Episode 30: SEO and Ecommerce, Taking Action – Part 3

Hello everyone and welcome to the third and final part of our SEO Series! Mike is still away and on today’s episode I’m going to talk about how SEO creates a better relationship between you and your customer and the different strategies you can use to enhance this relationship.

We talk first about creative ways to transform your online transactions. The best way you can stand out from the crowd is to tell a story about your product. This means creating a narrative, developing descriptions, and using keywords to generate trust between yourself and the consumer. But this is more than keyword spamming. You can’t use SEO like and be successful. The heart of SEO is in how natural and intuitive you make it for your customers.

The topics we cover today:

  • Enhancing your own SEO strategy
  • How is Google influencing SEO?
  • Using SEO to tell the story about your product
  • Page Speed and customer experience
  • What happens if your site isn’t mobile friendly?
  • I breakdown why keyword spamming doesn’t work

In this final installment, I share why your first impression with SEO is the most important. The more natural you make it and the more normal it seems, the longer it will last and the more successful it will be.

If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to ecomcrew.com and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Full Audio Transcript

Grant:  Hello, and welcome to the EcomCrew podcast episode number 30.  This is Grant, your host, and Mike is away on travel, so I’m finishing up part three of our series on SEO for ecommerce.  And where we left off last week was I was talking about the difficulties in getting started with SEO for operators in terms of starting out, where Google has gone in terms of trying to keep ahead of the cat and mouse games in terms of keeping SEO operatives under wraps, and tactics and strategies that you can use to enhance your own SEO for your commerce website.

So leaving right where I left off last week, I was talking about some examples of campaigns that I’ve done in the past for various clients that I’ve worked with.  And one of the biggest campaigns that I did was a large giveaway where we did a six-figure giveaway to get a lot of bloggers to end up linking to our client website.  And the way that we did that was we offered a big value proposition, which was that, one, the giveaway was a very massive push and it was such a large one that it was very hard to ignore and anybody that was interested in it would have to actually link to the campaign and say they were part of the tournament or they were part of the contest and that they were not participating.  And we made it under the guise more or less of saying, “Well, in order to verify that you’re actually the person that runs the blog, you’ve got to post this on your blog and you’ve honestly got to do a little bit of marketing for us because you’re able to participate in this campaign.”

As a result of that campaign, we ended up getting hundreds of links coming back to us and it really ended up working phenomenally because not only did we get the SEO value, we got a huge amount of people coming to the contest that wanted to participate as well because all of these bloggers essentially had all of this traffic would link to my client and be able to go and check out the website and decide if they wanted to participate in like the smaller events as well.  So it ended up being a great contest and one that ended up being run for many, many years after that as an annual event, and just went down as a highly successful event because it was such an entrenched industry that if we had gone and individually approached every single blogger out there and tried to get them to link to us, it would’ve been a very long negotiation struggle for each one of them saying, “Well, what can I offer you to make it worth your while?”

And again, this is why I don’t really propose that you go around offering people cash.  I just think there’re so many better ways of doing things these days and some people obviously only want to get paid cash and there’s nothing that you can do about it, but when at all possible, I would suggest that you try to come up with some other creative way that makes it so that you don’t have to make it a cash transaction because it’s such a business transaction, whereas the heart of SEO, of where Google wants SEO to be, is not even a transaction anymore.  They want it to be as natural as possible.  And any time you introduce business into the equation, it is no longer natural so it goes again what Google is saying.  But like I mentioned to before, in part two, is that Google is really stepping up their game.  And with machine learning, you might really say to yourself, “Well, nobody’s going to detect this.  It looks like a real link.”  But the machines are going to be smarter than you eventually and they’re going to be a lot smarter than you think, so the more that you can make everything look normal, the more that it’s going to help you in the long run.

The SEO game, where it really has gone to now is that it’s a lot harder in my eyes because even though a lot of people know it, it’s still on a competitive curve because everybody knows nowadays that you’ve got to put “high quality” content, get links, and provide compelling viral stuff, you know, work on your social media signals, and keep your page rank or your page speed high and make sure you do all these things to your website and this and that.  So, by default, everybody’s doing that, and if you’re not doing it, then you’re already behind the game.  Really where it comes out, where  you can shine, is by getting one step ahead of your competition and doing something that they’re not.  And I can guarantee you most of your competition that is actually using somewhat decent SEO guys are probably doing some kind of paid-to-play type system.  And it’s almost gone to the point where a lot of SEO is almost integrated with PR, or public relations, because so many bloggers now are part of like blogging networks or advertising networks where if you actually want to get placement on them, you’ve got to talk to their agent or you’ve got to talk to their network rep.  And the network rep will quote you at a rate card that says, “Here’s your advertising rate and blah, blah, blah,” and most of them won’t even offer what I would say would be like an SEO link because they know they don’t want to hurt their own blogger by having them link to some website that they don’t know.

