Today the business model of online marketplaces has gained traction and new platforms are popping up left, right and center trying to take advantage of the on-demand economy. However, it may be pretty challenging for them to convince people they need new products or services.
Quite a few marketplaces fall out of the race long before they start to bring profit and their names become widely recognizable. But even if they overcome the initial slump, they still face the challenge of longevity – there will be a constant need for new users, otherwise, how will one’s marketplace grow?
That is when digital marketing comes into play. Today, Sergey Grybniak, a founder of Clever-Solution.com, will share his experience and answer my questions about how marketplaces can benefit from promotion on the Web and what factors digital marketing agencies should take into account when growing their marketplace..
Sergey, why does a marketplace need digital marketing?
Well, the answer is simple: every online resource that offers goods or services and looks for ways to keep the doors open and lights on needs digital marketing, of course, unless it is a well-known resource and its name has naturally become a household word to everyone. So it follows that digital marketing is a part and parcel of every online business success, and marketplaces are no different.
As long as one’s idea about a marketplace is unique and fresh enough, the newly-launched platform has already solved the chicken-egg problem with supply and demand (which is common) and started to yield fruit, however, it still faces other serious challenges – founders feel desperate about how to bring in more new clients, retain them and bring their businesses to the next level. Then it is time to look for an experienced digital marketing agency to take care of these matters.
If every online business, including marketplaces, requires some assistance from digital marketing sooner or later, why do we talk about marketplace online promotion as a separate topic?
There is a slight difference between approaches to the digital promotion of marketplace platforms and other common websites. Of course, a marketplace also has its own website, and a traditional approach to its promotion will have an effect too. But if you are a digital marketing agency, you better keep in mind you are dealing with a particular concept.
How is it different?
The main difference is in SEO. Traditional SEO works like magic and it is no wonder why – approximately 44% of customers start shopping from organic search and these stats are 2 years old. But still, there are a few nuances. For example, content. Marketplaces have a number of lists with products and/or services (depending on the type of platform) offered not by an administrator, but by suppliers and vendors or even people who just post their offerings on the platform, so how do you create and where are you going to post your remarkable content? It is actually possible to craft a unique 50-100 words description for each item offered, but who has time for that?
What should be done in this case: a marketplace has to feature a blog or at least a FAQ section. Better both, check out one of our clients – Carvoy, but, for example, RewardExpert’s blog is enough, as well, as long as it is related to one specific niche. That is what we plan to emphasize when launching a blog on your website. It doesn’t have much-written content now, but we know how to solve that.
A blog is where you implement your long-tail keywords and include links, provide information that may come in handy to your users, both suppliers and consumers, like tutorials and how-tos, add original videos, perhaps, even audio segments or eBooks or podcasts. You need to take into account that search engines prefer long-form content (that works for all websites, not only for marketplaces). So that is how you improve your SERPs and on a good day get your content shared on social networks and, thus, drive more new clients to the marketplace.
Is there anything else that may help improve the quality of content on a marketplace?
Try to get as much of customer-generated content on a platform as you can. For example, reviews on products, are more likely will enhance the content quality. Moreover, research shows that pages that provide customer reviews convert about 58% more visits.
Still it won’t be easy, especially with service marketplaces. There you can try to utilize customer reviews on suppliers, which will also play into your hands. In terms of content that’s basically it. But as you see, even though great content is what Google and other search engines want, this is by far not the only thing that plays a role in marketplace promotion.
How else does marketplace promotion is different from common website promotion?
I guess, “different” is too strong a word. I’d say that there are crucial factors that could not be underestimated when it comes to marketplaces and a digital marketing agency that means business. And it is quite a long list.
Ok, we have mentioned the importance of a blog and FAQ part implementation, it would be great if users can generate some content as well. What comes next?
Next, you should take care of links. Actually, every website needs them. I mean both inner links and backlinks. You should always think of improving your website’s link structure and getting as many backlinks as possible (if you cannot get them, build them manually). Be careful with the former, though. Don’t try too hard to hyperlink each and every keyword on your website, just make it look natural. This will contribute to the site navigation, user engagement, better SERPs, and, thus, brand exposure.
Could you share with us some techniques on how to build links manually?
You can always ask people to link to your website. Look if someone on the internet mentioned your brand, or if someone wrote an article that includes your marketplace’s name without a link, and just ask the author to add it. Even if you see someone listing your competition, don’t hesitate to ask to include your brand on the list as well. After all, we are talking about improving your visibility online and letting more people know about your amazing resource, so do your best to try different approaches.
Let’s continue. What is your next tip?
Improve the site architecture. We are talking about marketplaces, just imagine how many listings, product, or service pages there are. Strong site architecture will not only help users navigate the website easier and understand the relationship between thousands of pages but will make it look more “attractive” from Google’s (as it’s the most commonly used search engine among Internet users) standpoint. Google is just like a person. Make it possible to find any product in no more than 3 clicks on your marketplace and Google will love it. That makes perfect sense, I think.
If the marketplace has more than 20 products or services on one page and uses filters (and I’m pretty sure that it does), you should pay close attention to your URLs. This often causes duplicate content and that should never happen.
