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The Ultimate Guide to SEO for E-commerce Websites

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the ultimate guide to seo for e commerce websites

If you’re retailing products and want to reach the widest audience possible, having a well-optimized e-commerce website is an absolute must.

Why? Well, there are several benefits.

A great e-commerce website helps you understand the basics about your customers, for example, demographics like their locations, age groups, and how they found you.

By using tracking, you can then use your visitor’s information for behavior analysis to get to know them even better.

An e-commerce website does more than this, though. It can also help you understand where things are going wrong. For example, which traffic sources don’t work, which offers don’t appeal, and cart abandonment issues and their potential causes.

Of course, the more obvious reason you would want to have your site fully optimized: the growth of e-commerce worldwide. Year on year, e-commerce keeps growing, and this pattern looks like it will continue.

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If you’re already online, that’s great. However, you risk remaining invisible to fresh prospects and new leads if you don’t take proactive steps to increase visibility.

How do you do that? It’s simple enough: with SEO for e-commerce.

What Is SEO for E-Commerce?

SEO for e-commerce is a strategy that helps web retailers rank higher in search engine results. A well-designed and optimized website with high-quality content will rank better in search engines such as Google, increasing your store’s visibility and driving traffic.

In other words, SEO for e-commerce concentrates on optimizing your site, which makes it easier to get leads and conversions.

However, unlike SEO for content-focused websites, SEO for e-commerce is more than just adding keywords, writing blog posts, and gaining links. You need to understand how search engines work and what they reward.

That means having a working knowledge of SEO for e-commerce, considering Google’s guidelines, analyzing buyer intent, and implementing it strategically.

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E-Commerce SEO Best Practices

E-commerce for SEO is a complex field, and with millions of online retail sites in existence, it’s not always easy to make your site stand out.

While it might seem like a huge challenge to build your SEO rankings, you can make a positive start by applying some best practices. In time, this increases your chances of visibility and gaining more organic leads and customers.

For the unfamiliar, what do best practices for SEO for e-commerce look like? Well, you could start by addressing fundamentals like:

  • navigation
  • internal links
  • avoiding clutter
  • creating unique content
  • including alt text for images

However, there’s far more you can do. Below, explore our list of SEO for e-commerce best practices you can implement today.

1. Perform Keyword Research the Right Way

There are many different ways to optimize your e-commerce site, and not every approach is suitable for every site or product. However, some guidelines apply to every online retailer, and one of them is performing keyword research correctly.

Yes, you want the most relevant and popular keywords in your industry, but you must also understand buyer intent.

Keyword intent is the intention behind a search query. You can identify it by looking at the specific phrases and terms people use when looking for an item online.

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There are two main types of keyword intent you see most often.

Informational Keyword Intent

Informational keyword intent is used in SEO to describe the type of information the searcher is looking for.

These types of searches usually consist of:

  • How tos: These are searches that contain questions such as “how do I?”
  • Direct purchase: These involve searches with keywords like “buy this.”
  • Factual queries: These use words such as “fact” and “information” when a searcher wants more details about a subject.

Commercial Keyword Intent

Commercial keyword intent is when people are looking for information to help them make a purchase. This means that they want to find what they need and buy it as fast as possible.

Consumers typically use commercial keyword intents when they know what they want but don’t know where to find it yet. You see this when you’re typing specific terms into Google like “buy digital camera” or “find new laptop deals.”

Commercial keyword users typically have more intent to purchase and are less likely to search for information about the product or service than just researching where to find it.

Determining Keyword Intent

Deciding consumers’ keyword intent seems challenging, but you can make it easier on yourself. For example, AgencyAnalytics breaks it down into stages.

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  1. Analyzing SERPs: Pay special attention to paid ads, knowledge graph results, and organic listings.
  2. Look at Google ads for commercial intent: Seeing bid prices for keywords gives an idea of how competitive keywords are.
  3. Review your analytics: Look for content with high bounce rates as it may mean it doesn’t match with searcher intent.

You could also use keyword tools like Google’s keyword planner. Others you can try include:

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a free online tool that can find long-tail and related words to any topic or keyword, or you can opt for the paid version.

This tool is great for content writers, bloggers, copywriters, and marketers who want to generate new content ideas or find out what users are searching for about a given topic.

Features include:

  • backlink data
  • rank tracking
  • site audit reports

Backlink Data

To see what backlinks you are getting from other sites, go to the backlink analyzer under SEO Explorer. This can help you see who is already a fan and what related sites you can target for more linkbuilding.

Backlink analyzer example

Rank Tracking

See how you rank in organic SERPs for your target keywords with Ubersuggest rank tracking. That way, you can see how you have improved over time. This is under Dashboard on the left side.

