Loren Baker is the Founder of Search Engine Journal, as well as Foundation Digital, a full service Digital Marketing Agency.
It’s the new year, and just like 2020 and 2021, e-commerce will continue to grow along with ways to market and build your audience and customer base.
Over this past month, I’ve had the chance to review various client accounts and talk to the teams at Google and Bing, and based on the direction I see most of these accounts headed, I believe that 2022 is going to be the year of feeds, data and attribution.
Based on my observations, I’d recommend using these four easy-to-implement strategies to refresh your e-commerce marketing strategies for 2022. If you manage e-commerce digital marketing campaigns, these strategies can save you time and help grow your traffic, sales and your bottom line.
Strategy 1: Start speeding up your SEO traffic.
Historically, there was often a significant time lag between publishing new content and getting traffic to that content from the search engines. This time lag can be pretty discouraging when you spend hours on product photos and in-depth content. Fortunately, Bing and Yandex — two search engines that account for more than 7% of U.S. search engine use — recently developed a free ping service called IndexNow, which helps inform search engines of new content on a website. When you update your website, those changes will appear in search results faster.
Even better, Search Engine Journal reported in November 2021 that Google is testing the service for its search engine. Assuming those tests go well, Google will probably start rolling out IndexNow, too.
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To get started, visit IndexNow’s Frequently Asked Questions for next steps. As of December 2021, there is no charge to use the service.
Strategy 2: Clean up your Google Merchant Center.
The new year is a perfect time to carry out some spring cleaning in your e-commerce marketing. Specifically, take a close look at your Google Merchant Center to verify that it reflects your e-commerce offerings. You may have set up your product feeds for Google Merchant months or years ago. There’s a good chance there is out-of-date information showing up in Google Shopping. That’s a problem because potential customers may click through to your website only to find your products are out of stock.
The next steps to maximize your offerings are simple:
• Log in to Google Merchant Center.
• Review your current product feeds.
Do the product feeds show up-to-date product information correctly? Test this by picking three to five newer e-commerce products and see if they show up in your feed.
Set up free listings.
You can add listings to the Google Shopping tab for free, but this is currently only available in the U.S. (so be careful if you run e-commerce marketing campaigns in multiple countries). This means you have the opportunity to highlight your e-commerce products right in Google search results in the Shopping tab. Follow Google’s step-by-step directions in Google Merchant Center Help.
Set a reminder to review your Google Merchant Center.
Periodically checking your feeds and setup in Google Merchant Center is smart. At a minimum, checking in annually is a starting point. If your e-commerce business changes more frequently (e.g., new products for summer and winter), you may find it helpful to review your setup quarterly.
Keeping your product information fully updated is essential. In September 2021, Google announced several changes to Google Shopping. For example, searchers can now use an “in stock” filter to find stores near their location with a product on the shelf. This change may create more competition for e-commerce campaigns.
Strategy 3: Organize your affiliate, influencer and ambassador campaigns in one place.
Influencer marketing, affiliate marketing and brand ambassadors are becoming more critical. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the industry will be worth $13.8 billion in 2021. To put that figure into context, influencer marketing was worth $1.7 billion in 2016. If your e-commerce business lacks an influencer or affiliate marketing strategy, you are missing out on a significant way to find new customers.
Create (or update) your list of influencers in a single place. Then, verify that your payments to affiliates are being completed accurately and on time. There are different ways to improve the payment experience for affiliates. You could take a manual approach to verify payment accuracy and timeliness. Additionally, services exist that will let you manage all affiliate, influencer and ambassador tracking in one location along with payments.
Strategy 4: Develop first-party data.
In March 2021, Google announced that it would remove support for third-party cookies in Chrome. This change is important because Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the U.S. As of November 2021, roughly 49% of American web browsers use Chrome.
For years, digital marketers have relied on these cookies to track users and keep marketing campaigns running smoothly. However, you cannot rely on traditional third-party cookies any longer. As a result, paid ad campaigns that rely on third-party cookies will no longer be very effective. This change is particularly significant if you rely on remarketing and retargeting ad campaigns to sell your products.
The solution is to build first-party data to connect with your customers. This means putting more emphasis on growing your email list. Making more offers, like discount codes and exclusive content, may be wise to reward customers who opt-in on your website. In addition, review how your website is using first-party cookies. To stay compliant with new consumer privacy expectations, make sure you ask for consent for your website cookies.
Significant changes are coming to digital marketing in 2022. Work your way through all of these strategies but pick one strategy to focus on first.