SEO for Ecommerce: What's New  -- Pubcon Vegas 2010

Also see how we create content, how we do e-commerce optimization...

Slide 1 & Slide 2

Howdy, how ya'll doing? My name's Rob Snell. I'm from Starkville, Mississippi. I am not an SEO. I am a retailer who does SEO. So I have a little bit different perspective on things than folks who run agencies or the propeller heads, the screws, the smart guys who do things that make my head hurt.

Slide 3

Today I am going to talk about our philosophies about SEO as far as, like, the main thing that I learned about 13 years ago when we got online is you want your site to show up in the results when folks are looking to buy what you sell. Can then find you?

I want to fish where the fish are biting. I've only got so much time in the day, so I've got to concentrate my efforts on the things that are going to give me the biggest bang for my buck, and that's what we're going to get into.

Slide 4

My parents started Gun Dog Supply back in 1972. We sell training supplies for hunting supplies…

Slide 5

…like Click here. We were one of the first hunting dog supply retailers to get online, one of the first to have a Yahoo Store with a shopping cart.

Slide 6

We took our offline catalogue that had tons and tons of content in it and copied and pasted it into a Yahoo Store. And in about three days we got our entire online catalogue to the web. One of the philosophies that we had with our offline catalogue that really served us well from a content standpoint is that my dad and I were sitting down back in '96 when we launched this catalogue, and we said, "Why don't we allocate space in the catalogue based upon how much revenue the products actually generate, instead of doing like a lot of catalogues and trying to put tons, and tons, and tons of products in there and giving it an eighth of a page?

So in this example, we've got one product that gets a full page in the catalogue. And nowadays, postage is so expensive it's really difficult to do that.

Slide 7

Well, thanks to Yahoo Store, we were able to get online, and it actually saved our family business when PetSmart had opened up across the street.

Slide 8

And this is our online website, And I just kinda wanted to show you guys the effects of SEO over the past 13 years for us.

Slides 9-12

The little blue line, I don't know if you can see it down there, is our brick-and-mortar store. You can kinda see there in the middle where PetSmart came in. The little red line is when we launched Yahoo Store. We got online, and ecommerce for us took our family business up in order of magnitude, and it was awesome.

But the thing I talked about yesterday in my presentation on how we more than double our conversion rate, and I would attribute half of the growth to SEO.

Had we stayed on the vector we were on, we would have been doing fine. We were making money. It wasn't like a dot com kinda growth, but about seven years ago we made this change to our website and it resulted in almost exponential growth. I mean we're seven orders of magnitude greater than we were three or four years ago.

And what I'm going to talk about today are the strategies that we used behind the SEO half of this growth. And I've got a solo session right after this where I've got 30 minutes, and I'll be able to go into, actually, some of the tactics.

Slide 13

But the changes that we made resulted in over $10 million. And we're an itty bitty little company. I mean, you know, we were talking about Zappos, we were talking about some bigger retailers, $300 million. I mean our combined Yahoo Stores will do $12, $13 million this year. So we are not a big company, especially compared to your guys.

Slide 14

And so $10 million in Mississippi, that goes a long way.


You can get a nice doublewide with that.


Slide 15

I agree about Google Mayday. I was so glad you said that. I think Google Mayday has had more of an impact on small business ecommerce folks than Google Instant. I'm going to cover my take on Google Mayday and on Google Instant.

What we saw on Google Mayday is that a lot of folks were complaining about it, but I couldn't any actual damage to traffic or sales. I looked my sales from SEO, and it was like my metrics were the same. I looked at my rankings, we lost a lot of brand terms. I saw a lot of our suppliers, who we used to outrank…and we probably shouldn't be ranking for somebody else's brand name, above them, but we were.

And now, like Tri-Tronics, one of our manufacturers, they were now ranking for almost any long-tailed term, even when they didn't have these weird modifiers on the page. We had all of our content with these modifiers, and Google seems to be saying, "If it has a brand name in the search query, let's just go ahead and make the brand rank for it whether or not they have the content."

One of my good buddies who has a Yahoo Store, I mean probably does $25, $30 million a year, and he's like 22 years old. I hate his guts. [laughs] He called me up and he was like, "Dude, we have seen a 15%-20% drop in our traffic, but we can't figure out what's going on."

