The brands dominating online retail are quite often dissimilar to those popular in the offline market.
This is because most shoppers are still much more likely to search for a generic product name (shoes, jeans) when buying on the Internet than for a brand name. According to “Top 100 Retailers” study
conducted by Compete some 73% of online referrals come from non-branded queries. It means that smaller retailers and those only selling through the Internet have as big a chance of attracting customers as some of the biggest brands.
This is why search engine optimisation (SEO) has become so crucial to many e-commerce businesses, and those which are successful will often cite it as one of the major factors in their achievements.
However, if you are trying to sell a product online which is also offered by many other e-retailers with better search rankings, then you may find it hard to make any inroads, especially if your competitors' websites are well optimised.
There is however one important SEO technique which is not as yet used by a majority of e-commerce businesses and which could massively increase your visitor numbers. It involves the usage of microformats
, which are currently being pushed heavily by the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo). They are used to mark-up content on web pages to help aid search results and make them more useful for web users. Their impact can be seen especially clearly with products where, if the mark-up was done correctly, then the search engines will display the picture, the description, the price and the star rating of that item. Such a detailed result is called a “rich snippet”.
Right now microformats are being exploited especially by websites with recipes. Search for “apple pie” in Google and you will see a few rich snippets on the first page alone. Notice how quickly such results grab your attention and imagine what your product or business listings could look like in this format.
With Google, the main search engine in the UK, currently supporting the following categories of microformats: reviews, people, products, businesses and organizations, recipes, events and music, your company should be able to take advantage of at least one of those. Trading online
can be very competitive and you should be taking any opportunity to help you gain customers.