30/10/2014

By Warren Cowan, CEO, OneHydra


Anyone who has experience with SEO knows that it can be a challenge. Visibility in search is vital for an eCommerce businesses, but reviewing and optimising keywords for even a small website is long and time-consuming task. When you then consider the size of this undertaking for a retail, travel, or other large site that has thousands of categorised products, each with multiple keywords needing optimising, it comes as no surprise SEO agencies and website operators are ready to give up. Without big data driving analysis and automation, the individuals tasked with SEO battle repeatedly against four challenges that delay, derail, and dilute SEO return.

1. The scale of the job is huge

Perhaps the biggest challenge surrounding SEO is the sheer scale of the job. Retail sites cover tens of thousands of products with hundreds of categories, and as a result, tens of thousands of potential keywords need to be optimised. Consider, for example, the department store chain John Lewis. John Lewis sells everything from clothing and beauty supplies to electronics and even groceries. Their eCommerce website is therefore divided into countless categories, with even more products and immeasurable keywords that require real-time configuration. To optimise and track all the necessary keywords for that many products is an incredible responsibility for even the best-resourced SEO teams. While you can cookie cut certain best practices to help get the job done, search marketing solutions still require the ability to review and define optimal SEO for each keyword and page, which involves months and even years of hard work.

2. Change is slow

Another sometimes-infuriating challenge of SEO is its slow and convoluted nature. Even when a new agency arrives and a new SEO report is produced, the completion of the task is still months away. The majority of SEO changes generally have to go to a mix of editors and IT managers for implementation, and in most cases, SEO is not their only job. Already, the eCommerce road maps are overloaded with projects, features, new content, backlogs of change requests, and bugs. That leaves little room for proposed changes that could significantly improve SEO return. On top of that, if ever a search engine alters its search algorithm, SEOs must keep up with these changes, which is a challenge when SEO is already not high on the priority list. Even when SEO is prioritised, the necessary changes are typically diluted and drip-fed over a course of months or even years, at which point there are new trends to adapt to.

3. Pace of Organisational Change

Change is also a fundamental aspect of business, and makes SEO a constant, on-going challenge. As businesses regularly re-evaluate and alter their priorities, internal change is common, and it is crucial that SEO adapts accordingly. This can be better understood by looking at the example of a sale. eCommerce sites often hold sales and promotions to increase visibility and revenue, and with each one comes a new set of sales priorities and its inevitable list of keywords needing optimising. When a website decides to hold a new sale, a list of keywords is created and handed over to the IT director, who then has the job of optimising each one. Because these lists tend to be quite extensive, IT directors are weighed down under key words and sometimes need to cut back on the SEO for different promotions. When this happens, important keywords can get lost or forgotten along the way, and the success of the sale or promotion is significantly smaller. After all, a great online sale will only be successful with the right amount of traffic directed towards the site. Keeping up with internal changes may seem like a large task, but is important to ensuring the success of different business initiatives.

4. Movement in Trends

Keeping track of internal changes is important, but is not the only type of change needing monitoring. In the world of retail, trends come and go, and eCommerce sites need to keep track of the current movements and styles to ensure they are driving the most financial return for effort expended. This can be seen very clearly in relation to seasons. Optimising jackets, jumpers, must-have season’s toys, or skiing holidays was a sure fire winner in October, but as March looms, demand shifts to other areas, requiring SEO priorities to be re-evaluated and changed to retain sales. Trends can even shift from month to month, particularly when there is a holiday to take in to account, meaning SEO needs to be constantly revised and revisited to ensure optimal SEO return. And this is all before taking less predictable trends into account. Fashions are always evolving, and keeping up to date with the latest styles is what will bring eCommerce sites greater revenue. This of course means optimising more and more keywords, which brings us right back to the challenges already considered.

That being said, it is important to remember the enormous potential of SEO. Although SEO can at times seem broken, there are solutions available to make SEO worth your while. Fundamentally understanding the SEO processes and challenges is what will in the end lead the way to return on investment. By looking at other available tools in the market, such as automated Search Marketing, you can analyse whether the agency is delivering what they promised. If you are having to make unnecessary compromises, it’s probably time for a change.

After all, more and more people are turning to the web for their day-to-day purchasing needs, with between 80-90% of consumers reviewing products online before making purchases. Channelling the traffic from these informed consumers to your site is fundamentally what will make your products sell. Keeping in mind that SEO can mean the difference between sink or swim in online marketing, learning to navigate SEO’s challenges and finding the right solution for you is the only way to stay afloat.