He said this to me, he said, "Rob, we looked at our top 5,000 keyword phrases, and our rankings were unaffected by Mayday. How are we going to figure out what happened?" He knew it was long-tail. So we kinda sat down to figure out a metric that we could use to measure the effectiveness of your search engine optimization for ecommerce.

And this is a big deal. I was talking to my girlfriend about, "I've got a four hour class that I teach on this and I've got to cram it into 15 minutes." She was like, "Well just take one at a time. If you can only tell them one thing, what would you tell them?" And this is the main thing. So if ya'll cut me off, if ya'll walk away with this, this was really helpful for us.

Slide 16

I want you to prioritize your SEO pages based on the revenue that they generate. And what I mean by that is most folks' SEO, they look at rankings: How do I rank for a specific keyword phrase? One of the cool things about ecommerce is that we actually can see what works for us through analytics. You can actually tie a dollar amount to a keywords phrase and an entry page.

So what we were able to do on my buddy's site, he's got five times more traffic than me, is we were actually able to see entry pages from Google organic searches and what the revenue was per page. And we compared that before and after Mayday. And from that, we were able to see what pages weren't driving revenue anymore.

And what I used this for is I used this to decide what to optimize, I used it to decide what to prioritize, and we went through that a little bit more.

Slide 17

Yesterday I was looking at, and I looked at my Yahoo Store, and I have 20,000 store pages. We have 3 or 4,000 products, depending on how you slice them up, the parameters and things. About 5,000 of those pages are PPC landing pages, about 5,000 of those pages are additional product photos, as we have 12 and 13 photos per product on some things. So Google is probably not going to consider that. So think, OK, this is 20,000 pages that I have right here.

Slide 18

Well, I go to Google, and I don't really ever trust this site operator, you know, I don't think that accurately represents what Google knows about. But that's just a number you can watch, and it's pretty consistent over time.

So I've got 20,000 pages on my Yahoo Store. I've got 4,500 pages that are actually showing up in Google that are ranking for keyword phrases.

Slide 19

I've only got 2,800 of those pages that are actually driving traffic in the past 30 days to my Yahoo Store.

Slide 20

Which is awesome, but I've got only 575 pages that are actually driving revenue that I can tie from a Google organic entry into a keyword phrase, coming to my Yahoo Store, and buying something.

So I've got 20,000, and then I've got around 5,000, and then I've got 3,000, and this is like 600. So I've got a much smaller bucket. And it's not like Zappos where you've got hundreds of thousands of pages you gotta worry about. I'm going to be worried about the pages that are making me money today, with the changes of Google Instant today, with the change from Mayday, since Mayday.

Slide 21

And then look down and I say, "Wow, my top 100 pages are actually driving about 70% of the revenue in the last 30 days from Google. So what this does is this allows me to decide what pages on my site get a link from my homepage. It helps me decide what pages I'm going to develop content on. And it's a lot different from looking at keywords, because I'll have 30 or 40 different keywords that are actually driving multiple transactions to some of these pages.

Slide 23

All right, some people are interested in search engines, I'm interested in search engine results pages. I like to fish where the fish are biting.

Slide 24

And this is my slide from last year. You know, Google is driving the bus. Bing is interesting to me, but Bing does not contribute enough revenue for me to take my eye off the Google ball. If you have the time, the energy, and the resources to go after Bing, that's great. But like Adam was saying, it's really easy for spammers to spam Bing. And I don't have time to fight those guys. I fight with them on Google as it is.

Slide 25

And then this year, as far as traffic, this is revenue, and revenue matches up pretty much with traffic for us in this pie graph. Yahoo is actually growing a little bit with Bing's results. And this is like in the past 30 days.

Slide 26

One thing that I see a lot of retailers that I work with when I do consulting, is they don't understand than just ranking in the top 30 on Google isn't going to drive traffic and revenue to your website. 90% of the organic traffic that we see going to ecommerce sites, to smaller Yahoo Stores, is coming from page 1. If you are not on page 1, you are not in the game.

I mean this is old news. Everybody in this room probably gets that, but that is so important. You're like, ‘Well hey, I'm number 29 for this keyword phrase." Well how much revenue are you getting from that?

Slide 27

I'm a Macintosh person, OK? I like to look at my website, at my ecommerce site, the way my customers do. And most of my customers are not Mac people, they are Windows people. And most of them are using Internet Explorer. And the largest number of them are using the 1024x768 browser. So when I emulate what a customer is doing, I hope over to Parallels and I pop up an Internet Explorer Window. Or I've got a Windows PC that's broken now, and I play with that.

