SEOSEO for eCommerce Marketplaces: Tips for Selling on Amazon, eBay, and More

SEO for eCommerce Marketplaces: Tips for Selling on Amazon, eBay, and More

Importance of SEO for eCommerce Marketplaces


One of the most important things to remember when selling on eBay and Amazon is that at the end of the day, these are simply websites acting as online platforms, and these websites have a search function. This means that you can use search engine optimization (SEO) to increase the visibility of your listings, and the visibility of your listings is a major factor in your overall success in the realm of online sales. As a seller, your goal is to have people see your item and consider it as a potential purchase. SEO is a tool that allows the people who are looking for your item to actually find it. It helps you target the right people and increase the likelihood of making a sale. Now let’s consider that one step further… When thought of from the perspective of an online merchant, the visibility of your items directly affects the success of your business. Think of it like having a booth in a flea market or garage sale. If your booth is in the back of the garage sale where no one walks by, you’re not going to sell very much. But if your booth is right at the entrance where everyone who walks in can see it, you’ll get a lot of business. And a flea market or garage sale with a higher overall volume of traffic is comparable to a higher traffic website, such as eBay or Amazon. Are you starting to get the picture? Your goal is to have your items displayed at the very front of the entrance.

Benefits of Optimizing SEO for Marketplaces

Higher ROI (Return on Investment) The first benefit is higher ROI. On the internet, ROI is a measure of the efficiency of an investment. It takes the benefit of the investment, subtracts the cost of the investment, and then divides by the cost of the investment. Cost is time or money. Essentially, a higher ROI means that the investment gains compare favorably to the cost. SEO service is an investment with the highest ROI compared to other forms of internet marketing. The reason… Keywords! Keywords are the gold nuggets of internet marketing. They are terms that have already been associated with the product or service you are offering. They also generate the most organic traffic. For example, my firm’s favorite soda is Virgil’s Root Beer. If I see an ad that says “Best Soda Pop” it won’t generate my interest because I have no idea if it’s referring to a good root beer. If I see an ad that says “Best Root Beer”, I would most likely click on it because it’s directly associated with what I’m looking for and I want to confirm if it’s talking about Virgil’s. This is the power of SEO. Now how does this relate to e-commerce marketplaces and small/medium-sized businesses? With a large portion of all the money that consumers spend on the internet being on e-commerce marketplaces, there is a definite great potential to sell more items with a larger audience. This larger audience will generate a larger ROI for those businesses, and all they need to do is optimize their product listing! That brings us to the key to higher ROI for e-commerce marketplaces… optimized product listings.

After understanding why SEO is so vital for e-commerce sites, we need to understand the benefits of optimizing SEO specifically for e-commerce marketplaces. Knowing and understanding these benefits will provide more focus to our SEO efforts and ultimately eliminate time being wasted with inefficient tasks. An e-commerce marketplace is a site where you can buy and sell products from many different categories. Amazon and eBay are prime examples of very large e-commerce marketplaces. Marketplaces provide an opportunity to small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have the resources to create their own website or online storefront. It’s apparent that e-commerce marketplaces hold a very appealing potential to online businesses, but knowing and understanding the benefits is crucial before undertaking any effort.

SEO Strategies for Amazon

Most Amazon related searches are for brands of products. For example, people will search “Sony” instead of “flat screen TV”. Because of this, it is important to add your brand to your titles and descriptions to ensure you show up in related search results. Although this is against what people may have learned about internet search, it is important to remember that these are not typical internet searches. Amazon results heavily based on relevance of the search to the product and matching keywords. This is why it is also important to repeat important keywords a few times in order to be sure your listings are considered relevant. Customers are searching for a product to purchase, so it is better to be shown a small number of times in result to one of the hypothetical “flat screen TV” search, and a real “Sony TV” search, than a large number of times in unrelated results.

