Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Putting SEO at the heart of ecommerce

By Simon Dale, Strategic Account Director at Organic

When we talk about SEO, it’s easy to look at it as a series of tasks, optimisations and technical changes to please Google. Although we can all agree on the importance of good SEO, it isn’t always the top of the list when making changes to a website. Other things, which can seem more important at the time, often get in the way. It’s therefore important to take a step back from the roadmaps and remember that SEO is about serving customers, not search engines.

If we take the fact that SEO is about getting the right content to customers when they need it, then the need for good SEO can’t be just the remit of the natural search team. SEO should be the central point of all on-site activity, sitting at the heart of any company’s digital ambition. By doing this, it’s important to make every team a little bit SEO, to see improvements across the site.

What does it mean to have SEO at the heart of an organisation?

This may differ from brand to brand, just like team structures, targets and company focus. However, brands that do well tend to share some distinct identifiable elements that contribute to having SEO at their heart.

1 – The brand has a clear vision for SEO

A clear goal will help galvanise teams towards a common pursuit. To drive effective change in an organisation, all digital teams must pull in the same direction. Being clear from the start helps create a single focused approach and deliver the change needed.

2 – All teams understand the importance of SEO

We need to be clear to teams that in the past may have had little to do with the SEO functions about just how powerful their actions are. Getting them to understand the importance of the work may come from different sources, such as case studies, on-site metrics and education. Understanding that the work is generating positive change for the site (in a way that is important to them), will help turn colleagues into advocates – remember we want all teams to be a little bit SEO.

3 – SEO thought leaders are included in all site changes

All changes to the website can affect its performance, from content optimisation to technical adjustments Depending on the type of change happening, implementing an appropriate plan and response to a change is needed. This may be an SEO advocate in a content team for example.

4 – There is a continual review of the performance

SEO needs to be moving, always looking for improvements. Large e-commerce sites are currently facing numerous challenges. A shrinking market, developments in technology, along with factors outside of anyone’s control like the pandemic, means that if these sites don’t keep up, they risk being left behind.

Over recent weeks we have seen the strain established brands have felt on their sites, and this is due to many reasons. B&Q for example had restrictions on the number of visitors allowed on their site due to (most likely) technical issues, whilst Next closed their website down for a period of time and others struggled with stock levels at CDC. These issues all highlight the weaknesses in their current digital setup. That, alongside the emergence of newcomers to the market who are hungry and more agile, shows that e-commerce has more challenges, as well as more opportunities than ever before.

What do you need to do?

It can be difficult to create a plan which works towards putting SEO at the heart of an organisation. Whilst the finer details will vary, creating a structured approach is the best way of starting to move towards the goal.

In order to create the best plan, you need to have a clear understanding of the challenges. This includes external issues, such as where the organisation sits in the market and amongst competitors, as well as the internal challenges which are not so easy to identify.

To change the way that SEO is perceived is no mean feat. You need to win trust and inspire people who may not have previously prioritised SEO.

Whilst education is great, it won’t remove the need for a dedicated SEO and support team. Having a resource to support daily hygiene, being there for questions from across the business and looping everything back into training is important to keep things moving in the right direction.

From time to time there will be a heavy lifting challenge. Migrations or large site changes are tricky. No matter how you look at it. You’ll need expert support for these changes, as well as a way to communicate with other teams and a plan to execute.

All these elements together should help with creating these relationships across the organisation. But the effort shouldn’t stop there. Relationships are key to getting this right and expecting good work alone to help develop this may not be enough. With your agency, and in-house SEO team, you should work on getting in front of key stakeholders as much as possible.

The output from this work is invaluable in creating a sustained level of success; it gives a clear understanding of the immediate and planned actions and allows wider teams to understand how their work affects the performance of the site. All of this helps develop the buy-in needed to put SEO at the heart of the organisation.

What is important though, is to allow your brand to get the right elements in place to create digital success. This may require changes in approach or attitude within the digital teams, but if you are able to use your experience and bring in the expertise of agencies and partners, you can then truly put SEO at the heart of your brand.