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Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations

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Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations

Remember when you had to leave the house to go shopping? What a hassle that was.

But then, way back in 1982, Boston Computer Exchange was launched as the first ecommerce site and the convenience of shopping in your underwear was born.

Today, electronic commerce, the buying, and selling of products and services on the internet is a massive part of the global economy.

In 2021, more than 2.14 billion people worldwide bought something online. And in the U.S., ecommerce sales for just the first quarter of 2022 totaled $250 billion.

We’ve come a long way from those early days of local used computer sales.

These days, you can find everything from shoes to mechanic services to $5,000 heart-shaped potatoes for sale with just a few clicks of the mouse. And nearly every business of every type has a website through which they’re selling their goods and services.

And while that’s really good for shoppers, if you’re an ecommerce retailer, that means you’re facing a lot of competition.

How do you stand out? How can you not only get people on your product pages but turn them into customers? It’s no small task.

But you’re in the right place.

In this article, you’ll find five essential ways you should optimize your ecommerce website for maximum exposure and ROI. Ready to get started? Scroll on.

1. Your Homepage Is Where The Heart Is

Your most-trafficked page, it’s often the first thing any visitor to your website will come across.

It sets the tone for your business, starts the conversion funnel, highlights sales or new products, and directs people to other parts of your site.

Of course, we’re talking about your homepage. And the first step to optimizing your ecommerce site to maximize sales is to make sure your homepage is living up to its weighty role.

Make Navigation Easy

One major issue you’ll want to tackle immediately when optimizing your homepage is navigation.

You want to make it easy and efficient for visitors (and search engine crawlers) to find your content. There should be clear direction as to where the content they want lives.

And a key part of that is using a prominent navigation bar.

In addition to helping users quickly navigate between parts of your site, the navigation bar is also a great opportunity to highlight specific parts of your website, for example, your best-selling product line.

Your homepage also should have an effective and prominent tagline.

Your tagline is a short, usually eight- to 12-word phrase that connects your company with its audience.

Sometimes mistakenly called a slogan (slogans are campaign-specific, taglines are brand-specific), taglines are something too many ecommerce retailers overlook – which is a mistake.

Many first-time visitors to your website will only give it a quick scan.

A descriptive and memorable tagline will help them quickly understand what your site is about and compel them to dive deeper. This leads us to our next point:

Content Is Still King

At the end of the day, content is still the single most important factor of your homepage or any page for that matter.

People are using the internet to find a particular product or solution.

If you offer what they need, you can convert them into sales – provided they land on your page and not your competition’s.

That starts with search engine optimization (SEO). And SEO starts with keywords.

Identify which words and phrases your target audience is looking for and include them organically in your copy. (That is, don’t force them where they don’t belong. This is called keyword stuffing and it can negatively impact your Google ranking.)

Have trouble identifying which keywords are most important? Search Engine Journal has a webinar that will help you determine and implement a keyword research strategy.

There are also a number of free tools you can use to help you decide what language needs to be included on your homepage.

Once you have your keyword strategy down, you can sit back and relax and watch the sales come rolling in, right? Of course not. You’re just getting started.

Next, you should think about the visual assets on your homepage.

Are you using generic stock photos to add visual interest or are you using this valuable web real estate to promote products? Smart ecommerce website operators will choose the latter.

You don’t need to include images of every single product you offer (and in fact, that’s probably a terrible idea), but using prominent images of your best-sellers on your homepage is very important. And make sure clicking on these images directs users to that product’s page.

Don’t underestimate the importance of using internal links. Create links to your most important pages directly from your homepage.

This could be a product category page or a link to your best-selling item. They could be in the navigation bar, the page’s footer, the content, or some combination of the three.

Another best practice is to make sure you’ve created a breadcrumb trail users (and search engine bots) can use to find their way back to the homepage.

For some examples of what a great homepage looks like, click here.

2. It’s All About The Products

The purpose of your ecommerce site is to make sales.

To achieve this, your product pages need to compel visitors to make purchases. Your product pages give you the perfect opportunity to control the narrative around each item you’re selling, which can make a big difference.

Here are some tips to make your product pages exceptional.

What’s In A Name?

Words can be very powerful. Your goal is to use that power to influence buying decisions. And that starts with your product titles.

It sounds deceptively easy, but it takes practice and A/B testing to get right.