Keyword Research and Optimization

Keyword research is one of the first steps to a successful SEO campaign. Due to the nature of Amazon’s search engine, deciding on the right keywords to target requires a diligent and sometimes complex approach. Similar to the way Google’s search engine works, Amazon’s A9 is a keyword-relevancy based system that shows search results based on what the customer is most likely to buy. In other words, it’s Amazon’s paid search the keywords that trigger the sponsored products ads, so finding the most relevant and high volume search terms is vital to a product’s success. Various keyword research tools can be used to find the most optimal keywords. There are both free and paid options available with different levels of complexity. Depending on your needs and budget, you can explore keywording tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Tool, SEMRush, and others. While many of the free tools, such as Google’s tool, are catered more towards Google search engine and may not provide information on Amazon-specific queries, they can still be useful for generating general ideas. For more effective and Amazon-specific keyword generation, paid tools such as Merchant Words and Keyword Inspector offer a more catered and filtered approach to Amazon keywording. Another method to generate keywords is to look at competitor search terms. By finding out what keywords competing products are using, sellers can develop a list of keywords to target and possibly uncover new ideas and better keywords. Keywording from competition can be done manually by entering seed keywords and using Amazon’s search suggestion feature to find relevant search terms. An easier and more effective method can be to use a reverse ASIN tool such as Sonar. By entering an ASIN, Sonar will provide a list of the most relevant search terms for that product, giving a quick and effective way to generate a large keyword list from competitor products.

Optimizing Product Titles and Descriptions

Keyword research and optimization are the primary steps you need to take when trying to increase your product’s visibility in the Amazon search engine. These steps are the backbone of product titles and descriptions, and your success will depend on how accurately you implement this stage. Keywords should be chosen not only by their relevance to your product, but also their search frequency and competitiveness. The best way to find a suitable keyword is to search for it in Amazon and assess the number of results found. This will give you an idea of the competitiveness of that keyword. Long-tail keywords are phrases that consist of 3-5 words. The benefit of using long-tail keywords is that they are more specific to your product, and therefore will bring in more qualified traffic. This means that customers using long-tail search terms are more likely to buy from you. Again, it is important to assess the search frequency and competitiveness of these long-tail keywords. This stage of keyword implementation is very time consuming, but is a crucial determinant of your product’s success. Once you have found the most suitable keywords, it is important to implement them into your product title and description. This will most likely require altering your current title and description for the purpose of search engine optimization. If possible, try and place keywords near the beginning of your title, as Amazon’s search engine gives higher priority to terms that appear earlier. Do not overuse keywords in your title, as this can be seen as “keyword-stuffing” and may result in a penalty. The product description is less valuable in terms of keyword density, but it is still important to maintain an informative description that utilizes your selected keywords. This will reinforce the importance of your product in relation to those keywords.

Utilizing Backend Search Terms

A common mistake with backend search terms is using words that are actually already present in other attributes of the product listing such as the item name or brand. Amazon’s search index does not weigh backend search fields as a higher priority than other attributes such as title, so the best strategy is to identify words that aren’t allocated character space elsewhere that are still relevant to how shoppers might identify your item when using a search. It is important to use singular and plural forms of words and any common misspellings. Contributors with multilingual skills should include common translations for relevant terms. Multiple word phrases are possible and any phrases within this space should also have each word included as a single term, i.e. the phrase “baby clothes” should also have “baby” and “clothes” included as individual search terms. As we are not trying to convince the customer to purchase our item based on how we’ve creatively described it, include any and all words that might identify the item regardless of relevance to appearance or performance. This includes intended use of the item, the location it is to be used, and even words that might identify a rival company’s product. An assessment of backend search term effectiveness can be difficult to gauge; but by periodically checking search rank of words entered in a seller’s account, a seller can measure whether words used have been affecting product visibility in the search. An effective overall strategy is to edit the 250 byte search terms every few months and each time compare current search rank of items to a rank assessment taken immediately after the previous backend term change. By constantly optimizing backend search terms and other SEO attributes, a seller can provide a low-cost sustainable flow of potential customers to their product listings on Amazon.

Once your product listing is complete and optimized with keywords from Google and front-end search tools, sellers have an additional opportunity to use more keywords and keyword phrases to help increase visibility in Amazon product searches. Marketers looking to compete in various categories need to make sure they rank as high as possible on searches that result in a sale that is relevant to one’s item being sold. Backend search terms offer an important opportunity for sellers to increase product visibility in search results on Amazon without sacrificing good item placement and competitiveness in an item’s category. Amazon allows up to 250 bytes for backend search terms, which are usually words or phrases separated by commas. This directly contrasts the somewhat limited approach that is needed in crafting item titles that must not only incorporate relevant keywords that shoppers are using to search, but hopefully entice the shopper to click on the item. Much has been written upon the best method for title optimization for click frequency and backend search term strategy is often recommended in support of losing any vital keyword space in the title.

