In Part 1 of this article, we told you how you could increase your products' visibility by plugging them into the two leading shopping engines. Now it's time to learn what else you can do to push your site and your products to the top of search results.
We gleaned some tips from Matthias Klappenbach, eBay's manager of Search, at the recent eBay Developers Conference, who assures us that search engine optimization is not the deep, dark mystery it's made out to be.
"SEO is not magic at all," Klappenbach says. "It's not hocus-pocus."
However, it does require you to do your homework, so let's get busy. Bring on the shoppers, readers and, of course, the orders!
We'll continue our focus on Google, the search engine of choice. Like other search engines, Google wants to provide users with the most relevant sites, which will contain the information or products they are looking for.
"When a user enters a query, our machines search the index for matching pages, and return the results we believe are the most relevant to the user," Google says in its Webmaster Tools Help.
More than 200 factors go into deciding where a site will show up, according to Google. We can't take you through all of these, but we will highlight some of Klappenbach's key points to give you the tools you need to rank highly in Google.
Be mindful of your anchor text. If you're writing about computers, link the word 'computers'
Let's talk links
Links—both internal and external—play a big role in determining your ranking in search results. Klappenbach says external links, or links from other sites to your own, are "the most important." This is because when other sites link to yours, they are essentially recommending your Web page.
So if you have a blog and a store, connect the two. You should definitely do this with a hyperlink in the footer or on the home page, but also be sure to place links within the text itself, where appropriate. For instance, if you blog about something you offer in your shop, link to the item. But be mindful of your anchor text—the word or phrase that is actually linked.
"If you're writing about computers, link the word 'computers,'" Klappenbach notes. This is a clue to the search engines that the site you're linking to is relevant to the content.
Avoid linking phrases like "Click here," which don't add any value.
And don't be shy about linking to sites your buyers or readers might like. Klappenbach tells us some sellers worry this will send shoppers or readers away, but search engines will actually give you a boost in search results if you link visitors to other relevant information.
"If the links are pointing at relevant pages on other Web sites, then search engines will take this into account," agrees Vincent Masih of Weblinx.
You'll also get a boost in search results for providing good internal links, because, as with external links, these add to the user experience and make navigating your site easy.
"Internal linking done properly is something the search engines love, so you'll be sending a big green light to them," Masih notes.
URLs—yes, size matters!
Domains are another clue to search engines that users will or will not find relevant information for their queries on a particular site. If Google sees a link that's two lines long, guess what? It docks you. That's right. Google sees this as an indication of a nonprofessional site that will be less likely to contain the information (or items) the user is looking for. Google also looks at the URL for a hint of the type of content it will find on a site.
Take a look at your site's URL, and ask yourself, "If I was not the owner of this site, would I know what I would find just by looking at the address?" If the answer is no, consider purchasing a custom domain name. You can easily get these through Auctiva.
Search engines will penalize your site if it contains content they have already seen elsewhere
The content your site provides is also important—even if your site is an online store. While it may be tempting to simply copy the manufacture's description of an item you have listed for sale, we suggest you resist.
Search engines look for quality content, and quality means new, original copy. Google and other search engines will penalize your site if it contains content they have already seen elsewhere.
"The conflict occurs as the search engine crawlers discover several pages that are very similar, with the only difference being the type of products displayed on the page," explains Dustin Williams of SEO.com. Search engines will bypass "generic" descriptions. You could also find yourself entering copyright problems, if the content you offer isn't original. Avoid that headache and take the time to craft your own copy.
You should also strive to continually give customers or readers new content. This is something Web crawlers love (and visitors like it, too).
One way to generate new content without much work is by allowing users to leave comments and product reviews. Just be sure to moderate these to ensure you're getting fair and genuine feedback. Reviews and comments not only give SEO spiders the new content they crave, they can also give shoppers the push they need to buy.
Klappenbach leaves us with one additional bit of advice: Every search engine offers plenty of documentation about how to put your best foot forward. Take a look next time you're online. Here are Google's SEO tips. Enjoy!