SEO is critical to drive
online store visitors.
Retailers are well aware of the importance of search engine optimization. Whether customers are conducting queries through their smartphones or executing searches from their laptops at home, many retail purchases begin with a simple search on Google. People may be looking for a nearby location, a deal on a specific product or could simply be conducting research - all of these activities frequently start with a search.
However, if you ask many retailers about the basics of search engine optimization, they often discuss keywords and content generation. While these two facets are indeed critical to successful SEO, they are only one half of the equation. The other half is leveraging links, and if retailers do not pay special attention to their ability to generate incoming links, they may find it difficult to get people to come into their online stores.
The power of the link
As Practical eCommerce noted, links act as a sort of voucher on search engines
. The more links a retail website has pointing to it, they more credible it becomes. This is particularly the case when it comes to big-name websites - this further enhances the credibility and the value of the link.
"Google was founded on this concept of links indicating value," the news source explained. "In addition to the relevance signals that other engines used in their algorithms, Google added PageRank, a method of calculating ranking value similar to the way that citations in the scientific community can indicate the value of a piece of research."
Unfortunately, Google's heavy reliance on links as one of the big contributors to search engine rankings resulted in many businesses trying to game the system through artificial methods of increasing incoming links. Some merchants would purchase links or get irrelevant websites to link to them.
As such, it can often be difficult to know for sure whether merchants are getting high-quality links to their websites. The presence of keyword stuffing or an abundance of ads can also reduce the quality of the incoming link, so merchants need to be sure they are carefully vetting all the links they are trying to acquire.
"In the absence of hard data to measure link and site quality in a scalable way, search engine optimization professionals can use a variety of data sources that may correlate with poor site quality," Practical eCommerce asserted. "Examining those data sources together can identify which sites are likely to cause link quality issues for your site's link profile."
Carefully leveraging SEO in an ethical fashion
For retailers, the desire to be No. 1 on the search engine results page is completely understandable - these sites often generate the most traffic, which in turn may lead to more sales. The temptation to use unethical SEO practices is very real, and one report from the New York Times even found big-name retail brands such as J.C. Penney using these underhanded tactics.
However, getting caught may negatively affect the merchant's search engine rankings or could even get a retailer blacklisted from Google. This could be disastrous, particularly with the 2014 holiday shopping season on the horizon - losing access to search engine traffic could result in a drop in online store visitors.
Just remember that search engines want to promote quality content and websites. As long as merchants are producing legitimate, high-quality content that serves their customers, they will not have to be too concerned about search engine traffic. Retailers should not look to game the system.