What I Learned When I Ran SEO for Walmart

What I Learned When I Ran SEO for Walmart

When it comes to SEO, I learned best practices at some of the largest retailers on earth. In fact, for almost three years (before leaving to start my own company) I was the head of SEO for Walmart.com. Nothing primes you for starting a content management platform quite like working for the planet’s largest retailer. I learned, very quickly, that part of my responsibility was evangelizing directly to Walmart’s board what I needed to do to increase SEO traffic.

Before Walmart, I spent several years at eBay, which was an extraordinary introduction to e-commerce, especially the content side of online retail. I’d always loved data, which made me a natural fit as a marketer and product engineer. There I learned a lot about multichannel retail, something that became very important when I moved over to Walmart.

Before I walked in the door, Walmart had a very limited focus on SEO. Its e-commerce site was still in its infancy, and they had very little by way of dedicated resources to online marketing. They brought me on because of my time at eBay, and I knew we had to focus on some immediate areas:

  • Improve site architecture to leverage existing content
  • Launch dynamic landing pages to tackle torso keywords
  • Increase consideration funnel engagement
  • Recode all site reviews and ratings so search engines could crawl them (at the time, they were buried underneath javascript)
  • Walmart’s Online Success Story

When I walked in the door, dedicated SEO resource allocation was (and this is true of a lot of retailers at the time even the 800-pound gorilla that is the world’s largest retailer) in the double digits.

We saw some quick wins, and that led to management trusting me with more and more resources over time. During my three years as head of SEO

Walmart SEO traffic grew 50% YoY, tripling while I was there
Walmart.com’s once limited resources blossomed into a robust team and a multi-million dollar budget

Eventually, we launched aggressive, large-scale content initiatives including optimizing hundreds of thousands of product and category pages with blocks of copy compelling to both consumers and search engines.

How Was Walmart Different?

Because they are such a notable retailer, I get this question a lot. Of course, they are a strong brand with a robust and strong supply chain. When I walked in the door, their physical brick and mortar business was still responsible for 95% of their revenue. I had to educate leadership about why large scale content initiatives were going to be vital to their success in the future. The entire industry was already moving in that direction, but in those early days, it was a bit of a hard sell.

Making the Business Case for Good Content

SEO is a purely data-driven job and a very important one for brands and online retailers. The SEO manager touches many parts of the company the web development team, the marketing team, the product team, and may have to coordinate with one or more agencies. SEO managers face pressure from all sides competitors, leadership, and your own team. In many ways, you’re seen as the storefront’s gatekeeper, responsible for incoming traffic, conversion and, therefore, revenue.

Managing SEO means constantly measuring what works against what doesn’t. You’re always looking for the shortest distance between two points in this case, site visits to conversion. What isn’t working is always, 100% of the time, glaringly obvious. In my previous life, I knew that we had a foundational issue SKU pages were getting loaded by the thousands to Walmart.com with fundamental problems. This is hardly an industry secret. It’s a shared problem for all the big online retailers.

The question wasn’t so much identifying the problem, but how a single team could solve it. Most SEO managers have a big battle to conquer every day ask for more resources, support, and additional budget to manage the ongoing and consistent problem of bad content.

There’s no easy way to do this, but if you are an agency or internal, this toolkit can help you frame, and win, the “bad content” position for you and your team.

1. Educate Your Organization About Problems And Opportunities

While no one on the customer-facing side of the business would dispute the importance of the SEO role, that doesn’t mean that they understand it entirely. To get the buy in you need, give regular presentations at department meetings to show your colleagues the problem. If you want their support, they all need to know that the problem impacts the entire company, and not just you and your department.

2. Enlist Third Parties To Validate Your Problems And Solutions

Sometimes, the best way to make a case is to let someone else do the talking for you. Bring all the decision makers together in one room and let an informed agency state your case. Allow their solutions, in a sense, do the talking for you.

3. Think Politically

Because you touch so many different roles within the organization, make sure that you get buy-in and support from numerous sectors. In the early days, put a positive spin on as much as you can. Never underestimate the power of education. Develop the entire organization’s knowledge over time. You may need to draw resources from those other teams, especially if resource allocation is an issue. Embrace the cross-sectional nature of your job early on and develop as many positive relationships as possible.

4. Build An Achievable Test Plan

Set aside resources to update a scalable and manageable group of product pages. Use what resources you have internally to perfect them. Follow this protocol regularly and, eventually, those results will make the case for you. Good content is the answer to higher conversions. Taking this problem on incrementally provides an organizational platform from a resource perspective that you can build on over time. Remind yourself of these three steps start small, present wins, build credibility.

