SEO Next Steps: Choosing Which Products to Optimize First
by Geoff Hineman
You've done the audit. You've done the keyword research. You have data to support your strategy. As an SEO, the data will usually bear out some options for starting points. And since SEO is notoriously a marathon and not a sprint, you are itching to get started. After all, the sooner you get started, the sooner you'll start to see results.
In many cases, however, the data—as good as it may be—only paints half the picture. When choosing which products to optimize first, you'll need to have a more intimate knowledge of the products at hand. In this post, we'll cover the importance of combining data with product knowledge to determine which products to optimize first in your SEO campaign.
8 Questions to Ask When Choosing Which Products to Optimize First
To make decisions regarding which products to optimize first there are product-related questions that need to be taken into consideration. They are:
- What are the best sellers?
- What are the top converting products?
- Which products have the best margins?
- Which products have the lowest level of competition?
- Which products are seasonally relevant outside of the traditional holiday season?
- What does the inventory level look like?
- Which products are putting the biggest strains on the PPC budget?
- Which products have low quality scores in Google Ads?
You'll find some overlap in these answers. When you have answers to these questions and can combine them with the data you gather in the audit and research phases, a good starting point should start to naturally emerge.
Let's look at each question in a little more detail.
What Are the Best Sellers?
Just because a product or product line is a current best seller for the site doesn't mean it couldn't benefit from some optimization right out of the gate. In fact, starting with best-selling products can take advantage of a product's momentum and push it to even more success. There is always room for improvement, even with best sellers.
What Are the Top Converting Products?
If there is a product or product group that converts well, this could be a good way to start seeing the effects of optimization. In some cases, the top-converting products will also be the best sellers. In some cases, they won't be. It often comes down to visibility. Perhaps the best sellers are best sellers because keyword terms related to them rank very well. If the top converters were more visible, they might become the best sellers.
A good place to look at conversion data is from a PPC report. Bidding on keywords can show the potential convertibility of a product as visibility and traffic increase.
Which Products Have the Best Margins?
To start seeing a return on an SEO campaign, you'll want to look at product margins. Quite simply, if you can start selling more products with a better margin, you'll increase revenue faster. Let's do some quick math.
If you have a $10-product with a $9 margin and another $10-product with a $3 margin, you'd have to sell three times as many of the latter to equal the revenue of selling one of the former.
When looking at margins, you'll also want to look at the price of an item. Some high-margin items are also high-priced items. Moving higher-priced items is notoriously more difficult than moving lower-priced items. Let's do some more math.
If you sell a $1,000-product with a $500 margin and $100-product with a $50 margin, it might be easier to sell 10 $100-products to earn that $500 than it would be to sell just one $1,000-product.
A look at the average order value (AOV) over the course of a year should be a good indicator as to how much customers are regularly willing to spend.
Which Products Have the Lowest Levels of Competition
You should have a sense of competition if you have already done some competitive research and keyword research. If you are working in a vertical that you don't know very well, however, it would be a good idea to find out which areas offer growth opportunity from optimization because the degree of competition is lower.
In this context, competition could be measured by the number of:
- other businesses selling the same product(s);
- other businesses also optimizing for the same products(s);
- very large competitors that might be difficult to unseat (i.e., Amazon, Walmart, eBay, etc.).
If, after considering these points, you feel like a lack of real competition opens the doors for opportunity, then these might be the products you optimize first.
Which Products Are Seasonally Relevant Outside of the Traditional Holiday Season?
While many businesses look to the holiday season to move products, that isn't always the case. For instance, pool supply companies do most of their business in spring and summer. Businesses that sell costumes and party supplies see more of a push at Halloween than at Christmas.
While these examples might be obvious, as they are built around seasonality, there might be some opportunities for sites that aren't so obviously seasonal. For instance, if your site sells college-related attire, you might have opportunities around Mother's Day for selling shirts and sweatshirts that say things like "Proud Mom of an NMU Wildcat".
If your SEO program is getting underway in March, it might be a good idea to get to work on those products that sell well at Mother's Day rather than the ones that sell well on Black Friday.
What Does the Inventory Level Look Like?
This really comes down to optimization opportunity. Let's stay with the college apparel example. If you want to sell logo sweatshirts, but you only have three different types of logo sweatshirts, you are at a disadvantage against sites that offer 50 different logo sweatshirt, simply because they have many more pages they can optimize. More optimized pages on a product or topic sends signals to search engines that that site is more topically relevant for a product or topic.
If you have a category on a site that has an inventory advantage over the competition, this could be a good spot to begin optimization.
Which Products Are Putting the Biggest Strain on the PPC Budget?
Some products just cost more per click in a PPC campaign than other. This is determined by auction, of course, but it is usually rooted in a few key factors that cause the bid prices to rise:
- The product has enough of a margin to absorb the cost of the bid
- The product converts well, so the volume of sales is enough to absorb the cost of the bid
- The product is seasonal, so the conversion opportunity is much more urgent
There are other, naturally, but these are among the most common examples.
If you could gain enough visibility to start converting users organically rather than having to rely on the PPC channel, you can create more flexibility in your PPC budget. With this flexibility, you could increase bids on other keywords that could benefit from greater visibility in ad placement or even start building new campaign around products that you haven't been able to push via PPC before.
Further, products that appear in text ads and organic listing increase your odds of conversion through both channels. Users, however, have long been more willing to trust an organic listing. If you are running shopping campaigns, as well, then you can take up even more real estate on the SERPs and further increase your ability to convert.
A quick review of PPC performance should show which products or categories could be a good starting point to benefit both PPC and organic.
Which Products Have Keywords with Low Quality Scores in Google Ads?
According to Google, "Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions."
It's the "landing pages" part of that equation that optimization can benefit. Since these pages are often category or subcategory pages, optimization at the level can help improve quality scores. It can also be a signal that there is even more opportunity by optimizing products with said category or subcategory.
By starting optimizations based on opportunities gleaned from Google Ads data, you can see benefits in both PPC and organic.
Even the best data gathering and research is only going to get you so far. Without a more intimate product knowledge and PPC performance results, you could spend precious time optimizing products that don't provide nearly the returns the same effort could yield if spent in other places.