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Joe Fisher on Boosting Sales with Ecommerce SEO Grandchild Pages

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Joe Fisher

Joe Fisher, eCommerce SEO Consultant at Fisher SEO

Joe Fisher is an eCommerce SEO Consultant at Fisher SEO, with a vibrant journey that has cemented his place as an expert in the SEO domain. His adventure began about eight years ago, fresh from university, where the hustle of working in call centres introduced him to the resilience needed in the competitive world of digital marketing. An unexpected inspiration from a marketing task on The Apprentice led Joe to explore the realms of digital marketing further, eventually stumbling upon the power of SEO during his tenure at a chocolate factory—no, not the Willy Wonka kind, although the perks did include free chocolate.

Joe’s foray into SEO was almost serendipitous. Tasked with diverse marketing responsibilities, he encountered the Yoast plugin on a WordPress website. Intrigued by its traffic lighting system, Joe's curiosity led to his first practical engagement with SEO, significantly improving the site's performance. This ignited a passion that has since defined his career path. Guided by sage advice to specialize, Joe honed his skills in SEO, leading to roles in-house, at agencies, and as a freelance consultant, before ultimately founding Fisher SEO.

With over eight years of experience, Joe has developed a profound understanding of the eCommerce sector, specifically mastering the intricacies of Shopify. His expertise isn’t just theoretical; it’s backed by substantial successes, including notable increases in organic revenue for Shopify stores, with one seeing a leap from $191k to an astounding $493k in just 12 months.

Joe's approach to SEO is comprehensive, covering keyword research, content creation, local SEO, and much more. His toolkit is extensive, with proficiency in Google Analytics, SEMrush, and Ahrefs, among others. This broad skill set allows him to devise and implement strategies that significantly boost online presence and, crucially, organic revenue for eCommerce brands.

Away from the digital battleground, Joe's life is equally rich and diverse. Whether supporting Sheffield United at Bramall Lane or enjoying leisurely walks with his dog, he finds balance in life’s simpler pleasures. Joe is always on the lookout for interesting projects and opportunities to collaborate, bringing his wealth of knowledge and experience to elevate eCommerce brands to new heights.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Joe Fisher

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(57 minutes long)

Unscripted Ecommerce SEO (Grandchild Pages) Q&As with Mark A Preston and Joe Fisher

Could you describe your journey in the SEO industry, Joe?

My introduction to SEO began roughly eight years ago, shortly after graduating from university. My career commenced in call centres, where I was thrust into the challenging role of selling broadband and various services, a position that toughened me up for the competitive world. My curiosity in marketing was sparked one evening while watching The Apprentice, leading me to explore digital marketing more deeply. This curiosity led to a role in marketing administration at a chocolate factory, which was not the famed Willy Wonka establishment, though it did offer the perk of free chocolate. Here, I was involved in a diverse range of marketing tasks, including encountering the Yoast plugin for the first time, which piqued my interest in SEO. After discussing with my father, I decided to specialise in this area, leading to roles in-house, at agencies, and eventually to freelancing. Despite a brief period of returning to agency work, I have now embraced full-time freelancing again, finding greater success this time around.

Are specialised SEOs more in demand than those who are generalists?

Absolutely. I consider myself a T-shaped marketer, which means I possess a broad understanding of digital marketing but with deep expertise in one area, in this case, SEO. While I have foundational knowledge in social media and Google ads, specialising requires courage and mental toughness, especially as the digital landscape constantly evolves with new trends. Niching down can feel like you're turning away work and potential income, but it's crucial for standing out and becoming an expert in your field. This expertise not only enhances your current skill set but also makes transitioning to other digital marketing roles feasible, thanks to the fundamental principles shared across the discipline. Specialisation has certainly set me apart in the industry.

What aspects of eCommerce SEO find particularly stimulating as a freelancer?

The allure of eCommerce SEO lies in its direct and clear impact. Optimising product or collection pages often leads to tangible increases in revenue, providing a clear link between your work and its financial outcomes. This is contrasted with the challenges faced when working with service or SaaS clients, where attributing revenue to SEO efforts can be more complex. However, this direct impact also means there's nowhere to hide, adding a level of pressure that tests your abilities. Initially, the stakes of eCommerce SEO intimidated me, fearing the consequences of underperformance. But at this stage in my career, I'm more confident in my abilities and willing to take the calculated risks necessary to succeed.

