Are you making one of the most common mistakes made by small businesses selling products?
For every ten searches at the major search engines, a search occurs on either of:
· Craigslist: 689M – billions of page views a month. Alexa ranks Craigslist as the world’s most popular Website. Not to be ignored!
· eBay: 647M – not just an auction site, eBay hosts thousands of stores many of which sell fixed price goods in addition to taking part in auctions. eBay is part of the overall marketing strategy of many different companies
· Amazon: 280M – look at Sell your Stuff, Fulfillment by Amazon and Webstore by Amazon links.
Most searches at the major search engines are not for products- they tend to be searches for education related purposes, or news, politics, celebrity… Moreover, most searches at product retailers and many searches at classified-ad sites are for products.
Why is this important?
If you have spent an arm and a leg (and maybe a head) to optimise your site for the organic search indexes you may still find that most of the search results which are presented to your prospective customers do not come from the organic-search indexes but from Amazon’s index, or Craigslist’s or eBay’s or even one of the major search engine’s product search indexes.
Most people looking for products will not find your site. They will go through product sites. Amazon gets 280 million searches a month or more, and some of those are for products you sell; you will not get the sale unless you are working with Amazon. There are other sites of course besides Amazon and eBay, the usual suspects. For example you could try Overstock.com which gets tens of millions of visitors each month. Perhaps investigate selling your products in its catalogue or set up an account to sell through its Auction site. There is also Half.com which is an eBay-owned, fixed-price retail site.
Hopefully the above reality check will convince you to consider the product indexes for your own products.
How to proceed
Most of these directories will charge for listings, however not all will. For example Google’s is free. The ones which do charge will only charge you when someone clicks a link to come to your site, or even when a sale is made so it really is worth having a look at these too… The other advantage of being in these product indexes are that they often turn up in regular search results. The main search engines will integrate their own product index results into their organic-search results as you would expect, but they also do index Craigslist, eBay and Amazon and more too. So effectively you get another chance to rank well in the organic search results! There are three main types of indexes:
· Single product indexes: You simply list your products in the index. When your products pop up, hopefully the searcher will click through to your site
· E-commerce sites: With these you are effectively putting your products into someone else’s shop. It may not be obvious to your buyers that they are buying from a third party either!
· Classified-ad sites: With these, you simply post ads periodically about your products with links back to your site. There are quite a few of these sites but they pale in significance next to Craigslist.
Google Product Search:http://www.google.com/intl/en/products/submit.html
Google’s product directory requires the following information:
- product_url : a link to the product page on your website
- name: the name of the product
- description: a description of the product
- image_url a link to the image file containing a picture of the product
- price: the cost of the product
- category: the category in which you want to place the product
- offer_id: a product number stock number or ISBN
Yahoo! Shopping & www.pricegrabber.co.uk
Bing Shopping: http://advertising.microsoft.com/small-business/search-advertising/bing-shopping
The Find: www.thefind.com
Most of these systems will expect you to pay. There are three types of systems to look out for:
· Free: You have no direct control over your position however you do not have to pay for any traffic that you get from the site. An example is Google Product Search, Shopmania is another and TheFind is free for basic listings.
· Cost per click: fixed fee: An example is Yahoo! Shopping. You do not have any control over your positioning again because there is no bidding and you pay a fixed fee per click.
· Cost per click with bidding: Here you bid on the position you want. Those who bid the most get front page listing.
These are the indexes which are maintained by e-commerce or merchant sites that will allow third parties to sell products through their stores, the two most important ones are Amazon and eBay.
With the auction sites, you simply sell your products at an auction and handle the transactions yourself. With the retail sites, your product is placed into a directory and if anyone purchases, the retail site will handle the transaction process, and send you the information so that you can ship the product and then later on you will be sent the money less any commission.
Classified Ad sites
Craigslist receives over 20 billion page views a month. You post your products in the listings, with links back to your site. These links are no follow however so they will not help you from a search engine stand point but they get so much traffic to them it would be silly to ignore them. Indeed, many businesses promote their products and services very successfully through classified-ad sites; in particular Craigslist and BackPage.com.
And finally… Google Maps/ Places
97% of consumers search for local businesses on the web and Google Places for business is a free local platform for you. You have the ability to add video and pictures; if you have more than 10 locations yo can submit a data file. You can post "live" to your business listing too: messages for example about special promotions, new products etc. Make sure your listing has the following information:
- Your street address
- Your phone and fax numbers
- Your website url
- A description of your business
- Your payment methods and memberships eg SafeBuy
- Your operating hours
- How long you have been in business
- Brands you sell
It is a good idea to add as much text with your keywords; product and brand names , photos and videos. If you use video you will need to upload it onto YouTube first then embed it into your listings. Adding your keywords to your listing helps your listing become a match for more possible search phrases. If you want to attract extra attention to your listing, you can pay for a Google Tag- little yellow tags on the map under your listing. Clicking on the link can lead to your images and offers etc.
In addition to listing on Google Maps, you may also want to consider giving your business an extra push by using more local directory listings, from other business directories. Examples include Qype.co.uk; freeindex.co.uk or try directory.co.uk/local_area. In a nutshell, go after links, and ensure they have good location keywords in them; eg Kensington bespoke stationery etc.
You will be required to verify your information-this is a simple process usually by phone.
Photo credit Danard Vincente
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