Ecommerce SEO Strategy: A Must Read Expert Round Table - CPC Strategy

There’s no easy way to say it: SEO will continue to gain importance in online retail.

Google+, Pinterest, Google’s crackdown on duplicate content, Bing’s partnership with Facebook…Social, search, and online sales are becoming more connected by the day.

Hence this post. 12 of the brightest minds in SEO were kind enough to share their thoughts with us on how online retailers should tackle the ever-changing SEO landscape.

Prepare Yourself for SEO

Prepare yourself for long post on SEO, you will.

Barry Schwartz made a great point about the strategies listed below: Your SEO strategy depends on your unique situation. So before you embark on one of the suggested routes to SEO gold below, determine the strengths and weaknesses in your current strategy as a starting point. And don’t hesitate to contact any one of the contributors in today’s roundtable crew for help developing and executing a strategy tailored to your website.

Let’s go!


 

The 13 SEO Masters:

 
Tom Critchlow – VP Operations – Distilled

Douglas Karr – CEO – DK New Media

Angie Schottmuller – Founder – Interactive Artisan

Bryan Phelps – Director of SEO – SEO.com

Garry Przyklenk – Manager, Analytics Implementation, TD Bank Group – PPC-Advice.com

Thom Craver – Web / Database Specialist at Rochester Institute of Technology – ThomCraver.com

Rand Fishkin – CEO & Founder – SEOmoz

Taylor Pratt – VP of Product Marketing – Raven Internet Marketing Tools

Bill Ross – Founder – LinchPin SEO

David Weichel – In-house SEO & CSE Manager – CPC Strategy

Ian Laurie – CEO – Portent Inc.

Aaron Wall – Owner – SEOBook

Jason Acidre – Online Marketing Consultant – Affilorama and Salehoo


 

The 3 Ecommerce SEO Questions:

 
1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012?

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

 


Tom Critchlow – VP Operations - Distilled.com – @tomcritchlow

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

I think engagement is the key word for marketing in 2012. For retailers especially this translates into two important projects, firstly I would look at focusing on content creation whether it’s user reviews, video demos of products or just great image libraries of your stock. This kind of media that engages users will increase social shares as well as providing a rich SEO experience which will allow you to side-step any Panda issues! Hand in hand with this I’d look at investing in Conversion Rate Optimization. Making pages that convert should always be high on the agenda for an online retailer but in 2012 the benefits from high-converting pages can lead to better SEO too.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

Most people (retailers and non-retailers included!) don’t understand that SEO requires long-term thinking. While there are short-term gains that can be had from certain kinds of SEO the real success comes from big ideas executed over a large period of time. One of my favorite examples of this is Zappos creating 50,000 product videos: http://blogs.zappos.com/fiftythousand – I don’t know if they did this “for SEO” or not but frankly I don’t care, it’s exactly this kind of large scale project that will give you massive returns from search. Investing in those long term projects to make a site that deserves to be linked to will pay off massively in the long term.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Obviously the big news from 2011 was the Panda update – I think a lot of retailers still get caught out with thin content pages and so moving into 2012 I’d be looking to focus on content creation and managing technical issues such as duplicate content. If you’re a retailer and either currently rely on low quality links (e.g. article marketing, directories, comment spam etc) or have done in the past I’d be very worried right now – I can sense that at some point in 2012 we’ll see a “Panda for links” that focuses on sites that have quality link profiles rather than just profiles optimized for anchor text and volume.

Also – as an aside, I’m very excited about advances in analytics and tracking, whether it’s better social media tracking or new tools such as http://chartbeat.com/shopbeat/. Content is still king, but Data is 2nd in line for the throne!


Douglas Karr – Title - DKNewMedia.com – @douglaskarr

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Any page that online retailers expect to convert via Search will need to have:
1) Incorporate video as well as great content
2) Incorporate rich snippets (ratings, product info)
3) Ensure your images are indexed and found on Image Searches
4) Syndicate to product searches (Milo, Google)
5) Offer social sharing options and integrations
6) Be readable on a smartphone, tablet as well as a desktop.

