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15 Ecommerce SEO Experts Reveal Top Insights For 2023

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15 Ecommerce SEO Experts Reveal Top Insights For 2023

Wondering how to do SEO for ecommerce?

Looking for expert insights on ecommerce SEO?

Uncertain how to make your online store more successful?

From acknowledging that the traditional customer journey is dead, to fast pivoting due to Google’s constant updates, to reassessing benchmarks after the pandemic digital boom and the subsequent fall, experts from award-winning agencies assess what’s next in ecommerce SEO.

We wanted to go beyond unpredictability, so we interviewed 15 digital growth and SEO experts to get their insights, tips, and lessons learned as part of our Ecommerce SEO deep dive.

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Ecommerce experts in this article talk about search behaviors, hands-on clients, forecasting for aligning to current trends, and more.

Let’s see what they have to say.

Implement Multi-Touchpoint Customer Journeys As Search Behaviors Change

James Finlayson, Head of SEO at the7stars: “Google’s search volumes aren’t just stagnating – in many cases, they’re reducing. Despite this, consumers are conducting more research prior to purchases than ever – on Amazon and other ‘super-retailers’, on TikTok, large publishers with loyal audiences, Pinterest, YouTube, and Reddit. We recently looked at one market where, we estimated, less than 10% of search activity was actually happening on Google.” Read Finlayson on digital and in-store buying, pushing for larger budgets, and their Sofology success story.

Sara Povoas, Content and SEO Manager at iProspect Portugal:  “We observed a huge increase in shopping, not only for younger audiences but also for older ones, which is new. I think that users are getting more demanding and more informed — if you have a lot of offers, you need to make smart decisions. So people are looking for more. The reviews, opinions, video demonstrations, and price comparisons are getting more popular as people are doing these decision-making searches in order to make a purchase.” Read Povoas on fluctuating stocks, health and cosmetics trends, and client communication.

Luke Carthy, eCommerce SEO & CRO Consultant: “What I’m seeing across my consumer-based clients is that Average Order Value is up, but the number of transactions is probably similar or falling. What I mean by that is they’re spending more per transaction. Rather than someone going to a clothing retailer, maybe once a month or once every couple of weeks, depending on what their previous shopping habits were, they will shop less frequently. And when they shop, they’ll spend more money. I think that happens for a couple of reasons: One is to mitigate the delivery fees and, secondly, to try and get to thresholds to claim rewards, whatever those might be.” Read Carthy on buy-in, shifting strategies, and B2B clients.

Jen Cornwell, Senior Director of Digital Strategy at Ignite Visibility: “The way people shop has changed, as they had converted to online and are now back to this hybrid style again. I think it’s all about expectation setting: Can we ever get back to those traffic levels or those conversion levels online again? What are some creative ways that we can go about if we think that’s the case? User behavior has taken a big shift.

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For instance, we had an electronics client who sold computers, both online and brick-and-mortar. We started to see a shift at the beginning of 2022 as they had more foot traffic to their stores – which they’re happy about, but they do not see as many purchases online anymore. Even in the instances where there isn’t a brick-and-mortar component or the product is only available online, the opportunity for somebody to go and buy it in person just pulls them away from coming to the Internet as much as they used to.” Read Cornwell on video content, white goods, and creative page optimization.

Get Creative With Product Reviews, Long-Tail Keywords & Specificity, As Google Algorithm Updates Intensify

James Euinton, Account Director at The SEO Works: “Over the years, as Google improves its handling of language, it’s been more important to focus on the more specific, longer-tail phrases. Sometimes this may mean catering to specific questions and keywords that fall outside standard products and category pages. It’s important that we tailor additional content to these to target the customer at different points in the journey or funnel.” Read Euinton on moving the needle fast, Core Web Vitals, and business contexts.

Radu Marcusu, CEO at Upswing: “The biggest challenge this year was for marketing managers to explain the drops in the market and how to go about it. That’s why I would say it was more about us being proactive in communicating these shifts to our clients. They needed support in understanding the overall market trends and that it was a general change in demand – and, of course, in adapting to it. That also meant new tactics or focusing on specific actions. For instance, if Google now recommends refined searches, we make sure our clients have filters or categories targeting those searches. We also focus on having the right content to answer those searches. Or keep their Google My Business profiles optimized. In a nutshell, we were proactive in adapting strategies, budgets, and also specific actions implying Google changes.” Read Marcusu on differentiating through pitching, video searches, and developing internal tools.

Eli Schwartz, Growth Advisor and SEO Strategic Consultant: “Google and other search engines use deep learning to improve search results for their users continuously. This past year, I have noticed that local results are triggered more often when Google detects a local intent. At the same time, on results where there should not have been local intent, I have seen the local results disappear.”