Now, that said, bloggers are more than happy to link to other sites that they actually like and they link to other bloggers and whatnot and then they link to what they’re reading because, again, the bloggers are popular because the readers like what they’re getting from the blog.  And so it’s a very touchy aspect of trying to figure out what’s going to work for you to create that will actually be linkable by the blogger.

So in terms of trying to create a strategy, it’s really about being as creative as possible with that you have and if I had to say it, too, unfortunately, this is the truth that I don’t always like giving people but it’s the fact that sometimes your product or your industry’s just not one that lends itself to being creative.  And, like I mentioned in my part two example, pornography, that’s a very difficult place.  But to give you an example of one recently creative campaign that I was a huge admirer of was the Pornhub campaign for the save-the-whales.  And they had the idea that they would do a donation of I think it was a tenth of a penny for every video that was watched on Pornhub.  And they made this really kind of tongue-in-cheek landing page with this dolphin, or was it a whale?  I forget what it is right now but I think it was like kind of a Flipper-like dolphin that says, “Hey, the more porn you watch, the more we donate to the save-the-dolphin, save-the-whales campaign and this and that.”

So, of course, people love dolphins and well, people love porn too so this got around and a lot of people ended up linking to it.  So what Pornhub did was they jumped the shark.  They weren’t just being linked to from just some random kind of sleazy guy’s Twitter account that enjoyed linking to the porn he enjoys watching or whatever.  I mean that’s not what Google would call a reputable social signal at all.  But now you’ve got huge different sites like the Huffington Post, you’ve got people on Wired, you’ve got people that are part of major news organizations (I even saw it in the Seattle Times I think) linking to Pornhub.  And that’s amazing to me because you’ve got all of these huge national companies that are all very reputable, have great page rank and great trust linking to a pornography website.

So that, to me, is really SEO at its core.  SEO is not a technical function; SEO is art.  And I’m going to stand by that because I really believe that a true SEO practitioner is far closer to an artist or a creative profession than they are a technical guy.  And so I’m always – I wouldn't say offended is the right word, but when people come up to me and go, “Oh, Grant, you know this SEO kind of stuff, right?  Like, you could just like kind of clackity-clack at your keyboard and do some SEO right?”  I’m like, “You know, it’s not really like that.”  It might’ve been that way in the past, but it definitely isn’t that way in the future, and some guy’s like,” Oh, I just thought it was just a bunch of computer jargon.”  I’m like, “No.  It’s not.”

The analogy that I always try to make, I say, “You hiring me is very similar to you hiring somebody to get somebody elected into the presidency.”  And that might sound a little grand, that might sound over the top, but the reality is that it’s not that far apart because what you want me to do as an SEO practitioner or an operative, or as I call myself, the SEO hitman really, is you want me to convince everybody else that this person or that person is the person you should be voting for, and in the online way, that’s the person that should get links.  And so what happens is that, as an operative, when you give me a piece of work or let’s say a potential candidate and I look at them and I see somebody that’s not at all qualified to be the president, my job becomes a lot harder because I’ve got to create the narrative, I’ve got to create the story, I’ve got to create some kind of reason or compelling idea of why the normal people or the search engines should really vote for this guy.  Or why he should be considered the number one guy.  Now, my life is a whole lot easier if you give me a person that’s very well-qualified that has a large resume and history and a lot of actual, good reasons to vote for.

So that’s where a lot of the art comes in because you can almost look at like the current election process – and I’m not going to try to get EcomCrew involved in any kind of political discussions here, but for example, just on the marketing side only, Jeb Bush, he was the guy that the Republicans really wanted to win for the RNC.  And so Jab Bush had a huge amount of money put into his campaign, over $120 million I believe, and they really spent every drop of it, short of I think $12 million.  They put over $100 million into the campaign and he ended up getting less than I think 15% of the overall vote before he ended up pulling out.

