Every ecommerce merchant wants to provide their customers with the best experience they can. They also want to rank as high as possible with search engines, to attract more customers to that experience. The best way to achieve both is through great search engine optimization. Search engines after all aren’t simply machines with no purpose, they’re tools that serve real people and those people might be your customers. By aligning your SEO with what matters to the customer experience, you can develop a store experience that both improves your SERP ranking and satisfies your customers.
How SEO and Customer Experience go hand-in-hand
It might not seem immediately obvious, but Search Engine Optimization and Customer Experience are essentially two sides of the same coin. The key message from many experts is that merchants should optimize their stores for people not search engine bots, and this is because search engines themselves are more concerned with what the experience is like for their users. Google has the largest market share of any search engine, and in order to maintain this they need to provide their users with relevant, engaging content hosted on sites that load fast and are easy to navigate. In other words, they want to show their users search results that offer a great customer experience. The better an experience you provide, the better your store will be optimized for different ranking factors, and the more likely search engines will rank your pages on SERPs.
In fact, SEO is a big part of the customer journey. For many merchants, organic search is the primary source of traffic to their store. Therefore if their customers are finding them through this channel, it’s the starting point of their journey with that brand. By taking the time to fully optimize your store for SEO, you’re increasing the chances of a customer finding your brand in the first place. They’ll then have a great on-site experience, and this will in turn boost your store’s SERP ranking.
Optimize pages for quick load times
Page speed is one of the most important elements of SEO to get right as it’s your customers’ first impression of your brand. Think of how frustrating it is to click on a link and the page takes a long time to load - the same is true for your potential customers. You can have all the right content, great product photos, and smart linking structures, but if the page doesn’t load quickly enough then potential customers won’t bother sticking around to see how great your store is. The probability of of bounce increases by as much as 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds, and nearly 70% of consumers say that page load speed impacts their willingness to make a purchase from an online brand.
So it’s no wonder then that as of May 2021, Google has made page speed a key ranking factor through Core Web Vitals. In short, the three measures that form Core Web Vitals relate to page load speed including how long it takes for a page’s largest piece of content to load, the speed at which it takes the page to become interactive, and how long it takes the page’s layout to become stable. These along with four other factors including mobile responsiveness and security are combined to form Google’s page experience signal - a key ranking factor. The better a page measures up against these key metrics, the better Google perceives the page experience, and the more likely it is to recommend it on SERPs.
With all this in mind, let’s go back to the customer experience and journey. If you optimize your store for speed, then customers will be less likely to bounce and will see all the great content and products your store has to offer. You’re starting their journey off on a positive note, simply by having it load quickly which stops them giving up and looking to a competitor.
Fill pages with high-quality content
The quality of your store’s content is ultimately how you build trust with both customers and with search engines. If for example your product pages are sparse when it comes to product details, customers are unlikely to want to purchase them and if they do there is a risk that the product won’t match their expectations and they may leave negative feedback. This then impacts your store’s SEO, as Google and other search engines see that the content on that page is low quality, and that page’s ranking suffers as a result.
Therefore it’s crucial that your store is full of high quality, relevant, and engaging content. This applies not only to product pages but also to pages such as your FAQ, and blog articles. With product pages, you should provide unique, relevant details about each product. This will ensure customers are given the best possible information, manage their expectations, and lead to greater customer satisfaction. FAQs should also be detailed with answers to questions around shipping, returns, and any product care related questions. Blog articles should focus primarily on evergreen topics that are more relevant to your target audiences, providing them with educational, interesting content that focus on their interests and search intent rather than simply trying to push your products and brand. This all leads to a much more positive and engaging customer experience, and boosts your store’s SEO in the process as you create more relevant and keyword-led content to satisfy search user needs.
Create an easy, fast mobile experience
People are increasingly shopping online using their smartphones and tablets. There are many reasons for this, such as mobile devices being more accessible in daily life as consumers carry them around most of the day. 50% of online purchase journeys in the US include mobile, and in 2021 53.9% of all retail ecommerce is expected to be generated via mobile devices. Therefore your store’s mobile site becomes a key component of the customer journey, and a poor mobile experience can lead to higher bounce rates, losing potential customers, and have a negative effect on your store’s SEO.
Providing an amazing mobile experience comes down to optimizing key elements of your site. We touched on page load speed earlier, and it’s equally important when it comes to mobile. Mobile friendliness is one of the metrics that along with Core Web Vitals make up Google’s page experience ranking factor. 54% of consumers say that as page load time increases, so does their frustration. It isn’t just the speed of the site, but also the design. Optimizing your desktop navigation is important, but your mobile navigation and on-page experience requires careful attention also as over 50% of online shoppers say that they won’t consider purchasing from a brand with a poorly designed mobile site. By optimizing your mobile site, you’ll improve the customer experience and this can be done by:
- Having a responsive mobile design that will auto-adjust based on screen size and device
- Ensuring your store is easy to navigate on mobile with a quickly accessed and simple menu, as well as larger calls-to-action
Optimizing images for mobile as well as cutting unnecessary content for mobile, and utilizing browser caching.
The better the mobile experience, the higher your customer satisfaction will be, and the better your store will rank on search engines.
Customer expectations are higher than ever, and they won’t hesitate to switch to a different store if they’re not getting the highest quality experience. That experience starts with their impression of your store from how fast it loads to how responsive it is on mobile. By taking key elements of SEO and thinking of them less as tools to speak to search engines and more as ways to improve the customer experience, you can better serve your customers and keep them engaged throughout their journey.