This post was written by: Chelsea Tyler, Chad Gingrich, John Alexander, & Kurtis Nysmith
Online shoppers are savvier than ever these days. Ecommerce giants have paved the way for customer expectations with lightning-fast site speeds, clean user experiences, and super simple checkout processes. Of course, digital marketers know that under the surface of that online purchase, there is so much being optimized and updated to ensure that customers not only can make that purchase with ease but can also find the product they’re looking for on your site amidst a sea of competing options.
Not every ecommerce business has a wealth of web developers, designers, paid media masters, and SEO experts at their disposal. For those who have resource constraints or who have hit a point of diminishing returns for their online shop, it may be time to consider hiring outside support. What sort of considerations should digital marketers make when searching for agency or practitioner support for their efforts? In this post, some of our best ecommerce minds share their advice on what considerations companies should make in seeking help growing their online business.
How do I develop my ecommerce marketing strategy?
For most digital marketers working for an ecommerce business, the question in focus will be, “How do I attract more qualified buyers to my site and products?” While acquiring new customers is an obvious way to grow your business, it is important to think about where you stand in the context of the entire search landscape if you want to build a long-lasting strategy. Essentially, focusing on customer acquisition before concerning yourself with the foundation of the site will cause you to make mistakes or pour energy into efforts that may not actually maximize your conversion. Your strategy will depend heavily on the type of industry you are in, the price of your product, the authority of your brand, and several other factors.
💡 When developing a strategy for your ecommerce site, use the following question as your north star: “How can I make it easier for someone to find what they are looking for and complete a transaction?” 💡
If you are in a highly competitive product space or if your products cost more than the average of everything else that’s available online, you may need to first focus your time on the unique value proposition you bring to market and building top-of-funnel, educational content. If you are competing with enormous online brands that have a lot of awareness, the key will be to dig into user research to see if there are any new angles or queries that fit your brand and that you can work to optimize for. Bringing in an agency with ecommerce experience that can think of your business goals in the context of what is already available online can serve as an enormous benefit as the recommendations they make will certainly vary depending on your product and market space.
If your brand and product are fairly well known and getting clicks through search isn’t necessarily an issue for you, focusing on your site’s browse experience and points of conversion can lead you to a more solid strategy. Ecommerce websites have a unique challenge (and opportunity!) of not only bringing searchers to their site but also maximizing the efficiency and ease of their experience to make the checkout as effortless as possible. What’s more, ecommerce sites usually have a far greater number of pages to optimize for search than that of traditional sites, so prioritizing those page updates according to your overarching business goals and creating scalable solutions will be key to maximizing your investment.
Site structure and hierarchy are extremely important foundational elements; category pages tend to drive the most traffic from organic search so taking browse experience, subcategories, and how users expect to engage with your products into consideration is a great strategic jumping-off point. Working on assumptions of how your users search, however, will likely lead you to make the wrong strategic decisions, so working with an agency that has the time and resources to deep dive into the data and research will help you get off on the right foot. Are there subcategories that your customers are seeking that don’t fit into a hierarchy on your site? Are searchers having trouble finding what they want and are your most popular products easiest to find? Are there specific points where your users are dropping off or leaving the purchase process? User research, competitive research, your specific site search data, and third-party heat mapping tools can help you drill deeper into these questions.
Make sure the agency partner you choose takes the time to research your product, audience, and competitors. A quality marketing strategy can not be built in a silo or in the context of marketing best practices but must consider the whole picture of the business, including more nuanced considerations like seasonality, specific challenges facing the marketplace, or the resources at your disposal.
What are some common mistakes digital marketers make with ecommerce sites?
Hiring an ecommerce marketing agency is a great way to mitigate risk and avoid common pitfalls on your own website. When choosing an agency partner, be sure to inquire about the variety and breadth of their experience with different sizes and types of ecommerce businesses as the more varied situations they’ve come across, the more likely they are to be able to help with your unique business needs.