SEO for ecommerce tracked keywords example

Site Audit

Run a site audit to track what issues need to be fixed on your site that could be affecting user experience and organic traffic. Think of the audit as a starting point, then review it regularly to make sure you’re fixing other issues. This is under the SEO Analyzer section. One the audit has run, it will tell you your top SEO issues and how to fix them.

SEO for ecommerce: site audit SEO issues example in ubersuggest

It also has a free chrome extension to do keyword research while you’re conducting Google or YouTube searches.

Answer the Public

Answer the Public is a great tool. It lets you uncover what people all over the world are curious about and going through.

Answer the Public is intuitive, too. Just enter your keyword on the homepage to understand precisely what people are asking. It can also help you find which topics are most popular at any given time, which might be helpful as another tool for keyword research. However, if you want further guidance, there’s a set of tutorials available.

It’s free to use, but you can upgrade to pro for more features. The following example uses “multivitamins.”

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Guide to SEO for E-commerce - Perform Keyword Research the Right Way (Answer the Public Image Search)

The results give a detailed picture of the kind of questions people are asking and give a better idea of intent.

2. Optimize Product Pages to Improve Ranking

If you want to attract and acquire new customers, look at your on-page user optimization. It matters because it gets your site a higher rank, meaning fresh streams of organic traffic and more conversions.

Not every area of your e-commerce site needs optimizing, so in this section, let’s focus on the ones that matter most to online retailers: product descriptions, images, and reviews.

Optimize Your Product Descriptions

A product page is interesting because it has a lot of different features that all need attention. You also want a few things to stand out from the page to gain visitors’ engagement and get them to click through.

To begin optimizing your e-commerce product pages, you need to keep in mind three key aspects:

  1. What are the most crucial things on the page?
  2. How can you maximize visibility and impact with these elements?
  3. How can you use this information to improve your product description’s effectiveness?

Now, start looking at what you can do to maximize the impact of your product descriptions. This could be things like.

  • adding multiple, high-quality, unique images
  • including keywords
  • including detailed, keyword-rich descriptions
  • adding calls to action (CTAs)
  • including testimonials

Optimize Your Images

A sometimes neglected area of SEO for e-commerce is images. Photos are an excellent way to communicate a message and draw in an audience. However, they can also distract people from the message you are trying to convey, so be careful not to use too many images and crowd your descriptions.

Although quality images are vital to show your goods at their best, there’s more to it than that. Optimizing your images for SEO will give you higher search engine rankings and more traffic from potential customers and may gain you traffic from social media channels.

Here are some pointers for optimizing your images:

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  • Choose suitable images for your platform. Your host usually specifies optimal image sizes and other image guidelines.
  • Provide captions with alt tags for pictures.
  • Use the right keywords in file names.

Feature Reviews

Reviews provide a snippet of information that helps shoppers weigh whether to go with a particular product or store.

Reviews are vital for success in e-commerce as so many people rely on them. Additionally, they help you build trust with your potential customers and improve conversion rates.

You can encourage customers to leave reviews by sending automated messages whenever they purchase. You can also set up email campaigns to send out reminders or offers once they have left a review on your site.

Before moving on, here are more optimization tips:

  • Use canonical tags to link duplicate product pages and similar group products together.
  • Create a well-written page that includes the necessary information about the product, an image of the product, and a video of it in action.
  • Include at least one CTA on your product page. For example, “Add To Cart” or “Check Availability.”
  • Make sure you include shipping details and policies upfront so customers know what they’re paying from the start.

3. Make Sure Your Site Is User Friendly

UX stands for user experience. You can enhance UX by good design, making the aesthetics more visually appealing.

However, it’s not just about making a website look good; it’s about making it work well. UX includes everything from navigation, ease of use, and the overall “feel” of the website.

UX is also about making sure people can find what they are looking for, keeping them engaged while browsing, and giving visitors the best experience possible.

You may not think that UX affects SEO, but the interaction between the two began some years ago, and UX is also imperative for discoverability.

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Additionally, recent changes mean that UX is soon to be a Google ranking factor. According to Search Engine Land, that means if Google thinks your website offers visitors a bad experience, it may rank lower. Google measures the new ranking with “Core Web Vitals” and has set out its guidelines online.

Many things can influence UX, but a few key factors are apparent:

  • Ads shouldn’t interfere with the user’s view of content.
  • Your site should load quickly and be mobile-friendly.
  • Any website should be clutter-free and easy to navigate.
  • You should include CTAs, so customers know what to do next.

Finally, use consistent styling throughout, and make it accessible.

