Ecommerce competition is fierce in Google. With so many competitors, eCommerce webmasters must find a way to stand out among the other related online stores. One way to stand out in search engines is the use of Google rich snippets. These structured HTML microdata components display in search engine results, and they give users an incentive to visit your store among the others displayed on the search result page.

What are Rich Snippets?

Google introduced rich snippets to help eCommerce stores display additional information in search engine result pages. Rich snippets are additional HTML tags you use to specify reviews, product inventory, recipes, events, and music. When Google crawls your site, it reads these additional HTML tags and displays the additional content directly underneath your website link.

For instance, if you have product reviews set up for your site, you use rich snippet information to display your customer’s feedback in Google’s search engine results. If your customers rate a specific product with three stars, the three stars display in search results.

Google Search

How Do Rich Snippets Help with SEO?

SEO is more than backlinks, code and content. SEO is competitive, so now businesses need marketing as part of SEO efforts. Rich snippets are just a small part of a wide range of SEO enhancements available to online stores.

Do a search for your favorite product in Google. If any of the first ten results display rich snippet enhancements, notice how the online store stands out among the rest. For this reason, viewers are drawn to your link instead of a competitor’s link. Rich snippets give you a marketing advantage over competitors, because users are visually drawn to your site in the search results.

In addition to a better click-through rate (CTR), you also have more targeted traffic to your site. Targeted traffic means the viewer has a high interest in the product, and that viewer has a better chance of turning into a paying customer. Targeted traffic is good for your store’s conversion rate, which is a rate used to define the success of SEO and other marketing efforts.

Working with Rich Snippets

If you run WordPress or Blogger sites, several programmers have created plug-ins you use to generate rich snippet microdata. Some shopping cart systems will place rich snippets in your code. If you have a custom online store, then you need to manually edit the code.

Google also provides webmasters with a tool to test rich snippets for any errors, check it out here.Webmasters should always verify that rich snippets are functioning properly before launching the new code.

Using these HTML snippets, you can improve sales, increase visibility in search engines, and improve your click-through rate. Google also provides a start-up guide to help you get started with snippets.

The SEO landscape is an ever-shifting one, with new updates to Google’s search algorithms continually driving the development of new tactics. The search giant’s stated goal is to return the pages that readers really want to see. It claims that its search criteria have the effect of rewarding sites that offer high-value content while penalizing those that try to game the system.

For their part, website owners who have been hit by changes in search criteria claim that their sites are often unfairly punished. Small and midsize businesses in particular have been hit hard, as they tend to have fewer resources to expend on website upgrades. If a site’s SEO hasn’t been updated since before 2011, it may well be affected by some of the tweaks Google made to its algorithm. Google’s major updates — Panda and the more recent Penguin — now downgrade sites for using what was considered SEO best practice until very recently.

While the various debates about Google’s fairness or unfairness and what constitutes “black hat” SEO will no doubt continue to rage for many years, we can be sure of two things. One is that it’s imperative for site owners to respond to the changes by revamping their sites and updating their SEO. The other is that bad content has never helped anyone achieve a high page ranking.

The chief problem with many of the “tried and true” SEO techniques that have harmed certain sites and the businesses behind them is that they are aimed at robots, not readers. While the public may be fickle, Googlebot is even more so. Tactics that tricked it one day may be recognized and accounted for the next, making them obsolete — or even harmful.

One example is the tactic of placing keywords in a site’s meta data. This used to be standard practice for SEO, as web robots would read the meta text and use it to categorize and rank pages. Unfortunately, instead of placing relevant keywords in their meta descriptions, unscrupulous site owners would add irrelevant but high-scoring terms to the meta keywords. This improved the site’s traffic at the expense of cluttering search results with irrelevant links. Consequently, Google now largely ignores meta keywords when determining a site’s topic or ranking — except when downgrading sites that keyword-stuff their meta data to excess. Sites that were created before this change may therefore suffer if their old SEO relied on this outdated tactic.

Good articles, blog posts and instructional pieces are still the mainstay of quality site content, delivering a lot of value for visitors.Ideally, sites should offer quality multimedia content too. As Google places more and more emphasis on images and particularly on videos, this kind of content becomes increasingly valuable.

