Sell Online

How Search Marketing Can Help Drive Your Ecommerce Business

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Category: Sell Online , Developing An Ecommerce Strategy

Increasing your website visibility on the Internet helps drive more traffic to your business, prompts more inquiries for your goods and services, increases leads, and potentially generates more sales.

To understand search engine marketing, you first need to understand how things once worked with the traditional Yellow Pages®. For years, people turned to the "phone book" to locate local businesses. Business owners understood that advertising in the Yellow Pages was a critical step in attracting customers.

Consumers now turn to the Internet to search for what they need, both to buy locally and to buy online. The Web connects businesses and consumers like never before. But getting found by buyers requires a bit more effort on your part, as a business owner, than simply deciding which category you want your ad to appear in the Yellow Pages. It takes understanding several important search engine marketing concepts: keywords, search engine rankings, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

What is Search Marketing?
The goal of search marketing is to attract targeted traffic to a website. Consumers conduct searches by entering a search word or phrase (referred to as a keyword) into a search engine such as Google® or Yahoo!®. Two types of results are then generated -- free "organic" search results appear and paid, or "sponsored" results. Free listings are displayed on the main area of the results page. Most search engine pages display 10 results per page; but there can be thousands of listings and hundreds of pages. Paid advertising results usually appear at the top of the page, highlighted in a box, as well as along the right side of the page.

The majority of people who conduct searches only select from the first page of listings, although some will go two to three pages deep (that's why appearing within the top 20 to 30 results is considered to be a high ranking.) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the efforts to generate free organic listings high on the results page, while search engine marketing, also known as Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) involves paid listing placement.

Search Engine Optimization
The ultimate goal of SEO is to achieve top ranking in search engine results. To do that, you need to take steps to improve or enhance your ecommerce website in such a way that it will consistently display more prominently near or at the top of the results page.

There are two primary areas of any site that can be improved or optimized. The first involves analyzing the website's underlying code, architecture, and content - the way it is built. The second involves keywords, those words or phrases that people enter into search engines in order to find what they are looking for. A site needs to have searchable keywords woven in a natural way throughout its content in order to be found.

How Do Search Engines Rank Sites?
Search engines use "spiders" to read through the contents of websites. Spiders go out and "crawl" the Internet by following links, indexing Web pages as they go. They read the content found on a site and follow all of the related links. Search engines ignore the layout of a site and look only for content that is relevant, up-to-date, and unique (not duplicated elsewhere on the Web).

For ecommerce sites this can be a huge challenge. That's because ecommerce sites frequently sell the same products as their competitors and even showcase the same manufacturer-provided product descriptions. In addition, sites are often designed to show one product per page. If several colors or sizes of a product are offered, it appears as if each of the many different Web pages is a duplicate (and that doesn't add up to fresh content as far as a search engine spider is concerned.) The end result: a slew of sites are featuring the exact same items and content, showing several choices for those items, and getting ignored by the spiders.

Ways to Optimize Your Site
So what can you do to increase the search engine value of your ecommerce site? Now that you understand some of these concepts a little better, here are seven steps you can take to optimize your website to improve your rankings:

1. Identify keywords. Begin by generating a preliminary list of keywords that focus on your products and services, your company's name, and related subjects. Then focus on developing a list of variations of those words, using common typos.

There are tools on the Web to help you identify the right keywords - the keywords that consumers are using to find businesses and products like yours. Google® offers a free keyword tool and provides search statistics for each word or phrase. It can be found at: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal?defaultView=2

Another tool, Wordtracker, has both free and a paid subscription version. The free version can be found at: http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/

2. Add those keywords to your site. After you identify a good working list of keywords, you need to add them within the content of your site as appropriately as possible. Search engines are very sophisticated and do not like bogus or "forced" placement of keywords on a Web page. The words or phrases must be contextually relevant to what appears on the page.

In addition to revising the content, insert keywords into your website's titles, Meta tags, directory names, and HTML code to describe images that appear on the site. (Meta tags are the descriptions that appear as part of the search engine results.) Be sure these insertions are unique to each page, including product pages. Some ecommerce providers include this in the set-up of the ecommerce site.

3. Edit your content to be different. To a degree, inserting keywords into your product descriptions will help make your content distinct. But you can do more. Use the manufacturer's description merely as a starting point for writing your own. Include customer reviews or add some personal thoughts about the product.

4. Submit the site to search engines and directories. With your site content updated, you're ready to alert the world. Site submission tells the search engines that a website exists and is ready to be indexed by spiders. Sites can be submitted manually, page by page; or there are tools that can help with the submission process. In some instances, hosting providers offer site submission as part of their service offering.

5. Build inbound links. Building links is like building relationships on the Web (and serach engine spiders love links). A link is a clickable word or graphic on a Web page that takes the viewer to another place. When two sites on the Web are linked to each other, search engine spiders will follow those links and discover the next site. Link popularity is based on the number of sites linking to a website, as well as the relevance of inbound links in relation to content on that site. Links can be one-way links (inbound links only); reciprocal links (where two sites link to one another); and blog links, which can attract more inbound links if they are well-written and interesting.

6. Measure results. Once you've made it through the steps outlined above, it's time to monitor how your online marketing efforts are doing! Use your keyword list to conduct your own searches to determine if your business is rising in the results rankings. This will enable you to capitalize on what's working and eliminate what's not. But give yourself time to see results from your efforts; achieving a high ranking can take up to 6 months. Use a service like Google Analytics will help you discover which keywords are working the best and which other websites are sending visitors to you.

7. Keep up the good work! Optimizing your site is an ongoing process that involves maintenance and effort. Continue to add new content and keywords. Stay current on marketing techniques. Keep building links and monitoring which ones drive the most traffic to your site. And, consider learning more about paid search marketing, so you can begin to incorporate that approach into your strategy.

With a solid understanding of search marketing and a plan for how to launch your own search marketing efforts, you can begin to successfully drive more traffic to your ecommerce site and ultimately go farther in increasing your sales.