These days the fight for online real estate is very crowded, and the beach front properties of the internet – aka page one of Google – are hard to come by. With 211 million pieces of online content being created every minute, it’s no wonder it’s hard to gain and keep the attention of consumers in 2018.
So, where should you focus your energy to gain more traffic and keep visitors coming back for more?
Keep reading to discover the traffic factors I have used to achieve at least 10% month-on-month growth in organic website traffic for the last 14 months straight.
Here are my four tips for organic traffic growth for eCommerce sites:
1. Make sure search engines understand your website
Let’s start with the basics, your website’s structure. Without the right foundation you’re never going to rank well in search engines, but unfortunately many website owners fail to pay attention to this step because it’s complex and kind of boring to most people.
Website owners often assume that their web developers know how to build websites for search engines, but unfortunately that is not always the case. A search engine doesn’t read the images, pretty layout and cool features on your site – it reads code. In fact, search engines have a lot of trouble understanding eCommerce websites, so it’s your job to make it as easy as possible – or you won’t get the luxury of being chosen for page one.
A common issue for eCommerce websites is the creation of duplicate or near-duplicate content that will confuse search engines and ultimately affect your site negatively.
Duplicate content can happen very easily – let me give you a simple example to illustrate. You might sell a product in three colours, red, green and blue. Each version has its own product page with basically the same product description, pricing, page title and other content search engines will pick up.
Except for the words red, green or blue, these pages are virtually identical. So which one should the search engine put forward as THE PAGE?
Blow this out across your full product suite and you might have thousands of duplicate or near-duplicate pages, and for search engines the confusion is real.
An in-depth explanation of this topic warrants a separate article, so I’ll refer you to this article from Kissmetrics as a great place to start. Furthermore, I’d recommend engaging with an SEO company to do a full audit on your site and work through any structural issues preventing you from being accepted into the Promised Land of organic traffic.
2. User experience is everything
According to a recent ranking factors study by search engine marketing giant SEMrush, the four most important ranking factors contributing to the organic search ranking for a given page are all on-page user experience metrics.
Direct website visits
Do your visitors type your URL directly into their browser or do they search for your business name in Google? If so, that’s great. Direct visits tell search engines that you have managed to build a brand that’s important enough for consumers to be looking for you rather than performing generic search queries.
The question is, how do you make this happen more often? We’ll get to that later in this article.
Time on Site, Pages per Session and Bounce Rate
Have you ever wondered why Google provides their Google Analytics (GA) platform for free to any website in the world? It’s a great tool for you to understand your visitors but it also benefits Google tremendously. Through the GA platform they can measure exactly what visitors are doing on your site such as the time on site, how many (and which) pages they visit and whether they leave without an answer to their initial search query.
In other words, search engines (specifically Google) no longer just care whether your content contains the right keywords for a given search term. They now care even more about what happens ON THE PAGE.
Time on site, pages visited and bounce rate are all super strong signals that say a lot about your user experience. So how do you increase these metrics? Content quality and length, using plenty of multimedia such as images and video within the content and storytelling are all methods that we use to keep users on our pages for longer at Bike Chaser.
In fact, the ranking factors study by SEMrush found that content length has a significant impact on your ranking results. Basically the longer the content, the more likely you are to rank near the top. This is not because longer content is better per se, but rather because longer content tends to be more in-depth and therefore more likely to answer a visitor’s search query and more.
So, how long should your content be? The short answer is “as long as it takes to cover the topic in full”, but don’t be afraid to create content that stretches over 1,500 words or more.
3. You still need lots of links to your site
The most important non-UX ranking factor (and fifth most important factor overall) is still the number (and quality) of external links pointing to your site. It’s as simple as this: if you don’t have backlinks, you’re not going to rank.
Think of backlinks as votes for your product or service from other people around the web. They are sort of a “virtual word of mouth” so it makes sense for links to be an important ranking factor.
The best links are still those that point to your webpage with anchor text that is very relevant to common search queries. An example of this on our site, Bike Chaser, would be a link for the common search query “bicycles for sale” pointing to THE MOST RELEVANT CATEGORY PAGE FOR THAT SEARCH TERM, like so: bicycles for sale.
In reality these sorts of links can be very tricky to obtain organically for an eCommerce site because product category pages are inherently “boring”, yet not quite specific enough to attract links from product reviews, forum comments and other pages.
Fortunately, there are ways to affect how search engines view the “quality” of a specific webpage without a lot external linking. Enter Authority Sculpting.
When a search engine comes across a piece of content with lots of links pointing to it from reputable sources (often referred to as “link juice”), it will attach authority to the page itself but also to other pages that are linked to from this page. Because it’s a quality piece of content, WHAT IT LINKS TO must also be better than average. This is true whether the linked-to page is internal or external to the same site.
In short, Authority Sculpting works like this:
- create an outstanding piece of content on your site;
- promote it to get visitors, social shares and links pointing to it, and;
- create an internal link from that page to your most important eCommerce page(s).
In reality you need three to four of these internal links to really make a difference so it’s a continuous process of content creation and promotion. This brings us to the next point.
4. Realise that you’re a media company
Let me be straight here: in today’s world you’re a media company whether you like it or not. Do you have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter page? Have you started your own YouTube channel yet? If you can say “yes” to these questions then great, you’re well underway to building your own unique tribe of people who care about what you do. If your answer is “no”, then you better get started.
At Bike Chaser we don’t only run a marketplace for bicycle products. We have two cycling podcasts, run a popular cycling news section on our site, produce mini documentaries on the local cycling culture and create videos from local cycling events. We also provide reviews of cycling products and free training programs for amateur cyclists. In other words, we spend a lot of time on content that can drive traffic, social shares, brand mentions and backlinks to the site.
As mentioned above, Authority Sculpting then helps us point traffic and “link juice” to our marketplace product pages through links from popular content.
We do this because we believe the days of “shouting” at your customers through old school one-way communication channels such as TV, radio and print media are in rapid decline. The traditional advertising methods are grossly overpriced compared to investing in social media marketing and quality content that brings buyer-ready visitors to you for free from search engines.
A content marketing strategy is definitely a long-term play that doesn’t necessarily produce instant results, but if you’re in the game of building a lasting business with lots of returning customers, you can’t afford to ignore it.
Jonas Christensen is a co-founder of Bike Chaser, an Australian marketplace for buying and selling bicycles and cycling accessories. He writes about cycling, business and entrepreneurship.