What were the key learning curves when you first started freelancing?

My entry into freelancing came unexpectedly when I was approached for a white-label project, which required overseeing multiple clients. This transition underscored the importance of mental resilience and maintaining a positive attitude towards others. Trusting people and believing in the abundance of opportunities are crucial mindsets for success. This philosophy, partly inspired by your book, Mark, emphasises that people can sense desperation or insecurity. Embracing a general belief in the goodwill of others, aside from the odd exception, has been a guiding principle for me.

How crucial are communication skills in SEO?

Reflecting on my initial freelance stint, which I wouldn't label as a failure but led me to accept a job, I realised the importance of communication. My mistake was attempting to double my hours and fees without adequately explaining the value to my client. This oversight made it clear why the client was reluctant to invest more without understanding the benefits. Effective communication is paramount, as it bridges the client's understanding of the SEO value and their business needs.

How do you differentiate yourself to clients as an eCommerce SEO freelancer?

Differentiating as a freelancer often involves leveraging the disadvantages clients may have experienced with agencies, such as dissatisfaction with results or high costs. My approach focuses on clarity and avoiding technical jargon, ensuring clients can see the tangible results of my work. I introduce concepts like "grandchild pages" to illustrate strategies for high conversion rates through targeted entry points, despite lower search volumes. This method involves creating sub-subcategories that cater to specific customer intents, such as "blue leather sofas" or "brown three-seater sofas", providing a niche yet effective entry point against larger competitors. This strategy not only demonstrates my unique approach but also showcases the potential for targeted, high-intent traffic to smaller eCommerce brands.

How do you approach canonicalization and duplication issues in eCommerce SEO?

Dealing with canonicalization and duplication varies across different Content Management Systems (CMSs), and Shopify is one that I frequently work with. Shopify often presents a challenge with its default URL structure, particularly with '/product/' and '/collection/' paths, leading to potential canonicalization issues. When creating 'grandchild' pages, it's crucial to ensure they don't mistakenly canonicalize to their parent or 'child' page, which could hinder their indexing by search engines. To mitigate this, each page should have a self-referencing canonical tag, be well-integrated into the site's internal linking structure, and be highlighted as important through various signals to Google. This strategy tends to be more effective on websites that already possess some organic visibility, as it leverages existing content related to specific queries, such as content about leather shoes, to expedite indexing and improve results. Websites lacking in organic presence may require additional attention to detail and care.

With numerous eCommerce SEO opportunities available, how do you decide which ones to pursue to boost sales?

When faced with an abundance of eCommerce SEO opportunities, my decision-making process hinges on two main factors. First, I assess the risk involved; most collection pages are relatively straightforward to create, provided the CMS doesn't complicate the process. Generally, the required products already exist, and the resource investment for setting up a new collection is minimal. My approach is to start small, testing one or two collections to gauge their impact without overwhelming the site or its visitors with numerous new pages. Secondly, I base decisions on data, particularly using Search Console data to identify potential opportunities. For example, if a broader collection page begins to attract impressions for more specific queries that don't fully align with its content, it suggests an opportunity to create a more targeted page. This data-driven approach allows for informed decision-making, ensuring resources are allocated efficiently towards opportunities with a tangible impact on visibility and sales.

What strategies do you employ to optimise the navigation structure of an eCommerce site?

Optimising an eCommerce site's navigation involves focusing on both the main and faceted (filter-based) navigation systems. A well-structured navigation can significantly enhance user experience and site performance. At a previous agency I worked with, we developed an app to improve faceted navigation using product tags, allowing for the creation of intuitive sub-collections. This method sometimes requires developer intervention, depending on the site's architecture, but it ensures that users can easily navigate to specific sub-categories through filters. For example, selecting a filter can direct users straight to a relevant sub-sub-collection page, streamlining the shopping experience and potentially increasing conversion rates by leading shoppers to exactly what they're looking for with minimal effort.

Is it advisable for SEOs to have non-technical individuals test the site's navigation to ensure it's user-friendly?

Indeed, individuals without technical or digital marketing backgrounds are ideal for testing a website's navigation. Their lack of insider knowledge means they approach the site much like your average consumer, providing invaluable insights into the intuitiveness of the site's layout. Surprisingly, their navigation choices can reveal unexpected paths. This practice informed my approach to discussing navigation with eCommerce owners, emphasizing the principle of maintaining natural internal linking. If a link doesn't serve a clear purpose or enhance the user experience, it's best omitted.