4. Don’t Forget Long-Tail Keywords

You usually see long-tail keywords on the right side of a search engine results page (SERP).

A long-tail keyword is a term that typically has low search volume but still meets the criteria for relevancy to your business. They also tend to convert well because they’re a better match for what the searcher is looking for, and they typically give higher traffic.

For those reasons, you shouldn’t be afraid to rank for long-tail keywords because they’re a valuable source of traffic.

Long-tail keywords are great for:

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  • competitive niches
  • increased conversion rates
  • ranking new sites more easily

You can find long-tail keywords by using Google’s “People also ask” or use a free keyword tool like Ubersuggest. There are plenty of other tools available too.

The following example uses Wordtracker, where the search for “dumbells” delivered this:

E-Commerce SEO Best Practices - Use Long-tail keywords

As you can see, they give you a firm idea of what your customer is looking for and of their intentions.

5. Use a Simple URL Structure

There are more detailed guides on URL structures, but this section gives you the basics.

A simple URL structure not only enhances the user experience but also improves your SEO e-commerce efforts to some extent.

Additionally, when your e-commerce site has a simple URL structure, it’s easier to share products on social media and other websites, and it can improve SEO for e-commerce as it provides more relevant data for search engines.

For the best results, URLs should be as readable and understandable as possible.

For instance, here’s an example of what NOT to do: https://www.example.com/article-about-hiking/

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It would be much better to use this URL structure: https://www.example.com/hiking-articles

Google also has some advice on improving URL structure.

Additionally, you can:

Use Keywords

Search engines scan the URL and use the keywords in the URL to determine where that page should rank in the SERPs. The keywords in the URL are called “metatags” and help tell search engines what the content or topic of that page is.

That’s why you must spend some time thinking about your keywords before deciding on a URL structure.

When people search for your business online, they often type in the precise words they’re looking for. As an example, a person may type in “online shoe store” into a search engine.

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Therefore, when someone types in “online shoe store,” it’s crucial those words are somewhere in your URL structure.

Use Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a navigational tool. They allow website visitors to retrace previous steps and return to where they started. Breadcrumbs are not just a usability technique but also provide additional SEO benefits.

For example, if you visit a blog post from your main homepage, the breadcrumb for that post would be “Home > Blog > This Post.”

You find breadcrumbs in many web design tools, and you can add them by using markup tags or via JavaScript.

Avoid Stop Words

Common stop words are “the,” “and,” “of,” and “a.”

Stop words can decrease your content’s readability and may lower your SEO rankings.

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In addition, stop words are less likely to hold a reader’s interest. By removing these words from your website, you can use those spaces for more creative and relevant copy.

6. Use Schema Markups to Help Google and Users Understand Content

Schema markups are HTML tags that provide additional information about the content on web pages. By using these markups, it can improve your SEO for e-commerce efforts.

When you use schema markup, it produces rich snippets. These are a way for search engines to show more information about specific items in the search results.

They also help people find what they are looking for faster and easier by showing different types of information.

There are many different types of rich snippets, such as:

E-Commerce SEO Best Practices - Use Schema Markups

The kinds of e-commerce schema are:

  • Product schema: This is an extension for products, services, and organizations. It enables discovering new products and services in web search queries by providing rich product information such as images, price, and availability. Product schema also allows the display of product ads on the SERPs.
  • Review schema: This enables online reviews. The author and title filters allow you to find specific people who have written reviews on your website or blog post and for searchers to find product reviews.
  • Product availability schema: The product availability schema is a list of products that are available to purchase. It can be a single page, or it can be within an online store. Such lists typically detail the product name, description, price, images, and variants.
  • Video schema: Video schema is a type of metadata used to describe the content and format. For example, video schema may include the audio language, video resolution, or age rating of the video.
  • Price schema: Price schema is a technique for the pricing of products or a price range.

7. Avoid Duplicate Pages and Content

Have you ever visited a website and got the feeling you’ve read it all somewhere before? That’s all too common with production descriptions and category descriptions when online retailers use duplicate product catalogs and images.

It’s understandable why e-commerce sellers just republish the same descriptions. Usually, it’s simply because they don’t have the resources to produce fresh content themselves.

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However, even if you don’t have time to rewrite everything, you can still significantly reduce the amount of duplication on your site in product descriptions and other areas.

For instance, by

  • using a CMS with site-wide 301 redirects or adding canonical tags on every page that you know might have duplicates (pages with similar titles, pages that share an identical URL, etc.)
  • adding a suffix to the URL
  • using different product images
  • adding unique keywords on other pages

8. Don’t Let Page Speed Kill Your Ranking

Website page speed loading time is the measurement of how long it takes for an internet user to open a web page. You can measure it by adding up the time to download all the non-hidden assets, such as images, scripts, and stylesheets.

