Over the years, I find myself catching the people I work with up on SEO in 2021 and how its very different than it used to be. Colleagues who used to be focused on the link building and technical side of eliminating duplicated content might be missing out on some of the more significant themes at play here in the new ranking environment.
I made these tips for you.
You can watch me present all of the concepts in this post right here.
Hopefully, you find these tips are useful, and you’ll be able to do something actionable with them. If at any point you have a question or you would like me to take a look at something, let me know. I work with primarily large ecommerce brands. My client list over the past 12 years consists of Calvin Klein, Jansport, Reef, Rue 21, Fanatics, and many (many) others.
If you are an SEO fan who wants to learn more, this blog and youtube channel are for you too! I’m going to use this blog to teach all sorts of SEO strategies, tactics, tips, etc.
So let’s kick this off! Here are my five SEO tips for large and luxury brands.
In terms of SEO time and space, for a state of SEO slide, you got a couple of different things going on. Beginning on March 26 of 2018, Google started to rank every single page on the web based on how it looks on a mobile device.
As an SEO, I’m here on my desktop view, working on my computer every day. However, Google is looking at the mobile rendered view of every page on the web. They are now entirely “Mobile-First Indexing.”
If you’re a Chrome user, you get a mobile view on your computer. All you have to do is type the following two keystrokes ctrl + shift + I for the Chrome inspector tool and then hit control+shift+M. These shortcut commands will give you a little emulator that lets you toggle through the page your on and view it as a few different mobile phone models.
There are a few SEO considerations we have to talk about regarding mobile. Chances are good the site you are trying to optimize different in some way when its width is smaller. Most visibly, it probably has a hamburger collapsed nav. You will want to make sure all of the critical sections of the site are in that navigation view. Details of how the site varies from full width to its smaller, responsive width now need to be analyzed and optimized accordingly.
Next, focus on SPEED!
In the Google Webmaster Central blog, they shared a tip saying that in July of this year, they also began to emphasize on load time.
Mobile-first – check
Mobile-first and loading quickly?
….From what I see out there, that is often not the case.
This year Google updated Google Page Speed Insights, too, so I highly recommend you take a look at that tool if it has been a while for you.
So in 2021, make sure Google can get around the site quickly.
One top of those two updates, there have also been some “broad core algorithmic updates.”
Here is something most SEOs will not often openly admit.
We don’t know what is in Google’s algorithm.
We don’t know what they change, how often they change it, or what we did to earn less search traffic as a result of these updates.
Let’s keep in mind what Google does, though. Google is in business to deliver the best result whenever someone searches for something. Now, “best” is a loose term that could mean a lot of things. Let’s sum it up like this. As an SEO, we need to ask ourselves, “does this phrase, keyword, or topic that someone searches into Google to align with the content on this page? Does my page make sense as a top (relevant) result?”
Google will put these broad core updates out, and you’ll see a lot of the SEO community panics or gets hung up on trying to figure out what changed. I never find it to be time that is well spent.
There is one more industry update to share. There is a new SEO acronym out there. E-A-T from Google’s search quality rater’s guidelines. EAT is an acronym that means expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Its a metric these quality raters are rating websites based on.
These quality rater guidelines are for the actual team of people who rate Google’s results. I am getting a little speculative here. I don’t think these guidelines are exactly what Google uses in its machine learning ranking algorithms. I think these are the people who give feedback on that algorithm so that they can improve their machine learning. These raters influence the shape of search. They don’t directly change it.
Thanks to EAT, we also need to ask ourselves, “what do I need to convey in my content to display that I am an authority about this topic?”
Here is where I need to be honest. If you are writing the best piece of content that you can, that will naturally come through. That is what you should strive for.
I’ll get to the point here.
I don’t care if Google changes their algorithm or if there are new acronyms.
Because all of these details are out of my control, sure they’re helpful to know in the background, they should not make you completely rework your strategy.
In 2021, if you’re content is not the best result for the keyword, it is not going to rank. So focus on your content and not algorithms or acronyms.
This might be the largest tip out of this blog post.
While we are optimizing for search, we need to remember we are still marketers. We need to align the keywords we target our searchers’ buyer journey.
