If you build a web page and search engines do not rank it highly, does it exist at all? A quick look at the analytics of a page in this predicament may elicit a question that isn’t much less alarmist. That’s for good reason — boosting organic search results is one of the most important things any retailer can do to attract shoppers and boost conversions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science behind organizing content in such a way that search engines like Google and Bing think it is important and rank web pages highly. The main challenge with SEO is that it is very much a moving target. Leading search engines change their algorithms routinely, and the guidance they issue explaining how to work with them isn’t enough to get optimal results. Since the vast majority of web users never make it to the second page of results, if you aren’t on page one, it’s almost like you don’t exist at all.
This problem is compounded for retailers, who often manage thousands of unique pages for individual SKUs. Each one of them needs to be created with SEO in mind so they can rank highly for relevant searches.
Digital union of e-commerce and catalog at Piragis
Piragis Northwoods Company is a premiere outfitter and retailer in Ely, Minnesota near the famed Boundary Waters popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Since 1979, Piragis has operated a brick and mortar storefront in Ely as well as its successful Boundary Waters catalog — which is still sent to 450,000 mailboxes every year.
Piragis digitized its entire catalog and enabled e-commerce for each item. However, this online catalog largely mirrored the print edition, optimized for user experience and conversion. The leadership team quickly realized that it needed to make its e-commerce presence as attractive to web crawlers and robots as it was to shoppers. When the team at Celerant launched SEO services, Piragis Marketing Director Tim Stouffer jumped at the opportunity.
“I had been working on optimizing SEO on my own, but it’s a huge job and partnering with an expert was definitely going to be necessary to do it right,” explains Stouffer. “There are plenty of companies out there that do this type of work, but you can spend a lot of money just getting them up to speed on your business model and systems. Since I was already using Command Retail for POS and e-commerce, it was very easy for Celerant to see exactly what I was doing and they hit the ground running.”
Beyond keywords: the path to SEO success
SEO optimization began in earnest with a detailed audit of Boundarywaterscatalog.com conducted by Celerant. Tracking analytics were enabled and studied, revealing that the website contained duplicate entries and data. This duplication raised red flags with search engine algorithms and led them to rank the pages lower in importance. Celerant SEO and Marketing Technologist Emerson Scherer spearheaded the effort clean-up code on the back-end while Stouffer optimized the front-end.
“That effort included reworking the taxonomy of the page hierarchy and rewriting titles and metadata to optimize keyword usage. “Search engines look for keywords, but using them the wrong way actually has a negative impact. Implementing the best practices Emerson worked out, I rewrote content on every page to make it more SEO-friendly,” says Stouffer. “The SEO rabbit hole goes much deeper than text, though. For example, we standardized every image to 1000×1000 pixels because search engines ding you when they get warped trying to fit within the parameters of various social media platforms.”
Since search engine algorithms are placing large importance on social media, Celerant and Piragis worked to make sure the online catalog was well represented on the leading platforms. The company began posting content on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat to enhance its visibility. The biggest value came from backlinks shared on those channels since search engines place a high priority on web traffic originating from social media; they consider it more relevant than visitors coming from other web pages.
Much like testimonials validate products and claims in the minds of people, search engines assign higher rank to pages with reviews — and volume matters. Celerant activated user reviews for product pages, and SKUs with customer feedback quickly saw lifts in their rankings on major search engines. The more reviews and ratings customers leave on product pages, the more authenticity and value search engines give them.
Video is also making a big splash in SEO and Piragis leveraged its extensive product expertise to incorporate it. “Since Piragis is also an outfitter, we have the ability to post comprehensive videos of our staff actually using the products we sell in the field. We test every item we stock before making it available to our customers and video is a fantastic tool in telling that story and reinforcing our brand,” says Stouffer. “Product pages that have associated videos perform measurably better than those without, so we are adding more video every day and beefing up our YouTube channel.”
Organic search provides shoppers with strong buy intent
After just nine months of working with Celerant’s SEO services, Piragis has seen tremendous results. Daily traffic has more than doubled, indicating that higher page rankings are working to drive visitors to the site. What’s even more impressive is the quality of traffic. Conversion rates on the site have more than quadrupled in under a year.
“Not only do these results boost our bottom line, they also feed back into our SEO efforts,” explains Stouffer. “Search engines can see buyer behavior, and when they track a click through that converts, that gives the product page a higher ranking. So the SEO that boosted conversions works to boost SEO further. It’s a great cycle!”
We agree. If you’d like to learn how SEO can increase your visibility online to drive sales and kickstart a cycle of online success.