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21 Must-Have Features For Ecommerce Sites

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21 Must-Have Features For Ecommerce Sites

Are you creating a new ecommerce store for your business or looking for ways to improve the functionality of your current store?

Creating an ecommerce experience that is sure to delight your customers can be as simple as taking a little inspiration from the top ecommerce brands.

The following are 21 must-have features for ecommerce sites.

Example brands were selected from The Top 50 Ecommerce Companies in the U.S. list published by Similarweb.

1. User-Friendly Navigation

The key to helping customers find the products they need quickly is to offer a user-friendly navigation system.

Products should be logically categorized, with the most popular categories listed first.

Screenshot from Sephora.com, March 2022

Sephora knows how customers like to shop.

Some specifically seek out products by brand, while others shop by category. Their navigation bar reflects this organization, along with quick links to inexpensive and sale products.

2. Site Search

In addition to user-friendly navigation, site search is a feature found on most of the top ecommerce sites.

It allows customers to bypass the navigation and search for exactly what they want.

example of site searchScreenshot from Nordstrom.com, March 2022

Nordstrom offers a site search with suggestions for popular brands and products that match what you enter.

Most site searches can be tracked using Google Analytics.

3. Footer Navigation

Have you considered the best way to utilize your website’s footer to help customers find your top products?

Try a list of links to the top products, services, and information that customers want to find.

example of footer navigationScreenshot from T-mobile.com, March 2022

T-Mobile uses its footer to direct customers to their social media profiles, English and Spanish sites, featured phones and plans, support, and company information.

Their footer effectively includes links to everything they want both customers and search crawlers to discover from any page throughout their website.

4. Product Videos

Adding video to your product pages can increase conversions.

According to Think With Google, over 50% of shoppers said that online video helped them make a decision on which brand or product to purchase.

Most ecommerce platforms allow retailers to add videos and images to their product pages.

example of product videosScreenshot from Apple.com, March 2022

Apple uses video to highlight features of its latest iPhone on its sales page. Their use of high-quality product images and video help sell their products online and in-store.

5. Product Reviews

The most popular form of user-generated content found on ecommerce sites is product reviews and ratings.

This section of an ecommerce product page is crucial to providing social proof to shoppers that a product will fit their needs.

eBay allows customers to rate and review products, displaying reviews below the product descriptions and sponsored items.

example of product reviewsScreenshot from eBay.com, March 2022

Other eBay users also have the option to rate reviews as useful or not, moving the best reviews to the top of the list on the product page.

6. Generous Return Policy

Want to increase consumer confidence in the products you sell? Offer a generous return policy and include it on your product page.

example of generous return policyScreenshot from Walmart.com, March 2022

 

Place it near your add to cart button to increase the chances that it will have a positive effect on the number of purchases.

7. FAQ For Products

Another way to incorporate user-generated content into your ecommerce store is by adding a section of the most frequently asked questions by customers.

This section can help your store in a number of ways.

  • Increase the number of sales by answering your customer’s top pre-sales questions about your products.
  • Reduce the amount of time your customer service has to spend on answering questions about products, before and after the purchase.
example of FAQScreenshot from Amazon.com, March 2022

Amazon’s question and answer section on product pages gives customers the ability to ask questions, answer questions, and vote up the best questions to ensure the most frequently asked ones appear at the top.

8. FAQ For The Store

In addition to the FAQ for your product pages, consider adding a FAQ page for your main store.

This should cover any of the general questions people may ask about online privacy, security, payments, shipping, returns, and other shopping concerns.

example of faq for the storeScreenshot from Etsy.com, March 2022

Etsy offers answers to the most frequently asked questions in its help center.

This saves their customer support team from having to answer general questions and gives them more time to solve complex issues.

9. Order Tracking

Once your customer places an order, the top question on their mind is when will my order arrive.

Make it simple for customers to check their current order status on your website.

example of order trackingScreenshot from Autozone.com, March 2022

AutoZone has an order tracking page that doesn’t require customers to log in.

They simply need their email address and the order number they received in their order confirmation email.

10. Email Opt-In

According to Mailchimp benchmarks, emails sent by ecommerce businesses have an average open rate of 15.68% and a click rate of 2.01%.

This is important considering the revenue-generating potential ecommerce emails have.

If you can’t get visitors to make a purchase on your website, one of the next best conversions for your store would be to attain the visitor as a subscriber on your email list.

