SEO Insights > Marketplace SEO: A beginner’s guide

Marketplace SEO: A beginner’s guide

What is a marketplace and how is it different from e-commerce websites
What is a marketplace and how is it different from e-commerce websites?

What makes marketplace SEO different from other SEO strategies
What makes marketplace SEO different from other SEO strategies?

What are the unique opportunities that marketplace SEO offers
What are the unique opportunities that marketplace SEO offers?

What are common marketplace SEO challenges?
What are common marketplace SEO challenges?

Strategies for effective marketplace SEO
Strategies for effective marketplace SEO

Additional tips for marketplace SEO
Additional tips for marketplace SEO

To sum up
To sum up

Traditional e-commerce websites aren’t the only places online where things can be bought and sold. Take the marketplace website. It’s likely that you’ll be familiar with these types of sites, and if you’ve clicked on this article, you might even run one yourself!

If you manage a marketplace website, you might be wondering if SEO is a marketing strategy that’s right for you and your business. Absolutely yes! The foundation is just the same as any other SEO strategy – to improve organic visibility and drive conversions. However, the ways you go about this are a little different to traditional e-commerce SEO.

In this article, we’ll introduce the ideas behind marketplace SEO, and provide top tips on how to optimise your marketplace website, as well as the types of challenges you might face in the process. So let’s dig into marketplace SEO 101.
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What is a marketplace and how is it different from e-commerce websites?

First things first, let’s go through some definitions. Starting off – what exactly is a marketplace? An online marketplace website facilitates transactions between third-party sellers and customers. Put simply, it’s a platform for different vendors to sell from. Lots of sellers can put their listings on marketplace websites, from products to services. There’s marketplaces that sell physical products (like Not On The Highstreet and Etsy), as well as those that offer services. Examples of these include work services (think of sites like Fiverr), rentals (such as AirBnB), and beauty treatments (like Treatwell).

Marketplaces act as a ‘middle-man’, connecting sellers to buyers, and providing a platform for their transactions to go through. An e-commerce website, in contrast, is usually a single brand that sells its products/services directly to consumers. There’s no intermediary here. Whilst both of these types of websites involve online transactions, the key distinction comes through the types of relationships they focus on. Marketplaces offer a broad selection of products/services from multiple vendors, and therefore balance the relationship between vendors and customers, the relationship between themselves and the vendors, and the relationship between themselves and the customers. It’s like a triangle! On the other hand, e-commerce sites prioritise direct relationships between the customer and themselves only.

In this article, we’ll be focusing primarily on providing SEO tips and tricks for those who run marketplaces, rather than those selling on marketplaces. However, we will offer a few marketplace platform SEO tips at the end. More in-depth advice can be found in our guide covering SEO tips to optimise marketplace product pages.
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What makes marketplace SEO different from other SEO strategies?

Marketplace websites have a different technical setup to standard ecommerce websites, which means certain marketing strategies – especially SEO – require a different approach. Marketplace websites are often large-scale ecommerce-style websites that have unique backend CMS (content management systems). These facilitate a significant amount of UGC (user-generated content) when sellers upload their listings. They may also involve elements of local listings style websites, depending on their function. There’s a lot of different moving parts going on.

From a business perspective, you need to optimise your marketplace for both sellers and buyers – these are the two distinct types of users you need to cater for and keep engaged. So, your SEO strategy will need to make the marketplace not only more visible in search for the marketplace itself but also the sellers using it. After all, you’re attracting customers for both your own business and the vendors. So how do you do this for such unique website setups?

Marketplace SEO involves piecing together different aspects of other SEO strategies and tailoring it to your specific site. Key strategies to focus on are ecommerce, large-scale websites, and local listings.

A quick note on marketplace platforms

Individuals selling on a marketplace platform – like eBay and Amazon – rather than running the marketplace need to take a different approach to SEO. In these instances, sellers only have access to tools on these platforms to sell their products. They have little to no control over the rest of the marketplace platform, especially the technical side. This includes things like website architecture, page loading speed, mobile responsiveness, and so on.

What are the unique opportunities that marketplace SEO offers?

The key SEO opportunities that marketplaces present largely tie into how niche the types of search queries you can rank for are. Marketplaces present the chance of ranking for a lot of longtail, unique keywords. These can get very particular in their focus, so there’s a greater chance of being able to rank for hyper-focused keywords.

Marketplaces also offer unique value that other sites don’t have. Marketplace operators can get unique user-generated content from the community they work with, which is full of expert opinions. This is great for E-E-A-T, especially expertise!
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What are common marketplace SEO challenges?

With the opportunities that marketplace SEO brings come the challenges. Rolling out an SEO strategy for such complex sites with multiple moving parts is no mean feat. Here’s what you need to consider and factor into your planning.

Size of website

Marketplace sites can be massive. From an SEO standpoint, you’ll need to figure out how to signal to search engines what the most important pages are from everything that is on there. This requires a strong information architecture that is reinforced with healthy internal linking.

