We recently caught up with Ron Dod, CEO of Visiture, a top ecommerce SEO and PPC agency. He answered our questions about how to boost visibility and conversion in this complex ecosystem…
1. Tell us a little about Visiture and how you help ecommerce businesses.
Visiture was founded over 10 years ago as a search engine marketing agency focused on the ecommerce space. It might sound fancy, but, when it comes down to it, what we do is simply help online merchants sell more products using search engines. I came onboard in October 2015, after merging my old agency, Grey Umbrella Marketing, with Visiture in order to strengthen their SEO service and provide PPC services that I was not offering.
Getting more into what we do, we help merchants utilize Google’s organic listings (SEO) and optimize their AdWords accounts (PPC) in order to increase their returns from their search marketing campaigns. When it comes to PPC, we have a lot of very advanced strategies, from Inventory Driven Search and Google Shopping Data Optimization to more, which enable us to get higher returns. On the SEO side, we have a tried and true content and outreach team that creates very compelling content, promotes it to the right people, and works to get high-quality links, which is the 2nd most important Google ranking factor most online merchants do not focus on.
2. eCommerce SEO and PPC have been crucial tactics for quite a while, and, while Google Shopping is newer, it’s clearly very established. What’s new in these three areas?
Search engine marketing has been around since the late 90s and was adopted by the larger retailers. At that time, not too many people were using search engines to find products and services. Flash forward to today and 81% of people research online before they buy. So, in today’s market, most retailers and merchants are focusing on it on some degree; but to say it’s important is an understatement for retailers and online merchants.
While SEM is constantly changing, for the most part, the large objective has been the same since the late 90s. For SEO, you still want to focus on creating the best customer experience on your website so that Google will place you higher in the SERPs. For PPC, you want to be focusing on advertising to someone when they are looking to buy, not research. As I alluded to above, 81% of people research online before they buy, which means you could be buying a lot of clicks and spending a lot of money for someone who is just doing research. Focusing on the long-tailed approach, below, is the best course of action for PPC.
What is new in the industry is fairly groundbreaking. I did this study about a company called Fashionnova.com. If you don’t have time to read the whole study, I’ll summarize it for you. Basically, they were able to outrank these gigantic brands and go from 5,000 keywords in Google to 83,5000 in a little over a year. It was the largest jump that I have ever seen, and we looked into everything to find out how they ranked so much higher than everyone else.
We found that their backlink profile was worse than their competitors, their on-page efforts were poor, and, from a traditional SEO perspective, they weren’t really doing anything right. What we did find was they had more than 6.3 million Instagram followers, and their Alexa score said they had a 21% lower bounce rate and a 4-minute more on-site time. Basically, Google was placing them higher because consumers were interacting positively with Fashionnova.com. While it was confusing from a traditional SEO viewpoint, it makes sense—Google wants to put the best listings, with which people have a positive interaction, in the SERPs.
This shows us that the new thing regarding SEO is to focus on the customer experience and try to ensure that users click on your organic listings, don’t bounce back to the SERPs, and then stay on your site longer. This will help it rank higher in the organic search engine results.
When it comes to PPC, there are constant changes when it comes to best strategies and tactics. Recently, Google implemented expanded text ads, so merchants are still recovering from that. However, the biggest shift in the industry has been Google Shopping. Today, Google is placing Google Shopping results on almost every single eCommerce-related search. Google loves to make money, so, of course, they are going to be slipping in their ads wherever possible. This means that retailers and merchants really need to be focusing on Google Shopping optimization.
How you optimize your Google Shopping campaign is really on a case by case basis, but using SKU multiplications has been working very well for retailers. I would definitely say that everyone is getting better results with Google Shopping. Most retailers aren’t just plugging their Google Shopping campaigns into AdWords, anymore. They are doing data optimization, so, if you aren’t correctly optimizing your Google Shopping product feed, you can quickly be outpaced by your competition and miss out on a key part of your marketing mix.
3. How do Google Shopping and ecommerce SEO and PPC relate to and support each other?
That’s a great question. A lot of people think of the three as completely separate disciplines, and, while they are distinct, they work best together. If you are doing SEO, then it is highly recommended to use PPC data, in some regard, to help your SEO campaign. It could be using high-converting keywords to focus with on page optimization or to better understand trends, seasonality, or more.
