Having a good amount of seller and consumer traffic on your online marketplace is critical for your online business. Here's how search engine optimization can help you kickstart it all and keep the traffic growing over the long term.Create An Online Marketplace >
Find out the exact keywords your website visitors are using on Google. For a marketplace website, your site visitors are your end-customers and the product suppliers, individuals and small businesses who sell on your site. Find out what motivates these people. Find out the exact keywords these people are using, don't make assumptions. For example, you may think that people are searching for 'car parts' on Google but it may turn out that people are searching more for 'Ford Taurus radiator' or 'alloy wheels Denver' or 'clutch plate replacement schedule 2007 Toyota Camry'.
There are a couple of ways of finding out what keywords people are using on Google. The best way is to ask an actual site visitor or one of your marketplace sellers. Ask them how they got to your site. Find people who have a similar profile to your customers and sit with them in front of a laptop - you may be surprised at what they enter into Google to find content that is relevant to them.
Next is to get into Google yourself and enter some keywords you feel are relevant to your industry. You will see a list of 'Related searches...' at the bottom of every search results page, containing keyphrases related to your search. You can use these keywords as a starting point for optimizing your website pages.
You should also set up Google Analytics on your website (discussed in more detail below). If your website has been live for a few weeks or months you will see what keywords people are using to get to your site. If you pay up and get a Google Adwords account you can also see the exact keywords people are actually searching for and then you can create Google Ads and bid for these keywords.
Your search engine optimization exercise should start with a research phase, where you uncover a long list of keywords that are relevant to your marketplace or industry. Some of these keywords you will get from Google and actual users. Some keyphrases you will assume are relevant (and then tweak them over weeks and months after you have more data from Google Analytics and site visitors).
Your next step is to organise this long list into seperate buckets by priority or topic. Then you can create individual site pages that address each one of these buckets. For example, you may see that people are using a lot of brand names while searching for car parts. So you may create different sections in your website that tackle different brands. Or you may find that people are searching for certain kinds of parts more than others or you may feel that you need to create an entire section on car interiors.
Your website is likely to have commercial content (product pages and listings that are for sale) and information content (peripheral pages of content, industry trends, FAQs, how-to-guides). Whatever content management system you use for your website, you will get text fields where you can input the following information for each web page:
a) HTML Page Title: This is the most important part of your page. This text is the blue headline that comes up on Google. It may not be visible on your webpage but sometimes you can see a bit of it on your Firefox tabs right at the top in your browser. This could look something like 'How To Prepare Your Car For Winter - Joe's Garage'.
b) HTML Page Description: These are the couple of lines that appear right below the blue headline on Google. Most HTML pages carry this 'page description' tag but Google may decide to pick up another chunk of text from your web page if it finds that to be more relevant. We'll enter this description anyway.
c) HTML Page Header: In technical terms, the '< h1 >' tag - this bunch of 3-8 words tells everyone what your page is all about. Often you might repeat your HTML page title in this header, so it could look something like this - 'How To Prepare Your Car For Winter'.
d) HTML Content: This is all the text content that goes into your web page.
e) HTML Image Tags: These keywords tell Google what your image (if you have any on your web page) is all about. A lot of people tend to stuff totally irrelevant keywords into these tags but image recognition technology may soon put such practises out of business.
The trick to doing search engine optimization effectively is to distribute your keywords among these different content areas. So if you prioritised your keywords into 3 buckets the most important keywords could go into your page title and page headers. Your second bucket could go into your page description and page content. The third bucket could go into your image tags. This is how you can use keywords in each HTML page - whether that page is a product for sale on your marketplace website or an information page with helpful content.
Google Analytics is a website analytics and reporting tool. It is free to use and gives you fantastic amounts of information on the kind of people who visited your site, their geographical location, time and date of visit, the keywords they used to reach your site and their behaviour on your site - what pages they visited, the duration of visit and where they dropped off.
Google Analytics is an invaluable tool if you are planning to do long-term search engine optimization. You can also use it to set up Google ad campaigns and bid on keywords used by your website visitors. People have two ways to get to your marketplace website via Google - eiher through 'organic' search results or through paid ads. Organic search engine optimization is a time-consuming, long-term exercise and you may feel that investing your time and money in Google Ads is better for driving traffic to your marketplace website.
In any case, you should get a Google Analytics account and use it on a regular basis. It is free to set up (you can set it up on your Blipteam marketplace with a few clicks). Google Analytics helps you monitor your web page keywords and tells you what new keywords your site visitors are using to get to your individual pages. You can then use this information to optimize your existing pages better and generate new pages that can help you target newer keywords and keyphrases.
