It takes a lot of time and effort to build your store’s SEO. You have to use tactics and optimizations that balance giving search engines what they want, with what will attract your target customers. You want to climb SERP rankings, but you want to do so as organically as possible. And of course the best way to do both? Do what’s best for your customers’ experience.
Customer experience (CX) and SEO are often seen as two separate entities. You optimize each, but is there cross-over you can take advantage of? The answer - absolutely yes!
Today we’re going to look at some of the SEO tactics that will help you climb SERPs, as well as having a positive impact on your store’s customer experience.
How does SEO influence customer experience (CX)?
The customer experience truly begins the moment they discover your brand. And one of the primary ways customers find brands is through search - 46% of customer journeys start with a Google search. If you take a look at your own traffic sources, chances are there’s a good chunk of your audience who find your store through a search engine. That means search is key to your customer acquisition, and plays a vital role in their journey.
But how they find you in search, is down to how well optimized your store is. The better optimized it is, the more likely it’ll be to appear higher in search results. The optimizations you make to your store will usually reflect what makes for a really strong user experience. After all, this is what search engines look for. If a site provides a good user experience, it’s more worthwhile to show it to search users as they’ll then trust the search engine to only show high quality websites.
That means that by improving your store’s SEO, you’re inherently improving your user experience and by extension, the customer experience. These changes make it more likely for customers to discover your store, and they’ll then benefit from those changes throughout their journey with your store.
5 SEO tactics that will have a positive impact on CX
#1 - Product page content
Product pages are vital to any ecommerce SEO strategy. These are prime locations for many of the optimizations you’ll want to make, and they’re the perfect landing page that you’d want to rank in SERPs. They’re great for keyword placement, images, alt tags, linking, and more. And of course, they're where a lot of customers are going to get the information they need to make a purchase. Product pages are a vital part of the customer experience, so any improvements you can make will be of benefit.
Improvements you can make include:
- Adding more visual content - images, videos, graphics
- Including image alt tags
- Writing a detailed product description
- Adding an expanded description and technical details
- Providing additional info - shipping, returns, FAQ
- Creating a user friendly page layout
These are things that customers will also benefit from as part of their experience with your store. In fact, approaching SEO for product pages from a CX perspective can be very helpful. Search engines want to provide only high quality, useful content to their users. So, you think about what will be useful for your customers as they navigate your site - which features will help them most? How can you make their experience as easy as possible? This will help you to create engaging, informative product pages and this will improve SEO at the same time.
#2 - Site navigation
Search engines crawl and index your site by following links and discovering content. How your site is linked together helps search engines to better understand your site and how your content fits together. Your site’s navigational structure or architecture gives an idea of page hierarchy and importance. This helps them to determine the content they should show users in search results. Therefore, it’s important to have a clear, simple to follow navigational structure that takes as few clicks as possible to surface most content on your store. For example, to get from your homepage to a product page.
Having a simple navigational structure is also very useful for your customer experience. It means that customers can easily go between pages on your site and find the content most relevant to them without too much hassle. If it’s easy for your customers to follow, they’ll be less likely to abandon your site also, reducing bounce which is also good for SEO.
Creating a solid site architecture isn’t difficult, here are some ways to keep things customer focused and search crawler friendly:
Keep primary nav uncluttered - This makes it clear what the main categories of your site are, and makes it easy for customers to navigate. Too many options can become confusing, for customers as well as search engines!
Use clear subcategories - Clear subcategories help add to how easy it is to navigate your site. They help especially if you’re trying to keep your primary nav simple, as you can add more here. For example if the primary nav menu is “Shop” then the subcategories might be “Shirts”, “Jeans”, “Shoes” and so on.
Use sitemaps - Add any useful links and pages to your store’s sitemap in the site footer. This could be things like FAQ, contact links, and other resources.
- Add breadcrumbs to pages - These are links that show the pages that track the page the user is on in relation to pages that they may have browsed already. It shows the hierarchy of the page, which can help search engines as well as users.
- Internal linking - Smart use of internal linking
You should also ensure that URLs are easy to read and understand. And top tip - they can also be an additional keyword placement option. If you use a platform like Shopify, URLs are kept to common characters and use an easy to read format. Your store will also follow a simple, logical page hierarchy making it easy to create and categorize pages in a way that’s great for customer experience and SEO.
#3 - Mobile experience
It’s no secret that shopping on a mobile device is popular with customers, but did you know it’s expected to account for nearly half of all ecommerce sales by 2024? Mobile search is also big business, with some studies suggesting that over 64% of searches are conducted on mobile. This along with Google’s mobile first index, it makes sense to optimize your mobile experience.
A well optimized mobile experience adds to Google’s ability to ensure they’re providing a great user experience. That means search users will be happy whether they’re on desktop or mobile, and they’ll continue to trust and use Google for their search needs. They can rely on the search engine for good quality on any device.
And of course, given how popular mobile commerce is, any optimization you make to improve your store’s mobile SEO is going to be great for CX. They can shop however they choose to, and get the same great experience on their mobile device. Some key things to pay attention to are mobile navigation, layout changes, usability/interactivity, and load time on mobile.
#4 - Site speed
Speed is a staple of SEO. Fast websites make for high ranking websites. Factors like core web vitals place a lot of importance on speed, because it’s all part of the user experience. Slow sites equal poor user experience, which means they’re less likely to rank higher in SERPs. Which means that speed is also important to customer experience - 70% of consumers admit that it has an impact on their willingness to buy from a retailer.
By speeding up your site, you’ll be giving your SEO a welcome boost and making sure you give customers what they’re looking for from a retailer. Tools like PageSpeed Insights will give you a good starting point to see how your site currently fares. There are a number of small changes you can make to your store that will also make a big impact on speed:
- Optimize images
- Remove unnecessary page elements
- Remove unnecessary code / Minify code
- Make use of browser caching
- Reduce redirects
- Use a CDN
#5 - Customer reviews
Reviews are great for your store. After all, you’ll say your products are great, but what’s even better is being backed up by the opinions of real customers. They give customers confidence in making a purchase, whether they’re new or returning. And the good news is that they’re also good for your store’s SEO - both on-site, and off-site.
Let’s start with on-site or on-page. This is anything that happens on your website, so this would refer to the reviews customers leave on product pages. Now it’s worth knowing that these hold less weight SEO-wise due to the fact that Google and other search engines know that merchants can manipulate reviews. For instance, you could delete poor reviews leaving only positive ones - this isn’t recommended, of course, but search engines are aware it’s a possibility. However, what your customers write in their reviews may help your SEO. They may use keywords and long-tail keywords that you haven’t thought of. Reviews also help to populate star ratings in structured markup, so if you get a snippet in a SERP then it’s likely the aggregate rating will appear. This can stand out in search results, making it more likely that customers will want to visit the product page.
As for off-site or off-page, this comes down to authority in a similar fashion to backlinks. Reviews on other websites can act as a mark of trustworthiness to search engines, especially if it’s a trusted third party review site. A good example of this is Trustpilot - a high rating with positive reviews and responses from a brand demonstrates to search engines that the brand itself is trustworthy. And if your ratings on these sites align with your on-site reviews, even better! Of course, these third party sites are valuable for customer experience, because they also give that extra layer of credibility for potential customers.
When you’re running an ecommerce store, there is a lot on your daily to-do list. So it’s a lot better if you can find ways to maximize the value you get from these more time consuming tasks like CX and SEO optimization. By thinking of SEO through the lens of CX and vice versa, you can come up with a strategy that benefits both and brings in even more customers than before.