Enhancing Product Images and Videos

By enhancing images, you give shoppers more confidence in their buying decisions. This is because they can easily see all of the features and possible angles of your product. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s consider that one picture can sway a customer to either purchase your product or decide against it. If you’re going to take the time to add enhanced images, make sure they display your product in the best light. You want to use images that are a minimum of 500×500 pixels because Amazon allows customers to zoom in on the product. This will give the customers a chance to see fine details that they might have otherwise not noticed. This could also be the difference between someone buying your product as opposed to another seller’s product, it will give you a competitive edge. Remember, quality images also help to build the brand and image of your company in the customer’s eye. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. If you are also selling the product on your website, you can simply embed a YouTube video of your product in the image field of the product through your inventory loader. Videos perhaps will give customers the greatest understanding of your product. Customers will be much more confident in buying your product and there will be a lot less potential for returns. Videos also can come up in universal search and sometimes can give you another edge on the competition. Videos do not guarantee increased sales. At this time there is no way to track the number of views for your video or any analytical data. The only way to measure the effectiveness of video is by comparing to the conversion rate before and after the addition of the video.

SEO Techniques for eBay

An additional way to increase rank is to use keywords in your item description. eBay has recently allowed the use of HTML in item descriptions, so you can now include header tags and italics to emphasize keywords, making it much more likely your product page will be indexed for those keywords. Finally, the content should be well-written and detailed, with grammar and spelling mistakes kept to a minimum and in clear understandable English. This is because an item getting high views but low sales may be due to the buyer not receiving what they expected from the description.

The first step in optimizing your eBay product pages for search is to optimize your product titles and descriptions. By utilizing keywords in your product title, your product will have a higher chance to rank better when a buyer’s search query is closely associated with your keywords. But be careful not to spam keywords! Your title should still be human-readable and enticing to potential buyers. One technique is to ask yourself “if I were searching for this item, what would I type in?”. With that in mind, you may want to find a balance between short tail and long tail keywords. Short tail keywords produce higher search volumes but are much more competitive, so unless your product is selling in large volume, there is a chance it will get lost among the listings. Long tail keywords are more specific and less competitive. They can have very high conversion rates if the buyer finds what they are looking for.

Optimizing Product Titles and Descriptions

The product title is the very first thing that will be entered into search engine by a potential customer. Because of this, it is imperative that every relevant keyword is included in the title. For example, an iPod being sold for cheap would have a title like “Silver Apple iPod Mini 4GB + Accessories & Case”. However to maximise SEO, this title needs to include as much detail as possible. What generation is the iPod? Is it new or used? What condition is the iPod in? What type of iPod is it? E.g. shuffle, Nano, Mini, Classic. By trying to answer these questions, the title may end up looking like “Apple iPod Mini 2nd Gen Silver 4GB, Great Condition, Free P&P + Extras”. This is an example of a well optimised title, as it has a lot more information and search terms in it than the previous example. However, it is important to find the balance between information and keyword spam. This is against the listing policy and will likely result in the item being de-listed, and repeat offences can result in account suspensions. A general rule of thumb is to repeat every piece of information no more than twice in the title, and not to use more than 15 words.

Optimizing the product title and description is the most important aspect of any product being either sold for cheap or being done for auction. It is not only a buyer’s first point of contact with a product, it is also what will affect search visibility within eBay itself as well as external search engines like Google. A poorly optimized title or description can result in poor visibility, meaning few potential customers will ever see the listing; meanwhile a well optimized title and description will result in much more traffic and sales.

Leveraging eBay’s Item Specifics

Here are the necessary steps to leverage item specifics:

  1. Assign your item to a category – When you’re creating a listing, eBay will guide you through choosing a category and then suggest item specifics based on that category.
  2. Fill in required item specifics – Some categories have item specifics that are marked with an asterisk which means they are required. An item won’t be live in search until all required item specifics are filled.
  3. Fill in all other item specifics – Fill as many item specifics as you can. This will provide potential buyers with more information about your item and the more information they have, the more likely they are to buy. Item specifics also affect the placement of your listing, so more item specifics can help you get higher in search results.

Optimizing your listings is one of the most effective ways to gain visibility in eBay search results. Since 2012, eBay’s Cassini search engine has displayed results based on a combination of factors, some of which include item specifics. Item specifics are a list of attributes that describe your item, and these attributes are used to help buyers refine search results. One reason item specifics are so important is because many eBay buyers are using mobile devices to shop and using item specifics makes it easier for mobile users to filter results. 50% of all eBay listings are not seen by buyers because they are not optimized. eBay’s vice president of buyer experience states that “if you’re a seller and not using the structured data, you’re not getting the best performance in search and browse on eBay.” This alone makes leveraging item specifics one of the best opportunities for sellers to make their items more visible, and yet it is a relatively untapped resource.

