February 15, 2012, 1:24 PM

IRWD 2012: Speaking consumers’ language can boost search results

Search experts urge retailers to rely on phrases often used by online shoppers.

Lead Photo

SEO expert Stephan Spencer at IRWD 2012.

Great web design won’t help e-retailers much if their e-commerce sites aren’t noticed by search engines. That’s why a pair of speakers this week at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference and Exhibition 2012 in Orlando, FL, gave tips about how retailers can boost their standings in natural search results and bring more shoppers to their sites.

Stephan Spencer, a search engine optimization consultant and author of “The Art of SEO,” urged e-retailers to study and use the words and phrases that consumers employ when seeking product and purchase information on Google and other search engines. That means retailers should avoid jargon favored by industry types—that is, inside baseball stuff—and populate their sites with terms favored by shoppers—for instance, “blenders” or “food processor” instead of “kitchen electronics,” or “hoodie” instead of “hooded sweatshirt.”

Spencer also advised retailers to include on their sites information that consumers are seeking, which can encourage more traffic, and linking, to e-commerce sites. Those inbound links help persuade search engines that a site has credibility, potentially boosting its search rankings. For instance, an e-retailer selling baby products might include on the site a section of popular or overused baby names, information that could draw in parents who then could become shoppers, he said. Plus, bloggers linking to that section of the site could boost the retailer’s ranking in organic search results.

Tim Elam, vice president and chief technology officer of party supplies retailer BirthdayDirect.com, who presented with Spencer, said web merchants need to figure out ways to encourage other sites to link to the retailer’s site. “You need link bait,” he said, citing infographics, which are graphic visual representations of information. “And you need to seed it into social media.”

Among the common mistakes made by retailers—errors that can hurt search rankings—are using product names and descriptions that come directly from manufacturers. After all, Elam said, competitors might use the same terms, rendering a retailer’s site less unique in the eyes of the search engine. “Don’t use industry-speak for business-to-consumer sites,” he said.


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