Page speed is a ranking factor, and survey after survey shows consumers aren’t willing to wait around while a site loads.

Web-users say their ideal site speed is just two seconds, but the faster, the better. If you’re not sure about your current speeds, you can test it at Cloudflare or try Google’s tool.

What should you do if your site is too slow? First, you need to find the reason. It could be:

  • Your site simply has too much content for your server to handle.
  • Too many scripts are slowing down load times.
  • Images take an excessive amount of time to load.
  • There’s a problem with your web host.

While not all e-commerce site owners can guarantee a perfect 100 percent on Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you can try and fasten load times by:

  • having fewer images on the pages
  • compressing files
  • using fewer social media widgets
  • optimizing your images
  • avoiding clutter and using plenty of white space
  • limiting redirects and HTTP requests
  • fastening your server response time

Additionally, you might want to think about changing web hosts or upgrading your hosting package to accommodate your needs better.

9. Content Does Matter for E-Commerce

E-commerce isn’t just about images and keywords. Written content should also be part of your SEO for e-commerce strategy.

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Posting regular content not only attracts organic traffic. It can gain your customers’ trust, boost your website rankings, and solidify your reputation as an expert in your niche too.

There are many types of content you can focus on:

  • sharing how-to pieces and answering FAQs
  • new product launches and anything newsworthy
  • a glossary page
  • including user-generated content (UGC)
  • testimonials and launches
  • video demonstrations and Q and As
  • webinars

For more ideas, take it a step further and get to know your audience so you understand their main concerns and problems. This allows you to write content that addresses their everyday worries and offer products that solve these.

Now you’ve got some ideas for content. However, content isn’t worthwhile without a strategy behind it. Let’s break it down:

  1. Get to know your customers better with buyer personas.
  2. Understand their preferred content. If you’re tracking your content data, you should see which content types get the most views. Additionally, you can ask customers and prospects through surveys or groups.
  3. Establish a content calendar and create the content.
  4. Publish the appropriate content for the various stages of the buying cycle.
  5. Use A/B testing in key areas like titles.
  6. Measure the results and tweak.

10. Link Building for E-Commerce

Link building is a ranking factor for SEO. Quality links tell Google that your site has credibility. Backlinks also influence how your website ranks for keywords.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But just how do you go about creating these all-important backlinks?

A few ways to do this are:

  • creating internal backlinks
  • writing guest posts
  • using social media ads
  • sharing content on social media
  • issuing press releases
  • writing blog comments and sharing on forums (if allowed)
  • creating infographics and sharing them online
  • issuing whitepapers and case studies

These are all legitimate ways to build quality links. Although they can take time, you shouldn’t take shortcuts by buying links. Some paid links violate Google’s guidelines, and if you’re buying cheap links, the quality is usually questionable. Poor quality links lead to lower SERP rankings and reduced traffic, as well as a potential negative impact on your site’s reputation.

11. Add a Sitemap

A sitemap is a visual representation of your website or digital product. It provides visitors with a bird’s eye view of the website and explores different pages.

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Your sitemap should detail all of the pages on your site, from category pages to product pages. It should also include all the subcategories, products, and other content within those sections.

You can develop a sitemap manually or use an automated tool such as Google’s Webmaster Tools to generate one. Sitemaps use both XML and HTML, although HTML sitemaps are more helpful to visitors.

Other tools for creating a sitemap are:

Lucid Sitemap Generator

The Lucid chart sitemap generator is a user-friendly tool that makes creating a sitemap for your website easy. It has many features, like adding categories and subcategories.

Powermapper

Powermapper is an easy-to-use tool for creating and updating sitemaps and allows you to generate one-click checkouts.

It’s a web-based tool with no coding expertise required. However, there is a fee.

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12. Make Social Sharing Easy

Google’s Matt Cutts once said that social sharing doesn’t impact SEO, but many would disagree.

While social media sharing may not directly affect your SEO, sharing your content on social media increases brand exposure and gets people more familiar with your business.

Further, the more mentions you get on social media, the more influence this can have on your SEO by:

  • driving organic traffic and increasing visibility
  • improving local SEO
  • expanding your content reach and enhancing brand recognition
  • increasing backlinks

If you want an easy way to increase your shares on social media, consider getting a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to automatically post content from your site across all of your social media accounts at scheduled intervals.

Frequently Asked Questions About SEO for E-Commerce

How do I Find the Right Keywords For my E-commerce Store?

