Interested In Free Traffic From A Good eCommerce SEO Effort?
eCommerce SEO is not easy. Most merchants focus on their product listings, which of course is where the sales (or conversions) are. But for those who are truly seeking to gain those coveted free organic listings in Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines, there has to be more than a product listing. The plain fact is that search engines reward sites who have content, "good" content, the more the better. So what exactly is good content from an SEO eCommerce point of view, and how do you achieve it without creating a second job (department, business, etc.) for yourself?
Content that appeals to search engines may not be the same as that which sells a customer since search engines reward more general, more educational content, while those who are more ready to purchase are interested in features, functions and benefits. A good SEO eCommerce effort will typically support both stages or purchase which also aids rankng by search engines.
What Search Engines Don't Want To See From an SEO eCommerce Effort
Let's start with what isn't "good" SEO ecommerce content, like:
- Product descriptions that are copied verbatim from suppliers or other websites (search engines consider this "duplicated" content and aren't as likely to list or rank it highly because, well it's already out there and they don't want to waste their resources duplicating it)
- Any content that is published widely already like news feeds, media (or press) releases, direct quotations from books, articles, etc. Content that doesn't contain the search terms you are trying to rank for (more on that later)
- Duplicated internal content, meaning "spun" articles (content that uses software to automatically change words or structure) or duplicated meta titles or descriptions (a common problem in large ecommerce sites) created by repeating the same basic product descriptors without much change
- Old content that hasn't been updated for a while
- Content that isn't somehow related to your product line (i.e. listing literary quotations, unless your site is about literature, or perhaps selling classical books)
To be honest, you could add another "not so good" feature to SEO eCommerce content: Something that' not interesting, useful or terribly unique. In this case, it's really more about what is or isn't useful to potential readers and sometimes more importantly, other website owners, reviewers, social networkers and others who could potentially link to your content. In this case, it's not so much that a search engine wouldn't reject the content directly, but with poor content it's not likely that you'd get the coveted backlinks needed from authoritative sites that help the search engines judge whether your content is better than others.
So what constitutes "good" SEO eCommerce efforts is really the reverse of the above. By creating unique, relevant, fresh content, you are giving the search engines (and potential visitors) exactly what they want.
How To Create A Successful eCommerce SEO Content Effort Without Killing Yourself
At this point you might be thinking, "But I'm just a retailer, not a publisher. How can I compete with more established SEO eCommerce efforts?" The answer is really not "to compete," but rather "to contribute" by finding something within your company's informational "assets" to translate into effective SEO eCommerce content, such as:
- Answers to customer service calls about the products by your support team (which really can be gleaned from emails/faxes, or even recorded, edited and transcribed from telephone calls).
- Interviews with customers, suppliers, industry experts, etc. who know about the products you are selling and how they are applied, how well they worked and how they compare to other options
- Data or trends you may compile such as a "best selling products" listing (everyone wants to know what's hot and what's not), performance patterns (number of returns for a particular product type, for example) or predictions/analysis (such as which product lines or categories are declining and what is going to replace them and why)
- Your own expertise in using a product and/or helping the customer achieve what they want (for instance, color selection, choice of accessories, mitigating problems they may have or encounter)
- Internal or external product or services training you may have compiled that could excerpted and published
Of course there are more obvious methods of generating content such as adding comments options to a blog-style posting, or creating a forum for a particular product or service on your site. The only problem with these is that you, as an SEO eCommerce manager, lose control. In random, unedited comments you lose the option to select and place the keywords or search terms you wish the search engines to list your content for. And without those terms, well you literally can't get ranked. (Go ahead try do a search for any term and see how often a listing comes up without that exact term or a close synonym to it.) Conversely, creating a more conscious effort of merging your chosen or targeted search terms (which have the appropriate potential search volume to make the effort worth while) with the content you have can have explosive effects. (See this article on where you should place your keywords on the page.)
Planning Your eCommerce SEO Effort
Most of us have some type of planner, calendar or other scheduling tool. Think of creating one of these for your SEO eCommerce content creation activities. A good idea is to create categories which you can think of as "departments" from which you will expand your specificSEO eCommerce content articles, posts, etc. Not only does this help in researching, assigning responsibility to create and prioritize, but it will also help influence the search engines to actually rank the material higher, since it will be viewed as more relevant to a particular topic at hand. Sites that are in effect subject matter experts and explore a topic more thoroughly are generally rewarded with higher search rankings. (An example is Wikepedia, which has many pages on a variety of topics, often going into great depth in different articles covering the same basic subject area.)
Such a "content calendar" might have the following information associated with each piece of content to be written:
- Content Category
- Content Topic
- How/Where Content Will Be Used (i.e. published in a blog, product section or even externally in a media release, etc.)
- Who Will Create
- Information Sources
- Due Date
This type of organized effort may seem a bit overboard, but a credible eCommerce SEO effort will contain some version of the above, whether explicit or implicit.
Creating a successful eCommerce SEO program really starts with a simple plan as to what is to be created, by whom and when. It should be organized around key categories, which search engines view as desireable because each post, article or content unit will be more relevant to one another. The plan pictured above maps out where the content will appear, allowing it to be used again or "repurposed" without creating duplicate content issues.
How Much, How Long Must I Support An eCommerce SEO Program?
In truth, you are never really done as long as you wish to be successful. Starting out and maintaining it is the key, but you should see results within a three to four month period. If you aren't getting indexed in Google, Bing and other search engines, then there may be technical problems with the site. If you are getting indexed and not ranked, then the content may have some of the issues noted above, and/or is not gaining backlinks from authoritative sources. This is a harder obstacle to overcome, but if the content is useful, can be helped in part by engaging in some of these "link building" activities:
- Contacting customers, trade and general organizations (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) and asking for links to be created back to your site
- Creating links internally from pages that are indexed and ranked to those that aren't
- Posting in forums, discussion boards and social media sites that allow your using your site as example of what is being discussed and including a link to it
- Authoring content and placing it within industry websites (blogs, magazines, association websites) with links to your site
In all cases try to look for sites that do not restrict the links by placing what is known as a "no follow tag" within them. Also, resist the temptation to "trade links" with another organization, since reciprocal links are often discounted by search engines. And where possible, try to find authoritative sites that you can link to. This means established, higher traffic sites again such as organizations, schools, government, larger companies, etc. While there are many tools you can use to determine this, a very quick - and admittedly very general - approach is to look up the Page rank or a particular site. There are many ways to check this, but a straightforward way is to install a utility like SEO Quake or many of its clones which provide information such as Page Rank, the number of pages indexed in Google and Bing, estimated traffic volume, how long the site has been around and many other of the site's characteristics. The better the site's statistics in these areas, the more valued the backlink gained from it will be.