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Reality Check: Is SEO Still a Viable Marketing Tactic for eCommerce Businesses in 2023?

August 28, 2023
Ryan Stogran

Summary:

  • SEO has evolved significantly in recent years—focusing on user experience, site speed, mobile optimization, and high-quality content rather than merely relying on keywords and backlinks.
  • Updates to search engine algorithms reflect a growing focus on eCommerce that goes hand in hand with a rise in online shopping and includes greater emphasis on creating seamless customer experiences.
  • Modern users expect personalized and immediate results. Taking a mobile-first approach and accounting to voice search are both key parts of optimizing for ‘micro-moments’ (the exact instances when consumers turn to their devices for solutions).
  • Despite its complexity, SEO remains a valuable tool for eCommerce, helping businesses stand out in a competitive landscape by attracting traffic and building brand credibility.
  • Key SEO strategies for 2023 include optimizing technical aspects, focusing on on-page and off-page SEO, adapting to mobile and voice search, integrating high-quality content marketing, and continuously analyzing the performance of your campaigns. For help growing your store sustainably, reach out to RS Creativ for a consultation.

As long as people still browse the internet, you’ll want to make sure you’re driving traffic to your store—and as long as they’re using search engines to do it, you’ll need SEO. But how much effort should you spend on this aspect of your online marketing, and what’s the most effective way to do it in the current landscape?

Our goal at RS Creativ is to help eCommerce businesses grow sustainably and efficiently—so we’re here to share some of our best SEO advice with you. Read on to learn all about how to approach SEO when you run an online business and find new strategies you can start using to see results fast.

Man in front of laptop with smartphone surrounded by artist's renderings of eCommerce symbols like shopping card and credit card

How SEO Has Evolved for eCommerce

SEO today isn’t like it was a decade ago—but its evolution can be tough to recognize and understand from the outside. Before we go any further, let’s break this down:

New Best Practices

The easiest way to illustrate how SEO has evolved in recent years is to look at how best practices have changed. Less than a decade ago, basic keyword optimization and backlinking were often enough to rank. Today, however, you’ll also need to focus on:

  • User experience
  • Site speed
  • Mobile optimization
  • High-quality content

To really understand why the goal posts have moved, though, we’ll need to look at some underlying factors. What’s at the heart of it all?

Adapting to Search Engine Algorithm Updates

Updates to search engines like Google and Bing aren’t arbitrary—they’re engineered to help facilitate the kind of behavior that people are trying to participate in online. With more than 20% of all retail purchases now taking place online, there’s a strong argument to be made that SEO is now primarily evolving to focus on eCommerce.

Or, to put it another way: with more people using the internet to shop, search engine algorithms are changing to focus on the elements of SEO that help online stores provide seamless customer experiences. Consequently, sites that remove friction for potential customers and streamline the buying process are likely to rank higher in search results.

The Consumer Behavior Driving SEO Trends

Let’s recap: we know SEO best practices change according to search engine algorithm updates, and that those updates are based on shifts in user behavior. So what do users actually want in 2023?

Oh, nothing special: modern users simply expect personalized, immediate results. They’re also more likely to use voice search or mobile devices, so you’ll need to make sure you’re optimizing your site and content accordingly. This will help you capitalize on ‘micro-moments’—the instant when a consumer turns to a device for an answer. Simple, right?

Why SEO Is Still Valuable in Modern eCommerce

Given the above, you might assume that investing time in SEO isn’t worth the effort—but we don’t recommend writing off this key part of your digital marketing strategy. That’s because the trend towards buying things online hasn’t just changed consumer behavior; it’s also made eCommerce a significantly more competitive landscape.

If you want to stand out from the pack, you’ll need a way to attract traffic, build credibility for your brand, and offer users a conversion-centric experience. As it happens, SEO can be a great way to accomplish all of that.

How SEO Can Put the Spotlight on Your Store

The fact that we live in an age of information overload hasn’t made SEO less valuable—it’s actually just the opposite. By employing an effective SEO strategy, you can make sure you reach the right audience with the right message at the right time in their buyer journey.

But what are the actual steps involved in making SEO work for you? Don’t worry; that’s up next.

Key SEO Strategies for 2023

Optimizing Technical SEO

In 2023, technical SEO remains crucial. This includes:

  • Site speed optimization
  • Clean and efficient coding
  • Proper URL structuring
  • Making your store mobile-friendly

You want your eCommerce store to be crawled and indexed by search engines as easily as possible. As a result, you can look forward to better visibility and higher rankings.

