Would you like more traffic to your website?
Of course you do. I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t.
And yet, most small business owners aren’t doing any search engine optimization for their websites. Only 28% of them – about one out of every four – do any search engine optimizationat all.
If you’re in this group of owners who aren’t doing any SEO, maybe it’s because you’re worried it will be too technical. Or you don’t trust the advice you’ve gotten before.
Or maybe you’re leery about changing your website just to please a search algorithm bot. Good SEO involves making some changes for the bots, but your site visitors should figure into this, too.
How people behave on your website – how they interact with it (or not) – effects how well your site does in the search results.
This makes a lot of sense in the broader view. After all, Google is obsessed with delivering the best results for each search. So is it any surprise that they’re watching how people behave on your site? That they’re ranking your site based on whether visitors seem to like what they see – or not?
These “user engagement metrics” may not be as influential as other search ranking signals (link inbound links and proper on-page SEO), but they do affect your site’s rankings.
How people interact with your website helps your real live visitors, too. If real human beings like your website, they’re more likely to place an order or go to your physical store.
So as you take a look at these different ways to measure user engagement, think about the search engine algorithms. But more importantly, think about how your website visitors will respond. On that point, you and Google are perfectly aligned:
You both want to deliver the best possible experience for everyone who comes to your site.
- Dwell time (aka “long clicks”).
This is a measurement of how long someone stays on your website’s pages. The more time someone spends on your website (the longer the dwell time), the better your pages will perform in the search engine rankings.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Say someone does a quick search for “Belize vacations.” They see your Belize vacations page among the results. They like what your listing says, so they click through. They like what they see enough to stay on your page for twelve whole minutes.
When they’re done reading that page, they go back to the search results and try a competitor’s page. They don’t like what they see there, and click back to the search results in just 30 seconds.
Google’s algorithm monitors and remembers that interaction. If your pages consistently keep people on them for longer than average, the algorithm will adjust the search results to favor your site. This happens on a page-by-page basis, but the performance of individual pages also contributes to how Google ranks your website as a whole.
Here’s the key takeaway: The longer people stay on your website pages, the higher your pages will appear in the search engine rankings.
That’s why dwell time matters.
So now that you know about this, what can you do to improve your pages’ dwell times? Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t alienate visitors right out of the gate. Namely, have a website that
- Loads in 2 seconds or less
- Looks attractive
- Is easy to scan (few people read closely online)
- Is easy to understand
- Add an embedded video or two.
Many visitors will prefer the video, and will stay on a page longer if there is one. There’s also evidence that the Google algorithm is partial to pages that have at least one piece of multimedia content on them.
- Experiment with interactive content like quizzes, polls, and calculators.
- Make sure your page is laser-focused on what visitors expect to get from it. In other words, match the content of your page to the keywords people are using to find it.
- Click-through rate.
If you’ve done any email marketing, you’ll be familiar with this term. But for SEO, “click-through rate” refers to how often people click through to a page from search results pages.
- Return visits.
How often do your website visitors come back? According to Brian Dean of Backlinko, Google does consider returning visitors in its algorithm.
Not sure how many of your website visitors are coming back. You can find out if you’ve got Google Analytics installed. Log into your account and go to Audiences > Overview. Look for the blue and green pie chart.
What’s a good percentage of return visits? Really, all that matters is you out-perform your competitors on this metric. But according to HubSpot, “A healthy rate of repeat visitors is about 15%.”
- For local sites: Driving Directions and Clicks-To-Call Metrics.
I’m lumping these engagement metrics under one point because both of these measurements tie into how users interact with your Google local listing. And because local results are a different animal than regular search results.
That’s why there’s a different ranking factors study for Local SEO.
Here are the results from it:
For right now, we’re most interested in the “Behavioral Signals.” As you can see in the pie graphs, these are not the most important ranking signals for either the Local Pack or for Localized Organic Rankings. But behavioral signals do play a role.
The Moz ranking factors study specifically says “Google is paying attention to things like dwell rate, click-through rates, driving directions, and clicks-to-call metrics.”
We’ve talked about dwell rate, and click-through rates happen in the SERPs (not on your site) so we’re interested in driving directions and clicks-to-call metrics.