What is your stance on link building for eCommerce SEO?

Although I've engaged in link building and digital PR campaigns previously, my current strategy doesn't heavily rely on it. This isn't to undermine the value of link building, as its benefits are well-documented. However, I've observed smaller sites achieve high rankings for certain queries without extensive link building efforts. It's frustrating to encounter the fixation on page authority and the perceived need for a high volume of high-domain-authority links to rank successfully. Focusing on creating pages that align closely with user intent has, in my experience, led to Google rewarding such efforts, highlighting that while link building is valuable, it isn't the sole factor in achieving SEO success.

How important is it for eCommerce SEOs to focus on leveraging existing growth opportunities?

Identifying and exploiting existing growth opportunities should indeed be a priority for eCommerce SEOs. This approach is often the most efficient way to achieve a positive impact quickly. Link building, while valuable, requires significant time and effort, and shortcuts like buying links can offer temporary gains but tend to lead to long-term repercussions. Conversely, creating new collection pages and optimising content can swiftly attract new customers, making it a highly effective strategy from my perspective.

How do you proceed after creating grandchild pages?

My approach to any campaign involves two phases, a method I've refined over eight years in SEO. Initially, I conduct a thorough check for any technical issues that might prevent pages from indexing. Addressing these promptly is crucial for the success of any new or existing collection page. After resolving technical barriers and launching new pages, I embark on what I term the 'reactive strategy' phase. This involves analysing data from Search Console to understand which pages are performing and which aren't, and why. This phase is about optimisation and adjustment, akin to fine-tuning a workout regimen at the gym. It’s a continuous process of adjustment and improvement, aiming for the best possible performance.

What are your aspirations for your SEO career, Joe?

My aspirations are centred around achieving a comfortable lifestyle for my family. I aim to earn well and collaborate with respectable clients, enjoying the work-life balance that freelancing offers. With a young child, the goal is not only for financial stability but to reach a point where my wife doesn't need to work, reflecting a desire for a quality family life reminiscent of past generations. This aspiration is driven by the challenges of modern financial pressures and the dream of providing for my family on a single income.

Can you explain the rationale behind creating eCommerce SEO grandchild pages?

The concept of grandchild pages isn't exclusive to eCommerce; it applies broadly across various sectors, including service industries. For example, combining services with specific industries to create highly targeted pages, such as accountancy for beauty companies, can lead to quick ranking improvements and generate inquiries. This strategy illustrates the versatility of the grandchild page concept, proving its efficacy beyond eCommerce. My journey in SEO is about embracing continuous learning and leveraging tools like AI to stay ahead. It’s about recognising personal strengths, such as my ability to handle tasks others might find daunting, like technical SEO migrations or making cold calls. By focusing on areas where I excel and others hesitate, I've been able to carve out valuable opportunities and grow my freelance business.

Should freelancers make more phone calls to potential clients?

Absolutely. The initial hesitation I felt about making calls has transformed into eagerness, especially when I realise I can offer a valuable solution to a potential client's problem. For instance, I once helped a client who was facing significant issues after a migration, including international hreflang problems, and he was extremely grateful for the support at such a critical time. This experience highlighted the importance of business acquisition skills for me. However, I’ve identified that I need to improve in areas like delegation and account management. Delegating tasks has been challenging, especially when it comes to trusting others to meet the brief's standards. It's not just about providing the right answers but asking the right questions that demonstrate expertise. Balancing this with not micromanaging is something I'm working on.

How do you collaborate with other freelancers on larger projects?

Collaboration with other freelancers opens up opportunities to learn and grow. For example, a conversation with a colleague introduced me to a new perspective on solving a schema issue, which was a revelation for me. It's moments like these that reinforce the value of having a second set of eyes on a project. Tools and automated reports are helpful, but they don't replace the need for manual oversight and critical thinking. Finding the right collaborative partner can be transformative, and once I find someone who aligns with my way of thinking and working, I plan to maintain that partnership. It’s about recognising the strengths that different perspectives bring to a project.

How crucial is it for SEOs to adopt a broader business perspective?

