Google’s War on SEO Part 1 – What Exactly Should Ecommerce Merchants Do? [Interview with Aaron Wall from SEOBook]
Google Shopping going paid is just another way Google is taking away free placement from their merchants and forcing them to go paid. Sure there are other options and locations for merchants to advertise their products, but with Google search marketshare hitting an all-time high of 66.7% retailers have to wonder ‘are there still effective ways to get free traffic from Google?’
And I think we all know the answer is yes, but setting up any SEO strategy to get more organic traffic can be outside of a retailer’s core set of knowledge. Below I was lucky enough to be able to bounce some questions off of Aaron Wall, acclaimed SEO expert from seobook.com, about how a business owner can take steps to setting up their own SEO strategy.
I think the answers will surprise you. Especially how Aaron recommends getting started in #2.
1. What should business owners know when evaluating what types of SEO agencies or in-house tactics to use to achieve higher rankings? What’s an easy way to know if SEO agencies will be using black hat techniques to manipulate rankings?
I think the hat color stuff is generally overstated. I mean, if you think about it, what was white hat becomes black hat if too many people do it excessively & it starts to impact the ecosystem. And largely the marketers who use words like “ethics” front and center in their marketing generally are not very good marketers (the best marketers use their own language to sell rather than buying into Google’s polarizing vernacular).
Ultimately what everything comes down to is a combination of…
- risk vs reward
If you pick someone who is concerned for your well being and knowledgeable who puts in a lot of effort marketing your site & is pretty transparent about potential risks then you are much more likely to see a positive ROI than you are if you go with someone who puts black hat fearmongering front & center but doesn’t put much effort into client projects.
You can do a bit of studying SEO (books, membership sites, conferences, etc.) to develop at least a bit of baseline knowledge to filter out the huckster salesmen pikers who don’t know the craft, but beyond that it really comes down to being a good judge of character & investing enough to both give it a chance at success and make it profitable for the partner.
The last important piece is to build in stages…meaning that if you are budget constrained it is probably best to target some keywords with modifiers on them so you can get top rankings for those.
Search is a winner take most market, and you don’t get much for ranking on page 2 of the search results for broad keywords. But ranking near the top for a lot of smaller keywords can collectively build a strong stream of intent-driven search traffic.
2. With regards to the business owner, what do you think about how the SEO world is set up today and how should a business owner go about creating an SEO strategy for their company?
The best starting part with SEO is often AdWords ads. That lets you know what keywords convert well for your business & you can build your organic campaigns around targeting not just keywords that are valuable, but keywords that are exceptionally valuable to your business.
I think the best marketing has the personality of the founder baked into it. A lot of the fundamental concepts (keyword research, on-page optimization, basic link building) can be copied from site to site, but the sites that have sustained longterm success usually have some point of differentiation that separates them from most of the rest of the market.
Based on that, I don’t view sustainable SEO as an across-the-board strategy that can be applied in a static formula across all businesses. Rather I view it as a foundation of best practices to build upon & then the things that really make you sing are the things that set you apart. And that can be creating a deep archive of historical content, offering better customer service that wows people, hosting lively discussions, strong non-search distribution, brand awareness, or a wide host of other such strategies.
3. What can Google and other search engines do to help business owners work towards higher search rankings with less risk?
Google doesn’t want to lower risk for business owners who want to rank in their search engine. In fact, they want to do just the opposite. And they are doing a great job of it.
Here is an image of part of a NYT article I just read.
Google generally equates AdWords with free trial, simple, easy & word of mouth marketing. Meanwhile they want SEO to seem risky, costly & not worth the effort. This drives businesses to buy their ads. If you want to show up on Google consistently as an ecommerce player, Google wants you to pay for the privilege – that’s their business model.
Another approach is to first build an editorial strategy and then bolt commerce pieces onto it.
For more Ecommerce SEO tips be sure to check out Aaron Wall’s responses in our Ecommerce SEO Roundtable.