Search will get you found by those looking, but great content that can be easily consumed and shared will amplify the visits to your products. That, in turn, will lead to greater popularity and increased rankings.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

Everyone in the SEO industry wants you to believe it’s about rank… and they want you to believe rank is about backlinks. Search is not a math problem, it’s a people problem. If you measure the conversions your company is getting from search, you’re going to find that a minority of your visits actually come from your #1 ranks (outside of branded search terms). Relevant, long-tail keywords are easier to match and provide greater opportunity for conversions. This requires you to have an amazing content strategy! Optimized content may get you found, but great content will get you sold.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Rich snippets (Schema.org) have been around for a while but not fully incorporated into sites as of yet. Google is paying more and more attention. As an example, they’ve integrated Google+ profile pictures with verified author entries on Search Engine Results pages. Rich snippets are an incredible way to increase your click-through rate from the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to your product page. This is a gap that’s not often closed when retailers are optimizing their sites for search. You can rank #1 on a search result, but if the #5 entry has rich snippets, there’s a good chance they’ll be clicked through on and not you.


Angie Schottmuller – Founder - InteractiveArtisan.com – @aschottmuller

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Priorities vary based on the site, but I would have these in the top list for an e-commerce site:

• Master the basics (good title tags, H1s, alt attributes on images, sitemaps, etc.)
• Implement microdata/microformats for rich snippets (i.e. reviews, products, offers, article authorship, local search)
• Provide and/or optimize the means for users to share reviews/comments and photos or videos on product pages.
• Build and search-optimize a quality collection of photos and videos for each product page or article.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

When it comes to SEO for internet search, the mission is to prove the page or website as a subject matter expert (SME). Most marketers don’t understand this and jump right into goals and tactics. For online retailers, their task is both to prove themselves as a trustworthy, secure online store and an expert on the products they sell. If they approach SEO from the perspective of how to creatively and strategically present themselves as an SME, instead of obsessing over the perfect keyword phrase or number of inbound links, their efforts will naturally boost both SEO and conversion.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

From an SEO factors perspective, online retailers should learn more about “freshness”, social influence, and rich snippets. User-generated content (UGC) in the form of ratings, reviews, and customer-shared content adds priceless, “fresh” value for product pages. Enterprise ratings and reviews platforms like Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews are built just for this. UGC can still easily be achieved without a large investment by leveraging free comment engines (Facebook, Disqus, Livefyre) and email. (See ThinkGeek action shots as an example.)

From a tools perspective, these come to mind as new or enhanced resources:

• Conductor Searchlight SEO Platform – New dashboard option for manages keyword research for both SEO and PPC campaigns.
• SEOmoz SEO & Social Software – New features include Historical Link Analysis (handy from proving trend impact) and Social Monitoring
• Pinterest Social Network – Not an analytics tool, but a great link building outlet.
• Schema.org – Collection of over 100 HTML5 microdata formats to include for rich snippet potential and better indexing.
• Faceted Navigation/Search – These tools have been proven to enhance user experience and conversion, but are very complex for SEO. (Seek expert consultation before implementing, or it can potentially kill your SEO.)


Bryan Phelps – Director of SEO - SEO.com – @seocom

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Start thinking social. It’s too early to tell how much Google and the other engines will actually incorporate social signals like Tweets, Likes and +1′s but you should start preparing by adding these buttons to your site and encouraging customers to spread the word. Even if Google is slow to take notice of social signals, it isn’t going to hurt you to have customers evangelizing your products through their social networks.

However, be careful not to abandon the tried and true SEO principals because there is a new shiny ball called social being thrown around the SEO world. Online retailers still need to continually improve their site through traditional SEO methods like internal linking, quality content, clean code and many other techniques.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

All retailers are different but I continually run into people who don’t truly understand how their whole business truly affects their SEO goals and initiatives. Making a tweak to the website here and there can definitely provide incremental gains but you need to be thinking SEO in nearly every marketing conversation you have. For example, how can you promote your SEO efforts through the automated emails being sent to customers? For retailers who create their own products, did you check search volume before naming that new product? Even providing a positive customer service experience can lead to a great review or tweet that can, in turn, help your SEO efforts.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

I still find that many retailers aren’t paying attention to 2 very important tools Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools (which continually gets better. Make sure to log in and check it out if you haven’t in awhile).

We recently lost a very commonly used backlink tool from Yahoo called Site Explorer. As a replacement, make sure to check out SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer, Majestic Site Explorer and Blekko.