And so, to the uninitiated, you could say, “Oh, it’s just a monetary problem, right?  You just buy a whole bunch of Facebook ads, buy a bunch of television time and radio time and newspaper spots and billboards and we’ll just blanket the entire media until everyone decides to vote for Jeb.” Well, that didn’t happen and there’s a reason for that.  You know, there’s the rise of Trump, there’s a huge amount of different people in the field.  I can go through a number of reasons.  Nobody can probably really know why he didn’t work, but the true takeaway is that you can’t simply toss money at the problem anymore.  It’s beyond that.

And SEO’s definitely beyond that.  SEO’s not simply a problem that can be solved with money.  Now, that said, if you hire some of the top PR firms in the world and you say, “Hey, I need my site to appear in the New York Times, I need it to appear in the Washington Post and all these kinds of things,” I’m more or less certain that they could probably make it happen.  Now, that said, they’re probably going to look at you the same way that I would look at you and say, “Why should they write about you?  What do you have that’s so compelling that the Times actually wants to put an article in about you?”  And so if you’re selling horseback saddles and you’re just reselling some other guy’s horseback saddles, good luck.  I’m pretty sure the PR firm is just going to look at you and say, “Maybe you aren’t the kind of person that we want to work with.  Maybe we can get you into some other articles here or there, or maybe you could do something very neat.”  So they’ll work with you to try to create something that might give you some reason to be newsworthy, and again, that’s where the art comes in.  It’s no longer just a technical problem.

And so for SEO, that’s where I say that it’s a problem of creativity because all of the standard operating procedures are out there already.  So everybody has a playbook so you’ve got to get outside of the playbook.  And it’s just like any kind of sports analogy.  You know, if it’s fourth and one, most likely what are you going to do?  You’re going to run.  So you’ve got to get creative.  Are you going to toss over here?  Like you see the other team stacking along to stop the run?  Or what are you going to do?  And so a lot of people will run anyways even though it’s standard, everyone’s expecting it, but your chances of success are pretty low.  Obviously if you get too creative, your chances of success are pretty low too because people aren’t really expecting that but there’s the proper sweet spot that you have to try to hit but it’s a very difficult spot.

Going on with a little bit more of the actionable side, of what you can do, let’s talk about the standard playbook a little bit just to make sure that we are all on the same page over here.  Some of the things that you can do to make sure that you’re getting your proper SEO done is, one, you need to have your website completely passing on page speed in terms of Google and what they consider for your technical measurements.  And for those that don’t know, page speed is a measure of how well your site is performing.  It takes in a whole bunch of different factors, over 100 different factors, such as your web load times, your image compression, whether or not you’re using in-line stylesheets, if you’re using other types of things to make your website run faster.

In addition to page speed, what Google is really trying to do is figure out if you’re operating a website that is giving the customer or the visitor a good experience at your website.  And what they’re really trying to do is figure out, one, how long the visitor has to wait before your page or your webpage ends up showing up.  And, two, they’re trying to figure out if you’re also optimized for all the different types of devices that they could be visiting your website through, and that would include mobile, cell phones, tablets, and whatnot.

So page speed has the ability to rank you on all sorts of different factors and then they also do a mobile ranking as well.  And nowadays, you really can’t think about a website unless you’re thinking about mobile.  And this is one of the reasons a lot of websites actually got recently devalued or de-ranked on Google, which is because they’ve been around for such a long time but they haven’t really updated their website to be mobile-based.  And upwards of 30% to 40% of all internet traffic in terms of page visits are now being done on mobile phones or mobile tablets or anything that’s a personal device that’s no longer just your standard desktop or laptop.  And that’s really where things are going, so in order to keep up with the times, Google is making sure that the websites that they show are going to be websites that cater to a positive used experience.

As one of the benefits of working with a standard ecommerce platform and one of the reasons why we go with BigCommerce or Shopify and go with a theme that’s readily available at the box or one that we can modify is because they all offer preset mobile designs that work.  And unfortunately, some templates don’t have mobile designs that are actually that great to be perfectly honest and that’s one of the harder parts to try to figure out, but for the most part, if you’ve got any type of third party platform that you’re using, generally they are mobile optimized at this point.  Now, if you’re using your own custom website, of course, then everything is going to be up to you and that’s going to be really one of the hard parts about trying to run your own website, which is that you’ve got to have a high level of competency in order to figure out, one,  how to get it mobile and, two, how to make sure that you keep up with all of the future updates because what’s after mobile?  I don’t really know.

