Red pill or blue pill?
The latter promises status quo and business-as-usual. The red pill, however, challenges you to open your mind and test your basic assumptions.
When it comes to managing your eCommerce site, blue-pill thinking encourages a pernicious “set it and forget it” mentality that can threaten your long-term growth and success; market forces are constantly in flux, as are customer preferences and search engine algorithms. So let’s enthusiastically gulp down the red one, shall we?
You Have Many Product Pages – Which Ones Should You Improve?
Managing a healthy eCommerce site is akin to cultivating a diverse, colorful (and profitable) garden. A crucial part of this cultivation is updating your product pages. While other types of pages – such as your homepage, blog posts and category pages – also play a crucial role in bringing traffic to your site, product pages have two powerful and unique attributes.
For starters, they’re inherently more likely to rank for specific product queries. Content built around a specific product, such as “Matrix BulletTime™ Neo Action Figure,” should inherently rank well for those searches. Secondly, a user who lands on a product page is one step further down the purchase funnel; their search is more likely to have “transactional” intent. Once they’re on the page, they’re just one click away from adding the item to their cart.
An ongoing product page improvement strategy allows you to focus on “winners,” while helping you adapt to changing customer preferences and market conditions (as borne out in your site and business metrics). Additionally, product page improvements help you tap into Google’s “Recency Bias” – a moderate algorithmic boost often created by refreshing existing content.
Of course, continuous improvement is easier said than done when you have limited time and resources. Given those limitations, how should you focus your energy?
1) Prepare with Pruning
Before you consider which product pages you should improve, think about eliminating the weak performers from Google’s index. Here at Inflow, this process starts out with a comprehensive Content Audit that identifies product pages that are failing to deliver traffic, and then culminates in creating a list of URLs that are removed from the index – but not necessarily deleted from the site.
This simple step can lead to impressive ranking and traffic improvements in the weeks and months after the pruning takes place. And as a bonus, culling the wheat from the chaff will make it easier to zero in on product pages worth improving. If you think a product no longer has any place on your site, and is no longer generating revenue whatsoever, simply delete the URL or redirect it to a relevant category page. (For more on the subject, see this comprehensive pruning guide.)
2) Move on to Improving
The second step focuses on a different sort of question: What product URLs could benefit most from optimization?
In a perfect world, what would you like to sell more of? While I’m not a mind reader, I would venture to guess that these products would have some combination of the following attributes:
- They’ve delivered relatively high revenue over the time period you’re analyzing
- They have high margins
- They have a high long-term value (LTV); customers who buy these tend to come back for other products
As such, they may be excellent candidates for optimization; if a product has a disproportionate positive impact on your bottom-line, it stands to reason that you may want to spend more time on improving it.
At this juncture, it’s helpful to associate these metrics with each URL in a spreadsheet generated by Google Analytics (GA). Have your team pull data from GA for a set time period – for example, the past year – and focus on Organic traffic. Also ensure that your GA data is not sampled. If GA is already pulling in accurate revenue data, you’re in good shape. This can then be cross-referenced with your own margin data, LTV and any other business metrics you’d like to pull in.
The traffic data from GA will come in handy during the next step.
Bring in SEO Metrics and Prioritize
Should you focus on those with the most traffic? If so, might that be a self-fulfilling prophecy that would have you optimizing pages that are already optimized and getting traffic? Some organizations have special products they like to push over others due to stock, pricing and other issues. It helps to ask about these.
It helps sometimes to change your perspective entirely.
Consider other metrics and decision-making factors. Ask the merchandising team if any products are about to be discontinued. If so, maybe those are bottom priority.
Check out Google Trends. If you have a diverse mix of products, it’s likely that some may be enjoying increasing popularity, while others are heading in the opposite direction. Products trending upward would be better candidates for updates than those that are flat or declining.
Returning to the spreadsheet you already created, analyze organic landing page data for your products. You’ll probably see a relatively small number of standout performers, many products doing “OK,” and some weak performers generating little to no organic landing page traffic.
Do some products end up generating a higher average order value (AOV) even though they aren’t necessarily high-priced products? Do some get better/more reviews and shares than others? Are you spending too much on some with paid product listings? Improving that page could lessen your reliance on those channels, or improve the Quality Score of the page, thus lowering PPC bids.
Prioritizing which pages to improve first is highly situational, but one tactic that seems to work well in most situations, known internally at Inflow as optimizing “page two performers.”
Find Opportunities on Page Two
It’s likely that certain products are appearing on the second page of Google’s search results, yet are still driving some traffic and conversions.
Keywords sending traffic from page two of the search results are fantastic opportunities, and those pages should be prioritized for improvement.
[tweetthis display_mode=”box”]Keywords sending traffic from page 2 of the SERPS are fantastic opportunities. #SEO[/tweetthis]
Additional optimization might push those “page two performer” opportunities to page one, earning them much more visibility.
This data can be found in the Search Analytics section of Google Search Console. Select the “Pages” button, and use the filter option to help narrow down the results to products.
4) Tap Into the Matrix
In analyzing which product pages to improve, use the following four-quadrant matrix to guide your strategy:
The upper right quadrant is clearly where you want to focus your energies. These products have the enticing combination of being good for your business, as well as having a high potential to benefit from SEO. This is your Morpheus-approved sweet spot.
On the other hand, products in the lower left quadrant are a much lower priority for optimization. In fact, you might even choose to leave them completely untouched for the time being. In addition to not being the ideal fit for your business (i.e., margins aren’t great, revenue isn’t that high and so on), potential improvements don’t stand to drive much additional organic traffic. Set these aside for now.
The other two quadrants have attractive attributes, without offering that powerful combination of SEO potential and bottom-line boosting elements. These should be addressed, but only after handling those priority products in the top right quadrant.
Where Rubber Meets Virtual Road
Once you’ve prioritized your list of URLs to improve, your team can set out to implement those changes. The logical place to begin is in creating a unique product description. These are frequently copied elsewhere on the web, so it really pays to write compelling, one-of-a-kind copy that’s good for both search engines and visitors. A variety of clear product images help as well.
Also be mindful of creating optimized title tags and meta descriptions. While the product name itself will typically serve as the title, a solid meta description will improve the click-through-rate from search engine result pages – and in turn, may provide a boost to rankings.
Whether your product catalog is in the 100s or 10,000s, these basic principles apply. By taking both business metrics and SEO data into consideration, you’ll make a better-informed decision about where to focus your limited resources. It’s a new, nuanced world that’s more challenging (and rewarding) than simply maintaining the status quo. Sites who take the red-pill route with product pages are typically rewarded with higher rankings and traffic, and ultimately an uptick in revenue.