But what this shows you, this is a search I did like three days ago for dog boots. And you can kinda see Google Instant popping up there. But the thing that really freaks me out is I used to say if you are in the top five, then you are fine. If you are in the top five, you are golden.

Well right now, in the first screenshot, there are only two organic listings. If you are not number one or number two for your best keywords phrases, you are not going to be getting the clicks.

I testified to Congress two years ago about the impact of search engines on small business. And if there's anybody from Google in the room, I would actually reconsider my testimony based upon asking Congress not…I said, "Do not regulate the search engines. It's working great. Please don't mess with something that works."

Slide 28

Right now there are only two editorial links on this page. How many paid ads are on this page that you can see? How many other properties from Google?

I love Google. I make a lot of money from Google. I don't want to piss Matt off, OK? So don't shoot me if you are out there Matt. I think they really need to consider what they're doing and the way that they are handing some spam. But I've got some issues there.

All right, universal results. Products in Google, the Google Shopping, Google Products has become so much more important now. Last year on this stage, I said, "Hey, I need some help with this. I don't know anything about it." Three different people sent me to SingleFeed, and the SingleFeed folks set me up.

I've also done some work…they take good care of us; it's actually driving some traffic. There's also a Yahoo Store specific solution, Don Cole over at YStore Tools has helped us out a lot too. So I'm going to talk a little bit about making sure that your products are even in Google Products.

Slide 29

If you go to Google Products, which is and type in, it will show you whether or not you are in Google Products. And I know PubCon is an advanced crowd. But I am surprised every time we do site reviews how many people don't have good title tags, how many people don't have links, and how many people aren't in Google Products. I have retailers that don't even know they're not in Google Products, and because they are getting traffic from Google they think they are. So go do that.

Slide 30

Here is an example of a close-up. It's organic one, two, and three. I'm sorry, the first one is organic rankings number one, number two are the shopping results for "dog house heater", which is the shopping query. And I actually go through my terms and I say, "OK, which queries are generating shopping results?" And that helps me decide, do I need to optimize my feed for this, or do I mainly need to optimize organically?

Slide 31

This is Google Webmaster Central. If you are not using this, you need to be. Every month they are rolling out cool new features in it. A lot of people covered information yesterday and today about this.

But the thing I like about it is you can see impressions. And this drives me nuts. Look at that blue line. That's all the people who are looking for dog house heaters. Look at that orange line. That's all the people who are clicking on my stuff. There's a big difference there. I'm not getting all the clicks. But you have to drill down in this information, because they're not doing a good job of aggregating it in my opinion.

Slide 32

For that keyword phrase, "dog house heaters", look at the impressions. Number one has 1,900 impressions. My number two listing, when it shows up, has 720 impressions. So that means I'm showing up number two maybe half the time; they're experimenting with clustered results on that page. The number three position there is my ranking in Google Products. Look at that 7% click-through rate there. That tells me that a large portion of my traffic for that keyword phrase is actually coming from Google Products.

Slide 33

On November the 3rd, I picked up a new client, an old client of mine. He had a terrible SEO. I'm not going to use the verb we were using to describe what that guy did to his site, but he wasn't even listed in Google Products. How can you say you're doing SEO on an ecommerce site if you are not getting somebody's products listed in Google Products?

I called Don Cole up at like six o'clock on November the 3rd and said, "Hey, here's my client's account. Can you build me a feed?" He said, "Go set up Google Merchant Center, get your ID, verify your site, and I'll set your feed up."

Slide 34

And I looked the next morning and we had 326 products in Google Products. So it's fast. If you can verify your site, which [xx 48:15] you have a sitemap, it's really easy. I don't understand exactly all the propeller head stuff behind it, but it's like two or three little things that you do and you are automatically driving traffic.

The cool thing about Google Products is you can actually tag your URL with parameters and you can see how much revenue is coming from Google Products. That tells you how much time to devote to optimizing your feeds.

And I'll just throw this out there for the folks who want to get into this. You need your UPC codes in there. You need your manufacturer part numbers in there. You need your manufacturer's name in there.

I am not a feed optimization expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm just kinda getting into it. There's tons of information SingleFeed's blog. If you use my name when you sign up for them, they donate $100 to Red Cross for Haiti relief, because I don't want to make an affiliate commission off of it.