I don’t think anybody really does, but the world changes very fast in the tech field and we know, for example, that watches haven’t really taken off, personal eyewear hasn’t taken off, but VR goggles seem to be on the cusp of getting into rapid adaption.  And at some point, you might say, “Well, what are the chances of VR goggles being the main form or at least a significant form of internet browsing?”  And the answer is I don’t really know and I don’t think a lot of people could, but there are guesses as to how it could possibly happen.  It might be very useful to be able to shop online on a VR goggle if you can see a 3D rendering of your dress, for example.  And most people think, “Well, yeah, it’s going to look really pixelated or video-game kind of thing,” but what happens when technology gets to the point where it can render in real-time and it can render very, very accurate and you can have a 360-degree spin?  Or what happens if everybody shops with a rendered version of themselves as part of their browser kind of dataset, and that way you can try on what a dress would look like on your actual self based on a rendering of that?

So there’re a bunch of ways that technology can move forward that’s much faster than what we have available now, but it’s not within the realm of impossibility.  So you’ve got to start taking a lot of these types of things into account.  And again, one of the reasons that I like working on a third party platform is because they almost have to keep up with these types of things because if you have your own platform and then one day somebody says, “Hey, is your website VR-ready?” and you go, “VR what?” that’s going to be a bad day.

We’ve talked about page speed and the various factors that they take into account and going over all of the page speed factors is going to be a little bit too much to go over in a single podcast but Google has a great resource.  They are the ones that run page speed and it’ll provide you with all sorts of how-to’s on how to increase your page speed and make sure that you get up to a better ranking.  And unfortunately, one of the problems – now, here’s one of the drawbacks of using a third party platform – is that sometimes your page speed is limited because you only have access to so much.  With BigCommerce, for example, you can only access the HTML/CSS source code and some of the JavaScript, and I’ve done a lot (actually a heck of a ton) of optimizations because a lot of the templates that are made for BigCommerce – I should say this with a caveat that they are no longer on the BigCommerce site as BigCommerce has switched completely over to the Stencil platform, which is they answer to Shopify in terms of having customizable themes.  I spent at least three to four weeks optimizing my code on my own website to get it better optimized so that it would have a better page speed ranking.

And in terms of Shopify, Shopify generally does a better job on their themes of having out of the box page speed rankings and they do natural things like compression and whatnot that BigCommerce doesn’t always do.  But that said, BigCommerce is not on Stencil and I haven’t tested out Stencil’s page speed yet but I’m assuming – and that’s a big “if” – if they’re following all the standard protocols of web development, that they are ranking high.  That said, BigCommerce has generally lagged behind Shopify in terms of technologically know-how and prowess and that’s one of the reasons like Mike and I have both started switching some of our properties over to Shopify, and I do think that now that Stencil is out, I definitely am going to give them a little bit more of a shot to see if they’ve upped their game to compete with Shopify.

So that’s the technical side of things in terms of page speed, and I’ve talked about getting links with content and good quality pieces on your website that can attract attention.  So there’re a few other random technical things that I do consider as filters that Google uses.  For example, when I was talking about some signals that they use, I said that page and domain age is definitely a pretty important thing.  And other factors, for examples, like small things that you think about that can affect your rankings – and none of these, I should say, are official.  All of these are more or less theories.  And my theory is that if you think like a Google engineer, you’ve got to think about how are you going to evaluate to tell if a website is actually somebody that’s in it for the long haul or if they’re in it just to really test the waters or play around or try to game the system?

Some of these signals, for example, include your domain registration information.  Are you actually using your real information in your domain registration?  Or are you using a proxy?  And if you’re using a proxy, why are you hiding your information?  If you went to go look for a local restaurant, you would be able to find their address and their phone number so you could contact them on Google, right?  But if you went to go contact your restaurant and they didn’t have a phone number and they didn’t have an address, wouldn’t that throw up some red flags at you?  I know it would for me.  And when you do that on your domain, I definitely think you increase some kind of flag where you go, “Well, why are these guys trying to hide the information?  Because if they’re public and they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to hide.”

