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To be upfront: there aren’t any Marketplace SEO guides that are available on the web that I would consider to be high quality, relevant or useful.
And I figure that I’m well-placed to tackle the topic. This is based on my experience being engaged for SEO consulting (will provide proof of credentials) with successful online marketplaces over the years.
My goal within this guide is to provide an outline of the top 5 tips that SEO Managers for Marketplaces should keep in mind to achieve long-term success with SEO. The guide also seeks to answer the question ‘What is Marketplace SEO?’, alongside examples.
If you’re wanting to learn about SEO for marketplaces that aren’t just generic lists of recommendations that could effectively apply to any site, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what I know.
What is Marketplace SEO?
Marketplace SEO requires a unique approach to Search Engine Optimization by catering to both buyers and sellers via an online platform. While standard SEO principles apply (Technical, Content, and Links), there is a sizable opportunity to employ techniques by page type that are unique to marketplaces.
For some SEO experts, there is familiarity with working with Marketplaces if they have had experience working on SEO for eCommerce sites. eCommerce SEO would be considered the closest SEO discipline to Marketplace SEO. While Marketplaces do employ some form of purchase functionality, they are often quite different to standard eCommerce sites.
Similarities in eCommerce SEO to Marketplace SEO include the use of category pages to list items, the ability to review items, along with checkout functionality. With respect to checkout functionality, a standard eCommerce site allows for the purchase of a product, whereas Marketplaces can provide checkout functionality on both the buyer and seller’s end.
Online Marketplace Examples
I’ve worked in SEO for over a decade and have found marketplaces to be a specialty. I’ve worked with top marketplaces across various sectors across the world during this time.
For me, a fascinating part of marketplaces is their ability to narrow in on a niche and do it a lot better than more generalist sites that are all-encompassing. I’ve seen this work in practice many times, and have had the pleasure of contributing to the success of many different marketplaces.
The best examples of online marketplaces that I could give would have to be clients that I’ve worked with. Some examples of successful engagements I’ve completed include:
- Tripadvisor: #1 travel and booking marketplace (Canada)
- Airtasker: #1 everyday task marketplace (Australia)
- Pets4Homes: #1 pet marketplace (UK)
- AutoGuru: #1 auto booking marketplace (Australia)
To prove my contribution to the success of each of the marketplaces shown above, here are testimonials I have received from either the owner of each business or senior management:
A key difference in online marketplaces can often come down to whether they are focused on either products or services. A good example of a product marketplace can be seen in Reverb, a marketplace for new, used and vintage music gear. In terms of service marketplaces, examples for these can be seen for the most part through my client examples shown above.
Now that I’ve explained how I view Marketplace SEO and some of my credentials, let’s get stuck into the 5 core tips for long-term SEO success. Here’s what each of those is.
5 Tips for Marketplace SEO
Here are my top 5 tips for areas to focus on when trying to improve the SEO for Marketplaces. Take each area on board to achieve long-term success in Google’s organic search results.
1. Listing Pages
The format for a listing page is a key distinguishing feature of online marketplaces. An important SEO decision that a marketplace will need to make is how to manage listing pages at scale, and whether scale of listing pages is necessary.
For some of the marketplaces I’ve worked with, listing pages or advert pages (that are created by buyers or sellers) the approach has been to add a noindex meta tag to these pages. Because they are a form of User-Generated Content, the marketplace can’t always vouch for their quality.
PRO TIP: if you are going to add a noindex meta tag to listing pages, ensure that this page type isn’t also blocked within your robots.txt file. If it is, then your noindex meta tag could be missed due to Google not actively crawling those pages (exclusions in robots.txt prevents crawling, not indexing).
But I have seen cases where there isn’t just a blanket rule that is applied to noindexing listing pages. Instead, some marketplaces do a great job of introducing logic that allows listing pages to be indexed if a threshold is passed. For example, this could be done automatically if there is a certain amount of high-quality reviews located on a listing.
Ultimately, what you decide to do with your listing pages can depend on a variety of factors. A major factor being the frequency of how many listing pages are added to the site and what that process looks like. If the amount of listings is limited and frequency is low – put in the effort to ensure each listing is useful to users and Google will reward you for this.
2. User-Generated Content (UGC)
When it comes to UGC, this is an area of content creation that can make a meaningful difference to the SEO performance of a marketplace.
Because UGC is unique content by nature, it provides an opportunity for marketplaces to differentiate themselves from others. For some marketplaces, a big part of UGC is related to review content, along with UGC such as images, advertisement descriptions, and more.
While UGC tends to relate to the individual listings themselves, this data can however be used in various ways across a marketplace and populated on category pages. Swimply, a marketplace for renting a private swimming pool, does a great job of UGC on listings with images.
The above listing ranks highly for the search term “rent a pool for a birthday party” in the US because of the high quality nature of the UGC, along with the listing being indexable by Google.
While the above approach is working from a ranking perspective for Swimply for a query with ~1,000 searches p/mo, it’s not necessarily the best approach. This is primarily because the listing is located in a very specific part of the US, which will only be relevant to a small portion of users.
Instead, it would be better to have a category page that targets the “rent a pool for a birthday party” query. This does of course depend on whether there are enough listings to populate a category, but I would imagine that wouldn’t be difficult for Swimply with a broad-facing category for just birthday party relevant pools, ideally drilling down by city.
3. Localized Content Strategy
One of the major benefits of a marketplace over a standard eCommerce platform is the relevance in developing pages specific to different locations across a country.