There are several free resources that you can use to find keyword ideas, such as Google AdWords, Ubersuggest, and Google’s Keyword Tool. You should also look at what your competitors are using to find the best keywords for their audience.

Finally, avoid using broad keywords that generate many clicks but don’t provide much conversion value. Use long-tail keywords where you can.

How Much Does SEO for E-Commerce Cost?

The cost of SEO depends on many factors, including the number of keywords targeted, competitive landscape, and how much effort you need to optimize each page for ranking.

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It’s not easy to put a price tag on SEO because it depends on how many resources you allocate and what you want to achieve. To help you budget, Search Engine Journal provides an SEO budget calculator.

What Is SEO for E-Commerce?

SEO for e-commerce is the process of optimizing a website so that it can rank more highly in search engines. Several factors affect how well a website ranks on the SERPs, such as the quality and relevance of the content, the use of appropriate keywords to optimize the site, and the site’s load speed.

How Is SEO for E-Commerce Different?

When it comes to SEO for e-commerce, there are different areas you need to focus on, such as optimizing:

  • product pages and descriptions
  • diversifying product content and information
  • images on your website
  • your homepage

SEO for E-Commerce Conclusion

SEO for e-commerce helps boost your website visibility, brings new queries and customers, and helps build your loyal audience.

It may seem like there’s a lot to think about. However, by concentrating on the main SEO best practices and optimizing the critical areas of your website, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds.

The most important thing to remember is SEO for e-commerce doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s an ongoing strategy that requires updating as you go to get the optimum results.

What is your experience of SEO for e-commerce? Tell us below.

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 544 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 790 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing1709033181 656 Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing
  • Budget Constraints: Learn how to create impactful experiences without breaking the bank. It’s about creativity, not just expenditure.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints can be daunting. Develop a comprehensive brand guideline and train your team accordingly.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: The digital landscape is ever-changing. Stay informed about the latest trends in experience marketing and be ready to adapt your strategy as necessary.

The Path to Effortless Sales

By creating memorable experiences that resonate on a personal level, you make the path to purchase not just easy but natural. When customers feel connected to your brand, appreciated, and valued, making a sale becomes a byproduct of your relationship with them. Experience marketing, when done right, transforms transactions into interactions, customers into advocates, and products into passions.

Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategy. Are you just selling a product, or are you providing an unforgettable experience? Dive into the world of experience marketing and start creating those ‘wow’ moments that will not only distinguish your brand but also make sales feel effortless.


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The Current State of Google’s Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

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The Current State of Google's Search Generative Experience [What It Means for SEO in 2024]

SEO enthusiasts, known for naming algorithm updates after animals and embracing melodrama, find themselves in a landscape where the “adapt or die” mantra prevails. So when Google announced the launch of its Search Generative Experience (SGE) in May of 2023 at Google/IO, you can imagine the reaction was immense.

Although SGE has the potential to be a truly transformative force in the landscape, we’re still waiting for SGE to move out of the Google Labs Sandbox and integrate into standard search results. 

Curious about our current take on SGE and its potential impact on SEO in the future? Read on for more.

Decoding Google’s Defensive Move

In response to potential threats from competitors like ChatGPT, Bing, TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, Google introduced SGE as a defensive maneuver. However, its initial beta release raised questions about its readiness and global deployment.

ChatGPT provided an existential threat that had the potential to eat into Google’s market share. When Bing started incorporating it into its search results, it was one of the most significant wins for Bing in a decade. In combination with threats from TikTok, Reddit, and Amazon, we see a more fractured search landscape less dominated by Google. Upon its launch, the expectation was that Google would push its SGE solution globally, impact most queries, and massively shake up organic search results and strategies to improve organic visibility.

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Now, industry leaders are starting to question if Google is better off leaving SGE in the testing ground in Google labs. According to Google’s recent update, it appears that SGE will remain an opt-in experience in Google Labs (for at least the short term). If SGE was released, there could be a fundamental reset in understanding SEO. Everything from organic traffic to optimization tactics to tracking tools would need adjustments for the new experience. Therefore, the prospect of SGE staying in Google Labs is comforting if not entirely reliable. 

The ever-present option is that Google can change its mind at any point and push SGE out broadly as part of its standard search experience. For this reason, we see value in learning from our observations with SGE and continuing to stay on top of the experience.

SGE User Experience and Operational Challenges

If you’ve signed up for search labs and have been experimenting with SGE for a while, you know firsthand there are various issues that Google should address before rolling it out broadly to the public.

At a high level, these issues fall into two broad categories including user experience issues and operational issues.