This would allow you to reach them with future sales and email promotions.

example of email opt inScreenshot from Samsung.com, March 2022

Samsung prompts visitors to subscribe to their email list to receive their latest offers using a pop-up.

Another way ecommerce retailers can capture email addresses is by adding an opt-in form in the header and footer of their website.

11. Push Notifications

If you want to bypass spam filters and social media algorithms, the next best way to capture your ecommerce store visitors as subscribers is through push notifications.

Push notification services allow visitors to subscribe to your latest updates in their browser.

When you have a promotion you want to notify subscribers of, you can send a message that will be delivered to their notification center via their browser.

sample of push notificationsScreenshot from Shein.com

Shein is one of many ecommerce brands that allows visitors to subscribe to push notifications.

Once subscribed, visitors will see the latest messages from Shein in their desktop notifications.

example of push notificationScreenshot of a push notification from Shein, March 2022

12. Chatbots

One of the benefits of running an ecommerce website is its ability to generate revenue, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the year. That also means providing support to your customers during those hours as well.

According to LivePerson’s survey of 5,000 consumers, positive sentiment about the use of chatbots nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, from 31% to 61%.

Many ecommerce stores use chatbots to assist online shoppers with basic questions and navigate them to a specific product or support page.

example of chatbotsScreenshot from Lowes.com, March 2022

Lowes uses an always online expert, which is an automated assistant with specific prompts for visitors to choose when looking for a specific answer, finding a specific product, or solving a basic customer service inquiry.

13. Coupon Codes

We know that consumers often search for coupon codes on Google when presented with a coupon or discount box on a checkout page.

In the United States, 88% of consumers use coupons when shopping, using coupon sites like slickdeals.com, groupon.com, and retailmenot.com.

If you want to keep customers on your website throughout the checkout process, give them great deals via your own coupon codes.

example of site that uses coupon codesScreenshot from Victoriassecret.com, March 2022

Victoria’s Secret uses a bar at the top of its website to highlight its latest offer.

When visitors click on View Offers, they will get additional offers and coupon codes to apply at checkout.

14. Product Availability Filters

Do you have multiple options for customers when it comes to pickup or delivery methods?

Give customers the ability to quickly find the products that are available with their preferred pickup or delivery option.

example of product availability filtersScreenshot from Walgreens.com, March 2022

Walgreens offers customers an item availability filter that will sort products based on their pickup, same-day delivery, shipping, or in-stock availability. This gives you the best chance to convert customers based on fast availability.

15. Mobile App

In addition to having a mobile-friendly store for shoppers to make a purchase from any device, also consider having a mobile app for your store.

Mobile apps allow you to keep your brand on your customer’s minds, placing your app icon/brand logo on the smart devices customers use most.

You don’t have to wait for customers to open up a browser or another app for social media or email to get your latest sales messages.

You can push those promotional updates through your app to any customers that have notifications turned on.

example of mobile appScreenshot from the Home Depot app, March 2022

Home Depot offers an app that allows customers to shop for products online and have them shipped to their homes or reserved for in-store pickup.

16. Gift Registries

If you do a search for gift registries on Google, you will find dozens of well-known brand retailers.

Target, Amazon, Walmart, Crate & Barrel, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond are just a few that appear on the first page of SERPs.

Why are gift registries important to driving sales? Let’s just look at wedding registries for a moment.

According to The Knot 2020 Wedding Registry Study, 80% of respondents set up a wedding registry.

CNBC reported findings from Baird’s 2022 survey that Amazon leads as the top wedding registry provider with 45% listing penetration.

example of gift registriesScreenshot from Target.com, March 2022

Target offers gift registries for babies, weddings, and charities. You can also create a custom registry to celebrate any occasion you choose.

17. Multilingual Support

If your ecommerce store caters to customers in a specific region, you have two options to support the top languages spoken in their region:

  • Depend on Google Translate to help customers translate your website into their language.
  • Create multiple versions of your website for specific languages.
example of multilingual supportScreenshot from Xfinity.com, March 2022

Xfinity uses English on their www subdomain, and Spanish on their es subdomain.

Content can be switched from English to Spanish using the En and Es links in the main navigation bar.

18. Loyalty Program

Do you want to increase customer retention? One way to encourage people to shop from your ecommerce store again is to offer a loyalty program.

These are typically free or paid programs where customers get private or early access to the best deals.