Utilizing eBay’s Promoted Listings

Promoted Listings is a relatively new feature which allows sellers to pay eBay to give their listings better visibility through increased page placement or “Featured Item,” highlighted with a different background color. This can also help in better placement of your listings in search result pages, thus giving them more visibility and chances to be sold. Promoted listings are priced as a cost-per-acquisition (CPA) model and you only pay if the item sells within 30 days after a click on the Promoted Listing. You can choose the percentage of ad rate, that is how much you would pay eBay over the final value of the item if it sells. This percentage can be varied between 1% and 20%. Ad fees are only charged when the item sells, and are based on the ad rate at the time the promoted item sells. Promoted Listings is a great way to help increase traffic and sales to recently listed items, or items that have been in your store for a long time but have had few views and sales. DPS (Dan’s PC Shop) have used Promoted Listings on up to 5% of their inventory with great results, finding that the pretty low-cost advertising has substantially increased traffic and sales to listings that they previously may have just given up on and slashed the price of. They are a great alternative to other methods of defining your listings from others, such as lowering the price or using other offsite methods of advertising. Promoted Listings are also much easier and more cost-effective than creating a whole new listing at a lower price.

Encouraging Positive Feedback and Reviews

There are various ways to encourage customers to leave feedback, though sellers should be careful not to appear pushy or insincere. When communicating with buyers, it is a good idea to include a note with the item thanking them for their purchase and politely asking them to leave feedback. Some sellers also include an insert with the item for the same purpose. An email can also be sent a few days after the product has been delivered, thanking the buyer once again and kindly asking them to leave feedback. Measures should be taken to ensure that the tone of any communication is not overly insistent. Satisfied customers can often be persuaded with little effort, while those who have encountered a problem may feel alienated if they are continually reminded to leave positive feedback.

The feedback loop plays a critical role in the continued success of a seller on eBay. Positive feedback is essential in building buyer trust and encouraging them to make a purchase. It also directly affects the seller’s reputation and feedback profile, which in turn determines the fees a seller pays and the visibility of their listings. Feedback comments and ratings also provide a useful resource for potential buyers who are evaluating a seller. Influencing these customers to leave positive feedback can help to solidify a sale and ensure repeat business.

SEO Tips for Other eCommerce Marketplaces

Understanding Marketplace Algorithms Online shoppers utilize eCommerce marketplaces because they have refined the process of buying and selling goods to a simple and enjoyable activity. This is accomplished through the use of a search bar, which acts as the method shoppers use to find the products they are interested in. Your goal as a seller is to have your products appear within the first 2 pages of search results, as most buyers do not look past the second page of results. Each marketplace has a different algorithm for how their search results are displayed. Take the time to understand how each site ranks its search results. This information is not always readily available, but can usually be understood through analyzing the first several pages of search results for various keywords. One tactic is to use a keyword that is definitely relevant to your product, and see where your product is ranked. Then, analyze the top search results to see why those products are ranked higher than yours.

Understanding Marketplace Algorithms

Understanding the algorithms of the marketplace you are executing search engine optimization is crucial. Each algorithm has its own metric that it uses to rank results. Employing a firm understanding of what these metrics are, and how they can affect the visibility of your listing, means you can adjust your strategy to get the very best results. The ultimate goal of any search engine is to show the most relevant results. In order to do this, they need to list the best items at the top of any given results page. “Best” can mean many things, including price (both RRP and shipping inclusive), sales conversion rate, and level of customer satisfaction. At the end of the day though, each search algorithm has one goal: to increase the revenue from its marketplace by drawing customers back again and again. Understanding this is fundamental in understanding how you can sell more through raising your search visibility. In order to attract and maintain a high search ranking, you will need to consistently check the performance of your listing and make adjustments wherever necessary. There are a few basic things that are universal in search algorithm metrics. These include item price, sales conversion rate, and the level of customer satisfaction. An increase in any of these will elevate the position of your listing.