Below are some significant issues we’ve come across, with Google making notable progress in addressing certain ones, while others still require improvement:

  • Load time – Too many AI-generated answers take longer to load than a user is willing to wait. Google recommends less than a 3-second load time to meet expectations. They’ll need to figure out how to consistently return results quickly if they want to see a higher adoption rate.
  • Layout – The SGE layout is massive. We believe any major rollout will be more streamlined to make it a less intrusive experience for users and allow more visibility for ads, and if we’re lucky, organic results. Unfortunately, there is still a decent chance that organic results will move below the fold, especially on mobile devices. Recently, Google has incorporated more results where users are prompted to generate the AI result if they’d like to see it. The hope is Google makes this the default in the event of a broad rollout where users can generate an AI result if they want one instead of assuming that’s what a user would like to see. 
  • Redundancy – The AI result duplicates features from the map pack and quick answer results. 
  • Attribution – Due to user feedback, Google includes sources on several of their AI-powered overviews where you can see relevant web pages if there is an arrow next to the result. Currently, the best way to appear as one of these relevant pages is to be one of the top-ranked results, which is convenient from an optimization standpoint. Changes to how attribution and sourcing are handled could heavily impact organic strategies. 

 

On the operational side, Google also faces significant hurdles to making SGE a viable product for its traditional search product. The biggest obstacle appears to be making the cost associated with the technology worth the business outcomes it provides. If this was a necessary investment to maintain market share, Google might be willing to eat the cost, but if their current position is relatively stable, Google doesn’t have much of an incentive to take on the additional cost burden of heavily leveraging generative AI while also presumably taking a hit to their ad revenue. Especially since slow user adoption doesn’t indicate this is something users are demanding at the moment.

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While the current experience of SGE is including ads above the generative results now, the earliest iterations didn’t heavily feature sponsored ads. While they are now included, the current SGE layout would still significantly disrupt the ad experience we’re used to. During the Google I/O announcement, they made a statement to reassure advertisers they would be mindful of maintaining a distinct ad experience in search.  

“In this new generative experience, Search ads will continue to appear in dedicated ad slots throughout the page. And we’ll continue to uphold our commitment to ads transparency and making sure ads are distinguishable from organic search results” – Elizabeth Reid, VP, Search at Google

Google is trying to thread a delicate needle here of staying on the cutting edge with their search features, while trying not to upset their advertisers and needlessly hinder their own revenue stream. Roger Montti details more of the operational issues in a recent article digging into the surprising reasons SGE is stuck in Google Labs.

He lists three big problems that need to be solved before SGE will be integrated into the foreground of search:

  1. Large Language Models being inadequate as an information retrieval system
  2. The inefficiency and cost of transformer architecture
  3. Hallucinating (providing inaccurate answers)

 

Until SGE provides more user value and checks more boxes on the business sense side, the traditional search experience is here to stay. Unfortunately, we don’t know when or if Google will ever feel confident they’ve addressed all of these concerns, so we’ll need to stay prepared for change.

Experts Chime in on Search Generative Experience

Our team has been actively engaging with SGE, here’s a closer look at their thoughts and opinions on the experience so far:

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“With SGE still in its early stages, I’ve noticed consistent changes in how the generative results are produced and weaved naturally into the SERPs. Because of this, I feel it is imperative to stay on top of these on-going changes to ensure we can continue to educate our clients on what to expect when SGE is officially incorporated into our everyday lives. Although an official launch date is currently unknown, I believe proactively testing various prompt types and recording our learnings is important to prepare our clients for this next evolution of Google search.” – Jon Pagano, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

“It’s been exciting to watch SGE grow through different variations over the last year, but like other AI solutions its potential still outweighs its functionality and usefulness. What’s interesting to see is that SGE doesn’t just cite its sources of information, but also provides an enhanced preview of each webpage referenced. This presents a unique organic opportunity where previously untouchable top 10 rankings are far more accessible to the average website. Time will tell what the top ranking factors for SGE are, but verifiable content with strong E-E-A-T signals will be imperative. –Kate Fischer, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“Traditionally, AI tools were very good at analytical tasks. With the rise of ChatGPT, users can have long-form, multi-question conversations not yet available in search results. When, not if, released, Google’s Generative Experience will transform how we view AI and search. Because there are so many unknowns, some of the most impactful ways we prepare our clients are to discover and develop SEO strategies that AI tools can’t directly disrupt, like mid to low funnel content.” – Brandon Miller, SEO Specialist at Tinuiti

“SGE is going to make a huge impact on the ecommerce industry by changing the way users interact with the search results. Improved shopping experience will allow users to compare products, price match, and read reviews in order to make it quicker and easier for a user to find the best deals and purchase. Although this leads to more competitive results, it also improves organic visibility and expands our product reach. It is more important than ever to ensure all elements of a page are uniquely and specifically optimized for search. With the SGE updates expected to continue to impact search results, the best way to stay ahead is by focusing on strong user focused content and detailed product page optimizations.”  – Kellie Daley, SEO Sr. Specialist at Tinuiti

Navigating the Clash of Trends

One of the most interesting aspects of the generative AI trend in search is that it appears to be in direct opposition to other recent trends.

