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E-commerce competition is cutthroat, both in SERPs and beyond, and only grows exponentially more complicated as you increase the number of product SKUs your business sells. Success relies heavily on product taxonomy, both an art and a science.
But how do you balance providing prospective customers with a seamless user experience–at every stage of the funnel–alongside maximizing product visibility and search engine rankings; juggling shopping cart challenges, customer service queries, and technical constraints; and sustaining cross-channel promotion?
Making retail e-commerce rank
These pressures–along with the sales team and higher-ups pushing bottom-line KPIs–make retail e-commerce marketing vulnerable to analysis paralysis. No matter how much opportunity there is, any changes or even testing carry some risk, which feels like “too much” to take on. As a result, many businesses get stuck in the patterns of how they did things early on.
But your competition will win against you when they face this risk head-on, making incremental changes to expand their reach. The solution is adaptability.
We work with a wide variety of e-commerce brands and have encountered countless more along the way. David’s Bridal keeps coming up in our research as an all-star example of an online store that’s used tactical keyword research to optimize its product categories. Of all the e-commerce sites we encounter, it’s a great example of how to use simple yet smart approaches to create a user experience that actually serves customers–and SEO, racking up major wins in every direction.
To kick off our SEO Teardown series, let’s examine just how David’s Bridal is winning in the wedding dress space.
Data Shows David’s Bridal Dominates Organic Search by a Landslide
Source: May 15, 2022 Organic Research via semrush.com
From keyword rankings through traffic, David’s Bridal is in a league of its own, with over 475% of the monthly search traffic of its highest organic competitor.
A breakdown of the keyword rankings shows that David’s Bridal excels by several orders of magnitude over the biggest brands in the retail wedding space.
Source: May 15, 2022 Organic Research via semrush.com
Further examination of the numbers shows that against the major competitors in the wedding and bridal party space, David’s Bridal averages 200% to 400% times the number of referring domains, on the scale of 1.8M backlinks compared to 1.2M backlinks to its next highest competitor. That next highest competitor appears to have invested heavily into backlink acquisition, while David’s Bridal shows evidence of more holistic efforts–and success.
Source: May 15, 2022 Organic Research via ahrefs.com
This is the level of success every e-commerce brand (and SEO) dreams of, and it is not accidental. The data demonstrates that David’s Bridal consistently reinforces the appropriate signals to maximize its visibility on Google.
For a retailer like David’s Bridal, attracting relevant searches with transactional intent is critical. This means driving product rankings for the terms people search for and aligning user experience with how customers shop.
It’s Simple: Straightforward UX Makes Products Visible
Simplicity is at the core of the SEO success seen with David’s Bridal. With minimal-to-no fluff, every page is optimized to include the most comprehensive set of terms a prospective customer could be using when browsing or shopping for their dress, prioritized in an on-page order that reflects real-world engagement patterns.
The hierarchy behind these terms marries SEO best practices in applying headings and title tags to shopping patterns at each stage of the funnel. David’s Bridal excels at their grasp of the keyword landscape in their space, and then prioritizing the placement of these relevant keywords in copy blocks and links to effectively communicate their importance. As users engage with these terms, the signals are only further reinforced (or David’s Bridal receives engagement data showing issues and can adjust accordingly).
It’s really that simple. It all comes down to being diligent and strategic, removing biases in favor of trusting your site data.
If you’re a shopper looking for plus size wedding dresses, you’ll search for that in Google and find David’s Bridal at the top of the organic search results.
Clicking through to the David’s Bridal site takes you to the plus size wedding dresses category page.
This page is simple, but it aligns with the key product features someone like you would be searching for when shopping for their wedding dress: price, color, silhouette, and length. Easy, faceted navigation helps the user quickly sift through tons of SKUs to find the items relevant to their interest.
Products are what bring users to this page, and so they are featured front and center; but for more depth, there are over 300+ words of unique content written up for this category page. This makes sense since a wider audience of prospective customers will interact with a category page; for David’s Bridal, these shoppers may span from someone unsure of whether they want a formal wedding dress through someone seeking the perfect backless silk chiffon gown. A category page like this needs to intercept a wider audience, so adding some additional content to the page makes sense–although, to ensure it doesn’t get in the way of the main draw–the products–it is placed at the bottom of the page.
Fewer words on a page can drive more specific signals; this is critical for the individual product pages. The product titles David’s Bridal uses stand out as descriptive and literal. Many e-commerce brands feel the need to give their products unique names (shoutout from the authors to any brands calling their products the “Anthony” or the “Andrea”) or attempt other branding plays. David’s Bridal reminds us to keep it simple and direct. Both in anchor text linking to the page as well as prominent in the title of the page, the importance of the terms in the product title is reinforced for both Google as well as for potential customers. Site visitors can visualize what they’re getting with a “backless chiffon plus size wedding dress” than if it were called, say, an “Andrea silk dream dress” (beautiful as that might sound).