Slide 35

Google Instant. More folks were freaking out about Google Instant when they should have been freaking out about Mayday.

Slide 36

Go to Google and type in "dog house heater". I know you guys, by now, it's been six or eight weeks, you know how it works.

Slide 37

You type in "dog house h" and it starts suggesting things. That's what you gotta type in to see "dog house heater".

Slide 38

Well, if you type in "dog house heater" it shows you additional terms. And what I think is going to happen, and I think the jury is still out on this, I think it's going to make lazy searchers click on the first thing that Google suggests that looks like what they're looking for. I think smarter searchers are actually going to dig in much deeper. So I think it's going to make the bell curve a lot wider in that graph that you were showing, Adam.

Slide 39

So you go search for "dog house heater", which is, you know, just a regular term on our website. It's not a very competitive term, and you see that we're ranking.

Slide 40

But the one thing that I'm seeing is that the individual keywords are changing. And this is going to change how you optimize for your product pages, it's going to change how you optimize for your category pages.

For example, this is not a true test. We spend thousands of dollars a month doing search engine optimization testing of on-page things and off-page things to see what's working for our sites, to see what's working for client sites, to see what competitors are doing.

I've got a mastermind of about three really smart dudes, and we just throw some resources and we do tests, and it's really easy to see what's working. But this is not a pure test, because I don't have any control over how Google is going to rank an individual page.

Slide 41

And I don't know if you can see this back there, but this is the direct visitors, and the revenue, and the number of orders for "dog house heaters" plural and "dog house heater" singular. If you look at that, the difference between 2009 and 2010 on the plural, we dropped from 600 first time visitors to 400 first-time visitors. But the number of orders stays the same and the revenue goes down a bit.

But what you're seeing is the plural is actually getting diminished because of Google Instant. And so now "dog house heater" singular is driving a lot more traffic, and it's shifting a little bit. It's not major; I'm not freaking out about it.

Slide 42

And what we did, we actually had to type in the entire keyword phrase to see the results on Google Instant. So Google is pushing folks to what I think is the higher CPC, which is the singular in this specific case. I mean Google is going to do something if it makes them more money, right? They don't do things just for fun. They don't do things because they're cool, not in the thing that's making them money right now. So I think the reason they are doing this is to drive people to higher CPC terms.

Slide 43

I'm not a person who can write programs or anything like that. So we have to do a lot of things manually. Unfortunately, my assistant had to do this manually, because I was going to delegate it, right? So poor Nikki here, she had to go through our top terms. And we took our top 500 terms, we took out all of our domain names, our brand and navigation terms, just to see what would happen on Google Instant.

And what we're seeing is that on some singular terms and some plural terms, they're kinda flip-flopping to what Google's pushing. And she would go through and type in, and she would find out what the minimum was you had to type it in to see what the term is. And I recommend that you do this to find out if there is a more popular term that you should be ranking for, you know, a synonym of your main converting keywords.

You also need to see if the plural is more important or if the singular is more important. And when you're doing this, you need to have a clean browser. We use Safari, and there's a real easy way. You go into Safari, you hit "Reset Safari". It's really easy. I'll show that in a minute.

But here's "dog house heaters", and here's her note—it doesn't up with plural if you actually type the full thing in. So we're losing traffic on the plural.

Slide 44

All right, well now what?

Slide 45

Well like I said a minute ago, I want you to see what everyone else sees.

Slide 46

So here's one my keyword phrases, one of my pet keyword phrases, and we're fighting with some spammers, "dog training collars".

Slide 47

So I go Google that and I'm like, "Man, this rocks! I'm number one and number two for my keyword phrase. I'm doing a great job. Back on top again. I'm battling with these guys."

Slide 48

But I said, "Hey, wait a minute. I'm still signed into my Gmail account." I'm not really number one and number two. You need to sign out of Google accounts, you need to clear your cookies.

Slide 49

Open up a separate browser. You can get Safari for Mac or Windows. Somebody this summer said something about using an incognito window in Chrome, but I'm not getting…it's still customizing my results.

Slide 50

So the only way I've been able to get pure, virgin results from a browser is to use Safari and hit the "Reset Safari". It's so easy. So run two browsers. You can kinda hop over there and do this.

Slide 51

So I go back to Google. I do "dog training collars".

Slide 52

And I go, "Hey, I'm on the first page….and you can't even see me!" So I've got a lot of work today. So just because I'm saying do stuff, I'm not saying that I am perfect at SEO by any stretch of the imagination.