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One of the ways Google has historically evaluated the efficacy of its search ranking systems is through the manual review of quality raters. In their quality rater guidelines, raters were instructed to review for things like expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) in results to determine if Google results are providing users the information they deserve. 

In 2022, Google updated their search guidelines to include another ‘e’ in the form of experience (EEAT). In their words, Google wanted to better assess if the content a user was consuming was created by someone with, “a degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person has experienced. There are some situations where really what you value most is content produced by someone who has firsthand, life experience on the topic at hand.” 

Generative AI results, while cutting-edge technology and wildly impressive in some cases, stand in direct opposition to the principles of E-E-A-T. That’s not to say that there’s no room for both in search, but Google will have to determine what it thinks users value more between these competing trends. The slow adoption of SGE could be an indication that a preference for human experience, expertise, authority, and trust is winning round one in this fight. 

Along these lines, Google is also diversifying its search results to cater to the format in which users get their information. This takes the form of their Perspectives Filter. Also announced at Google I/O 2023, the perspectives filter incorporates more video, image, and discussion board posts from places like TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and Quora. Once again, this trend shows the emphasis and value searchers place on experience and perspective. Users value individual experience over the impersonal conveyance of information. AI will never have these two things, even if it can provide a convincing imitation.

The current iteration of SGE seems to go too far in dismissing these trends in favor of generative AI. It’s an interesting challenge Google faces. If they don’t determine the prevailing trend correctly, veering too far in one direction can push more market share to ChatGPT or platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

Final Thoughts

The range of outcomes remains broad and fascinating for SGE. We can see this developing in different ways, and prognostication offers little value, but it’s invaluable to know the potential outcomes and prepare for as many of them as possible.

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It’s critical that you or your search agency be interacting and experimenting with SGE because:

  • The format and results will most likely continue to see significant changes
  • This space moves quickly and it’s easy to fall behind
  • Google may fix all of the issues with SGE and decide to push it live, changing the landscape of search overnight
  • SGE experiments could inform other AI elements incorporated into the search experience

 

Ultimately, optimizing for the specific SGE experience we see now is less important because we know it will inevitably continue changing. We see more value in recognizing the trends and problems Google is trying to solve with this technology. With how quickly this space moves, any specifics mentioned in this article could be outdated in a week. That’s why focusing on intention and process is important at this stage of the game.

By understanding the future needs and wants SGE is attempting to address, we can help you future-proof your search strategies as much as possible. To some extent we’re always at the whims of the algorithm, but by maintaining a user-centric approach, you can make your customers happy, regardless of how they find you.

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Here’s Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

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Here's Optimizely’s Automatic Sample Ratio Mismatch Detection

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic sample ratio mismatch (SRM) detection delivers peace of mind to experimenters. It reduces a user’s exposure time to bad experiences by rapidly detecting any experiment deterioration.

This deterioration is caused by unexpected imbalances of visitors to a variation in an experiment. Most importantly, this auto SRM detection empowers product managers, marketers, engineers, and experimentation teams to confidently launch more experiments. 

How Optimizely Experiment’s stats engine and automatic sample rate mismatch detection work together

The sample ratio mismatch actslike the bouncer at the door who has a mechanical counter, checking guests’ tickets (users) and telling them which room they get to party in.

Stats engine is like the party host who is always checking the vibes (behavior) of the guests as people come into the room.

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If SRM does its job right, then stats engine can confidently tell which party room is better and direct more traffic to the winning variation (the better party) sooner.

Why would I want Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection?

It’s equally important to ensure Optimizely Experiment users know their experiment results are trustworthy and have the tools to understand what an imbalance can mean for their results and how to prevent it.

Uniquely, Optimizely Experiment goes further by combining the power of automatic visitor imbalance detection with an insightful experiment health indicator. This experiment health indicator plays double duty by letting our customers know when all is well and there is no imbalance present.

Then, when just-in-time insight is needed to protect your business decisions, Optimizely also delivers just-in-time alerts that help our customers recognize the severity of, diagnose, and recover from errors.

Why should I care about sample ratio mismatch (SRM)?

