Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an industry that is constantly in flux, always adjusting to the whims of Google’s frequent algorithm updates. As search engines such as Google and Bing continue to tweak their algorithms, aiming to provide an increasingly better user experience, SEO specialists must vigilantly keep abreast of the latest changes.

And while SEO is important for any business, it’s absolutely essential for an ecommerce store. Your ecommerce store lives online, so a prospect’s ability to find you there is absolutely crucial to your success. Your SEO can literally decide whether or not a business survives.

Having just entered 2017, now is the time to make a firm resolution, if you haven’t already, to double down on improving the SEO of your website!

To help you get started, here are some SEO best practices for 2017:

1) Rank for Relevant Keywords

While there is much more to SEO these days than choosing the right keywords, keyword optimization is still at the heart of an effective SEO strategy.

Showing up for relevant searches is imperative for an ecommerce site, and one of the best ways to do it is by creating relevant content on your website. Do your due diligence to find out what keywords your target audience is searching and include them in your website copy as well as in the alt text that is featured your videos and images. Use Google AdWords’ keyword planning tool, Google’s search bar, and other keyword research tools to find which keywords and longtail phrases will stand out from the competition and bring relevant traffic to your site.

2) Optimize for mobile.

It should come as no surprise that the rapid rise of smartphones and mobile searches has spurred a trend in toward mobile optimization. “Mobilegeddon,” Google’s mobile-friendly update in 2015 was only the beginning. In fact, Google announced last year that mobile searches finally surpassed those of desktop searches.

The push to make for a better user experience on mobile has led Google to make changes such as the removal of right-side bar ads and providing space for a fourth ad on the top of the SERP (search engine results page). Google also announced that it would begin to penalize pop-ups on mobile in 2017.

A major factor in determining your page rank in 2017 is your website’s speed of loading on mobile. Make sure your website has a responsive design that loads quickly on a mobile device. Failure to do so makes for a poor user experience that will prompt users bounce in search of greener pastures, knocking your page down in the search rankings.

3) Provide Rich Answers.

While it’s still important to rank for relevant keywords, a new and fast-growing trend in SEO is optimizing websites to rank for Rich Answers as well. Appearing at the top of organic search results, Rich Answers are answers to queries that users can read without having to click through to a link.

While rich answers only account for about 20% of results out of 850,000 keyword searches (mostly song lyrics), that number is steadily rising and will likely become an important factor in the future. Google places a high premium on providing quick, information-rich answers as easily as possible. It is in the search engine’s best interests to provide these answers without users having to go to another website. While Google’s algorithm is complex, best practices for ranking highly for Rich Answers include starting sentences with command words, featuring a clear and easily understood headline, and using <li> tags.

4) Optimize for User Engagement.

Onsite user engagement, such as bounce-rate, time spent on page, and the number of pages browsed demonstrates the effectiveness of those page elements that are intended to drive visitors to heed calls to action, such as “Order Now,” “Download Here,” or “Add to Cart.” In other words, user engagement is a great indicator of the likelihood of a conversion.

While marketers would benefit from having user engagement be a stronger factor in ranking pages, this metric is often hard for search engines to detect and measure. However, user engagement is still an important thing for ecommerce stores to pay attention to if they want to rise in the ranks and get the most return on their SEO spend.

When evaluated all together, factors such as spending a long time on the site, having a lower bounce rate, more link clicks, and more users reading blog posts to the end, signals to Google that your site provides relevant content to users, which will get you ranked higher in organic search results.

5) Integrate SEO into your business as a whole.

Finally, a great SEO plan will only succeed if there is sufficient buy-in and participation from all levels of the organization. Even the best SEO strategy will fall flat if senior leadership and employees can’t come together to make it happen.

Good SEO comprises many elements such as providing content that is relevant and interesting to the target audience, a good user experience, speed of loading, and calls to action that drive customer behavior in a way that aligns with marketing goals.

Therefore, to effect any positive change in your SEO strategy, you will need input and assistance from your people involved in marketing strategy, your tech team, UX specialists, creatives, such as copywriters and graphic designers, and others. To ensure cooperation between various sectors of your company, make sure you are flexible, use data to support your claims about the importance of making any SEO changes, try to use tools that employees are already using, and integrate your SEO strategy into the general marketing strategy and align it with the business’s overall goals and objectives as much as possible.

With these five tips, you’re well on your way to dominating the SERPs and reaching your SEO goals for the new year!

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