Svetlana Stanković is Team Lead SEO Consulting within Searchmetrics’ Digital Strategies Group. Former Digital Marketing Director at Ringier Axel Springer Media, and SEO blogger and lecturer for international businesses, she is specialized in strategic marketing, large and enterprise websites and technical SEO.
What trends do you think are defining e-commerce in 2018 and that will be key during 2019?
The first is one of the marketing buzzwords of the minute, which is Machine Learning. Along with Artificial Intelligence, you can hardly read a press release or company statement these days which isn’t celebrating some kind of Machine Learning or AI-driven technology. Behind all the noise, two companies we know for sure are making great strides in Machine Learning are Google and Amazon. We’re already seeing Machine Learning impacting the way search results and search integrations are displayed, and this is only going to get more sophisticated as we move into 2019.
The next eCommerce trend I see is that B2B companies are (finally!) waking up to the potential of the online market. With all the digital marketing channels available, those in B2B will be moving away from traditional industry and investing more and more in reaching out to potential customers online.
Another trend I see starting to gain traction is the use of augmented reality. We’re already seeing some first movers in the food and furniture industries, like where IKEA customers can see exactly how a new coffee table would look right in their living room. I can definitely see e-commerce retailers in other sectors jumping on augmented reality and using it to bring their products closer to consumers and enhance the shopping experience.
Name 3 bad practices that you see in the day to day SEO of e-commerce, and how you would correct them.
Most of the bad practices we see today are things that people in the SEO industry have been talking about for years, but that are still yet to become established in the mindsets of many e-commerce businesses. This isn’t really a criticism of e-commerce people – it’s up to us, as SEO evangelists, to do a better job of communicating and getting our messages across.
Here are three of the main things most SEOs have understood for a while, but where you still see a lot of bad practice out in the e-commerce wild.
The old practice of producing content specifically for search engines just isn’t effective anymore. Google and the other search engines have simply become too smart. What you end up with is long texts, stuffed full of keywords and unnatural language. These aren’t offering any value to users and they aren’t – any more – helping the pages to rank.
The road to SEO hell is paved with good intentions. What this means is e-commerce sites have learnt that they need content in order to rank, but they start writing without any clear strategy and before long they have six different pages on “which smartphone is right for me?” The company doesn’t think about which of these pages is supposed to rank, Google doesn’t know either, and they end up all performing worse than if there was just one page with a clear focus.
Ignoring user intent
User intent is more difficult to get to grips with than some other aspects of SEO, but, ultimately, it’s creating pages that match user intent will drive good rankings. Most sites look at keywords without thinking about “informational” or “transactional” intent, but if you can map your content pages to what users are really looking for, then Google will reward you for it.
What mistakes do you see in the day to day in e-commerce that use social networks as a channel to promote themselves? how would you solve them?
It’s a big mistake in e-commerce to treat social media like any other channel. You often see companies advertising products on organic and paid social channels through shortened product descriptions and call to actions. But people aren’t on social media looking for ads.
Social media channels can be powerful, but they have to be used in the right way. Which means focusing on communication, entertainment and dialog with the customers. Your audience on social media wants to get in touch with your products and services and wants to know more about your brand. So that’s what you should be giving them. Too many brands are losing money through misguided audience targeting and by placing the wrong type and form of messages on the wrong channels.
In e-commerce, what relevant KPIs do you think are often neglected?
Most e-commerce companies will have some primary KPIs like Cost-per-Conversion and Average-Transaction-Value that they use to track the success of their online shop. There is nothing inherently wrong with these, but they tend to be focused exclusively on the transaction itself.
What gets neglected is how the consumers arrive at the checkout – how are user flows constructed that guide the consumer from one part of the website to another and encourage them to make a purchase? You can understand why companies look at the bottom line, but ignoring the user journey and failing to measure micro conversions means that many businesses are leaking potential by losing customers at earlier stages of the sales funnel. These missed opportunities may well be hidden if only looking at what happens at the checkout.
How do you think voice searches will affect e-commerce?
Voice search – like camera search – will definitely change the way we shop. However, I don’t see a huge voice revolution happening overnight. And it’s important to view these developments as part of a bigger overall change in the way we interact with devices.
There are already fridges on the market that can recognize expiry dates and offer food tracking connected to our mobile devices. It is only a matter of time before this kind of recognition expands to our closets and our whole apartments. Talking to voice-controlled smart assistants will (eventually) become part of our everyday life and this will, of course, include shopping, as we will receive product recommendations and place orders.