Exactly what works for you will vary based on your industry, product, and audience, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Use the right language. This doesn’t mean companies selling in Portugal should make sure all their product descriptions are all in Portuguese (though that is important), but rather that you’re using the same type of tone, words, and expressions your targets are. Write so the audience can understand you. And don’t forget your keywords!
  •  Use the right format. This will probably take some trial and error but is worth the effort. Find the length and the format that resonates the best with your potential customers. For example, you may find your perfect format is brand + size + color. Other factors you may include based on performance and product include product line, color, flavor, model number, and package size/quantity.
  • Make your description complementary. Every product title should have a corresponding and complementary product description. Using search keywords, write an interesting description that avoids generic platitudes. For best results, remember the old copywriting adage: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” That means your descriptions should focus on the benefit to the customer, not the features of the product.

Get Meta

The meta description is the small blurb of copy that shows up under a link to your website in search engine results.

This is often your first opportunity to attract a customer.

The better your meta description, the more likely a searcher will click through to your site. And that dramatically increases your chances to make a sale.

Use keywords in your brand’s unique voice to create effective meta descriptions.

Make sure you’re specifically targeting the product’s targets with each page’s meta description, rather than using a general blurb about your company.

For more tips on creating the type of meta descriptions that generate traffic, click here.

Show Them What You’ve Got

Product images are vital because they show shoppers exactly what they’re in the market for.

The first thing visitors to your product pages will notice, they draw attention and trigger emotions in viewers. They also help them subconsciously envision the impact they will have on their lives.

Show them different aspects of the product, including different angles or “action shots” of it in use.

A video is also a useful tool, though not everyone will want to watch even short clips, so use them as complementary features.

Images are also a factor in your SEO ranking – and can both help and hurt you.

To ensure you’re getting the most from the visuals on your product pages, you should optimize your images for faster loading.

Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ve got just the thing. Click here for six tips for optimizing images for your ecommerce site.

Make Sure The Price Is Right

While bells and whistles that differentiate your product from the competition are nice and can play a role in purchasing decisions, many times, what determines if you get the sale is one thing: pricing.

But it’s not always about having the lowest price.

In fact, charging too little for your products can hurt the perception of your brand, as customers will assume they’re getting what they paid for, that is, cheap junk.

Try to find that sweet spot where you make the highest profit from the most sales.

And to help customers overcome analysis paralysis, give them side-by-side pricing comparisons.

This helps facilitate decision-making by allowing visitors to compare their options in one place. And nothing makes a price seem lower than showing it right next to a premium option that significantly costs more.

Another trick, which you’ve undoubtedly already aware of is so-called “charm pricing,” or ending prices with $.99.

The rational part of the customer’s brain knows there’s no real difference between a product that costs $299.99 and another that costs $300, but studies have shown most people judge prices by the leftmost digit. Use this psychological trick to your advantage.

Don’t Take Our Word For It

There’s a reason Amazon features reviews so highly on its product pages – they work.

Consumers trust and rely upon the opinions of people who have already bought your offering.

But, did you know customers who interact with reviews are 58% more likely to convert? That alone should be enough to convince you to add them to your product pages.

Other Tips

Another thing you don’t want to neglect on your product page is calls to action (CTAs).

The first thing most salespeople are taught is if you want the sale, you must ask for it.

Make sure you’re providing clear CTAs on your product pages, for example, a large button that reads “Buy Now.”

And if you sell out of a particular item, do NOT deactivate the link.

By keeping it live, you avoid it being identified as a broken link and dinging your SEO score. Simply indicate that this product is currently out of stock.

3. Don’t Ignore Usability

If you want to make sales, your ecommerce site must be user-friendly.

Without well-designed UX/UI (that is, user experience and user interaction), people will navigate away before you can pitch your product, let alone make a sale.

Minimize your bounce rate by ensuring your homepage avoids common UX pitfalls.

Solve Your Technical Issues

Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your website loads quickly for every user.

Within three seconds, and ideally less, your homepage should display its content to visitors.

If not, users, especially mobile users, are likely to become frustrated and look for another digital merchant.

For more information on how to evaluate and speed up your loading time, this article can help.

And speaking of mobile users, your site absolutely must be responsive.

Phones accounted for 54.4% of global web traffic last year and that number keeps growing. If your homepage isn’t responsive, you’re losing potential customers.

Consider How Your Site Is Being Used

While not everyone will use your website the same way, there should be a general path most users follow.

Identify this and make sure the steps are clear. And remember, from time to time, people will get lost. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for by including a search bar.

Don’t forget to tell your company’s story.

The “About Us” page is more than a chance to brag about how great you are, it’s also a chance to share your history, your values, and your services.

