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Changes in Search Engine Optimization and Marketing

Search engines continue to be a critical part of any eCommerce strategy. While social media may have taken some of the thunder away from search engines for brand awareness and recognition, the majority of people looking to buy online still use search engines for product discovery.

Over a year ago we sat down with our resident search engine expert, Neil Lemons, and discussed how search engine marketing worked with eCommerce. This time we’re sitting down with Neil again to discuss some of the major trends and changes in search engine optimization and marketing:

What are some things retailers overlook from time to time in regards to optimizing their site to make it friendly for search engines?

Retailers often miss out on opportunities to attract key backlinks and huge traffic opportunities by not having an ongoing content creation and content marketing strategy. Content is currency on the Internet, but not all content has the same value as far as SEO goes.

Product descriptions are only one content type. Product category content is another type which is often left out that helps to classify the content. Furthermore, a “knowledge-base” section of a site (such as a blog) with sharable text-based articles can be a major driver of site traffic.

A blog may not be the newest and hippest thing, but it’s still one of the strongest platforms for improving SEO on a long term basis. Rich and relevant blog posts can attract traffic to sites for years and also offers short term traffic bumps from social media shares. The essential key of blogging is to create truly sharable, high-value content – a blog has to be much more than a company news and press release publishing area. Having a well-developed blog can be one of the best ways to naturally attract links, social media shares (which garners site authority), and consistently create fresh content – all of which are pertinent to SEO.  


Recently the U.S. Senate asked Google and Bing to crack down on “black-hat” search engine tactics. How are these affecting the industry as the stakes of search and marketing budgets increase?

Even though the government is now getting involved, the fight against “black-hat” SEO is actually not new. For the last 14 years, Google and other search engines have been doing their best to close loopholes by making yearly, monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily updates and tweaks to their search algorithms (which determine how search engines rank websites).

With the two recent major algorithmic updates (Penguin and Panda), Google has made it less impactful to use one tried and true SEO tactic: creating keyword-specific backlinks. Without the government telling them to do this, it’s always been in the best interest of Google, Bing, and Yahoo to guard against “black-hat” practices to enhance the user experience. The user experience made Google an industry leader and it’s a fact that SEO becomes harder and harder every year; however it is still extremely important.

Regarding budgets, retailers needing SEO services have moved to companies and specialists that take a more content-driven approach because that’s what works. This approach is the way the search engines want you to boost your organic search rankings. Even though a content-driven approach can be more expensive and require more planning, it also commands more respect and works with search engines for the long term.


Display ad purchases on search engines are at an all-time high. Is there ever a point when an online retailer should not invest in search engine marketing? How can you tell exactly when you maximize your SEM investment?

Similar to stocks in a portfolio, when it comes to paid search you will have over-performing and under-performing keywords/ads and campaigns in general. As long as you are diversified and operating in the black, the sky is the limit when it comes to overall investment.

However, just increasing your overall spend does not necessarily increase your revenue. A specific strategy is needed and time is a factor in gradually increasing and optimizing campaigns. The search budget should “level up” as specific campaigns continue to make excellent returns, either by increasing the total budget or by utilizing budget from another campaign which is not performing as well.

It does not make sense to use paid search or SEM if a retailer’s profit margin or average order value is extremely small. If the cost in clicks it takes to acquire one customer is more than the average order value (due to highly competitive keywords or other factors) then it does not make sense to use SEM.


What trends do you see becoming popular in the search industry in the next 12 months?

From an organic search perspective when retailers learn more about the importance of content we will see an even larger boom in an initial content strategy and ongoing content creation. SEO without a content plan and the support of social media should and will become a relic of the past. For SEM, Google AdWords will continue to have more aggressive eye-catching tactics (such as last year’s sitelinks and email capture field), which may lead to increased text ad blindness. Google+ is still a bit of a “wild card” and could become essential to search strategies depending on how it is integrated with search results moving forward.

Thanks Neil for the great insight. It’s becoming clear that for SEO, content is king and certainly isn’t giving up the throne anytime soon. For SEM it’s important to diversify keyword and ad selections and monitor campaigns closely to get the most out of the money invested.

The relationship between search engines and eCommerce is complex and always changing, primarily on the side of search engines. It’s important for online retailers to keep up with these changes as they can affect search rankings and ad positions which can directly impact the number of orders a site receives.