March 19, 2008, 12:00 AM

Sponsored Product SpotlightImproving the performance of natural search marketing

While natural search marketing is one of the most cost effective advertising tools available to retailers, merchants continue to miss the boat when it comes to optimizing the medium. About 90% of the 50 to 500,000 pages on a typical retailer’s site generate little or no traffic because they are under managed. Many very large retailers have reached the point of needing an automated process to maximize the opportunity for their brands to gain optimal visibility when consumers search for generic products, which they do 85% of the time. This in spite of the fact that many of these underperforming pages are landing pages designed specifically to drive site traffic and generate conversions.

“It is essential for retailers to have search engine optimization strategies that transform dormant pages into dynamic traffic and sales generators by making them more visible to the search engines and useful to the shopper,” says Brian Klais, vice president of search for Netconcepts, a Madison, Wis.-based natural search marketing agency and co-inventor of GravityStream 2.0, Netconcepts’ SaaS technology platform that powers the natural search channel. “The goal is to put all web pages to work.”

Automatic roll-out
Netconcepts` GravityStream 2.0 offers automated natural search technology and value added services tailored to help retailers drive online sales. GravityStream allows retailers to implement SEO strategies for test purposes and use algorithms to automatically roll them out across all designated pages. GravityStream also uses algorithms to scan page URLs, determine the optimal length, and make them keyword rich. Real time product pricing, availability of inventory, and shopping cart capabilities are preserved to ensure a dynamic landing page through which shoppers can initiate a purchase. Retailers can even complement long tail search strategies by indexing page images so they appear in search results. The top 3 major search engines have all recently integrated images into their universal search results.

The starting point for creating a comprehensive SEO strategy is to gain an understanding of the number of web pages that search engine spiders crawl, the percentage of those pages that the engines index, the percentage of indexed pages that generate traffic, and the rate of traffic that each page generates.

Obtaining these key performance indicators requires retailers to drill down into each metric so they can see what the search engine sees when it crawls their sites. Doing so allows a retailer to determine why a page is underperforming or not ranking highly in search results.

“The problem may lie with the title tag, page content, links contained within the page or the page URLs may be too long,” Klais says. “For retailers to grow their business through SEO they need to make a commitment to do so through technical data decision making and testing, and know what the best practices are to achieve their goals.”

For example, if a retailer has placed the brand in front of the product name in a title tag, which is common, search rankings may be improved by reversing the order of the information. Doing so is considered a best practice because the title tag has to stand on its own and clearly communicate the contents of the page to the search engine.

Fixing the missed opportunities
Nevertheless, retailers must thoroughly test best practices before they roll them out across their sites. “Retailers need to be sure any best practice is effective at achieving their own goals, whether it is increasing traffic, sales or brand awareness, before it is rolled out,” Klais says.

In addition to testing and best practices, retailers must also understand the cost to create new processes and the time to bring those processes to market. “There is not only a cost associated with development and implementation of new strategies, but the cost of missed opportunities if only a portion of those ideas are brought to market and it takes longer to do so than expected,” says Klais. “The size of the project and the time commitment to it has to be properly valued.”

“SEO is not just about making each page visible to the search engines, but about widening the funnel to get more pages generating natural search results that drive traffic and conversions,” says Klais.

For more information or to learn more about GravityStream™ Natural Search Advertising click here.
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