Garry Przyklenk – Manager, Analytics Implementation, TD Bank Group - ppc-advice.com – @gprzyklenk

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Original content creation including to responding to and contributing to UGC, close attention to social media channels, and optimizing on-site conversion through testing.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

I think many online retailers still believe they copy and paste OEM provided content including product descriptions, bullet points, photos and video directly into product pages and they’re done. The unfortunate reality is that millions of other sites – legitimate and not – are using the exact same content. The only way you can really achieve high rankings is by creating original, quality content, building relationships in your niche markets, and evangelizing your brand.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

All three of these have been around for a while, but I believe are just maturing into less novel and more practical marketing channels: social, mobile and local. Mobile and local go hand-in-hand, with astronomical growth in the smartphone market, and lots of opportunity to get in at the ground floor and join the groundswell. Social is also becoming a practical space to grow SEO efforts, especially with the advancement of Google+ and enhancements made to Twitter and the world-wide adoption of Facebook. Online retailers that are winning the SEO game have a weighted and balanced approach to all of these SEO factors: original content (in it’s various forms), building community through social and link building, and conversion optimization (or improving customer experience).


Thom Craver – Web / Database Specialist at Rochester Institute of Technology - ThomCraver.com – @thomcraver

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

SoLoMo is the new buzzword. The one unifying piece of social, local and mobile searching that online retailers need to prioritize rich snippets / microformat data tagging for 2012. Local is huge, so are the various vertical search and social sites that pull product feeds. The impact of proper microformat tags range from simple Shopping results in Bing and Google, to reviews and social apps. By using microformat tags, you tell the search engines extra data about the specifics of a business or products. This helps users find you and your goods by category, location or other contextual search points.

Mobile sites and apps need to have an experience for the user that is light on bandwidth usage for speed and usability (not everyone has unlimited bandwidth). Therefore, they pull as little data as possible to run. Microformats help facilitate those ends. Mobile shoppers are typically looking for price and proximity. This is the new SEO.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

I think people in general – retailers or not – do not understand that search engines need to be fed data. Whether reading the copy of your site, anchor text of your inbound links or microformat data in your code, the search engines don’t know unless you tell them. They get better at crawling and finding, but the more you help them, they better your site may appear to them.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

The biggest is microformats. Microformats.org is a great place to start. Whether you use REFa, HTML5 or other models, it has information and many links to documentation, testing tools and validators.

Google Analytics will have many more social metrics reports coming this year. Keep up with the changes and add the appropriate tags and code to track how your marketing campaigns, viral ads and other content spread and get consumed!


Rand Fishkin – CEO & Founder - SEOmoz.org – @randfish

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

This is a very broad question, so I’ll presume we’re talking about online retailers who’ve done all the right basics.

In 2012, I’d worry a bit more about two big things:

• How share-able and link-worthy is your content?
• What’s your strategy for Google+?
• How are you adapating to rich snippets and less-text-based search results

Google has made it abundantly clear over the past few years that they’re prioritizing links (and now social sharing signals) above nearly everything else. If you’re in competitive fields and you’re trying to outrank the competition, you need pages that can scalably, reliably and without massive promotional efforts earn links and shares (on all the social networks in whatever forms the come).

There’s also a clear bias being aggressively rolled out to Google+ and the content and companies that do sharing on that network. As such, I’d think about ways to get your business involved on G+, test the waters, earn your way into your users’ circles and become an interesting resource. Just as we all scaled up efforts to be on Facebook several years ago due to rising usage and interest, we need to do the same on Google+. It may not be as popular as Facebook, but for search and SEO, it’s clearly going to have an impact.

Finally, I’d look into a strategy to earn rich snippets like video, rel author, star ratings, prices, etc. These enhanced listings are likely already attracting a much higher clickthrough-rate, and those who embrace these formats will be rewarded.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

That SEO isn’t a singular channel that lives on its own. SEO is inherently and directly connected to content, social media, conversion rate optimization to branding, to market perception, product quality, customer service and everything else to do with your business’s marketing. Once your site is “SEO-friendly” you’re not done with SEO – you’ve barely begun. The signals and ways search engines measure relevance, popularity and value is massively more complex and broad than years ago – just user and usage data alone (how people are interacting with your site through browsers like Chrome + Android, for example) signals a massive need to invest in a holistic inbound marketing strategy – not just doing classic SEO.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Google+ is clearly a new factor (and a new tool) that retailers should be using and embracing. Early adopters are going to reap outsized rewards if they can find ways to harness its power.

