In the SEO biz, which is as heavily laden with acronyms as any of its other modern industry counterparts, Marketplace Optimization, or MpO, is something that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. I feel that it is important to distinguish it from the day-to-day work professionals undertake in other areas of our discipline, both because it is a unique beast and because relatively little has been written about it. As eCommerce strategies invariably involve product inclusion on a variety of online platforms, and the number and sophistication of them continue to grow, the need for a separate body of literature and best practices in this area is more evident than ever. This effort should be undertaken despite any commercial gain that stands to be made, which is a shortcoming of the existing information available on the subject. The great product diaspora is underway, and we need a common language in order to discuss how best to market ourselves accordingly.
One of the most important first steps you can take to optimize your online selling is to understand the nature of the platform you are selling on. There are online marketplaces, niche sites, social shops and comparison shopping sites which all stand in addition to your existing onsite solution. Each site has its own set of rules that you must play by, and while there are some similarities, there are a host of differences as well, especially where stylistics are concerned. Consider, for example, the differences in the shopping experience for the end user on eBay compared to Amazon. To add to the problem, it is often a possibility for one to find the same set of products from the same merchant on both platforms, often with inconsistencies in pricing, availability, description, or other crucial information that informs the buying decision.
One thing is certain though, and that is that key decision makers are ever-concerned with obtaining a placement in the coveted “buy box”, an achievement akin to ranking above the fold in the first page of the SERPs for organic search. A growing number of businesses are entrusting specialists in order to obtain the results they require, especially because of the difficulty in managing a body of products across so many channels. Like search, each site has its own signals used to rank products and merchants in order to sort the wheat from the chaff and place the most trusted and relevant seller’s merchandise in priority positions. Also like search, MpO practitioners have only a generalized understanding of the specific signals being used, although in these instances they are occasionally more arcane and proprietary.
There are a couple of existing resources on the web that discuss MpO in very general terms, and some even promise to deliver results with their software tools. However, I believe that to do so would be akin to hoping for good results by buying links to your site. In effect, businesses will build trust with consumers over time only by providing quality products, having reasonable pricing and shipping models compared to competitors, low return rates, high ratings and reviews (often painstakingly obtained because of the “good-experience” paradox whereby satisfied customers have nothing immediate to say to the merchant) and a solid inventory of their products on a consistent basis. As previously stated, any of these factors may be weighted differently depending on the site being discussed.
In light of all of this variance, it is highly important that analytics and sales-related data guide decisions on each platform. Integration with a number of tools (like Google Analytics or other enterprise-level solutions) is sometimes possible in addition to the proprietary data provided in seller centers. The take-away for those who are thinking about including their products on marketplaces should be that consistency is king. The uniform representation of our products and our brand regardless of platform is quintessential to building trust with consumers, augmenting our reputation as online sellers, and growing brand affinity.