Many allow customers to accrue points per purchase that lead to various rewards, such as a specific dollar amount off your next purchase or a free product.

example of loyalty programScreenshot from Ulta.com, March 2022

Ulta is one of many brands that offer a free rewards program for their loyal customers.

Customers can join for free and earn points redeemable for products and services online and in-store.

19. Carousels

While marketers may not agree on the value of image and video carousels on the homepage, you will find many ecommerce brands use them.

Major retailers such as Walmart, eBay, Home Depot, Samsung, Wayfair, Lowes, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Kohls have carousels with their latest promotions and sales.

example of carouselsScreenshot from Chewy.com, March 2022

Chewy is another ecommerce brand that features a carousel on the homepage. Theirs promote discounts for auto-ship orders, healthy pet food, flea & tick medications, pet bedding, and more.

20. Local Store Information

If your ecommerce brand also has physical store locations, you can boost offline sales by adding details for the nearest store to your website’s header.

This would allow customers to shop online, reserve for in-store pick up, or browse their local store inventory before going to make an in-store purchase.

sample of local store informationScreenshot from Coscto.com, March 2022

Costco offers a link to the closest store based on your zip code. They also display current store hours.

21. Personal Data Policy

Depending on where your ecommerce store is based and the customers that it serves, your site may need a policy that notifies visitors of the data that is collected about them on your website using cookies from the website and other analytics tools.

sample of personal data policyScreenshot from Michaels.com, March 2022

Michael’s ecommerce store displays a popup advising visitors about cookie usage to enhance user experience and analyze website traffic.

Visitors then have the option to accept the policy or adjust their cookie preferences.

Start Creating Fantastic Shopping Experiences

It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel in order to provide a fantastic shopping experience for your users.

It’s simply a matter of listening to your customer’s feedback and monitoring your competitors to see if new trends in ecommerce arise.

While you don’t need to try every new feature your ecommerce platform has to offer, you should look into the ones that your customers have come to expect from the top retailers in your vertical.

Combine your customer’s feedback with A/B testing to see what implementations drive more sales and higher customer satisfaction.

 


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Getting to the top of Google can be quite slow. Especially so for small, new websites. And the competition can often be too strong, which makes it quite unlikely for you to outrank your rivals in the first place.

Well… if you can’t win, change the rules.

There’s a very simple trick for getting search traffic for the keywords that you want to rank for—without actually ranking for them.

Enter…

One of the most common pieces of marketing advice is to “go fish where the fish are.” Whatever product or service you want to sell, you have to follow three simple steps:

  1. Figure out who your ideal customers are.
  2. Find the places where those people are hanging out online.
  3. Go to those places and find ways to promote your product.

Quick example: if you want to sell fitness gear, it would be good to figure out how to tap into the r/Fitness community on Reddit, which has over 12M members.

What does it have to do with SEO though?

Well, whatever search traffic you want to drive to your own website… someone is already getting it to theirs, right? And their website is not necessarily your direct competitor.

If you own a bagel joint in Singapore, you definitely want your website to rank in Google for “best bagels in Singapore.” But the pages that actually rank for this keyword are listicles, which give readers a bunch of different suggestions. So your job is to get featured in as many of those top-ranking listicles as possible.

Ranking for a keyword with your own website isn’t the only way to get customers from Google. Getting featured on other pages that rank for this keyword is incredibly effective too.

I call this tactic “second-hand search traffic”.

The underlying idea is not new though.

You might have heard of the concept called “Barnacle SEO,” shared by Rand Fishkin back in 2014. There’s also a concept called “Surround Sound,” coined by Alex Birkett. And another one called “SERP Monopoly strategy” by Nick Eubanks. There’s also a reverse concept, called “Rank & Rent.”

The idea behind all of these tactics is practically the same: if a page gets a lot of relevant search traffic from Google—you have to try and get your business mentioned there.

1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything
Source

But that’s easier said than done, right?

Why would anyone bother to feature your business on their website?

Well, one simple answer is money.

If a website owner can make money from mentioning your business on their page, there’s a good chance they’ll do it. This money could come in the form of an affiliate commission or a flat fee for an annual or permanent placement. Sometimes these things can also happen as part of a broader partnership deal.

Getting listed for free is very, very hard. Especially so if you’re not already a big and respected business that people naturally want to feature on their website.

