March 13, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Let’s start with the obvious: search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be a core element of any eCommerce site’s business strategy.
How can SEO help your eCommerce business? Solid SEO practices can help drive organic traffic to your site, capturing shopper intent and putting your customers seamlessly on the path to purchase.
But if talk of schema markup and other technical jargon makes your head spin and your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. There are some great resources designed to ensure your SEO strategy employs established best practices, even if you’re a beginner.
Start with Google
The best place to start is probably with the 800-pound gorilla of search: Google. If you’re going to focus your SEO strategy on one search engine, make it the company that handles more search queries than any other in the US. According to recent data from Jumpshot complied by SparkToro, Google or Google-owned properties controlled more than 90% of US search share as of fall 2018.1
At the highest level, Google suggests that websites:
- Give visitors the information they want. That means putting high-quality, useful content on your webpages that’s clear and accurate.
- Get other sites to link to yours. When another site links to yours—or backlinks—it’s a signal to Google that your site is reputable and generating good content. These links should be “natural,” meaning they weren’t created for the sole purpose of gaming Google’s algorithm. Google’s software is pretty sophisticated and can ding your site’s search results if it decides that sites are linking to yours in an unnatural fashion.
- Don’t “keyword stuff” or create hidden content targeted to crawlers. It’s tempting to put a bunch of keywords or other hidden content designed to better appeal to Google’s indexing software. But, again, Google can identify these tactics and will rank your site lower as a result.
Google has a helpful SEO Starter Guide that goes into much greater detail on how to improve your organic rankings.
Go Deeper for eCommerce
Google’s best practices are a good place to start. But eCommerce sites need to go beyond the basics to increase the online traffic to their digital storefronts. Thankfully, SEO service and tools provider Ahrefs has created a step-by-step guide for an eCommerce SEO strategy.
The Ahrefs guide understandably highlights the use of the company’s own tools and services, but the guide still contains some valuable concepts that any eCommerce site can apply.
Ahrefs suggests that eCommerce companies:
- Do keyword research. This entails using keyword planning tools to figure out the best keywords for both category pages and product detail pages. That can include the use of “long-tail” keywords that might not be immediately obvious, but that can deliver strong results over a long period of time.
- Optimize on-page SEO strategies. This does involve creating meta tags and schema markup. But don’t worry, the Ahrefs guide will walk you through those techniques, as well as the benefits of things like optimized URLs and unique content on both category pages and product detail pages.
- Fix “technical” SEO problems. This includes things like removing duplicated content—something that Google’s crawler is not terribly fond of—as well as eliminating “deep” or “orphaned” pages that are more than three clicks removed from your home page.
How TurnTo Can Help with SEO
Ratings & Reviews are incredibly important to shoppers. Our research shows that three-quarters of shoppers are less likely to buy something from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews.
Why? Because Customer-Generated Content provides an authentic voice to shoppers from a trusted source—themselves.
But more than that, product reviews can yield serious benefits for your SEO efforts. TurnTo’s Ratings and Reviews are fully viewable and indexable by search engines. That means shoppers who submit a review are actually adding relevant keywords to your product detail pages, without you having to do anything.
Reviews also give product detail pages unique content, something highly regarded by search engine algorithms. Product detail pages that are regularly updated are also indexed by search engines with greater frequency, delivering even more value to your SEO strategy.
TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. And the indexability of our reviews also means they’re included in Googles’ “rich snippets,” the search results that include extra information, like a product’s star rating, that’s placed between the URL and the description of a search result.
Rich snippets like the one seen above tend to get higher click-through rates, generating more traffic for your site.
In addition, TurnTo’s Community Q&A product, which lets shoppers answer questions posed by other shoppers directly on the product detail page, also provide the same SEO benefits. They offer new, organically created content that’s updated frequently and can help surface items to customers on search engines.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can improve your SEO strategy?
