Sure, the landscape of SEO has changed significantly in the last several years but that’s no excuse to miss the fundamentals. Meta descriptions are one such technique, now surprisingly overlooked as digital marketers focus on more innovative measures.
It’s a shame because meta descriptions are still just as important now as they ever were. Providing the last chance to attract a user to your site from the search listings, these shouldn’t be underestimated. Although you’re limited by characters, this concise snippet of content could be just the persuasion needed for that all important click through.
Here’s a helpful guide on how to write super effective meta descriptions that grabs the attention of the user.
Don’t go over 155 characters
Google cuts off a meta description after its surpassed a certain width which usually equates to around 155 characters. To avoid any essential information being lost, avoid the temptation to write longer meta descriptions. Keep it brief yet concise, removing any unnecessary words.
Always use ‘action-orientated’ phrases
A great meta description usually includes at least one verb which acts as the call-action. This concise word or phrase lets the user know exactly what they’ll be receiving in return for clicking on your site. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity as users don’t have the patience for wasting their valuable time when browsing the web. Thinks words or phrases such as “Discover how to…” “Learn more about..” or “Browse our range…”
Sell your content
Whether users are clicking through to a recipe, a gym workout guide or retail product page, it’s essential to sell the content that they’ll see after clicking through. Give them a benefit or explain why your product or service is different than others. “Take a look at the worlds tastiest Lasagne Recipe…” or “Lose weight and feel more fulfilled by reading this simple guide…”
Connect with your audience
There’s nothing worse than a generic meta description, especially when you’re trying to compete in a crowded market. To stand out from the crowd, try getting into the mind of your audience – a strategy that’s important when crafting any compelling content. If you’re selling a service to medical professionals, try using more facts in the description which would likely have more of an impact. Maybe you’re trying to attract stay at home mums, so using a more friendly, approachable tone would be recommended.
Keep it relevant and accurate
Old school practitioners might preach the importance of keyword stuffed meta descriptions or spam approaches but these techniques are now out dated. Deceiving the user into thinking they’ll see something other than what they get after they click onto your site will only result in speedy exits rates. Conversions will be non-existent and your brand image will suffer as a result of this deception. Keep your meta descriptions relevant and ensure they match the context of the page on which they’re linking to.
If your business isn’t currently using social media, now is the time to consider why that is. These days, online presence is everything, and interacting with your customers in a variety of ways can win you valuable sales. Maintaining an effective social media campaign takes a bit of work, but many companies believe it to be worth the investment in time and effort. Here’s our summary of the main social media platforms, and things you should think about before deciding to sign up:
Interacting with your customers via Facebook gives you the opportunity to share content , advice and opinions, entering into a conversation with people who are interested in your brand. You should make sure that your posts are interesting and original, and that you respond to any communication in a timely and professional manner, as it will be seen by a wider audience.
Share short 140-character messages and links with followers, enabling you to send (and receive!) instant information about offers, products, news, or anything else you think your customers may be interested in. You need to ensure you tweet frequently enough to show that you’re current and up-to-date, but not so often that you become annoying – most companies find that 1-3 tweets per day is about right.
This is a business networking site, a B2B social network, which is great for building new connections and generating sales leads. The more time you invest in making your LinkedIn profile relevant and engaging, and in interacting with other users, the better the results you’re likely to get from it. You can get by simply by creating a profile, but to really get noticed you need to regularly update your status, participate in discussion groups and even try out paid advertising.
Pinterest and Instagram
These are image-driven social networks, so are particularly useful and relevant for e-commerce and lifestyle products, and perhaps less so for industrial or commercial businesses. Using images to promote your brand allows you to be creative – even if you don’t have a visual product or service to market, you can find images which celebrate your company values, local events, and anything you think may be interest.
Using social media can be good for your business in a number of ways:
Customer Service and Insights: Your customers may contact you for support or with pre-sale queries, allowing your response to help boost the reputation of your brand. You can gain a valuable insight into who your customers are and how they feel about your business.
Increased Brand Visibility and Trust: Potential customers who see that you are on social media know that they have an easy way to get in touch, and that you’re approachable.