And yet—it’s not completely impossible to get listed for free.

Case in point, we just published our own “best SEO conferences” post, in order to rank for relevant search queries and promote our upcoming event, Ahrefs Evolve Singapore.

And then we went ahead and reached out to all websites that rank for the “best SEO conferences” keyword and asked them to add Ahrefs Evolve to their listicles. So far 10 out of 17 featured us on their pages, without asking for any payment whatsoever.

1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

The most straightforward way to execute this strategy is to compile a list of highly relevant keywords (with high business potential scores), pull all the top-ranking pages for each of them into a spreadsheet, and start your outreach.

But there’s one other fruitful source of pages to get second-hand search traffic from. These are pages that are linking to your competitors, while getting a decent amount of search traffic themselves.

Here’s how to find these pages in 3 simple steps:

  1. Put the website of your competitor in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Backlinks report.
  3. Apply the “Referring page > Traffic” filter.
How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for AnythingHow to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Here’s an example of a page I found while trying this out for the ConvertKit website:

1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

As you can see, this page is not about “email marketing” (the primary topic you’d go for, if you wanted to promote an email marketing tool). And yet, this page is receiving 2.6k visitors per month from Google (as estimated by Ahrefs), and it recommends a bunch of email marketing tools to its readers.

So if you own an email marketing tool—like ConvertKit—you definitely want to get mentioned on that page alongside your competitors.

The moral of this story is that you should look outside of the topics that are immediately relevant to your business. Any page that gets traffic and mentions a competitor of yours should become your target.

And Ahrefs makes it super easy to find such pages.

That’s it.

I hope you found this tactic useful. Don’t sleep on it, because there’s a good chance that your competitors won’t.

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

For the SEO industry, the Google documents leak offered an important view behind the scenes. Although the leak was not a blueprint of how the algorithm worked, there was considerable confirmation that SEO professionals were right about many elements of the algorithm.

From all the analysis and discussion following the leak, the one insight that got my attention was how important the brand is.

Rand Fishkin, who broke the leak, said this:

“Brand matters more than anything else … If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mike King echoed this statement with the following observation:

“All these potential demotions can inform a strategy, but it boils down to making stellar content with strong user experience and building a brand, if we’re being honest.”

Mordy Oberstein, who is an advocate for building a brand online, posted on X (Twitter):

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand.”

It’s not the first time that “brand” has been mentioned in SEO. We began to talk about this around 2012 after the impact of Panda and Penguin when it first became apparent that Google’s aim was to put more emphasis on brand.

Compounding this is the introduction of AI, which has accelerated the importance of taking a more holistic approach to online marketing with less reliance on Google SERPs.

When I spoke to Pedro Dias, he said, “We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands.”

As someone who had 15 years of offline experience in marketing, design, and business before moving into SEO, I have always said that having this wide knowledge allows me to take a holistic view of SEO. So, I welcome the mindset shift towards building a brand online.

As part of his X/Twitter post, Mordy also said:

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand” (a lot of which is the direct result of @randfish’s & @iPullRank’s great advice following the “Google leaks”).

As someone who has straddled the brand marketing and SEO world for the better part of 10 years – branding is A LOT harder than many SEOs would think and will be a HUGE adjustment for many SEOs.”

Following his X/Twitter post, I reached out to Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix, to have a conversation about branding and SEO.

What Do SEO Pros Need To Know About ‘Brand’ To Make The Mindset Shift?

I asked Mordy, “In your opinion, what does brand and building a brand mean, and can SEO pros make this mindset shift?”

Mordy responded, “Brand building basically means creating a connection between one entity and another entity, meaning the company and the audience.

It’s two people meeting, and that convergence is the building of a brand. It’s very much a relationship. And I think that’s what makes it hard for SEOs. It’s a different way of thinking; it’s not linear, and there aren’t always metrics that you can measure it by.

I’m not saying you don’t use data, or you don’t have data, but it’s harder to measure to tell a full story.

You’re trying to pick up on latent signals. A lot of the conversation is unconscious.

It’s all about the micro things that compound. So, you have to think about everything you do, every signal, to ensure that it is aligned with the brand.

For example, a website writes about ‘what is a tax return.’ However, if I’m a professional accountant and I see this on your blog, I might think this isn’t relevant to me because you’re sending me a signal that you’re very basic. I don’t need to know what a tax return is; I have a master’s degree in accounting.

