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Why Semantic Web Technology Will Have a Major Impact on eCommerce and Search Engine Marketing July 5, 2011

Posted by tedtrisco in Summer 2011 1st Session.
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Taxonomy and classification is a large enough effort to begin with when constructing an online catalog. The eCommerce manager not only has to take into account the information architecture as it relates to the offline catalog or basic product offering structure, but also understand how online customers will navigate through the catalog when searching the store. If this organization isn’t done properly, it could mean the different between conversion and a customer visit bounce. Organizing product categories and products themselves seems intuitive enough to fit a semantic model. You have the category entities and parent-child relationships. Products sit on the branches of that category tree and products themselves have various attributes and relationships to fall within the eCommerce semantic web model. Taking a step back, however, to start with the customer in mind, will show us why the semantic web technology will have (and has?) a major impact on eCommerce and online marketing.

When using the web to shop online, users may start in a variety of places, one of those being search engines. With this in mind, a large effort of eCommerce deployment is structuring and classifying the pages on the eCommerce site for ease of search engine crawling and indexing. The focus primarily is to create a uniform and clean, yet keyword-rich, site to show to search engines that this page is relevant to the user searching for it’s content. eCommerce sites that do this well will see higher conversion rates, highlighting the fact that users who visit will purchase, as opposed to bouncing from the site back to results. To quickly digress, this is especially more important recently as Google announced an update to it’s Panda algorithm. Not only does inbound linking, keyword-rich content and correct SEO structure determine relevancy, but also now other non-traditional variables like “time on site” , numbers of returning users and  “non-natural language” quality factor in to the equation. But, a different topic for another day perhaps..

Now as Google and other search engines begin to use micro formats and RDF as part of the semantic web initiative, eCommerce managers have an additional item on their checklist to structure their store. When searching Google for business listings, products or other eCommerce entities, some result will populate visually different than others. For example, product listings will populate as shopping results, businesses will have contact information and ratings. While the shopping results are also populated from shopping feeds, these could and probably will be populated directly from eCommerce sites in the future, as the semantic web will allow search engines to crawl sites looking for classes like “product” and “product-image” or “product-price.” As this becomes the standard, the ability to offer up search results with more natural language  strings, as opposed to traditional keyword queries. For example, searching for “red shirt” and forcing the user to sift through the results and eCommerce site filters shifts to a search string of “red shirt XL under 15 dollars in milwaukee” is possible with the semantic web model. It’s easy to see the benefit from the consumer side and why an eCommerce store owner aiming for high conversion rates would buy-in to the model.

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