For more tips on creating a top-notch About Us page, check out these examples.

And sometimes, your customers will need to speak to a real person, whether over the phone or via email.

Make sure you have a contact page that doesn’t require a lot of searching to find. Make sure your phone number and email address are listed, so you can be reached with questions, concerns, exchanges, and the like.

4. Blog Your Way To Sales

Does your ecommerce site have a blog? It should.

And no, that short-lived personal blog about inconsistencies in the Star Wars universe you ran 10 years ago isn’t going to cut it. You need a dedicated business blog discussing topics relevant to your products and customers.

There are several reasons blogging is important, not least of all from an SEO point of view.

Creating new posts means you’re creating new content, which signals to search engines your site is active. It’s also a means to generate those all-important backlinks.

A quality blog also helps establish your reputation as an authority in your niche, contributes to your brand image, and even decreases bounce rate.

Make your blog an asset to your ecommerce site by creating and implementing a good content strategy built on three key factors: people, technology, and process.

And remember, your blog is your chance to show off your personality. Because it’s a more informal conversation with customers than other, more rigid marketing materials, you can have more fun.

Create the kind of posts that show you’re passionate about your products and happy to share your expertise.

And don’t forget the social media share buttons (which are also an excellent idea for product pages). This allows people to spread your posts outside of your normal audience, generating more exposure and ideally leading to more sales.

Looking for inspiration? Here are nine ecommerce companies doing blogging the right way.

5. Build A Solid Structure

We’ve touched on different aspects of your ecommerce site’s structure so far, but it’s so important it deserves its own section.

One rule you should live by is that all your content should be accessible to visitors within three clicks from your homepage.

Any more than that, and you run a very real risk of customers abandoning the journey.

On that note, your purchasing process should be as streamlined as possible.

Use the minimum number of pages possible to complete a transaction and keep your checkout page simple and straightforward.

Make sure it is always clear to customers where they are in the checkout process.

Have you ever noticed how many e-retailers use the shopping cart icon in the top right corner of their pages? That’s because it works. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Make sure your URL structure is logical and easy to follow.

For example, a product web address of www.example.com/manufacturer/category/item will get more clicks from search engine results pages than www.example.com/01178/iadtttkyu.

Build your entire site around a solid, easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate sitemap, and make sure it’s optimized to be indexed by search engine crawlers, so your pages show up in search engine results.

Finally, because you’re dealing with financial transactions, make sure you’re using adequate security measures.

Make sure your ecommerce site is hosted on a secure platform and consider adding two-factor authentication to prevent purchases made with stolen user credentials.

You should only collect and store the personal data you need.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there is no one magic bullet that will work for every ecommerce business.

What works for an organic dried mushroom merchant is not guaranteed to work for a video game reseller. And what works for the video game store may not work for a beauty brand. It’s up to you to find what works.

However, armed with the knowledge you’ve gained in this article, you should be prepared to begin taking steps to optimize your own ecommerce site.

Above all, remember what your site is trying to accomplish: selling specific products to specific targets.

If you can keep potential customers in mind, while tweaking some technical things to boost your search engine results and smooth out the customer journey, you’re doing all you can to set your business on the path to success.

Happy selling!

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Featured Image: fizkes/Shuttertock



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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

Content marketing has become one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to get traffic to a website. When done right, the traffic keeps coming long after you stop actively promoting it.

If you own an e-commerce website and want to learn how to utilize blogging to grow your brand and increase your sales, this is the guide for you.

I’ve personally grown blogs to over 250,000 monthly visitors, and I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the e-commerce space to help them do the same. Here’s an overview of my seven-step process to starting and growing an e-commerce blog. 

But first…

Why start a blog on your e-commerce site?

Creating a blog has a whole host of benefits for e-commerce websites:

  • It can help you move visitors along your marketing funnel so they eventually buy.
  • You’re able to rank highly for keywords on Google that your product pages could never rank for but that are still important for building brand awareness and finding customers.
  • It can help you grow your email list.
  • You’re able to continue to get traffic without constantly spending money on ads.
  • It provides many opportunities to link to your product and category pages to help them rank better on the SERPs.

If you don’t know what some of these things mean, don’t worry—I’ll explain them along the way. But for now, let’s take a look at some e-commerce blogs that are working well right now so you can see the end goal.

Examples of successful e-commerce blogs

Three of my favorite examples of e-commerce websites using blogging are:

  1. Solo Stove
  2. Flatspot
  3. v-dog

Solo Stove comes in at the top of my list due to its excellent use of videos, photos, and helpful information on the blog. It also does search engine optimization (SEO) really well, bringing in an estimated 329,000 monthly visits from Google (data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer).