Content quality

Marketplaces are at the mercy of users in terms of the quality that comes out. UGC can be both a blessing and a curse! There might be instances of sellers trying to gamify listings for customers, which can be at the expense of SEO. We’re all quite familiar with those long product titles that use every single keyword under the sun…

Functionality and setup

The way a marketplace is set up can be quite unique. For instance, the operational side might be on one platform, but the content is on another. Or maybe they’re all in one place! This can create some difficulty with your SEO strategy, and you’ll need to do some thorough research on how best to go about it.

For instance, do you want all your functionality and content to be in one place, or do you want to keep it separate? And what effect would this have on your SEO? You might want to consider hiring experts for each CMS before embarking on an SEO strategy, as you don’t want to accidentally break something.

Strategies for effective marketplace SEO

We’ve covered the unique opportunities and challenges that marketplace SEO presents. But how do you actually go about doing it? Here are our recommendations for undertaking an effective marketplace SEO strategy.

Competitor analysis

Before you start, you’ll want to scope out the competitive landscape. Review your competitors and see what they’re doing well. What’s Google rewarding? Take note of the key things you notice on your competitors’ marketplaces. How many listings do they have? What level of detail is being given? How is their data presented? What hierarchy do they use (you can go to the navigation for this)? Think of it as reverse engineering, and taking away all the best bits for your own marketplace.

Think carefully about site structure

Have a clear hierarchy so it’s easy for search engines and users to navigate/crawl. Let’s take this example. You’re selling different types of tables, so your top-level category should be ‘tables’. You can then create subcategories of this, like ‘coffee tables’ and ‘dining tables’. You can then distill this even further into materials, such as ‘wooden dining tables’ and ‘glass dining tables’. Remember to make your site structure logical, clear, and easy to follow. But keep in mind throughout this that you want to serve high-quality pages to search engines. Going too granular in this activity could create a lot of thin pages which would be detrimental to your SEO attempts.

Use strategic internal linking to inform website hierarchy

With any website, you’ll want to add internal links to all of your main priority pages. But if you’re considering a local approach to your SEO strategy, we recommend priortising bigger locations, like London and Birmingham. This is because they get higher search volumes, as well being more competitive. This strategic approach to internal linking will act as a stronger indication to search engines what your priority pages are (even if they’re not these big cities).

Analysing indexation reports

Indexation is a primary enabler for Google to rank your marketplace website. But, when Google is crawling your site, is it finding lots of low-quality pages? We recommend doing a manual review of indexation reports (particularly those that have Google’s System as their source) and see if there are patterns. For instance are there particular page types or URL strings that keep coming up? Can these pages be improved or removed? This will help serve better quality content up in SERPs.

Page quality audits

Following on from the previous point – we recommend conducting page quality audits. You can take all your live pages and supplement them with data. Think CTR, clicks, impressions, bounce rate, keyword data, backlink data, and so on. You can then create criteria to follow based on the performance of your top pages and use this as the basis on page templates, or parameters to put in for UGC. A quick note – if you have a particularly large site then you may want to break down this analysis by subfolder.

Page template analysis

We recommend taking a scalable approach to analysing your marketplace website, and not getting too caught up in the weeds. Instead of assessing individual pages, opt for analysing page templates instead. This will save you a lot of time – you don’t want to get too bogged down in granular detail that is unlikely to move the needle.

Think technical at scale

Don’t overlook technical changes at scale! You want to make it as easy as possible for bots to crawl your site, especially if it’s a large site. This can include things like removing internal links to dead pages found within the footer, navigation or linking blocks and other site performance tweaks.
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Additional tips for marketplace SEO

Start sooner rather than later

Our first, and probably most important, tip – don’t leave your SEO strategy to the last minute! The longer you delay, the more effort it’ll take to contain it, especially if you have a large marketplace website.

Always think scalable

As we mentioned previously regarding page templates, go for scalable opportunities, rather than specific page-by-page opportunities. With a large site, it’s impossible to go into granular detail for each page. You can’t go on a page-by-page basis or it’ll take too long!

Split site maps

We highly recommend splitting up your site maps into different sections on the site. This is because Google’s Index Coverage report only assesses the top 1,000 URLs for a particular sitemap. Therefore, splitting them up into specific subfolders or sections on the site will allow a more granular view of how your pages are being indexed.

To sum up

Marketplace SEO presents a great opportunity for marketplace websites to boost their organic visibility. This is not a marketing strategy that is undertaken by a lot of marketplace websites, so would give your business a distinct competitive edge.

Although marketplaces do have unique challenges that traditional ecommerce websites don’t encounter, taking a creative approach to SEO that involves piecing together different strategies means that it’s completely doable. The most important thing is to plan for the type of marketplace you have, understand its complexities and opportunities, and implement changes at scale.