I was asked the other day how I felt that ecommerce had changed over the past few years and my initial reaction was that it has not. I mean, in essence you still proffer up your goods and services online and try to induce your customers to click the “buy now” or follow the call to action, whatever it may be.

I got to thinking a bit more, my glib immediate reaction needed some form of analysis….

Further I felt that the massive increase in user generated content online must be a very important factor in the way in which the online shopping experience has changed over the past few years. Even as little as 5 years ago the Internet was pretty much read only for the consumer, you looked and read but did not play an active role in it, much like watching TV or reading a book. Soon the blogoshpere took over and forums and niche industry sites captured a decent market share of the online audience – this was the beginning of social media.

The very fact that now people were having their say online meant that gradually the onus has shifted. For a while price comparison sites dominated the search engine results (SERPS) and the consumer was able to view many websites’ offerings side by side. I suspect Google no longer give these sites the ‘exposure’ they merit in order to maintain their grip on paid results, but that is another story.

Nowadays if you are shopping, say for a new Sat Nav device you are far more likely to ask someone, rather than blithely click on the first result from your favourite search engine, you may ask someone down the pub, at work or at the school gates, this means that you may be searching for say “Dabs” after the recommendation rather than “Sat Nav”.

Some interesting issues make themselves evident now, if you search for a company by name you are quite likely to come across user generated ( and unmoderated ) results – you will find forums, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo and consumer groups all showing up in the search results.

Social Media has given SEO a new and very powerful tool to drive targeted traffic to your site; potential customers will have gleaned trust and knowledge of your site prior to visiting so that conversion rates are much higher. This leads of course to a corresponding necessity to spend on alternative routes to market such as paid advertising.

Of course it takes time and effort to set up, track and maintain all the social media strategies but done properly this can generate increased exposure and qualified traffic. D

As new social media sites come and go you will have to keep an eye on where it will be pertinent to increase exposure and where words will be wasted, it is here to stay and traditional SEO tactics will have to change, or be left behind.