Overview of Solo Stove, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

In fact, it’s grown its brand to such a level of popularity that it even created search demand for keywords that include its brand name in them, then created blog posts to rank for those keywords:

Ahrefs' keyword report for Solo Stove

But that’s not all it did. Its blog posts also rank for other keywords in its marketing funnel, such as how to have a mosquito-free backyard or how to change your fire pit’s colors.

E-commerce blogging keyword examples

Then on its blog posts, it uses pictures of its fire pit:

Solo Stove blog post example

Ranking for these keywords does two things:

  1. It introduces Solo Stove’s brand to people who may eventually purchase a fire pit from it.
  2. It gives the brand the opportunity to promote its products to an audience who may not have even known it existed, such as the “mosquito free backyard” keyword.

Moving on, skater brand Flatspot also does blogging well, with a cool ~80,000 monthly visitors to its blog just from search engines.

Overview of Flatspot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

One of its tactics is to piggie-back on the popularity of new shoe releases from major brands like Nike, then use that traffic to get readers to buy the shoes directly from it:

Flatspot promoting Nike SB shoes in blog post

Finally, let’s look at v-dog—a plant-powered kibble manufacturer that gets ~8,000 visits per month.

Overview of v-dog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

My favorite post it’s done is its guide to making wet dog food at home, which ranks for the featured snippet for “how to make wet dog food”:

Google search results for "how to make wet dog food"

This guide directly promotes v-dog’s product to make wet dog food. So people who search the query will be introduced to its brand and potentially buy its product to make their own wet dog food at home.

And there you have it—three examples of blogging for e-commerce that’s working right now. With that, let’s talk about how you can start your own blog.

Seven steps to start and grow an e-commerce blog

In my 10+ years as a professional SEO and freelance writer, I’ve worked with over a dozen e-commerce stores to help them grow their website traffic. I’ve also run several of my own e-commerce websites.

In that time, I’ve distilled what works into an easy-to-follow seven-step process:

1. Do some keyword research

I never start a blog without first doing keyword research. Not only does this make coming up with blog topic ideas much easier, but it also ensures that every blog post you write has a chance to show up in Google search results and bring you free, recurring traffic.

While we wrote a complete guide to keyword research, here’s a quick and dirty strategy for finding keywords fast:

First, find a competitor who has a blog. Let’s say you’re selling dog food just like v-dog—if I search for “dog food” on Google, I can see some of my competition:

Google search results for "dog food"

At this point, I look for relevant competitors. For example, Chewy and American Kennel Club are good competitors for research. But I’ll skip sites like Amazon and Walmart, as they are just too broad to get relevant data from.

Next, plug the competitor’s URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and click on the Organic keywords report to see the keywords its website ranks for on Google:

Organic keywords report for chewy.com

In this example, it has over 700,000 keywords. That’s way too many to sort through. Let’s add some filters to make things easier:

  • First, set the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score to a maximum of 30 to find easier-to-rank-for keywords.
  • Then we can exclude brand name keywords using the “Keywords” dropdown, set it to “Doesn’t contain,” and type in the brand name.
  • If the website has /blog/ in its blog post URLs, you can also set a filter in the “URL” dropdown to “Contains” and type “blog” in the text field. In Chewy’s case, it doesn’t do that, but it does use a subdomain for its blog, which we can search specifically.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Ahrefs keyword filters

In the case of chewy.com, this only shaved it down to 619,000 keywords. That’s still a lot—let’s filter it down further. We can apply the following:

  • Minimum monthly search volume of 100
  • Only keywords in positions #1–10
  • Only show keywords containing “dog,” since my example website only sells dog food, not all animal food

Here’s what it looks like with these new filters applied:

Filtering down Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Now I can find some more related keywords like “what to feed a dog with diarrhea” or “can dogs eat cheese.”

Data for keyword "what to feed a dog with diarrhea"

In addition to picking interesting keywords, you can also get an idea of how to become a topical authority on the topic of dog food by searching “dog food” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Overview for "dog food," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This keyword is extremely difficult to rank on page #1 for. However, if we go to the Related terms report and set the KD to a max of 30, we can see keyword ideas that are still relevant but may be easier to rank high in the search results.

List of keywords related to dog food

Go through and click the gray + sign next to any keywords you may want to target to add them to your list of potential article ideas. 

