How Platform SEO Brings Digital Strategy to Life
We hear it from our clients often: “We’re thrilled by your strategy, but we’re not sure how to implement it.” The chasm between identifying smart, revenue-driving opportunities and implementing smart, revenue-driving opportunities can be quite wide. Digital agencies typically function in a purely consultative capacity, ending up as ongoing “consulting” support for a digital strategy that never quite comes to fruition. And clients can too often feel that the principal result of hiring a digital agency is merely a mountain of additional (and typically unfamiliar) technical work—a source of frustration for both agency and client.
At Wheelhouse, we believe a digital marketing agency should deliver performance, not homework. This is why we have a talented Engineering Services team—and why this team is so committed to Platform SEO.
What is Platform SEO?
Platform SEO is a way of thinking—of fully integrating a digital strategy with the technical platforms on which it is executed. It’s about partnering with our clients to achieve results, from the initial recommendations to the successful implementation of those recommendations. To make this happen, our Engineering Services team leverages a deep understanding and expertise of e-commerce platforms and CMS. The plans we help bring to life, and many of our initial findings and recommendations, are driven by a unique understanding of a client’s technical platform—its benefits and its limitations.
8 Examples of Platform SEO in Action
So what does this look like in real life? Our work with A.M. Leonard, a mid-market supplier for the horticultural industry, provides a few good examples. We have helped A.M. Leonard to outrank competitive titans such as Amazon.com, Sears, Home Depot, and Target for landscaping tools and a variety of other products. Through our deep experience with A.M. Leonard’s e-commerce platform, we’ve been able to effectively leverage technology to support our digital strategy and drive strong revenue growth. Here are a few of the ways our engineering team has used Platform SEO to support A.M. Leonard’s and other e-commerce clients:
#1 Site Architecture
To unlock site value in organic search, we worked closely with our digital strategists and the client to restructure and expand product categorization in a way that mapped to search habits and market demand. Much of this work was completed at a database level and we used platform tools to apply ETL best practices, extracting product and category data. After transforming relationships, dimensions, and facets, we re-load into the platform’s tools to drive immediate value.
#2 Faceted Navigation
Our Excel gurus worked intimately with import/export tools to further refine product data, allowing customers to drill down by price, brand, styles, types, and colors – all of which increased conversion rate and revenue.
#3 Virtual Categorization
On most e-commerce sites, faceted navigation is a costly tradeoff between the value of granular, flexible product discovery offered to end users and the way such functionality can undermine traffic and revenue via the generation of duplicate product pages such navigation creates. Conventional wisdom has been that the correct approach is to block all category and product pages resulting from faceted navigation. While this approach protects against harm – it also blocks long-tail value.
We used Platform SEO to develop Virtual Categorization—a technical approach that enables dynamic creation and augmentation of category and product pages resulting from faceted navigation, presenting each to search engines as a highly targeted, thoroughly optimized and unique page—with no direct maintenance or administration required by site managers. We’ve seen Virtual Categorization drive search performance for thousands of new product-specific keywords and significantly boost performance on high-volume core keywords for our e-commerce clients.
#4 Mobile Enhancements
In close collaboration with our SEO and Analytics teams, we design and develop responsive enhancements to existing platforms, while retaining existing branding, look, and feel to further drive value and speed time to market. A complete redesign is not always required—as was the case with A.M. Leonard, where we cleaned up and implemented an existing design, compressing time-to-market.
#5 Page Structure
Our Engineering team followed recommendations from SEOs and worked with designers to change page structures in an effort to promote content and cross linking between categories. We implemented code to help search engines rank content properly in an effort to assist with customer shop-ability coming from organic search.
#6 Schema Markup (Rich Snippets)
We decorate page structure with cues to search engines about the syntactical meaning of content on the page. As a result of this, breadcrumbs, ratings, pricing, and targeted on-site content appears in search results, significantly increasing click-through rate and driving client revenue.
#7 Programmatic Redirects
In a standard web environment, redirects can simply be handled via IIS or htaccess rules. But many platforms also embed URL redirection into site code, requiring a programmatic approach to redirect handling. Our team has developed software to support these cases and ensure we are enforcing a single URL format, consolidating equity for landing pages while reducing the risk of redirects when sharing links across social platforms and other sites.
#8 Platform Testing
Having a strong understanding of the platform, its weaknesses, strengths and roadmaps, helps our team support our clients by catching issues quickly and proactively. We build comprehensive test cases to regression test and re-test SEO issues when platform updates are due—a critical safety net for organic performance.
Driving Performance from the Inside
But it doesn’t stop there. Our ability to work within platforms goes even deeper: we can extend and improve a platform from within, identifying and delivering value you can’t see on the surface.
A.M. Leonard (as with many of our clients) had a problem: the need to integrate blog content, but a platform that didn’t support it. Wheelhouse extended the platform with a custom extension which added the ability to group and re-order articles into index pages, complete with mastheads, calls to action, thumbnails, content snippets, custom URLs, and more.
For other clients, we’ve utilized special reverse proxy servers like Apache’s mod_proxy and NGINX to integrate WordPress with an e-commerce platform or custom CMS—ultimately to make it appear that a blog is part of an e-commerce site, on the same domain, which is extremely valuable for search performance, analytics, and customer experience.
Finally, we are able to optimize the speed of the platform itself, having the ability to audit and recommend the most practical and beneficial changes to drive response and page load times as low as the platform can handle. Our work goes down to the web server itself, tweaking Apache and Microsoft IIS. We’ve implemented tools such as Amazon S3 + Cloudflare, ASP.net control caching, and Google’s PageSpeed Module for Apache in efforts to help clients maximize search performance and conversion rates.
Platform SEO = Our Values
In the end, Platform SEO is a manifestation of our values—helpfulness, stewardship, generosity, joy, and trust. Discovering and leveraging the idiosyncrasies of our clients’ platforms is an essential part of our mission to be the very best, most helpful partner with which any client works. We’re deeply invested in the success of our clients and thus deeply integrated into their platforms—the vehicles for this success.