While most people consider Google Shopping and PPC to be very similar, Google Shopping is almost more a mix of SEO and PPC. You can’t tell Google what you want to show up for when someone searches. You are at Google’s mercy because they decide where to place you in the Shopping results, based on the information your product feed provides them.
We are seeing this renaissance, where PPC professionals are starting to learn basic SEO on-page optimization tactics in order to optimize product feeds to get better performance. The lines between the three are becoming more blurred and assimilated. But, overall, it is important to remember that they are separate entities and becoming a master in all three can be very difficult.
4. How is bidding on Google Shopping different from PPC ad bidding?
Google Shopping is similar to PPC when it comes to bidding, but the biggest difference is that you cannot choose what you show up for, compared to PPC, where you have much more control over where your ad is served. A very good strategy to use for Google Shopping is to break up your products into product “buckets” or groups. The idea is that you use software or manually break up your products into similar groups. You can also add negative keywords to eliminate advertising spend in your Google Shopping campaigns.
This is not a perfect science, but it is the best we have right now. Another item to do is really dig into your product titles and descriptions in your product feed. You can use a software management tool to help you optimize this data dynamically, to either show up for more search queries or more accurate ones.
Google crawls your product titles and descriptions so make sure that they are accurate. Otherwise, you might show up for a bunch of unrelated searches. For example, you might have an American Flag design Arm Brace as a product. You might end up showing up for unrelated searches such as “arm casts” or “American flags.” You can see how Google might think this is good, but we would not think those three are relevant at all.
5. What should sellers be doing to optimize their product feeds?
I alluded to a lot of the tactics above, but the main three right now are below:
- Title and Description Optimization – Optimize your titles and descriptions dynamically or statically in order to show up for more searches.
- SKU Multiplication – Expand your product feed, and take your products and multiply them to change the titles and description in order to rank for different phrases. You can do this one by one, but I would highly suggest using a software program to do this to save time.
- Negative Mining – Continue to add negative keywords to your product buckets so that you stop showing up for useless keyword phrases which make no sense for your campaigns. Using software, you can do this dynamically and easier; however, manually is fine in some situations.
By doing this, you can definitely gain an advantage over your competitors.
6. What are some of the differences between the major ecommerce platforms and how they affect sellers’ SEO tactics?
In my opinion, the big three platforms for retailers and online merchants are Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento. There are bigger ones for larger retailers, i.e., Demandware, but I find these three are the most common. When you really dig into the platforms, none of them really own a competitive advantage over each other. They are all fantastic platforms. It really just depends on the merchant and the needs they have. The same can be said when it comes to SEO—they are all great. Shopify uses a “collections” category page that you have to adopt, but, other than that, it is very solid.
In reality, they are all fantastic, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Outside of those three, you can get into a lot of problems with other eCommerce platforms, like site structure, canonical tags, and more. But, in general, platforms have taken a huge step forward in the past three years.
7. What are some overlooked best practices for ecommerce SEO?
Everyone tends to focus on one of the most important factors in Google, which is content, but no one really focuses on the other two—links and RankBrain, which have the biggest opportunities for retailers and merchants. We are going to see a huge shift in the industry, to those two ranking factors, and more people adopting link building again.
It seems like a lot of people tried to write off link building, but it is coming back into play, and the retailers that invest in it are winning big. Also, in the future, RankBrain is going to become larger, and more merchants will focus on it once we understand more about it and how to optimize for it.
8. What about PPC–what are some important tips to remember?
PPC can be time-consuming and frustrating, but my biggest tip is just to not give up on it. A lot of the times you are just buying customers, so the return can be poor. Remember, if you acquire a customer through PPC, calculate the lifetime value of that customer, and then estimate your returns. Otherwise, it will look very unprofitable, and you might give up on it while your competitors are buying customers and growing their businesses.
9. What are some typical challenges for your clients and how do you address them?
Unfortunately, no one ever comes to us when things are going well. The largest problems we solve are usually:
- Organic search engine rankings are decreasing
- Search engine traffic and sales are decreasing
- Changing agency vendors due to performance
- Some sort of Google penalty
There are even more than that, but those are the main challenges. Our job is to correct the ship and get it back on the course of profitable growth with search engine marketing!
10. If anyone has questions, whom should they contact?
Feel free to email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org––I would love to help however I can!