2. Create templates for future blog posts

One of the first things I do when I create a new blog is to establish a repeatable template that I use for every post. Typically, it looks something like this:

Blog post template example

It has breadcrumb navigation to help with SEO and navigation, the article title and the date it was last updated, then a short intro with an image on the right to make the lines shorter (and easier to skim). Finally, I include a clickable table of contents to help with navigation, then get into the article.

Within the article itself, I will use headers (H2s) and subheaders (H3s) to make my content easier to skim and to help Google understand what each section is about.

You can make templates for every kind of post you plan on creating—such as list posts, ultimate guides, tutorials, etc.—and reuse them for every post you ever create. It’s a huge time-saver.

While you’re at it, you should also create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that you go through for every article. This could include writing guidelines, what to do with images, formatting, tone, etc.

3. Outline your article

I never dive into writing an article without outlining it first. An outline ensures the article is well structured and planned before you start writing, and it bakes SEO right into your writing process. It’s another big time-saver.

Typically, you want this outline to include:

  • Potential title or titles of the article
  • Target keyword
  • Brief description of the article angle
  • Links to competing articles on Google for research
  • Headers and subheaders, with brief descriptions of the section as needed

Here’s a look at part of an example outline I’ll either send to my writers or write myself:

Content outline example

I wrote a guide to outlining content, which you can follow here for the full step-by-step process.

4. Write, optimize, and publish your post

Next up, it’s time to write your article. As you write more articles, you’ll find what works for you—but you may find it easier to fill in the sections then go back and write the intro once the article is finished.

Here are a few writing tips to help you become a better writer:

  • Ditch the fluff – If a word isn’t needed to bring a point across, cut it.
  • Keep your paragraphs short – Two to three lines per paragraph is plenty, especially for mobile readers where the screen width is shorter.
  • Use active voice over passive voiceHere is a guide for that.
  • Make your content easy to skim – Include photos and videos and make use of headers and bulleted lists to share key points.

Once you’ve written your article, do some basic on-page SEO to help it rank higher in search results:

  • Ensure your article has one H1 tag – The title of the article.
  • Have an SEO-friendly URL – Include the keyword you’re targeting, but keep it short and easy to read.
  • Link to other pages on your site using proper anchor textHere’s a guide for that.
  • Ensure your images have alt text – This is the text Google uses to read what the image is about, as well as what is shown to readers if the image can’t render.

Finally, publish your post and give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Add product promotions, email opt-ins, and internal links

Before you promote your content, there are a few things you can do to squeeze more ROI from it—namely, you should add a way for people to either push them through the funnel toward purchasing a product or subscribe to your email list. I’ll give an example of each.

First, Solo Stove wrote an article titled “Ambiance Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” where it promotes its tiny Solo Stove Mesa as a way of improving a space’s ambiance: 

How to promote your products in a blog post

Beyond directly promoting your products in the articles, you can also add email opt-ins that give people a percentage off their orders. You may lose a little money on the initial order. But once you get someone’s email address, you can promote to them again and get multiple orders from them.

For example, Primary sells kids’ clothing and uses this email pop-up to promote money off its products after you spend a certain amount of time on its website:

Email opt-in pop-up offering a discount on first order

Just make sure your discount code only works once per unique IP address. You can learn more about how to do that here if you use Shopify.

Finally, when you publish an article, you should make it a point to add internal links to your new article from older articles. 

This won’t be as important for your first few because you won’t have a ton of articles. But as your blog grows, it’s an important part of the process to ensure your readers (and Google) can still find your articles and that they aren’t buried deep on your site.

Refer to our guide to internal linking to learn more about this step.

6. Promote your content

At this point, your content is live and optimized for both conversions and search engines. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on it.

We have an entire guide to content promotion you should read, but here are some highlights:

  • Share the article on all of your social media channels
  • Send the article to your email list if you have one
  • Share your content in relevant communities (such as relevant Reddit forums)
  • Consider running paid ads to your article

There’s a lot more you can do to promote a piece, including reaching out to other blog owners. But I won’t cover all of that here.

The other important piece of promoting your content is getting other website owners to link to your new articles. This is called link building, and it’s a crucial part of SEO.

There are many ways to build links. Some of the most popular include:

Link building is an entire subject on its own. If you’re serious about blogging and getting search traffic, it’s a crucial skill to learn.

7. Scale your efforts

The final step in blogging for e-commerce is scaling up your efforts by creating repeatable processes for each step and hiring people to do the tasks you yourself don’t need to be doing.