I’d also strongly consider classic usability and user experience issues like conversion rate, browse rate, abandonment, click-through from the SERPs (not just ranking position) and user happiness. It used to be that only performance marketers thought about these more site-interaction-centric metrics, but they’re essential for SEO these days, too.

Twitter and Facebook have both been big the last 3 years, but in retail, I’d probably also pay attention to Pinterest, particularly if you target a female demographic with your product. That site is taking off like Twitter was in 2008, and I suspect we’ll see them mentioned among the social media elite within the next 24 months.


Taylor Pratt – VP of Product Marketing – RavenTools.com – @RavenPratt

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

The most common problem I see with online retailer websites from an SEO perspective is that they don’t have unique product descriptions for their products. A lot of them provide product feeds for their affiliates with content that directly copies their own, too. The problem with this is, their affiliates end up ranking higher then they do for their own products. Unique product descriptions (that are more than just a sentence or two long) will go a long way in helping improve their SEO campaign and will help avoid any duplicate content problems they might run into.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

Typically online retailers think of SEO as a standalone marketing strategy. They ignore the many other online marketing activities that can have an impact on it. From social signals to focusing on usability, they typically just stick to the traditional SEO work and ignore the rest. But the real value in SEO and online marketing as a whole is when you take a holistic approach to it.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

I think the biggest tool SEOs need to take advantage of is a solid PPC program. Ever since Google released their (not provided) update that prevents you from seeing what organic keywords a signed in Google user came to your site with, we’ve lost out on valuable data for SEO. With a solid PPC program in place you can get that insight back that will help you determine which keywords are converting the best for you so you can make the appropriate adjustments to your SEO campaign.


Bill Ross – Founder – LinchPinSEO.com – @linchpinseo

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

I think 2012 will be about going back to basics with SEO and learning from traditional marketing channels. I think there are 3 primary areas that online retailers should focus on in 2012.

1. Increasing positive user metrics by creating valuable content on product pages for users to engage with and socialize.

2. Utilizing niche social websites such as Pinterest.com to market products and build relationships with consumers.

3. Optimizing site structure for optimal crawl and include markup language to organize, represent and structure data for easy interpretation by the engines.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

1. Syndication of product pages to resellers can causes problems for SEO if not done properly.
We see many retailers who have undertaken a reseller or distribution model with their product sets to help increase their reach. As a business model this makes sense, but from an SEO standpoint this can cause more problems than it’s worth if not done properly. Why is this a negative for online retailers?

a. This can drive users to retail websites which have a lower conversion rate.
b. The profit per product can be lower on products sold through resellers.
c. A brand has less control over how their product is represented.
d. A brand has almost no control over customer service that these third party sites offer, which can hurt a brand as well.
e. It causes cross domain duplicate content issues
f. It can take traffic away from the primary brand’s website.

2. Users expect more, and want to engage with web pages.
Pages need to add value by giving the user (at minimum) in-depth content, videos, unique product descriptions, and reviews. It is no longer ok to have thin content sets on product pages that add little-to-no value for users beyond serving as marketing copy or giving basic information about a product. If online retailers plan on building links and social metrics to drive rankings, they need to get out of the mindset of “if you build it, they will come”, and not only focus on creating valuable content and experiences, but then marketing those experiences through social communities, blogger outreach, and traditional channels.

3. Site structure is key for large retail websites.
Not focusing on optimizing your sites structure to focus on primary product sets will hurt traditional SEO ranking signals as well as user metrics and conversions. One example we have seen, is many retail websites who have implemented faceted navigation to better serve the user; this is a great first step, but if not implemented correctly, can have a negative impacts on SEO.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

One of the tools that retailers can use in 2012 is their own conversion and analytics data to create additional value for users. This value can be in the form of infographics, videos, or reviews to help visitors make decisions quicker and easier based on their product needs.


David Weichel – In-house SEO & CSE Manager - CPCStrategy.com – @DavidWeichel

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

I’d like to see online retailers focus more energy on building their brand with social and high-quality, sharable content. Social is a great way to build and engage a community around a retailer’s brand and we’re seeing a lot more weight being given to social signals, especially with Google’s preferential treatment of their own social network Google+ in their search.