While we are on the subject of URLs, I’d like to emphasize the importance of search-friendly and understandable URLs. Add keywords to your URLs, organize their structure and reduce their length as much as possible – make them readable both for search engines and humans. After all, everything you do on your website to please your users, Google will appreciate it, too.
So that means that you just have to imagine the website of your dream and turn it into reality?
Well, the reality is that it is easier said than done, but you got the basic principle. For example, when you use marketplaces what would you suggest improving?
Load speed frustrates me a lot sometimes. And I hate when I cannot use a marketplace on my phone.
Excellent, these two should be taken into account by a digital marketing agency that is working with marketplaces. It is crucial to optimize the load speed of the website and I should not explain why. Approximately 79% of users will never come back to your platform if they were not satisfied with your website’s performance and about 44% of them will never recommend your marketplace to their friends.
This mainly concerns mobile versions of websites, because many marketplaces are now actively switching to mobile devices, but fail to optimize the content accordingly. So if you have already keyed your website to mobile, make sure that your mobile version is operating smoothly. If you are still not mobile-friendly, you are putting your website at risk of being penalized by Google.
Sounds convincing. Is there anything else that can make the website look more attractive in the eyes of users and search engines?
I’d like to add a couple of words about the implementation of internal search and pagination. Even though your website is already using filters, it may be easier and more convenient for users to search for what they are looking for manually. Building this function enables to include some widely-used keyword search misspellings or predictive searches, refine product/service categories and titles.
In turn, pagination allows to show content in smaller sections and makes the relationship between pages clear to search engines. You may have heard that infinite scrolling will have an effect on usability, and it is true. But it won’t ensure high SERPs for your website. You can also opt for the “Load more” button. It provides for a better user experience, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be possible to show all the products and services on one page without clicking on the next page anyway. You can try to apply the mixed method – pagination + “load more” button. Then you can gain a two-folded advantage which is higher rankings and enhanced usability.
Seems like a lot of work!
It actually is, and the bad news is that it’s not all of it.
Are we done with the SEO part?
Not yet. There are still a couple of factors left out, for example, metadata and snippets. Google relies on meta titles and description tags when generating search results, so they obviously have to be original, unique, catchy, featuring keywords and call-to-actions. You never get a second chance to make the first impression, that’s why spend some time creating the type of metadata that will help you grab user attention and make them use the marketplace you are promoting.
Why do we need rich snippets? Since Google provides a user-oriented approach (you remember this, right?), rich snippets will satisfy those requirements. Rich snippets allow users to learn more about your services and products and make a decision whether this search result is worth checking before they actually click on it. The type of information you want your users to view depends on you: snippets can include price, availability, even some images, and reviews.
Do whatever it takes to satisfy users and Google will return the favor.
You are absolutely right. The next thing to do in order to improve user experience is to keep pages with out-of-stock products or unavailable services live. If you expect that particular product or service will available soon, then let your users know about it and suggest viewing the list of similar offerings.
If the product or service page was deleted as the marketplace had stopped the supply, users will get a 404 error page. We’ve all encountered them and they are really frustrating, aren’t they? In this case, I recommend to create custom 404 pages with funny pictures and amusing content, where users, for example, can play a simple game or watch a video before they click on a link to the previously viewed or home page. Think creative.
And the last but not least – security issues. If the marketplace still uses HTTP, then it is high time to switch to HTTPS. Nowadays security is crucial like never before. User passwords, emails, home addresses, credit cards, and other personal information have to be safe. Moreover, there is another reason to add SSL as soon as possible Google treats it as a ranking factor.
SEO for marketplaces is a very broad subject as you can see. I’m done with the basics that I believe can play a vital role for product and service platforms in terms of Google rankings. Let’s now move forward to SMM and PPC marketing.
I’m all ears.
Social media is still as important as ever, so you should not overlook the chance to improve your brand’s social media presence and visibility. Integrate social media on the product (or service) pages adding share buttons for Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, find out what works best, and results in the most ROI. Happy shoppers will definitely bring in new customers and you will see a dramatic increase in results in a short amount of time.
I see, before I let you go, anything else a digital marketing agency should be careful about?
Nothing else really comes to mind. I just want to remind everybody that the importance of email marketing should not be neglected. Statistics show that emails help marketers achieve the highest ROI. To gain positive results, you need to get extra savvy, because email marketing is not the same as it used to be even a couple of years ago. Personalization, segmentation, automation are my favorites, still, there are lots of other essential rules to follow while devising an email marketing strategy.
Now I’d like to mention one more crucial factor to lead our discussion to a logical end. People are social beings and so are marketplace users. People like to feel of themselves as someone important and meaningful, they love to be acknowledged and crave attention, that’s why you should take care of satisfying these needs – build a community of happy marketplace users by communicating with them, answering their comments, implementing discussion areas on the website. Just give the users that feel and they will be more likely to turn into your loyal customers.
Thank you for joining me Sergey! I hope that our readers will take away some of the ideas and suggestions we talked about today.