This is a guest post by Gary Magnone. Gary is the Founder and Chief Strategist at Highrise, a consultancy specializing in online marketing and growth strategy for startups.
Hiring an SEO company is never an easy process. Unless you’re getting a glowing recommendation from a trusted friend, all you really have to evaluate a potential firm is their website, any online reviews that you happen to find, and the word of the sales team themselves. On top of that, ecommerce sites bring a lot of their own unique challenges that make finding the right SEO partner even more complex.
I’ve done SEO on my fair share of ecommerce sites over the past few years, and if you’re looking to hire an SEO agency or consultant for your ecommerce site, here’s what you need to look for:
1. Platform Expertise
Ecommerce platforms come in all shapes and sizes, and each is pretty unique in how equipped they are for SEO. In your initial talks with an SEO company, make sure they have some experience optimizing sites using the ecommerce software you’re using. They should have a good understanding on the limitations and opportunities of the software and any specific plugins or modules to ensure maximum performance of your website in the search engines.
2. Technical Chops
Ecommerce stores are not your run-of-the-mill, simple business website. These sites can have thousands or even millions of dynamically created product and category pages that need to be managed and optimized. This type of scale has the potential to create some serious challenges for your site’s ability to perform in search engines, so make sure your potential SEO partner has the capability to find and document fixes to issues arising from duplicate content, pagination and page expiration. If you don’t do development in-house they need to be able to implement these site changes as well.
3. Focus Or Fail
As mentioned above, the sheer size of some ecommerce sites can be intimidating, making it even more important for your SEO strategy to be organized in a realistic and actionable way. A good ecommerce SEO should be able to segment sections of your site, organize campaign deliverables into a timeline and prioritize their efforts for maximum impact.
4. Crafting Your Content
Over the past couple years, SEO has become increasingly focused around having engaging content on your site that caters to both user experience and search engines. Find out what opportunities your potential SEO partner spots on your site for new or improved content such as product descriptions, videos, buying guides, blog posts and whether they have the capabilities to produce it.
5. Stand Out In SERPs
Google and Bing are getting pretty crafty these days, including photos, gold stars, movie times, recipe info and product details right in the search results. These rich snippets do amazing things for click-through rates, and any good ecommerce SEO is going to know how to take advantage of them for your product pages.
6. Suping Up Social
While social media hasn’t turned out to be as big of an ecommerce sales channel as we all thought it would be, there’s no denying it plays a major role in assisting conversions on your site. Make sure your prospective SEO partner is savvy in the social commerce space and has the ability to integrate platforms like Wanelo, Pinterest, Facebook, and Olapic into your overall SEO strategy as social becomes a bigger influence on search engine rankings.
7. Metrics To Measure
When it comes to measuring success, ecommerce sites have it made. Because sales are generated directly through your website, you’re able to track granular visitor activity and the impact on actual revenue. Before entering into any agreement, get a feel for how the SEO company plans to measure the success of their efforts, how they attribute conversions to sources (first, last, multi-touch), and the specific key performance indicators that they use to measure each. Ask for a baseline report up-front to get an idea of where you stand and how effective they are in their reporting efforts.
8. Moving Towards Mobile
Mobile commerce is getting bigger and bigger, and if you’re launching an ecommerce store today, mobile needs to be at the forefront of the conversation. For sites built using responsive design, SEO can be pretty straightforward, but if your ecommerce platform relies on dynamic serving of content or redirects to a separate mobile site, your SEO partner needs to understand the nuances of optimizing for these types of mobile sites and what is best for you.
9. Link It Up
Links that point to your site are the primary factor in how well your site ranks in search engines. But because of the commercial nature of ecommerce, it can be a lot more difficult to get other websites to link to you. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Link building for ecommerce requires a different approach that some SEO companies are finding difficult to adopt. Talk to each potential SEO company about the ways they typically build links for client sites and get their thoughts on some unique approaches for your site. If they know what they’re talking about, you’ll hear things like focusing on categories, blogger outreach, product reviews, online giveaways, discount codes, and unique product use cases, among others.
10. Communication Is Key
The most common mistake I’ve observed in the client-agency relationship is when SEO is viewed as just an outsourced vendor. When SEO is treated like a bolted-on afterthought, that’s when you start experiencing miscommunication, missed opportunities and limited performance. You want to work closely with an SEO partner that communicates more often than just once a month or once a quarter. Consider setting up weekly calls for the entire team to stay updated on current initiatives and progress towards short-term goals as well as monthly in-person meetings to go over campaign progress, company updates, new initiatives and long-term goals.
Do you have experience working with an SEO company for your ecommerce site? Let us know your hiring tips in the comments!