On the other side of the coin, retailers without truly unique and high-quality content are going to have a difficult time seeing scalable returns for their social efforts. Quality content like user reviews and videos that demo your products not only engage your audience but also incentivize them to mention and link to you online. And don’t forget to implement microdata and microformats to activate rich snippets in the search results since this can improve click through rates significantly.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

As search engines incorporate more sophisticated ranking signals in their algorithms SEO can no longer survive without conversion rate optimization (CRO), social media, and a higher level content strategy. Think bigger-picture inbound marketing. Social and usability metrics are already impacting search algorithms and if you’re not investing time and effort into either of these you’ll be forfeiting rankings to those who are.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Google+ is going to be both a factor and a tool for SEO and retailers should definitely pay attention to this channel in 2012. Once Google+ gains more traction I think it’s going to present some very valuable opportunities for those that adopt a Google+ strategy early on.

Retailers can use Google+ as a valuable research tool for developing social and content strategies because it tracks the ways people consume and engage with content online. This interaction is searchable on Google+ and retailers can search for their business’s key terms to gain a better understanding of what’s being talked about as well as what types of media are being shared (videos, blog articles, etc). Use this as a research tool when brainstorming and developing your sharable content.

Also pay attention to the role of Google+ Circles in search (this one’s a factor). These user-generated, type-specific labels contain a lot of information about users’ interests, their associations, and the way you’re actually perceived online (and in real life?) by others. Google+ Circles provides the foundation for a social link graph where circles can act as inbound links to your site and the label, or name of the circle, is analogous to the anchor text of those links. Figure out how to connect with your customers on Google+ early on and there’s a possibility to see long term gains from building your brand and topical relevancy here.

But enough about social, retailers are going to need to invest in conversion rate optimization. Converting shoppers into actual customers more efficiently and with higher frequency should already be a priority for retailers, but there’s also a residual effect for SEO from various usability signals (factors) that can impact rankings and traffic.


Ian Lurie – CEO – Portent.com- @portentint

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Google Plus. Then Google Plus. And maybe, I dunno, GOOGLE PLUS. Google is foisting their social network on us, and it’s the fastest, easiest way into top 10 SERPs. So, if you’re concerned about rankings and overall traffic, start with Google Plus.

Then, they should look at the usual:

  • Site speed. Every second you shave off page load times will improve sales.
  • Cart conversion. You can always do better.
  • Content. Stop fighting it. Learn to have an interesting discussion about your products and your business. Your customers want this, whether you believe it or not.

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

It’s breadth and depth. SEO isn’t just about buying a few links or a quick checklist. Yes, there’s a lot of technical stuff involved. But there’s also an entire branding and messaging component you’ve got to consider. SEO shouldn’t be in conflict with brand and marketing. It should be part of it. Yet I see one retailer after another sacrifice one in favor of the other.

I admit, this is a huge blind spot for me. I don’t get it. So I don’t have a great answer to this question. I really don’t understand why this is always such a problem.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Social media continues to be a big player. Mobile may finally be coming on as a real SEO resource, too.

As far as tools, I don’t see any profound new stuff out there yet. But keep an eye out for new keyword mining tools. And learn as much as you can about Google Webmaster Tools’ query report – with the (not provided) silliness, you’ll want to learn to mine those reports.


Aaron Wall – Owner – SEOBook.com – @aaronwall

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

I don’t know that there is only one channel/strategy that is best across the board, but a lot of companies are starting to push more aggressively into turning the user experience into opportunities to gain reviews content and/or links and/or social mentions. Rather than selling an item a lot of the best businesses are building a relationships that allow them to pay more for the introduction due to the higher lifetime customer value.

One can also harp onto brand as a trend, or social, but the biggest factor is having the lifetime customer value needed to be able to pay-to-play. Once you have that you also have the budget to invest into branding and differentiation and creating & marketing content across various channels.

  • On Google over the past few years they have extended their AdWords ad features & ad extensions. They also allow brands to have a large organic listing with numerous sitelinks. For small merchants who relied on reselling one brand in many cases they were pushed below the fold for the brand they resold unless they could afford to buy AdWords ads. Google’s aggressive push of their product search vertical and Google+ also drive out smaller thinner merchants. Further, localization algorithms & the Panda algorithm drive pure-play ecommerce sites down if they don’t have enough brand strength.
  • Yahoo! has added their shopping search results pretty aggressively under their PPC ads & above the organic results.
  • Bing also pushes product search.