5. Define Your KPIs Early

Purchase history, click paths, and search data help you focus on the incremental changes that will lead to the fastest upticks in revenue and traffic. Those successes build and increase everyone’s confidence in your direction, helping you evangelize bigger changes. As a team define what success means early and keep consistent reports that tell you where and how you’re succeeding.

6. Be Prepared To Iterate And Deviate

Just as communication is important, so is experimentation. Remember data doesn’t lie. Tactics need to change, and things that may have worked for certain verticals and products may not work when with a different vertical. Be willing to try new things. Start with several different sample sets and measure them against each other. As soon as you see positive results, push harder.

7. Document and Distribute Positive Results

Don’t be humble about your wins. Communication is absolutely a part of the job. Every time your team hits an important milestone brag. Everyone in every organization loves good news. SEO is complex and dynamic it’s very hard to hit a moving target. When you do blast an email. Include the names of people both within your team as well as other members of the company who share a role in this particular success. No one will know you’re responsible for positive momentum unless you claim responsibility for it.

8. Scale For Larger Results

Success is your greatest teacher. Where you see success scale it, and scale it quickly. The advantage of the digital landscape is that you can, with the right publishing tool, make large-scale changes with a few clicks. Lay the foundation so that when the time is right, you can be precise, reactive, and aggressive.

My Last Word

Move quickly. It takes time to build big solutions for massive problems, but smart sellers should be trying and experimenting with new and different tactics, measuring success, and constantly innovating. Good luck!

Alok Jain is the co-founder and CEO of eZdia.com, a leader in the e-commerce content creation and analysis field. He previously served as the head of SEO for Walmart.com, and prior to that, he worked as an SEO business analyst for eBay.

Our Footprint in the AI and Machine Learning World

Our Footprint in the AI and Machine Learning World

Recently, Deepak and I did a webinar on the impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence on e-commerce content. Machine learning is a huge part of mainstream business practices. According to some research, the artificial intelligence market is expected to be worth $16B by 2022, growing at an average rate of 63 percent from where we are in 2016.

Can you imagine the intensity of this growth? It’s going to have a massive impact on nearly everything we do. We’re already seeing the first ripples of it in both consumer and enterprise businesses: think bots like Alexa.

At CrewMachine, we build e-commerce content for large brands. Our platform is elegantly designed to optimize any type of e-commerce content by identifying blaring gaps, enriching them, and then measuring for building the machine’s intelligence over time.

CrewMachine Webinar on E-commerce Content Artificial Intelligence

In this webinar, we talked about how we are at the front line of this exciting new innovation. We’re integrating the concepts of machine learning and AI to create specialized e-commerce content and speed up the content production cycle.

Machine Learning and AI Will Enable Human-Powered Content in E-commerce

Artificial Intelligence has widespread usage across most e-commerce applications, but our focus is on e-commerce content. Why? Because e-commerce content is all about scale. We talk about SKU’s in terms of millions and trillions.

To handle these millions and trillions, you need to think beyond human-powered content production. You need to understand how machine learning can be leveraged to help human-created content. CrewMachine includes AI-generated content modules to solve this burning need.

How It All Comes Together

In our webinar, we discussed big data and the magnitude of data growth. It is growing at a rate of 40 percent and we are looking at around 45 ZB (whatever that means) of data by 2020. The e-commerce industry’s massive growth is a big unknown. The B2C e-commerce industry is pegged $2.35 trillion by 2017.

As we look to the future, e-Commerce is going to be data-driven and powered by predictive analytics, personalization, and other machine-learning related issues. There’s another data point around the robotics and AI wave, also classified as the fourth wave connecting more than 50B devices in 2020. We did the math and decided to incorporate AI and Machine Learning in CrewMachine’s design DNA to resolve e-commerce content headaches like abandoned carts, returned items, lost brand trust and more.

 

The big question – Want to know how we are driving this innovation? There’s so much terminology with machine learning and AI especially as it is used for e-commerce. Interested in which components we are using the most and wondering how can we explain it all clearly?

We’ll talk about this in our next blog.

Share 16 –  It’s a Wrap!

Share 16 – It’s a Wrap!

The Floor Chemistry at BrightEdge Share16

Share conferences from BrightEdge have always been quite fruitful for us. Lots of interesting discussions around SEO, content, and e-Commerce. We meet quite a few enterprises using BrightEdge for their SEO needs and are usually looking for implementation partners to facilitate and manage some of this integration.

That’s where eZdia would find value in its solutions. Several e-commerce enterprises have signed up with eZdia post Share conferences. For those of you who don’t know what eZdia does – we are a specialized content solutions company for e-commerce content creation, moderation, and amplification. We work with large e-Commerce brands such as Staples, Amazon, Walmart and others to get large scale content initiatives under control successfully.

