Linda Bustos will speaking on SEO Content at SearchFest 2016, which is being held March 10th, 2016 at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland, Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.

See Linda Bustos speak at SearchFest 20161) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.

I’ve been in the ecommerce space for nearly 10 years, focusing on user experience and conversion optimization. Since 2007, I’ve written the GetElastic Ecommerce blog, and recently moved on to start my own ecommerce advisory firm Edgacent. We help online retailers make strategic technology, merchandising and UX decisions. I’m currently blogging at EcommerceIllustrated, and writing a book of the same name launching later this year.

2) What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone launching their first ecommerce website?

1. Pick your platform wisely. If you’re just getting started, there are a number of ecommerce platforms you can choose at the entry level, but what online merchants often fail to take into account beyond features and functionality and cost of the platform is the “total cost of ownership” — in other words, how much will you require to spend monthly to keep bolt-on apps running (such as search and live chat, for example), to make template changes (for user experience and A/B testing) and regular site maintenance. It’s critical to do a thorough vendor selection as well as implementation and support partner evaluation before signing any commitments, both considering present day needs and expected requirements 2-3 years ahead. (Our group can help with that).

2. Nail your value proposition. Online selling is fiercely competitive. And if Amazon’s your competitor, you need to be very strategic and clear about why a customer should buy from you and not from anyone else. Be sure to overcommunicate this through your website, all online marketing messaging and post-sale/after-sale service.

3. Focus on merchandise. This comes in 3 – sourcing and stocking the right merchandise, inventory planning (you can’t sell what you’re sold out of) and on-site merchandising (how you present the optimal mix to the customer). Nailing this means getting to know your data and use it to make intelligent decisions, rather than using analytics to simply “tell you what happened.” (Your merchandise is part of your value proposition!)

3) There seems to be lots of shopping search engines where someone can upload their merchant feed. Which, if any, are worth the effort?

Generally, referred visitors from shopping engines convert high (vs. other forms of search marketing like Adwords, for example). The visitor has already evaluated your product and price against similar items, so they are visitors that are closer to conversion.

If you’re just getting your toe wet with shopping engines, I recommend Google. These product results are baked into Google SERPs which gives you a boost in visibility. It’s also an engine that’s frequently used.

Beyond that, there are some great marketplaces, but you need to make the decisions based on what marketplaces can send you the traffic you want and fits your product and brand (e.g. the customer may be less discount crazy than PriceGrabber). If your strategy is to be in any and every shopping engine you can, it’s best to outsource the management of these programs to an agency that understands the channels and can closely manage your campaigns (including SKU-level ROI) and continually keep your feeds up to date and follow best practices for each marketplace’s data feed requirements.

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