Promote Your Content and Drive Website Traffic: Being talked about and mentioned on social media shows that you have a popular brand, and that you have something worth sharing.
Why You May Choose NOT To Use Social Media:
Ultimately, Facebook, Twitter and any other social media platform can only be an effective tool for your business if you use it effectively. Done badly, infrequently, or half-heartedly, it can actually cause more harm than good. Nobody wants to click onto a company Facebook page only to find it hasn’t been updated for months, messages from customers haven’t been responded to, and all the offers you’re featuring have already ended. Once you commit to having a profile on a social networking site, you need to invest the time and attention needed to keep it current and interesting – if you can’t do that, it may be better not to have one, and definitely don’t link to an unmaintained profile from your website.
I Want To Give It A Go – What’s Next?
If you’re a complete beginner in the world of social media, it can be a bit daunting to know where to begin. Many companies select one of their younger employees to be a ‘social champion’, as they’re likely to already have a good understanding of how each channel should be used effectively.
Some companies outsource their social media, employing an agency or online marketing professional to keep their profiles alive. If you would like to explore this option please contact us at Amity and ask for Laurence who will be happy to discuss social media with you.
It’s hard to get ahead if no one sees the incredible work you’re making. We break down how to get people to your website, and get on their radar.
“How can I get more website visitors?”
This is one of the most common questions I hear from clients, frustrated at the lack of business their website brings them.
Often, there isn’t much wrong with the site itself — it’s professionally designed, and the portfolio is full of gorgeous work. But it just sits there, in an obscure corner of the Internet, being quietly ignored.Taking a website from zero to a few hundred or even a few thousand visitors a month is not easy, but it’s eminently doable — as long as you recognize a harsh truth about the Internet:
The online world is an attention economy. Attention is finite, and therefore scarce. So if you want people to pay attention to you, you need to earn it.
You can’t expect your work to speak for itself. Most of the time, it won’t. You need to accept that marketing is part of your job, just as much as making.
But the game changes when you start applying your creativity to your marketing — it becomes more fun as well as more effective. Here are four ways to use your creativity to attract the right kind of visitors to your website.
1. Create an amazing blog.
Note the word ‘amazing’. I’m not talking about a blog you only update when you’ve got a new client or exhibition, or something new to sell. I’m not talking about a personal diary where you to post your musings on art, life, and the universe. I mean the kind of blog that grabs people’s attention by delivering outstandingly valuable, useful, or entertaining material — consistently.
Instead of writing, ‘here’s my latest work’, write about:
“Here’s how I made it” – with pictures and/or video. Like this or this or this.
“Here’s what inspired it” – if you like it, chances are your audience will like it too. Like this or this.
“Here’s how you can make one like it.” Like this or this.
“Here’s a gadget that makes my work better (and could help you too).” Like this.
Instead of burying your opinions in long paragraphs of diary-style ‘musings’, put them out there loud and clear:
Devote an entire blog post to nailing ONE idea.
Start with a compelling headline.
Ask yourself ‘So what? Why should anyone care?’ — and make that the start of the post.
Give concrete examples.
Invite comments by ending with a question. For example: I’m a designer. Use me better.
And don’t forget to ask for the subscription! Repeat visitors are the best visitors, so one of your goals is to build an audience of loyal subscribers. Ask people to subscribe and offer an email option to make it easy.
2. Give (some of) your best work away for free.
Just so we’re clear: I’m not one of those internet hippies who tells you “information wants to be free”, so you should give away all your best work and forget about being paid. (Have you noticed those guys tend to have a comfortable salary or professorship?)
But for most creatives obscurity is a greater threat than piracy. If no one’s ever heard of you, they won’t even bother to rip you off, let alone pay for your work.
