E-Commerce SEO Case Study: 3M Organic Impressions Without Backlinks

Google Search is one of the coolest growth channels that every product must use to their advantage. What’s even more interesting is it’s moderately easy that to get on top of Google Search provided we optimize it for the right set of audience. It is moderately easy because it takes a good level of user understanding and Google algorithm with some serious efforts.

Product info:

We worked closely with a fashion e-commerce enterprise that is a big brand in the offline world but was losing the online battle in the face of growing e-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart. They are experts in niche silk products that are a novelty in South India – a must-wear for all special occasion. So much so that a lot of South Indian festivals and weddings are incomplete without their special sarees and other fashion products.

Challenge:

Google visibility for the website and all the products was low. Getting them on top of search results was the primary goal.

Target Audience:

Segment 1: Upper-middle-class women from South India – married, 35+ age

Segment 2: Fashionista’s who would like to flaunt traditional wear for festivals, weddings and other family events – single, 20+ age

Channel: Google Search

Growth Experiments:

From our initial research, we figured that we needed to focus primarily on on-page optimization on the homepage. So the priority that we picked was in this order:

  1. Home page optimization.
  2. 3-5 key products that are the biggest sellers for the company.
  3. Image optimization for all products.
  4. URL optimization for each product.

Experiment 1: Home page optimization

This page, in my opinion, is one of the most important pages that need to be fine-tuned for Google bots to crawl easily and understand this information. These bots will then add this link in their database and categorize it in the right database based on how well we optimize the page.

For this website, we focused on the brand keyword, since it was already a known brand, yet we were losing traffic to Amazon’s of the world and other copycat websites that were using our name. Start with SEO hygiene – we noticed a lot of gaps, so we did a detailed SEO audit for the homepage.

So SEO clearly was at a C+ stage and we needed to dig deeper.

The detailed SEO audit revealed a lot of changes that needed to be done. I’ll skip the 12 page SEO analysis for this guide so we can focus on the core methodology here.

Along with these, we have worked closely with the tech team to improve:

  • User experience
  • Minify CSS
  • Minify Javascripts
  • Reduce site loading time
  • Image alt test
  • SEO friendly URL
  • Website canonical versions and more.

So we picked this list as a priority tasks to get started. We started with website TITLE, DESCRIPTION and HEADER tags. This step seems obvious, but it’s surprising to see how we miss the little nuances of user intent and behavior here and make a mistake here.

The key here is identifying the right focus keyword and ensuring humans understand this clearly. Design this for humans and crawling bots will automatically understand this easily.

[TITLE] Focus Keyword – Key USP of the product (keep this under 50-60 characters)

Alternatively, you can also use this format

[TITLE] Focus Keyword – your company tagline

[TITLE] Focus Keyword – your company key offering

[TITLE] Focus Keyword – brand recall copy related to your company

The title is the most important real estate for your website SEO.

[DESCRIPTION] Focus keyword is blah blah lorem ipsum, key USP of the product, location, specialty, etc.  (keep this under 150-160 characters)

Some good examples below:

Don’t underutilize this real estate or overkill it.

You’d be surprised if I tell you that the biggest e-commerce companies underutilize this real estate.

It’s surprising to see IRCTC, a government-run website has better-utilized TITLE tags real estate to their advantage compared to Amazon.

We replicated this across all product pages eventually.

Experiment 2: Optimizing key products that are the biggest sellers

We picked about 5 products that were best sellers offline and tried to optimize it for best online visibility even for broader keywords. We did not use long-tail here specifically.

Product 1: We used this product as the main focus keyword for on-page optimization and used similar content with variations for all 50 products under this category.

Just optimizing doesn’t help if Google isn’t notified of the changes to the website. We must constantly be pinging Google about changes that we do for individual products.

It took about 1.5 to 2 months for the results to kick in for this product.

That’s 124,000 impressions for a single category of products.

Product 2: Now this is a good case study of SEO gone wrong because we misunderstood user intent. The sales team was of the opinion that the product was referred by a different name and we made the changes accordingly.

But when we didn’t see the results kicking in even after 3 months, we know we had to redo this SEO optimization again.

Finally we optimized with the right focus keyword in April and after we started seeing the rise in impressions from June onwards. If we had done this earlier, we could have got close to a 180,000 impressions more in 6 months.

It’s not enough to optimize the website for single focus keyword. Each and every product category and products must be optimized to ensure they are getting the right visibility.

We continued doing this for thousands of products individually and were able to achieve 3 million plus impressions for the website.

Experiment 3: Image optimization

E-commerce is driven by beautiful product pictures. But if we don’t communicate Google about what a picture is about, it becomes really difficult for Google to categorize images in the right database. We used the below format for Image URL structure and ALT tags for images.

Experiment 4: URL optimization

Overall Results:

We have hit more than 3 Million impressions in the last 7 months.

We started out at around 3,500 impressions a day starting this year Jan 2019.

Today, we have seen close to 700% growth in terms of impressions in about 7 months.

Pro Tips:

  1. If you have 100 things to fix in SEO, always start with on-page and specific title, description and header tags as the first step.
  2. Optimize on-page content for humans to understand. Don’t get carried away to optimize for bots.
  3. A good litmus test to check if your content is understandable by humans – get an 8-10 year old to read your content and see if they understand your SEO tags.
  4. It is crucial to use a data-driven approach for SEO, this must be tracked on a daily basis.
  5. Among other tools, Google Search Console and Google Analytics are my favorite ones.
  6. A good schema helps organize data for search engine, makes it readable for Google bots.

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