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eCommerce SEO: User-Friendly & Search Engine Friendly Site Search!

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The need for optimization is important now more than ever in today’s tough conditions. At Single Entry Point, we give marketing managers the strategic advice they need to effectively implement digital marketing campaigns. In this second segment of our five-part series, we propose an advanced tactic to improve user experience in ecommerce websites at the site-search level.

"80% of visitors will abandon a site with poor search functionality." ~ Jupiter Media

Google Analytics Site Search Capabilities
Google Analytics Site Search Capabilities

Marketing Optimization for Top Search Terms

In our first part of the marketing optimization series, we talked about the need for optimal landing pages. Today we’ll help transform your site’s search functionality to improve user experience, as well as continuing to have Google (and other major search engines) crawl and index the pages in your site that focus on long-tail keyphrases.

If you are running an ecommerce website, it’s likely you have an ongoing quest to find better ways to increase sales while managing a shrinking budget. You also know the importance of site search capabilities—meaning the internal search engine of a website that is responsible for indexing and querying its product catalogue.

According to Jupiter Media, "80% of your visitors will abandon a site with poor search functionality, while 90% of companies report that search is the No.1 means of navigation on their site." ~ Forrester Research.

Here are today’s ingredients for user-friendly site search and SEO for ecommerce:

  • Site search web analytics package
  • A list of top product searches
  • Selection of targeted search terms
  • Site search transformation to return optimized content
  • Marketing optimization for top search terms
  • Link architecture throughout your ecommerce website

Site Search Web Analytics Package to Determine Top Search Terms

Start by identifying the top keywords that prospects are using to find products within your site. You can compile the list of top search terms by enabling tracking of your internal search engine. If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend that you implement a web analytics package capable of extracting such keyword usage. Analyzing search terms will help you better understand visitor intent. It will help you identify search patterns to make smarter product decisions, and you can use site search data to improve your PPC campaigns.

To combat a shrinking budget, Google Analytics (GA) implemented site search tracking from 2007. If you are already running GA, simply configure and integrate it with your site search.

Google Analytics Site Search Term Chart
Google Analytics Site Search Terms and Chart

Collect search terms dating far enough back to give you workable insights into what keywords to target in your SEO initiatives. Watch for terms that repeatedly appeared at the top of list. Determining your collection period depends on your levels of traffic. The lower the site’s traffic, the longer timeframe you’ll want to collect useful data. Remember that the top search terms will fluctuate due to seasonal product changes, major events, and varying promotions.

Improved User Experience

As humans, we are creatures of habit. We have an avid need for familiarity, so knowing what others are searching for could very well work for us too. Labeling search terms as “Top Searches” implies that the same popular keywords are often used to find products. While your competition displays the common matrix layout of an ecommerce product database – as seen below on the left wireframe – you can improve user experience by presenting the optimized page – as seen below on the right wireframe.

Search results page for the top search term: portable barbeques, before optimization Search results page for the top search term: portable barbeques, after optimization
Product Catalogue Landing Page Before Optimization Product Catalogue Landing Page After Optimization
Note: Click the images for a larger version. Or, view them on Flickr.

Having control of your search results pages not only allows you to guide the user, but also to display products in a more creatively, to educate the user, to push inventory, and to create opportunities for laser-focused cross-selling and up-selling.

Tip: studying search terms, their landing pages and how customers navigate will help you understand users’ needs so you can better align your promotions. It is a highly-effective tool that will increase sales. You will also enable a friendly ecommerce environment for search engines allowing them to more easily find and index your product pages.

SEO for eCommerce

While your satisfied customers are discovering new highlights on your website, we now turn our attention to SEO for Ecommerce. How are these pages going to impact your search engine visibility?

First, search engine results pages (SERPs) are excellent sources of long-tail content. Product descriptions, summaries, technical specifications, and user reviews all use longer key-phrases (3, 4 and even 5 words). These are less generic search terms but due to their specificity, they have been proven to convert better. Remember that Google will not use the search box to discover your products. They will crawl your catalogue structure following navigational links, but they may not dig deep enough to uncover all your products. By exposing deep, quality content to search engines using eCommerce SEO strategies, content that might otherwise never be indexed, you increase your website visibility in the major search engines.

Second, by controlling results pages for highly targeted search terms, you can change the default product description, which is most likely provided by the manufacturer. Advantages in this case are two-fold: (1) you have the ability to use more persuasive content and increase the likelihood of a purchase; (2) you display unique content, giving you the edge against same products offered by your competitor.

Link Architecture

Link architecture deploys permanent links on top-level pages, and those top-level URLs are more likely to be crawled and indexed by Google and other engines. Since all engines re-visit regularly to check for new content, they will likely follow the links in your site and thus discover the coveted content.

Careful placement of these links will depend on your site architecture and content organization, but here’s a short list that may prove useful to begin:

  • Top Searches box, displayed along the site navigation
  • Text “advertorials” displayed in related product categories
  • In article link: "We were looking forward to testing this good looking [link] portable barbecue [/link]. Very sturdy, and an instant feel of quality. Excellent fold down legs which could handle the back weight when you open the lid."

Additional Considerations When Establishing Links

Think also of page duration. As mentioned above, top searches are dynamically constructed and will change based on seasons, events and your marketing promotions. New search terms are going to become popular and thus worthy of your consideration for ecommerce SEO.

When control is at our fingertips, we easily forget about the purpose of such pages. Top search terms are generated by users as they try to quickly fulfill a need. Optimized pages for top search terms should remain true to their origin and not fall under the dictatorial rule of the marketing department. They should quickly fulfill users’ expectation, provide them with the best answer, and harmoniously deliver your content.

Over the last 12 years, our consultants have architected and developed some of North America’s largest ecommerce websites. We have worked on information architecture projects, data back-ends, and personalized systems (imagine these optimized pages reacting to user profiles!). At Single Entry Point, we’re continuously helping businesses increase conversion rates with marketing optimization strategies and acceleration programs. Take the next step toward your company’s growth by contacting us today to learn more about eCommerce SEO.

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Mike LascutMike Lascut is Principal of Single Entry Point® Marketing, focusing on the search, email and analytics practice and leading the development of the Single Entry Point Email Marketing next generation product. Mike's professional career spans over twenty years, including twelve years of intelligent search and email marketing and over a decade and half of software architecture and development. When he's not pointing businesses in a smarter direction, Mike spends his time pointing his lens at wildlife. Connect with Mike on Linkedin, read his Nature Research Photography blog, or reach him via email or phone.