Did you miss this month’s webinar on SEO? Sing up to watch the recording!
What You’ll Learn During the SEO Webinar
This webinar highlights how to leverage paid ads, the customer experience, and new SEO updates to drive qualified traffic to your online store.
- How to get more conversions using the Retail Funnel
- How to increase customer retention
- Ranking on Google
- The future of guest blogging
Watch The Webinar:
How to Depend Less on SEO Webinar Transcipt
Mary: Welcome to the CPC Strategy webinar with 3DCart. Today, we’re going to talk about how to depend less on SEO. And our speakers today are Rick Backus and Joe Palko, eCommerce and platform and retail search experts.
So some quick housekeeping before we begin. We will be recording this webinar. And so if you would like to get access to that later, you know, you maybe need to live a little bit early, something like that, you will have access to the complete recording when that is available. Additionally, we will be answering questions throughout the webinar and following the webinar. So if you have any questions, you can enter those in the chat box to your right.
If you are unable to answer a chat question or if you think of a question maybe later on, you can feel free to reach out to me: [email protected] and I’ll definitely try and reach out and answer those to the best of my ability.
So just a little background on me. My name is Mary, I’m the content director here at CPC. Our goal, basically as a company and more specifically my goal, is to make sure that we’re providing utility for you. And so, I want to make sure that you are getting as much information about retail search and you are learning how to increase volume and revenue for your online store. So if anytime, you have questions about anything that’s going on, you want to try and maximize revenue, you’re not sure about trying this, I’d love to answer those questions. Maybe create something thatâ€™ll help answer those questions, a guide, something like that. And so if anytime, you have any questions, I’d love to help answer those. And so feel free to reach out to me.
About CPC Strategy
Just a quick background on CPC Strategy. We are a retail search and eCommerce expert company. We’ve been around since 2007, so we’ve been working in a retail search area for quite some time. We really know our stuff and know what we’re talking about. We manage over $35 million in ad spend. And again, to touch on the content creation, we, every month, are creating up-to-date resources on what’s happening in eCommerce.
So Google Shopping Campaigns just switched over from PLAs. We have a guide on it. We’re coming out with a Google Shopping Campaigns webinar in a couple months. And so if it’s happening, we’re talking about it and we want to make sure that you are up on what’s going on.
Expert SEO Speakers
A little bit more about our speakers today. Again, the initial speaker is Rick Backus who is our CEO and co-founder. Rick has been working in retail search,Google Shopping and eCommerce for a long time. He is a regular speaker at eCommerce conferences like SearchLove Boston which he just did recently. He also writes and shares about eCommerce. For example, he writes on Search Engine Land.
Our other speaker today is Joe Palko, who is with 3DCart. Again, Joe is a wonderful resource, has extensive experience with eCommerce and shopping carts. And he’s going to share his insight with you today. If you have any questions for Joe, you can reach out to him as well.
I’m going to pass it over to Rick now, and he’s going to share his expertise on getting more customer acquisitions.
More Customer Acquisition with SEO
Rick Backus: Thank you, Mary. Let me make sure my slides are up here. I like how you described me as an “all-around good guy.” I definitely appreciate that.
Rick Backus: My portion of the webinar is going to be pretty brief. I just wanted to talk about what we do at CPC Strategy. Also get you thinking a little bit strategically about your business and Joe’s portion of the webinar will be very tactical about guest blogging. And there’s a lot going on when it comes to changes in SEO.
But as an eCommerce retailer, you should be thinking strategically about your business and your value proposition, and how strong that value proposition is with your target audience. And so what I’ll cover is the key customer acquisition programs that we help our clients with. Also talk a little bit about increasing conversions with the retail funnel. And discuss customer retention strategies. And then, I’ll pass it over to Joe who will be the bulk of the webinar to talk about guest blogging and Google SEO.
Google Product listing Ads
Acquisition programs for the main program that we manage is Google product listing ads. So over 1 billion products on Google Shopping. Google PLA clicks increased by 200 percent, it’s in the last two years. PLAs are available in 23 countries globally.
Google PLAs are a big deal. And that’s typically what we talk about. Most of the information you’ll find on our blog and our resources are around Google PLAs. And simply put, if you’re a retailer and you’re not participating on Google PLAs, there’s something wrong with you. There’s really no good reason to not have your products listed on PLAs. The traffic, right now, is really valuable to retailers. It converts well. Google is doing a pretty excellent job of matching the individual search queries with products to make sure that they’re converting high.