If we click through that first product listed on the plus size wedding page, we can see how these signals reverberate throughout the product detail page.
Everything descriptive above the fold hinges on the David’s Bridal product name.
Many e-commerce sites believe they need to add copious amounts of copy to each page. David’s Bridal shows us that it’s not about how much copy is on each product page; what matters is whether the words align with what users are searching for, and are they prioritized on the page in an order that makes sense for your audience.
Instead of drowning users in copy, David’s Bridal focuses on what users care about here: (1) price, (2) color, and (3) size. Additional dress views, product sizing, and boutique services are prominent and easy to find. CTAs are uncomplicated and intuitive. The product description does not come into play until further down the page, where it is kept in a bulleted list so it’s easy for all users to scan, and mentions the critical features that buyers want to know. Shipping and return information is also easy to find.
The next distinctive feature on the page is the product review section. These public reviews are highly detailed, down through geographic information and user-submitted photos, so they seem credible. With such insights readily available, shoppers will be inclined to spend more time on each product page and continue browsing the David’s Bridal site with fewer bounces. Such visitor activity sends Google even more positive site signals that reinforce how David’s Bridal is a win for someone searching for (in this case) “plus size wedding dresses.”
The types of details associated with each review also align with lower on the funnel, still relevant to their potential customers but not necessarily a priority for the product description or being featured higher up on the page. In this way, a user could stumble across this dress when seeking the perfect dress for their winter wedding, without the dress itself being siloed into the “winter wedding dress” category upfront.
For users that make it to the bottom of the page, there’s fresh new content offered for continued engagement.
Linking to related products and searches makes sense on several levels. For Google, this is solid internal linking that has relevance that will be supported by engagement when users click through these links. For users who made it this far to the bottom of the page–and therefore likely are serious about shopping but perhaps not yet ready to commit to a particular dress–further options are presented, to meet their needs while also keeping them on the David’s Bridal site.
Winners Commit To Change Without Expecting Overnight Success
David’s Bridal had to start somewhere; it wasn’t born the winner in the wedding dress space.
Looking back at keyword rankings, it seems like something changed in their marketing approach back in the second half of 2015.
Source: May 15, 2022 Organic Research via semrush.com
The Internet Archive Wayback Machine shows several iterations of the plus size wedding dresses page leading up to 2017, when David’s Bridal seems to have arrived at its current general structure for the page (of course, with several adjustments since). These changes and their associated success didn’t happen overnight.
However, since 2017, David’s Bridal has been able to adjust and maintain its status atop the SERPs despite factors like new competitors, Google algorithm changes, and even COVID.
Stop Overcomplicating Your E-commerce
We frequently see e-commerce clients hungry for keyword ranking and traffic success like what David’s Bridal has achieved. Unfortunately, most businesses start to get cold feet once it comes time to actually try something different. Even the most painstakingly data-driven approach doesn’t seem enough to get these businesses out of their own way; they’re afraid to change anything about how they market their products, even though they know that they need growth in traffic and sales.
Testing is key to e-commerce success
No amount of data can dispel such performance fears, leaving many businesses stuck in whatever original taxonomy they used. Marketing performance then stagnates, or even declines. These results ultimately put sales in much greater peril than if they had just run a few experiments–but instead of trying something different, these businesses often become more steadfast in their conservative, overly risk-averse ways.
If you think like this, you’ll lose to your competitors–maybe not now, but once anyone comes up hungry for an advantage over you. You’ll be up against the David’s Bridal of your industry, who doesn’t necessarily have any particularly sophisticated insights or ideas–they’re just willing to actually try something different.
Your most dangerous competitors will be the businesses that try new things and implement the latest best practices. Even something as simple as product taxonomy is worth revisiting, testing, and optimizing. Category optimization is one of the first things we look at with our e-commerce customers.
Get an expert
Build your website around what the typical user in your target audience is doing. Set your own brand biases aside, test wherever possible–data can get you out of your own blind spot, and stop making excuses for why you can’t try something different. Got limited marketing spend? Call in a seasoned expert to help you pinpoint where to place your resources for maximum effect, and who knows how to pace and measure testing so you can quickly level up your site’s performance.
The number one reason that David’s Bridal is winning is that they are actually doing what they need to do to compete. No excuses; rank like a champion.
If you are an e-commerce brand looking to optimize your product and category pages to outrank your competition and boost your bottom line, let’s talk. We can help you find the best way to prioritize efforts so that you have no excuses to keep you from ranking on top.