1 2018 Search Market Share: Myths vs. Realities of Google, Bing, Amazon, Facebook, DuckDuckGo, & More; SparkToro, October 2018
December 16, 2015 by George Eberstadt
Each year at this time, CIO Review Magazine picks 20 technology solutions for the retail business that stood out during the previous year. TurnTo was selected as one of them in their just-published 2015 list. Here’s a link to their official citation. Their explanation did a very nice job summarizing the changes that are taking place in shopper behavior and the resulting challenges and opportunities for online sellers. Reprinting it here:
Product ratings and reviews have been a staple of eCommerce since Amazon introduced them in the mid-90s. But the basic model hasn’t evolved much, while the online environment has changed dramatically. Phones have passed computers as the primary means through which many people access the internet. Visual content has become far more important in the online product discovery and selection process. Social media has trained people to value 2-way interactivity over passive content consumption. Messaging has taught people to prefer their text shorter and shorter.
Set against this backdrop is New York-based TurnTo Networks, the fastest-growing provider of so-called “customer- generated content” (CGC) tools for top eCommerce businesses and brands. TurnTo’s mission has been to update the basic ideas of traditional ratings and reviews to address the changes in the ways people shop online and how they create and use CGC in the process. To accomplish this, TurnTo has developed an innovative suite of customer-content applications for eCommerce built around this new environment: mobile-first, highly visual, 2-way interactive, and short-form text.
TurnTo’s line-up includes an up-to-date take on traditional Ratings and Reviews, a Community Q&A product that enables shoppers to get their product questions answered by peers who already own the items, a “micro-review” gathered at the point of purchase called a Checkout Comment, and a Visual Reviews product built around the reality that many people would rather use their phones to take pictures and video than to fill in forms and type. Together, these products fulfill the basic promise of customer ratings and reviews while taking the value delivered by customer content to a new level
Not only do these new and updated tools better meet the needs of today’s shopper, they also help online sellers address important challenges that traditional ratings and reviews don’t solve well. For example, stores with “fast-turn” catalogs, such as fashion, often have trouble building up customer reviews before items go out of stock or out of season. But TurnTo’s Checkout Comments start generating content from the first moment an item is available for sale. Or consider highly complex products like cameras and electronics. It’s impossible for reviews or standard product information to anticipate all the questions a shopper might have before purchasing. For that, Community Q&A is an effective way to quickly get prospective buyers the information they need. Or how about the whole category of do-it-yourself–from home improvement to cooking to crafts? Stores often want to call attention to the results of the products they sell–the projects made with their tools and supplies. Text reviews of product features can never highlight these outcomes the way proud photos taken by real customers can.
“Traditional ratings and reviews remain very important, and it’s crucial for stores and brands to use a platform that collects the greatest volume while ensuring authenticity,” says George Eberstadt, CEO, TurnTo Networks. “But it’s no longer enough to stop there. Customer behavior has moved on, which has created great opportunities for sellers to use these new types of customer-content to create better experiences for shoppers while addressing some of their most important merchandising challenges.”
November 18, 2015 by George Eberstadt
A new study from L2 of the CPG personal care market looks at the relationship between review volume and search engine results and finds:
…products with more reviews enjoy superior search visibility.
SEO is a major reason to maximize the number of reviews you collect, but there are others:
- A high review count displayed alongside the average star rating signals that a product is popular and also increases trust in the average rating by showing it is based on a meaningful sample. In fact, a higher review count can more than make up for a lower average rating. In this recent study, 61% of respondents preferred a product with a 4.5 star average based on 57 reviews over the same item with a 5 star average based on only 4 reviews.
- Larger numbers of reviews drive higher average ratings by tapping into the “happy middle” of the customer base to dilute the over-influence of the often unhappy extreme that otherwise dominates. Jockey.com (underwear) recently found that sending an email to request reviews not only increased review volume by 7X, it also increased the average rating across the site by a half a star – a HUGE effect.
