SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the art of structuring a website’s content to acquire organic traffic from web search engines. In most cases, this means improving the rank of your website for specific keywords to acquire free traffic from Google.
Google remains the dominant search engine with more than 70% market share globally and upwards of 90% of the market in some markets, such as Australia.
The latest stats show that Google users do more than 66,000 searches every second. Google users will have submitted more than 59M searches while you are reading this article. And that count increases every day. The traffic potential from well-crafted SEO is limitless.
There are 3 parts to modern SEO, which must be continually evaluated and updated.
- Technical on-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Content marketing.
Technical on-page SEO
Technical on-page SEO understands how the search engines want the content to be presented so that each piece of content – ie. URL – can be correctly interpreted so the search engine returns the most relevant URLs for the user’s search query. For a poorly optimized website, it will be easy to identify many areas for optimization that will give quick rewards. The best way to get started with technical SEO is through an audit of the site by an SEO expert.
By now, most sites have already gone through a few SEO audits. The criteria for optimal ranking do change all the time, though the fundamentals of SEO have remained very stable since around 2005. This means that subsequent optimizations will not bring as fast results as the first time round but are vital to keeping competitive. For example, when Google introduced mobile site performance as a ranking factor, it required auditing sites based on a new set of criteria.
Off-page SEO is all about building your site’s reputation. This can be through link building, PR, and social media. Your SEO audit will usually also include off-page optimization advice. If you do not have an off-site SEO strategy in place today, you should put this together immediately.
Content Marketing has become the third pillar of Search Engine Optimization and relates to the use of keywords in the text of your website. This text could be in blog posts but is the terms that make up your category list. Content anywhere on your site must be analyzed and optimized. It is all about writing content that will help the user and help Google match the users’ search query to the keywords used on your site.
What made me passionate about the search engine optimization process is how focused this has become on user experience (UX). Following the SEO best practices will result in better and better UX over time.
No one knows your market better than you! However, regardless of your site’s organization, you will have many different audiences. A horizontal site is divided into multiple vertical markets. Even a vertical site can be further subdivided into various niche markets. In SEO terms, you define these markets in pockets of keywords. Each market will need a deliberate set of keywords for which your content must be optimized.
Your keywords will need to go beyond your classification lists. They should also include your category facets, such as specific brands and models. For instance, ‘clothing’ may be one of your categories, which could be further segmented to Ladies’ and Men’s fashion on your site. But users will be after even more specific items, for example, ‘ladies winter gloves’.
As you dive further into the keyword suggestions offered by the many keyword research tools, you will need to determine the search volume of these keywords and understand which of the keywords may result in a conversion. The keywords that have both good volumes and are most likely to lead to conversions are the keywords your sites must be optimized for.
The region has become another vital factor when optimizing for local SEO, meaning the region must become a part of the site structure and content. Regions must form part of the keywords that are tracked on an ongoing basis.
Modern SEO keywords need to be even further divided into intent. Defining intent means understanding where your users are in their customer journey. Virtually every marketplace will want to reach users with the broad intent of either buying or selling goods or services.
Your end goal will be to generate leads and sales for your customers. This should be and will likely be your main focus in the marketplace. The keywords to attract these users will be based on your site categories and regions. In these cases, the buyer’s intent to purchase can be assumed or defined by adding keywords such as ‘ladies gloves for sale’ in the search terms used to find your site. It’s important to include the intent you’re targeting in your site’s optimizations. In these scenarios, it is important to understand how you will differentiate long-tail and short-tail keywords.
Short tail or lead keywords are usually defined as search terms that consist of one or two words, while the long tail includes three or more keywords. In the last couple of years, the long tail has become even longer and is expanding as search users’ search terms become more specific.
The classic short-tail keyword will never disappear completely. Though in the context of your marketplace, short tail keywords will typically consist of search terms relating to your categories such as ‘cars for sale’ and then even further drilled down to specific models and regions’, for e.g., ‘Volkswagen golf hatchback for sale in West London’.
In my experience, leading these short(er) tail users to your category listing pages is the best strategy. This could be a top-level category such as ‘cars’ or the listing page for the specific model and/or region requested.
Most of your search traffic can be catered for in this way, and your site’s SEO must be sophisticated enough that search engines can match the user’s search terms to specific listing pages. The marketplace owner has full control over users’ categories and regions. These lists must be examined regularly with the data obtained from search engines and then updated at least once or twice a year to take advantage of new category and region opportunities.
Long tail keywords will be used to find specific products or services, eg, ‘top edge bed-making machine’. The content for these more specific products and services will likely have been user generated. You will not have full control over how the user formats this content, but you can ensure that the search engine can index every item uploaded by a user. i.e.
You must allow the search engine to decide on what page the user should be directed to from the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Users searching to buy products or services will be in various customer journey stages. You will want to reach users in each phase of their journey.
Your main focus will be targeting those users wanting to contact the seller immediately. For this intent, you will need the lead form for each product and service listed to be easily accessible from the page the search engine refers the user to. This includes ensuring that the page the user reaches from the SERP and that the next step is secure, fast, and 100% mobile-friendly.
Users in other stages of their consumer journeys can be targeted with the help of more specific content and feature created by the content marketing team to fit these steps of the customer journey. A user focused on sourcing the price of various brands and models will be interested in product comparison features on the site. A user looking for advice on the right product choice will be interested in content created on your blog for this purpose.
Again, present easy-to-follow links to your site’s relevant features and content from these landing pages to accommodate users with such intentions. Where the data supports it, create more alternative intent pages and optimize them to become standalone landing pages, but this time with clear links to the buyer-focused parts of your site that relate to the user’s keywords.
Attracting sellers to your platform has mostly been a marketing or sales function. But SEO must not be overlooked for targeting these users. Most sellers will likely come across your site using similar keywords to the buyers. The sellers can again be targeted with clear links to ‘post’ their content online – or to contact the sales team if this is your intention.
Your marketplace’s ad forms should be as dynamic as your listing pages to target these users. Page titles and other technical SEO requirements adjust dynamically depending on the users’ choices. Then complete the optimization of these pages by including keywords that are being used by sellers in your markets, for eg ‘sell used iPhone ‘
Want more advice from Oliver Winberg? Check out our webinar on improving your online marketplace SEO and attracting more organic traffic, or download the comprehensive keyword research for online marketplaces checklist.
This concludes part 1 of our guide to top marketplace SEO.
Part 2 covers how to supplement user-generated content with created content; we look at which KPI’s to track and which challenges are unique to online marketplace SEO.
Oliver Winberg has spent the past 20+ years working in the highly competitive classifieds advertising space in South Africa – employed at the highly successful and innovative Junk Mail Digital Media.
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