And so in terms of bottom of the funnel channels for retail, it’s right on up there with the Amazon Marketplace. And obviously since they’re driving those customers back to your website, it’s really valuable.
We recently put out the Google Shopping Campaigns guide. Google is switching from the traditional PLA format to Google Shopping Campaigns. And so that link there, maybe Mary can send out both of these links in the chat box for the webinar. And both of these guys are really set up to give you as much information as possible and almost overwhelm you with information about PLAs, so that you can figure out how to manage the programs yourself.
Tweetable Google PLA facts, display ads of a 22% higher click-through rate. Google Shopping accounted for 13% of site traffic for our clients in 2013 and 12% of site revenue. If you’re not seeing similar statistics for your store, there’s a good chance that your Google Shopping strategy is not sound, and potentially we could do an audit for you to figure out where you could be better managing Google Shopping or how you could be getting more revenue out of it.
Also, that’s a link to a research study that we conducted for 2013. To try to show you how Google PLAs should stack up to the rest of your marketing programs.
Bing Product Ads
We’re also just recently have started investing more of our content, time and energy into Bing. Bing announced Product Ads and Bing Product Ads is now available for all retailers. And that announcement was in the last 30 days. And we already have a guide out that helps you to get set up on Bing Product Ads. And we’re doing a webinar with Bing to go over the new program.
It’s a very similar program to the way that Google approaches PLAs. And in fact, Bing lets you leverage your PLA account structure to set up your Bing campaigns. And I think there’s a hundred days to switch over using Google Shopping Campaigns. Could you clarify that point, Mary?
Mary: Absolutely. So the big thing here is that, again, Bing Product Ads are just like PLAs in terms of so many variables. If you’re up to date with what’s going on with Google Shopping Campaigns, it was recently switched for PLAs. And so online retailers have until August, which is roughly a hundred days to switch from PLAs, the current format, to Google Shopping Campaigns, before that happens automatically.
Now, one of the things that kind of fits in with this is a pro tip that a lot of people don’t actually know is that you can migrate your PLA ad structure and inventory information from the current PLA format to Bing. But that only works with the existing PLA format.
So you need to that before Google Shopping Campaigns are switched over in PLAs. And so if you want to get started on Bing Product Ads, it’s probably a good idea to that relatively soon, especially if you want to migrate over.
Retail Search Funnel and Customer Acquisition
Rick Backus: Awesome. Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it. So real quick, I just want to get you thinking about your retail funnel and how you approach your customer acquisition. And so this is the way that I think about the funnel, that the top of the funnel, your goal is to educate.
And so your audience is going to be doing really general searches at the top of the funnel. And so for example, they would be doing a search for â€œmen’s shoesâ€ or â€œwomen’s shoesâ€ or â€œshoesâ€. And at that phase, the person is not ready to make a purchase, and their intent is to learn. And so it’s your responsibility as a retailer to educate them and to bring them into your funnel. And if someone is in that educational phase, it’s not time for you to pitch your products. It’s not time for you to try to convert on that individual customer because based on their intent, they’re not ready.
And so, this is an area where a lot of SEOs talk about the educational guides and resources. And on a meta level, I’ll give you guys a clue, that we put all this energy and time into our guides and our resources and these webinars to expose our brand to a new audience. In hopes that you’ll see a case study of ours and you’ll see the way that we’re getting results for our clients and that will eventually make you open to the idea of working with us.
And that’s how you should approach your customers as well. At the top of the funnel, there’s the education. When you get to the middle, that’s where curation comes into play. And so, if somebody is interested in men’s shoes, you need to start showing them some specific product lines for that general category.
And so that’s where you show them some Nike shoes and some Adidas shoes and these different brands of shoes that they may be interested in. So you brought them in with education, you curated some of your top products that you think are really going to help to push them down that conversion funnel. And then, at the conversion phase, they should have a really specific idea of what they want.
And that’s the area that we focus on, as an agency, is the bottom of the retail funnel and trying to maximize your conversions, by matching your product inventory with your customers’ intent.
And one thing that I’ll add to focusing on the bottom of the funnel is that from my perspective, the difference between the top 100, 200 big box mega stores; their approach to their funnel is that they don’t just focus on the conversion phase. And so I know that’s it’s different when you have limited resources. And I know that when you’re trying to keep the lights on, you may only be able to invest in a channel like Google PLAs or the bottom of the funnel channels that drive instant conversions.
