If one thought keeps e-commerce entrepreneurs up at night, it is “How can I get more customers?” We hear you! Starting an online shop can be a lot of work: developing a product range, sourcing suppliers and building a brand. Work that only pays off when you win customers. So let’s talk about two of the most popular ways to grab the world’s attention: search engines and social platforms.
SEO or social – which should I begin with?
A common question from new .shop owners is “Should I hire an SEO agency to grow my brand, or will I sell more on social platforms like Instagram or TikTok?”.
The answer is not ‘either or’. If you want to build a sustainable e-commerce business, then operating your own website will make your brand credible and professional – whether or not you decide to sell on social channels now or in the future.
What’s more, selling via your own site protects you in case a social media platform changes its policies or restricts your business.
If you’re about to create an e-commerce website, then the first step is to choose a clear and targeted domain name – so check out our post Create a great domain in five easy steps.
Once your site is launched, SEO is a powerful way to reach your target audience. Just getting started with SEO? No problem – let’s get into the basics:
What is SEO and why is it so important?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means any activity that helps search engines – like Google – find your site and activity that helps end-users find your site on search engines.
Why is SEO important? Because we live in the “just Google it” age. Online search is the quickest way to get our questions answered and find content. In the e-commerce sector, search engine results drive the majority of ‘organic traffic’ to online shops – i.e. traffic that comes via search engines and is not referred via paid services such as Google AdWords or Microsoft Ads.
This is why you want your shop to rank as highly as possible in search results. The internet is a big place: SEO helps you stand out from the crowd.
SEO sounds complicated. Can I really do it myself?
It’s actually quite easy to get started with SEO. So before you pay a specialist, it’s worth understanding the two main activities that lead to great search results: creating useful content (i.e. your main site, blogs, videos and images) and getting other websites to link to your site (i.e. via guest blog posts).
Here are four top tips to improve your site’s ranking:
1. Make your site clear and easy to use
Customers and search engines have something in common: they both favor easy-to-use websites. For customers, this is about speed and simplicity – finding what they want quickly. For search engines, a well-structured site helps the engine crawl through your content and index it.
Homepages are important, so make sure your landing page sends a clear message about what your company offers. The good news about choosing a .shop domain is that it immediately signals that you are an e-commerce business.
How do you know if your site is working well? Get feedback. Ask friends, family and customers to spend time on your site (on mobile and desktop versions). Get them to tell you about anything they find confusing or hard to navigate. And the really important part: act on their feedback. Small tweaks can have a big impact.
2. Define your keywords – and use them
Keywords are the words or phrases that people put into search engines to discover content and websites. As an e-commerce entrepreneur, you need to know your keywords and use them in your content. This encourages search engines to rank your website pages in search results.
How do you define your keywords? If you have already launched your website, then write a list of the keywords and phrases used throughout the site. You can also look at your competitors’ sites to see the words they use. And you can talk to customers to find out the words they associate with your sector or company.
Once you’ve defined your keywords, include them throughout your site and in your blogs and updates.
3. Write useful, relevant blog posts
Blogging can help you on several levels. First and foremost, blogs are a way to share helpful and inspiring content, cementing your relationship with customers. But regular blogging also encourages search engines to crawl your site pages. So be sure to include keywords in your posts, along with links to product pages. And don’t forget to link to relevant blog posts from your product pages.
4. Publish guest posts on quality sites
Sharing your expertise on other websites can raise awareness of your shop to new audiences. Guest posts are also a way to link to your website – which can help boost your search rankings. But watch out – guest blogging only helps SEO when you share quality content on quality websites. To get started, check out the top influencers in your sector and see who they are blogging for. This will open your eyes to platforms publishing guest posts.
To recap, our four top tips for SEO are: 1) Make your site easy to use, 2)
Define your keywords – and use them, 3) Write useful, relevant blog posts, 4) Guest post on quality sites.
If you do all these things, it can still take a few months for SEO to start producing results. As such, you might ask: “Should I just start a shop on Insta or Facebook instead”. Let’s get into the question of social commerce.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce (also known as social shopping) means selling and buying products on social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. With social commerce, customers buy products within a social platform - without visiting a separate website or app.
Why do customers flock to socials? Because the platforms make it fun to connect, share and communicate. For e-commerce brands, this makes social platforms a way to build and nurture your online community.
Ready to become a social superstar? Here are three tips to make your brand shine on socials:
1. Use eye-catching photography
Social media platforms differ in many ways, but they all thrive on imagery. So if you want your shop to grab attention on socials, you need to create great photography. If you can afford it, get a professional photographer for your product lines – and offer as many shots as possible (customers love to see the angles and details).
2. Share user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) means any content originated by your customers. This includes video clips of happy customers receiving, reviewing or using your products. Why is UGC so powerful? Because of its authenticity. UGC builds trust in a brand through the honest, unpolished material created by customers.
Think about what you can offer to incentivize customers to make and share content. Can you offer a prize in exchange for UGC? Competitions are a great way to get people engaging with your brand. And if you add a hashtag into the mix, you’re helping customers discover your shop and talk about it.
3. Show your personality
Customers want to know the people who run their favorite brands. So schedule time to connect with your followers. Every day, take a few minutes to post about your products, update your social media pages, and repost and comment on other peoples’ posts. The more you show your personality online, the more you will find your like-minded tribe of followers.
For more advice on social commerce, check out our blog post How to sell on social platforms.
The bottom line
SEO and social commerce can work as complementary aspects of your overall marketing strategy. In the short term, social commerce can lead to great results. But in the long term, SEO will help you build a strong and sustainable business – putting you in control of your shop and your data. The important thing is to keep monitoring your results, so that you build the marketing approach that works for your unique business.
Got an SEO or Social Commerce story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you, so get in touch with the get.shop team today.