As you’ve probably guessed, both of these metrics are mobile-based. Driving directions are almost always used from a mobile device, and by definition, click-to-call actions happen on mobile phones.
- Leaving a comment.
This only applies to blog posts, of course. But you do want to encourage people to leave a comment on your blog posts. And you definitely don’t want to turn off comments entirely. If you’re worried about spam comments, use a plugin like Akismet, which protects tens of thousands of blogs from the spam comment bots.
- If they share your page on social media.
There’s been some dispute about this, but the matter is mostly settled: Social signals boost search results. So if your visitors happen to tweet or share your pages on Facebook, that will help your rankings.
These social signals aren’t as powerful as links, but they can help. So consider asking your site visitors to share your posts on social media. Or actively recruit your employees to share new content to their social media accounts.
It also helps to have active Twitter, Facebook accounts (and a company LinkedIn page) associated with your account according to Backlinko. Google figures that real companies will have a decent following on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s a reasonable guess, right?
- They subscribe to your RSS feed.
Google owns Feedburner, so it makes sense that they’d value this metric. Again, this is not anywhere near as powerful a ranking signal as inbound links or your on-page SEO, in fact, you might think of it as a third-tier ranking signal. But it can give your rankings a nudge.
As search engines get more sophisticated, they become more sensitive to user behaviors and preferences. We’re no longer dealing with algorithms that can be fooled by keyword stuffing and artificial link schemes.
But it continues to be obsessed with the primary goal of search: To deliver the best possible result for every query.
If your site can be that best result, and you can demonstrate it to the algorithm through these engagement signals, you won’t have to worry about getting enough organic search traffic. Or about getting penalized in the next algorithm update.
Did you know that 55% of online shoppers turn to Amazon to begin product searches?
“Amazon has become the reference point for shoppers,” Jason Seeba, head of marketing for BloomReach told Bloomberg Tech. “Shoppers will go to Amazon first to find a product and check prices.”
If you are looking for a launching pad for your products that your target audience likes and finds useful, Amazon is it. To get the most from your listings on Amazon, however, you will need to employ some SEO tactics to showcase your products and business.
The following will serve as your guide to expert Amazon SEO and ranking your products on the largest online retail site in the world.
Understanding Amazon results pages
Knowing the intricacies of how Amazon displays products can be very beneficial to getting your products seen. They pretty much have two results page formats.
There is the list view with 15 product results covering all departments.
Also the gallery view with 24 results per page displayed when specific categories or departments are searched.
Understanding the results pages is kind of like knowing how many positions there are on a Google results page, with their own types of ads and organic results.
Other key aspects of Amazon’s results pages are the filter fields located on the left hand side of the page (sidebar).
A user that navigates the filter will get a subset of the originally search query. This makes completing all the fields in your product listing increasingly important.
For example, if you are listing a “16GB” iPhone 6, you will want to make sure that field is filled in when listing the iPhone. Otherwise, shoppers interested ONLY in the internal memory size of 16GB could possibly miss your listing.
Just like Google ads, you want to have a tight grouping of keywords, only this time you want them stuffed into your title or description bullet points.
Understanding Amazon’s query parameters
The next bit of Amazon anatomy you should take note of is the query string parameters the platform uses. Having a working knowledge of these query parameters will help get your products in front of consumers who are more likely ready to make a purchase.
If you are familiar with how Google builds URLs based on their set of query string parameters, Amazon’s will be easier to mentally digest.
The top three worth examining are:
- Field-Keywords: This one is rather straightforward simply the keywords a user types in the search field. For example, “iPhone” or “Samsung 7 Case” would qualify as field-keywords, and Amazon will place them in the results URL.
- Node: This is a very good query parameter to know, since this is the numeric number relevant to Amazon’s categories. For instance, if you were selling a camera, you would enter the node ID 502394 representing the “Camera, Photo & Video” category.
- Field-BrandTextBin: This is essentially the brand field, and it can be quite useful for measuring your products with others of the same brand. If you are an iPhone reseller, than iPhone should be in your field-keywords, as well as your field-brandtextbin.