Forecasts, SEO ROI & Data-Led Decisions Should Be At The Forefront For Ecommerce Businesses

Marc Swann, Director of Search at Glass Digital: “​​There’s no doubt that retailers are feeling the pinch as consumers tighten their belts, and this presents risks for most marketing agencies when it comes to justifying the value of their services. SEO is a channel that is often more at risk when times are hard, and marketing budgets are scrutinized. SEO performance can ultimately be maintained in the short and even medium term without a recurring spend associated with it, unlike something like paid search where once ad spend stops, performance disappears. So certainly, justifying expenditure in SEO is something that we have seen requested more and not seeing it as a luxury in harder times. Ultimately, those that are able to fulfill their SEO strategies through the hard times will be in much stronger positions when the economy eventually turns positive.” Read Swan on multi-lingual sites, sports retailers, and “luxury” channels.

Steve Walker, Technical Director at Journey Further: “Measuring ROI has always been important, but it’s no longer a nice-to-have. Measuring ROI is essential. This is why performance monitoring tools like SEOmonitor are critical to your agency. The amount of in-house teams has also increased dramatically over the past few months. This is a great thing for the SEO industry and a testament to SEO’s importance in digital marketing – but it fundamentally changes how agencies need to operate. We’re no longer just additional resources doing basic SEO activity. We need to act in a similar way to a business consultancy and provide strategic-level support.” Read Walker on new user journeys, measuring impact, and funnel optimization.

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Rank Tracker’s Strategy view on SEOmonitor.com, December 202215 Ecommerce SEO Experts Reveal Their Top Insights For A Successful 2023

Ben Austin, Founder & CEO at Absolute Digital Media: “We utilize forecasting for both pitching and upselling to ecommerce clients to showcase our understanding of the industry they compete in and the business. By doing so, we can more effectively dictate what is required to drive continuous growth to the business whilst highlighting the ongoing value our innovative SEO strategies provide. In addition to providing a basic forecast of the brand’s current market position, we supply further insight into the wider business benefits such as returning customers, revenue, and ROI.” Read Austin on business strategies, performing verticals in ecommerce, and dynamic URLs.

Charlie Norledge, Head of SEO Performance at Impression: “The pitches are much more competitive now because there are probably fewer clients going to market as things started to slow down a bit. We’ve had to make sure that we include innovative tactics in there. Like talking about how to utilize social media trends in organic when we talk about tech SEO, not just putting a list of fixes, making sure we have priority behind things and just giving them as much detail as possible.

Forecasting is another important piece. When we go to a competitive pitch, forecasting is, I’d say, required. If we didn’t do it, we could miss out. We were in pitches against other agencies, and because we had forecasts in place, we ended up winning the work.” Read Norledge on GPT-3 efficiency, reporting, and client expectations.

Kevin Gibbons, Founder and CEO at Re:signal: “For us, it’s important to have strong communication with our clients about where the priorities are and make sure that we know not just where the search demand is, but also the supply. Knowing what clients are focusing on – both in terms of seasonality and where the priorities could be and could be shifting because of those issues – helps us re-address what we’re doing.

I think everyone’s just probably a bit more price-conscious and cautious right now in terms of what they’re doing. So, again, that’s why ecommerce is such a strong sector for us. For the reason that you can track organic revenue performance. Everyone wants to make sure they’re maximizing their ROI.” Read Gibbons on internationalization and their ASICS success story.

15 Ecommerce SEO Experts Reveal Their Top Insights For A Successful 2023SEO Forecast by SEOmonitor, December 202215 Ecommerce SEO Experts Reveal Their Top Insights For A Successful 2023

Leverage Integrated Campaigns To Build More Growth Opportunities

It’s not just about one channel or one tactic, but ecommerce digital experts are looking more and more into how they can optimize the full user experience, coordinate PR and SEO efforts, and make sense of the whole industry landscape and where the opportunity lies:

Petar Jovetic, Organic Director at Impression: “Everything we do has to show value and be targeted. We’re baking innovation more and more into our proposition. It’s been quite compelling to leverage AI to handle higher workloads and then do it more efficiently. One other thing I’m keen to explore is using our CRO department, especially at the bottom of the funnel where every user counts, to grow acquisition strategically with more A/B testing, multivariate testing, etc. We’re looking into how CRO and SEO can complement each other more. I think that is really appealing in the current economic climate. So we’re not just throwing additional users but nurturing them through the funnel to conversion.” Read Jovetic on SEO maturity frameworks and the State of Retail.

Charlie Clark, Account Director & Founder at Minty Digital: “I noticed more clients are looking to build their brand through digital PR, and we build their brand name rather than just focus on sales. Some of the bigger companies we work with used to allocate a separate budget to SEO, and that used to be the entire thing. Now they’re allocating separate budgets within their departments, one for SEO and one for PR. They’ll have their traditional PR, the standard press releases, but then they’ll also be tying in the digital aspect to that, which is something that’s been quite interesting to know.” Read Clark on entering new markets and campaign KPIs.