But realistically to grow your business and to have a sustainable value proposition that can grow with your company, you need to figure out the middle of the funnel and you need to figure out the top of your funnel. And the difference between huge brands and brands that can never get to that size is their ability to know their customer lifetime value, to attack the top and middle of the funnel and not just focus on the bottom.
Customer Retention Strategy
So, customer retention strategy, you either need to build a product line or you need to build a customer experience. And so what I mean by that, this is one of our clients, airandwater.com. And they found that selling other people’s air conditioners and portable appliances was becoming more and more competitive.
When they started 10 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of competition. And now, they would go on to Google Shopping and there would be 25 sellers of the same product. And so they invested heavily into this new air product line that they manufacture, that they have control over. And so to build a product line, it requires a unique selling proposition at the product level.
And so instead of Air and Water trying to get seller reviews, they were trying to drive their customers who purchased the new air products towards reviewing that product on their site and on Amazon to build up the credibility for that individual project. And so it requires a high volume of product reviews. You need a large network of distributors.
And so it’s not just enough for Air and Water to sell the new air product on their own site, they need to figure out marketplaces and they need to try to get that product onto other large retailers that already have a network of customers.
Building an Experience
Profit growth is typically slower than building and experience. And so when you build one individual product line, unless you get on Oprah, or you get maximum exposure for that product, it’s going to be a little bit slower growth path for your company. And as profit grows, pricing enforcement becomes a bigger challenge.
So when you put your products on 50 different distribution channels, it becomes more and more difficult to enforce your map pricing. And that is really a good problem to have because it means that you’re selling a lot of that product. But it becomes an issue as you’re trying to scale out your sales for that individual product line.
The other option is to build an experience. And I list three brands here that do it really well: ThinkGeek, REI and ModCloth. And all of them are focused on building an audience, and the products are almost secondary.
And so as an REI customer, they want you to think like an REI person. And that brands stands for more than the individual products that they curate for you. And so to build an experience, it requires a unique selling proposition as a seller.
And so you need seller reviews and you need to build your seller reputation. The individual product reviews aren’t as important because you’re focused on building an experience. It requires a high volume of seller reviews.
It’s very difficult to do this with commodity products to build an experience. And so you can invest heavily into education and video. And you can have really innovative marketing around selling toilet paper. But for the most part, your audience isn’t going to care. They’re going to go to Amazon to buy their toilet paper or their commodity products.
And so it’s much easier to build an experience when you do have products that are somewhat unique. Especially you’ll see a lot of the best experiences are in apparel, where they have unique products. And it’s really difficult to build this experience if you’re a commodities seller.
It also requires a lot of upfront capital and frequent innovation. And so you need to put a lot of energy into figuring out: “What is different about my experience relative to my competitors?” “Do my customers actually care about the energy that I’m investing into this experience?” “Are my products the right type of products to create an experience?” And so it usually will require some level of money upfront to build a brand.
Experience Across the Funnel
And the experience must be consistent across the entire conversion funnel. And so that means that you’re not just focused on the bottom of the funnel channels, you’re focused on the curation of products. And you really know your audience so well, that you know exactly the type of products that they’re going to want. And you present those products to them. And your audience looks to you for discovery of new products and they trust you.
And then, at the top of the funnel, you’re educating your audience. And you’re helping them to learn in the format and fashion that they want to learn. And so if you know your audience really well, you’ll know how they want to be educated. And you’ll know how to present the right products to them. And that’s how you’ll build brand advocates who are tweeting about you and they’re on Facebook and they’re talking about you and they’re telling your friends. That’s when you know that you built an experience, is when your customers are actively talking about you.
So that’s it. That’s it for my portion. I really want you to think about that. Are you building a product line or are you building an experience or are you doing neither? If you’re doing neither, you’re in trouble, because eCommerce has changed so quickly in the last two, three years. Where you can’t just show up and have an online store and be successful. You really need to understand what is your long-term goal as a seller? What are you working towards? And are you building a product line or are you building an experience? And if you’re not sure, you kind of need to make a decision and work towards that goal.
Mary: Awesome. And I’m going to pass it along to Joe. And just to reiterate what Rick said, we’re really proud of that page. And so if you have any questions about any of those resources, feel free to reach out. Or if you have problems accessing any of those resources, also please reach out to me and I’ll be happy to make sure that you are able to get those.
Joe Palko: Hello. Hi, everybody! This is Joe Palko. And thanks, Rick, that was some really great information. Hopefully, you can see my screen. When I did the switch-over, my little control panel disappeared. I’m sure if there’s a problem, Mary will tell me.
