Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Playing by the Rules

Two of the increasingly hot topics discussed this year are around the listing order displayed within Trade Me Motors and the usage of keywords. I am personally a big fan of internet neutrality and all it means for internet service providers and consumer access, however even in the big wide web world there still is the requirement for a few rules. If you have some free time Google J C Penney and Samsonite,  look for articles around the manipulation of search results. What we see on the web is dictated by the search engine we use for a number of reasons. The web is huge and so full of content that without the search engines indexing algorithms and a basic knowledge from your PC about your search behaviour you would never get relevant results along with some much targeted advertising. 
Companies like Google draw a strong distinction between those practices and techniques that are set to deceive search results commonly called ‘black-hat’ services and ‘white-hat’ approaches that are offered by legitimate SEM consultants. Everybody wants a more prominent web presence, but this has to be achieved within a set of rules and boundaries. Without this, consumers of the web will lack any relevant return on their search results. In the J. C. Penney case organic search results, those that are not ranked and displayed due to advertising payment were manipulated by the termination of hundreds of web sites links to the J. C. Penney website along with the wide spread use of keywords. The end result was J. C. Penny ranking higher is search results for Samsonite than the Samsonite companies own web site. Google took direct action against J. C. Penney and dropped their average search results from appearing in the first 1 or 2 down to a ranking around 52. Now that must have hurt.
Marketplaces are also open to the same practices and are generally policed in the same way search engines patrol the web. The goal is to always keep the consumer happy and coming back time and time again. For a site like Trade Me Motors there are a number of reasons why consumers keep returning. There is a feeling of immediacy and urgency around the auctions, and the classified listings content should be new and fresh. This is even more important now with mobile devices penetration growing giving customers ubiquitous anytime anywhere access. With each returning visit you never want to disappoint.
Keywords are a very efficient way of improving the quality of your Trade Me listings and being found within the keyword searches. The thing to remember about Trade Me Motors is that the keyword search is used both for keywords, and models. For any word or words entered into this field, the complete content of the listings are searched for results. This is hugely powerful.  There are broadly four types of keywords that you should consider when writing comments for vehicles. First, what features does this vehicle have and second, what benefits are standouts like safety, fuel economy, manual and a great first car etc? Third, make sure you include any common miss-spellings or miss-formatting of the model. An common example is including CX7 within the text for a Mazda CX-7. Lastly, list any selling point you have available from your dealership, like free nationwide delivery. A good clue as to what keywords are being used within the search field is to start typing then and you will see the most popular search terms automatically display. This is the ‘white-hat’ approach to keyword usage, and is all fine. What is tightly controlled by Trade Me is the  ’black-hat’ , predatory approach with the use of competitor makes and models keywords to gain an advantage within the search results and attract more people to that listing using lists of various car models. There is nothing worse than trying to search for a make and model and having the returned list containing unwanted results due to the incorrect use of or predatory targeting of keywords. This does not keep consumers engaged viewing your stock.   
On Trade Me, the listing order or ‘sort order’ as it is sometimes called is based on a calculation that contains a number of variables. Two of which is the date listed and the number of views a listing has generated. Above these there are two paid positions available at the top of all searches, the first being the Super Feature with the large post card images and the second being the yellow boxed Feature Listings.  Going back to my previous point that customers keep returning due to the listings always appearing fresh and new, this sort order is very important. The age old question of refreshing stock on the site reduces this experience with the returning of old listing to the top of the sort order.  If all dealers engaged in this practice, thousands of listing per day would re-appear at the top of the sort order and the newer listings would be quickly lost. At this point, nobody wins. Customers are also like train-spotters and quickly become dissatisfied with dealers whose vehicles keep returning to their watch lists. They also notice vehicles that have been sitting on Trade Me for long periods of time, that suddenly appear with a fresh date at the top of their searches –this can cause suspicion, and mistrust of that dealer.
So even though the internet is the largest non-owned entity in the world and for most part it is unregulated, the nature of it means that it does impose some of its own self-regulation. For the same reasons these guidelines are also in place for trading market places to ensure the best possible experience for the users - unless you happen to be a German living in a Coatesville mansion. 

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