The hierarchy of nodes is also important:
To get more insight on how Amazon builds query parameters for products you can navigate the filter fields a bit. Clicking around on it will show how each category or selection can manipulate the URL.
Ranking on Amazon like a boss
To maximize your Amazon SEO efforts there are a few foundational ranking factors to put into action. Knowing exactly what to focus on when listing your products will get your products in front of more consumers.
Amazon uses data to determine what a user sees after a search query.
This data can be:
- Product Pricing
- Search Terms (keywords)
- Range of Selection (color, models, etc.)
- Product Availability (stock)
- Sales History
- Customer Reviews (star ratings and comments)
- Click volume
There are two main categories the above factors fall into, Performance Factors and Relevance Factors. Performance factors are interesting, because these are what signals Amazon to rank products based on how much money they will make by doing so. Relevance factors are the relevancy the product has after a user search.
Performance based ranking factors
The following performance factors are vital, because they essentially equate to more profit for Amazon. This compels them to rank products with these optimized factors higher. Simply put, if your product sells well when ranked higher, it will be sure to get more search love.
Conversions are pretty obvious ranking factors, but one of the most challenging ones to pin down. There are a few tactics you can employ to potentially show Amazon your product is converting well.
Amazon is tricky when it comes to getting a clear picture of conversions. You can see metrics such as units and sessions, but not enough data to really control, or A/B test.
First, find your conversion data in Seller Central by going to Reports > Business Reports > Detailed Page Sales > Traffic.
You will need to see the Unit Session Percentage to get the information needed. The Unit Session Percentage is (units ordered/number of Sessions) per product listing.
To ensure you are getting the most from your conversions in order to improve your rankings, you will need to adjust your buy box percentage. This is especially important if your products are in high competition.
For example, weighting your units ordered per buy box will signal to Amazon that you are converting more.
Images are important performance factors to improve your Amazon rankings. If you are not following their image guidelines, you may be losing a lot of potential customers.
Amazon requests that sellers upload product images 1000 x 1000 pixels or larger. Why? This will make your images compatible with Amazon’s zoom feature, and images optimized for zoom sell better.
Remember, performance factors are all about how you can provide a higher profit for Amazon. If they say zoom increases sales, then your images better be zoomable. This simple tweak to your listings can boost your rankings, and have a snowball effect for increasing conversions, which in turn will also impact your rankings in a positive way.
Price is another major factor in the ranking snowball effect you can leverage for optimal Amazon SEO. There is no secret that price is a major buying decision for consumers. If your product pricing is better or comparable to other sites, chances are, consumers will opt to buy your product via Amazon.
The more sales you receive on Amazon, the more sessions, the more conversions, and better rankings of your products.
A good example of comparable prices across similar products is for refurbished iPhone 6 16GB smartphones.
The market for iPhone 6 mobile devices is so saturated, sellers need to make their products as marketable as possible.
You should do a bit of Amazon product research in your category as well. You want to make sure your product price is also better or comparable to other sellers that will be alongside you in the results pages.
For instance, if you are selling refurbished iPhones $100 more than other sellers, you may find your rankings less desirable. This could happen due to low conversions based on higher pricing, or Amazon concluded your products would not fare well, thus ranking them lower from the get go.
Amazon ranking factors based on relevance
Now that you know how to optimize for the performance factors that Amazon uses to calculate its profit, it’s time to look at relevance factors. Relevance factors are all about search query relevancy, and can be easier to optimize for than performance factors.6
Product listing title
The title you choose for your product listings are in fact one of the most important relevance factors. It is where you will place your most valuable keywords, as well as a few other description related search terms to help users find your products on page one and above the fold.
A few essentials to include in your title are:
- Product Brand
- Line of the Product
- Size or Dimensions
Amazon, like Google, does advocate against keyword stuffing, but valuable keywords should be placed in your product title. A good title will influence users to click on your listing. Giving consumers a very clear idea of what the product is will secure a higher CTR.
However, a title jam packed with just keywords may have the opposite effect, causing users to shy away from your listing. Keep it clear and concise for the best results.
The smart watch listing above is an example of what to AVOID. You want users to BUY your products – so tread carefully that line between keyword stuffing and usability.
