October 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Attack of the Spiders

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In addition, the retailer launched Advisor.ToolKing.com, an informational content site that provides product details, pricing and operating advice through 76 buying guides for products ranging from air-powered polishers to welding equipment. The site-which eventually will have 325 buying guides-also provides direct links to ToolKing.com to enable visitors to buy a product they’re researching.

“We’re seeing a 5% to 8% increase in volume coming directly from the search engines since we’ve had these pages up,” Cohen says. “And we’re expecting a lot more.”

Beyond categories
Retailers should look beyond categories, though, when attempting to increase the visibility of keywords, Wingo contends. They also should add detailed, multi-phrase terms on the site. “Pioneer Elite 200 is a really specific, product oriented-term that you’re not going to get a ton of searches on,” he says. “But if you get somebody that searches on that, they’re obviously pretty interested in that particular model TV.”

Although Ice.com and Took King have taken different approaches, the results are essentially the same. They’ve designed their sites to give keywords a higher profile to search engines. Central to such a strategy is understanding what the search engine giants like Google and Yahoo consider relevant, says Michael Jones, vice president of marketing and business development at ChannelAdvisor.

This means understanding things like having to ensure important categories and products are on the retailer’s home page where they are highly visible to webcrawlers, Jones says. Site content also needs to be relevant to the product, he adds.

Further, retailers might consider incorporating the product they sell into their URL. “If you do a search on strollers, you’ll find that Strollers.com is No. 1 and JustStrollers.com is No. 2 or No. 3,” Jones says. “A lot of that has to do with how Google thinks; there’s some heavy weight based on what’s in a URL.”

When it comes to effective keywords, one way of developing productive ones is to watch what terms are used most often by people searching for specific products on a comparison shopping engine or marketplace like eBay. In fact, both Google and Yahoo offer services to help paid search clients get the most out of their search marketing campaigns.

Google analyzes a retailer’s site by category, product and SKU to help them determine which keywords are working and which aren’t, says John McAteer, the search engine’s director of retail for vertical market growth. In some cases, categories are receiving little or no coverage in the Google system, “obviously red flags if you’re trying to maximize the revenue you’re getting and your products are in our system,” he says.

Based on such analysis, Google works with retailers to develop new keywords based on their product SKUs. Google also provides free analytics to help retailers make sure their keywords are efficient and providing a good return on investment, McAteer says. “That helps with landing page optimization and helps with knowing which keywords are working and which are not,” he says.

Google also recently began testing a new tool, Google Website Optimizer, which enables retailers to deduce which combination of headlines, copy and images produce the best results. “It’s really an extension of our analytics package-we want to make sure the right keyword lands on the right page and has the right outcome for the advertiser,” McAteer says. “Most savvy marketers understand that minor tweaks to a web site can make huge differences.”

Yahoo is launching a new ad platform that will enable retailers in its paid search program to test multiple ads against a keyword, says Diane Rinaldo, senior director of retail categories for Yahoo Search Marketing. “You can put two or five or 10 different pages up there and ask the tool to auto-optimize-pick the best performing one and turn the others off, if you choose,” she says.

Additionally, Yahoo provides seasonal keyword guides that enable retailers to select the words most likely to produce the best results at different times of the year, Rinaldo says. For example, near Mother’s Day, keywords such as “Mother’s Day gift” or “gift for wife” would produce the best results. “We have lists of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of seasonal keywords,” she says.

For retailers using natural search, Yahoo’s Search Submit program incorporates data feeds from a merchant into its index. “The index will determine which of the retailer’s pages should show up on different keyword searches,” Rinaldo says. “We’re not relying on the webcrawler to go out there and find all of those pages.” Retailers pay a fixed cost per click for the Search Submit program, with the fee based on category.

To be sure, there is no shortage of strategies for improving natural search results. Cohen notes that Tool King plans to find new ways to build on its success with re-categorizing the web site. “The goal was to be indexed on the search engines, and we’ve achieved that,” he says. “Now the goal is to have our products get a higher ranking.”

linda@verticalwebmedia.com

Click Here for the Internet Retailer Guide to Search Engine Marketing Products & Services

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