Roughly over a decade ago, online shopping was such a taboo that the majority of buyers from around the world hesitated in buying products online. There was a fear of phishing and online scams around the web to trick shoppers into giving out their personal information.
Nowadays, almost everyone you come across has recently purchased an item from their preferred online shopping sites like Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc. What has changed is that online shopping has become more secure than ever before with multi-layer of protection and the trust that has been built by the options like ‘Cash-on-delivery’ and product exchange.
If you own a business and want to sell your products constantly online, then cracking the code to rank higher on your preferred marketplace is a key to success. Let’s discuss what Marketplace optimization is and how to optimize your product listings.
What is Marketplace Optimization (MPO)?
Marketplace Optimization (MPO) is similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which uses a set of signals to rank sellers or their products to relevant buyers in marketplace searches. It is basically your product rankings on any website like the Facebook marketplace, Amazon, Etsy, eBay, etc.
Ranking Signals on a Marketplace
Though no marketplace defines their ranking signals, it is believed by digital marketers that the following signals determine the product rankings on any marketplace:
- Product Title
- Product Description
- Reviews & Ratings
- Images & Videos
- Product Features/Bullets
- Search Keywords
- Product Category
- Seller’s Order Cancellation Rate
- Seller’s History & Experience
- Available Inventory for Purchase
- Gross Sales
- Total Number of Sales on Marketplace
- Order Defect Rate as a % of Gross Sales
- Late Shipments as a % of Total Shipments
According to SocialMediaToday’s survey of 2021, consumers consider following key elements in their shopping journey while purchasing the products at the Facebook marketplace:
Back in 2011, Google came up with its “Trusted Stores” program which utilized high-level marketplace signals from selected retailers to differentiate websites during the 2011 holiday shopping season. Since then, Google and other search engines are incorporating marketplace signals to rank websites in search engine results. This is because marketplaces use measurable performance metrics that give a correct assessment of the consumer’s overall shopping experience on the marketplace.
Best Practices for an Effective Marketplace Optimization (MPO)
Now that you have understood the ranking signals for a product on a marketplace, let us deep dive into some of the top tips for an effective Marketplace Optimization (MPO) campaign that is essentially around these ranking signals only.
- Consistency Across Marketplace Listings
One of the most important aspects of MPO is to first understand the marketplace nature on which you want to own a seller account. In addition to your existing business website, there stands various online marketplaces, shopping aggregators (that allow product comparisons), social shops & niche websites. And each of them has its own set of ranking algorithms, product nomenclature, etc. While there are some similarities, there are some differences as well. For example, B2B services and an app store marketplace are there on Amazon but both are absent from Flipkart’s product offering and so their shopping experience is different.
Also, it is often possible for a buyer to find the same product from the same merchant/seller on two different marketplaces with inconsistent description, pricing, and other details that trigger a buying decision. Hence, listings should be consistent.
- Optimize Your Product Title
A well-optimized product title will have the greatest impact on product performance on search. Not only will it help the rankings on the marketplace but also in Google SERP. An ideal title will contain Product Type, Brand, Key feature, Colour, Size & Quantity. The order in which these attributes are placed in a title can influence product sales and rank dramatically.
Tip: It will be wise to prioritize these attributes based upon the search volumes
For exapmle, I searched for “Samsung galaxy m12 back cover” for which 30,000 results were found. The left side result was ranking on 2nd position (immediately after Amazon’s choice result) whereas the right one was ranking on 17th position. Can you spot the difference between the two listings?
Yes, you got it right. The product title on the left contains the back cover at the start after the brand name whereas in the right listing the seed keyword is almost missing in the first 60 characters of the title. It is quite obvious that Title is playing the major role here among other ranking signals.
- Optimize the Product Description & Bullets
SEO experts are familiar with the importance of content optimization. So, be it the long description or short description or the features/bullets, all the content has to be completely optimized to include relevant keywords. Search engines use the descriptions and show them in SERP snippets. If it faces any challenges due to thin or ambiguous content, it will obviously not rank you higher.
Tip: Use transactional words like buy, purchase, discount, deals, etc. in a phrase match within your content
Below is an example of an ugly-looking product description that is stuffed with keywords and is not user-friendly. This product will not rank high on the marketplace and it might get penalized by the marketplace algorithm.
- Product FAQs Optimization
The inclusion of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in your product listing is another content-related optimization technique that has shown positive results in MPO. Providing the best answers to the questions your buyers are asking related to your product improves sales and in turn, improves your product ranking on the marketplace. Incorporating keywords into the answers contribute to the MPO value of your page.
