|Getting found in blended search creates new opportunities and challenges for retailers.
Online retailers face more competition than ever these days and, with the onset of blended or universal search, on-page optimization just won’t cut it anymore to get pages ranking at the top. Although site architecture is still important in your overall SEO strategy, today’s search results are filled with a variety of resources besides web pages.
For instance, take a look at a search for “The Monkees” on Google (hey, I’m a child of the 60s and I dig The Monkees!):
Notice the lack of traditional web pages in the results? You’ve got music results, news results, the ever-present Wikipedia result and a YouTube video with just a single web page above the fold. These are your blended results. News, images, videos, web pages, audio files feeds and blogs can now come up in search results. All of the major search engines are on the blended search bandwagon.
So, what is the first question you need to ask about your online retail site? Easy.
Will it blend?
Blended search is about different ways, actually, opportunities to get traffic to your site, not just about site architecture. As an example, an all Flash site would not be a good idea for a retail site. Spiders still can’t read Flash. However, add a blog and some feeds to that Flash site with images, good textual content, videos and so forth, and you’ll cover a lot of bases that your site would otherwise miss for coming up in blended search results.
Blended search gives you chances to pull traffic in ways other than your product page rankings. Your images, videos, books, news, feeds and audio files can get you traffic and back links from all types of places on the web.
So, where to get started?
1. HTML SEO basics are still important. Create quality content in all forms – textual, graphical and video. See my post S E O 101 for beginning optimization steps.
2. Videos help in search engine results. Multiple videos can actually show up in the top 10 rankings and have a high click rate.
3. Get social. Ratings, reviews and comments from social sites can show up in the top search engine results. Build relationships in sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.
4. Create a MySpace video page. As with #3 above, participate in the social scene.
5. Show them how. “How to…” searches are very popular. Create a video for your specialty or product and put it on your own site as well as on YouTube, Metacafe, Yahoo, etc.
6. Name your images and graphics. Use captions and ALT attributes when possible. Include brand, product, number, etc. See my post S E O 101: Image Optimization for more tips.
7. Always, always, always include a picture with your products. In addition to a higher click rate when an image is present, sometimes products won’t appear in feeds that pop up on various sites if they don’t have an image associated with them. Make your images available for Google Image Search (through Google Webmaster Central).
8. Feed them. Product feeds can be pulled from various sources all over the web. You want your products to be among them. Start out by uploading a feed to Google Base and MSN/Live Product Search. Both are free. Once you’re comfortable with the way product feeds work, try paid feeds like ShopZilla or Yahoo Shopping.
9. Match product titles in feeds with what is being searched for most often. For example, are there more searches for something general like “Ray Ban aviator” or are most queries for something more specific like “Ray Ban 3025” for your products?
10. Manage your seller ratings. Shopping feed distributors like ShopZilla.com and Dealtime.com include ways for customers to rank their experiences with companies selling through them. You want yours to be as high as possible as these ratings can be a factor in how high your products rank on these sites.
And, probably my top recommendation would be to remember that you are creating all of this for the consumer, not the search engines. Write for the user in an easy to read format that makes sense. Become a reference source for your products so that site visitors will refer to you, link to you and come back to you.
Search results are like a good milkshake. The better the blend, the better the result.
And who doesn’t like a good milkshake?