So hi, everyone! My name is Joe Palko and I am the Chief Marketing Officer at 3DCart. I’m just going to tell you a little bit about myself. Back in 1994, I had started an eCommerce website. So in the very very beginning, I was an eCommerce merchant. My website then was called TheFerretStore.com. And I had started it with my business partner at the time, Scott Sanfilippo.
We had operated that company all the way up until 2007. We actually sold it to Drs. Foster & Smith. So, when we sold that company, it was about $12 million in revenue, believe it or not, selling small animal products. So I have a lot of experience going back actually being a merchant.
Before that, in the year 2000, I started a company called Solid Cactus with Scott as well. And we sold that to Web.com in 2009. And Web.com is the company that owns Network Solutions and Register.com. I stayed with them until 2011 and that’s when I came to 3DCart.
Guest Blogging and SEO
So I’ve chosen to discuss guest blogging because guest blogging is what sort of became the quick way to try to trick the search engines. People really didn’t do it with the intention of tricking the search engines. But like anything, as time goes on, it’s easier to do guest blogging and people flock to guest blogging in the hopes of increasing their SEO.
So I’m sure most of you heard of guest blogging. There’s been a lot of negative press about guest blogging in the most recent weeks. So I want to discuss a little bit more for those of you who are doing guest blogging as an SEO strategy or have considered doing guest blogging.
So guest blogging is basically submitting a blog post to another blog. There’s different formats; you may write it yourself. You may have somebody write the article, the blog owner themselves may write the article. And what you’re hoping to do is to get a link to your website that’s called passing juice. I’ll talk a little bit more about nofollows and stuff like that. I hear comments that my background noise is really intense, so I’ll try and lower that for you guys.
This has been a popular marketing strategy for SEO. And how it really began with guest blogging was that you were trying to establish credibility and authority in your niche. So you would write a really informative article and try to get the credibility from writing this good article.
So you try to establish this credibility. You find blogs within your niche and you’re trying to get people to give you some credibility. Well, what’s gone wrong with this over time was that it’s become easier and easier to try to do this in mass quantity. And that being said, it became spammy. So people were really just hitting up other bloggers and saying “I would like to write a really great article for you. And in return, I’d like a link to my website.”
So you write the article and you incorporate one or two links back to your site and you’re hoping that you can get the links back. The problem that’s happened now is Google has cracked down on a lot of these blog networks. It’s not really hard for Google to track links from website to website. And when it finds a pattern, even if you had done guest blogging and you didn’t have bad intent, we’re seeing, at 3DCart, a lot of merchants are coming to us saying, “I’ve got this thing. I’m losing all my rankings in Google. And I signed up for Webmaster Tools and it says I have a penalty. What it’s from?”
Chances are the penalty is coming from being linked to a site that got busted in a link. It goes back to like 10 years ago, we used to do things called FFAs, which were free-for-alls, and they were basically link sites. This is what that has progressed on to. And even though guest blogging really started out as a wonderful resource, it’s turned very spammy.
And that is pretty much why Google seems to dislike guest blogging so much, because it’s turned into a very spammy type of practice. So if you haven’t heard of Matt Cutts, you eventually will. He’s big in the industry and he’s the head of Google’s Web spam team. And he puts out a lot of informational videos.
Google and Guest Blogging
And a lot of webmasters hear the name “Matt Cutts” and they start shivering in their boots. They’re like “Oh, no. What’s Matt Cutts saying now?” So Matt Cutts will come out with a video about why guest blogging is so bad. And then, a couple days later, he’ll come out with a video that guest blogging is not dead. And basically, a lot of webmasters and eCommerce customers and such are like “I don’t know what to do next.” So what’s the deal with guest blogging, right?
Google can’t algorithmically tell the difference between good and bad blog posts. But what it can do is determine the location of where these blogs are at. Google is still not subhuman, right? It can’t really read an article and know if a person wrote it. It’s gotten a lot better over time, but Google is still not a person, right?
But it can determine neighborhoods. And that’s how I like to describe it. Just think if you were to drive through a bad neighborhood at night, you roll up your windows and you try to get through as fast as you can. And I think of guest blogging the same way. It works, but you don’t want to stop it in a bad neighborhood.
So nothing about the concept of guest blogging is changing, other than spammers have now made networks of guest blogging. And if you get caught up in these networks, it’s very easy for Google to find the network. And the reason the networks were created was basically because if you’ve ever tried to guest blog, it’s really difficult. What you have to do is you have to do a lot of research.
Where Should I Guest Blog?