 

Outside of Amazon.com, some of the best positioned ecommerce players are those that act as marketplace platforms for creative types (say Etsy, Threadless, or something like KickStarter).

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

  • In many ways ecommerce sites that are just selling a product are not much more than thin affiliates unless they can earn repeat purchases and build a relationship.
  • If you don’t have scale, you are an inefficiency search engines will eventually try to remove from their ecosystem. This was part of the goal of the Panda algorithm: many large merchants got a brand boost with Panda while a lot of smaller ecommerce sites got hit.
    • Even if you do have scale, search engines are trying to compete against merchants in the same way they try to compete against affiliates and other publishers. Google’s flight search, hotel search, credit card lead funnel, and the Google Prime (similar to Amazon Prime) that is allegedly going to be tested in the next couple months are all attempts by Google to compete with their customers.
    • Further, Google has in the past tested affiliate ads in their product search, Google has invested in the coupon network Whaleshark Media, Google has their wallet payment service, and they are trying to sell software and applications via their Android marketplace and Chrome marketplace.
    • Where media is standardized Google is also pushing to become a retailer. Consider how they use YouTube to push purchasing songs on the Android Market, concert tickets, and movie rentals. And there is also their ebook store.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

Google is in many ways trying to push to move into retail. If you can’t afford to buy AdWords ads in your category then it might suggest issues with lifetime customer value & the need to differentiate through brand, turning a product into a service, or finding another way to specialize to minimize the number of people competing against you for your offering.

If you look at Google’s approach to affiliates (and read their remote rater guideline that expresses it) then at some point one can expect them to view some thinner merchants with the same disdain they have for affiliates. The internet is becoming a game of scale or exceptional specialization.

Some of the largest CPG players are aiming to get more out of social media online & are sponsoring bloggers and events in their niches, giving away products to online thought leaders with an audience. Google is also getting premium publishers to post content on YouTube. I just visited MotorTrend’s YouTube channel and off to the right was an ad for Chrystler’s YouTube channel. If Google’s model is successful with this sort of stuff then advertisers pay Google to advertise Google’s own properties while Google keeps the consomer on their sites & learns their preferences.

The big positive in the stresses faced by many traditional media companies is that it will create opportunities for merchants to own media as well.

 


Jason Acidre – Online Marketing Consultant – Affilorama.com – @jasonacidre

1. What should online retailers prioritize in terms of SEO in 2012? 

Basing from Google’s recent algorithmic changes (Panda, Search Plus your World, Freshness, etc…), it’s obvious that they are rooting for brands to show up more prominently on their search results. The most important aspect of marketing an online business this year would be on how it can exemplify itself as a brand, that people/users trust, for search engines to reward it with better search rankings.

I recently wrote a post on how to build and improve a site’s online brand presence, and there I’ve discussed several practices that do affect a site’s performance in terms of search engine visibility. Google is increasingly using brand-related metrics to determine high quality websites (social signals, brand mentions, usage data/visitor loyalty, etc…), and that is something that marketers as well as online retailers shouldn’t ignore.

In terms of methodologies, I would advise retailers to prioritize optimizing and marketing their websites as a brand and not as keywords. Google is getting smarter as it evolves – the more people know what your site is all about just by making them search for your brand (and establishing your site as an authority in your industry) the more that your brand can assimilate the keyword(s) that you’re targeting. Focus on building your brand through:

· Identifying your business value proposition and leverage it by using content marketing. Allow your content to target customers that are actually looking for your products.
· Branded link building – acquire links from other related blogs/sites with the intent of improving your site’s indexation, domain authority as well as in sending out massive brand signals, instead of building links to manipulate search results.
· Getting into Google+, improve your brand page’s activity within the platform and try to increase the people adding your brand page by promoting it via link building, content marketing and distribution, etc…
· Optimizing your site by putting out useful, crawlable (help search engines find and better understand your site’s pages – use microdata and have a good site architecture), and worth-sharing content – even if it’s a product page!

2. What do you think online retailers don’t understand when it comes to SEO?

That SEO is a significant aspect of their overall business process, as it helps build more opportunities for their businesses, not just with rankings, traffic and sales, but in scaling their businesses as well (ex: SEOs can help build relationships around their business).

