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Happy eCommerce Holidays: Customer Reviews, Blogs and Original Content Create Snowballing Sales and SEO Success

November 12th, 2008 | | Basic SEO Tips, Social Media & SEO

‘Tis the season to go shopping online! By mid-November, many ecommerce marketers are looking at the downhill ride of the year—and no, I promise I don’t mean sales declines. You’ve prepped, planned and plotted all year for this. All your planning is about to be put into action and now is the time that many ecommerce marketers sit back and watch what happens. Certainly nothing is dismissed or ignored, but you’ve done most everything that can be done and now you have to trust your online marketing strategies and tactics to be successful. Don’t feel guilty, it’s okay to relax and breathe a little.  Q1 planning is done (you wouldn’t put that one off until now), media buys are made, PPC ads are ready to roll, campaigns and promotions have been in place for months, and you’ll think about next holiday season when the results from 2008 are in—what else could you be doing?

How about a little holiday SEO—for 2009! Taking a cue from our comrades at PPC Hero and their week-long holiday shopping expose, I’d like to add a few planning tips from the SEO perspective.

SEO and PPC have always been the perfect pair. With PPC, you have extreme flexibility, the ability to respond to the market quickly with new offers and promotions, and the luxury of adjusting and tweaking your message and strategy on the fly. You can see the results quickly, and concretely. SEO, on the other hand, is a slower and studied process. Your research is key because implementation of SEO is complex and nuanced. Instead of a quick and concrete payout, you get slow and steady growth in search results. Success is measured over weeks and months, not hours and minutes. You need to plan and implement ahead with SEO. But, growth and success is constantly building—and practically limitless with the right monitoring and tweaking along the way. What does this all mean? Your work starts now for next holiday season’s SEO strategies, but the sooner you start, the better your results!

So, take these next weeks and start organizing—even implementing—your 2009 holiday shopping season SEO plan. As with any SEO strategy, it’s really all about developing and organizing relevant content, in this case, content that searchers are seeking when they begin their holiday shopping. To get you started, consider trying one of these content-building options that can garner additional search results and boost search rankings for you now and add in-demand content for holiday SEO 2009:

Let Customers Create Content With Consumer Reviews:

Implementing a consumer ratings and reviews system for an ecommerce website is an investment, but one to seriously consider when you look at all of the benefits. Most major retailers are offering visitors the option to review products, and the platform has become so popular that it’s interactive qualities and viral, word-of-mouth appeal served as a springboard for a whole new online shopping industry—social shopping.

Consumers trust peer reviews and ratings. Seventy-six percent of customers use online reviews when making purchases. They allow your customers to improve your SEO for you by creating original, relevant content for your website that consumers are searching for and search engine spiders are crawling. By engaging customers, you’ll see repeat visitors increase and build a competitive advantage online. Finally, you build trust with consumers which will lead to loyal, long term customers. Take a look at Ratings and Reviews Engage Your Visitors, which provides a short list of options for ratings and review software.

Here are three things to remember as you get started. First, be honest. You’re building trust and confidence in your business here, not just content. Customer reviews can be critical, so be prepared to accept and allow both the positive and the negative. Use the negative comments or reviews as an opportunity for a dialogue with your customers and a chance to improve your business. And, if you plan to edit reviews, pick and choose those that are posted, or remove reviews, make that clear—obscuring that in any way will undo all your efforts.

Second, start early. The earlier you implement a consumer review system, the more quality content you can build come next holiday season. To steer customers to write reviews on some of your popular holiday products, offer incentives to write reviews (discounts, coupons, etc.). This strategy can help boost sales of particular products during the off-season and build valuable content for your holiday SEO.<

Finally, don’t just set this and forget it. There is so much you can do with these reviews! Feature the most recent or a really good review prominently on the product page or, add a review about great service to your homepage. Monitor negative reviews for patterns or consistently appearing issues—these can help you detect issues and fix problems before they become overwhelming.

Talk to Buyers with Product or Category Specific Blogs:

So maybe you’re not ready to make the investment in a ratings and review platform, or you’re looking for something a little more interactive for your particular customers. For similar benefits, albeit on a smaller but more personal scale, consider creating product or product-category specific blogs to link to your website and promote consumer discussion, input and feedback. For example, if you’re an online furniture retailer, consider creating a blog about choosing the right sofa for your space. You can post descriptions of new products, articles and advice about how to find the right couch for a small space, and tell customers about all of the fabric options your store is offering. Elicit discussion by asking customers and visitors to submit their own tips or advice. Go one step further and post visitor’s pictures of their new or favorite couch and provide links to that or similar products available from your online store!

It may require more legwork on your end, and it could be difficult to create the volume of user-generated content that is possible with a rating and review platform, but with blogs you do have options that go far beyond the capabilities of consumer reviews. First, you can interact with consumers easily, develop a relationship and put a face to your business. Second, you can get lead the conversation and ask questions of consumers rather than just evaluate responses. Third, you can go beyond the products and learn about consumer reactions to your service, your website and your reputation—priceless information that can cost thousands in traditional market research! Finally, you can attract visitors with fun content like video and images, offer promotions and coupons—there are so many creative options with a blog.

By the holiday season of 2009, you can already have built significant content, attracted a regular readership and have tested promotions with your product-related blog. And, if you can devote the time to upkeep, why not create more than one—and concentrate on product categories that fit your holiday shoppers—video games, home décor, clothing, whatever your customers are buying!

Two things to remember when considering product category blogs for your holiday SEO: First, a lot of time and creativity goes into these. From writing posts, developing content ideas and responding to consumer feedback to monitoring comments and tracking success, make sure you have the manpower and time to devote to this. If you can’t spend the time, you won’t see the benefit—consider this carefully. Second, as with consumer ratings, you need to get started now to build content throughout the year. You want lots of content for search engine spiders come the 2009 holiday season, and you want a loyal readership base for your blogs to maximize the success of promotions you might run through the blog. Don’t put this one off.

So, whichever option is right for your business, now is the time to get started with holiday SEO for 2009. I don’t know about you, but I’m dreaming of a green Christmas, a healthy-growth Hanukah and a lucrative New Year!

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