Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.
Do you want to keep the traffic from search engines coming to your eCommerce website?
Surprise: So does everyone else.
Thanks to competing search results and Google’s periodic algorithm updates, it’s common for eCommerce brands to see organic traffic and corresponding sales decline over time.
So, how can you retain traffic to these “money pages” that drive so many sales for your eCommerce business?
It’s all about continually optimizing your eCommerce content.
While a stellar eCommerce content strategy and scalable content production are keys to producing new content, today we’ll focus on ensuring your old content stays in tip-top shape — to keep driving traffic from search engines, even if those pages lose their original spots in the results pages.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why Sales Drop When Your Organic Traffic Drops
- How to Create High-Quality Content that Ranks
- How to Help Your Content Recover from Traffic Drops
Why Sales Drop When Your Organic Traffic Drops
When your best content loses its search engine equity, so do the product pages that content links to. In turn, those specific product pages don’t pass on as much link equity to the additional products that they link to.
Search engine optimization (SEO) can often be a “survival of the fittest” of competing websites vying to rank at the top of Google for valuable search queries. At the same time, Google is always experimenting with new ways to feature the pages that they think are most relevant for a given search.
To illustrate, Google used to look like this, with purely organic results:
Today, here is what the top of the search engine results page (SERPs) for this query actually looks like with Google’s “rich snippets”:
The exclusively organic rankings of old have now been replaced with a variety of results types, including:
- Featured Snippets (like recipes and step-by-step lists)
- Knowledge panel
- Local pack results
- “People Also Ask” questions
- Paid ads
- Video content
The inclusion of these varied results can cause even the best-performing content to drop in the SERPs, like it did for one of our clients in 2019.
Even though their strategic content maintained its organic rank at position 0 AND position 1 (the “top” of Google’s organic results), the traffic to their money page decreased between August 2018 and August 2019.
Searching Query 1 in Google, we saw several things pushing their top-ranking strategic content down in the results:
- A Google Ad for a product
- A “People Also Ask” section
- A video carousel section
These rich snippets dramatically decreased our listing’s click-through rate — reducing the number of people going to our client’s ranking content and correlating with lower revenue from the products that the ranking page linked to.
So, how could we fix this?
The First Step: Create High-Quality Website Content
Before we get into our “quick tricks” for optimizing your existing eCommerce content, we need to make one thing clear:
All the SEO tricks in the world won’t make a difference if your content stinks.
If your content doesn’t address your audience’s search intent and give them helpful information, it will slowly drop out of the SERPs (if it even ranked there to begin with). Minor optimizations won’t make much of a difference if the foundation of your content is weak.
That’s why we recommend starting at the source — making sure your website content is high-quality enough to answer your customer’s questions and provide a valuable user experience.
How to Create “Quality” eCommerce Content
In general, quality content refers to pages that meet their stated purpose and satisfy someone who finds them through a search engine.
Product & Category Pages
When you have an eCommerce site, your efforts should be focused first on your product and category pages. From a revenue standpoint, these are your most valuable landing pages — not just for conversions, but also for the overall customer experience.
Unfortunately, most online stores tend to neglect these pages, at least from an SEO and content standpoint.
Making these pages “quality” isn’t difficult. Usually, it means adding more comprehensive, helpful details — like additional copy, product images, and videos (don’t forget the alt text!) — to enhance the page, upgrade user experience, and improve conversion rates.
For more guidance on category and product page optimization, check out our complete eCommerce SEO Copywriting Guidelines.
After your product and category pages are optimized, we recommend layering in quality “strategic content” (e.g. blog articles, buying guides, etc.) on your site.
When we talk about “strategic content,” we mean successful or effective content that achieves a goal, such as:
- Driving traffic, backlinks, and engagement
- Ranking in Google’s SERPs
- Creating desire for your product or services
- Leading people to key conversion pages (like a lead gen form or product/category page)
When you create quality strategic content that serves its purpose, you’ll naturally get inbound links in ways that your product and category pages cannot. Remember: Links are a huge data source for Google about what different websites and pages are about (and to what degree they are relevant to someone’s search query).
In our experience, one type of content that gets a lot of inbound links is “How-To” content.
Why “How-To” Content is so Popular
“How-To” content (usually in the form of an instructional guide, infographic, or video) teaches your target audience something they didn’t know related to your industry.