While it’s no surprise that more-reviews-is-better, in practice, we find many brands and stores are so focused on the average star rating for their products that they undervalue the raw volume count and miss opportunities to increase collection.
The L2 study points to review syndication from brand sites to retail sites as an effective strategy for increasing review volume at the point of purchase. We would add that merchants should consider an open strategy for in-bound syndication, as closed networks can have significant limitations in reach, complexity, and cost.
We would also recommend that stores and brands evaluate their mechanisms for collecting reviews, as platform limitations can crush the volume of reviews collected. For example, the furniture store Raymour & Flanigan doubled the volume of verified-buyer reviews they collect by switching to an approach that automatically authenticates known reviewers rather than requiring a separate authentication step. And for unrecognized users, a flow that enables review creation before requiring authentication is essential. (Do you make your visitors register before they shop?!?)
May 28, 2015 by John Swords
[Updated October 11, 2015 to reflect changes Internet Retailer made to their 2015 Top 500 database since the date this was first published.]
According to the newest data from the leading trade publication, Internet Retailer, TurnTo Networks Inc. is the fastest-growing user-generated content (UGC) solution provider to the “IR500” – the top 500 online retailers in North America.
Of the top 3 solution providers in Internet Retailer’s “Customer Reviews and Forums” category – TurnTo, Bazaarvoice, and PowerReviews – only TurnTo showed significant growth from the 2014 tally to 2015. The number of top 500 retailers using TurnTo grew by 53% during the period, while the number using Bazaarvoice declined 3% and the number using PowerReviews declined 12%.
Measured by the annual web sales of the retailers served, the results were even more dramatic. TurnTo grew 198% during the period, while Bazaarvoice grew 2% and PowerReviews declined 1%. Additionally, the Internet Retailer 2015 research shows that 50% of the annual web sales of the PowerReviews customer base is represented by a single customer. Excepting this, the total annual web sales of TurnTo’s IR500 customers would be ahead of PowerReviews and second only to Bazaarvoice overall.
I had a quick chat with our CEO, George Eberstadt, to get his thoughts on the reasons for this growth.
Me: George, the first thing people are going to ask on seeing these numbers is what’s driving them. So, what’s driving them?
George: First let me say – and I don’t want to be too saccharine about this – it’s humbling and gratifying to get this kind of trust from these businesses. The alternatives have been around a while, so we recognize that the retailers adopting us are making a bold move rather than the safe choice.
And I think that’s the short answer to your question. The customer-generated content space hasn’t seen much bold innovation for a while, and retailers that are tired of the same-old haven’t had alternatives – especially at the enterprise level. We bring the fresh perspective, smart innovation, and fanatical commitment that a lot of retailers are looking for.
Me: Can you put your finger on any particular TurnTo innovations that the market has been responding to?
George: I think it’s a mix – some big, some subtle. For example, we were the first to introduce the “active outreach” mechanism for getting fast community answers to shopper questions. That was really the breakthrough that makes community answering work. Then, we expanded our vision of Q&A to include answering an ever broader range of shopper questions even faster, so we added instant answers and knowledge base features. Q&A is still a new frontier with lots more opportunities for major innovations, and we’re pursuing those.
Checkout Chatter is another example. It’s simple and highly effective. And it’s a TurnTo exclusive.
Ratings & Reviews, on the other had, is a more mature area, so our innovations have been less revolutionary, though they still have a big impact on ROI. For example, our ready-to-wear UI is exceptionally clean, elegant, and mobile-friendly while still providing easy customizability either through CSS or our comprehensive API. Our review-solicitation email answer flow automatically authenticates the user, leading to more reviews from verified buyers – especially on mobile devices. Our transaction history integration enables the system to ask for reviews on previously purchased items immediately after a user writes a review or answers a question, which increases total review volume by 20-30%.
Me: Are there any other reasons you think retailers are switching?