Including the brand of the product you are selling is very important. The brand field for a product listing will be shown and it will be linked to other products by the same brand.
Think about how you would search for your product as an Amazon user. For example, if you want to purchase a new Samsung smartphone, you would type “Samsung” as the first word in the search field.
Some sellers may find themselves in a bit of a conundrum if they have a product with different brand names. The Apple Watch Nike+ would be a good example of this.
You’ll see that this top rated Amazon seller used Nike twice in their product listing:
What exactly would you enter in the brand field for this one? The best place to start would be checking the highest monthly searches for each potential brand keyword. Google Keyword Planner or Moz Keyword Explorer are both good platforms for keyword research. Whichever brand gets the most monthly searches wins!
Bullet points vs. paragraph descriptions
There are a number of ways you can take your Amazon SEO to the next level. Some are slightly challenging, and some, like using bullet points in your product description are super easy.
Using bullet points rather than paragraph descriptions can give your products a rankings boost. Why? People like very concise information that is easy to digest. Amazon knows this and products with bullet points tend to convert better.
Here’s a perfect example of a bullet point product description that converts:
Including keywords, branding, size, color, and any other optimization factors in your bullet points will increase your products rankings. It is a quick tactic to employ, and you may just be surprised by the results.
Rethink your search terms
Relevancy factors on Amazon are all about fulfilling a user’s search query by meeting the expectations of their search terms. This Amazon SEO tactic can get confusing, because it is unlike the search engine optimization and PPC search terms you may be more comfortable with.
For example, let’s say you were selling an unlocked iPhone 6 with charger. You have five search term fields to make the most of, so what would you list?
Your search terms may have looked like this:
- Search Term: iPhone 6 16GB
- Search Term: Apple iPhone 6 “space grey”
- Search Term: “unlocked” 4G iPhone 6
- Search Term: iPhone 6 with original charger
- Search Term: iPhone 6 smartphone 16GB
Now let’s look at the Amazon guidelines for filling in product search terms:
- You have 50 characters per search term
- There is no need to repeat words
- Commas don’t matter
- Quotation marks are not good
- No need to use variations of words
- Leave out misspelled versions
- Word order may make a difference
- Spelling differences and synonyms are good
With the above in mind, here’s what your search terms could look like:
- Search Term: iPhone 6 16GB unlocked with original Apple charger
- Search Term: space gray 4G international unlock with accessories
- Search Term: Apple smartphone 6 generation factory unlocked GSM
- Search Term: iPhone 6 dual core mobile device 8mp camera
- Search Term: iOS Model: 51-F3A8-A92R 1.4 GHz Cyclone Processor
It may be challenging at first to make the most of your product search terms. However, one easy way to get the information you need to maximize this relevancy factor is to browse a few products on page one of Amazon similar to yours.
Make Amazon SEO part of your product listings
The above tips and tactics are some of the most important factors that you can use to improve your Amazon rankings. In some instances, Amazon SEO is similar to the optimization tactics you would employ for search engines. However, there are a few factors that are quite the opposite.
Make sure you understand how Amazon ranks products in your niche to get a leg up on your competition. Get the most from your conversions, keep your products in stock, and optimize for relevancy factors to ensure you land on page one of results pages.
What Amazon SEO tactics do you have the most success with?
In terms of getting the best search rankings, you can broadly break your SEO efforts into two areas: site-wide optimisation and optimising individual pages. Today we’re going to focus on the second of these two subjects, looking at how to maximise the search ranking of every page you publish.
By following the steps in this guide, the individual pages on your site will earn more exposure, generate a higher volume of leads and contribute to better rankings across the rest of your site.
The challenge of creating ‘quality’ content
The phrase “quality content” is used so much these days that it’s lost all meaning. So, to be clear, for your content to be considered quality by search engines and people it must be two things: valuable and discoverable.
Valuable content provides information people actually need and discoverable content is easily accessible when people need it most. Hitting this sweet spot of providing the right information at the crucial moment is a real challenge but one we need to overcome in the age of micro-moment marketing.
Source: Think with Google
The key is to understand the consumer journey of your target audiences and the role each of your pages plays along the way. This tells you the kind of information users need from each page and the kind of conversion goal you should be targeting.
