May 22, 2008, 12:00 AM

Why retailers’ optimization priorities change as shoppers approach purchase

Different pages of a site serve shoppers’ needs at different stages of the shopping process. Search optimization efforts should focus on shoppers who signal by their search terms that they are getting ready to buy, says search firm MoreVisibility.


Search engine optimization has an important place in online marketing, and the most important pages of an e-retail site to optimize for natural search are those that will appeal to consumers who signal by their search terms that they are getting ready to buy, according to search marketing firm MoreVisibility.


At the beginning of shoppers’ buying process, terms of broad relevance – “television,” for example – can be worth optimizing pages around, by category leaders and mostly for branding purposes , but even then only on a very limited basis, says Joe Laratro, chief technology officer at MoreVisibility.“These keywords can be powerhouses for traffic, but due to the range of intention among shoppers searching these terms, much of the traffic they generate may be untargeted or irrelevant,” he says. It’s also difficult to achieve high ranking on these broad terms. As a result, e-retailers should be very selective in optimizing pages around these keywords, he says.


Searches on what Laratro characterizes as “shopping keywords” are a clue that searchers are closer to a purchase. “Plasma television” would be an example, and since that phrase is more specific achieving a high ranking on is somewhat less competitive. As good sources of more qualified traffic, these keywords are worth optimizing pages for. Retailers often overlook opportunities to optimize mid-level pages, such as category pages, around these terms, Laratro adds.


Laratro compares optimizing pages for the “buying keywords” shoppers typically search for when they’re ready to purchase to picking off low-hanging fruit. Product pages should definitely be optimized around these very specific keywords – “50-inch plasma TV in Denver, CO,” for instance. “Searchers using these types of queries have completed their research and know exactly what they are looking for and are ready to buy,” he says.


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