Keeping up with the trends is important, but discovering and seizing every opportunity to stand out of the competitive crowd is far more important. So, here’s SEMrush’s take on where to look for such opportunities if you run an ecommerce business. We’ve studied 8000 online retailers all around the world (encompassing 13 industries) to offer you actionable search marketing tactics. Read on to learn about ad copywriting without CTAs, PPC budgets and the ‘gold standard’ of discounts. You’ll also get to know facts and figures about website speed and security, and the mosts popular SERP features in the industry.
Ecommerce traffic sources
Combined, organic and paid search traffic account for over 45% of all e-commerce website traffic among all the industry verticals studied.
Integrating well-targeted paid ads with solid organic search practices is a scalable strategy for achieving better results. It keeps your company front and center as shoppers search for products or services online, increasing the number of conversion opportunities. So, further on we’ll take a look at the SEO and PPC tactics that will help your ecommerce business thrive in 2018.
PPC for ecommerce — busting the misconceptions
For many marketers PPC is a roller-coaster: one moment your AdWords campaign literally lands you a cornucopia of new orders, and the next second you see your money being poured down the drain. To help you always hit the bar and see ROI from your AdWords campaigns, we’ve looked at (and busted!) top 3 e-commerce advertising myths.
Myth #1: All ads should contain a CTA
We collected and analyzed data on the most popular phrases in ads, and ‘free shipping’ turned out to be the most frequently used phrase in the US for all the industries studied. For the parallel UK e-commerce categories, the most popular phrase employed in the ads is pretty much the same, adjusted for British English: ‘Free Delivery’. This is just another confirmation that faster shipping and better delivery logistics are one of the major ecommerce trends for 2018, as per Wordstream.
Only 3 (4 for the UK) out of 10 most-used phrases in ads are actual calls-to-actions. Other 60% of phrases are either aimed to seduce customers with various benefits or to dispel their apprehensions. Forestalling a fear is a real-life ad copywriting technique used by top online retailers:
Takeaway: While prompting phrases are natural components of an ad, try creating a copy around price or security benefits. We’ve also looked at the other emotional triggers statistics here.
Myth #2: The bigger the discount the better
Our data shows that discounts differ significantly depending on the e-commerce industry. For example, the Books category, unlike all the others, offers 90% discounts, which does not occur in any other category.
Some industries are discount-sensitive, by which I mean that a bigger discount size may make people question the quality of product / service offered. The following graph on the health industry proves my point — the bigger is the discount, the less frequently it’s seen:
The research data shows there are geo differences as well. The US e-commerce industries use the 70% discount more often, while the UK online retailers demonstrate a preference for the 20% discount.
Takeaway: a discount is a powerful purchase driver. However don’t be fooled — make sure to benchmark yourself against your industry. It may turn out that you should opt for a smaller discount in order to perform better.
Myth #3: PPC budgets are huge in ecommerce
PPC budgets are huge in online retail turns out to be a common misconception. As shown below, the marketing spend attributed to paid traffic amounts to under $1,000 for over 50% of online stores we’ve analyzed. The $1,000 to $5,000 ad spend range claims 15% of the total.
Impossible? Not really — if maximum cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-conversion is calculated based on the desired ROI, it becomes pretty easy to stick to your budget. Think of your ad spend as of the certain number of additional purchases that you’re willing to generate. Of course, shaping your AdWords campaign requires some skill, but you definitely don’t need a fortune to start driving sales via this channel.
Takeaway: PPC is doable even on a shoestring budget — watch your keywords, targeting, ad copy and the landing page.
SEO for ecommerce — top 3 opportunities to catch right now
Doing SEO for an ecommerce website totally deserves a dedicated article, or even a book. So, below you will find the top three things to watch — and do — right now to win both your customers’ hearts and the SERPs. I’ll also explain why these SEO tactics also double as marketing advantages.
Security issues — HTTPS vs HTTP
Google has been advocating secure web for years, and another big step towards safer online experience will be taken this summer. Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”. By using HTTPS, you provide your user with the best user experience. Both users and Google have to trust you if you want people to purchase from your online store, especially because Google now prefers HTTPS websites.
Surprisingly, only 76.9% of the top 50 online stores (according to SEMrush traffic data) are secured with HTTPS.
Takeaway: You can’t ignore HTTPS anymore, and it’s high time to have all your pages migrated to HTTPS. Having just part of your pages secured (a mix of HTTP product pages and HTTPS checkout pages can be seen quite frequently) seemed as a workable strategy — until recently. Once Chrome starts marking all HTTP pages as ‘insecure’, you might simply not have that second chance of serving a perfectly secure checkout page to your customers.
Our study revealed that ‘Reviews’ is the most prominent of the 15 SERP features analyzed, both globally and for the US. The reviews feature is displayed in the top 20 results in 57.93% of the global SERPs, and in 62.03% of the US SERPs. ‘Images’ and ‘Knowledge panel’ are second and third on the list.
While Google’s ‘Knowledge Panel’ proves to be a popular SERP feature globally, displayed in 27.18% of the top 20 search listings, the panel appears in only 13.17% of the US SERPs’ top 20 results.
A recent survey by Podium suggests that online reviews impact purchasing decisions for over 93% of consumers, so implementing online reviews is a must today, I would say. Although populating your online store with a good number of reviews takes time, don’t be tempted into breaking the rules. The following review generation tactics violate the guidelines and will be penalized:
- Asking family or friends for reviews
- Running review Contest
- Offering discounts for reviews
- Review swapping
- Buying Fiverr reviews
Takeaway: The data indicates incorporating reviews, images, bottom ads and videos in your web pages may help boost search rankings. Although remember that there are multiple ranking signals, and reviews are just one of them. Also, implementing online reviews on your website without any doubts adds to your credibility.
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for ecommerce websites
The #AMPConf earlier this year has shown a growing interest of the ecommerce industry for this technology. As 79% of shoppers who have trouble with site performance won’t return, providing a smooth and fast user experience should be your #1 priority. With Google introducing more and more AMP-ready elements to their template library, implementing AMP becomes more and more easier.
Ecommerce case studies report increased conversions and lower bounce rate. And if for publishers AMP is already a must, with mobile SERPs being occupied with AMP results, for online retailers it seems more like an untapped (and very exciting) opportunity.
Takeaway: jump on the AMP bandwagon — if your site is already mobile-friendly, this can be a real opportunity to take it one step further.
I know it isn’t quite obvious, but having a technically optimized website is also ‘marketing’:
- Reviews are not only a wonderful source of unique user-generated content, but also an integral part of any purchase process, both online and offline.
- HTTPS provides credibility and the best user experience, showing you care for your customers.
- AMP offers speed and stops shoppers from getting annoyed with the slow loading pages and leaving.
While driving paid traffic to your online store, remember:
- Ads without CTAs can also be effective. Think of your unique selling proposition and try to dispel your customers’ apprehensions.
- You don’t need a fortune to launch an AdWords campaign. Informed by a smart keyword strategy and competitive intelligence, you can achieve great results even on a shoestring budget.
- ‘The bigger — the better’ doesn’t work for discount rates (at least, not for all ecommerce verticals). Benchmark yourself against your industry standard when picking a discount rate for your next PPC campaign.