But this time around at Share, our focus was slightly different. eZdia recently spun out its content creation platform called CrewMachine. CrewMachine as the name suggests is a content creation platform that blends in the workforce (a.k.a. the crew) and the intelligence (a.k.a. the machine) that helps enterprises identify content gaps, enrich content elements, and track their performance.

Why CrewMachine at All?

Crewmachine Content Creation Platforme-Commerce content is all about scale. And it is very difficult to preserve quality with scale. At eZdia, we saw this as a recurring phenomenon with most e-Commerce we worked with. There was an inability to optimize content performance across several thousands and millions of product descriptions, buying guides, category pages and blogs. And this would result in lost market share and decreased conversion.

What if there was a system which could help to identify these content snafus easily and provide recommendations to improve conversion? Would you not use such a system? Especially if it tied in with your CMS or e-Commerce platform like Magento or Volusion? And what if we told you that we have a crew of more than 40k members who you could tap into from the platform. These folks could help to take your content to the last mile with the necessary embellishments.

So, this is how CrewMachine found its purpose. To identify gaps, create and enrich content, and offer the needed data and analytics support to loop in the content performance feedback back into new content.

CrewMachine Talk

Share16 Digital Marketing ConferenceNeedless then to say, that CrewMachine attracted a lot of folks (especially in the e-Commerce) to the booth. Of course, there were a lot of questions around how the algorithms came together to create content magically.

There was also a lot of demand for the free content audit that we offered as the first step to understand their current state of content. There was a lot of interest in the demos and in seeing the whole lifecycle of content in action. Most of the interest came from large e-Commerce but we also saw smaller enterprises flocking to see a demo and trying to understand the AI component.

This conference became a big proof point to ascertain that we’re heading in the right direction with our vision. A vision to create the most futuristic platform that would solve the content problems for e-Commerce intelligently. We saw a resonance from both large e-Commerce brands and agencies in equal measure.

Conclusion

We have big announcement plans around CrewMachine as it matures to become a strong product to play in the market alongside several others. Stay tuned to hear more from us. Meanwhile I will leave you with a few video snippets of the various features that are at work.

Step-up Your E-commerce Game with ‘Smart’ Content, ‘Smart’ Machines and ‘Smart’ Workforce

Step-up Your E-commerce Game with ‘Smart’ Content, ‘Smart’ Machines and ‘Smart’ Workforce

Recapping the eZdia Journey

As I write this blog, I am traveling down the memory lane to when we started eZdia a few years ago. The two of us with a few friends, and with a dream to disrupt the traditional e-commerce content way with the ‘eZdia way’. We built this platform (pretty quickly) that enabled more than 35,000 folks in the crowd to use the power of scale to create and manage content. No matter what type of e-commerce or what type of content, we had created all the sophistication in our platform to handle this. We ramped up pretty quickly and got validation from various communities. Soon, top e-commerce brands across the world started working with us. We had finally built a strong model using the sharing economies and rock solid platform.

Thinking Customer, Technology, and Innovation – Thinking CrewMachine

We’re product guys. We’re plugged-in and we’re constantly thinking of new ways of doing things to make the customer’s life a little bit easier. With such a large user base validating our platform to churn large scale content, we wanted to bring the platform to center stage. Our mission was to give businesses the power to create and manage their own content in easy ways!

We talked with our customers every day and we were hearing stories about abandoned carts due to poor product descriptions, lost brand trust due to inaccurate information, and returned products due to poor quality.  We knew that we could solve this problem, bringing our Content & SEO, technology and product heads together. So we decided to bring the ‘Crew’ and the ‘Machine’ together to create more sophistication in creating and managing this content. The technologists in the team started leveraging the principles of Artificial Intelligence and we started putting our SEO head together.

What if we created a mechanism to identify all the content gaps within e-commerce content and provide suggestive intelligence around it to fix/enrich, and then use the ‘human’ force or intelligence to take it to the last mile? This led to the genesis of CrewMachine to manage e-commerce content by using the power of artificial and human intelligence!

crewmachine-content-creation-concept

The Future

Our platform is already validated – not only by our existing customers but also by prospects. They flock our booths when we talk ‘smart content’ powered by CrewMachine. And, our product and technology guys are relentlessly listening to customers and building a stronger platform every day. I’ll leave you with a cool video that will show you how some of the largest e-commerce are building their product catalogs using CrewMachine’s AI. It’s all happening here at CrewMachine!

And, please don’t forget, we’ll be at Share16 in San Francisco from October 24th – October 26, showcasing how CrewMachine will work for your business. Are you going to Share16? Email us if you want to set up a meeting.

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