Now, again, somebody’s going to say, “Well, that’s unfair.  Maybe I just don’t want to be spammed or whatnot, this and that, blah, blah, blah.”  Again, that’s fine but Google is a private organization that can do what they want and they can rate you how they want.  And the easiest way to rate you is to see how transparent you are with your information.  So that goes to say as well, do you have contact information on your own website?  Do you have an email that they can contact you?  Do you have an actual address?  Do you have a privacy policy?  Do you have a terms of service?  Do you have a return policy?  And somebody might say, again, “Well, how could Google possibly look up all this stuff?”  And my answer again, “Think like a Google engineer.”  If a Google engineer can figure out that you’re not having a return policy or you’ve got a privacy policy that you just copied and pasted from somebody else or you’re using a boiler plate template, really how interested are you in creating a very good customer experience?

And if you’re operating just a blog, nobody really cares that much about your privacy policy, but if you’re doing ecommerce or selling a SAS service, maybe I really do care about your privacy policy.  Maybe I’m quite curious if you’re selling my data or if you don’t even tell me what you’re going to do with it.  In the EU, at the very least (that’s the European Union), they’ve got laws on cookie policies and whatnot.  So if you’re running a website based in the EU and you don’t have these kinds of things, you’re essentially violating the law and if you’re violating the law, how trustworthy are you?

These are kind of trust signals that you can give just on your domain registration alone.  For example, how long are you registering your domain for?  One year?  Two years?  Three years?  If you plan on being here a while, you should probably be registering for five or ten years, right?  and that indicates that you’re obviously in for the long haul, that you’re not like an SEO spammer that’s buying a bunch of domains for one year, blowing them up, and then never using them again.

Some other signals, for example, could be how your SSL certificates are.  Now, if you’re on Shopify, you’re using the Shopify SSL so it doesn’t really matter, but if you’re on BigCommerce or a lot of the other websites where you can supply your own SSL certificate, you’ve got a lot of different options for example.  You can buy the cheapest one available for $60 or whatnot.  BigCommerce charges you $100 for like a $20 SSL certificate, which is always aggravating to me, especially because they changed their plan so now you can’t put your own certificate on unless you’re on Enterprise, which is a big one that hurts.  And I’m probably actually going to switch over to Enterprise just so I can get a very good certificate because, again, it’s a trust signal.  Do I want to show my website visitors that I bought the cheapest lock available and that, “You can trust my store.  I’ve got your stuff secured here by the cheapest possible security,” or do I have the most Enterprise-grade security available to lock it down?

Before, $400, I could get an SSL certificate that was at least pretty viable.  And just as a quick hint, unfortunately this can’t work anymore with BigCommerce, so that’s unfortunate, but I used Namesheep.com and they can get SSL certificates for about 30% the cost of anybody else out there.  And they’re just a reseller and they end up buying through like Positive SSL or Comodo or GeoTrust, but those guys end up charging far, far more for a certificate.  BigCommerce charges you the full retail price as well.  So before, I was able to get essentially “the $400 certificate” for $120 and now I can’t do that anymore.  So kind of a little bit of a pain point, but I’m not here to bash on BigCommerce.  It’s just a decision they’ve made and private enterprise, they’re going to do what they want.  So, again, that’s an example of a place where you can have a little bit of trust where tossing some money at the problem is one of the few places where you can actually show, “Hey, maybe we’re more legitimate because we’re willing to spend more money on things that most other people are trying to get the most savings out of.”

So next one’ll be privacy policy.  Are you actually doing your own privacy policy?  And to me, this is like attention to detail.  And if you’ve ever interviewed somebody, for example, or you have been in a position of hiring and somebody sends you a resume, do they send you a cover letter?  And I know a lot of people go, “I don’t even care about covers letters,” or some people say, “Well, that doesn’t even matter in my job,” but if it’s a very important job, a high-level position, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to get a cover letter, or if you don’t, why not?  And if you get the cover letter, the cover letters I obviously a boiler plate schlep that they’ve changed the job title around or something or they’ve just essentially copied and pasted what you can see is obviously another boiler plate type of cover letter.  You say, “Well, that’s not very impressive at all so why would I hire this guy?”

Same thing with your privacy policy.  Why is you privacy policy a boiler privacy policy?  Have you actually taken it to a lawyer or taken it to somebody that will actually give you a policy that matters based on what you actually do?  And I would say 90%, 95%, probably an even high percent of all ecommerce operators don’t do any of that.  They just want to get a website up that they can make sales and they don’t care about all these other secondary details.  And you’re hearing it direct from me, from Grant at EcomCrew, that these small things, in my opinion, do matter and they matter far more than you would think about because, again, everybody’s generally on the same page in regards to doing all the major things.  So if everybody already knows how to do all the major things correctly, then you’ve got to work on all your little small things and all your little creative parts, you know, what sets you apart.