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Heemesh Vara, Head of SEO at Semetrical: “Our keyword research process focuses on exploring the whole industry. That’s something different from other agencies. Where they might take a category-by-category approach and do it month by month, we do it the other way around. It’s a lot of work for us at the beginning, but it does provide the client and us with a complete picture of their entire industry. For example, we worked with a vintage furniture client with multiple types of products and categories, from sofas, stools, chairs, side tables, etc. So we had to research the entire industry all at once. And this is one of our unique selling propositions that we always put in the proposal as well.” Read Vara on SEO data analysis and baselines, stakeholder management, and securing budgets.

In the end, as our 15 interviews have shown, both ecommerce clients and markets continue to shift, so it’s critical to showcase sustainable results.

With all these challenges SEO experts face in mind, we continue to develop SEOmonitor so it helps you:

  • Prove the value of SEO with a forecast solution that allows you to connect desired ranking targets to non-brand organic traffic growth potential.
  • Bring session, conversions, and revenue data back into keywords with our solution to the (not provided), so you know what the performing keywords are.
  • Keep track of demand with daily ranks for desktop and mobile as standard, search volumes and year-over-year trends across the platform, and automatic seasonality alerts.
  • And so much more.

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Google Limits News Links In California Over Proposed ‘Link Tax’ Law

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A brown cardboard price tag with a twine string and a black dollar sign symbol, influenced by the Link Tax Law, set against a dark gray background.

Google announced that it plans to reduce access to California news websites for a portion of users in the state.

The decision comes as Google prepares for the potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), a bill requiring online platforms like Google to pay news publishers for linking to their content.

What Is The California Journalism Preservation Act?

The CJPA, introduced in the California State Legislature, aims to support local journalism by creating what Google refers to as a “link tax.”

If passed, the Act would force companies like Google to pay media outlets when sending readers to news articles.

However, Google believes this approach needs to be revised and could harm rather than help the news industry.

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Jaffer Zaidi, Google’s VP of Global News Partnerships, stated in a blog post:

“It would favor media conglomerates and hedge funds—who’ve been lobbying for this bill—and could use funds from CJPA to continue to buy up local California newspapers, strip them of journalists, and create more ghost papers that operate with a skeleton crew to produce only low-cost, and often low-quality, content.”

Google’s Response

To assess the potential impact of the CJPA on its services, Google is running a test with a percentage of California users.

During this test, Google will remove links to California news websites that the proposed legislation could cover.

Zaidi states:

“To prepare for possible CJPA implications, we are beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users. The testing process involves removing links to California news websites, potentially covered by CJPA, to measure the impact of the legislation on our product experience.”

Google Claims Only 2% of Search Queries Are News-Related

Zaidi highlighted peoples’ changing news consumption habits and its effect on Google search queries (emphasis mine):

“It’s well known that people are getting news from sources like short-form videos, topical newsletters, social media, and curated podcasts, and many are avoiding the news entirely. In line with those trends, just 2% of queries on Google Search are news-related.”

Despite the low percentage of news queries, Google wants to continue helping news publishers gain visibility on its platforms.

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However, the “CJPA as currently constructed would end these investments,” Zaidi says.

A Call For A Different Approach

In its current form, Google maintains that the CJPA undermines news in California and could leave all parties worse off.

The company urges lawmakers to consider alternative approaches supporting the news industry without harming smaller local outlets.

Google argues that, over the past two decades, it’s done plenty to help news publishers innovate:

“We’ve rolled out Google News Showcase, which operates in 26 countries, including the U.S., and has more than 2,500 participating publications. Through the Google News Initiative we’ve partnered with more than 7,000 news publishers around the world, including 200 news organizations and 6,000 journalists in California alone.”

Zaidi suggested that a healthy news industry in California requires support from the state government and a broad base of private companies.

As the legislative process continues, Google is willing to cooperate with California publishers and lawmakers to explore alternative paths that would allow it to continue linking to news.

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

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The Best of Ahrefs’ Digest: March 2024

Every week, we share hot SEO news, interesting reads, and new posts in our newsletter, Ahrefs’ Digest.

If you’re not one of our 280,000 subscribers, you’ve missed out on some great reads!

Here’s a quick summary of my personal favorites from the last month:

Best of March 2024

How 16 Companies are Dominating the World’s Google Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

tl;dr

Glen’s research reveals that just 16 companies representing 588 brands get 3.5 billion (yes, billion!) monthly clicks from Google.

