The convergence of publishing and ecommerce has been evolving for some time and is picking up steam.
On the one side, publishers who are facing declining advertising revenue are branching out and looking for new income streams. For many, ecommerce is the best opportunity at the moment.
On the other side, ecommerce sites, in response to Panda and May Day before it, are taking steps to reduce thin, low-value pages and to improve the overall quality of their content. This, plus the increasing popularity of content marketing as a tactic, has many non-publishers essentially getting into the publishing business.
From a user and searcher perspective, this means the traditional dividing lines between editorial and commercial sites are increasingly blurred.
What does this convergence mean for search engines and more specifically enterprise SEO?
- Publishers need to be careful about simply bolting on a shopping play to a subdomain or subdirectory. Done poorly, this can instantly add a high volume of thin, weak pages to the site and have a significant negative impact on the internal link graph. If I was writing an article on just this topic I’d call it something like “Publishers and Ecommerce: Great Fit or Great Way to Weaken Domains?” Smart integration is key.
- Equal care is needed in managing affiliate relationships. At a minimum, affiliate shopping links in traditional editorial content like reviews, round-ups and guides need to be set up in compliance with search engine guidelines. From an SEO perspective, the affiliate links may not help the site but you certainly don’t want them to hurt it.
- This convergence makes brand and trust signals all the more important. The engines need to understand that a credible editorial site is still just that when it suddenly puts a lot of focus on ecommerce, either directly or through affiliate relationships.
- When it comes to product-related queries, the engines tend to give ecommerce sites prominence for queries with transactional intent and editorial sites prominence for queries with informational intent. As both types of sites become increasingly relevant for both, how will this shake up the page one results? Publishers and ecommerce sites alike need to think carefully about how they map out keyword targets across the entire buy cycle.
- At the moment, I am focusing specifically on regular Web search, but there also opportunities with Google Shopping to consider. Ecommerce sites are a natural fit and typically have this covered but it is likely uncharted territory for most publishers. There may not be an appropriate fit for many editorial sites but when applicable it should be investigated.
- As ecommerce sites venture more into content production and marketing, the depth and quality of content should be a top priority. Just as publishers can’t simply bolt on a shopping play, commercial sites need to do more than just starting a blog with product-related posts or doing the occasional infographic. Even if the engines can’t always differentiate between “real” content and thinly veiled promotional content, users certainly can.
- Along those lines, content producers at commercial sites need (roughly speaking) the same SEO training and oversight as the editorial staff at a magazine or newspaper site does. Balancing SEO tactics and objectives with things like user experience, readability and editorial voice are critical.
It will be interesting to see how this convergence continues to evolve and how the engines and search marketers adapt to it.
Will trusted publisher domains with deep, quality content and strong link profiles and social signals gain a leg up for shopping related queries? Or are they stepping beyond their topical authority and still likely to trail behind category leaders for transactional queries?
As for ecommerce sites, how far can they legitimately migrate into editorial content? At the end of the day it is still about selling products. Are simple, streamlined product pages always going to have an advantage for shopping related queries? And is that more what users actually want?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.