appears in your branded search results as a few have done for GoPro, but it can be a very strong way to show those searching for your brand that you are a legitimate business.
Of course, if you’re trying to rank 10 profiles for your branded terms, it takes dedicated effort to pull this off effectively.
When you’re trying to crowd your own branded search results, you need to:
- Vary the sites and profiles that you link to with branded anchor text when guest posting or listing your site in directories.
- Link to your important profiles from your main website to pass them link equity.
- Prioritize strong websites (use Moz’s MozBar to see their Domain Authority, an indicator of strength) and make sure your profiles there are complete and robust with unique content and whatever else you are able to have (video, etc).
The final strategy here, of course, is to find websites that allow you to also have reviews posted so that searchers trust you because of independent, positive ratings.
Barnacle SEO for e-commerce websites
Every niche has a few main players that have most of the market share. These businesses, though, are not always the most well-loved so people often search for competitors or alternatives. One great strategy to capitalize on this, is to have your site listed when a potential customer is disenchanted with your large competitors and searches for their brand name with a “competitors” or “alternatives” modifier.
For example, let’s say that you run a tree seed eCommerce site. You sell seeds for a tree that is often seen as an alternative to maple trees, because some people don’t like maple trees.
You type "maple tree alternatives" into Google and see the following results.
There are at least five sites there that you can reach out to in order to either get them to add in another type of tree (and link to you) or add your link as a resource for their site visitors.
This strategy is similar to using Google’s autosuggest to find new keywords to target.
Autosuggest and the information net
When thinking about SEO for your eCommerce website, you should consider the wider group of questions and modifiers that people search while they are conducting research before they ultimately make a purchase (and hopefully from you!).
Ecommerce businesses can’t just worry about your product and category page rankings. Yes, these are your most important keywords to rank for of course, as they directly drive traffic to you that you know will convert. And if they convert, then they’re great for ranking as well as for driving paid traffic to via SEO, AdWords, and Facebook/Instagram.
But they are only a piece, albeit a large piece, of the larger SEO puzzle for your eCommerce site. Further up the conversion funnel, your potential customers are doing research before they buy.
This is where a bit of research on your end can pay big dividends by creating the content that answers your potential customer’s questions so that they learn about your brand and are more likely to buy from you in the future. If you build your strategy well, you can also use this to gather email addresses so that you can continue to market to them with a well-optimized email marketing strategy.
Here’s how the autosuggest SEO strategy works so that you can expand your net of keywords.
First, use any or all of the following tools to understand the autosuggested search terms from Google and which ones could drive traffic to your site:
- Longtail Pro
- Keywords Everywhere
When I use UberSuggest to search “nike vs” combined with Keywords Everywhere, I get a list of the brands that people are comparing Nike to. If you run a shoes ecommerce site, then this can be a great way to educate your users as well as funnel them to buy from you:
Imagine if you could get your eCommerce website ranking among these publishers. The competition is small and the traffic is high. What more could you want?
The goal is to identify all of these buckets of keyword phrases that your potential customers use when they are in the discovery phase of their search so that when they are ready to buy, they know and recognize your brand and are more likely to buy from you.
Leveraging reviews on other sites to grow your own organic traffic
Finally, what post on Trustpilot would be complete without talking about reviews?
As an eCommerce site, you need reviews not only of your company but also of your products. If you are a product manufacturer as well as a seller, then you’re probably using other platforms to sell your products.
Let’s take the outdoors industry as an example. The North Face is not only a seller, but they actually manufacture the products as well.
Perform a search for a product of theirs, such as their Thermoball hooded jacket. My query is "the north face men’s thermoball" and I come up with the following sites:
- Dicks Sporting Good
All of these results except for Moosejaw have star results showing in the search results. Here's a screenshot of the first four results.
Notice what The North Face has done.
They have built their own property to allow it to have reviews that are then shown in the search results. So they own their own platform, which is absolutely necessary for the longevity of the brand.
They also, however, sell through all of the major providers and both rely on them to get reviews as well as probably actively solicit reviews on those platforms. If everyone rates the jacket well, as is the case with the Thermoball, they are building trust with their potential customers that the product is quality and people are happy.
So what’s the takeaway here?
If you are selling your own product, you should also be using the platforms available to you to tap into their audience and sell more of your products. Own your own platform and optimize your website properly, but this can be another great way to grow your business if the economics make sense.
The same works for your brand since customers might buy a product, but they ultimately buy from a brand. In today’s social media and values driven world, the work you do on your brand influences your customers, builds loyalty with them, and gains repeat buyers. Investing your brand by getting feedback from your customers is one of the best ways to improve your business, regardless of your search rankings. And the best part is that reviews also help your search rankings and clickthrough rates when review stars show in the search results.
What about you?
What strategies have you used to build your brand through SEO that don’t involve your own website?