Digital Essays 2017: Covering the basics to increase sales on ecommerce websites – by Julio Rodriguez, head of commerce and performance, MEC MENA

With the acquisition of Souq by Amazon and the launch of Noon, everyone is talking about ecommerce. Brick-and-mortar players want to tap into it and even big FMCGs are embracing direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels.

But with this rapid transformation comes big conversations. Big words are thrown in the air – first party data here, DMPs there, and multi-channel attribution modelling everywhere – but something is missing. That something is the basics. For all the above to work correctly and collectively achieve incremental sales to new and returning customers we need to cover the basics.

Understanding your visitor needs
We need to understand the fundamentals of keyword research to identify your visitors’ needs. Using Google Keyword Planner and sorting the keywords based on high search volume and low competition will allow you to select relevant queries related to what your visitors need and match them with the products or services you are selling online. Like the above, we can focus on high price-per-click (PPC) value cost, which shows the commercial intent behind those keywords. Only ecommerce players that know there are conversions attached to those keywords are willing to pay a high PPC.

It’s also important to separate keywords that are transactional from those that are informative. Informative queries will be great assets for content creation but not for conversions. On the other hand, transactional queries use modifiers that show their proximity to a conversion. One common modifier is the word “reviews” used either as a suffix or prefix of a query. Having a product related keyword + “reviews” shows the intention of a user to know more about that product.

There are multiple ways to collect keywords to understand the needs of your visitors. Among them are Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Quora, SEMRush, SimilarWeb and others.

Creating a friendly and discoverable ecommerce website Once you understand what the needs of your visitors are and match them with the right products, we need to make sure your website is easy to find. Having all the SEO best practices in place is the right path but many times is ignored by big ecommerce websites. There are a few important points to cover from a technical point of view:

1) Robots.txt – A very small document that can make a big difference between a very SEO-friendly website and a non-discoverable one. We need to make sure your Robots.txt allows all search engines to crawl your site.

2) Canonicalisation – A big word for something very simple: give attribution to the correct webpage to avoid penalties. This is very important for ecommerce websites, as they have multiple duplicated pages because of pagination, internal search queries, faceted search and filters.

Apart of those two points, having unique content across all pages and metadata is key. Google recommends creating content only when this content provides a solution for a visitor, and rewards this with high rankings. It’s hard for ecommerce websites to come up with unique content for so many product pages, and this is where reviews and recommendations come into play. We will cover this point below.

Using content to target those needs
Now that we know what your visitor needs are and have a discoverable website, we need to boost our rankings, and we can achieve this with content. There are several types of content that we can use but we’ll focus on three types. First, inspiration-based content, tapping into platforms such as Pinterest and blogs, will help you to amplify your reach by targeting queries such as “back to school outfit” or “cool high tops for kids”. Tutorial-based content is also a great option, and examples of queries like that are “best jeans for loafers” or “how to straighten your hair”. Finally, product-related content – for example “winter jackets dubai” – are the searches with the highest conversions, hence the need to optimise category pages and product pages on your website.

Understanding their behaviour on your ecommerce website
Once we have all the above covered, we will start getting traffic and conversions on your website, but this is not enough. We need to maximise the conversions, and to achieve this we need to understand our visitors’ behaviour. We can achieve this easily by using tools such as Optimizely and Crazy Egg. These tools are easily deployed using Google Tag Manager and will allow you to start testing your calls to action, buttons and messages, and run some A/B testing.

Making sure we get something from them
But wait, they are leaving your website. Why? Because it’s normal; it’s OK if they don’t convert. Ecommerce websites have a very low conversion rate, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t get some benefit. Techniques such as cart abandonment, product page abandonment and product recovery are easy to implement, and it’s been proven they are more effective than trying to bring a new user and convince them to convert. A very friendly pop-up or an email giving them some discount to finalise their purchase is a good way to recover some potential purchases.

Evaluating and improving ecommerce metrics
And above all, measure everything. Many ecommerce players use Google Analytics 360 but haven’t even activated Enhanced Ecommerce. Making sure all the dots connect to properly measure and attribute every purchase is key for any ecommerce website.

Once all the above is covered, it’s time to bring in the big guns. A full-on ecommerce strategy fuelled by data, supported by SEO and amplified by performance channels will close the circle.