Marketplace SEO: How To Appear First In eCommerce Search Results

Understand the inner workings of digital retail search algorithms, and how to beat them using industry best practices and data.
8 min read
marketplace SEO and how to use data collection to find the optimal price points

When a consumer is looking to buy a certain product on an internet retail site they rarely get past the first page. In fact,

‘64% of eCommerce sales are generated by the first three items to appear in results’.

Source: Roshan Samuel Ambler | Medium

In this post, you will learn about:

The intricacies of search result page algorithms for all of the big e-retailers (including eBay’s Cassini, and Amazon’s A9) are kept a corporate secret. If they revealed how these operated then everyone would optimize their listings for algorithms making it impossible to rank item search results. In this post, I will share insights and best practices from years of working with eCommerce business owners and writing about their successful tactics.

Here are the major points that impact eCom search results:

Pricing delta– When your item pricing creates a significant gap with the other products you are competing against, this will have an impact on your placement in results (this is true both for prices that are significantly higher or lower). That is why you need a dynamic pricing strategy that undercuts competitor pricing but marginally, not drastically.

Item availability– Whether a product of yours is in or out of stock has a big impact on search results. This is the case as marketplaces have a very clear interest in ensuring that consumers have a positive shopping experience and become returning customers. It is for this reason that having cross-channel stock synchronization is crucial. Also, keeping an eye on competitor inventories can have strategic implications for growing your business in real-time.

amazon product page where the item is temporarily out of stock in that region

Image source: Business Insider – Rob Wile

Listing copy – It is paramount to ensure that both your listing text and titles are unique, accurate, and incorporate natural language consumer search words. It is very easy to get caught up in manufacturer jargon (e.g. black polyester V-neck) whereas a real consumer may search for an ‘elegant black blouse’. Search engines take consumers’ natural language search preferences into consideration making it important if you want your products to find their way to relevant customers.

Sales quantity – This is a chicken and egg scenario. Basically, the more you sell on marketplaces (and the better your reviews are) the higher you will rank in eCommerce search results. This makes sense – high sales volume, and good reviews mean you are supplying a current demand and doing so in a way that ensures customer satisfaction. That is why reviews and generating high sales volumes are so important.

Best product listing optimization practices

Here are the best practices and tactics you can implement to improve your product rankings:

Drive up sales quantity and positive reviews

Sales quantity is extremely important, especially for new sellers or veterans expanding into new product categories. A seller tactic that works well is starting by selling a cheap item that you know to be flawless at below market value.

A good example of how this works is a seller who wants to sell iPhones, a high ticket item by any standard, meaning buyers are looking for vetted sellers and are not looking to take any chances. What a seller could do is to purchase 50 iPhone cases in bulk and sell them individually for $5 which in this example is below market value. In this instance, customers tend to be easy with their money as it is a low ticket item, and they are usually satisfied with their purchase due to the fact that they got a bargain. As you have already vetted the item, you know that it is of high quality, now all you need to do is make sure that you ship on time and ensure your 50 customers are happy with the service you provide them with.

The results are almost universally the same among the sellers that I am in touch with:

They receive across-the-board positive reviews.

This means that they are set up to succeed once they introduce their big-ticket items both from an SEO perspective (they have high consumer rankings and sales volume) and will naturally attract more business with high ratings and good reviews ( proof).

Bonus tips –
Here are my top tips for maintaining top of the line customer reviews:

Always respond to feedback – No matter how hard, you always need to respond to feedback even if it is tough to hear. Silence is by default an admission of guilt and deprives you of defense in the eyes of potential future shoppers.

Let go of dead weight – Many sellers have one or two items which are problematic, hard to assemble or the like and as such tend to garner bad reviews consistently. Instead of holding to these, let these items go and focus on items with a track record for positive customer feedback.

Leverage positive feedback – Social proof is extremely valuable in the age of online shopping and as such you should never miss out on an opportunity to leverage positive feedback. Offer customers who have left positive feedback an incentive to take a picture of themselves using your product and share it on social media and ask for permission to add this to your product page and store.

positive social media feedback

Attract more of the same– Look through your reviews as well as the reviews of direct competitors. Try and see if you can find a pattern of an archetypal customer who is happy and tends to leave positive reviews. For example women in their 30s who have a baby and are especially thankful for a baby toy you are selling which helps her put her baby to sleep. By looking for and targeting more of the ‘thankful archetypes’ and less of the ‘ungrateful archetypes’ (cousins and uncles, most likely male customers who may not directly benefit from and understand the value of this item).

looking to grow your ecommerce business with data sets that move the needle

Using backend search terms

Most sellers are highly aware of the value of frontend search terms, i.e., search terms that shoppers use. Most, though, are unaware of backend search terms which customers don’t see yet are still used for product search result indexation. Consider adding the following related search terms to your backend cache in order to increase findability:

  • Search terms that do not directly describe your item but are related (such as ‘summer’ when selling sunglasses).
  • Search terms in other languages that may be popular in your GEO, such as Spanish, if you are selling in California or Florida, which have large Hispanic communities.

Pro tip – Check out Helium 10’s Scribbles tool to embed backend search terms in your product listings.

(Please note that we are not affiliated with Helium in any way.)

Paid advertising campaigns

Another step you can take is investing money in paid promotion. For example, many eCommerce platforms allow you to pay for promoted listings that are displayed near organic search results. A paid Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign can allow you to build up your sales volume and brand awareness, which will contribute to your long-term organic search placement. You can also consider external promotion options such as Google and LinkedIn ads.

paid advertising proxy checking

The role of data in eCommerce Search Engine Optimization

How can collecting eCommerce data help you increase sales and expand your business growth at an unprecedented pace?

Here is a categorical breakdown:

Pricing Collecting product pricing data allows you to get a clear picture of what competitors are charging enabling you to formulate an intelligent, real-time pricing strategy. You can collect live data on product-specific pricing and undercut competitors just slightly so as not to harm search result rankings while remaining an attractive option for potential customers.

Seller ratings and product reviews– Enables you to map your competitive territory and shows you who the key players in your sector are doing as well as which rating levels will help differentiate you from the bunch, and increase your rankings.

Pay special attention to what your competitors’ customer reviews say – if there is a positive or negative comment that is repetitive, think about how you can use this to your advantage in your product offering. For example, if you see customer feedback that laptops do not come with a case, you could then add cases to all your laptops and invest in a banner on your product page to highlight your Unique Sales Proposition (USP).

Product titles and copy– Aggregating trending items based on text shows you which listings are most successful. Once you know which keywords and phrases are being looked for by consumers and which listings are converting best, you can optimize your titles and descriptions for marketplace SEO rankings as well as target them for natural language search queries.

Item availability– This data puts you in a strategic position, allowing you to act fast and seize opportunities when and wherever they may arise. For example, when you identify a certain product is ‘out of stock’ you can capitalize on shortages by selling the item in question, which will improve your rankings and help you increase your market share.