Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Great Article from EcommerceBytes

Five Things Every Merchant Should Know about SEO
By Ina Steiner
January 13, 2009

Danny Sullivan is considered one of the leading search engine gurus and has been helping webmasters, marketers and everyday web users understand how search engines work since 1995. Danny's fame among webmasters and Internet marketers exploded while head of Search Engine Watch, and he is now Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Land. EcommerceBytes Insider sat down with Danny to get some tips on how online merchants can optimize their websites for greater exposure on search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

EBI: What is SEO, and why is it so important to website owners?

Danny Sullivan: SEO stands for "search engine optimization," and it broadly refers to the act of ensuring your content is well represented in the search engines and driving traffic to you for free. Search engines also accept paid listings, usually called "paid search" these days or sometimes "PPC" for pay-per-click, the most common way paid search is charged for. The combination of the two, SEO + Paid Search, fall under the umbrella term of "search engine marketing," also called SEM for short or just "search marketing."

SEO is important because, well, it's free traffic! Who doesn't want visitors that you can get "naturally" often by making a few simply changes. In particular, the vast majority of clicks from search engines come off the "unpaid" or "editorial" results, so without some thought to SEO, you might be missing these. Plus, people at search engines are ready to convert.

They've expressed an active desire for some product, service or need. Being in the listings is like having your shop door open to a stream of steady customers. Not being there is like having a shut door.

EBI: How often do search engines like Google change their algorithms, and how difficult is it for website owners to keep up with these changes?

Danny Sullivan: The algorithms change often but usually in subtle ways, and the broad factors don't shift that much. Have good content. Have good HTML page titles. Get links from relevant sites with a good reputation. Small sellers shouldn't think they "can't keep up" and so don't even try at all.

EBI: What are the five key things online merchants should know about SEO to help them increase exposure for their websites and/or listings?

Danny Sullivan: 1) Each page in your web site should have an HTML title tag that is unique to that page, which uses roughly 3-10 words using the terms you hope the page will be found for. So if you're selling a particular product, is the product name in the title tag? The model number? The brand? Be descriptive, and it can help.

2) Pages need to be accessible to search engines. This means that heavy use of Flash, JavaScript-only navigation or having all images can leave search engines "blind" to what the page is about or unable to find them at all. I'd suggest visiting to sign up for the free Webmaster Central Service, which provides a lot of free tools that can help determine if your site has any search engine issues.

3) Understand how people are searching for you. There are a variety of free tools out there that let you do "keyword research" and find the ways people might seek you out. Those are the terms you want to target as part of your page titles. You can find some of these tools here.

4) Consider Google Base, Yahoo Shopping and other services that let search engines have "shopping search" area. In particular, if you're part of Google Product Search, you can show up in a listing sometimes right at the top of "regular" Google.

5) Go beyond selling. The more you can become a product research resource, the more you can go beyond just listing products for sale and instead a resource people can turn to, the more likely you'll get links from other sites, which help with traffic. Can you allow people to comment on products, creating reviews? Can you write your own reviews? Can you offer product selection tips? Comparison charts. Content is king, when it comes to search.

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