It’s Google’s world, and we’re just living in it.

That’s what Vincent Totino, senior manager of search engine optimization and marketing at Solstice Sunglasses, says when it comes to ensuring an ecommerce site is ranked in Google search results.

Totino joined Solstice in February 2018, and the sunglasses retailer tasked him with improving the retailer’s traffic from search results. Totino knew that first up, it had to redesign its JavaScript-heavy site with friendlier HTML coding. HTML would make the site easier for Google’s search bot to crawl and then index all of Solstice Sunglasses’ pages for search results, he says.

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“Back in the day—we’re talking five/six years ago—JavaScript was very difficult for search robots to read, in some cases it still is, although it’s gotten better at it,” Totino says. “But I felt for an ecommerce site like ours, I think an HTML site would be more efficient, mainly because the amount of images that we have, and making sure images load quickly was key.”

Previously, SolsticeSunglasses.com’s code was responsive, and so it had dozens of different sizes of the same image for the browser to display depending on which device a shopper was viewing the site. For example, if a shopper went to SolsticeSunglasses.com on a smartphone, the site would display the images that were appropriate to her screen size.

However, because Solstice had all of the images pre-sized, when Google went to crawl its site to index it for search results, it had to crawl all the dozens of sizes of images, per image. Because Google only spends a certain amount of unknown time crawling a site, Google was not crawling all of SolsticeSunglasses.com to index, as it was spending most of its crawling time with the same images.

“It was destroying our crawl budget,” Totino says.

“If I have 2,000 pages to crawl, it’s going to take them three years, and those pages are not going to be crawled and not going to be ranking for my site,” he adds.

Totino knew Google lacked visibility into its site because of Google’s webmaster tools that lets retailers know how many crawls a day its site receives, among other metrics.

Solstice Sunglasses redesigns with SEO in mind

Totino worked with web design vendor 43 Web Studio LLC to redesign the site and change how images would be displayed to users. Now, Solstice only provides one image, and the code lets the browser know that it has to reformat it to fit the screen size.

The re-coded site launched in June 2018, and Google is now crawling close to triple the amount of pages on its site compared with before, Totino says.

The retailer also changed titles and meta descriptions, which is the text Google displays in search results, to each page on its site with keywords it wants to rank for. It also changed its product descriptions to have additional keywords in hopes of Google ranking it for those keywords. Now that Google’s bot crawled more of its site, it had more pages to rank and direct shoppers to.

Results from the redesign

Because of the time it takes for Google to recrawl and index the site, results were not immediate. Plus, once pages are ranked, it takes time for shoppers to start visiting those pages, further building up traffic and its SEO value, he says. That process took about eight to nine months, he says. But once the reindexing began, the results were impressive:

  • Page views of its site from organic search increased 36% in June 2019 from when the site launched in June 2018.
  • Transactions through organic search increased 106%.
  • Web traffic from organic search now represents 25% of the website’s traffic, up from 10-15% previously.
  • Almost 1,900 unbranded and branded keywords now rank on the top page of Google search results across desktop and mobile, up from 750 keywords in the year-ago period.

Totino also started using SEO marketing platform Conductor to see how its content ranks for certain keywords, which keywords bring in the most revenue-generating sessions and how it compares with its competition. Conductor also shares with Solstice how shoppers interacted with the site, including what keywords shoppers were searching for in regards to sunglasses that drove traffic and which ones didn’t.

For example, consumers search for “female sunglasses” and “male sunglasses,” however, Solstice did not have gender signifiers on its product detail page. The retailer went through and added these where appropriate. The retailer saw roughly a 10% increase in its ranking for 200 of those keywords, Totino says.

Besides these changes, Solstice worked on other SEO-focused projects, such as making its URLs more straight forward. For example, its previous product page URLs were long and included a question mark, which made it difficult for Google to read. The retailer made the URL shorter and ensured the product name was early in the URL, which helps Google understand what content the URL has, and what content is relevant on the page.

What’s more, sales from web traffic via organic search increased almost 61% year over year, which Totino says he was happy with.

In addition to these results from search results, the retailer also attributes this project to other positive results, including an overall 66% increase in web traffic, a 73% increase in conversions, a 101% increase in revenue per online visit, plus consumers view more pages per visit.

SEO remains an integral part of Solstice Sunglasses

Right now, ecommerce is only about 5% of the retailer’s total sales. However, this SEO project is a key part of its plan to have online sales reach 15-20% of total sales in the near future, says Monica Swendsrud, marketing director at Solstice Sunglasses.

“If you don’t have a good SEO strategy, you are going to be paying for your traffic and all of your traffic that is coming to your site is via paid search or affiliates, etc.,” Swendsrud says. “Organic search is just that, it’s free traffic.”

SEO is a never-ending project, and Totino has to continually monitor and keep its site up to date, he says. At the beginning of the year, for example, Google increased the character limit in meta descriptions, which is the explanatory text underneath the main title in search results, to 300 characters—up from 160. Totino went to work at lengthening all of Solstice’s meta descriptions, only for Google to decide a few months later that it was going to stick to the 160-character limit, and Totino had to change everything again.

SolsticeSunglasses.com also plans to create a blog for its site to post content showcasing its expertise in the category, such as how to find the right sunglasses for your face shape. This way, if shoppers search for “best sunglasses for a heart-shaped face” on Google, Solstice could be one of the search results, driving consumers to its site and potentially converting them into a customer.

The project was completed with a team of three people on a “tight budget,” Totino says without reveling more.

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