Search Engine Optimization for eBay Stores
By Trevor Ginn
Despite 50 percent of online purchases being researched via a search engine, most eBay sellers ignore the potential of search engines to drive traffic to their listings. By optimizing your eBay Store, your products could improve their rankings in the search results on major search engines and boost your sales.
High rankings can drive huge amounts of traffic to your products, and even with limited resources, it is still possible to apply techniques that will increase the rankings of your eBay Store and listings.
How Search Engines Work
When looking for a product, a customer visits a search engine and enters a search term or keyword, for which the search engine produces a list of results that it considers most relevant. It is by understanding how this list of results is produced that your eBay page can be optimized. The ranking of a web page for a keyword depends on three things:
- The position and frequency of the keyword on the web page: When producing results for a search term, search engines will rank your pages based on the keywords they contain and their prominence on the page.
- The content of the page's HTML tags: The search engine also looks at the content of the title and meta tags of the page's HTML code. Humans don't read "meta tags" - they are included on a web page to help search engines understand what the page is about, so having good meta tags that describe your website pages is important. An article from Search Engine Watch explains how to use meta tags if you want to dig into this topic in more depth (http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2167931).
- The links going to that web page: Search engines consider an inbound link as a vote of popularity. Google, for example, gives each web page a score of 1 to 10 (called a PageRank) depending on the number and origin of inbound links. For a given search, the page with the higher PageRank will appear higher in the list of search results. Here's how Google explains its PageRank technology (http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html).
When listing on eBay you have direct control over the content - and hence the keywords - you include. However, you can only access the page meta tags indirectly, through configuring your Store and listings.
Step 1: Choose Your Keywords
The first stage of search engine optimization is to choose effective keywords. To select keywords, put yourself in the shoes of your customers and consider what keywords you would enter if you were looking for your products online.
eBay Store traffic reports are useful as they contain the search terms that users are entering in order to find your listings (http://pages.ebay.com/help/specialtysites/traffic-reporting-basics.html). Note that eBay Stores are called Shops in the UK.
You can also use Yahoo's keyword tool (http://inventory.overture.com) for popular web search keywords and eBay Pulse (http://pulse.ebay.com) to find popular eBay searches. Choose more general keywords for your eBay Store, and choose product-specific keywords for your individual listings.
For example a PDA seller might choose Palm, Handheld and PDA as keywords for their Store. For the listings they also use the keywords referring to the item model number and features.
Step 2: Optimize Your eBay Presence
Repeating a keyword in a number of different places such as your Store URL, title and item description will increase the search engine's perception of how relevant your web page is to a particular keyword. However, be careful not to go overboard - "keyword spamming" is penalized by the search engines. Your description should also be clear and readable.
Choose Your eBay Store Name
Your Store name appears in your eBay Store's URL and ideally it should contain your most important keywords. For example, a bike Store seller might choose "Mountain-Bikes-UK," which would give a Store the URL http://stores.ebay.co.uk/mountain-bikes-uk.
Optimize All Store Pages
The title you give your product is very important, as it also appears in the "title" tag of the listing web page, so you should include your search engine keywords.
Your product descriptions should also include your keywords. Search engines attach the most importance to words in titles and bolded words, so ensure that you have placed you keywords prominently. For example a good item title would be Palm T3 Handheld PDA New Boxed rather than Palm T3 New Boxed as the latter can not be found for searches for PDA or handheld.
You should also create custom pages for your eBay Store. Custom pages are a set of unique pages you can create or edit for your Store to help showcase items and special promotions, describe the history of your business, etc. (http://pages.ebay.com/help/stores/contextual/managing-custom-pages.html). Be sure and include effective keywords on your custom pages too.
Every seller should have an About Me page, and this is another good place to include your keywords and links to your eBay Store (http://pages.ebay.com/help/account/about-me.html).
eBay now has a new feature called eBay My World that goes one step beyond About Me pages (http://pages.ebay.com/help/account/ebay-myworld-ov.html).
Optimize Your eBay ID
eBay includes your User ID in the "title" tag of your About Me page and feedback pages. Your eBay User ID should reflect something about the product you sell, preferably including your most important keyword. Try and choose a memorable and individual eBay ID, as this will help customers find your eBay presence by searching. For example an eBay name like "PDA-Wonderland" will be easier to find in Google than "Online-Deals."
Optimize Your eBay Store Keywords
In the "Manage my Store" area, eBay enables the selection of search engine keywords. These keywords appear in the "title" tag for your Store pages, and so it is important that you specify relevant keywords for each page. Also make sure to include your keywords in your Store's description, as this appears in the description meta tag of your eBay Store pages.
Reviews and Guides
eBay Reviews and Guides (http://reviews.ebay.com) are a great way of driving traffic to your listings, from both inside and outside eBay. Articles you write for eBay's Reviews and Guides containing your chosen keywords and linked to your eBay Store have the potential to drive traffic to your listings.
Use Search Tags on Your Content Pages
eBay recommends using "search tags" in your content pages, such as eBay My World, Blogs and Reviews & Guides. Search tags identify topics and concepts in your content. "So if you wrote about Pez dispensers in your blog, you could use tags like "Pez," "dispensers" and "collectibles" to increase your visibility in search results" (http://pages.ebay.com/help/account/search-tags.html).
Step 3: Build Links to Stores and Listings
To improve the search-engine ranking of your eBay Store, create as many links to your eBay Store as possible. Encourage your business partners to link to your eBay Store. Enter your Store into online directories such as Listmystore.com (http://www.listmystore.com). Do not ignore the potential of links within eBay to boost your ranking - always link to your eBay Store from your listings and also from all of your guides or reviews.
Step 4: Track Your Performance
Once your have optimized your eBay presence, it is important to constantly track your performance and make improvements. All eBay Store sellers have access to traffic reports that allow you to see the keywords used to find your listings and the search engines that driving traffic to your Store (http://pages.ebay.com/help/specialtysites/traffic-reporting-basics.html). If you wish to see more in depth statistics, use Sellathon (http://www.sellathon.com), which can give you the traffic data for individual listings and pages.
eBay has set up a section that describes the basics of optimizing your eBay Store for search engines (http://pages.ebay.com/education/SEO-introduction/index.html). Use eBay's tips along with this article to optimize your Store. If your products show up in shopper's search results on Google, Yahoo and other search engines, it's bound to help increase your sales.
About the author:
Trevor Ginn is principal at Internet consultancy VendLab and also runs his own online eCommerce business - Hello Baby. Previously Trevor worked as Head of Consulting at Auctioning4u, the UK's largest eBay drop off shop. Trevor's eBay blog, eBay, ecommerce, life can be found at http://www.trevorginn.com.
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