SEO is an ever-changing process

Published on 6 December 2022, updated on 7 December 2022

Sara Póvoas leads the SEO & Content Department at iProspect/Dentsu Portugal, driving brands’ growth through innovative strategies.

How do you usually approach pitching to eCommerce clients? 

Usually, clients come to us with specific challenges in a proactive way. But sometimes, it’s only in the debriefing phase that clients become aware of specific necessities. Because despite all the developments, the Portuguese market is not truly aware of the advantages and benefits of an SEO strategy and how it can be included in the marketing ecosystem to leverage results.  

The first step is to understand the client’s business context and goals: Is it a new brand? Do we want to launch a new product? Are we expanding to a new market? After that, which weapons can we consider? What can we count on? Is the client investing in other marketing strategies? Which channels are they using? 

And, of course, we need to understand the market overall. Is there a rising trend? What are the most relevant players?

All these variables are crucial and need to be evaluated from the beginning to understand the whole environment and design an SEO strategy that can align with the client’s necessities throughout all the phases of the consumer journey.

Do you also use forecasting for pitching or upselling purposes to your eCommerce clients? 

More and more clients want estimations to justify their investments. Especially now, when the market is entering this delicate and difficult phase again. Setting the goals and the KPIs is very important because if we estimate the potential growth and results of the SEO strategy, we can make a difference in the decision-making, as we have something more tangible on the table. 

What would be the main challenges that your clients are facing?

Costs are a major issue right now. We are facing challenging times nowadays, the perspectives for next year are not very bright, and clients and brands need to make choices. The budgets are very limited, and clients need to very carefully decide their priorities based on their business goals.

There is the cost of the platforms, the design, the human resources, the shipping, the packaging, and of course, all the marketing costs, SEO included. Brands struggle to keep their businesses alive and suppress competitors with lower budgets.

Competition would be the second challenge. The pandemic opened new paths and opportunities, but it also increased the competition, especially for small businesses and small brands. It’s very hard to compete with all the giants that are gaining more and more space in the digital landscape. Adding that to the reduced budget, it’s quite challenging for them to gain visibility in the digital scenario.

Also, consumers are now more demanding and more informed, and it’s really hard to respond to their expectations. Of course, we have a lot of tools that allow us to measure almost everything. It’s crucial to adjust the strategy and focus our efforts on the most profitable customers identified through the data. That is not an easy journey. It takes time and money. 

Because, for instance, one problem we notice with most of our clients is the lack of products, raw materials, resources, and production, first with the pandemic and now with the war. Even keeping the stock is a challenge for them, and that is connected with the budgets. It’s very important to have a dedicated team, to have the right tools, and to be aware of all these latest tendencies, the market, and the competition, and to guarantee security and trust for the users.

One of the main challenges is the need for more communication between the involved teams. Sometimes it’s difficult to streamline the processes and implement all the necessary SEO demands because the approvals take too long. SEO is a very comprehensive area, and there are always several teams involved with different specific needs, so sometimes it is not easy to align everything accordingly. 

Another problem that happens frequently, mainly in eCommerce, is that brands often depend on international regulations and guidelines because they are global brands, but in several markets, they do not have a personalized strategy. They have a global strategy that could be okay, and it works well for some markets but not others. So we need to have tailormade options. 

Another challenge is the lack of knowledge of the market in general. I saw a real increase in knowledge and awareness of SEO in our market over the last few years. Still, I believe that most brands are not aware of its importance, and that creates barriers when we try to implement something. That’s why we, for instance, are adding training sessions to our projects to talk to all the teams involved and explain why we are requesting specific things so that we can all be on the same page. 

Can you give an example of a successful campaign that you delivered for an eCommerce client? 

Some time ago, we had an eCommerce client in the cosmetics sector. They have a wide variety of brands and products, but the site was not properly organized in terms of search intent, structure, and technical necessities, mainly because it was a local website constructed under global generic guidelines.

They have this one-size-fits-all strategy, but we need to design specific local strategies to adapt them to each market. So first, we revised all the structure based on the most relevant market searches to establish a high-search-oriented, fluent, and logical navigation. 

We created “SEO boxes” (optimized copy) for category, subcategory, and brand pages since these gathered very interesting search volumes and could potentially increase website visits exponentially, especially in an upper and mid-funnel phase. 

We also created articles about generic high-search volume terms like makeup tips, hair, and nails and used some influencers and bloggers to gain more authority and increase backlinking. We also optimized the Google My Business pages, which generated highly qualified traffic, and proceeded to some technical optimizations (like sitemaps, canonicals image texts, internal linking, and redirects). 

