How to optimize for non-traditional search engines like Amazon and YouTube

When we talk about opti­miz­ing brand pres­ence, it has his­tor­i­cal­ly been lim­it­ed to search engines like Google and Bing. How­ev­er, con­sumers search – and dis­cov­er – on many oth­er plat­forms, includ­ing Ama­zon, Pin­ter­est, YouTube and Insta­gram. And that means...

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 3 comments

When we talk about opti­miz­ing brand pres­ence, it has his­tor­i­cal­ly been lim­it­ed to search engines like Google and Bing. How­ev­er, con­sumers search – and dis­cov­er – on many oth­er plat­forms, includ­ing Ama­zon, Pin­ter­est, YouTube and Insta­gram. And that means there are plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties for brands and mar­keters there­in.

Some of the SEO basics remain despite the plat­form, like find­ing the best key­words and cre­at­ing good con­tent to estab­lish rel­e­vance.

The on-page SEO is fun­da­men­tal­ly the same for each plat­form: Under­stand­ing the types of queries peo­ple are using with­in a par­tic­u­lar plat­form and using those key­words strate­gi­cal­ly with­in and around the con­tent,” said David Erick­son, vice pres­i­dent of online mar­ket­ing at Kar­wos­ki & Courage Pub­lic Rela­tions.

And, for his part, Michael Lan, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing con­sul­tant at edtech lan­guage learn­ing com­pa­ny Glos­si­ka, said key­word research tool Key­word Tool allows users to do key­word research for a num­ber of these non-tra­di­tion­al search plat­forms like YouTube, Ama­zon, eBay and even the App Store.

What’s more, Lau­ra Simis of inbound mar­ket­ing and web­site design agency Coal­march Pro­duc­tions, said most of her firm’s clients are small busi­ness­es and she has found non-tra­di­tion­al search engines some­times pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain an edge over com­peti­tors.

Even with­in [the] ser­vice-based indus­try, these plat­forms can be help­ful in brand build­ing and help­ing move cus­tomers one step clos­er to pur­chas­ing a ser­vice,” she added.

At the same time, con­sumers come to these plat­forms for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, which means there are opti­miza­tion dis­tinc­tions, too. Here’s a clos­er look at how to opti­mize for intent on spe­cif­ic plat­forms:


Many con­sumers come to Ama­zon first when they are look­ing for prod­ucts online. This is how brands can cap­i­tal­ize:


Ryder Mee­han of acqui­si­tion mar­ket­ing con­sult­ing group Mee­han Dig­i­tal said to opti­mize every avail­able ele­ment of an Ama­zon list­ing, includ­ing com­plet­ing all descrip­tion fields using tar­get key­words and adding pho­tos and videos.

Dig­i­tal con­sul­tant Rob Weath­er­head agreed Ama­zon is look­ing for rel­e­van­cy of prod­uct names and descrip­tions, fol­lowed by prices, reviews and sales to deter­mine prod­uct pop­u­lar­i­ty.

In par­tic­u­lar, RaShea Drake, com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist at ISP Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said long­tail key­words are more impor­tant on Ama­zon because con­sumers use longer phras­es to find specif­i­cal­ly what they want there.

From a tech­ni­cal per­spec­tive, you real­ly need to under­stand [Amazon’s] mer­chant data­base for­mat and how each piece of data for a giv­en prod­uct is dis­played where on a prod­uct list­ing and where that data shows up on SERPs,” Erick­son added.


Erick­son also not­ed mer­chant rep­u­ta­tion is huge­ly impor­tant for Ama­zon, so ensur­ing cus­tomers have a fan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence with your prod­ucts and pro­vid­ing superb cus­tomer ser­vice are cru­cial.

Ama­zon mer­chants need to have a well-thought-out sys­tem for solic­it­ing feed­back from cus­tomers and prompt­ing them for rat­ings and reviews,” he added.

Amazon’s own ad products

When tap­ping into Ama­zon spon­sored list­ings, mar­keters should go broad­er and high­er fun­nel with key­words than they would with AdWords because the vol­ume is low­er and the user is more like­ly a buy­er.

That’s accord­ing to Mee­han, who added, “ For exam­ple, a small watch retail­er who could­n’t afford to bid on some­thing as broad as ‘men’s watch­es’ on AdWords would prob­a­bly want to bid on this term on Ama­zon.


Like Ama­zon, Pin­ter­est also leans more toward shop­ping than Google. At the same time, Mee­han not­ed most of Pinterest’s traf­fic comes from Google, so basic opti­miza­tion tips work here, too. How­ev­er, in addi­tion, brands should focus on:


For the large­ly social chan­nels like Pin­ter­est, as well as Face­book and Twit­ter, Erick­son said engage­ment sig­nals such as shares, retweets and pins play a large fac­tor.

The author­i­ty of the orig­i­nal poster of con­tent is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor as well, as you might imag­ine,” he added. “Peo­ple with larg­er audi­ences have more oppor­tu­ni­ties to have their con­tent shared. Peo­ple who are top­i­cal experts will get engage­ment from peo­ple who demon­strate an inter­est in that top­ic. Those sig­nals will help such con­tent earn vis­i­bil­i­ty with­in search.”


