Yesterday saw the third of our Winning At eCommerce events take place and despite some traffic trouble nearby on the M1, we had a healthy turnout of ecommerce retailers keen to hear from Google, Shoe Zone, GI Insight and of course ourselves on all matters digital marketing.
The morning started with insight into Google’s priorities for the coming year from Sabrina Garufi, focusing on the importance of machine learning and encouraging us to think how the digital landscape will evolve over the next two years – what skills and staff will retailers need to keep pace? Over 50% of EMEA retailers are still lagging years behind the curve with websites that aren’t even mobile-friendly, so there is a clear challenge to the industry to step up the pace of digital evolution for fear of being left behind competitors making the most of new technology.
Andrew Council, Head of eCommerce at Shoe Zone gave an excellent talk on how to approach conversion rate optimisation and shared a number of tests (and the results!) that Shoe Zone have conducted in recent times. This included a very interesting test on whether to show the saving (discount) that the customer is receiving in the cart page, which has the potential to show “£0.00” if the product hasn’t been discounted, a potentially negative message. However, the test showed that for Shoe Zone, removing the discount information had a significant negative effect on conversion rate.
An explanation of how Pets At Home utilised their customer data to inform retention and win-back strategies followed from Ian Welch of GI Insight. Although not always an easy task, matching customer data across online and offline channels can be done and the insight that can be won from this is enormously useful. Previously, Pets At Home had been focusing on retention strategies for regular customers, missing the opportunity to bring back lapsed customers or those that had researched online but purchased offline – without the 360-degree view of their customers achieved by matching the online and offline data, that would have been impossible. This data was then used for programmatic advertising, showing exactly the right ads to the right people, along with far more targeted emails and on-site messaging.
Finally, I took the delegates on a brisk run through some of the more common issues we find when conducting SEO audits of ecommerce sites. Using some of the attendees’ sites as examples, I explained how pagination and faceted navigation (e.g. filter options and sort order choices) can create real problems for crawling and indexing, with the potential to waste crawl budget and create large-scale duplication. Add to this the SEO opportunity afforded by faceted navigation, which is missed by almost all ecommerce sites, and you find the biggest challenge for most ecommerce site developers, namely: what combinations of filters, pagination and sort order should I allow to be crawled/indexed and what should be blocked somehow?
That’s a blog post and more in itself, but the point I wanted to make was that if you can crack it, there are lots of wins. As well as optimising your crawl and indexing budget (thereby ensuring search engines spend their time getting the good stuff from your website), you have the chance to rank for keywords that would otherwise be unattainable. These are “combination keywords”, things that are category+filter option(s) like “womens size 6 brown boots” or “Kef bookshelf speakers”. There is search volume for these types of keywords, but if your site can’t produce a page that has at least basic optimisation for them (keywords in the title tag, meta description, <h1> heading, preferably some content on the page), it is almost impossible to rank for these combinations of filter options if your competitors have such pages in place.
We’ve managed to crack it in WooCommerce, our ecommerce platform of choice, but it wasn’t easy, so I have plenty of sympathy for developers requested to undertake this challenge! The rewards are worth the effort though, as we’ve seen with a number of clients.
We’ll be running more Winning At eCommerce events in the future, so keep an eye out for announcements!