Understanding the broader business context in which SEO operates is vital. Working in-house can provide invaluable insights into the commercial operations of a business, which is something I encourage all SEO professionals to experience. As freelancers, we need to see ourselves as business owners and strategic partners, not just service providers. This means delving deeper into the business aspects that matter to our clients, such as identifying which products offer the best profit margins. Many SEOs miss the opportunity to align their efforts with the financial goals of the business, focusing instead on traffic increases without considering the impact on profit margins. Having conversations with business owners and understanding their daily challenges can significantly enhance the strategic direction of our SEO efforts. It's about moving beyond technical jargon and connecting with the client's core business objectives, much like simplifying complex plumbing issues for a homeowner. The goal is to find and address the deeper reasons behind a business's decisions, similar to how estate agents might explore the motivations behind a house move. This broader understanding can lead to more effective and meaningful SEO strategies.

How important is it for a freelance SEO to integrate more closely with the businesses they work for?

Integrating more closely with businesses is crucial, especially in terms of communication. Spotting opportunities often requires a deeper understanding of the business and its challenges, which isn’t always possible through email exchanges alone. I've noticed that meeting clients in person can change perceptions significantly, revealing opportunities that might be missed in a quick email sent late in the week. Whenever possible, I suggest to local clients that I spend a day a week with them. This direct engagement allows for a deeper insight into the company's operations, from the office dynamics to the product design process. Understanding these aspects in detail not only enhances the SEO strategy but also builds a stronger connection with the product and the company. This traditional approach, focusing on personal interactions, remains irreplaceable and is key to delivering exceptional value.

As an SEO, how can you stand out from other freelancers and add value?

Standing out and adding value as an SEO freelancer involves more than just executing tasks; it’s about transforming the client's approach to their website and digital presence. Over time, by providing insightful responses to their queries, you can guide clients towards thinking like an SEO themselves. They begin to understand that not every software recommendation needs to be acted upon and that not every error is critical. Essentially, you're educating them to spot opportunities and consult with you, which gradually changes their mindset. This ongoing education process benefits both parties, fostering a learning environment. The relationship remains fruitful as long as it continues to offer mutual benefits, which is a sign of a successful collaboration.

Should SEOs place more emphasis on ROI?

Absolutely, focusing on ROI is essential for SEOs. The priorities for delivering value can vary significantly between clients and over time, akin to a doctor assessing what is critical versus what will enhance the patient's quality of life. Prioritisation is a skill that defines a proficient SEO. Initially, SEOs might rely on tools or external advice to determine priorities, but mastering the ability to independently identify and focus on what will drive significant improvements is what truly distinguishes an experienced SEO. Understanding the unique needs of each client and adjusting strategies accordingly is crucial for achieving meaningful, impactful results.

How have you improved your SEO prioritisation skills?

My approach to SEO prioritisation has evolved significantly, with a keen focus on SERPs analysis rather than solely relying on tools, software, and prevailing opinions on LinkedIn. The digital landscape is inundated with constant updates and shifts—be it SGE, AI advancements, or Google's core updates. While it's important to stay informed, I've learnt the value of sticking to SEO fundamentals and trusting my own judgement. Initially, SEOs might adhere to basics like publishing quality content, acquiring reputable links, and ensuring site functionality. However, the journey often leads to a phase of overcomplication, fixated on algorithm changes. Eventually, there's a realisation that the original principles—creating compelling content and building a strong link profile—are pivotal. Simplification becomes key, mirroring the simplicity of a disciplined fitness regimen: eat well and exercise. This mindset extends to website analysis, prioritising category pages and the main navigation to optimise entry points and sales channels effectively. Over time, these practices become intuitive, guiding SEO efforts towards impactful improvements.

What's your advice for handling SEO information overload?

Information overload and analysis paralysis are common challenges among SEOs and clients alike, driven by the constant influx of new information and strategies. My advice is to anchor your efforts in SEO fundamentals and adhere closely to Google's guidelines. Trusting your instinct plays a crucial role; if you're producing high-quality content and following best practices, you're likely on the right path. It's essential to maintain confidence in your strategy, focusing on the core elements that drive search visibility and user satisfaction. By doing so, you can navigate through the noise and remain focused on what truly matters for SEO success. Remember, a calm and measured approach, coupled with trust in your SEO knowledge, will help you stay grounded amidst the industry's rapid pace.

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