Developing and optimizing targeted content pages is frequently an effective search engine optimization strategy for e-commerce websites. I have worked with a number of clients who have successfully employed this strategy to generate significant volumes of natural search traffic. However, in all of these cases, the clients came to my company for assistance with increasing their website conversion. The targeted content pages attracted the visitors but struggled converting them into sales.
The dilemma is a common balancing act between optimizing for search engines while equally optimizing for visitors. But more deeply, it also involves another common problem of relevance.
For e-commerce websites especially those with thousands to tens of thousands of SKUs, there are countless numbers of keywords and associated keyword phrases/variations that can attract visitors. However not all keywords are created equal. Likewise not all keywords carry the same level of visitor intent to purchase.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when initially designing targeted content pages or while improving the conversion rate from existing targeted content page visitors:
Write your content to not only help with search engine optimization but also to attract and interest the visitor to take action. Use text and images to generate visitor attention and generate interest. Most visitors skim and scan, so use bullet points to communicate important product details to visitors while using two or three sentences in an initial paragraph to embed rich (although still readable) content for the search engines.
Think thoroughly about the keyword(s) you are targeting for a specific content page. Are the keywords related to an informational, evaluation or transactional search? If they are informational-related keywords (e.g. product care, maintenance, history) then your content’s objective is to educate. In this case, acknowledge that using sales conversion to measure the visitor quality landing on an informational content page is ineffective. Time spent on site may be a more realistic measure even opting into a newsletter, performing a deeper search or viewing some product pages are equally better measures.
Similarly for evaluation and transactional keywords (e.g. product name, brand name, specific product attribute, and buy product) you should fit the content (including product images, attributes and content) to the intention associated with the keyword. Make sure the product(s) being displayed above or alongside the targeted content is relevant to the targeted keywords. Don’t make people think whether it’s relevant; instead, suggest the relevance through matching product headings, link text and descriptions directly with the targeted keywords.
At times, determining keyword intent is difficult. In these cases, use a clear call-to-action to pull visitors who may not be interested in the products displayed on the content page into a relevant product category. You don’t want to create a “this is what you get or leave” situation. Instead if a visitor is not interested in the immediate products displayed, provide “information scent” to a broader variety of products that may address their needs.
Similar to the above approach, also prominently display your in-site search function on the targeted content page using a possible call-to-action like, “Can’t find what you are looking for? Search our Extensive Line of Products here!” Once you get a visitor to reach your website, give them every opportunity to remain engaged. Build in the search flexibility to help visitors move beyond the initial content (entry) page and deeper into rest of your website.
If you are interested in optimizing the customer experience effectiveness of your existing targeted content page then use your website analytics to pinpoint the less effective ones. If you are using Google Analytics, use the Top Content report and if necessary use the “Find URL” feature at the bottom of the report to find your targeted content page(s). Look at the bounce rate, exit rate and $Index (which tells you how much each page on your site is worth.) Target the higher volume pages and start testing new strategies like those listed above for the ones that show the highest bounce rate, exit rate or lowest $ index value. Test and measure your changes on one first before rolling out them across other targeted content pages. For your targeted content pages related to informational keywords, take their visitor volume numbers out of the sales conversion equation. Ideally, though you would want to track latent buys occurring from previous visitors to these content pages if possible.