Many ecommerce businesses make strategic errors within the following areas:
- Unoptimized product descriptions based on search behaviors
- Making assumptions about the target keyword set
- Neglecting useful imagery of products or not understanding what their audience wants from product imagery
- Lack of streamlined UX in the product search or checkout process
- Issues with crawl budget, page speed, and canonical tags – particularly with large sites
- Ignoring more nuanced KPIs that may not seem directly tied to revenue goals, but can have an impact on them (i.e. strategy around out-of-stock products, no suggested product strategy to increase average purchase size, etc.)
Another common mindset for ecommerce marketers, and one that we often see at Seer, is the desire to optimize for every single product available on their site. While this desire is understandable, it is often beneficial to have a partner who is thinking about the profit margins tied to the product so that you can prioritize your efforts accordingly. Margin data is extremely important to refine the strategy as sometimes pouring resources into keyword rankings for lower-margin products is not the best path forward. If your marketing agency partner isn’t asking about product pricing, profit margins, and business revenue goals, you may want to reconsider your options. Of course, for some newer brands, the profit margin will not be as important as the brand visibility, so having an agency that can look at the data holistically and make those recommendations for your specific business is essential. In these cases, you’ll want to vet your marketing partner for expertise within third party marketplace recommendations and their ability to speak to where your products should be listed outside of your own website.
What’s more, your agency partner shouldn’t simply be asking you for your target keyword set as optimizing for this list is often based on assumption. Ideally, your agency partner would perform thorough keyword and search landscape research to identify strategic keyword sets that will affect your bottom line and avoid any “losing fights” where optimization efforts would be a waste of resources.
What marketing channels or services should I prioritize for my ecommerce business?
Like any good SEO question, the answer to the above would be “it depends!” Ecommerce sites have so many things to consider in their optimization efforts and sometimes knowing where to put your resources is dependent on knowing where the friction or drop-off points are for your users. If your agency partner offers a multifaceted health check of your website, this is a great place to start in order to uncover any overlooked opportunities and learn what types of marketing channels or services need to be prioritized in order to move forward with your goals.
At Seer, we use an Ecommerce Foundational Audit that considers multiple features of ecommerce websites to make sure that they are meeting the minimum threshold of expectation for success, whether the site has 5 or 50,000 products.
Ideally, your agency partner will have capabilities with multiple service lines, including technical SEO, holistic SEO, paid media, UX/UI, and conversion rate optimization as these are top considerations for ecommerce sites. A well-rounded strategy inclusive of all these service lines will ensure that no opportunities go unnoticed and resources aren’t wasted; the interplay of channels tends to complement each other and compound results.
For instance, an SEO agency should always take into account your paid ads data in order to make the most of what can be learned from historical performance. Google Ads has several campaign types that are built specifically for ecommerce, but the power of these campaigns is only as good as your conversion tracking can be trusted. At Seer, we always audit your analytics environment before making recommendations around strategic changes – this ensures that attribution can be trusted as results are monitored.
💡 Never look at paid ad campaigns as a “set and forget” solution. Proactive monitoring and testing is the best way to maximize results, prevent performance drops, and capture new opportunities. 💡
At the onset of all of this is a thorough technical SEO audit – all of the best SEO and UX practices will be a waste of resources if your site isn’t built with search crawlers and indexing in mind! Given the size of most ecommerce sites, a full architecture audit can be a daunting process, so this is a great place to begin your relationship with an agency partner. Make sure you have a good understanding of how hands-on and consultative your support partner is during the audit process – depending on the development resources you have in-house, you may need the agency to provide code snippets, ad hoc support, or QA hours after implementation. At a minimum, your partner should be able to help you manage the project so that critical fixes get prioritized and other fixes are weighted according to site impact.
- The right agency partner can help your ecommerce business prioritize scalable initiatives that match up with your goals
- No two ecommerce websites are the same and “best practices” should be delivered in the context of your product and market landscape.
- An ecommerce marketing strategy can not be delivered in a silo – a holistic approach that leverages insights from user and search landscape data is the best way to maximize your investment.
Want to hear how Seer would approach strategic opportunities for your specific ecommerce site? Contact us to speak with a member of our team and learn more!