10 steps to follow
Your next big challenge is creating unique content on every page you publish, which can be particularly difficult for services pages. When you have five, ten or any number of services to promote, how do you make every page unique and valuable?
Follow these SEO best practices steps to get you started:
- Introduce the service
- Differentiate from similar services (eg: SEO vs PPC)
- Make the unique benefits and selling points of each service clear
- Identify questions users will have and provide answers
- Explain which kind of clients use this service and what you’ve done for them
- Consider testimonials, case studies and social proof specific to this service
- Use visual content to reinforce your message
- Have a prominent, compelling call-to-action
- Provide access to further information for users who aren’t ready to commit yet
- Direct users to another service page if this isn’t the one that meets their needs
Try to be as specific as possible with each of your service pages, otherwise you’ll find they all end up being very similar. You need to make it perfectly clear why this is the service your visitors need and, if it isn’t, make it obvious where they should go next.
Multimedia ranking factors
It’s widely accepted that Google and other search engines take multimedia content into consideration when ranking pages. Humans are visually stimulated creatures and search engines know images, video and other visuals are the perfect way to spice up a page full of text.
Strong visual content is also more engaging than text, which can reduce indirect ranking factors like bounce rate, time on page, number of pages visited, etc.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
So visuals are important to people and search engines alike, but the same old issue of quality/value comes into play. A bunch of naff stock images aren’t going to engage people and reduce those indirect ranking factors.
Aside from this you also need to optimise your visual content so search engines can recognise them and also reduce the negative impact on performance. This starts by using the right format for images so make sure you understand the difference between JPEG, PNG and other images file types.
Hopefully, you’re well aware by now that Flash is a no-no and HTML5 video is the way to go. Here are some other things to consider:
- Relevance is still important for videos
- Engagement metrics like views, comments, shares, etc. have an impact
- Metadata tells search engines what your video is about
- Keywords are believed to also have an impact
With video content there’s always the question of hosting the video on your site or embedding via YouTube. While embedding YouTube videos can by boost engagement metrics (views, shares, etc.) you could be taking ranking points away from your page by hosting your video elsewhere. So, in the case of service pages, it’s probably best to create highly specific videos and host them on that service page only. This way all the SEO points go to that page and nowhere else.
In term of performance, speed is your biggest enemy with visual content. Optimise your images and videos to reduce file sizes as much as you can without hurting quality too much. Also think about content delivery networks (CDNs), web caching and optimise your code for the best possible speed.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of your hosting provider/package when it comes to speed and performance.
Make your visual content discoverable
As mentioned earlier, even the best content is useless until search engines and people are able to find it at the key moment. This is more challenging with visual content because search engines can’t watch videos or see infographics, which means you need to give them a helping hand.
- Avoid loading content with AJAX (Google still has trouble crawling this)
- Create descriptive descriptions with relevant keywords
- Optimise your titles and meta descriptions where possible (not every image can have a title, of course)
- Consider transcriptions for your video content
- Use descriptive captions
- Avoid infographics with no written content (similar to transcriptions)
The key is to provide context with your visuals so search engines can understand the purpose they serve to users.
Write for users, optimise for search engines
We’ve already spoken about creating content that meets user needs, answers their questions and provides value. This is your priority for every page you publish. Write for users first and then optimise for search engines – once again, to make your pages discoverable and prove their relevance.
Here are the SEO essentials for on-page optimisation:
- Descriptive titles in H1 tags, including your target keyword
- Descriptive page URL with keyword included
- Correct formatting with subheadings (in H2, H3 tags, etc.) including keywords if they’re relevant/useful
- Meta data, Schema and rich snippets where relevant
- Inbound and outbound links to/from other relevant pages on your site (internal linking)
- Optimised visuals for performance and discoverability
- Mobile optimisation
- Fast loading times
There are a few things on that list that we haven’t covered in-depth yet so let’s go into some more detail about meta data, URLs and the remaining on-page essentials.
Writing effective meta data
Meta data is a subject that causes a lot of confusion because it has little-to-no impact on how search engines rank your pages. However, users still see much of this information on results pages, meaning it has a direct impact on how many people click-through to your site.