Search engine optimization is all about content. Good content draws vistors to your website and keeps them there. Good content keeps people engaged on social media. Also, Google looks for good content that surrounds your keywords. Just stuffing keywords in your page title and keyphrases in your page descriptions will not fool the search engines. Google looks for good content when evaluating your web page and looks for signs like when a site visitor spends a good amount of time on your web page, consuming valuable content.
Your marketplace website is likely to have a variety of content on it. There will be the core 'product pages' or 'seller listings' that are the commercial part of your website. Often these will be quick pages - one or more product images, a listing name and a couple of lines of descriptive content, along with a price. This is where most of the seller activity will take place on your marketplace website.
Often, your sellers will want to make a quick sale and just enter the bare amount of information about a listing, with little regard for search engine optimization. Can't blame them, they are not reading up on SEO into the wee hours and anyway, as the marketplace owner, it is your job to generate website traffic. You can do this in two ways.
Have helpful content guidelines that encourage your sellers to enter SEO-friendly content while creating a listing. You can use learnings from this article and your own experience with running your marketplace website to figure out what kind of content works with your audience.
Besides your seller listings you can have a separate content section on your marketplace website where you can build a rich repository of content - FAQs, industry news, how-to-guides, ice-cream recipes, funny cat videos, crossword puzzles - whatever draws in end-customers. Keep adding to this repository and you may find over long term that customers visit your marketplace website for your content and spend money on listings as a peripheral activity. Learn more about the benefits of content marketing here >
Content generation is great for your SEO but a time-consuming task. There are a number of ways to find content for your marketplace website. You can write it all yourself or employ professionals with copywriting, marketing, journalism, or public relations backgrounds to create content for you. You can sometimes find digital marketing agencies who can help you map out a content marketing strategy and then you can use freelance professionals to create the actual content.
Even better would be to have your marketplace sellers and users generate this content. This works in the scenario where you have business sellers or repeat individual sellers on your marketplace website who can put some long-term efforts into creating content-rich sections within your marketplace website. This not only helps generate website traffic for your marketplace but helps draw customers to the listings put up by sellers who are more active with generating useful content.
You can lay down guidelines for user-generated content - maybe ask people to create videos or send in their favorite cake recipes or pictures of activities and relevant events. You will also need to make sure that all this content - whether social media or YouTube - gets linked back to listings on your domain name for it to be of real use to you.
Your first urge would be to go after all the top-level keywords for your industry. But there's probably a million competitors for 'cheap car parts'. Go after a sub section like 'clutch plates' or a geographical area like '4x4 Arizona' instead. Find words that have fewer competitors and then build your search engine optimization efforts, even your online marketplace business, around those keywords.
Remember, there's only 10 organic spots on Google Page #1 and everyone on the planet is after one of those spots. Getting ranked on page #3 for your favorite keyword is as good as getting ranked on page #30 - no one is going to reach your website. Ditto for paid search engine ads targeting the top keywords. Popular keywords can be expensive to bid on and you will just get outspent by everyone else.
At some point you may be tempted to create a new website or get a new domain name for an entirely new line of business. Or someone may convince you to create a new page on one of the many social media platforms out there. Each time you create a new web property you have to maintain it and keep content relevant and fresh on it. Concentrate on one web property instead - your marketplace website. Your main aim should be to draw all the web traffic in the world to this one domain name, and not get distracted by all the Facebooks and Linkedins out there.
Remember, this website belongs to you and your job is to make this property a valuable one. It is very easy to get bogged down in social media and external video channels but unless you can use them to send traffic to your marketplace you should just get off them. Concentrate on building one online brand and creating one big web property.
You need to be consistent and regular with your search engine optimization and content marketing efforts. You cannot simply carry out one big SEO exercise or generate 100 pages of content and forget about it. You will see your SEO graph climb up, reach a point and then start falling down soon after you give up publishing new content.
Try to put up a new post or a new chunk of content at least once a week. It is better to put up regular bits of content often, than to post huge amounts between long breaks. Being regular informs Google that your marketplace website is still relevant and regular activity signals a living web property to all search engines.
The best SEO boost you can get is to be featured or mentioned by other websites of significant repute. A feature or small mention on The Wall Street Journal could get your marketplace a few thousand hits overnight. But in the long-term such a backlink signals to Google that your marketplace is worth visiting and should be given a better ranking than your competitors.
Unfortunately, unless you have cracked some major achievement in the world of business, you are unlikely to get your fifteen minutes of fame on The WSJ. You may have better luck getting your marketplace business featured on smaller, local, digital tabloids, especially if you are doing something new or innovative or helping out your community in any special way.
Try to figure out ways in which you can make your business more interesting to others. Backlinks from reputable websites are the best way to increase your search engine rankings and figuring out ways to get them should be an inportant part of your long-term SEO strategy.