For the next few examples, I am going to speak about the buyer’s journey or buyer’s funnel as a searcher’s funnel. Think of them as being synonymous. At the top of the funnel, you have the awareness stage. This is where someone doesn’t yet know what problem they have, and they need to become aware of the problem they face and the solution you offer. Our job here is going to be to match the searcher’s problem with a solution they need.
The next stage of the funnel is the consideration phase. It is at this level where the searcher is already aware of what they need, and now they are considering solutions. They are learning about your solution and gathering info about it. At this stage, they are likely comparing you to your competitors.
The last phase of the buyer funnel is the decision phase. This is the buyer ready phase where the searcher made up their mind about the solution they need, and now they need to identify the best place to buy it.
While doing keyword research, you will notice broad keywords where someone is still window shopping. These keywords are often the keywords with the highest search volume.
Let’s say we are doing marketing for Bose and our promoting their QC 35 Headphones.
While it is enticing to try to rank our product page about the QC 35 for the phrase “best headphones, “which is searched 40,000 times per month, a product page is not the right form of content to answer what the person looking for “best headphones” is after.
They are in the awareness (broadly window shopping) stage of shopping for headphones. While Bose might make one of the best noise-canceling headphones, the searcher really wants a result where they can window shop and learn about the best. They likely want a written piece of content listing out several of the best headphones with descriptions and ratings of why they are the best.
Takeaway: – a broad, plural keyword, where people will window shop requires a page where people can window shop (includes multiple products) and learn about the best. …most likely, a list type post will rank for a broad keyword describing the “best ____.”
It is the same idea at every stage of the buyer’s funnel.
A consideration, or mid-funnel, keyword that compares two products or brands requires a webpage that does precisely that. The days where you can provide only part of what someone is looking for are long gone.
This took me a while to understand. If you are optimizing a large website for an ecommerce luxury brand, you got to segment your website and the content to match what each page is intended to rank for. Ask yourself, this page or entire section of the site match an awareness or window shopping keyword? No, would it best answer a keyword request for someone looking for a specific model? You get the idea.
In my personal opinion, this is where having a well-known brand is easier. At the decision phase, you can use your product pages to your advantage. Most likely, all you would need to optimize your products for is your brand name, the product’s model number, and the noun the product is. In our example, Bose QC35 Noise Canceling Headphones. Check you’re done. The rest of the copy on your product page should be use to describe the product to the reader.
To rank as the best search result, you need the best solution for where these searchers are in their buyer journey. A broad, window shopping keyword should align to a page where people can window shop. A specific, product-focused keyword should align to a page all about that specific product.
For this section, I am going to use a luxury brand. We can use Gucci’s website as an example.
When I look at Gucci in SEMrush, I can see their traffic is rising and dips right around the time of algorithmic changes. Again, those are not in your control.
However, what catches my eye with Gucci is a story I see with nearly every larger site that I look after.
When you look at the top organic pages report for Gucci, you’ll see they are estimated as getting 8.8 Million visits from organic search. That is impressive. The neat detail here is that 51% of their massive website’s organic traffic comes from 10 landing pages.
Their homepage accounts for almost 25% of their site traffic alone.
Now Gucci is a well-known brand, so all of that “Gucci” keyword branded traffic and demand for their brand likely makes up the majority of the phrases that would land someone on their homepage.
This is what it is like to optimize a large website. It comes down to a few massive pillar type pages that bring in the majority of the search traffic. Use that takeaway to your advantage.
While it is enticing to try and make every single web asset, you have optimal or use it to your advantage. For brands like these, it is the scalable incremental improvements that are going to make the difference. Ask yourself, “what could we automate to earn a better click-through rate, or what can we do to make our product pages faster?”
After that, focus on a content strategy at the non-branded level. Think back to the previous tip. What piece of content could you create to rank for some phrases like “Best Luxury Watches?”
That is where the real organic growth will be found.
The tip here is that you have to focus on what’s going to drive traffic growth. People already know like and trust this brand, so you need to target all of the people that one day could like this brand.
There are now four paid search ads above the fold (above the scroll line) for every keyword that shows buying intent.
As an SEO, my best work has the potential to earn a position one ranking. However, there is the very real possibility when I finally get to the top of the search results the majority of searchers click one of the ad results above my result.
Ads will always outrank your best work.
Ads also give us a really neat opportunity.