So take advantage of the spreadability of digital content by giving away something valuable and encouraging people to share it with their contacts:
the first chapter of your novel (or even an entire novella)
a free report or e-book, full of insanely useful information
one of the best tracks from your album
a design template
a series of tutorials
videos that anyone can embed in their site
Use a Creative Commons license to make it clear what people are allowed to do with the work. And make sure it’s something genuinely valuable. If you feel slightly uncomfortable about giving away something so good, you’re on the right track. Otherwise, why would anyone get excited enough to tell their friends?But don’t give away the farm. Make sure you have plenty in reserve — products, services, artworks — for the folks who want to take things further and buy from you.
3. Borrow someone else’s audience.
Why build an audience from scratch when you can borrow one that someone else has spent months or years assembling? No, it’s not unethical — in fact, the ‘someone’ in question will love you for it.
Writing high-quality guest posts for popular blogs in your niche is one of the most effective ways to get yourself on the radar of the people you want to reach. Your ‘payment’ is a link back to your site — make a great offer and you could land hundreds of new subscribers with every guest post you write.
And make sure it’s your best work. This is your chance to make a big impression — don’t blow it by sending out second-rate articles and keeping the best stuff for your own site.
4. Get your content into circulation.
Have you noticed that of the three tips so far, only one of them is centered around your site? (No. 2 may start on your site, but the real magic happens when people start sharing it with their friends.) If you really want more visitors, you have to go out and find them.
Social networking sites are not just for networking — they are ideal places to get your content (blog posts, videos, free reports, etc) in front of other people. Use Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to share links to your content. Make use of portfolio sites like Behance to showcase your work in places where people go to look for it.
And be generous — share more of other people’s content than your own. That way, you not only help others (good digital karma!) you also position yourself as a go-to authority, a source of cool stuff who people want to follow.
None of these methods is a quick fix. They require time, effort, and persistence. But the good news is the benefits are cumulative – as your blog attracts links and subscribers, as your free content gets into circulation, and as you get known as a rising star in your niche, you’ll find yourself attracting more and more new visitors for every hour you spend on marketing.And no, website visitors don’t necessarily equal customers — otherwise there’d be a lot more Internet millionaires! Read my next article on turning visitors into buyers here.
There are so many acronyms in marketing: SEO, CTA, OMG. Only joking. In an industry where jargon can become your own worst enemy, isn’t it time we all start speaking plain English again?
Mostly, as clients you don’t want to know how our marketing agency can ‘optimise your above the fold page with a compelling CTA and SEO’; how we can ‘use PPC and PR to drive customers’. Well, you do, but not in such acronym-heavy, sigh inducing lingo.
As marketing agency professionals, we all get bogged down in jargon and it prevents us from achieving both buy in and budget.
What’s wrong with advising clients that yes, we know our jargon, but no, we’re not going to bore you with it. What we will do is to use all our knowledge to help customers find your business online and in the street, in the printed and broadcast media and in the shops.
For the sake of clarity and just for fun, here are our top twenty over used acronyms and buzzwords in the marketing industry.
CTA – Call To Action – what you’d like clients and customers to do when they read your campaign message.
PPC – Pay Per Click, also known as Paid search – those top three ads on Google you see in your search results.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – making sure people find you when they’re searching relevant keywords.
Keywords – words that are relevant to how people search for your products and services on google, probably not including your brand name.
Long Tail keywords – we’re not making this up, these are ways people search you when they don’t necessarily know your business name, so instead of searching ‘Wrapped’, you might search ‘strategic marketing agency’.
PR – Public Relations – all about third party endorsements from opinion formers (see below), building and maintaining reputation.
Opinion formers – important people with either lots of readers (print journalists and bloggers) or lots of followers (on social media).
Content marketing – great content i.e. stories and useful info on your website and social networks helps people find you and trust you.
Social – Social media – all that twitter, facebook, pinterest, tumblr and Instagram stuff. Important for finding potential customers and helping them find you.
Blogging – people writing up interesting things about whatever it is they love to do. Pretty much every industry has important bloggers writing about it.
Pinning – a bit like a facebook ‘like’, just with pinterest.
Shareable content – When you create content that’s useful and useable, or funny, people like to share it with their networks.
Word of mouth – when everyone’s talking positively about your brand or product either in the pub or on the internet. A good place to be.