Thanks to its Venice update, Google now places more and more emphasis on serving local links. Even if a user doesn’t include a city or town name in their search, site software can detect the general location of the searcher based on that person’s IP address or Google profile. It then includes that information when processing a web search. This is clearly a smart move — when a potential customer in New York searches for “carpet cleaning,” a link to a firm of carpet cleaners in Boston is of no use to them. By ensuring that local links appear first, Google attempts to give users the most relevant information. For this reason, SEO 2013-style includes adding plenty of relevant local information to a site.

carpet cleaning   Google Search

Whatever material a business provides on its websites, it will need a good social media presence as well. Google looks at the number of comments, shares and “likes” that a page receives through social networks when determining how high to rank it. A positive profile on social sites is fast becoming an essential prerequisite for SEO success. This includes general social media such as Facebook or Twitter but also platforms dedicated to multimedia content. Image-sharing platforms like Pinterest and video-sharing sites such as Vimeo and YouTube are increasingly powerful — especially YouTube, which is now owned by Google.

While it’s still just possible to game the system, at least for short periods, manipulating search results is no longer as simple as certain shady SEO “experts” like to pretend. Increasingly, Google and other search engines attempt to evaluate sites based on human input. Playing well with the robots now means playing well with the flesh-and-blood individuals who come to your site. With new ways of detecting suspect sites and the soaring importance of social media, it’s never been more vital to source quality content and keep a site’s SEO up to date.

There is a lot of confusion around search engine optimization, or SEO. Partly this is due to the genuine complexity of the subject — SEO is complicated and changes very fast — and partly it is due to the unscrupulous individuals and companies who use shady practices in an attempt to snatch a higher page ranking.

At its simplest, SEO is a collection of techniques and practices that improve your page ranking. This means that your site is closer to the top of the search results and easier for people to find. In practice, good SEO means working well with Google, since Google is by far the most widely used search engine.

The way in which pages are ranked may change but the ultimate aim of any search engine is to show people the pages that they really want to see. Search engines use complicated step-by-step procedures, called algorithms, to analyze pages and decide which ones should get the highest page ranking. Search engines attempt to find the sites that are most relevant to the search term entered. They also look for sites that are authoritative — containing the most accurate and useful information.

There are many elements that search algorithms use to determine page ranking — and these change over time as search engines become more sophisticated. In general, however, search engines look at:

1. The text, pictures and video on a page.
2. The tags used to describe the content.
3. The number of links leading to a page, including social shares.
4. How old the site is.
5. How many pages there are?

In the past, search engines also looked at the Meta tags on a page. This is a section of the page’s HTML that describes what the page is about. Unfortunately, the Meta tag was badly abused: people consistently inserted words into the Meta tag that had nothing to do with the actual site. Now search engines completely ignore the Meta tag when evaluating a page. It is only used to add a description for the site when it appears in the search results.

To improve your page’s search ranking, you first need to know which keywords are most relevant to your site. Terms that people have searched for in the past are stored in large databases. It is not enough just to select keywords that lots of people are searching for and add them to your site: “Kim Kardashian” might be a popular search term but if your site is about plumbing services, it will not really help customers find you.

Next, you need to incorporate these keywords into your site. They should appear in important places, such as page titles and anchor text for links. Keywords should also appear in your page content. It is important to have plenty of good quality content that people want to read or view. Not only will people be more likely to stay on your site but they will be more inclined to share it, link to it and tell their friends about it. All these things help push your page up the search rankings.

You can also improve your page ranking by making your page easier to navigate and understand. A big wall of text crammed with keywords will not play well with search engines and will not impress your visitors either. By adding a site map, a table of contents and internal links to relevant pages of your site, you not only make it easier for visitors to find their way around but also make your page more search-engine friendly.

The most important thing to remember is that search engines are not enemies to be tricked or subverted. They are your allies in connecting potential clients with your business. Good SEO practices help them to help you by making it easier for people to find you.

If you are not sure you can navigate the complexities of search engines on your own, do not worry: help is at hand in the form of SEO experts and agencies. Outsourcing to someone who has made SEO their specialty makes good sense — they can handle the tricky details of optimizing your site while you focus on your core business.

