Owning a website is a great thing, and there are a variety of ways to earn money from such. Some prefer to do it by creating content through blogs and news reporting, getting their revenue from the advertisements embedded on the pages of the site. Blogging can also apply affiliate marketing wherein bloggers can tie up with shopping sites (like eBay and Amazon) and gain commissions from the sales they can generate from certain products.
In this article, however, I want to focus on one particular revenue generating type of website – and that is ecommerce. No, it is not about selling your products on Amazon.com, eBay.com, or some other shopping sites, but this is about having your own website and using it to sell your products.
For ecommerce websites, SEO or search engine optimization is an important online marketing tactic. I doubt if any online business does not apply SEO in their websites. However, Google (the primary search engine that is targeted by SEO practitioners), has continually updated its search algorithms, thereby causing the evolution of how web marketers understand and implement SEO.
It has become imperative for online business owners, webmasters, and web marketers to go along with the evolution and let go of outdated SEO practices of the past. I have listed below the methods that are still applied by ecommerce site administrators, but are now considered to be ineffective and may even be detrimental to the growth and performance of the websites they own.
1. Focusing too much on keywords and SERP
In the early days of SEO, when social media was not yet prevalent on the Internet, the search engine was the primary platform where online surfers go to explore the Web. Website administrators and marketers would cram their way to make it the top of Google’s SERP (search engine results page). What SEO practitioners do during those days was to research keywords relevant to the niche of their websites, scatter them sparsely all over their webpages, and then track their websites’ performance on the SERP against those keywords.
Nowadays, focusing too much on keywords is not going to work and basing your website’s performance solely on the SERP ranking will only cause frustration in the long run. With the advent of Google algorithms – Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird – content relevance and visitor behavior are now the main gauges of how websites will perform in search rankings. Keywords should now be treated as topics. The webpages’ content must be able to answer questions and satisfy the curiosity of the visitor in order to have an effective reputation in Google.
More often than not, this is the weakness of ecommerce websites. Unlike news sites and community forums where regular content and user interactivity is a non-issue, ecommerce sites are mostly made up of product profiles. This scenario becomes an issue because they run the risk of being considered static sites – there are not much content where visitors can be interested at even when they are not buying the products.
It is recommended that ecommerce sites have a blog or news section and a community page where visitors can interact with the website.
2. Aggressive linkbuilding
Another tactic of SEO that is now outdated is linkbuilding. This is a method in which practitioners look for other websites where they can put the links of their own webpages. The thing is, backlinks (the term for links outside of your own website) are now frowned upon by Google especially if they are not organic in nature – meaning they were deliberately put in there for the purpose of SEO only.
One form of linkbuilding strategy that some ecommerce sites still practice is putting up blogs outside of their main domain, hoping that this could hit 2 birds in 1 stone – i.e. creating regular content and building relevant backlinks. This idea is defective. If you put your content somewhere else and not inside your site domain, then that external blog site is benefiting from your own content and the traffic it generates. Secondly, backlink creation is a thing of the past and, as mentioned, it is already frowned upon by Google.
If you are to implement an effective content strategy through blogging, it is best to published your posts inside the domain of your website in order for your website to benefit fully from the traffic your content will generate.
3. Ignoring other sources of traffic other than Google
Google and search engines are indeed excellent sources of traffic. In the olden days of the Internet, it might even be the primary if not the only source of traffic among websites.
Nowadays, people are more likely to browse their social media accounts and look for interesting content wherein they can react to such content and also communicate with their friends and/or followers.
I have known not a few ecommerce site owners who demean the traffic coming from social media. Reasons range from bounce rates to irrelevant audience. The thing is, a website needs visitors to build reputation, and Google ranks a website better than the others if it has a fairly high amount of traffic.
Besides, if you want to build external links, then social media is the best way to share them where you can also get user engagements and viral response. So if your website is getting tons of traffic from Reddit, Stumblupon, Digg, Google Plus, Linkedin, Facebook, or any other social site, do not treat them as irrelevant; traffic builds reputation and brand awareness, and Google finds highly engaged websites as worthy of search rankings.
4. Pitting SEO against social media
As mentioned, SEO includes social media as an important aspect of its strategy. You have content creation (blogging or news writing) for your onpage optimization, and then you have social media for your offpage optimization. SEO is the umbrella that covers these 2 web marketing techniques.
Sadly, some online businesses put the SEO person or team in competition with the social media marketing staff. They are directed to have separate goals with the implied message that they should outwit each other in terms of gaining traffic and reaching their targets.
The issue here is this – a successful social media marketing strategy will make your SEO efforts successful as well. Also, any effective social media tactic depends on sharing good content from your website; the creation of interesting and relevant content is an essential aspect of SEO.
Social media and SEO does not just go hand in hand with each other, they are inseparable and with the latter being dependent on the former.
5. Insisting on the 1:1 ratio
The 5th and last one on this list of items is the most common and highly ingrained belief in the minds of online shop owners. It is so difficult for them to let go of this notion that they stubbornly insist on it to detriment of reaching their website’s peak performance.
The 1:1 ratio is the belief that any visit to the website should convert into a transaction or sale. If a site visit does not amount to a sale or transaction, it is of zero value. This is one of the basis why list #2 above exists; if you get tremendous amounts of traffic from particular referral or social sites but they do not translate into conversion, those visits and pageviews are practically worthless. This belief hinders an ecommerce site from its peak performance, making its goals go around in circles.
Usually, the web analytics tool will display data that the traffic with the most number of conversions are coming from Google and direct traffic. The thing is, the visitors coming from Google and direct traffic might have already visited the site from other sources previously, particularly from social media.
First time visits to a website often do not amount to any conversion yet. What it does is it establishes reputation and instills brand awareness. By the time, the visitor gets interested to purchase your product online, Google has already captured his/her surfing behavior and will display your webpage[s] on top of the SERP. The returning visitor may also be reflected as a direct visit. This scenario is the reason why Google traffic and direct traffic show up with the most number of conversions in your web analytics tool.
Revenue is the most important goal of any ecommerce website. Yet, if you dismiss the idea that a website needs traffic to build its reputation and create brand awareness among the online community, you run the risk of not getting your full ROI (return of investment). Traffic, engagement, and interactions coming to your websites, even if they do not convert into a sale yet and especially if it is free and organic, are sure ways to keep your ROI going.