Focus on dis­tinc­tive images – includ­ing info­graph­ics – in order to make an impres­sion, Mee­han said.

Answering questions

Drake rec­om­mend­ed tap­ping into con­sumer ques­tions about how to do things and using those ques­tions in titles and descrip­tions as well.

Ad products

And, like on Ama­zon, adver­tis­ers can go broad­er with their ad terms when using paid Pin­ter­est key­word ads, Mee­han added.


Accord­ing to Erick­son, YouTube is more like a tra­di­tion­al search engine than oth­er social chan­nels.
In addi­tion, Julie How­ell, mar­ket data orga­niz­er at mar­ket­ing agency Postali, not­ed Google some­times dis­plays YouTube videos direct­ly in search results, so there’s great poten­tial for expo­sure for videos that rank high­ly on the plat­form.

Here’s what mat­ters most to make that hap­pen:

Keyword research

Tap into a tool like Google Trends to see what is trend­ing in YouTube search­es when look­ing for chan­nel key­words, How­ell said.

Titles and descriptions

Kevin Dro­let, founder of media agency cThru Media, said video titles should be at least five words long and include key­words at the begin­ning.

Since Google and YouTube can’t lis­ten to videos, they rely on a text descrip­tion to fig­ure out the video’s con­tent,” Dro­let said.

That means brands should put web­site links at the top to max­i­mize click-through rates to their sites and include the key­word in the first 25 words.

How­ell rec­om­mend­ed try­ing to write at least 200 words in descrip­tions, as well as link­ing to your brand web­site and oth­er social media pro­files.

Content strategy

How­ell also said brands should keep YouTube view­ers specif­i­cal­ly in mind when craft­ing a con­tent strat­e­gy for the video plat­form rather than, say, sim­ply cre­at­ing video con­tent as they would for a blog.

On YouTube, tuto­ri­als and tes­ti­mo­ni­als tend to have more search inter­est,” she added.

Keeping viewers watching

How­ell not­ed watch time is anoth­er big sig­nal on YouTube.

So if you’re look­ing to rank high on YouTube, you need to make sure that you keep your view­ers watch­ing,” she added.

Lan agreed YouTube is sim­i­lar to Google in that the more traffic/views that are gen­er­at­ed, the high­er a page/video will rank.

View count is also high­ly cor­re­lat­ed with high rank­ings, so the more you focus on mar­ket­ing your videos and increas­ing their view count, the more like­ly you are to boost their rank­ing,” How­ell said. “At the end of the day, YouTube is try­ing to rank the best videos, so any efforts to cre­ate engag­ing and inter­est­ing videos will be reward­ed.”

In order to keep view­ers watch­ing, Dro­let said to pro­vide a quick sum­ma­ry of the video in the begin­ning and then jump right to the con­tent the view­er wants to see. In addi­tion, mar­keters should add open loops to pre­view what’s com­ing and encour­age view­ers to keep watch­ing.

How­ell also rec­om­mend­ed select­ing an entic­ing video thumb­nail and ensur­ing the title and descrip­tion are not mis­lead­ing.

[One thou­sand] peo­ple click­ing your video and watch­ing it all the way through will lead to much bet­ter rank­ings (and views in the long term) than 10,000 view­ers who only watch one sec­ond,” she said.


Bran­don Schroth, own­er of SEO firm Click First SEO, also not­ed a big sig­nal is whether view­ers sub­scribe to your chan­nel after watch­ing your video.

Shares and favorites are also sig­nals, as well as Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down,” he added.


For his part, Dro­let said longer videos rank high­er in YouTube and Google and so mar­keters should try to make videos at least five min­utes long.

How­ell, how­ev­er, advo­cat­ed for mar­keters to be as con­cise as pos­si­ble.

Every sec­ond should serve a pur­pose, every sec­ond should be work­ing to keep your view­er engaged,” she said. “Once you start see­ing your watch time (and per­cent­age of video time watched) increase, you’ll see a boost, not only to the video itself, but to all videos you pub­lish on that chan­nel.”


Accord­ing to Samya France, direc­tor of pub­lic rela­tions and social media at dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing firm Ignite Vis­i­bil­i­ty, being found on Insta­gram depends on the qual­i­ty of images and video uploaded, as well as fre­quen­cy and con­sis­ten­cy. Her oth­er tips include:

Hashtags and location

In addi­tion, brands should tap into these fea­tures to increase the odds they will be found by near­by users, France said.

Instagram Stories

What’s more, France not­ed Insta­gram Sto­ries allow for brands to tap into users who have not yet fol­lowed them – and these sto­ries can be fur­ther opti­mized by adding hash­tags so they show up in sto­ries show­cased by Insta­gram.


And, final­ly, to opti­mize rank­ings on eBay, Lan said to look no fur­ther than your own sell­er rat­ing.

This acts sim­i­lar­ly to domain author­i­ty and how sites with high­er DAs will typ­i­cal­ly rank high­er than sites with low­er DAs,” he said. “Sim­i­lar­ly, prod­ucts from sell­ers with high­er rat­ings will typ­i­cal­ly rank high­er in the prod­uct list­ings than prod­ucts from sell­ers with low­er rat­ings.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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