The way that I would make this an analogy, you’ve got 100 guys at a wedding.  Every one of them is wearing a black suit.  Every one of them is wearing a red tie.  Now, they all look fine and they’re all well-dressed and if they walked anywhere else, you’d say, “Hey, that’s a well-dressed guy in a suit.”  You get 100 guys in a suit with the same tie in one spot, now they’re all robots.  They all look the same.  One guy puts a handkerchief in his pocket, he suddenly stands out from the crowd.  So when everyone is on the same level, small things start standing out, so that’s what I’m saying.

Now, let’s talk about your return policy.  Are you offering a fair return policy?  And am I going to say that Google can read and get an intention out of your current policy?  Maybe not.  But maybe.  I honestly don’t know.  But if Google’s starting to do machine learning and they know that most retail stores that offer a fair return policy offer at least 30 days, well, now you see where things can go.  And that actually ties into an example that Google is trying to get a better read on ecommerce businesses because they’ve got their Google Trusted stores program.  Now, that one is only available to people that are doing 600 orders or more every, I believe it’s three months right now, but in part of their requirements, I do believe they track your shipments, or at least they need some way of tracking your shipments to make sure that they get shipped on time and they get to the place at the right time.  They also have the feedback from your customers on how you’re doing and I believe they also need you to have some kind of standard return policy of some kind.  So, based on the fact that they’re evaluating ecommerce operators based on this set of criteria, we know that Google’s value system based on what their engineers are essentially laying out in the Google Trusted stores program show you what kind of value they put on the things that they’re looking for for a good customer experience.

So you’ve got to get into the mindset of the Google engineer, of what do they want from you?  What should you be doing?  So you’ve got basic things like all  your return policy, privacy policy, and even an About Us page.  About Us page, I mean that alone is good for your conversions, good for everything else.  I can’t tell you how many websites I see out there that don’t even have a very good About Us page.  To be honest, even my About Us page is not that great and I kick myself in the butt because I’ve got a bunch of great pictures that I ended up taking that I just haven’t had the time to put up and I probably will need to do that just so I don’t eat crow by saying everyone else has terrible About Us pages.  But even this shows that a lot of people just don’t want to take the time to do a good About Us page.  And you really need to get that done, not just for conversions, but really for all these other signals that you need to be sending out to Google.

Other things that I would say fall into that category: small details.  All of your images.  Do they all have alt tags, which is the captions for if you can’t see the images?  Some people browse without images.  It’s not really common, but some people do, or for mobile browsers or whatnot.  I don’t think there’s a lot of room that alt images help that much anymore.  I think it used to be more of a thing in the past, but it’s still a small detail.  Like if you’re too lazy to put even alt tags on your images, what does that say about you?  I think that’s the most important thing.  The signal isn’t so much that we’re trying to spam keyword and images anymore.  That used to be a thing and it used to be effective, but now it’s not effective so much anymore and I wouldn’t even both to tell people to try doing that.  I would just say try to describe your image as accurately as possible in your alt tag.  But the reality is if you don’t even do alt tags, it’s kind of like somebody showing up and not ironing their pants.  Like, well, duh.  Everybody should iron their pants.  Why aren’t you ironing your pants?  It’s standard.  So put alt tags in your images.

Other things, for example, are ensuring that you use unique titles on all of your products, that you have unique meta descriptions, and more importantly than anything else in the world, your meta descriptions need to actually have some kind of legitimacy to them.  If I’m selling something like a calculator, I’m not just going to say on my title, “calculator $10,” or “calculator,” and then for my description, “This is a calculator.”  I mean what does that really tell you?  Again, I always use metaphors, but that’s like walking into a store and let’s say you’re shopping for culinary knives and you’ve got a very nice set of knives over here, $300 set of knives, and all you see is a knife on display.  And there’s a price tag.  No information about the knife whatsoever.  And that’s kind of the version of meta in terms of getting your first little bit of information about this knife.  That’s what meta means.  It’s kind of like a summary of the information available.  Now, if you ask the owner of the store, “Hey, I want some more information on the knife,” they’re probably give it to you and that would be the description of your product.  But when you first look at this knife, if the meta information is lacking, what does that say about it?  Like what kind of trust does that build?  It doesn’t build trust.  And again, this game is all about trust.