George: I think our customer success process and the great team behind it is another reason. By focusing on the business as well as the technical aspects of integrating our tools, we ensure customers get the most value from them. And we don’t just move on to the next customer as soon as the last one is set up; no one is fully optimized on the day they go live, and we are pretty relentless in follow-through over time. That’s a hard thing for retailers to get a sense of during an evaluation, but it comes into play in our high customer retention and referral rates, which is a big part of our growth.
Data from the IR500 survey by Internet Retailer are available at www.top500guide.com.
December 3, 2014 by John Swords
To provide some more context, I sat down with our CEO to discuss how this new product came about.
Heather: TurnTo is well known for providing the top-performing community-powered Q&A solution for eCommerce. Why branch out to Ratings & Reviews?
George: Well, we resisted for a long time! One reason we’ve been able to build up such a lead on the Q&A side is focus. But 4 things changed our minds. I’ll go through them:
- First, some businesses wanted to adopt our Q&A without increasing their vendor count. Our Q&A has always been targeted at businesses that take a best-of-breed approach to vendors; but with integrated Ratings & Reviews we can meet the needs of those who prefer suite providers, too.
- Second, we identified some very exciting ways to integrate the two products to deliver more value than either can alone.
- Third, we realized that all of the enterprise-grade infrastructure we built for Q&A could be leveraged by our Ratings & Reviews product, enabling us to rapidly build out the application and launch with a full enterprise-ready feature set.
- And finally, our customer research revealed some pretty wide-spread dissatisfaction with the existing choices and a strong demand for a better option.
Heather: What was the overall philosophy behind the design of TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product?
George: We spent a lot of time talking with both current customers and prospects to understand what they wanted in a Ratings & Reviews product, and the feedback was very consistent: all the important functions that have been proven to work, beautifully executed, on an enterprise-grade platform, at an affordable price. We also heard consistent requests to stay away from bells and whistles that don’t add value and clutter up the user experience or make the system management difficult just to appear different. The architect Mies van der Rohe was famous for saying “God is in the details”, by which he meant creativity doesn’t necessarily require wild gestures – there’s plenty of opportunity for innovation in just honing an idea until it’s really right. I’d say that was the philosophy guiding us here.
Heather: OK, so there’s nothing radically different about TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product, but are there still some innovations you’d like to point out?
George: At the application level, one nice touch is that the “purchaser credential” (like the Verified Buyer badge) provides an approximate date of purchase. That increases the credibility of the review and also enables the shopper to see how much experience the reviewer has had with the product. We also offer state-of-the-art mobile capabilities – responsive design right out of the box and phone-optimized UX for review collection. Plus, as I mentioned, we’ve found some very valuable new ways to integrate Ratings & Reviews with Q&A. For example, when a shopper enters a question, our Instant Answers feature now searches the Ratings & Reviews for relevant information (as well as the existing Q&A dialog and the store’s knowledge base). Also, the please-review-your-purchase email can now include an offer for customers to get help with their recent purchase from others who already own the item. That turns Q&A into a post-purchase support tool; and by coupling it to the review solicitation, stores can head off potential negative reviews and turn them into positive ones.
Heather: How has the market received TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews so far?
George: The reception has been great. Many of our existing Q&A customers have already or are in the process of switching their reviews over to us, too. Many of our new customers are signing up for both reviews and Q&A together. And we’ve even got a some new customers who are starting with our Ratings & Reviews and planning to add Q&A later. And that’s all before we’ve really started to market this new product.
Heather: Does this mean TurnTo is no longer a “Q&A first” company?
George: No, we’re still Q&A-first. We expect that online business who are satisfied with the current reviews providers will still come to us for best-of-breed community-powered Q&A. It’s already the industry leader, and we have many big enhancements coming in 2015. But when you look the whole package of our Ratings & Reviews offering – the product itself, TurnTo’s outstanding support, affordability, integration with our industry-leading Q&A, and our extraordinary roadmap – it compares very favorably to the existing alternatives.