Kevin Gibbons is CEO at Re:signal – a strategy-driven SEO agency specializing in driving organic growth for ambitious brands. Kevin has presented at a large number of conferences around the world, writes frequently online, and has worked with well-known brands, including Expedia, Deloitte, and ASICS. He was named search personality at the UK Search Awards in 2018.
How do you usually approach pitching to eCommerce clients?
We understand what goals and objectives they have—similar to when we’re doing the forecasting in a lot of respects—what they’re looking to achieve as a business objective and how that relates to the SEO opportunities.
We’re taking into consideration the opportunities for growth, the limiting factors that might be holding them back, and then how we turn that into a KPI that we can work with to move forward.
Do you use forecasting for pitching or upselling to eCommerce clients? How do you approach it?
The first step starts with their current performance. We often request Google Analytics access so we know where they are at the moment. Sometimes they might have a goal. They might say, we want to grow by 20% YoY, for example.
We’d look at what we think is possible, firstly based on our analytics but secondly based on keyword research. We use SEOmonitor, for example, in terms of understanding the keyword sets that drive revenue or that we can have the most influence over. We’d produce a forecast on the non-branded search uplift that we think we could bring to the table and, equally, how that would play out in terms of categories.
We’re using forecasting to show opportunities and for showing progress. It’s not just a set-it-and-forget-it forecast, but it’s a model to show the initial opportunity, our progress against that, and show further opportunities as we go down the line.
You have to break that down and be realistic about where we’re going to spend our time so that we have maximum reward versus that effort, and then we would come back to it afterward. We have a forecast in place for the work that we’re doing to show progress, plus what we have left on the table that we could come back to and do more of, which helps to show what we can be doing next.
What are the main SEO challenges your eCommerce clients are facing?
1. Organic revenue growth
They either want more of what they’ve got already, they know what products convert, and they want more of it. Or they want to explore additional growth opportunities. It’s very rare that someone dominates the market for every single one of their products. Some products may be doing well, and they may want to maintain performance because it’s working. There’s a growth target because they think there’s an opportunity to push that forward. Then, how do you improve what you have already?
The barrier to entering a new country in terms of having the right setup and structure on your website is easier to create online than offline.
We’ve had a challenge with quite a few of our clients who wanted to grow to different territories. They technically might be in 15 countries, for example, but the chances are they might be performing in two or three of those, and the others are not performing as well. There’s a relatively low barrier to entry in aiming to improve performance across territories, and launching to enter new territories is becoming a popular choice for a number of brands.
Making sure that clients are on the right CMS, as there are quite a lot of options in terms of CMS platforms for eCommerce, and making sure that people are set up in a way that allows them to optimize for categories and products as well as possible.
Can you give me an example of a successful SEO campaign for an eCommerce client? Which were the main tactics and challenges?
The ASICS campaign is one of our strongest case studies, where we increased their organic revenue by 122%. The challenges were the three challenges that I mentioned earlier. So number one, growth. Number two is internationalization. And number three, the CMS platform.
In terms of growth, we optimized 2,000 PDP to product detail pages that already existed to improve their existing performance. We then created 584 new PLP pages, the product listing pages in their top-tier markets, which opened up new opportunities. We created a “running advice” content hub with 600+ informative articles and updated or optimized “key content” pages to ensure authority on the topic.
How do you approach SEO budgets in eCommerce in the context of 2023?
It’s getting harder because of the economy, which has a knock-on effect. Some of our clients have struggled with being able to get stock. We’ve had clients where we might be able to increase traffic, and generally, that’s a great thing. But if we’re delivering traffic to a page where they have limited stocks, we’re not going to maximize revenue. For us, it’s important to have strong communication with our clients about where the priorities are and make sure that we know not just where the search demand is, but also the supply. Knowing what clients are focusing on—both in terms of seasonality and where the priorities could be and could be shifting because of those issues—helps us re-address what we’re doing.
It makes sense that in a downward market, there’s less demand for luxury items and more demand for cost-saving, so people are more cost-conscious. Fashion is a good example. People might still be searching for clothes and apparel, but not necessarily at the same price point as they would have been previously. They might be looking for discounts and savings. It could even be that they’re shopping for the same brands, but they’re looking for the more discounted out-of-season / outlet items as opposed to the new items. So it’s more sales-centric.
Have you noticed any differences between different industries under the eCommerce sector, in terms of search behavior trends?
Our eCommerce report showed that groceries are performing well. I think restaurants, in general, are down, and that makes sense in an economy that is declining at the moment. People are a bit more price-conscious about eating out and even subscriptions. Travel is obviously coming back. However, I think a lot of people are traveling more on pre-bought trips than may have been even before COVID.
That said, I think every sector across the board is just more price-conscious right now because of the economy + recession.
How do you leverage SEOmonitor for your eCommerce clients?
We use SEOmonitor from a pitching perspective, and then we run quarterly business reviews with each of our clients. In those QBRs, we have competitive insights where we can show what the market share is for the set of keywords that we’re monitoring within SEOmonitor. This shows both how we are performing across the board, plus for the individual categories that we’re measuring to dig into finding out who’s winning and losing. So hopefully, it’s our client that’s gaining!
There might be some insights in terms of other brands that are seeing a spike or an increase in brand awareness, and then that helps us to flag that. If we can see there are trends on who’s doing well and who’s underperforming, then we can show our clients what’s happening in the market.
We also use the “historical changes” section of the performance tab at a keyword level. This is because when we work with international eCommerce brands, there is so much URL-level cannibalization potential across locales and similar product categories. SEOmonitor is the only effective way so far we have found to highlight these issues as they happen and provide a historical look back of ranking URL changes for each keyword.
10 main common challenges in the eCommerce SEO world.
Based on the 15 interviews in this series, we identified 10 main common challenges in the eCommerce SEO world. We didn’t stop here and dug deeper into their context and possible solutions.