Diana Karcz, Teamleader SEO at Online Solutions Group (a German SEO agency) and Thomas Gruhle, founder of the digital marketing agency Leap, both spoke at the Internet World Expo in Munich in the beginning of March. The opportunity to review the major trends that, according to them, will reign on SEO in 2018 for e-commerce businesses.

Content and backlinks are still important for SEO

In a nutshell: All of the experts were in agreement that the two most important parameters for a top ranking are still good content and high-quality backlinks. In recent times we have increasingly been hearing a lot more from eCommerce marketers that links in particular are experiencing a continuing drop in significance. Nothing of the sort at the Internet World, where their importance was emphasized several times.

For example, Diana Karcz of the Online Solutions Group told of how her team managed to increase the visibility of a page for garden accessories by 1418% within a year, in spite of a minimal budget. The strategy: take down bad links (redirections and 404 errors), create good ones (in this case by means of a product test cooperation with bloggers) and copy successful ones. Specifically this means: Find out which backlinks bring competitors the most traffic for the desired keywords and then issue a targeted request for cooperation with these pages and media.

User experience is really increasing in significance

In order to avoid missing opportunities such as this, in his lecture, Thomas Gruhle of the Leap Agency identified the top priority as staying up-to-date and keeping informed of the often rapid developments in the field of SEO. Essentially, one observation is that the user experience is increasing in significance here. The more intuitive and informative a visit to a website is, the better the website ranks. Gruhle identifies short click paths and a customer-oriented page design as key factors in this regard. It may sound trivial, however, it still does not appear to have sunk in with the various brands, who, for example, continue to sort categories or even products according to margin rather than popularity – no customer likes to be told where he should click. In order to find out what potential customers actually pay attention to, a detailed persona design is called for, which can even include the creation of a so-called Limbic map, which brings the motivation and basic temperament of the target group into line with the values of a brand.

Do it better than the competition: content

Another classic when it comes to poor SEO decisions: Believing that you are already implementing all of the best practices, without actually looking into it in detail. With regard to content, Diana Karcz shared the example of an online furniture shop, ranked far off the pace in spite of its many keywords. The shortcoming was quickly identified as being a lack of content. Contrary to popular opinion, content should actually be present on category pages, and most importantly, it should be sufficiently lengthy. The idea offered by the Online Solutions Group in this instance: to analyse the competitors’ content for each of the keywords and systematically offer content that is 20-30% longer. A strategy that proved to be correct, given that all keywords ranked on page 1 of Google within one year, which is some cases was an improvement of up to 80 places.

Do it better than the competition: keywords

In order to be able to forecast developments such as this and to avoid relying on the wrong keywords, Thomas Gruhle recommends intelligent prioritisation. Rather than simply compiling keywords from competitors and from semantic mind maps, you should create a grid containing values such as the search volume, the transaction probability (for example “sports shoes” vs. “buy Adidas Swift 41”), the expected quantity, the increase potential and the probability of ranking in 1st position. This way you can focus, both personally and financially, on the keyword sets that promise greatest success. On the same topic, Diana Karcz points out that it can be worthwhile redirecting the most successful search terms from SEA, that is paid search, to SEO. She tells of an instance whereby she was able to generate more than 400 more conversions on the same existing budget on behalf of an assisted living facility, simply because the most successful search terms were taken out of the ads campaign and in their place landing pages with interesting content and links were created – to which subsequent ad campaigns could then in turn refer.

Rich snippets and index

In addition to all this, there are a few more technical tricks that should be considered with a view to achieving perfect SEO management. Rich snippets should actually be a term familiar to every marketer, and yet only approx. 50% of pages consistently make use of this opportunity to become more visible to search engines. Unlike classic meta description, the rich snippet contains additional information such as user reviews, details regarding products and services or information regarding the company or individuals.

Last but not least, eCommerce platforms that have a large number of pages should take meticulous care to keep the index clean. A good illustration of this is the example of Wimdu vs. AirBnB. Whereas the US giant operates more than 500,000 indexed pages, only around 1 percent of its competitor’s pages are indexed, and in spite of this, or perhaps precisely on account of this, for many relevant search terms Wimdu ranks five times better than AirBnB – für Google the legibility and clarity of the domain is the top criterion.

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