Sagar Sethi is the Managing Director and founder of Xugar, a digital growth agency.
As we turn into the final stretch of 2020, it’s not hard to look back and see how everything has changed over the year. The world is more digital than ever before, and if you’ve been following the SEO space, no doubt you’ve seen articles on how SEO isn’t dead or how implementing SEO for your business is now critical for marketing.
But a lot of that is based on what we already know: tried-and-tested SEO strategies that have exploded this year as online shopping grows. But which strategies are actually working for businesses? And what’s the next logical step for SEO, digital marketing and online business?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the number of people shopping online has increased considerably this year. According to Adobe Analytics, online sales were up 42% year over year in August. And according to Statista (membership required), retail e-commerce sales are expected to hit $4.2 trillion this year. More importantly, I predict that these numbers will only grow as time goes on.
Here’s where I want to speculate a bit: Looking at current trends and analyst figures, I believe Covid-19 has given us a jump-start. Chances are, you’ve been socially distancing in some way or another since March. And with people more likely to buy online than in-person this year, we’re all building habits that will continue to drive online shopping trends next year and beyond.
By now, you’re probably wondering:
• “How can I make use of these trends?”
• “Are there strategies that will give me an advantage?”
There are three things e-commerce stores can do to set themselves up for success:
Optimize content to be people-first.
Search engines have gotten a lot better at recognizing and understanding content, as well as working out what kind of content is valuable to users. This means the days of simply setting up a website and filling it with thousands of words are over.
These days, people expect high-quality, high-value content that will give them answers quickly and comprehensively. And Google’s bidirectional encoder representations from transformers (BERT) search algorithm is giving it to them. With the ability to better understand nuanced and natural language, BERT can break down conversational language search terms and more accurately direct users to valuable content.
Of course, this means putting in the effort to create valuable content that is ready for users to read and learn from. This could be the general website content, detailed blog posts, product descriptions and more — anything a search engine can hold onto and label as “value.” I’ve seen many websites finding success this year by putting effort into creating value through their blogs and product descriptions. Give your users the information they need to make that conversion decision right where it’s needed.
Understand your customers.
One of the best ways you can increase your conversions is to sell directly to your customers. And no, I don’t mean literally walking up to their door and asking them to buy. You need to understand how your target market shops online, what kind of language they use, where they get information on new products and services, and what kind of offers they perceive as valuable, as well as any other information you can get your hands on.
By understanding your customers in depth, you can refine the content on your website better, run more specific ad targeting and speak more directly to your customers. I consider Amazon to be a good example of understanding customers. Look at any top-selling product, and you’ll likely see large product descriptions filled with information. Through its own search algorithms, Amazon has created incentives for sellers to make their product descriptions detailed, informative and relevant to what their customers are looking for.
Make it easy to buy.
The best way to sell is to make it as easy as possible for your customer to buy. As online shopping evolves, I’m starting to see this concept everywhere, through one-click purchases on major sites, buy-now-pay-later services and easy booking systems for service providers. Even social media platforms have implemented single-press (or swipe) conversion options for ads.
As I mentioned earlier, a search engine’s main goal is to help users reach valuable content. One of the best ways to make this easy is by displaying that content right on the search page so users don’t even have to click on a website to find information. About half of Google searches are said to be “zero-click searches,” which indicates that less than half of all these searches will land your customers on your actual website.
This tells me a couple of things:
1. You need to get your website and your content onto the front page of Google as much as possible. This means optimizing for Google shopping, making sure your Google My Business is up to date for Google maps, and optimizing your content for featured snippets so that users can read it without having to click onto your website.
2. The zero-click tactics work, and you can use the same ones to make it easy for your customers and users to navigate your website. Work out what information is the most important for your customers, and make it easy for them to find it. Reduce the number of steps to conversion.
When it comes to the ever-changing landscape of the internet, especially as people’s search and buying habits change, the ways you capture people’s attention are limitless. While there is no set answer to growing a business online, following these tips is sure to put you on the right track.