On-Page SEO For Product & Category Pages

Your product pages are where conversions (i.e. sales) happen, so you need to make them as easy to find and easy to use as possible. You’ll want to do the same for your category pages, since that’s where people will go before finding their way to specific products.

That means having unique meta descriptions, optimized images, and relevant, well-written content. Consider using schema markup, too—which helps search engines understand your products better and can improve their visibility in search results.

Off-Page SEO (Building a Strong Backlink Profile)

Off-page SEO revolves around creating a strong backlink profile. When you have quality backlinks from authoritative sites, search engines assume you deserve the same level of credibility and bump up your rankings.

One of the best ways to encourage backlinks is simply to create highly shareable content, but you can use guest posting and influencer outreach to supplement your efforts. A strong off-page SEO strategy will also help your store build brand awareness and trust, since potential customers will come to associate you with the reputable sites that are linking back to yours.

Mobile-First & Voice Search Optimization

With the growing use of smartphones and voice assistants, optimizing for mobile and voice search is essential for staying up to date with the times. Your content must be accessible and easily understood in these formats—simple language, clear structure, and fast loading times are key components here.

Content marketing concept with person typing at laptop surrounded by icons representing text and video content

Content Marketing & SEO

Anyone who works with SEO regularly will tell you “content is king”—and that’s just as true for eCommerce as it is elsewhere. The more your content can educate visitors and provide potential fixes for their pain points, the more they’ll come to regard you as a trusted source; not only for advice but for useful products as well. As a result, you’ll most likely see your search engine rankings and your sales increase (as long as you’re creating high-quality content on a regular basis).

Effective Content Formats

Part of your content strategy should involve finding the right kinds to create for different users. Let’s look at a few examples you might run into if you’re doing SEO for, say, an online vape shop:

  • Users at the start of their buyer’s journey are more likely to search for informational keyword strings—like “is it safe to vape inside”. Long-form blog posts are an excellent way to answer these questions, introducing new visitors to your brand and gaining their trust. Try making it more shareable by adding an infographic as well!
  • Mid-to-bottom-funnel users who are actively trying to decide on their next purchase are more likely to search for commercial keyword strings—like “best pod system 2023”. You might create a review for one of your relevant products that incorporates these keywords, and include a video with optimized metadata or a comparison chart.

How to Integrate Content Marketing with SEO

Remember, content marketing and SEO go hand in hand. Try:

  • Utilizing keywords naturally within content
  • Creating internal links to relevant landing pages and other pieces of content
  • Promoting content through social channels

Different content elements will perform better depending on the platform you use to share them—i.e. images and video for instagram, charts and infographics for LinkedIn, etc.—so be sure to experiment and see what works for your audience. The goal is always the same: to create valuable content that people want to read, share, and link to (which improves your search engine rankings as well).

Screenshot of Google Analytics being used to assess impact of SEO campaign for eCommerce business

Measuring SEO Impact

Key SEO Performance Metrics

Measuring the performance of your SEO campaigns involves tracking metrics like your:

  • Organic Traffic: The sheer number of visitors coming to a website through non-paid search results. These visitors find the site by using a search engine and clicking on a non-ad result.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action (such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, etc.) out of the total number of visitors. This is a key metric for understanding how effectively your site turns visitors into customers.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who navigate away from your site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate often indicates that your site didn’t provide what the visitor was looking for, or that their user experience was unsatisfactory.
  • Page Loading Time: The amount of time it takes for a given web page to load all of its content, including images, text, and scripts. Faster page loading times contribute to better user experience and positively impact SEO rankings.
  • Specific Keyword Rankings: Tracking specific keyword rankings helps to understand how well your site is performing for targeted search terms. This is an excellent way to guide future SEO strategies and content optimization efforts.

Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console can provide much of the information above, giving you key insights into your user behavior and site performance. This will help you identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to get granular with future SEO efforts (for instance, targeting specific audiences or capitalizing on specific trends).

Making SEO Work For Your eCommerce Store

SEO isn’t nuclear physics, but it can be an incredibly broad topic and knowing how to focus your efforts for best results isn’t always easy. The guide above will help you get oriented and make some helpful changes right away, but don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance if you hit a wall in your efforts—it’s much better to ask for help than to stop trying or cut corners.

At RS Creativ, we’ve spent years helping eCommerce businesses create and action sustainable plans for long-term growth. Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can get you on track to improve your rankings, connect with more customers, and find the success you’re aiming for.