Fast Results Required – eCommerce SEO
2020 and 2021 were crazy months for digital marketing agencies like UClimb. Retail shut-downs accelerated the move to online shopping dramatically, and as a result, many agencies specialising in eCommerce websites and SEO (including us) had a massive influx of enquiries.
Adding to the fun, there were many enquiries from businesses desperately trying to diversify quickly into Covid-related products to make up for a loss of sales in their main/core line of products, and often the brief received was to deliver large amounts of sales and leads in a very short space of time, ideally in just days or weeks, not months.
Normally in this instance, we would turn to Google Ads and other PPC channels, for quicker results than SEO, but not too helpfully, Google had temporarily stopped people doing any ads containing the word ‘Covid’, meaning SEO-driven organic rankings and organic traffic were the only option left for boosting sales via Google Search.
One of these companies needing rapid ecommerce SEO was Encompass… read on for the full story:
An Intense SEO Campaign
We received a phone call from the MD of Encompass one Thursday afternoon, stating that he wanted us to build a new website selling Covid test kits ASAP. He also stated that if money was no object, what could we do to get it ranking REALLY quickly.
Looking at the available capacity that month, we stated that the most we could sensibly offer him was £3000+VAT of website design and SEO work, and this would cover the launch of a simple new website, including a home page, a few pages showing his products, and a blog section that we would also populate with a few targeted blog posts to boost the SEO.
We then spoke to our main developer and he committed to getting a simple 1-page website launched the following day, before the weekend, so that Google could start to index the new website’s URL, before launching into an intense batch of content creation the following week.
Accordingly, we drafted up the new website on a development platform, got client approval, and then copied it over onto its own hosting cPanel ready for launch.
We also purchased the domain https://rapid-covid-supply.co.uk/, thinking that this was a great SEO choice for a site selling Rapid Covid Test Kits, and attempted to set up the DNS to point to the new website we had just built.
The First Hurdle
At around 4 pm that Friday afternoon, we did the usual DNS setup to point the domain to the website host so that the website could be live before the weekend.
However, nothing behaved as expected, and after starting a live chat with the Domain Registrar to find out what the problem was, they calmly informed us that any .co.uk domain containing the word ‘covid’ had to be manually authorised, and requested a whole host of information including what the website was to be used for, photo and address identification of the domain owner, and more!
Had we known that when choosing the domain, we might have chosen a different one, but in our eagerness to get the site launched before the weekend, we stuck with the original choice and sent over all the information within minutes, only to be told that it would be reviewed ‘at some point next week’.
Our client was very understanding and told us not to worry but just to let it take its time with a few chase-ups, which we did.
Once live, the website proved extremely sluggish to rank on Google, although multiple first-page results were achieved on Bing within the first few weeks. It quickly became apparent that the combination of a brand-new domain name (which Google doesn’t trust as much as a long-established domain), and the product we were promoting (low-cost covid tests, a medical item) meant that this brand-new domain had a hard time getting the authority it needed on Google.
At the same time, the early 2021 wave of the pandemic was rapidly waning, and our client was seeing their chance of getting any return on investment from the website rapidly disappearing.
Success At Last
The client maintained their faith that ‘just a few more blog posts, just a few more links’ could turn the thing around, but as you can see on the graph below, it took a full 5 months before a large number of high-volume search terms were on page 1 on Google search, and it wasn’t until month 8 until 84 page 1 ranking keywords (41 of which ranked in positions 1-3 at the top of page 1) started to deliver large volumes of orders, and more than 10x ROI.
It was March 2021 when we wrote our simple yet effective blog comparing nose-only swabs with nose-and-throat swab covid test kits, and yet it wasn’t until May that Google finally recognised the value of this blog post, resulting in over 50,000 website visits during a period of just 6 months.
The biggest takeaway from the whole campaign was not to underestimate Google’s distrust of new websites, especially when the topics on there are medical or other subjects covered by their EAT guidelines.
In hindsight, our client would have been much better served in the short term by some new pages on their current website, although once the rankings finally did get going a few months later, the niche test-kit focus of the new website was no doubt helpful in delivering very high rankings and huge volumes of traffic and online orders to our client.
A Happy Ending
Initially, we thought we had messed up by delivering results too slowly, but our client retained their faith in the long-term potential of SEO, and after a 6-month hard slog, and over 25 blog posts later, we got to the position where the client could significantly reduce their SEO spend, and still see large volumes of online orders coming in each month.