Implementing SEO Best Practices

The recent influx of Web 2.0 and social media sites has provided e-commerce marketplace vendors with an additional outlet for product exposure and it has created a suitable environment for viral marketing. Creating a blog or forum that showcases products and provides links back to the marketplace is a great way to build incoming links and increase static page ranking. Video media is another excellent way to showcase products and it has been proven to have a notable effect on page ranking. A viral video that showcases a popular product can drive a large amount of traffic to the product listing and can create inbound links as the video is often shared between users. An often overlooked SEO tactic is press release submission to various media sources. Well-written press releases may be picked up by a number of media outlets and result in a substantial amount of incoming links. All of these tactics combining to increase product visibility within the marketplace, a higher page ranking in the marketplace search engine, and hopefully the indexing of product pages by external search engines.

Static page ranking is the determining factor in where a page will rank in search results for a particular keyword. Page ranking is largely determined by the quantity and quality of incoming links to the page. A page that has been visited by a search engine spider, analyzed for its content, and added to the search engine’s database. Static page ranking is the determining factor in where a page will rank in search results for a particular keyword. In order to achieve high page ranking there are several tactics that may be used to encourage link building and increase product visibility within the e-commerce marketplace and on external search engines.

Before delving into SEO tactics, it’s important to first understand the two classifications of site pages; those that are indexed by external search engines, and those that are not. An indexed page is a page that has been visited by a search engine spider, analyzed for its content, and added to the search engine’s database. It’s important to ensure that all product and detail pages are indexed by search engines. This is often accomplished by looking at the robots.txt file and ensuring that it does not contain instructions to prevent search engines from indexing certain pages. In addition to this, internal links to these pages from the homepage and site map will encourage search engine spiders to continue indexing deeper into the site. An indexed page will initially only be visible within the search engine database, and not within the search engine results. Usually after several days, the page will begin to show up in search engine results assuming it has sufficient page ranking.

In today’s e-commerce landscape, Google is the undisputed gateway to new customers. The first page of search engine results is the Holy Grail for online retailers and e-commerce marketplace vendors; a surefire way to increase site traffic, product sales, and revenue. Unlike large e-commerce sites, smaller marketplaces have the advantage of being able to quickly implement SEO best practices that will notably increase their page rankings on search engines. This section will outline several SEO tactics that will enable sellers to increase page rankings and product visibility on e-commerce marketplaces. Remember, the goal for marketplace vendors is two-fold; first to increase page ranking in the marketplace search engine, and second to have product listings indexed by Google and other major search engines for additional organic traffic.

Utilizing Social Media for Increased Visibility

Another aspect to consider is the real-time nature of social media. As the social media landscape shifts to a focus on mobile media, the ability to access information increases. With purchases moving to mobile media as well, being able to translate social media campaigns directly into sales will become much more attainable. This is an important factor to keep in mind because it will determine the efficiency of the campaign.

Amazon has not prioritized social media sharing in the same way Google has; in fact, as of March 2013, sharing a product link to Facebook doesn’t even display the product’s image – just a broken picture icon. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t leverage social media as an off-site tool to increase product visibility. For example, eBay affiliate blogger Jen Thorne says that Pinterest can be utilized to increase the exposure of a listing because when something he or she has pinned drops in price, the pinner is then notified by an email from Pinterest. Social media can also be very cost-effective, and a little can go a long way. For example, Facebook sponsored stories (to send updates to fans and friends of fans) and Twitter sponsored tweets can be targeted to specific demographics and interests. Amazon and eBay allow sellers to target their products to certain demographics too, so it would be wasteful not to use these free internal tools by not doing the same with the paid outreach.

Social media offers more than just a platform for direct interaction with consumers. It’s another way to increase the visibility of your product listings. Google recently added social media to its algorithm factors – a sign that this method is not to be overlooked.

Monitoring and Analyzing SEO Performance

Regarding the monitoring of SEO performance, very few third-party analytics platforms allow for data gathering on Amazon, and even fewer on eBay. This predisposes these platforms to be overlooked in terms of SEO performance tracking. Amazon provides its own internal campaign analytics, detailing user search queries and matching those with products being sold. The data provided is based on selected products and cannot be used to compare performance across the entire product range. However, it is better than nothing. eBay provides a Traffic Report system, which is useful for tracking user views. However, like Amazon, it is limited in functionality when compared to a full-scale web analytics platform. For these reasons, many sellers choose to drive traffic to their listings from their own website, where traffic can be tracked and data can be gathered with a greater level of detail. This allows for more accurate monitoring and better decision making when comparing with the current level of marketplace-based SEO performance data.

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