There is an element of relevance (cough SEO) worked into the ad results. Once again, Google is in business to deliver the best results whether those results are all paid ads or not.
For this tip, I used a few different search examples. I searched “luxury watches” there were four text ads above the organic listings. Keep in mind this an awareness level keyword.
Then I searched a particular product, “Gucci sync watch blue” there were product listing showcase ads and text ads displaying above the fold. There were no organic listings until I scrolled.
Then I searched “best men’s luxury watches 2021.” There were product listing ads and one text ad. The organic listing had an eye-catching rich snippet that I could see part of above the scroll line.
Now, I’ll summarize that a little differently.
A particular product search brought up particular product ads.
When there is a very broad, awareness level, phrase like “luxury watches” searched, it brought four ads all above the organic listings.
When there is a slightly more specific, yet still broad, a phrase like, “best men’s luxury watches 2021” you get different results.
The more specific phrase requires an element of information that still needs to be answered. It is the part of the information where you need to explain precisely which one of a group of items is the best. We are not quite at the point where the paid search world is burning through their budgets, trying to get their clients’ placed for these terms. Why? Because people searching these phrases are not yet ready to buy products!
So let’s use that strategy to our advantage all around!
A strategy that has been working for me is to let SEO hit the awareness level keywords. Use paid search for retargeting this traffic. Use your paid search budget to target lower funnel, buyer ready terms.
I know that is a broad overstatement, so the best I can say is that strategy works for me, and you should lean on your data while testing it for yourself. I will admit that I am primarily an Ecommerce SEO first and a conservative Paid Search Marketer second. My clients have never complained I wasn’t spending enough (on terms which never showed to convert).
While researching for this part of the post, something really neat happened. I used an advanced search parameter like this in google.site:google.com -site:feedproxy.google.com “highly commercial queries.”
Basically, I am asking google for results that include the exact string “highly commercial queries,” then I am asking for them to show me results that are from root domain on google.com that is not from their feedproxy.
I searched this way because I remembered seeing an official post around the release of the showcase shopping ads where Google publicly announced they display ads on any keyword that had a buyer intent.
Instead of finding that post, I found a Google patent that has an intriguing sentence. It says, “A highly commercial website may be promoted in a product search, but may be demoted in a search for non-commercial information.”https://patents.google.com/patent/US8615514B1/en
That gives me hope that landing pages that provide helpful information will continue to win out on Google for years to come.
To grow a large website, you need to monitor the data closely and carefully. You need to know what is going on at any given moment.
In 2011 Google stopped sending the data around what keywords people are searching in results back to site owners through Google Analytics. Now, 90% of the organic keyword data in Google Analytics is shown as “(Not Provided).” While we cannot see exactly which keyword led to a conversion, we can still see which page led to a conversion. If you know which keywords are driving traffic to a page, you are now armed with the data you need.
While Google is no longer sending keyword data to Google Analytics, they do allow us to get a clear view of the data in Google Search Console’s performance section. Think of this section of Google Search Console as Google’s view into their data. In this data, you can see keyword (they call them Queries) level data. You can filter this data to understand the phrases that are driving traffic to a particular page.
Here is where I have a tip for you.
I wrote a blog post about a process I use to wrap my head around this data. I call my process “The Stethoscope Method.” Basically, its a monthly logged scrub of all of the primary keywords that I care about. It allows me to see the keyword count, total clicks, total impressions, and average position for all of the topics I care about in one sheet. With this data, I can quickly understand where I am growing and declining in organic search.
You can read all about my process and get a free copy of the template I use here.
Thanks for reading this far.
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About The Author
Steve Weber has been marketing online since 2005. He has managed SEO programs for Calvin Klein, Reef, Jansport, Nature Made, Fanatics, and many (many) more other brands ranging across all sizes and verticals.
Steve was a licensed stock stockbroker who adapted his learning of portfolio theory into an effective approach to search engine optimization. Steve’s SEO strategies emphasize focus, priority, and discipline in a manner that will take your organic traffic levels to new heights.
Steve is currently working on the 91st week of his digital marketing certification quest. In his quest he earns or renews a digital marketing certification each week. You can follow along with the certification quest here.
When Steve is not optimizing the web, he is a musician, marathon runner, and board sports enthusiast.