They shouldn’t treat it as an investment, because it’s a big part of their business, given that the more search engines evolve, the more SEO can encompass and correlate other online marketing practices (social media, conversion rate optimization, etc…) to keep the business on thriving.

3. What are some new SEO factors or tools that online retailers should know about in 2012?

For new factors, I would say social and brand metrics. I recently noticed that Google’s toolbar PageRank is somehow using social data (maybe a big fraction of it) in gauging web pages’ importance/popularity – the more social shares a particular content has the higher Pagerank is rewarded for that certain page (well, that’s just my theory). Social signals are also able to influence search rankings even more this year, so that’s really something that online retailers should really think about.

With tools, every online retailer should definitely invest in a solid copywriter that can help improve their pages’ content (product descriptions, meta tags, etc…) as well as in creating content that can promote their websites (through blogging, guest blogging and/or other forms of content marketing). Pinterest is also a good social platform and marketing tool to explore this year, especially for online retail businesses, since most studies show/boast the site’s ability to convert a lot of its referred visitors into sales.
 


 

Ecommerce SEO Trends:

 

There’s a lot to digest here in terms of what to focus on first for your SEO strategy. Some trends that stand out in this article are content, rich snippets, and social media as a triple threat SEO plan. Google+ is the highest hyped social media platform, and for good reason. Ian Lurie is right that “Google is foisting their social network on us,” and Rand Fishkin has been beating the Google+ drum for some time now.

Yoda Says SEO is Important

Many lessons you learned today. (cc: Angie Schottmuller, can't mention SEO and Star Wars without thinking of you)

So where do you start? First, make a high-level analysis of your current SEO strategy. Find out where you’re strong and where you’re weak. And don’t be afraid to get help on this step, it’s probably the most important. Any of the contributors in today’s roundtable are more than skilled enough to make sure you have an accurate picture of exactly what’s going on with your SEO strategy today.

Next, make a priority list. Maybe a ‘Top 5 SEO Goals’ that you and your team focus on for a month. And make sure you get the entire team involved! Like Bryan Phelps said, “even providing a positive customer service experience can lead to a great review or tweet that can, in turn, help your SEO efforts.”

 

About the Author+Andrew Davis is CPC Strategy's Director of Marketing, an expert in ecommerce marketing strategy, product marketing and all things shopping engine related. You can contact Andrew directly at andrew@cpcstrategy.com or via phone at 619-297-3798. See all posts by this author here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1134296118 William Parris

    Very informative!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1134296118 William Parris

    Very informative!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1433361318 Angie Schottmuller

    Great wrap up of everyone’s input. The suggestions, tools, and trends insight makes this a valuable post. I especially love the SEO and Star Wars injection. ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1433361318 Angie Schottmuller

    Great wrap up of everyone’s input. The suggestions, tools, and trends insight makes this a valuable post. I especially love the SEO and Star Wars injection. ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664654918 Dave Beck

    I just went straight to Aaron Wall’s comments. The rest of the SEO community suffers from a major dose of groupthink and you see the same stuff regurgitated Time after time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000066160259 Andrew Bernhardt

      Aaron’s comment here spoke very loudly and true “The internet is becoming a game of scale or exceptional specialization”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=664654918 Dave Beck

    I just went straight to Aaron Wall’s comments. The rest of the SEO community suffers from a major dose of groupthink and you see the same stuff regurgitated Time after time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000066160259 Andrew Bernhardt

      Aaron’s comment here spoke very loudly and true “The internet is becoming a game of scale or exceptional specialization”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532287700 Bill Quinn

    Great work as always.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=532287700 Bill Quinn

    Great work as always.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1570107158 Eric Garrison

    Aaron wall is the man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1570107158 Eric Garrison

    Aaron wall is the man.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521262114 David Brown

    I’m surprised RDFa wasn’t mentioned by anyone… A lot of good information, however adjusting your descriptions with good RDFa tags is going to make you stand out from the crowd and lead to higher CTR’s organically. my.02

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=521262114 David Brown

    I’m surprised RDFa wasn’t mentioned by anyone… A lot of good information, however adjusting your descriptions with good RDFa tags is going to make you stand out from the crowd and lead to higher CTR’s organically. my.02

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