Slide 54

All right. I've got a little bit of time left, don't I? I'm going to go into what I call Redneck SEO 101.


This is how I explain SEO to people, and it's really just a simplified Dummies version of how we approach it on the product level. I love money conferences, and a lot of people talk about a lot of theory stuff, but one thing that's frustrated me the past 10 years, when I don't know something about something, people don't actually show the process.

And if you've got 12 minutes to do a PowerPoint deck, you really don't have time to dig deep and go in the process. And so I tend to kinda get a little greedy and take more time than I've been allocated. You know, my 15 minute presentation is stretched to be 22 trying to get real world stuff in there.

I've got all my slides from the past five or six years on if I don't have time to get through the rest of this stuff. But Redneck SEO 101.

Slide 55

The first thing I do is I pick a keyword. Simple enough.

Slide 56

"Dog House Heater".

Slide 57

The next thing I do is I pick my store's most relevant page. And the reality is I pick two pages, because I'm optimizing for two for clustered. So you'll have to go to my solo session after this if you want to hear how I do that.

The way you find your store's most relevant page for "dog house heater" is, when you kinda think about it, you go, "OK, well what would my customers want to see?" And usually, that's like a section page, a category page, a buyer's guide page. You know, they want to see dog house heaters.

Slide 58

Well, Google seems to be sending a lot of this traffic to product pages. So in this case, my category page is for dog house heaters. It's getting a little cold in Mississippi now. You never have snow on a black Lab in Mississippi, you know?

But a lot of my traffic is coming to these category pages, so we picked this page for an example.

Slide 59

And the first thing I do is I put the keyword in the Title tag. And I know you guys know that, but in Yahoo Store it is really easy. There's a field in the CMS, you type it in the Name field as the default.

Slide 60

And that's what it looks like in the code. And I've got the keyword in there.

Slide 61

The Title is the most important on-page SEO element. It has been for a long time. It still is. The Title is what shows up in the search. When you do a search, it's that blue link.

Slide 62

The next thing I do is I put the keyword in my BODY TEXT.

Slide 63

And this is "Steve Says". It's a little bit of editorial stuff we do. I'll be talking in the solo session about how we create content as well. But Steve writes content, and I kinda give him some hints as far as what keywords to use. Here's a sprinkling of the keywords. We use the natural English just the way he would write. It's not really keyword stuff.

Slide 64

Then the next thing you do is you put the keyword you want to rank for in links pointing to the page you want to rank. Well, I think everybody here knows that. And the way we do that on the Yahoo Store is we put it in the navigational links, like the run site, and then we put it with the thumbnails when it's features like as a special on the category page. Dog house heaters, dog house heaters.

Slide 66

Link text or anchor text is the most important off-page SEO element. That's like "miserable failure". Remember when they were going back and forth, the Democrats and Republicans were trying to get different pages to rank for that term. It wasn't even on the page. It was in the link text. So link text, you can do a lot of stuff with that on your site.

I mean if you guys have a 10,000 page website with 100 links on every single page, you control a million links on your own website. You can a lot of magic with that. And this is what I'm going to show you here. There is the HTML code for that heaters page.

Slide 67

You want to get more links than the other guy.

Slide 68

One of the ways you can see how many links you have, and this is a free tool, you can go to Yahoo Site Explorer. They have not cut this off yet, but it doesn't work as good as it used to. You type in Link: the page that you want to rank, or the page that you want to see the links to, and it's going to show you the back-links. I don't know if you can see right there, but we have 160 links to that heaters page.

Slide 69

And there's a little switch you can flip and say, "OK, we'll just show me the external links." And this page, the dog house heaters page, only has eight external links. And most of those are from scrapers. I mean I haven't done any link building on that. And this will show you the results.

Slide 70

You go check your rankings, and we're still ranking…you can check it right now on your phone if you want to, but we're still ranking really well.

Slide 71

I've signed out, and we're ranking one and sometimes two for that keyword phrase term.

Slide 72

Like I said, at 11:30 next door I'm doing the tactic stuff.

Slide 73

If you want to get on my mailing list: I don't spam it. It's six times a year at the most. We're doing ecommerce seminars next year.

Slide 75

And like I said, at I've got all this free stuff. I've got 17 tactical things I'm going to tell you if you come next door. And that's me.

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