June 16, 2009, 12:00 AM

How to get noticed by search engines the natural way

Proper tagging of web pages can boost rankings, says Marissa Colwell, director of media at ImprovementDirect.com.

Title tags are the most important keywords on an e-commerce web site`s landing pages and e-retailers should create unique titles for each one. The titles should describe the pages content and should not be default titles such as "Untitled" or "Page 1," says Marissa Colwell, director of media at ImprovementDirect.com, a web retailer specializing in home improvement products that operates web sites such as FaucetDirect.com.

Colwell urged e-retailers to buckle down and do the necessary but often tedious keyword research and selection because they are the foundation of the search engine optimization process. "When in doubt about where to begin, check out what your competitors are doing," she said. "Don`t just guess, do the research." Her comments came during a session on the many ways to improve natural search rankings at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2009 in Boston yesterday.

Web retailers also can position their sites to better attract the attention of search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp.`s new Bing, by including keywords in blogs, articles and product descriptions. "Building content is a great way to develop ranking and is a great value to customers," Colwell told attendees. "Remember, you are developing content for customers, not search engines."

The increasing use of images on web sites also provides an opportunity to use descriptive file names and text. But developers should strive for more details than such standards as "Image 1" and "jpg", she added. Colwell also recommended storing images in a unique directory to assist search engines in locating them.

Another way to improve search page rankings is to submit product information to Google Shopping`s free price comparison engine, said Dennis Consorte, chief marketing officer at ECommercePartners.net, a web site development and marketing company. He urged attendees to take advantage of Google Shopping because it`s a free source of highly converting traffic with relatively little competition, Consorte said.

In submitting their products to Google Shopping e-retailers should take advantage of all required fields with descriptive product and market-related keyword content, use optional attributes including size and color, and keep submissions accurate and up to date by submitting them every 30 days, he advised.

Another sometimes untapped resource for improving search rankings is to "expose yourself locally," Consorte said. Local web optimization is a means for getting maximum exposure to consumers in areas where retailers also have physical stores or outlets. "It`s a great way to capture a local audience and drive foot traffic," Consorte said. "Local listings are everywhere."

For example, Google places local listings from such sites as SuperPages.com, YellowPages.com, CitySearch.com and Yahoo Local in its natural search results. He recommended that e-retailers always include their address and phone number on their home page and include a Contact Us page on the site. Web merchants should avoid submitting multiple sites with the same contact information and steer clear of multiple company listings with the same address.

Retailers should practice search engine optimization "relentlessly" by including keywords everywhere possible, including in blogs, video and news releases, said Duncan White, director of client services at Oneupweb, a search marketing company. As an example of digital asset optimization, White noted 1-800-Flowers.com`s use of a pre-Mother`s Day video demonstrating "how to arrange roses" and that the key words in the phrase came up in the top four positions of Google natural search.

A press release posted on PR Web Newswire in early May in the run-up to Mother`s Day gift-giving featured the launch of HeartsFolly.com, a sentimental gifts web site. The timing and use of the keyword phrase helped the web merchant gain the third and fourth positions in a Google search, White said.

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