The results were truly amazing because we were able to increase organic traffic by 34%, and, as we gained more qualified audiences, we increased the organic revenue, which was our main goal, by 145%. We gained more qualified traffic because people were entering the website, not through the home page but through the pages that they really wanted to visit (which had no visibility before). We had an increase of 172% for the pages that we optimized.

Also, we overpassed the competitors they had before we started working on the SEO project with a growth in visibility of 1460%. For the targeted keywords, we placed all branded keywords in position one, and for the non-brand category, we grew 704% in the Top 3 positions. 

What have you noticed in terms of search behavior trends within your 2022 campaigns? 

We observed a huge increase in shopping not only for younger audiences but also for older ones, which is new.

Users are getting more demanding and more informed because if you have a lot of offers, you need to make smart decisions. And so people are looking for more. The reviews, opinions, video demonstrations, and price comparisons are getting more popular as people do these decision-making searches to make a purchase.

We also noticed an interest in ecological solutions and sustainability. For instance, in the automobile sector, searches for hybrid or electric cars are rising more and more, and brands, of course, are moving towards this necessity. 

Healthy products are getting popular too. Also, used products, mostly in the automobile sector, because we are struggling with producing new cars, so people are searching for alternative solutions (used ones). Another interesting thing is the increase in Bing searches. The total weight of the searches compared to Google is very low, of course. Nevertheless, the entries from Bing are very qualified accesses, Bing users spend more time on sites than Google ones, and they convert more, they see more pages as well. 

Have you noticed any differences between different industries under the eCommerce sector, in terms of search behavior trends? 

The pandemic generated significant increases for stay-at-home-related keywords, like books and home appliances, cleaning products, and gaming. As the world has suffered this enormous transformation, people now see a different perspective of life, for instance, changing their working environment with all these remote and hybrid models. In fact, people enjoy more time at home, and this kind of tendency is still visible in 2022.

And although we have, on the other hand, a huge necessity of “getting out,” enjoying the moment, and socializing, the comfort that people gain in online shopping is here to stay. 

Of course, different industries drive specific behaviors, but I think there are also certain common grounds, namely the fact that people are getting smarter and more demanding in searches: reviews, price comparators, “what’s the best … vs …”, long tail keywords, etc.

Have eCommerce clients’ needs or requests changed over the past months, given the economic shifts?

Brand struggle with lack of production. First, the pandemic, then the war, and these circumstances led to several delays in production. Sometimes the demand is higher than the offer, for example, in the auto sector. Brands need to be smart in allocating their budget. 

On the other hand, brands are also suffering cuts because while eCommerce is a growing business, people’s buying capacity is getting more scarce. It’s a challenge for the brands. 

Overall, clients are getting much more demanding and results-centered. As the scenario changes and budget challenges increase, clients need to make smarter decisions to match their business goals. In that sense, requests are more exigent, and we need to be ahead of the market to present more ambitious, innovative, and efficient strategies.

How do you approach SEO budgets for 2023? 

Clients have a lot of barriers when investing in SEO. Usually, it’s not identified as a priority because it’s quite a long process, from establishing the strategy to doing all the research and then optimizing and implementing everything. Sometimes it’s hard for clients to understand because they don’t want to wait, they want immediate results. 

Thus, we need to “justify SEO” – focus on an efficient and qualified strategy that can be results-oriented and “measurable.” The estimations and regular reporting are crucial to passing from a “mystic discipline” to a consistent, qualified pillar of the marketing strategy.

Another form to validate SEO investment is to deliver more integrated strategies and try to include SEO “by default” in different projects. Given its value as a powerful marketing weapon, SEO should be a priority channel in the overall strategy.

And we also always try to include innovations in our strategy. Investing in the right people and tools is key to keep increasing the results and quality of our work, justifying clients’ investments.

SEO is an ever-changing process, so we need to keep moving forward and establish different effective solutions for our clients.

How do you leverage SEOmonitor for your eCommerce clients? 

The only way we can reach better results and improve the value of our work is by measuring everything we do. The dedicated SEO tools are crucial for our work, and for me, the Forecast feature is the most interesting and distinguishing feature in SEOmonitor.

There are always a lot of uncontrollable aspects that may affect the predictions, so it is always essential to adjust the predictions to reality, combining the solid and reliable base of the data collected by the tool, but also the “human eye view” on the estimation. Otherwise, we can generate a lack of confidence with the clients and impair our image.

The other part that I find very interesting is the keyword analysis because we can address specific keywords to a specific onsite action, like a request or a purchase. 

Basically, we can associate any keyword with a conversion goal in Google Analytics. This is quite interesting because in Google Analytics, we don’t have all this data available, and that can help us a lot in our strategy. We can understand what individual keywords in a given category are generating more sales, and we can also match that with the paid search strategy campaigns, which is quite efficient and helps us leverage results. 


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