The latent signals that you’re sending can be very subtle, but this is where it is a mindset shift for SEO.”

I recalled a recent conversation with Pedro Dias in which he stressed it was important to put your users front and center and create content that is relevant to them. Targeting high-volume keywords is not going to connect with your audience. Instead, think about what is going to engage, interest, and entertain them.

I went on to say that for some time, the discussion online has been about SEO pros shifting away from the keyword-first approach. However, the consequences of moving away from a focus on traffic and clicks will mean we are likely to experience a temporary decline in performance.

How Does An SEO Professional Sell This To Stakeholders – How Do They Measure Success?

I asked Mordy, “How do you justify this approach to stakeholders – how do they measure success?”

Mordy replied, “I think selling SEO will become harder over time. But, if you don’t consider the brand aspect, then you could be missing the point of what is happening. It’s not about accepting lower volumes of traffic; it’s that traffic will be more targeted.

You might see less traffic right now, but the idea is to gain a digital presence and create digital momentum that will result in more qualified traffic in the long term.”

Mordy went on to say, “It’s going to be a habit to break out of, just like when you have to go on a diet for a long-term health gain.

The ecosystem will change, and it will force change to our approach. SEOs may not have paid attention to the Google leak documents, but I think they will pay attention as the entire ecosystem shifts – they won’t have a choice.

I also think C-level will send a message that they don’t care about overall traffic numbers, but do care about whether a user appreciates what they are producing and that the brand is differentiated in some way.”

How Might The Industry Segment And What Will Be The Important Roles?

I interjected to make the point that it does look a lot like SEO is finally making that shift across marketing.

Technical SEO will always be important, and paid/programmatic will remain important because it is directly attributable.

For the rest of SEO, I anticipate it merges across brand, SEO, and content into a hybrid strategy role that will straddle those disciplines.

What we thought of as “traditional SEO” will fall away, and SEO will become absorbed into marketing.

In response, Mordy agreed and thought that SEO traffic is part of a wider scope or part of a wider paradigm, and it will sit under brand and communications.

An SEO pro that functions as part of the wider marketing and thinks about how we are driving revenue, how we are driving growth, what kind of growth we are driving, and using SEO as a vehicle to that.

The final point I raised was about social media and whether that would become a more combined facet of SEO and overall online marketing.

Mordy likened Google to a moth attracted to the biggest digital light.

He said, “Social media is a huge vehicle for building momentum and the required digital presence.

For example, the more active I am on social media, the more organic branded searches I gain through Google Search. I can see the correlation between that.

I don’t think that Google is ignoring branded searches, and it makes a semantic connection.”

SEO Will Shift To Include Brand And Marketing

The conversation I had with Mordy raised an interesting perspective that SEO will have to make significant shifts to a brand and marketing mindset.

The full impact of AI on Google SERPs and how the industry might change is yet to be realized. But, I strongly recommend that anyone in SEO consider how they can start to take a brand-first approach to their strategy and the content they create.

I suggest building and measuring relationships with audiences based on how they connect with your brand and moving away from any strategy based on chasing high-volume keywords.

Think about what the user will do once you get the click – that is where the real value lies.

Get ahead of the changes that are coming.

Thank you to Mordy Oberstein for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

More resources:


Featured Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock

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4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

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4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your pages to rank in a search engine’s organic results.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of online advertising where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks their ad.

There’s no conundrum between the two types of marketing. You don’t have to choose one or the other; the best companies use both.

Here’s how they can work together and produce magic:

Creating SEO content is the process of figuring out what your target audience is searching on Google and aligning your content to their search intent.

To start off, you need to find out what they’re searching for. The easiest way is to use a keyword research tool, like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Here’s how you might find keywords for a hypothetical coffee equipment store:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a relevant keyword (e.g., “coffee”)
  3. Go to Matching terms

Go through the list and pick out keywords that are relevant to the site. For example, the keyword “how to grind coffee beans” seems like a good keyword to target.

The keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO statsThe keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO stats

Once we’ve chosen our keyword, we want to know what searchers are looking for specifically. Sometimes the keyword gives us an idea, but to be sure, we can look at the top-ranking pages.

So, click the SERP button and then click Identify intents to see what searchers are looking for:

The Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerThe Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

We can see that searchers are looking for techniques and methods to grind coffee beans at home, and especially without a grinder. If we want to rank high, we’ll likely have to follow suit.

