What was the last thing you searched for?
Our everyday lives are made up of questions. So many in fact, that you may not even register the process of answering a question half of the time – but there is a process.
You answer a person’s question based off of relevance, context and significance: who they are, what they asked, when they asked it, where they asked it, and how they asked it. Depending on the question, one of those five components may be more important than other, but all five are needed if you want to deliver an answer that’s relevant to the question posed to you.
Of course, this is not only how people deliver answers; it is also how they want to receive them. So it makes sense that online consumer journeys operate in a very similar fashion. For example, Google uses the same central idea. It focuses in on topic relevance, context clues and the significance of the query to understand the question and deliver an answer that is relevant to that user. Remember: relevance, context, and significance.
Answering the Questions Behind the Keyword: The Path to an Ecosystem
Here are some questions you should ask your brands:
- Who is your audience?
- How did you decide which channel(s) were best to reach your audience?
- How did you decide on the content you currently have within your digital properties?
- Why type of content best resonates with your audience?
- What is the goal of your website?
- Where does your audience live?
- What websites do they frequent?
- Where are they on social media?
- What answer is your audience looking for with this keyword or category?
- What is the next step after finding their answer with this keyword or category?
- What is your audience trying to accomplish within this category?
Without these types of questions answered, a strategy will likely not be aligning with what is important to the brand – and that doesn’t do anyone any good.
Developing a Strategy for Overstock.com
As a digital agency that does work for consumer brands, we have the opportunity to optimize for the other search engines of the world, namely Amazon, Wal-Mart, and other online retailers. While a majority of searches still begin on the Big G, many consumers are starting their research on e-retail hubs and social media.
To be honest, we had forgotten about Overstock.com ever since the launch of the O.co campaign we all probably saw on TV some time ago. That is until we read this post by Dr. Peter Meyers that outlines some of the biggest winners and losers of the SEO world in 2015 according to his research. We recognized all of the domains listed in the losing category but were a little surprised to see Overstock.com there.
Using the SEMrush Domain Overview tool we were able to quickly gain some insights about their strengths and opportunities. Although the domain had lost some SEO ground in 2015, it still owned a lot of SERP real estate – we stopped counting at 108,000,000 monthly search opportunities.
Using a little Excel magic we categorized a majority of the keywords into about 12 primary groups: bedding, for him, for her, furniture, etc.
Based on the brand’s pretend business goals* (listed below) we quickly noticed that something was missing – a content gap existed around the very thing the brand was concerned about. More about that later.
*Since Overstock.com isn’t our client, we had to formulate our own 2016 brand goals for this exercise. Typically, this is something the brand delivers to the strategy team to help provide guidance for the year’s work. In this case we have to be both the client and strategists.
In our experience, brand goals can break down into a variety of categories. Some brand goals for Overstock.com could center on:
- Expansion: if priority categories are performing well
- Promotion: if priority categories are in need danger of becoming stagnant
- Reengagement: if traction has been lost within a priority category or focal point
For this exercise, we’re pretending Overstock.com’s goal is centered on reengagement. They have seen losses in the women’s apparel category sales and want to reignite the interest in that space.
Who is the Audience We’re Targeting to Achieve this Goal?
Now that we have a goal, it’s time to look at the audience relevant to the brand and their particular objective. According to Business Insider’s E-Commerce Demographics Report, 61.3% of US consumers who say they've completed an e-commerce purchase in the last month are women.
The report also detailed that women are twice as likely to make a purchase online and are more active researchers when it comes to products and retailers on mobile devices than men. Finally, of the US women who use mobile devices, 63% have done research on their smartphones and tablets before purchasing online.
Based off of this research we know our persona is:
- More likely to buy online than men
- Out and about, and not tied to a computer for her purchases and research
- An avid researcher who is active on her devices
- Comfortable with e-commerce
So we know our targeted demographic is most likely female. Our other demographic research is about trying to find her age range. According to the Nielsen’s Global Survey of e-commerce, the older the age, the greater the decline in online shopping intent:
- 53% of Millennials plan to make an online purchase in the next six months
- Generation X (age 35-49) respondents comprise about 28%
- Baby Boomers (age 50-64) make up about 10%
- The Silent Generation (age 65+) contributes roughly 2%
- Generation Z (under age 20), represents about 7%
Additionally, 52% of overall respondents said they plan to make an online purchase for clothing, accessories or shoes in the next six months. It’s also relevant to note that Millennials comprise more than half of those who responded to this survey.
