Why SEO Should Be Your Primary Marketing Strategy

As an online marketing agency, we have an ever-growing arsenal of tactics and strategies to help our clients attract leads and increase sales. But almost invariably, when a new client comes onboard, we end up recommending that they start with an SEO campaign before or at least concurrent with ramping up other strategies.

Why this emphasis on SEO? Simply put, SEO offers by far and away the best value of all the marketing options available today, online or offline. In fact, one recent survey of ecommerce website owners showed that, on average, SEO leads convert to sales at an astonishing 15%. When you compare this to conversion rates of just 4% for leads from social media and 2% for leads from direct mail, email, and print ads, you’ll understand why we believe it’s just crazy to start with any other marketing strategy before you get going with SEO. With conversion rates 650% higher than these other marketing methods, SEO just makes good sense for ecommerce stores.

The top ecommerce sites already know this

The superiority of SEO leads is no secret to the biggest players in ecommerce. In any given ecommerce niche, you will find that the top companies all rely heavily on intensive SEO campaigns and organic (free) search traffic as the primary source for their leads. Amazon, Overstock, Target, and Walmart all have invested substantially in SEO and have reaped massive rewards for their efforts.

As the big boys know, today’s shoppers go to Google (and the other search engines) when they want to buy. Therefore, as an ecommerce business, you absolutely must be found as high in the search results as possible in order to grow your business and substantially increase market share. If you’re not there at the top of the search results, your competitors will be, and they will be the ones making all the sales.

Need more reasons to get started with SEO? Below are some very compelling statistics that show why your ecommerce site needs to be found at the top of the search results and how leads driven by SEO convert better than leads from any other available source.

How consumers look for you today:

  • 92% of Internet users use search engines to find the sites they want. – RedCroix.com (January 2010)
  • 71% of all U.S. adults shop online. – Pew Internet & American Life Project (August 2010)
  • 75% of Internet users have the intent to purchase when using search engines. – RedCroix.com (January 2010)

How SEO leads convert:

  • Overall, 15% of SEO leads convert to sales. Comparatively, Social Media leads convert at just 4%, while leads from outbound marketing techniques like email marketing, print campaigns, direct marketing, etc convert at just 2%. – HubSpot.com State of Inbound Marketing (2012)
  • SEO traffic converts 200% better than social referrals. – Econsultancy (August 2010)
  • 77% of search users click on organic listings over paid (Adwords) listings. – Intraspin.com (January 2010)

The bottom line is this: while SEO leads cost about the same as social media leads and less than half as much as leads from direct mail, email, and print ads, leads driven by SEO and organic search traffic convert far, far better than any of these other methods. This combination of low lead price and superior conversion rates really make SEO a no-brainer for any business looking to attract more customers and increase market share.

Now I know there are a few businesses out there that actually don’t want to grow or can’t expand their capacity due to logistical restraints. But for the rest of you, if you haven’t yet begun an SEO campaign for your ecommerce business, what are you waiting for?

Google Product Search Transitions to Paid Model

Google dropped another bombshell early this month, announcing that Google Product Search will be transitioning to a paid model. Up until now, merchants have been able to submit products and product data feeds at no expense, enjoying the free traffic to their sites. The new program will be called “Google Shopping” and is the evolution of “Google Product Listing Ads”, more commonly referred to as the Google PLA system.

Merchants have just a few months to decide whether or not to transition to the new model. Google hasn’t released an official date, but they say Google Shopping will launch sometime around the end of summer 2012, possibly as late as Oct 2012. In the meantime, merchants who sign up before August 15th are being offered a 10% monthly credit towards their monthly Product Listing Ad spend which will be effective through the end of the year. Existing merchants are also eligible for a $100 Adwords credit to apply towards Product Listing Ads.

Is a Paid Inclusion Model Good or Bad for Merchants and Consumers?

There are two schools of thought on this new development. First, that many small businesses will simply be forced out of the search results, unable to compete with the big players. This represents another move away from small business and further embracing of large corporations. Critics of Google believe that the playing field is becoming increasingly skewed towards big money, making the barrier to entry still higher for the little guy. On the other hand, Google will have us believe that the move represents an effort on their part to deliver higher quality search results and a better user experience.

The move to a “paid inclusion” model seems contrary to statements released by Google in 2004 regarding their flagship product search feature “Froogle”:

“Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle, our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.”

Since then, Google has clearly reversed its stance. However, they argue that the definition of “paid inclusion” doesn’t apply to Google shopping because there is a clear differentiation between the organic results and the paid listings. However, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land disagrees citing that:

“Paid inclusion has been historically used to describe when people pay to appear in a search engine’s results but without any guarantee of prominent placement. What’s happening with Google Shopping is classic, textbook paid inclusion.”

His position is supported by the US Federal Trade Commission’s own definition of paid inclusion:

“Paid inclusion can take many forms. Examples of paid inclusion include programs where the only sites listed are those that have paid; where paid sites are intermingled among non-paid sites; and where companies pay to have their Web sites or URLs reviewed more quickly, or for more frequent spidering of their Web sites or URLs, or for the review or inclusion of deeper levels of their Web sites, than is the case with non-paid sites.”

The Future of Online Shopping

Whatever your position, The volume of online shopping traffic is simply staggering and for those that opt into the new paid model, the competition will narrow as those that choose not to participate get peeled off. There are still hundreds of free options for merchants who want to submit their products and product data feeds including Bing Shopping and theFind.com.

A Beginners’ Guide to E-Commerce Security

a beginners guide to ecommerce securityIn some ways, an online store might seem safer to the owner than brick and mortar businesses. After all, no one can march into it (wearing a creepy mask) and demand all the cash in your register. On the web, threats aren’t so obvious — which makes them sinister on a different level. If you slack on e-commerce security, you don’t just risk losing your own money — you compromise your customers’ sensitive information as well.

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