Above the fold – The first bit of the website you see when you log in, without scrolling down.
Brand noise – all that competition from other brands out there, all those messages people read, see, hear about, watch and share online.
Brand clutter – when it all gets too much and everyone is saying the same thing, people get bored. This is where really targeted marketing can help you.
Sell in – Selling in ideas for stories to either journalists or bloggers.
Brainstorm – an oldie but a goodie.
Inbound – getting people to visit your site by you creating useful, useable, shareable content and posting it on your website and on your social networks. It’s the opposite of outbound marketing, or telling everyone how great you are yourself with advertising. It’s more about giving your customers helpful content that will make their lives easier or better.
KPI – key performance indicators. Don’t use an agency unless they’re prepared to discuss these, they are essential ways to review success and a good way to show the way forward when deciding how much budget should go on a particular marketing activity.
If you build it, will they come? Not without marketing they won’t.
New websites often face the same dilemma: they desperately need marketing to increase awareness of their products or services, but have a tight budget with which to do so. Some form of marketing is necessary for even the newest of sites, but finding the right balance between “effective” and “cost-effective” can be tricky.
How it’s possible to market on a budget
You have lots of things to invest your time and money in when you start a new store, from your theme and extensions to necessary fees like shipping and packaging. You probably recognize the importance of marketing, but aren’t sure how to do it without blowing your limited budget out of the water.
Luckily, the increased availability of free or inexpensive tools and resources have made it easier than ever for store owners to do online marketing without impacting the budget they’ve already set for the rest of their store’s needs.
By combining the right free or low-cost tool with a single primary marketing goal (at least to start with), you’ll be able to avoid spending an immense amount of money or time on your efforts while still growing your store’s online presence.
Let’s have a look at the steps you should take to decide where to properly spend your first $50.
First step: consider your most immediate needs, and set goals around them
To get started with your cost-effective marketing plan, the first thing you should do is consider what your most immediate need or goal is.
For some stores, this need will be easy to define: more traffic, because you don’t yet have any. However, for stores that aren’t as new or might have already had a surge of traffic, defining this could take a little more time and consideration.
You may want to do something like:
Increase the number of qualified visitors (e.g. visitors who have an interest in your exact products or services)
Boost your ranking or visibility on search engines
Attract shoppers from new, unexplored sources
Increase the number of repeat purchases from current customers
Increase the amount of money spent on purchases (a higher average order value)
Even if all of these things sound desirable to you, the best thing you can do at this stage is pick one goal that you’d like to focus on first. This will be the goal you put your effort and money (however limited) behind right now.
As your store grows and your profit increases, you may find that you have more resources (time, staff, money, etc.) to put behind marketing. It’s at that point that you can consider taking on multiple marketing goals. But for now, pick what’s most important to you and focus on it.
Look for marketing methods that will help you directly achieve this goal
Now that you’ve identified the goal you’re focusing on, it’s time to pair it up with activities that will support it.
If you haven’t done any marketing before, you’ll probably need to do a little research to learn what methods are available for you to use. There are often quite a few ways that you can increase traffic to your store, boost spending, and so on, but not all of them will be viable or cost-effective.
A quick online search will turn up plenty of articles and advice on the specific topic you’re looking for, however (and you’re welcome to ask us for advice or links in the topics, since our team has quite a few favorite blogs and posts to share!).
Identify free or low-cost tools to help you get started
As mentioned, there are now plenty of inexpensive, if not free, tools, resources, and marketing methods at your fingertips that will help you accomplish your primary goal, no matter what it might be. Once you’ve identified what your goal is and how you can achieve it via marketing, you can look for tools to help you as means to that end.You won’t need to spend much — if anything — to get the tools you need to achieve your goal.
Let’s use an example here that many of you will be able to relate to: increasing your store’s traffic by ranking higher in search engines. If you’ve done your due diligence and performed some research, you probably know that this means you’ll be dabbling in search engine optimization (aka SEO).
