Online Marketing on the Cheap

3 simple ways to increase traffic to your listings.

by staff writer
- Mar 23, 2009

Getting exposure for your online store or eBay listings doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, with a little effort—and a consistent approach—you can drive significant traffic to your listings for little or no cost.

Here, we discuss three simple, yet effective (and mostly free) marketing tactics that any online seller can employ. Used together, they can be powerful promotional tools.

Keywords are key

According to Jupiter Research, 86 percent of search engine users click on the first page of search results, but 92 percent don't click past the third page. That's why it's so important to make the best possible use of relevant keywords to help search engines not only find your listings, but rank them near the top. Make sure the title of your listing or Web page contains descriptive keywords, and that item descriptions are also full of keywords. Include the most important keywords in the first 60 words or so, since that's about as far as search engines look. Just don't get carried away—search engines might penalize you for "keyword stuffing."

A general rule of thumb is to use no more than 12 unique search terms, separated by a comma and space, notes search engine submission service AddMe LLC. Keywords should be listed in order of importance for the best results.

"A properly worded title with the right keywords can double the amount of clicks and the final purchase price," notes Auctiva user Michael Curcio of Emvie's Fashions. "As a clothing reseller—which has a fairly low profit margin—I find that every cent makes a difference!"

If an item is made of a special fabric such as leather, silk or Tencel, including these keywords in a listing title can have a significant impact on page views

Curcio subscribes to Terapeak eBay market research and uses the tool to determine what combination of keywords provides the highest average selling price. And the more information in the listing title, the better. For example, if an item is made of a special fabric such as leather, silk or Tencel, including these keywords in a listing title can have a significant impact on page views.

If you own a storefront on eBay or Auctiva Commerce, you can open a free Google Merchant Center account and set up a feed that will automatically submit your listings to the major search engines to help you get better placement—but it's still up to you to ensure you're using the right keywords.

Need help finding the most effective keywords for your items? The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a free program that provides an approximation of keyword popularity. Bruce Clay's Check Traffic tool estimates daily search activity for a specific keyword phrase on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. Wordtracker, a paid keyword research service, also offers a free keyword suggestion tool.

If eBay is your selling platform, try typing your listing title in the BayEstimate title optimizer to find out how popular your keywords are in eBay searches. It's an experimental tool from eBay Labs that's unsupported, but its suggestions may be worthwhile.

Get linked

Whether your online store or listing resides on your own domain, Auctiva, eBay or another e-commerce site, paste the URL everywhere you can. This not only increases the chances that people will see your link and click on it, but it also raises your search engine profile.

"Since a Web site is not a physical thing, people just aren't going to bump into it every day unless you promote the living daylights out of it," says Web marketing strategy consultant Larry Chase.

By the way, if you sell on eBay, but don't subscribe to a Store, you still have a unique URL. Anyone registered as a seller on eBay can be located by typing in (replace "username" with the appropriate eBay ID, of course).

Search engine spiders give higher ranking to the most popular sites, and a link from one site to another is considered a "vote" for that site, explains Web marketing portal But avoid free-for-all (FFA) linking services, the site warns. FFA link pages are online directories of site links that are supposed to improve search engine placement for sites listed there. However, experts point out that these directories aren't really effective, unless your aim is to attract spammers.

You can set up link exchanges with other sites to ensure mutual traffic. The easiest way to do this is to submit your URL to reciprocal link exchange directories on the Web. But recommends finding and contacting merchants manually (a good starting place is with other sellers you've established a rapport with through online communities, associations and user groups). Though time consuming, the site reports this method is "the best guarantee that you will get quality links." And in search engine algorithms, quality of links counts for more than sheer numbers.

Some free online venues in which you can paste your URL include Craigslist, Kijiji and similar local classified listing services.

"By listing a link to my own Web site on Craigslist in my local area, my site's traffic escalates off the charts," says Auctiva user Karen Bauguess of A Absolute Abstract Art.

The more you establish yourself as an expert in your niche, the more likely people will trust your link and click it

But don't forget discussion boards, blogs and social networking sites. Anytime you post information or commentary, you should drop in a link to your store, listing or a page on your site that's relevant to the topic you're posting about.

When promoting your URL in public forums, it's best if you also provide worthwhile contributions or advice. So if you sell luxury canine apparel, seek out online forums related to pampered pets and add something useful to the discussion. The more you establish yourself as an expert in your niche, the more likely people will trust your link and click it.

And don't forget to include your URL or eBay ID on your business cards and in your e-mail signature. You might even consider coming up with a "tag line"—a short descriptive saying that sums up your business and helps buyers remember you. A good example is eBay PowerSeller and Auctiva contributor Lynn Dralle, who has successfully branded herself as the "Queen of Auctions."

Start a blog

Now that you've got your name out there in relevant online forums, start blogging. You can blog on eBay or any of the myriad blog sites on the Web. If you have a store on your own domain, create a blog page and link the two. Don't feel like you have enough to say to keep a blog going? Start by sharing what you know about what you sell and let it flow from there. Be sure to include keywords and links back to your listings. And link your blog to other blogs to help raise your search engine profile.

Wherever you blog, make sure to update it regularly with relevant and informative material. "This gives search engine spiders a clue that your site has some vibrancy," Chase says. "But like user forums that have few users, an abandoned blog is an eyesore that does your brand image no good."

An easy way to keep an active blog is to use the free Blog feature on your Auctiva Store. Each time you create an eBay listing, get a new shipment of products or just have some interesting information about your niche or category, go into the Store tab in your Auctiva account, click Blogs and create a new entry. It can be as simple as cutting and pasting your listing description into the blog text field, but the more informative your entry, the better.

Each night, Auctiva submits new entries to Google Directory to help drive natural traffic to your blog. Be sure to include the eBay item number and descriptive keywords so the search engines will be able to associate your blog entry with the item you're promoting.

If you blog outside of eBay, consider adding a "Digg This" button to the page to increase its exposure (eBay's links policy prohibits adding such features, so don't try to add it to your eBay pages).

Whether selling online is a full-time endeavor, a sideline or hobby, getting the right exposure for your products is the only way to ensure success. Driving traffic to your listings or Web site takes some time and ingenuity, but it doesn't have to break your budget.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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