Aside from targeting specific locations with content, there is also the opportunity to rank for “near me” queries, which have exploded in recent years across every category I’ve worked in. This is despite most SEO professionals thinking these terms can’t be optimised for (likely because they’ve never worked on Marketplace SEO).
SpotHero, for instance, does a great job of ranking with localized content for different cities across the US for parking-related queries. The approach they are using is the one that I generally suggest for clients. That being to combine the “near me” variations along with the city page (instead of keeping them separate).
As you can see, this approach is working very well for SpotHero. They are able to rank in top positions for queries such as “nyc parking” and competitive queries with “near me” variations such as “parking garage near me” with these pages.
The content that is presented on localised pages should however be considered of very high importance, as it generally aligns with the highest volume keywords in the space. It’s important to evaluate what information to present on these pages and how they can be higher quality than your competition.
4. Minimizing Page Exclusions
By nature, marketplaces have the capacity to blow out in size based on the various page types that can be employed. For this reason, it’s important to keep page exclusions in check.
To assess pages that have been excluded and aren’t indexed in Search, the most effective way of viewing this is via Google Search Console within the ‘Pages’ tab (previously named the ‘Index Coverage’ report).
For large-scale sites, and often the case for marketplaces, you have the ability to assess exclusions by page type. This can either be done by verifying sub-folders separately in GSC, or making the assessment via the sitemaps drop-down if they have been set up correctly.
If there is a very high amount of exclusions that fall into the ‘Google systems’ category for either ‘crawled – currently not indexed’ or ‘discovered – currently not indexed’, and they are important pages, then you might be experiencing content quality issues.
PRO TIP: don’t blindly follow what some of the large and successful marketplaces are doing with their SEO. Successful marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon don’t need to follow the same rules that other marketplaces do due to their size and broad-scale dominance.
For sites that are not noindexing listing pages by default or are creating location-specific pages with few listings in them, it is very likely that Google will exclude them from their index. This is a very important aspect for marketplaces to monitor and take action on where necessary.
5. Informational Content
As a final point in the top pillars for marketplace SEO success, informational content should be employed effectively to help position the site as an expert on the topic and act as a support for various page types.
As an example, TrustedHousesitters is a global marketplace for pet care and does a great job of executing an informational content strategy. Being a core reason for their rapid growth, they have segmented their blog content into separate sub-folders.
With this approach to informational content categorization, it makes for clear building of authority for different topics, along with ease of analysis for different content segments through grouping of related content in URLs.
For successful marketplaces, having a rock-solid information content strategy makes all of the difference in the long term. Invest in informational content to show Google and other search engines that you are making a concerted effort to educate your customers.
Need Marketplace SEO help?
If you’ve been reading along and either own or work for an online marketplace, I’m always interested in discussing how I can help support your SEO efforts and whether I’m a good fit for your business.
I primarily work with well-established marketplaces that are looking to grow within their country or globally, along with situations where there have been substantial drops in visibility and you are looking to recover organic traffic.
If you’re interested in undertaking a successful Marketplace SEO engagement similar to what sites like Tripadvisor, Airtasker, Pets4Homes, AutoGuru, and more have experienced, be sure to reach out to arrange a chat to see if there’s an opportunity for us to work together.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is Marketplace SEO different from eCommerce SEO?
While there is some overlap among Marketplace SEO and eCommerce SEO, they are considered to be distinct types of websites when focusing on SEO. In particular, the types of queries that a Marketplace would focus on compared to a standard eCommerce site would be different in terms of focusing on location-based queries for Marketplaces, which are less relevant to purely online eCommerce stores.
What is the best framework to use when doing SEO for Marketplaces?
What is the most effective keyword strategy for Marketplaces?
My experience is that there is a specific approach to page optimization that works best for SEO for Marketplaces. Focus areas should go beyond listing pages (which can be limiting) and letting keyword research guide the strategy. In particular, special focus should be given to location-specific category pages for different services or products for maximum reach. And as mentioned in this guide, informational content should also form a strong focus for Marketplaces to succeed.
What is the biggest misconception about Marketplace SEO?
The biggest misconception about Marketplace SEO that I encounter is that it is related to optimizing listings on other sites such as Amazon or eBay, which isn’t correct. This is technically a form of SEO, but isn’t what Marketplace SEO is, and should be considered an SEO practice specific to the platform e.g. Amazon SEO or eBay SEO. Marketplace SEO related to completing SEO on your own site, to improve your rankings for search terms for both buying and selling queries.
What are the different types of Marketplaces where SEO could be different?
The answer to this question will be different depending on your core definition of Marketplace SEO. Using the definition described in this guide, I would say that there are 3 types of Marketplaces where a different approach to SEO may be required. There are Product Marketplaces, Service Marketplaces, and then Mirror Marketplaces. The first two are self-explanatory. The Marketplace is either focused on physical products or the completion of services. For the third type, I’ve come across many Marketplaces over the years that present themselves as Marketplaces (with buyer and seller functions) but they’re technically just eCommerce websites. This is because they buy the products themselves and then sell them to the consumer, and then falling into my definition of a Mirror Marketplace.
What is your favourite part of working with Online Marketplaces?
My favourite part of working with Online Marketplaces is that they are generally highly specialized sites that can create an offering that is superior to generalist sites. By focusing in on a specific niche (such as everyday tasks, the auto industry, pet sales etc.), you’re able to create a specialist team of individuals that are experts in the area. This can lead to a superior offering by understanding the nuances required for customer service and producing content that is more useful to users. This is a key requirement for success with Google’s increasing focus on E-E-A-T.