So when you don’t have that kind of stuff, it really says something about you, and what it says about you is that you’re lazy and that you can’t be bothered to build an appropriate website.  So you need good descriptions, not just plain old products descriptions; you need good meta descriptions, you need good keywords, you need good titles.  And what I’m not saying here is spam it with keywords.  That’s not what I’m saying at all.  What I’m saying is that you need to put good descriptions that accurately describe your product in a way that’s good for your customers.  And I could care less about the keywords to be perfectly honest because, again, my long-term game, I feel, is that machines are going to figure out like intention.  And when that comes, if you’re just a keyword spammer – and maybe it might work a little bit.  It really doesn’t work that much, but a lot of people seem hell-bent on saying that it does.  If you truly are writing with the intention of making a sale as opposed to selling to a search engine, you’re going to be doing okay.  You just have to, you know, realize you’re going to be in it for the long game until all that machine learning kind of figures out where to get to.  But the reality is that if you’re just doing it to begin with, you’re probably a step ahead of most of your competitors.

And so other than that, again, we talked about descriptions.  Product description itself.  Are you copying and pasting off the manufacturer?  If you are, good luck.  That’s a very lazy way of going about it.  Are you using the images that the manufacturer provides for you?  That’s lazy too.  So we’re really getting to this point of inflection here in the ecommerce space where there is a lot of competition and there are a lot of other players and the reality is that it used to be easy because there weren’t that many around and there were not a lot of people that were using the same material as you.  And unfortunately, if you’re a reseller and you’re using other people’s goods, then you’ve got this huge problem of, “How do I differentiate myself with my product that is being sold by my manufacturer?”  And the answer is you’ve got to start writing new content.  You’ve got to get new images and that kind of stuff as well.  So, again, this is really what I’m talking about in terms of high quality content and setting yourself apart and building that trust.

So, in ecommerce, this is, to me, one of the biggest things that you can do, which is don’t be caught with your pants down by having all this kind of data that everybody else has because now you’re just like everybody else.  And if you’re like everybody else, you’re not going to get rankings.  So that’s a huge hit to your potential for getting traffic and growing your business.

Let’s talk about the other part for SEO, and this is going to be a little bit more of the difficult part and I don’t think we’re going to go for a part four for SEO, but this’ll probably be something later down the road but it’ll be market research.  And what it really comes down to is knowing what kind of products and what type of content that you should be kind of developing toward.  Now, I had said that you shouldn’t keyword stuff but one thing that you should do is that you should try to figure out what are the big things people are searching for before you even optimize.

And for example, I’ll use Mike’s IceWraps site again.  For the main short-term searches, you’re going to get people searching for knee ice wrap, shoulder ice wrap, writs ice wrap, and whatnot.  But you’re also going to get, like I mentioned, long-tail searches for knee ice wrap for arthritis, or shoulder ice wrap for baseball players or whatnot.  But when you start writing content, what do you want to do?  Do you want to write about the long-tail first, such as ice wraps for baseball players, or do you want to write about the short-tail?  Generally, this is where you start looking at the competition when you type in something like shoulder ice wrap and you see the results that come up.  If there are results from a lot of people that are very popular, like if there’s like a New York Times article there, there’s a Forbes article, and something from the Mayo Clinic, do you really want to write an article about shoulder ice wraps if these guys already have that territory taken?  My answer is probably not because, even if you write about it, you’re not going to rank really well so you’re just kind of throwing yourself into the wind over here.

But if you look up ice wraps for baseball players and you don’t find anything, well, you’re not going to get as much search as those shoulder ice wraps, but the reality is that if you can rank high, that’s far better than like not ranking at all or ranking on the third page.  So you want ot try to utilize the most of your time to write and try to acquire rankings for keywords that you can actually get traffic for.  And that’s where long-tail and market research will help a lot because you can actually figure out where you should actually be targeting.