The world of search engine optimization is a fast-changing one and the methods that were standard just a few years ago are quite different to what they are now. Using outdated SEO methods will end up being ineffective at best or completely counterproductive at worse. Following is a brief look at the SEO practices that you should start working on to reinvigorate your Internet marketing campaign in 2013.

Google Authorship

Google Authorship has become a popular topic among those in the SEO business and using it can influence your standing in the world’s most popular search engine considerably. Part of Google +, it is designed to make it easy for people to define their intellectual rights by connecting authors with all of their content all over the Web. Those searching for content can, thanks to this feature, also search for content by author. Google Authorship helps you to build up rapport and confidence in your brand as it makes you a lot more noticeable thanks to your image appearing beside relevant search results.

Provide Killer Content

Content is king. This fact cannot be reiterated enough. Long gone are the days where effective SEO placed the emphasis on quantity over quality. Today, Google reads websites and catalogs them more similarly to how a human would than ever before. Creating engaging, original and quality content free of mistakes is no longer optional if you want to make a success online. Your content should offer value to human readers and this in itself is what today constitutes good SEO. When it comes to creating content for your website, you should be thinking about your human audience first.

Diversify Your Anchor Text

The anchor text consists of the underlined works in any link to your website. Anchor text has always been an important element of good search engine optimization and this is still the case today. However, there are a few extra considerations when it comes to making it more effective. Anchor text should ideally contain your chosen key word or phrase for that piece of content and then be strategically placed in such a way that it blends in naturally with the rest of the article. Make sure that it looks natural and do not overuse it.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging presents a great opportunity for you to increase your exposure online. As a guest blogger, you will typically write a free post for a blog owner and this post will contain links back to your website. This way, you can get traffic while the blog owner gets some free content for their website. Many guest bloggers are regular columnists, providing a new article or news story on a weekly basis.

Social Media

Social media channel has for some years now been the number one thing that people use the Internet for, so it is hardly surprising that it is also very important for Internet marketers as well. Search engine marketing continues to be an important trend in the world of Internet marketing and you won’t do your business any harm by stepping up your Twitter and Facebook advertising campaigns. However, it is also of great importance to remember that social networking is all about interacting with others rather than just posting sales pitches or using other traditional forms of advertising. Get more social by getting involved with the community.

Although some are saying that search engine optimization is dead, this is not quite true. There is no doubt; however, that what works and what do not work in SEO has changed significantly in the past few years. With Google’s algorithm updates, the world’s most popular search engine is working more like it’s powered by humans than by an advanced algorithm. Following are some outdated SEO practices that are still widely used yet should be avoided lest you harm your online marketing process.

Article Marketing

Article marketing in its basic form is a process by which huge amounts of low quality articles are written, rewritten, and plastered all over the Internet on online magazines and article directories. The articles contain links back to the website that you are marketing. Unsurprisingly, article marketing takes a lot of time and there is typically an enormous emphasis on quantity rather than quality. Today, Google and other search engines, making them less worthwhile to bother with, have ranked most article directories down. Do not waste your time.

Avoid the Press Release Mill

The press release mill, just like article marketing, can end up being a constant grind involving churning out large amounts of low quality and often-repetitive content. Press releases are still important, but do not get into the habit of writing content that is not newsworthy just for the sake of it. Have a purpose and a sense of direction instead and do not spend too much of your time focussing on press release distribution.

Creating Content for the Search Engines

Forget keyword density and, for the most part, keyword placement. In fact, when creating content for your website, you can largely forget about keywords entirely. Instead, the focus on your human readers is what is important now. On-page SEO does still carry some weight, but consider it of secondary importance. Remember that the search engines are getting very good at identifying and penalizing over-optimized content.

Automation of Common SEO Tasks

Do not automate common SEO tasks such as social media updates, content submission and link building. While it may be tempting as a way to save time, what happens in reality is that your online business loses its human touch and becomes something more akin to a spam-bot. It is surprising, for example, how many people still use things like article spinners to create hundreds of ‘unique’ articles from a single one.

Emphasizing Quantity

A few years ago, quantity actually won over quality when it came to SEO campaigns and building up your site’s traffic. The Internet is still cluttered by junk material of little use to anyone, but this is starting to change as Google and other search engines try to up the overall standard of the quality of content and information on the Web. Today, the focus is on quality rather than quantity and it is now very much the former that determines the popularity and staying power of a website.