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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.

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.

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.

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.

  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.”

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:

  • 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.

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:

  • 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/

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

See How My Agency Can Drive Massive Amounts of Traffic to Your Website

  • SEO – unlock massive amounts of SEO traffic. See real results.
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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

​​

via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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