With the pandemic far from over, there’s a greater need for digital marketing and SEO than ever before – but higher consumer demand doesn’t necessarily mean instant success for your brand, even if you’re confident a channel such as SEO will work for your business.
That’s because there are still crucial steps brands need to take before deploying SEO or even PPC work.
SEO is all about making sure your product and website are noticed by the right people. But first, it’s crucial to make sure your product, and how you frame it in a digital space, are even worth seeing in the first place. If not, there’s little point in directing people to your site.
We can’t stress enough how critical it is to prepare your brand before carrying out campaigns like this. Retail Economics’ research predicts that 26.1% of 2021’s sales will be made online – that’s a nearly 6% increase from 2019. The traffic will be there, but whether or not your site sees conversions will be down to what you’re offering and how you position it.
If you’ve ever dealt with a campaign whose results weren’t what you hoped, or you’re looking to start your first SEO endeavour, making sure you’ve taken the following steps beforehand could make all the difference.
1. Make sure your positioning is right
As an agency, we’ve seen the same question countless times before:
“Why doesn’t it seem like I can get my SEO to work no matter what agency I use, or how much money I spend?”
The answer here isn’t more SEO or necessarily better SEO. It’s arguably at an even deeper level. The issue is potentially with how your brand is perceived and how you talk about your product online.
Let’s start with positioning. We’ve touched in previous posts about its importance, but it’s worth reiterating.
Positioning is essentially the way consumers view your product and brand. Done incorrectly, and it can be the difference between standing out from competitors and making sales, and getting lost in the noise.
Without a strong positioning strategy, a business’s SEO campaign is more or less useless. Getting consumers to your site will make little difference if they don’t actually understand what you’re selling, why they should buy it or if they can even trust you. Good positioning will help consumers answer all these questions quickly after they reach your site, which will raise the chances of them converting.
Here’s a good example of a company using effective category-based positioning:
Tots Bots is a company that makes reusable nappies. They know cloth nappies are a more labour-intensive option, so they work hard to address parents’ concerns in a concise and persuasive way.
They’ve clearly identified their target audience (environmentally-conscious parents) and the problems they have (the potential cost of disposable nappies and these particular parents’ preference for eco-friendly alternatives and quality fabrics over cheap materials) and can offer their product as a solution.
Their positioning is clear, effective and successful.
Positioning is critical to your brand achieving the sales you want. If you’re keen to get your positioning strategy going, we’ve written a post on how to kick off the process.
2. Make sure your offer is good enough
That said, what you’re actually offering and whether or not you can frame it as unique enough from other similar products on the market, or give consumers enough urgency to convert will decide if you’re ready for an SEO campaign.
Again, if you aren’t able to show that you’ve got an incredible offer clearly to consumers that arrive at your site, what’s the point in spending time and money to get them there via an SEO campaign?
You’ll need to differentiate your product from others on the market. Why is it better than anything else available? What value will it bring to your customers’ lives?
Let’s look at smol, a company that sells home washing products in eco-friendly packaging.
Their offer centres on providing eco-friendly alternatives to cleaning supplies, which is something that has historically been hard to come by, at least at an affordable price.
Immediately on smol’s homepage, you’re met with assurances that for a good price, you can get an eco-friendly product that’ll still deliver. They hit all the target points right away. Dig deeper into the site, and you’ll find even more information about how environmentally friendly and affordable their products are. It’s perfect.
Next, you’ll need to make sure you’re giving people the right nudge to make them actually convert. We’ll say it again – if you can’t offer consumers enough incentive to actually buy from you, there’s little point in directing them to your site.
In the past, free returns and good customer service might have been enough to gain a consumer’s trust and get them to buy from you. Nowadays these kinds of things are expected as standard.
A “try before you buy” offer is becoming more and more popular, especially for major purchases. Buying online can be a risk, as people don’t have the same opportunity to touch and experience a product like they would in-store. Give people the chance to test out your product before spending anything, and you make the decision to buy a little less risky.
The Groomsman Suit is an online brand selling men’s and women’s suits, largely for special occasions. They know their customers are going to want to get their look exactly right, so buying a suit online can be a big gamble.
That’s why they offer a “try before you buy” scheme. Customers won’t be charged the full amount for their suit until seven days have passed. If they don’t like the suit, they can return it for free. It’s simple.
What can you offer consumers that’s important enough to nudge them closer to that buy-button? A special offer? Free shipping as well as free returns? Whatever it is, it must be something you can actually deliver, otherwise you’ll likely lose that customer for good.
3. Make sure you’ve got the right platform
We could write pages and pages on what platforms work best for eCommerce sites (and we’ll do so in future), so we’ll try to keep this simple. The bottom line is that the right platform for your business is crucial for a successful SEO campaign.
We’ve seen countless projects fail because their CMS lacks the right functionality, or is too complicated to use in the ways needed. Custom-built platforms or those built by small vendors with low customer bases are the worst offenders here, although there are of course exceptions.
As a very broad rule of thumb, if you only have a relatively low number of SKUs (say, a few hundred), we’d say your best choice is between Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce. Each have their pros and cons.
WooCommerce sometimes requires more development, but gives you more options in terms of design. Shopify is solid, but has its quirks, although all of these can be addressed by someone with the right technical knowledge. BigCommerce is cheaper and has better shipping rates, but can be trickier in terms of SEO.
For sellers with larger amounts of products, platforms such as Magento are popular, which is open source, but will require a lot of development resources.
Again, this is a subject that will require a lot of research, and will be driven by features such as back-end integrations, budgets and timeframes. Some more details on how to approach this can be seen here.
Changing platforms once you’ve already established your business is possible, but can take a lot of time and resources, and the impact of getting it wrong can be huge. That’s why it’s ideal to get it right the first time.
4. Make sure you’re properly resourced
As you can see from the above, eCommerce sites are large and technically challenging, with lots of moving parts to understand and bring together under a coherent SEO strategy. If there are no development resources to fix issues, it can derail a project before it even gets started.
At the same time, from a marketing point of view there are lots of things to consider. For SEO, parts of the project will need regular communication and sign off, such as navigation updates or content plans.
The obvious option to solve this is to have a designated person on your team that’s responsible for implementing or assisting with any digital marketing strategies. Their job may be it to put an SEO plan in place or work with an outside agency as a point of contact and support where required.
Without addressing these four points, any digital marketing strategy you or an agency come up with won’t get very far. However, once you get them right, you’ll be in a strong position to succeed with a robust SEO campaign.
If you’re ready to get an SEO project underway, or need some help preparing your business for inbound digital marketing, feel free to contact us.
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