A quick search for free or low-cost SEO tools will turn up plenty of resources for you, and all designed to help with entirely different aspects of optimization. A few examples:
PageSpeed Insights — Google’s free tool for measuring your store’s speed and suggesting improvements — the faster your site loads, the better chance you have at ranking well (and making visitors happy!)
Keywordtool.io — A free keyword suggestion tool that will give you similar popular or highly-searched phrases to consider adding to your store based on a central one; ex. if you enter “socks,” the tool might suggest also adding the keywords “socks for women” or “knee socks” to your store to appear in searches for those phrases, too
W3C Broken Link Checker — Find broken links on your store that might be causing errors or driving potential customers away
Open Site Explorer — See who’s linking to your competitors, and how you might be able to get those links for yourself, too (because more links = better rankings); free with some limitations, and a paid plan is available
Moz Local — If you have a local business (e.g. with a physical presence), this tool will show you how locally searching customers see you, and recommend actions/improvements
Since many of these tools are free, the only investment you’ll need to make is your time. Additionally, many marketing tools (SEO-related and otherwise) have free trials that you can use for one month and cancel before the end of the period, either to avoid a charge or for a refund.
As you can see, it might initially sound a little difficult to only spend $50 on what you need to improve your traffic, email, online presence, relationship with customers, and so on… but if you pick the right tools, you might struggle to spend that much. Better yet, you might not have to spend anything at all.
If you outgrow your first solution, you can always scale up
Something to keep in mind, of course: as time goes on, you can always scale up your tools or their plans, as well as the approach you take to meeting yourgoal.
When you first start out, free tools will probably be enough, and you might be trying a bit of everything that sounds promising. But if you later find that link building is a highly effective way for you to increase your store’s relevancy and popularity in search, simply because of the niche you’re in, and Open Site Explorer’s free plan is too limiting for you, there’s no harm in paying for it, or focusing more on those links and less on keywords.
The most important thing is to do what is best for you, your store, and your customers. No two stores are the same, and one may find it necessary to scale a specific activity up to a new level rapidly while another is just getting started. That’s fine, and it’s perfectly normal — just remember to keep focused on what matters.
Track your progress and achieve a goal before moving on to a new activity (or expanding your budget)
So far, you’ve:
Decided what you need to do, marketing-wise
Decided on a single, achievable goal
Done the research to find free or low-cost tools you can use to meet that goal
Now it’s time to put your plan in action. And once it’s in action, make sure you keep a close eye on it, even if you’re not spending any money.
If you forget about your new marketing activity, neglect it, or let your spending get out of control (or all three!), there could be disastrous effects for your store. So you should aim to set up some kind of review process for what you’re doing, and plan to check in regularly on the results before making any changes or moving on to a new marketing method.
For example, if you’re optimizing your site for search, you might check in on your rankings weekly. Or if your goal was to increase spending by repeat customers, you might look at the results of your email marketing campaigns a week after you send each one.
Routine reviews will not only keep you informed, they’ll also keep you invested. You’ll be eagerly awaiting the day you achieve your goal — and once you do, you’ll be ready to move on, or perhaps scale up your budget to get even better results.
Scaling up vs. adding on
When should you scale up a marketing activity, and when should you add on a new one? It all comes down to whether or not you’ve hit a ceiling.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your budget. If you can afford to spend $75 one month on a new tool instead of the $50 you usually spend, give it a try. Or if you want to try doubling your AdWords spend for a week to see if it increases your paid traffic immensely, go for it. Just remember to check those results!
It’s always possible for you to hit a “ceiling” with some marketing activities. After all, once you hit #1 on a Google search, you might feel as if there’s nowhere else for you to go with SEO, other than continued maintenance. Once you see a slowdown in results, or your ROI stops looking as huge as it once did, that signals that it’s time for you to add on another marketing activity.
Finally, don’t feel obligated to spend more money just because you feel like you should. Paid advertising might have enormous ROI, but it’s not for everyone. You can do email marketing, social media, and plenty of other things for free (money-wise, that is — you still need to spend the time on them). Only add on what suits your customers, your store, and your budget — not to mention the time you have available to manage it.
Make every pound you spend go further with smart marketing decisions
Although a few potential customers might find your store on their own, you’ll undoubtedly have better results with marketing than without. But the money required to hire an agency or try more advanced tools just isn’t there for many new store owners.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can make each and every pound go further. By defining a single goal at a time and seeking out free or low-cost tools to support it, you can do your own marketing and reach more customers — and all without investing time and money you don’t have.
There are hundreds of guides out there on the topic of search engine optimization. And they all promise one thing: with their help, you’ll rank better and sell more.
The problem is you only have so many hours in your day. You’ve got enough to worry about without throwing SEO into the mix. Guides that recommend investing your valuable time into copywriting, on-page optimization, link building, or content creation seem practical enough… but only if you can grow an extra set of arms.
Rather than invest all your time and effort into additional forms of optimization — some of which may not even be practical for your niche or current growth stage — it’s best to shift your mindset to simply being search engine friendly at all times. By establishing basic SEO groundwork up front you can drastically cut down on the amount of time you need to spend on future optimization.
By following this guide, you can be confident that your store is always optimized for search because it meets Google’s basic best practices. Let’s take a look at how you can get started with practical SEO.
Being search engine friendly vs. “doing SEO”
For all of the complications and discussions surrounding the topic of search engine optimization, Google’s official guidelines on having a search-friendly website are extremely simple, and can be boiled down to four main points:
Provide useful, high-quality, and unique content
Make sure other websites are linking to yours
Make sure your website and all its pages are easily accessible
Don’t try to trick Google into ranking you higher
So is that all it takes to rank #1 for your targeted keywords? Thousands of SEOs, marketers, and even store owners would certainly argue that no, it isn’t anywhere near that simple.
But is ranking #1 really all that important? There have certainly been studies showing that the website ranking #1 for any given keyword gets most of the traffic. But what happens after that? Those studies say nothing of the percentage of visitors who stick around, make a purchase, become a fan of the brand, spread the word to their friends and family. What if the #2 site has better content? Or the #5 site has a better selection of products?
This is why, especially for small business owners, “doing SEO” isn’t nearly as important as simply being search engine friendly. Being search engine friendly from the get-go costs less, reduces ongoing maintenance and risk, and still puts you in front of your target audience.
In the long run, it isn’t about exactly how high you rank — it’s about how well your store attracts, educates, and converts its visitors. And that’s what being search engine friendly will help you with.
Let’s look at a few practical ways that you can make your store attractive to search engines — and searchers — from the very start.
Make content your priority
By now you might have heard the phrase “content is king.” It’s how search engines pick up clues for ranking websites, what visitors consume to learn more about a topic, what customers read to solve their problems. It’s the very heart of content marketing. It’s no wonder we consider it so important.
In your store, you might not have very much content, owing to a limited number of products and no blog. Or you might have an abundance of it. You shouldn’t feel pressured to change your situation, no matter what it is. However, you should follow these very basic rules for every piece you produce, regardless of length:
Always add a product description. Though writing one of your own may not be feasible (see below), these little content pieces are crucial to both human and robot readers. For search engines specifically, they contain key clues about the topic of your product page, the keywords it should rank for, and the overall nature of your website.
Use search-appropriate words and phrases. Google won’t know that you’re selling a beach ball unless you write “beach ball” in the product name, description, or elsewhere on the page. Even if you don’t have time for keyword research, think about what phrases your customers might be searching for and use them where appropriate.
Create unique content wherever possible. It’s perfectly fine to use a manufacturer’s product copy in your store (or to distribute your copy to others). However, with multiple instances of the same block of content, Google has to figure out which one is the original… and they’re not always accurate. If you have the time, write your own content; on your homepage and other crucial pages, your copywriting should always be original.
Avoid duplicating pages. Some eCommerce platforms may accidentally duplicate pages if they’re accessed through two different means (for example, via a search and a category page). Google frowns on this kind of duplicate content much more so than duplicate copywriting. If you use WooCommerce, WordPress will handle assigning a “canonical” (original) URL for your pages, but here’s how to change them with Yoast if you run into issues.
Use keywords… if it makes sense
Keywords, as you may already know, are the words and phrases that potential customers search for online. If Google finds a match between a searcher’s keywords and the keywords that appear on your store, you’re more likely to appear in the results. This is why keywords are such a crucial component of SEO.
Some store owners focus on broad keywords, like “shoes” or “wallets,” and may make it their goal to rank #1 for these. However, the intent of these queries is unknown — does someone looking for “wallets” want to buy one, or are they researching the styles and manufacturers? Or could they even just be looking for a photo for a project?
While you should certainly use the words related to your products in your store, no matter how broad they are, try to add actionable, evergreen keywords to places like your homepage and category pages. So for example, instead of optimizing for “wallets,” a store could add the phrase “buy men’s wallets” or “leather wallets by [manufacturer name]” to capture the shoppers who have narrowed their focus and are much more likely to buy. If you do this once, the time you spend optimizing for keywords will be drastically reduced.
Here are a few more tips:
Use keywords as naturally as possible. If visitors to your store see nonsensical product descriptions, they’re going to leave; if Google sees this, they’re going to rank you lower. So while it’s important to place keywords in your page titles, copywriting, navigation, and so on, you shouldn’t do it at the expense of your potential revenue.
Keep an eye on what converts. You may notice that you attracted more traffic or gained more conversions after adding a specific keyword to one or more of your pages. Try to measure the results of your actions as best as you can by giving any significant keyword changes an annotation in Google Analytics.
Following the tips below when you set up or review your store will certainly help you when your site is crawled, but they’ll also ensure that your potential customers aren’t confused or lost when browsing your site. Google considers some visitor behavior when generating rankings, so if your shoppers are sticking around for a long time, you’ll likely rank better than sites whose shoppers get frustrated and leave after just a few seconds.
Here’s how to make your navigation shine:
Label your pages in a sensible manner. You may be tempted to call the section of your store where you sell handbags the “depot” or “collection,” but that’s confusing to users… and not at all search engine friendly. Label all of your pages simply, using keywords where appropriate, and use your graphics or page copy to jazz things up.
Keep your main navigation simple. Although Google will crawl every linked page on your website, your visitors are likely to quickly leave if they can’t figure out how to get to a specific page, and a high bounce rate means your rankings might take a hit. Keep your main navigation simple and focused, limited to the most important pages, and move the others to your footer.
Enable “breadcrumb” links. Breadcrumb links appear at the top of product pages and allow visitors to travel back to previous category or landing pages. They’re especially helpful for search engine visitors who may want to see more than the page they landed on, and can also help with your SEO.
Link to every page. Google won’t know a page exists unless you link to it (and preferably more than once). Creating a sitemap should take care of this for you; many eCommerce platforms will generate and update your sitemap automatically, but double-check to be sure it’s present and linked to in your footer.
Keep your URLs short, clear, and sensible
Did you know that the addresses associated with your products and pages can have an impact on how well you rank? Although it’s best to name your products and pages in a way that is clear to visitors, not just attractive to search engines, try to keep these tips in mind:
Use words, not numbers, in your URLs. When you create a new product or category page, ensure the URL is sensible and relates to the content contained within. For example, the category page for women’s sandals should have the URL /womens-sandals/. This tells Google what the page contains — information it can’t get from a URL like /category-2/.
Use relevant keywords (but not too many). Keyword stuffing is a bad practice for URLs just as it is for content. While it’s perfectly fine to appeal to long-tail searchers by creating a URL like /womens-spring-summer-sandals/ — which might help you rank for “women’s summer sandals” or “sandals for spring” — anything longer or irrelevant could hint at intentional manipulation.
Exact match domains won’t help. If you plan on setting up a new store and want to rank #1 for “men’s shoes,” registering the domain name “mens-shoes-outlet.com” won’t boost your SEO, thanks to a 2012 Google algorithm update. It also looks spammy and may potentially drive visitors away. Stick to your brand name and use keywords elsewhere instead.
Make your site’s speed a priority
Research has shown that long loading times can kill your sales. For every extra second your homepage takes to load, your conversion rate drops by an average of 7%. Stores that make $100,000 per day risk losing $2.5 million per year (or more!) due to site speed problems.
It isn’t just your visitors that dislike slow stores, however. Google considers site speed among its many ranking factors, and those that take a long time to load — and drive potential customers away — may see their rankings drop dramatically. So in this case, it literally pays to be fast!
Here are a few ways you can keep your speed high and Google happy with you:
Compress large images before uploading. Images are the top cause of slow stores, and even if you want to offer bigger product photos or enormous sliding banners, you need to have small file sizes to keep your pages loading quickly. Even if your platform resizes your uploads, you should use a tool like Kraken.io to make files super-small but keep the quality high.
Use a caching service or content delivery network (CDN). Either option will allow a copy of your website to be delivered quicker than a live website.
Upgrade your hosting as needed. If you have a shared hosting plan, be prepared to upgrade as your store grows. Sometimes the only way to deliver speed is by paying a little extra per month.
Finally, here are a few things you should try to do to make each new product page you add a little more friendly to search engines. If you can get in the habit of making these final checks just before making an item live, you might attract just a few more visitors and boost your conversion rate by another percent or two.
Write custom meta descriptions. Although meta descriptions don’t help your SEO, they do give potential visitors a better idea of what your pages contain. If you can get in the habit of writing a meta for each new item in your store, you might see big improvements to your clickthrough rate.
Add alt text to images. Alt text isn’t just a best practice for visually impaired shoppers — it’s yet another opportunity to add keywords. Just remember that keyword stuffing is always and forever bad, no matter how you do it.
Add the manufacturer’s part or product numbers. Some advanced shoppers might search directly for these numbers, so it’s best to find a place for them somewhere on your page — especially if no one else in your industry is doing this (hint, hint).
Keep mobile in mind. How do your images, calls to action, and special website functions work on mobile devices? Mobile visitors might leave if they don’t like what they see, so ensure your product pages are responsive or accommodate multiple screen sizes.
Advanced SEO for stores in competitive niches: build links
If your store is in a highly competitive niche or industry — for example, if you sell women’s clothes — applying these ongoing SEO best practices might not be enough to boost you to the first page for even long-tail search terms.
If you refer back to Google’s basic search-friendly guidelines, you’ll notice that the second piece of guidance is “make sure that other websites are linking to yours.” This is because a link from one website to another is essentially a “vote” for that second site. The more votes you have, the better your chances for being discovered in search.
Link building is a good way for stores in competitive niches to advance their SEO efforts without spending hours per day on optimization. Link requests don’t take long to compose and send, it’s a great way to build relationships with those in the same industry, and many links occur naturally anyway. However, link building can also be dangerous if done improperly, and there are penalties for engaging in risky behavior.
If you are aiming to invest in link building, remember the following:
Not all links are created equal. It may be easy to acquire hundreds of links from new blogs or your friends’ websites, but Google views those much differently than links from well-established news sources or highly followed blogs. Quality over quantity!
Some links don’t count. Links from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks are “Nofollow” and carry no weight. Therefore, paying someone to tweet a thousand links to your site won’t help your ranking.
Relevancy matters. This isn’t to say that you should turn down a link from CNN. However, if you sell women’s clothes and most of your links come from pool supply stores, Google likely won’t see any reason to rank you higher for “women’s clothing.”
When it comes to SEO, there’s no way to optimize your store so it ranks #1 overnight. Nor are there any foolproof methods that will help you outrank your competitors on all of your targeted keywords. With the practical application of proven techniques, however, you can create a sturdy foundation for a store that is easy to navigate, full of great content, and appealing to shoppers everywhere.
As a store owner, your goal should be to create practical, repeatable ground rules for the optimization of your website. If you’re a one-person operation, it’s simply not feasible to spend hours writing guest blog posts or doing keyword research for every product. However, by applying the strategies outlined in this post just once, and then each time you add a new item, you’ll have a website that appeals to what both search engines and people want — not just what Google seems to favor the most this month.