Monday, October 24, 2011

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Content Marketing Online

In 2004, I started auctioning on eBay, at first specializing in first-edition books and out-of-print CD's. A few years later, I opened an eBay Store (which sells items at fixed prices) and honed my focus to what most interested me: magazines tuned to celebrities, fashion, GLBT themes and vintage beefcake.

Early on, I realized I needed to make my listings stand out online.

Even when eBay supplies a stock image for an item I want to list, I take my own photograph.

I carefully detail the contents of each item and note its condition: BRAND NEW, LIKE NEW, VERY GOOD, etc.

My eBay Store soon did well enough to enable me to open an online store,

After years of collecting vintage beefcake photographs, I turned to Yahoo! in October, 2007 to start a group, where I could share my images with other enthusiasts of male bodybuilders and physique models from the Golden Age of Bodybuilding. The group links back to my online store.

In January, 2008, I started the blog Mike and Phil on the Hill. It is not only a journal on my passion – our gardens in San Francisco, California – but also links readers to my eBay and online stores.

In January, 2009, I started the blog Male Models Vintage Beefcake to feature images of my favorite vintage beefcake photographers and models. Not surprisingly, this blog proved to be the most powerful conduit for customers interested in purchasing vintage beefcake from me.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of your website or web page in search engines' results through search results you don't pay search engines to artificially achieve for you. SEO is important because the higher your website or page appears in someone's search result list, the more likely that person will click on your site or page.

In my eBay and online stores, I perform SEO every time —

– I create and name the photograph of an item (Search engines read the names you give your photographs.),
– I describe in detail each item, and
– I do not discuss anything irrelevant to the item for sale. I've seen other eBayers add words like "Marilyn Monroe" or "Disney" to their listings on irrelevant items such as auto parts. People use this tactic, known as "keyword stuffing," so that their items turn up in a greater number of search results. In the end, I believe this damages their brand, which is their reputation, as frustrated customers repeatedly find these irrelevant items in their search result list.

Another SEO technique I've strongly employed is backlinking. Because I want to bring customers to my eBay and online stores, I have links to these stores on my Yahoo! group and blogs, which I in turn heavily promote in order to create enough interest from other sites that they link directly to my Yahoo! group and blogs. This steady increase in backlinking – or the number of inbound links – improves the visibility of my sites in search engines' results.

Excellent examples of backlinking to the blog Male Models Vintage Beefcake can be seen in Bradford Shellhammer's post on the Sundance Channel's website as well as in Alfred Hickling's article about Tom of Finland on the, in which he links to the blog with the word, "beefcake."

To date, I've created one ad banner (as seen at the bottom of this blog) that links consumers to my online store. So, when I write I'm heavily promoting my Yahoo! group and blogs, I don't mean I'm using ad banners to advertise on others' sites. Instead, I mean I am generating content for my Yahoo! group and blogs, which is the marketing strategy known as "content marketing."

It is the way I expand my brand – my reputation – as a knowledgeable resource on gardening in San Francisco, California and on the photographers and models of vintage beefcake. It also makes my brand more visible online and, ultimately, leads to more sales.

Whenever someone confides to me they want to sell on eBay but aren't sure how or even what to sell, I tell that person to sell items they are excited to invest a lot of time and energy into learning about, that they will enjoy having around their home until they are sold, and for which they will find pleasure in becoming an expert and consultant for others.

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