Are Your Online Sales Suffering Because of Bad Metadata?

Selling online is a fantastic way to reach customers quickly and cheaply, boost sales and reduce inventories. However many online sellers miss the basic step of using keywords and metadata which can help customers find their products.

In recent months we've begun working with retailers to help them include metadata which is meaningful, consistent and accurate for their clients.

What we've found is that as a rule retailers and other online sellers spend considerable money - sometimes in the millions - to produce a good-looking web site. Normally this includes a sophisticated search system.

The sad thing is that after spending all that money, the metadata and keywording for each product can be substandard, letting down all the work already done. Customers have trouble finding the products they want, or they find way to many of the wrong products. In some cases they are engaging in an elaborate guessing game to work out what word the seller has used to describe their product.

Such frustrations don't last long however, as customers tend to vote with their mice and quickly move to another, easier-to-search site.

Adding the crucial metadata is frequently done by buyers, merchandisers or suppliers. Such people have great product knowledge, but as they are operating as individuals there is often little consistency in how products are identified. They are also unlikely to anticipate the sort of searches customers actually use.

Bringing synonyms together and using words based on clients' needs, not just product description, can greatly enhance the buying experience and boost sales.

Take the word "gift". That's a fantastic keyword to help customers solve the problem of what to find for a going away present, a birthday gift or something for under the Christmas tree. Often this keyword produces no results, or can result in some strange search results. On one site we examined, "gift" produced a heat pump, not exactly a stocking stuffer!

Keywording can also promote cross sales by including products synonymous with what is being searched for. For some stores, including other MP3 players along with i-pods could be a good idea for instance.

Metadata used for internal search has the added benefit that it can be used for product listings in SEO for Google, making products easy to find on the net as well as within the store's site.

Once a product is well keyworded, the online seller can also use that data to create marketing campaigns based on different configurations of products - his and hers, just for kids and so on - without having to do search engine gymnastics to find all the products for the promotion.