Based off of this research we know our persona is:
- More likely to be between the ages of 21 and 34, than any other age range
- More than likely planning to make an online purchase for clothing in the next 6 months
Final Demographic Breakdown
Based on this research, our target consumer is most likely:
- 21 to 34 years old
- Tied to her mobile devices
- An avid product researcher who researches on all devices
- Planning to make an e-commerce purchase in the next six months
Using all of these insights, we can begin to craft a content strategy for how to connect with her and help Overstock.com achieve their 2016 goal (for the purposes of this exercise).
Education Starts the Path to Purchase
In general, when someone is in the market to make a purchase they’re most likely going to do a lot of research to educate themselves before pinpointing what exactly it is that they want. The level of research varies depending on the audience, however with our Overstock.com target audience we found a lot of education and research is taking place before the purchase. This includes anything from educational content about the product category to reviews and comparisons.
While focused on skin care, the following graph is a good example of a detailed consumer journey from the intial search trigger, to purchase, to repurchase/advocacy:
So why should Overstock.com be visible during the earlier stages of the purchase journey?
- Educational topics – that ultimately lead to searches with a purchase intent – tend to have higher search interest in general. A brand being visible at this stage helps connect to a much wider audience who have potential to be customers.
- A brand engaging customers at this stage will also put the brand at front of mind for this wider audience, and this could potentially draw more of them in when they’re in the purchase phase.
- If a brand continues engaging even after first purchase, it helps create a more loyal customer base for ongoing sales.
How to Find the Insights for our Goal
Let’s go back to Overstock.com’s 2016 goal. As we saw, Overstock.com lost some organic visibility with consumers in 2015 which reinforces that reengagement would seem to be an important part of 2016. Given this, the decrease in women’s apparel sales, topics and sub-categories (such as types of clothing) is the first place we looked to for areas of opportunity.
When we started to analyze their current search landscape, we immediately noticed a drop in visibility from December 2014 to December 2015 for a number of related topics. One of the biggest decreases were in seasonal women’s apparel, specifically the “summer dresses” category.
This clearly shows us this is an opportunity because the search interest is there for these types of “women’s apparel” topics, and there is a direct correlation to the loss in rankings/traffic to their loss in sales. Plus, the strategy for one season is scalable across other seasons; improving visibility for these categories will help put Overstock.com in front of their audience when interest spikes during the year.
Engage Them Where They Live Online
So the first question is how do we reach the consumers searching for these topics? The backbone to our Ecosystem strategy is making sure brands post the right content in the right places – and that is where your target audience is spending time online.
So, where does the identified audience spend a lot of their time? Aside from the usual big ones like Facebook (where brands should most likely be anyway), signs point to Pinterest!
According to Business Insider’s Breakdown of Social Media Platforms, the latest data shows that:
- 21% of US adult internet users are on Pinterest
- Millennials are taking to Pinterest more than any other demographic
- Women are more than four times as likely to use the platform as men
Depending on the topic, Google also prefers this social network for certain searches. Using our topic of seasonal style/fashion trends, let’s look at search results for various queries:
As you can see in the screenshots, Pinterest commonly appears in search results for the higher-funnel, educational topics relevant to this audience and topic. That coupled with our target audience’s presence on the site makes it an ideal place for Overstock.com to be visible in order to achieve their 2016 goal.
Luckily, Overstock.com is on it and has a brand Pinterest page already! With 71 boards, 8,600 pins, and over 35,000 followers they’re doing it pretty well, too. However, there is room to better categorize the boards and target specific topics. Looking at our chosen topic, it appears they already have a “Summer” board:
What do you notice? While they have a lot of great content here, many specific “Summer” topics covered here should warrant their own boards. This would provide opportunity to create a “Summer Fashion & Looks” board to help build visibility for our target audience, but it could also lead to some other targeted boards:
- Summer Recipes & BBQ Ideas
- Summer Exercise: Outdoor Workouts
- Summer Roadtrips
All of these could cover specific topics that appeal to other target audiences, directly relate and link back to Overstock.com products, and further expand Overstock.com’s visibility where their customers are spending time online.
Bringing it back to our targeted topic (summer dresses), a “Summer Fashion & Looks” board could include relevant dresses and link back to the product pages on Overstock.com. There should be pins to other non-brand content as well to engage with the audience even more and promote more followers to the board.
As an added bonus, this is also an opportunity to have more image content appear in search results since the pictures of the dresses would be on both Overstock.com digital assets.
If there was a seasonal category page on the website (more on that below), the specific board could include a URL too – unfortunately you can only include a hyperlink on the main Pinterest page, but having a URL on this board could lead to users copy/pasting and directly going to the page – or at the very least know it’s there.
Other Social Media Opportunities
Our target customers are present on more forms of social media too. The hashtag #savvyshopper has over 10,000 posts on Instagram, meaning the target audience is already posting related content through this channel. Encouraging customers to post their Overstock.com summer fashion would boost user engagement with the brand and provide plenty of user-generated content.
But how do you make the users to want to participate?
An incentive for customers to share their summer looks could be that they’re entered into a contest to win a coupon code, therefore tapping into that savvy shopper persona we’re going after to reach our 2016 goal. Additionally, Overstock.com could share customers’ posts daily or weekly on their social media accounts to give them their moment in the spotlight to show off their great finds – and have their content be in even more places the audience lives.
The brand can promote this deal using the #savvyshopper hashtag, but they would need to create a unique hashtag to more easily track shoppers participating. This is a similar concept to the #ShareRealMoments campaign Overstock.com is already doing, but this one has a nice potential prize incentive to encourage participation!
Engage Key Influencers
Another way to help promote this concept would be through co-hosting and co-promoting with key influencers in the savvy shopping and/or fashion digital space. Patrice J. Williams, a fashion blogger and author of Looking Fly on a Dime, proudly boosts the motto “Helping Women Look Their Best for Less,” and has quite a large following on social media (over 3K followers on Twitter, over 6K likes on Facebook, almost 2K followers on Pinterest, and over 4K followers on Instagram). Partnering with someone like Patrice could help the contest reach more potential customers and create more content for the brand.
Alternatively, a brand can partner with influential blogs/people in a space and have a guest post hosted on the other party’s site. This will be putting the brand in front of their readership and hopefully getting visibility with more potential customers. Whatever site hosts a guest post should be very relevant to the brand product/service and the post should be unique and of value to that site’s readership. If the post is being written and hosted on the other site for the sole purpose of getting a link, that is not enough reason – those other criteria must be met (the link is just a nice added bonus, if there is one).
Pique Their Interests
Overstock.com has almost everything a fashion-focused user could want. From clothes and make-up to shoes and accessories, there’s truly no need for someone to leave the site to create an entire outfit. With that in mind, creating an interactive shopping tool to best showcase the wide selection of fashion products could be the way Overstock.com creates buzz around their inventory.
Here is a mockup we made to help illustrate how something like this could function on the site:
*Mock up visual
Additionally, tying this fashion tool together with keywords that focus around seasonal “looks” could help connect the dots for search engines while also exposing Overstock.com to an even broader audience.
This idea has a lot of potential to increase brand awareness on social channels and increase multi-product purchases by providing the consumer with a unique and efficient experience.
Don’t Forget the Website!
You can create the most compelling content, partner with a great niche site, and have it shared various times across social networks – but none of that matters if your audience can’t find your website from the places where they begin their search.
- Technology: Optimize for the best user experience across all devices and make it fast. Ensure that only the pages that help your cause get indexed by search engines and eliminate the clutter.
- Intent: Investigate the SERP of a query you want to own. What does the search engine think is the intent behind the query? Tailor your content to match.
- Content: Answer the consumer’s question. If it’s a definition they’re looking for, provide an in-depth answer. If it’s a question early in the purchase journey, be ready with the answers of her next potential questions.
- Authority: Links still matter – the right links. You can either invest in building them manually (smartly and carefully) or invest in creating something actually worth linking to and promote it.
Include Relevant Metadata
Let’s start with the first thing a searcher sees, the metadata. What do you notice about the actual pages in the results of a search for “summer dresses” in Google?
Each ranking site has the actual phrase “summer dresses” in the page title. Granted Overstock.com does not yet have a page for this type of dress, but it shows how even the one of the most basic SEO details can have an impact. Let’s take a look at the main Overstock.com “women’s dresses” category page:
- Page Title: While it’s great they’re referencing the category and using the word “dresses” in the page title (which believe it or not isn’t always the case), there is room for improvement. The audience for Overstock.com are savvy shoppers; they’re using phrases such as “wholesale,” “cheap,” or “discount” when searching and shopping. Removing the excess language from the title and incorporating some of these grabbing (and highly searched) modifiers will help the dress section reach more of these relevant shoppers.
- Meta Description: We all know that the meta description has no impact in terms of a page appearing in search results for a query – however it is the first thing users read when a site does show up in results and contributes to how a brand is portrayed. This should be treated as ad copy and include a clear call to action as well as reason why the page is worth visiting.
The on-page copy and content of the landing page shouldn’t be ignored either:
In blue, the heading (h1) should incorporate some of the terminology mentioned for the page title. It will help reinforce that the dresses are discounted to shoppers and helps make the connection to Google for when a similar search is made.
In orange, the copy on the page could also elaborate more on the types of dresses one would find within the category as a whole. Ideally this category-level copy should be a minimum of about 100 words and reference other types of dresses visitors will find deeper in the section; there can also be in-copy internal links to mentioned sub-categories of dresses to drive visitors in the right direction.
Just because there are improvements doesn’t mean that Overstock.com isn’t doing anything right. What they’re doing right:
- Including the top categories (also found in the side navigation) as easily accessible buttons below copy and above product listings.
- Actually having copy on the category page at all. A common missed opportunity on ecommerce websites is not including copy on these higher level pages to make them unique enough to rank for competitive category terms.
- Utilizing image alt tags for the images – although, like with the page titles and copy it could use more “wholesale” and other discount related terminology to reinforce savings to the shoppers.
Since we’re recommending all of these seasonal categories to include within the section, it needs to fit into how the website is organized as to not confuse visitors. Looking at the main “women’s clothing” navigation menu:
To the right are all the main categories women can use to find their desired items. If on the left (underneath “Beauty) if there were option for “Summer Looks/Fashion,” “Winter Looks/Fashion,” etc. there could be great landing pages that speak to different styles and looks for women for the associated season. From these pages, shoppers can select other clothing or accessory categories and have season-specific landing pages for each.
Focusing on only Summer and our target area of “summer dresses,” it could look something like this within the current site:
Now Overstock.com can have targeted pages for not only summer but all seasons – and this will help attract more visitors when searches for topics relating to each season’s search interest spike.
Other Content Opportunities
Having all of this content will help drive purchase-ready consumers to the appropriate products, however as mentioned earlier it always helps to engage and attract research-phase consumers with relevant blog content that directly relates (and links to) products. An additional advantage is it helps make the website overall topical to the categories written about.
Overstock could take advantage of their blog and post related content to further support their goal:
- Women’s Summer Looks in 2015
- Beach Style & Fashion: What to Wear & Bring to the Beach this Year
- How to be Stylish in Summer with Body Acne (can also talk about ways of clearing up skin issues and also link to their skin care section)
All of these posts could speak to the target audience and can easily link to specific products and categories. If a blog is included in a strategy, there needs to be a strong editorial calendar that takes seasonality into account and it needs to be regularly updated. If not, guest posts on respected and relevant websites could be an alternative.
There are a lot of recommendations here, all of which will position Overstock.com to:
- Reengage the target customer
- Improve visibility to other potential customers in the space
- Create a more dynamic web presence by following an Ecosystem approach
And while there are plenty more opportunities for Overstock.com, the point of this introduction is to focus energy and resources on a brand-driven, data-driven consumer target. Helping a brand succeed by aligning search, brand objectives, and tying it all back to the target customer can help position SEO from “checkbox” status into a core component of a brand’s digital strategy.
Join the Webinar!
Learn more about this topic in my webinar, How to Improve Organic Visibility Through Hyper-Targeted Content, taking place on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. ET. I'll be joined by Chris Countey and Andrew Lazaunikas. Click here to register.