Just like a fever is a symptom of many illnesses, a SRM is a symptom of a variety of data quality issues. Ignoring a SRM without knowing the root cause may result in a bad feature appearing to be good and being shipped out to users, or vice versa. Finding an experiment with an unknown source of traffic imbalance lets you turn it off quickly and reduce the blast radius.

Then what is the connection between a “mismatch” and “sample ratio”?

When we get ready to launch an experiment, we assign a traffic split of users for Optimizely Experiment to distribute to each variation. We expect the assigned traffic split to reasonably match up with the actual traffic split in a live experiment. An experiment is exposed to an SRM imbalance when there is a statistically significant difference between the expected and the actual assigned traffic splits of visitors to an experiment’s variations.

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1. A mismatch doesn’t mean an imperfect match

Remember: A bonified imbalance requires a statistically significant result of the difference in visitors. Don’t expect a picture-perfect, identical, exact match of the launch-day traffic split to your in-production traffic split. There will always be some ever-so-slight deviation.

Not every traffic disparity automatically signifies that an experiment is useless. Because Optimizely deeply values our customers’ time and energy, we developed a new statistical test that continuously monitors experiment results and detects harmful SRMs as early as possible. All while still controlling for crying wolf over false positives (AKA when we conclude there is a surprising difference between a test variation and the baseline when there is no real difference). 

2. Going under the hood of Optimizely Experiment’s SRM detection algorithm

Optimizely Experiment’s automatic SRM detection feature employs a sequential Bayesian multinomial test (say that 5 times fast!), named sequential sample ratio mismatch. Optimizely statisticians Michael Lindon and Alen Malek pioneered this method, and it is a new contribution to the field of Sequential Statistics. Optimizely Experiment’s sample ratio mismatch detection harmonizes sequential and Bayesian methodologies by continuously checking traffic counts and testing for any significant imbalance in a variation’s visitor counts. The algorithm’s construction is Bayesian inspired to account for an experiment’s optional stopping and continuation while delivering sequential guarantees of Type-I error probabilities.

3. Beware of chi-eap alternatives!

The most popular freely available SRM calculators employ the chi-square test. We highly recommend a careful review of the mechanics of chi-square testing. The main issue with the chi-squared method is that problems are discovered only after collecting all the data. This is arguably far too late and goes against why most clients want SRM detention in the first place. In our blog post “A better way to test for sample ratio mismatches (or why I don’t use a chi-squared test)”, we go deeper into chi-square mechanics and how what we built accounts for the gaps left behind by the alternatives.

Common causes of an SRM  

1. Redirects & Delays

A SRM usually results from some visitors closing out and leaving the page before the redirect finishes executing. Because we only send the decision events once they arrive on the page and Optimizely Experiment loads, we can’t count these visitors in our results page unless they return at some point and send an event to Optimizely Experiment.

A SRM can emerge in the case of anything that would cause Optimizely Experiment’s event calls to delay or not fire, such as variation code changes. It also occurs when redirect experiments shuttle visitors to a different domain. This occurrence is exacerbated by slow connection times.

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2. Force-bucketing

If a user first gets bucketed in the experiment and then that decision is used to force-bucket them in a subsequent experiment, then the results of that subsequent experiment will become imbalanced.

Here’s an example:

Variation A provides a wildly different user experience than Variation B.

Visitors bucketed into Variation A have a great experience, and many of them continue to log in and land into the subsequent experiment where they’re force-bucketed into Variation A.

But, visitors who were bucketed into Variation B aren’t having a good experience. Only a few users log in and land into a subsequent experiment where they will be force-bucketed into Variation B.

Well, now you have many more visitors in Variation A than in Variation B.

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3. Site has its own redirects

Some sites have their own redirects (for example, 301s) that, combined with our redirects, can result in a visitor landing on a page without the snippet. This causes pending decision events to get locked in localStorage and Optimizely Experiment never receives or counts them.

4. Hold/send events API calls are housed outside of the snippet

Some users include hold/send events in project JS. However, others include it in other scripts on the page, such as in vendor bundles or analytics tracking scripts. This represents another script that must be properly loaded for the decisions to fire appropriately. Implementation or loading rates may differ across variations, particularly in the case of redirects.

Interested?  

If you’re already an Optimizely Experiment customer and you’d like to learn more about how automatic SRM detection benefits your A/B tests, check out our knowledge base documentation:

For further details you can always reach out to your customer success manager but do take a moment to review our documentation first!

If you’re not a customer, get started with us here! 

And if you’d like to dig deeper into the engine that powers Optimizely experimentation, you can check out our page faster decisions you can trust for digital experimentation. 

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