Utility ecommerce marketplaces often go unused by companies’ existing customers. Eight in 10 customers nationwide say they would like to use their utility company’s online marketplace. However, only one in 20 customers have. Most customers only go to their utility company’s website to pay their energy bills. The reality is that many customers don’t know their energy companies have ecommerce sites or fully understand the purpose of these utility marketplaces.

Utility marketplaces create custom energy experiences for their utility customers. They provide personalized assistance such as suggesting products that fit customers’ specific energy needs and budgets. They supply access to exclusive offers, rebates and special rates. They even educate customers on their energy expenses and environmental impacts.

Utility marketplaces aren’t just another place to buy light bulbs. They aren’t even in direct competition with retail ecommerce—or at least they shouldn’t be.

Where utility marketplaces miss the mark with customers.

Utility marketplaces offer a number of benefits traditional marketplaces can’t match, such as one-stop shopping for energy-efficiency rebates and demand-response programs, as well as products such as smart thermostats. So if customers can get all these benefits from their energy companies’ marketplaces, why aren’t they using them? Are utility marketplaces missing the mark when it comes to customer engagement? Do customers know that they exist?

This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

The basics of SEO.

Search engine optimization is the process of increasing a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal is to increase the quality and quantity of traffic to that website. In other words, by ranking well on search engines such as Google and Bing, you can make sure users who search certain terms will see your site and, potentially, visit it.

When implementing SEO, don’t overlook these important steps:

  1. Focus your content on important keywords to match a user’s search intent.

Search intent is the core reason behind a person’s search. For example, someone searching “best energy efficient light bulbs” is likely looking for a website that objectively compares and contrasts different types of light bulbs—rather than a website that touts only one type of light bulb as the most efficient. That’s the power of understanding search intent—it helps you determine what types of content to create on your marketplace website if you want to drive in the right types of buyers. Google’s main goal is to provide the correct answer to a user, and it should be your website’s main goal, too.

In order to create content that answers a user’s questions, the first thing you need to do is determine the type of information your customers are searching for. Performing this keyword research will help you create a list of important words that reflect your customers’ behavior online therefore allowing you to present the most useful information to them.

Keyword research can show you the top terms people are typing into search bars, as well as the types of results search engines are providing on the SERPs. Try performing a search yourself and analyzing the top results. What types of questions are the websites ranking on page one answering? How is the information formatted and presented to you? Trying different variations of the same query can sometimes bring up different types of results. Also, search engines like to provide related searches and questions people also asked. Diving into those details can provide a wealth of knowledge when it comes to building out your own content.

Do your research and let users know you understand them and their needs.

  1. Make sure your utility marketplace is user and search friendly.

The easier your ecommerce website is to navigate, the better experience a potential customer will have. Make sure your site can be navigated intuitively and helps users find the answers they’re looking for within their first few seconds on the page. Limit pop-ups that interfere with the browsing experience. Organize your content easily by using subheadings and subcategories for readers to quickly skim and efficiently find exactly what they need.

Search engines determine the best results to provide searchers based on their behaviors—which websites they click on and stay on. When a user clicks off your website quickly, it tells Google that your site is not a satisfying result and lowers your ranking position. Keep your navigation as simple as possible to provide a clean experience for users and get their questions answered quickly.

By making a website user friendly, you are also making it search friendly.

  1. Keep the technical elements of your ecommerce site up to date. 

Up-to-date technical elements and design are crucial to your ecommerce utility marketplace success. Ensure your website is responsive to all users by making the site compatible with all devices. This is called responsive design. Your website should be accessible no matter the screen size, make or model of a device a user is searching with.

If your marketplace website is not optimized for mobile use, its ranking can suffer greatly. Today, 58% of searches through Google are from mobile devices. Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly for searches performed on smartphones.

Slow load speed is another signal to Google, and a potential customer, that your ecommerce site isn’t going to be the best experience. Even if you do have the best information, a user won’t wait around for it to load. Make sure scripts and images are compressed in order to increase page load speeds and improve the user experience.

A positive or negative user experience will send signals to search engines and your customers, which in turn will impact rankings. A better ranking increases your ecommerce marketplace awareness, thereby increasing potential business.

  1. Set up your ecommerce site for virtual assistants.

Search queries have expanded from our desktops to our mobile devices, and now onto virtual assistants. Today, virtual assistance and voice commands have even expanded from our mobile devices to in-home hubs. They now control everything from our phones to our lights. People use voice commands every day. That’s why your website should be set up to take advantage of assisted searches.

Structured data, or schema markup, is code that tells search engines like Google what the content on your page means, not just what it says. It allows you to reaffirm to a search engine what the pages of your site and web elements are about. Schema markup also influences Google’s rich snippet results (info boxes that appear on Google’s search result pages when you ask direct questions or search for entities such as people, places, organizations, etc.). These rich results help drive more search traffic to your website and provide a quick answer to a user’s direct question.

Consider adding schema markup code to your business’ customer service number, for example. This can help the number appear as a highlighted answer box in a search result and allows virtual assistants to more easily provide your phone number as a voice answer. Schema markup can even directly answer a question like, “What rebates does ABC Utility company offer on a programmable thermostat?”

  1. Contact our SEO experts.

Personalization, reliability and superior savings make utility marketplaces one of the top ways to improve customers’ perceptions of your brand. Connect with our SEO experts to learn more on how to implement these tips, turn up your search results and warmly welcome users into your ecommerce utility marketplace.

To discuss how Mower can help your brand, contact Stephanie Crockett.