Those are the basics of creating SEO content. But doing just this isn’t enough. After all, the quote goes, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

This applies to your content too. You don’t want to create into a void; you want people to see and consume your content. This is where PPC comes in. You can run PPC ads to ensure that as many people see your content as possible.

For example, at Ahrefs, we run Facebook ads for our content:

An example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our contentAn example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our content

We also run ads on Quora:

Our Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blogOur Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blog

This way, we make sure that none of our content efforts go to waste.

Links are an important Google ranking factor. Generally speaking, the more links your page has, the more likely it’ll rank high in the search results.

But acquiring links is hard. This is why it’s still a reliable ranking factor. And it’s also why there’s an entire industry behind link building, and tons of tactics you can use, all with varying levels of success.

One way you can consider building links to your pages is to run PPC ads. In fact, we ran an experiment a few years ago to prove that it was possible.

We spent ~$1,245 on Google search ads and acquired a total of 16 backlinks to two different pieces of content. (~$77-78 per backlink.) This is much cheaper than if you had to buy a backlink, which according to our study, costs around $361.44.

(It would be even more expensive if you acquired links via outreach, as you would have to consider additional costs like software, manpower, etc.)

Retargeting allows you to target visitors who have left your website.

Here’s how retargeting works:

  1. A visitor discovers your article on Google
  2. Your ad management software sets a cookie on the visitor’s browser, which allows you to show ads to these visitors
  3. When the visitor leaves your website and surfs the web, you can show ads and persuade them to return to your website

Depending on where they are on the buyer’s journey, you can convince them to take the next step.

buyer's journeybuyer's journey

For example, if someone found your website via your article on the “best espresso machines”, it’s likely they’re looking to buy. So, you can set your retargeting ad to encourage them to visit your espresso machines category page.

On the other hand, if a visitor discovered your website from your “what is a coffee grinder” article, they might still be early on the journey. In that case, it might be prudent to encourage them to sign up for your email list instead.

Every site has important keywords. For example, besides our brand and product terms, critical keywords are “keyword research”, “link building”, and “technical SEO”.

Since these keywords are important, it makes sense to dominate the SERPs for them. You can do this by simultaneously running ads for them while ranking in organic search. For example, Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs:

Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPsWix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs

This is especially useful if you’re a new or smaller site. The keywords that are important to you are likely important to your competitors too. Which means you can’t compete with them overnight.

So, a good strategy is to target those keywords via PPC first, while investing in your SEO strategy. Over time, as you acquire more backlinks and gain more website authority, you’ll be able to compete with your competitors in organic search too.

While both channels are complementary, there are times where it may make more sense to choose one over the other.

When to choose PPC

If you fit these scenarios, it might be a better idea to go for PPC:

  • You’re promoting a limited-time offer, event, or launching a product. According to our poll, SEO takes three to six months to show results. If your event, offer, or launch is shorter than the expected timeframe, it’ll be over even before SEO takes any effect.
  • You need immediate, short-term results. If you need to show some results now, then PPC will be a better choice.
  • You have a disruptive product or service. SEO depends on figuring out what people are already searching for. If your product or service is completely novel, then it’s likely no one is searching for it.
  • Hyper-competitive SERPs. Some niches have competing sites with large SEO teams and deep pockets. Coupled with Google’s preference for known brands, if you’re in these niches, it can be difficult to compete. PPC offers a viable alternative for gaining visibility on the first page.

When to choose SEO

Here are times when it may make better sense to choose SEO:

  • Keywords are too expensive. Some industries, like insurance or finance, have cost-per-clicks (CPC) up to a few hundred dollars. For example, the keyword “direct auto insurance san antonio” has a CPC of $275.
  • Your niche is restricted. Certain industries or niches (e.g., adult, weapons, gambling, etc.) are prohibited or restricted from advertising.
  • You have a limited budget. PPC requires money to begin, whereas SEO can drive traffic to your website at no direct cost per visitor.
  • You’re building an affiliate site. Affiliate sites earn a commission when people buy from their recommendations. While it’s not impossible to build an affiliate site from PPC, it’s difficult to control the return on investment (ROI) since affiliate site owners cannot control sales conversion rates.

Final thoughts

There are cases where focusing on either SEO or PPC makes sense.

But most of the time, the best companies don’t discriminate between channels. If they produce positive ROI, then you should be using all marketing channels.

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