Now, that said, you don’t want to go overboard and only target terms that are all high-traffic keywords because that’s not very natural.  Normal people don’t base everything that they say off market research unless you’re like a politician, you know.  You always love Hispanic food when you’re down South and you always love, I don’t know, tacos when you’re in California and you love barbeque in Texas and all that kind of stuff.  Like you’re not always just trying to play to the audience.  A truly good website or truly good person or whatnot has an actual identity and you’re going to talk about things even when they don’t make a lot of traffic.  So on IceWraps, sometimes you might just talk about something that you know doesn’t have any kind of traffic.  You might just say, “How to Repair Your Ice Wrap,” or something like that.  That might not get any traffic at all, but it might actually be something that Google might see, “Hey, you’ve got some intention over here of just writing something that might be beneficial for your users or your existing customers that might not have any benefit for search.”  And in that regard, your intentions aren’t to just try to game the system.

So the way that I really see it is that you’ve got to try to make your signal look as natural as humanly possible.  And what does that all come down to?  That comes down to thinking like a search engineer.  And I’m not going to say that’s going to be an easy job because it’s not.  It takes a lot of time and effort and experience in order to really try to think on that level, and that’s unfortunately like asking somebody to think like another profession that they aren’t.  it’s like if somebody asked me, “Hey, Grant.  So how would you install this electrical wiring in your house?”  And I’m not an electrical engineer, so I would say, “I really don’t know, but if I had to, I guess I would do this.”  And somebody goes, “No, Grant.  That’s totally wrong.  You’d burn your house down.”  I’d go, “Well, I don’t know.  I’m not an engineer.”

So unfortunately, I realize that I’m asking you to do something that you’re not very versed in, but the reality is that if I have to build my own home and I don’t have an engineer available, I’ve got to make sure I don’t burn my house down so I’ve got to up my game just like I’m asking you to up your game right now.  And again, this is why I say if you go to any low-level SEO guys out there that are just getting paid $500 a month, $1,000 a month or whatever, they’re not going to know what the hell they’re doing because they’re not being paid enough to think like a Google engineer.

And so SEO is not, unfortunately, an easy task but it is doable.  You just have to be creative.  You’ve got to really do your homework. You’ve got to get your head down.  You’ve got to look at the Google Webmaster guide, you’ve got to read as much as possible out there, or you find a firm out there and they do exist.  I end up saying a lot of bad stuff about the SEO industry because unfortunately, 95% of them are complete crap, but there is the 5% out there that probably know what they’re doing.  They’ll charge you for it of course, so get ready to pay money.  If you don’t want to pay money, you’re going to get exactly what you pay for and worse.  So that’s kind of my peace over there.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough time to really talk about where I think Google is going, but I think I’ve made enough of what I would say is an argument for the idea that Google’s automated intelligence is essentially going to figure out your game before you even figure it out, so the future really is going to be in quality and building something truly, truly good and unique.  So the arbitrage game is going to go away.  That, to me, is a given.  And what people like me are good for, in terms of saying that I’m an SEO optimization guy, is really saying that I know how to build value to your website.  It’s not even going to be that I know SEO anymore; it’s just I know how to get your website or your business to a place that it needs to be to be very, very unique for your customers.  So that’s kind of what I think I’m going to be able to say in the future and I think the SEO industry’s going to have kind of a big shaking out for a second-round paradigm sometime in the future when people kind of realize this.

So, that all said, I really hope you guys have enjoyed this three-part series on SEO.  I know it’s a little bit more theory than it was in execution, but again, if you leave comments, leave feedback on our podcast, we’ll always try to get back to you.  And I really hope that with the information your learned, you can at least have a good fundamental to go out and get the research done, avoid the bad figures in the industry.  And again, I’m not selling SEO services any time soon.  I’ve just been doing it a very long time.  It’s a hard game.  It’s hard enough for me to do it on my own websites that I’m not always that interested on working on other people’s sites, but that said, me and Mike do do consulting here and there on a very limited basis.  I am always happy to provide some ideas and whatnot, give some general direction, but for the most part, we save most of our SEO efforts for our own selves and hope that you have very good luck doing it yourself as well.  So, thank you for listening this week and we hope to have you all again as listeners next week.  So thanks and take care.

Outro:  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Head over to EcomCrew.com and sign up for the EcomCrew newsletter to get regular updates on what’s working in ecommerce today, and get the latest from our blog.  If you haven’t already, we’d really appreciate an honest review in iTunes.  These reviews help us make sure we’re delivering exactly the content you need to be successful.  And make sure you subscribe to the show for more tips to move you up in the business ladder and into success.  We’ll see you next week.


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