Optimising your title tags
The title tags determine what users see as the blue headline text of your search results. Here’s an example of what this looks like on a listing for Search Engine Watch:
For this page the HTML title will look like this:
<title>Title Tags Guide | Good & Bad Examples | Search Engine Watch</title>
This is a common formula for optimising title tags: Keyword #1 | Keyword #2 | Brand name. However, this approach is outdated now because it doesn’t provide the most descriptive title for users trying to find the most relevant result to their query.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
- Be descriptive: Your priority with title tags is to accurately describe the content users will see on the other side. You want the highest number of clicks vs the lowest possible bounce rate – and this means compelling but accurate title tags.
- Aim for queries, not keywords: Placing keywords in your title tags won’t help you rank higher but matching a user’s search query will tell them your page has what they’re looking for.
- Include your brand name: Users are more likely to click results from brands they recognise so it’s still good practice to include your brand name in title tags.
- Be mindful of length: Search engines tend to give you 50-60 characters (or 512 pixels more specifically) and everything after this will be cut off. Ideally, you want your full title to be visible but don’t obsess over this. Be mindful of length but focus on creating titles that will generate the most clicks.
Once again, meta descriptions have no impact on where you rank but they give users vital information about what your page contains. Much like your page titles, these only appear in search results, not your actual pages. Their role is simply to give users more information about what they can expect to gain from clicking on your listing.
In the listing above, Search Engine Watch aims to get people clicking by matching the questions they have in mind within their meta description. It may not be the most readable of descriptions but it provides a lot of information about what users can expect to find on the page. They’ve also squeezed a number of potential queries into that description, which will show up in bold when users search for them.
This approach won’t be ideal for all meta descriptions but it’s a good example of the things you need to consider when creating your own:
- Be descriptive
- Include search queries
- Make it readable
- Get users excited about clicking through
- Focus on the value your page has to offer
- Aim for a maximum of 150-160 characters
Think of meta descriptions as a mini sales pitch about why people should click through to your site. Every page you create should have a clear, concise goal and this where you get to put this message across to searchers in a short sentence or two.
Create amazing URLs
The final key element in our trio of meta data essentials is your page URLs. The reason URLs were created in the first place was to provide users with a descriptive version of web addresses – otherwise we’d be typing in a bunch of IP addresses to access everything online.
This is important because it basically tells you everything you need to know about URLs. Like the rest of your meta data, they should be descriptive for users – and this is something many brands have forgotten over the years.
Generally speaking, the shorter and more descriptive your URLs are, the better experience they provide for users. Here are some things to consider:
- Cut out unnecessary words: Stay true to your page titles and/or headings with URLs but feel free to cut out unnecessary words.
- Forget punctuation: There’s no place for question marks, commas or any other punctuation in URLs.
- Stop words can be ok: Stop words (the, and, or, when, how, etc.) are generally considered unnecessary but it’s fine to use them if you think they make your URL more meaningful.
- Use hyphens: Separate words in your URLs with hyphens (“-”) as these are considered more readable. Avoid underscores (“_”), spaces and any other special characters to separate words.
- Target search queries: This one keeps coming up with every piece of meta data we look at – and for good reason.
- Avoid dynamic parameters: These make URLs incredibly long and unreadable.
That last point is a tricky one, because many brands want to use dynamic parameters to track user journeys across their websites. The problem is they make a real mess of URLs and it’s not only search engine results pages where this can cause problems. Users are also left with a mess when they try to bookmark your page or if they try to remember the URL of your site/specific page.
Bringing it all together
A few years ago, the idea that content marketing was the new SEO became popular in the industry. This was largely due to Google’s Hummingbird update that put less emphasis on keywords and more on matching context between search queries and content. And, while it’s true content is the most important part of your SEO strategy, ignoring the more technical side of optimising your pages is a mistake – especially with loading times and other performance factors becoming increasingly influential in search rankings.
As businesses invest more time and money into creating content it would be a shame if your efforts fall short because your pages aren’t as discoverable as they could be. So pay attention to the smaller aspects of on-page optimisation best practices and give your content the best opportunity to make things happen.