Tip: Keep your answers short and crisp directly coming to the point
In the below example, you can see that the seller has answered the questions asked by buyers shortly and crisply without going into too much detail.
- Leverage the Backend Search Terms
Have you optimized your Title, Description, Bullets & FAQs with keywords and are still left with some of the target keywords? No worries. On some of the marketplaces, you will find a section for search terms or tags where you can add your remaining keywords related to your products.
Below is the summary of Amazon search terms guidelines as per sellercentral.amazon.com:
- Don’t exceed the 249 character limit
- Use only relevant search terms and key phrases
- Cover all possible keywords but avoid repetition
- Use hyphens to match different spelling variants
- Don’t use the ‘platinum keywords’ field for words
- Avoid brand names, irrelevant, and ‘filler’ words
- Don’t include product names, ASINs, or UPC codes
- Separate keywords with spaces instead of commas
- Other punctuation marks should also be omitted
- Never use offensive vocabulary or false claims
- Product Reviews
This is my favourite part where you almost have negligible control yet a very productive technique to boost your product rankings. If sales are king in Marketplace optimization, then reviews are queen. Reviews increase trust and greatly enhance the buying decisions of a consumer.
Gone are the days when you can populate fake reviews on your own products. Marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, etc. have been dealing with fake reviews more severely. Needless to mention that most of the marketplaces allow verified reviews only after the successful product purchase.
The first step to leverage this section is to get an email feedback sequence that will help you to communicate with buyers through the buyer-seller messaging service. There are various tools available in the market e.g. Sales Backer or Feedback Genius for Amazon. Using these tools, you can send customized emails to your buyers that will develop a customer relationship and ask for honest reviews and feedback.
Tip: Try to respond to customer reviews even if their shopping experience was not good
- Be Genuine with Images & Videos
Your customers will trust your brand or product more once they can see how it looks and what’s better than to show your real side to your customers. Many merchants often make a mistake by adding heavily edited or photoshopped images of their products.
As long as the images or videos meet all the guidelines of the marketplace platform, they will be added to your listing certainly. But the problem is not this. The issue here is with the user behaviour. Many buyers complain later that the product they received is not the same as it was shown on the marketplace. You definitely don’t want to ruin your hard-earned brand reputation and word of mouth spreads like wildfire.
Consumers want to check out the authentic images and videos of the product to get an idea of what they expect from the product. Remember, the more time a user spends on your listing, the higher the ranking will be of your products.
Tip: Adding images & videos from different angles is your bonus point
- Feature Your Listing
The best and easiest way to generate quick leads from marketplaces is to feature your product listing. You just have to spend a certain amount and your products will automatically appear on the top of your desired search query as ‘Sponsored’ or ‘Featured’. This way you can expect a substantial increase in your conversions.
However, if you are short on budget and not willing to spend on featured listings, then the optimization steps discussed above will help you to achieve better rankings organically in due time duration. Also, be as much active on your listing as possible as marketplaces love the recency and latest updates in the products.
Which one is better, Marketplace SEO or Google Ads?
Marketplace SEO is always better because it is based on your effort and not just paying to be placed higher. SEO is like a billboard online, once it is up it keeps generating clicks and impressions without paying for each click. The problem is SEO takes time and is not something that will show results overnight.
Let’s take a look at Marketplace SEO vs. Google Ads to see how these strategies compare:
|SEO generates traffic continuously for a longer duration (as long as you rank well)
|Google Ads only generates traffic for the duration of the campaign
|SEO results (LPs) placement only in search engine results pages (SERP)
|Google Ads can place ads in search results and on other Google-owned and partner websites
|Cost for clicking (CPC)
|SEO doesn’t cost anything when someone clicks on your listing from Organic results
|Google Ads require you to pay when people click on your listing
|SEO results take time
|Google Ads produce faster results
|SEO tracking analytics and ROI takes time
|Google Ads track analytics and ROI instantly
To sum up, Marketplace optimization (MPO) can prove to be a powerful tool to achieve your business goals on these online marketplaces. Yet, this technique doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. This can be understood by the fact that not many digital marketing companies and agencies focus on this optimization technique as much as they are focusing on other services like SEO, PPC, or SMO. And they are not to be blamed for this as there is no demand in the market simply because most of the online sellers are not even aware that their seller accounts and products can be optimized just like a typical website to rank higher on the given marketplace.
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