We recommend creating “how to” content that is directly related to your eCommerce store. For example, our client EarthKind sells pest control products. So, much of their online content focuses on “how to get rid of” certain pests, like the spider-focused page below:
This type of content provides the perfect opportunity to add internal links to your product and category pages: driving relevant traffic from that quality content to your product pages where they can convert.
Plus, by teaching your audience and helping to solve their problems (i.e. the questions they are searching for in Google), you position your store as an authority on the topic and build trust with your customers.
Bonus tip: Take advantage of that new trust with a strategically placed call-to-action (CTA) that promotes your products or points your visitors to other helpful content.
3 eCommerce Content Optimization Tips to Help Your Pages Recover
So, now that you’ve confirmed your content is high-quality enough to rank well in Google (and you’ve used our traffic drop checklist to eliminate any other factors for your traffic loss), it’s time to start optimizing those webpages.
For situations like our client’s above, we typically recommend three SEO remedies to recover valuable lost traffic.
1. Reclaim Real Estate for the Page in the SERPs
Improving on-page SEO and technical SEO for your content can help Google rediscover its relevance. Sometimes, doing this can even land your content in place of the rich snippets that knocked yours down the page in the first place.
To help your content reclaim that real estate in the SERPs and increase the likelihood of it appearing as a rich result, use these strategies.
1. Add schema markup to create structured data.
Where you can, employ structured data for your content, because it makes your existing search listings visually stand out in the SERPs.
Use the following types of markup:
- Local business
- Site navigation
- Ratings & reviews
- And more
Google is more likely to pick up on structured data and use it as a rich result. You can test a webpage for missing markup with Google Search Console’s Rich Results Test.
2. Claim space in other new organic sections.
Outside of using markup, you can optimize your page’s content toward other rich results. Do this by structuring your content in a featured-snippet- or “People Also Ask”-friendly way.
Usually, this means being clear in your formatting by structuring the page with headers, bullet points, numbered lists, and clean/concise questions and answers.
Identify what Google usually features (and which strategies you should employ) with the following steps:
- Search Google for the target keywords you’re aiming for with your content.
- Look at the rich results that come up and any questions in the “People Also Ask” box.
- Incorporate similar-but-unique content (such as a definition that showed up as the rich result) to your page. Add a Q&A section using the questions in the “People Also Ask” box. (Note: Your content should be similar, but not completely copy, your competitors in the SERPs.)
3. Beat the competition with paid search ads.
Finally, if you can’t beat the organic content to reclaim your real estate organically, use Google Search Ads to give your content a leg up.
Paid search advertising can help your website appear in the SERPs with more certainty than the above strategies. However, the success of your PPC ads depends on several variables (your business, the ad targets, and the competitive landscape), and it might not be viable if the competition can outspend you.
If the ROI is possible from Google Ads, then paying to reclaim the lost real estate is a viable option. Often, though, it’s hard to compete when other retailers can outspend yours for a search term.
2. Improving Internal Linking to Products
In our experience, interlinking across your own site (or across multiple owned sites) is one of the most overlooked SEO activities.
Chances are, there are other pages on your site getting traffic. Can you link to relevant products in your store from that other existing content that drives visitors? If so, you can boost the quality of both pages as they feed off each other’s performance.
For more link-building strategies, check out our complete link-building guide.
3. Create More Content That Links to More Products
Should your store start publishing strategic content? Yes.
Consistent content creation on your site will help you:
- Create additional assets that can engage potential customers in organic and paid audiences.
- Improve the domain authority (the overall quality in terms of SEO) of your website through additional links.
We often recommend adding copy (and links!) to product descriptions (as well as to category pages) to help with their overall content quality. That said, we also see revenue suffer when the content that links to those product pages suffers.
So, make sure you’re continually monitoring your content’s performance to catch any traffic drops before it’s too late.
Optimize Your eCommerce Content Today
Improving your website’s quality through on-page and technical SEO can help insulate it against organic traffic drops, but content quality can’t be overlooked in this game.
Applying these eCommerce content optimization tactics — including the creation of high-quality content at scale — can help drive revenue without direct sales from product and category pages.
That said, we know that eCommerce content marketing can be a large task, especially for smaller digital marketing teams. For more effective implementation, consider working with an agency like ours. Our SEO experts are happy to apply our eCommerce marketing expertise toward growth-focused content creation, copywriting, and SEO for your online store.
Get started with a free proposal today, or check out any of our supplemental resources to improve your site’s content marketing strategy: