The growth of worldwide online audiences has risen dramatically with the development and increasing sophistication of ecommerce.  The global B2C e-commerce market was valued at €825 billion in 2012 and it’s forecast that it will continue to grow. Sales through mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have also seen continued growth, making up 12% of e-retail sales in 2012 – 150% increase on 2011 figures. 

Gaining a competitive edge in an ever expanding sector is key and with more and more retailers moving into overseas markets in order to expand reach beyond domestic boundaries, the importance of SEO in developing and sustaining an effective international shop window (website) cannot be under-estimated. Today, SEO is no longer just about increasing search traffic to a website; it’s about driving key, targeted audiences to a site through a range of media and using an array of combined specialisms. Therefore, it’s essential that retailers maximise methodologies to their full potential. So what can retailers do to stay ahead of the field?

One of the first and most important aspects to consider is the language and platforms being used. International SEO practices demand that companies need to think global and act local. Simply making content accessible through strategically placed key words or phrases is no longer enough. What’s needed is creative content written by native speakers to engage audiences. Conveying an implicit understanding of a specific culture and factors that affect buying decisions will go a long way in helping customers to feel that they belong within a website.

Using online PR methods is another intrinsic part of modern-day SEO. Target audiences are likely to read at least one digital newspaper, but which one? And when surfing the web, which sites do they log on to and how do they use search engines? Increasingly, people search by brand + the search item (for example brand X t-shirts), therefore it’s important companies make use of viral content to make sure they share data or stories that drive searches on their brand name. These rankings are not only the easiest to defend in SEO, but the traffic converts better and promotes brand loyalty.  Knowing this type of information also helps build localised content and links with other websites and social media platforms, which in turn drives natural search and enhances prominence and accessibility.

Get blogging!  Rather than writing a blog in a lunchtime break in the hope of engaging site visitors, retailers should keep a diary of events, people and places relevant to their industry and most importantly, that customers would be interested in. Well researched and written topics are likely to go viral, helping to drive brand awareness and online sales. This content could then be expanded to an interactive infographic (a graphic visual representation of information, data or knowledge, presenting content quickly and concisely), earning links, traffic and brand exposure on important sites.

Another way to gain links and mentions from general news media and industry specific sites is to offer products of a significant perceived value as prize giveaways or competitions. Mentions will drive brand searches, an important part of any search algorithm, and weblinks may be included which is vital for SEO. 

In addition, it’s important for retailers to start overlaying customer data with web analytics data. Web analytics highlight what sources of traffic are contributing to online sales, but none of them actually give any details on the demographics of those customers.  Retailers have this information though - they simply need to overlay this customer data, which gives income levels, sex, age and geography, with the web analytics. The insights gained from doing this can in turn action the type of creative messaging and design to be used in various traffic channels, thus driving sales and helping retailers to get more ROI from their online PR and SEO efforts.

Last but not least, retailers should always make an effort to reach out to their customer base. Content is perceived as more persuasive if it’s hosted on a website domain that correlates to the country, and with a localised IP address people are far more likely to take notice. Being mindful of audiences at all times and building synergies across an array of platforms and specialisms, engages customers on all levels; meaning enquiries and interest are more likely to convert to sales, which ultimately, is the goal.

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