You go out there trying to find a place to post your blog or somebody that will share blog with you. But the only way you could really have done that before was to individually contact the owner of every blog, right?
So networks formed where people could go. One of the most common ones that really just got busted was called MyBlogGuest. And I was really very familiar with MyBlogGuest and typically, I didn’t really find it very spammy because you needed very good articles to post in this network. But what it was was people were still using it for the link.
And Google busted the entire network and if you had a link anywhere within this network, Google found you. And I believe what it really is is Google’s way of trying to say “Look, don’t circumvent the system.” If you’re not going to put your heart and soul into creating the content, don’t put it out there.
So what should you look for when you’re guest blogging? One of the things you can do is look for authority websites in your niche. Whatever product line you have, look in that product line and try to find bloggers who are complimentary to what you do.
Open Site Explorer
One thing you can use is opensiteexplorer.org and that’s a tool provided by Moz, which will give you insight into event neighborhoods in which the different blogs reside in. So, if you say you find a blog that you’re really interested in, you can go to Open Site Explorer. You can punch in the domain name and you can follow the back links from this blog and try to find out if that blog itself is suspect. Does that blog participate in networks of blogs that are not very useful?
Look at the blog closely that you’re thinking about sharing content with. Do they have followers on social media? Do they Twitter? Do they seem to have users that are engaged in the content? If the website really just looks like it exists for the purpose of link building, that’s a big red flag.
So, my biggest recommendation is to really scrutinize the content. And it’s also fine to blog for the purpose of building authority for your product line. Maybe you find a blogger and they’re really into trying to keep their website the best that they can for Google. And they say “I’d be happy to publish your article, but I’m not going to give you a link back.” That’s really fine. Because if the blog is of a higher authority and it has readers, you’re building a brand, right? And that’s all good at the end.
So how should you protect yourself? If it’s your blog, heavily scrutinize the content. If somebody does link guest blogging with you and they provide you an article, don’t just post it without reading it. Make sure that it really fits your niche. Make sure that it’s really good. Stay away from the blogging mills, per se, which is like link farms of blogs like we’ve just talked about.
Google Authorship Tag
One thing you can do with your own blog is the Google authorship tag which is a little complicated. But if you figure this out on Google+, you’re able to tell Google+. You set up a Google+ page for yourself. And you tell it, these are the blogs that I’m a contributing author to. And in the blog itself, you link back to your Google+ page with an authorship tag. And that tells Google that you’re a real person, you’re not just posting garbage. And that’s a great way to start.
You need to think, like Rick had been saying about alternate strategies on how you’re going to promote your business in the future, because these things are changing really quickly. Google and Bing and the search engines are making a lot of changes.
If you don’t already have Webmaster Tools from Bing and Webmaster tools from Google, I highly recommend figuring out how to implement those for your website. Because if you do end up in a bad neighborhood, per se, and you end up with a penalty on the Google side, Google will send you an e-mail through Webmaster Tools telling you that there’s an issue.
Google Webmaster Tools
And you can also then look back through all your links inside Webmaster Tools to try to see what Google doesn’t like. So if you don’t have Webmaster Tools, that’s the very basic thing you need to do.
If you don’t have a Webmaster Tools account with Google and one with Bing, you’re never going to really know if you’ve been penalized in any way because nobody is going to tell you. What’ll just happen over time is your organic SEO will decrease. But if you do have these products enabled for your website, you will know immediately because you’ll get an e-mail from the search engine itself saying that there’s an issue with your inbound linking profile.
For what goes wrong, it’s just important, like Rick had said, if you’re not doing Google Shopping or Bing product listing ads, you’re at a real disadvantage because these things right now; a lot of businesses aren’t really using them. They’re getting into it, but they’re a little complicated. So it’s a great time to be involved in Google Shopping because the cost per acquisition is relatively low.
Building Brand Awareness
Always think about ways to build your brand. Brand awareness, you hear it all the time, “social media, social media.” But in order for social media to work, you need to really establish a following and you need to have people that are interested in your brand. So always just keep thinking about Plan B, C and D and I really highly recommend CPC Strategy’s information because they really do put out a lot of good information to help you think about ways to promote your business.
Mary: Fantastic. So we are coming right about on noon and I want to have some lunch, myself. And I’m sure the rest of you do as well. So I’m going to kind of wrap this up. I just want to say thank you so much to Joe and to Rick for sharing.
Again, to reiterate from the beginning, we will have a recording available for all the registrants, so look out for that. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out and we’d be happy to answer those for you.