My takeaway

Glen pointed out some really actionable ideas in this report, such as the fact that many of the brands dominating search are adding mini-author bios.

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Example of mini-author bios on The VergeExample of mini-author bios on The Verge

This idea makes so much sense in terms of both UX and E-E-A-T. I’ve already pitched it to the team and we’re going to implement it on our blog.

How Google is Killing Independent Sites Like Ours

Authors: Gisele Navarro, Danny Ashton

tl;dr

Big publications have gotten into the affiliate game, publishing “best of” lists about everything under the sun. And despite often not testing products thoroughly, they’re dominating Google rankings. The result, Gisele and Danny argue, is that genuine review sites suffer and Google is fast losing content diversity.

My takeaway

I have a lot of sympathy for independent sites. Some of them are trying their best, but unfortunately, they’re lumped in with thousands of others who are more than happy to spam.

Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updatesEstimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele's site fell off a cliff after Google's March updates
Estimated search traffic to Danny and Gisele’s site fell off a cliff after Google’s March updates 🙁 

I know it’s hard to hear, but the truth is Google benefits more from having big sites in the SERPs than from having diversity. That’s because results from big brands are likely what users actually want. By and large, people would rather shop at Walmart or ALDI than at a local store or farmer’s market.

That said, I agree with most people that Forbes (with its dubious contributor model contributing to scams and poor journalism) should not be rewarded so handsomely.

The Discussion Forums Dominating 10,000 Product Review Search Results

Author: Glen Allsopp

Tl;dr

Glen analyzed 10,000 “product review” keywords and found that:

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My takeaway

After Google’s heavy promotion of Reddit from last year’s Core Update, to no one’s surprise, unscrupulous SEOs and marketers have already started spamming Reddit. And as you may know, Reddit’s moderation is done by volunteers, and obviously, they can’t keep up.

I’m not sure how this second-order effect completely escaped the smart minds at Google, but from the outside, it feels like Google has capitulated to some extent.

John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...John Mueller seemingly having too much faith in Reddit...

I’m not one to make predictions and I have no idea what will happen next, but I agree with Glen: Google’s results are the worst I’ve seen them. We can only hope Google sorts itself out.

Who Sends Traffic on the Web and How Much? New Research from Datos & SparkToro

Author: Rand Fishkin

tl;dr

63.41% of all U.S. web traffic referrals from the top 170 sites are initiated on Google.com.

Data from SparktoroData from Sparktoro

My takeaway

Despite all of our complaints, Google is still the main platform to acquire traffic from. That’s why we all want Google to sort itself out and do well.

But it would also be a mistake to look at this post and think Google is the only channel you should drive traffic from. As Rand’s later blog post clarifies, “be careful not to ascribe attribution or credit to Google when other investments drove the real value.”

I think many affiliate marketers learned this lesson well from the past few Core Updates: Relying on one single channel to drive all of your traffic is not a good idea. You should be using other platforms to build brand awareness, interest, and demand.

Want more?

Each week, our team handpicks the best SEO and marketing content from around the web for our newsletter. Sign up to get them directly in your inbox.

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Google Unplugs “Notes on Search” Experiment

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Google unplugs Notes On Search Experiment

Google is shutting down it’s Google Notes Search Labs experiment that allowed users to see and leave notes on Google’s search results and many in the search community aren’t too surprised.

Google Search Notes

Availability of the feature was limited to Android and Apple devices and there was never a clearly defined practical purpose or usefulness of the Notes experiment. Search marketers reaction throughout has consistently been that would become a spam-magnet.

The Search Labs page for the experiment touts it as mode of self-expression, to help other users and as a way for users to collect their own notes within their Google profiles.

The official Notes page in Search Labs has a simple notice:

Notes on Search Ends May 2024

That’s it.

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Screenshot Of Notice

Reaction From Search Community

Kevin Indig tweeted his thoughts that anything Google makes with a user generated content aspect was doomed to attract spam.

He tweeted:

“I’m gonna assume Google retires notes because of spam.

It’s crazy how spammy the web has become. Google can’t launch anything UGC without being bombarded.”

Cindy Krum (@Suzzicks) tweeted that it was author Purna Virji (LinkedIn profile) who predicted that it would be shut down once Google received enough data.

She shared:

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“It was actually @purnavirji who predicted it when we were at @BarbadosSeo – while I was talking. Everyone agreed that it would be spammed, but she said it would just be a test to collect a certain type of information until they got what they needed, and then it would be retired.”

Purna herself responded with a tweet:

“My personal (non-employer) opinion is that everyone wants all the UGC to train the AI models. Eg Reddit deal also could potentially help with that.”

Google’s Notes for Search seemed destined to never take off, it was met with skepticism and a shrug when it came out and nobody’s really mourning that it’s on the way out, either.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Jamesbin



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