Investing in organic search took one sporting goods ecommerce site from Top 100 to Top 10 in one year. Read our ecommerce SEO case study to learn how.
If you’re into hunting, camping, or fishing, chances are you’ve heard of Sportsman’s Warehouse. In addition to operating multiple retail stores in almost 20 states, America’s premier outfitter has an active ecommerce business.
During Sportsman’s Warehouse’s latest shareholder’s meeting in August, they reported:
- A 30 percent increase in online traffic during their second quarter
- An 8 percent increase in organic search revenue
Within the first 12 months, our SEO team had tripled the ROI of their SEO investment.
At the end of 2016, once the campaign had been fully implemented and ran its course for the fiscal year, the results improved even further:
- A 31 percent increase in organic search traffic compared to 2015
- A 25 percent increase in organic revenue compared to 2015
This 31% increase in traffic equates to 1,526,884 additional sessions all attributable to organic search, which drove the increase in organic revenue. These huge gains in 2016 resulted in a 5x ROI on SEO investment. To use a hunting pun, our SEO strategy was right on target.
Boosting online sales was a major goal for Sportsman’s Warehouse in 2015. Yet despite having a strong brand and an established domain, they were struggling to pull in sufficient organic search traffic. They wanted to increase their organic search presence and give their competitors a run for their money, so they contacted SEO agency Digital Current for help.
How We Quickly Boosted Our Client’s Organic Search
SEO can be a long game, and it can take some time for clients to see return on their organic search spending. Our strategist decided to start with low-hanging fruit changes that would score short-term and significant wins. We began by optimizing the Sportsman’s Warehouse site for SEO and conversion, the portion of our Five-Pillar Marketing Strategy that we thought would deliver the biggest impact. Then, we integrated the remaining pillars to continue boosting traffic and keeping Sportsman’s Warehouse competitive over the long haul. This was our high-level process:
- Target long-tail keywords that we could move to Page 1 quickly and easily. We didn’t want to move URLs from Page 6 to Page 3 but instead focused on immediate wins.
- Improve on-page content and optimization for URLs ranking for quick-win phrases.
- Earn authoritative and high-quality links through targeted outreach to influencers through the creation of great content.
- Generate revenue. Nothing says “SEO success” like bottom-line growth.
Optimizing for Big Wins
After an initial meeting with the Sportsman’s Warehouse team, our SEO analysts began by pulling initial data and conducting keyword research. We discovered that some of Sportsman’s Warehouse’s most popular items were only ranking on Page 5 or 6 of the search results.
As an outfitter, Sportsman’s Warehouse has a highly seasonal business. Hunting supplies sell heavily during certain times of the year, and camping equipment sells more during other times. We started with keywords that aligned with their next round of seasonal business so their boost in organic traffic would be more likely to deliver big sales.
A big ecommerce domain like SportsmansWarehouse.com already has existing domain authority. First we tweaked important pages to ensure that each included optimized title and H1 tags as well as meta descriptions. Then, we developed content for important category and brand pages, better incorporating the keywords for which the page already ranked.
Rather than targeting brand-new keyword phrases for your domain, start by boosting phrases for which you already rank. It’s always easier to build on existing authority than it is to start from scratch.
A site with thousands of product pages will inevitably have broken links. A manufacturer may stop producing a product or a product might not be in-stock during certain times of the year. We used 302 redirects for out-of-stock seasonal products and submitted 410 status codes for products Sportsman’s Warehouse no longer intended to sell. We also helped their internal team develop a procedure for cleaning up expired content, broken links, and pages that needed to be redirected.
A 410 status code tells search engine bots that a page is gone and is not expected to return. This article will tell you more about how Google differentiates between 4xx codes.
Within one year, SportsmansWarehouse.com saw big improvements for its target keyword phrases:
Creating Better Content
At Digital Current, we never view our five-pillar strategy as a linear process. In most cases, we work on multiple pillars at once. Optimizing category and product pages for keywords often means creating better content for those pages. Choosing the right pages to optimize often means taking the page’s inbound link profile into account as well.
Sportsman’s Warehouse had a lot of inbound links to its ecommerce pages, and the pages with the most high-quality links — again, keeping seasonal business patterns in mind — were often higher priorities for our content development team. We started by improving on-page content first.
Then, we created off-site content to boost the inbound link profile of each new and improved page. We developed engaging topics because we wanted to do more than just earn the link; we wanted readers to click the link, visit the page, and then be enticed enough to buy products from Sportsman’s Warehouse.
Through strategic content creation and promotion we increased the number of domains referring back to SportsmansWarehouse.com by 15 percent year over year:
Boosting Authority and Trust
As we said before, Digital Current’s marketing pillars don’t stand alone; they all support and build on one another. Increased authority and trust, in our experience, are natural outcomes of creating high-quality, well-placed, correctly optimized content.
When it comes to authority and trust, we view it from two perspectives:
- The human viewpoint. Customers want to buy items from brands they trust, so it’s important to create content that they find credible and useful.
- The search engine viewpoint. Search engines trust according to algorithms, not according to instinct. Lately, algorithms have been focusing much more on quality, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
When both humans and search engines trust a piece of content, it’s a win-win for that URL. In fact, companies like Google are working hard to build algorithms that take human indicators of trust into account. Traditional factors like keywords and inbound links still matter, but positive user behavior signals can really give pages a long-term edge.
Consider user behavior metrics as part of your SEO strategy, including:
- Relative click-through and bounce rates, compared to other pages on your domain, previous versions of your pages, and similar competitor pages
- Time users spend on your page and whether they click the “back” button or engage with other pages on your site
- Indicators that visitors enjoyed your content, such as social shares, return visits, and of course, purchases
As we developed content for Sportsman’s Warehouse, we asked ourselves the following questions:
- Is it original? We worked hard to fill content gaps rather than to mimic existing content. Our writers are subject matter experts who create fresh, unique work.
- Is it complete? It’s easy to assume that people have short attention spans and only prefer short articles. In reality, search engines tend to boost articles that completely answer a question because they help searchers complete their research with less time and effort.
- Is it trustworthy? In addition to requisitioning high-quality content from our editorial team, our digital PR team leveraged relationships with respected, high-quality publishers. This strategy increases search engine trust because inbound links come from high-authority sources, and it increases human trust based on respect for the publisher.
As authority and trust improved, we continued to see significant search rankings gains:
Organic Keyword: Scopes September 2015 Rank: 84
Search Volume: 50,000 August 2016 Rank: 4
Now that we’ve made foundational gains in ecommerce SEO, we’re recommending the following stretch goals to the Sportsman’s Warehouse team:
- Develop content related to their customer’s favorite brands, not just their favorite products.
- Continue to earn new, high-quality links from creative link acquisition strategies.
- Revamp category pages to better funnel link juice to deeper pages — and to improve conversions.
It’s Your Turn
Whether you’re operating a small business or a billion-dollar enterprise, the Digital Current team has an ecommerce SEO strategy to fit your budget, your marketing team, and your revenue goals.