E-commerce merchants have waited more than a year to find out how the Microsoft-Yahoo! search alliance will affect their search marketing efforts and their businesses overall. The answers are not all going to come right away but with the merger now upon us, the wait is essentially over. Yahoo! is slated to start serving organic search results from the Microsoft Bing engine next month, and the company’s paid search ads will be migrating to Microsoft’s adCenter shortly thereafter.
The new partnership is expected to command about 30 percent of the search market currently dominated by Google, and data indicates that this percentage of users will be statistically closer to purchase than Google’s much larger share. That’s more than enough reason for e-commerce merchants not to ignore this significant change in the search landscape, and we have put together a list of five things to do to ensure that your business is ready for the start of this new era.
1. Give your content a tuneup
Tired of hearing that content is king? The statement has never been truer than it is today, and it is only going to become more so in the days ahead. You do not have to give yours a complete overhaul, but the new alliance presents the perfect opportunity to fine tune your content for optimal usability, readability and value to consumers — which will give you better results on any search engine. If you haven’t yet explored any of the simple online video tools that are available, do so now. If you have only scratched the surface with your social media efforts, now is the time to dig deeper into those campaigns. Look at your site for any areas of neglect such as the company blog, press releases, product images, user reviews and backlinks, and build them back up with the best content you can create.
2. Get up to speed on adCenter
If you are not already doing so, you will definitely want to utilize Microsoft’s adCenter. Many merchants have passed over this valuable resource and rely on Google’s AdWords instead, but adCenter has actually proven to have better e-commerce demographics and a significantly better conversion rate. With the new alliance in place, adCenter will be the pay-per-click ad portal for all Microsoft and Yahoo! sites starting at the onset of the 2010 holiday shopping season, or in the beginning of 2011 at the latest.
3. Use Bing Webmaster Tools
Bing has an excellent set of tools that will not only be functional to merchants in their search marketing efforts, but will also help optimize their sites for the search engine. The summary tool provides webmasters with the most recent crawling data and other status about their sites, and checks the domain score and page score and the estimated number of indexed pages. There is a backlinks tool that generates a list of inbound links which can be downloaded for offline viewing and editing, and an outbound links tool that provides a similar list of URLs.
4. Update your sitemap
A lot of the talk specifically about the Bing algorithm has revolved around sitemaps. Some of the data suggests that Bing searches rely more heavily on sitemaps than Google searches do, so merchants should make sure that theirs are in good working order to be better optimized for the new search partners. Sitemaps are simply directories for search engines that allow them to collect information about a site, and they are generally XML (extensible markup language) files. The important thing to do is to make sure yours is updated with the latest information that will be relevant during a search for your business.
5. Explore new keywords
Traffic will continue to grow on Bing before it eventually reaches a plateau, which analysts predict will be around the 30-percent point of the search market share. The time for e-commerce merchants and search marketers to explore the new field is when it is still trending upwards. Already, we have heard that Bing users are more likely to click on ads than Google users, so merchants should experiment with new keywords in their adCenter ads and in their creative content to see what gets a response. Analyze the traffic you get from different terms now to help determine which words and campaigns will have the most success over the long term when the traffic numbers level out.