You can hire freelance writers, outreach specialists, editors, and more. You can put together a full SEO team for your business.

If you’re not in a place to start hiring, there are still things you can do to squeeze more output from your time, such as creating the SOPs I mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

Blogging is one of the best ways to increase your e-commerce store’s traffic and sales. It costs less than traditional paid advertising and can continue to provide a return long after a post has been published.

This guide will hopefully help you start your e-commerce blog and publish your first post. But remember that success with blogging doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes three to six months on average to see any results from your SEO efforts. Keep learning and be patient.

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

Looking to launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your business?

How do you select the best SEO keywords to expand your brand’s reach?

What can you do to determine the most effective ways to allocate your marketing budget?

Facing these tough decisions can put you on your heels if you’re not equipped with the right information.

Luckily, there’s a new way to leverage your company’s data to estimate your ROI and take the guesswork out of your next campaign.

With a simple mathematical formula, you can predict the amount of traffic and revenue you’ll generate before even setting your strategy in motion – and you can do it all in just five steps.

Want to learn how?

Join our next webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress, to find out how to analyze specific keywords and forecast your SEO results.

Not too fond of math? Don’t worry – we’ll provide access to free tools and a downloadable calculator to help automate this process and save you time.

Key Takeaways From This Webinar: 

  • Learn how forecasting your SEO can help you build better campaigns and choose the right keywords.
  • Get step-by-step instructions to predict revenue and website traffic for your next SEO campaign.
  • Access a free handout, resources, and online tools that will save you time and supercharge your content strategy.

In this session, we’ll share real-life examples and provide guidance for the decision-makers within your organization to start getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

By better understanding the market potential of your product or service, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and effectively maximize your ROI.

Sign up for this webinar and discover how you can secure a sufficient marketing budget and use SEO keywords to forecast the results of your future content campaigns.



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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

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Google SEO Tips For News Articles: Lastmod Tag, Separate Sitemaps

Google Search Advocate John Mueller and Analyst Gary Illyes share SEO tips for news publishers during a recent office-hours Q&A recording.

Taking turns answering questions, Mueller addresses the correct use of the lastmod tag, while Illyes discusses the benefits of separate sitemaps.

When To Use The Lastmod Tag?

In an XML sitemap file, lastmod is a tag that stores information about the last time a webpage was modified.

Its intended use is to help search engines track and index significant changes to webpages.

Google provides guidelines for using the lastmod tag, which could be used to alter search snippets.

The presence of the lastmod tag may prompt Googlebot to change the publication date in search results, making the content appear more recent and more attractive to click on.

As a result, there may be an inclination to use the lastmod tag even for minor changes to an article so that it appears as if it was recently published.

A news publisher asks whether they should use the lastmod tag to indicate the date of the latest article update or the date of the most recent comment.

Mueller says the date in the lastmod field should reflect the date when the page’s content has changed significantly enough to require re-crawling.

However, using the last comment date is acceptable if comments are a critical part of the page.

He also reminds the publisher to use structured data and ensure the page date is consistent with the lastmod tag.

“Since the site map file is all about finding the right moment to crawl a page based on its changes, the lastmod date should reflect the date when the content has significantly changed enough to merit being re-crawled.

If comments are a critical part of your page, then using that date is fine. Ultimately, this is a decision that you can make. For the date of the article itself, I’d recommend looking at our guidelines on using dates on a page.

In particular, make sure that you use the dates on a page consistently and that you structured data, including the time zone, within the markup.”

Separate Sitemap For News?

A publisher inquires about Google’s stance on having both a news sitemap and a general sitemap on the same website.

They also ask if it’s acceptable for both sitemaps to include duplicate URLs.

Illyes explained that it’s possible to have just one sitemap with the news extension added to the URLs that need it, but it’s simpler to have separate sitemaps for news and general content. URLs older than 30 days should be removed from the news sitemap.

Regarding sitemaps sharing the duplicate URLs, it’s not recommended, but it won’t cause any problems.

Illyes states:

“You can have just one site map, a traditional web sitemap as defined by sitemaps.org, and then add the news extension to the URLs that need it. Just keep in mind that, you’ll need to remove the news extension from URLs that are older than 30 days. For this reason it’s usually simpler to have separate site map for news and for web.

Just remove the URLs altogether from the news site map when they become too old for news. Including the URLs in both site maps, while not very nice, but it will not cause any issues for you.”

These tips from Mueller and Illyes can help news publishers optimize their websites for search engines and improve the visibility and engagement of their articles.


Source: Google Search Central

Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock



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