Get to know SEO so you don’t get ripped off!

learn seoWe’ve all had those uninvited emails.

The ones kindly telling you that you’re not ranking well on search engines like Google, and their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services will bring you lots of web traffic and a position on the first page of Google results.

Tempted? Take a deep breath and think again.

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.”

 How do I know? Cause that quote is taken directly from Google’s support website.

A brief history of SEO

Search engines like Google want to be able to show you the most valuable and relevant web pages for your search query. To be able to do that, they first crawl web pages and use very complicated algorithms to rank them in an index.

Very early on, people started gaming the system using tricks known as ‘black hat’ techniques to try to outwit the algorithms and jump up the rankings.

These tactics included:

  • Stuffing the keyword phrase into the page (both visibly and invisibly) as many times as possible
  • Buying and swapping links, or listing on poor quality web directories, to get as many backlinks as possible
  • Spamming the comments section on blogs and forums just to get a backlink
  • Spinning low quality versions of an article onto lots of different sites
  • Technical trickery like doorway pages, cloaking and redirects

As a result, Google began to update its algorithms to reward top quality content and filter out pages that used dubious methods to try and win their attention.

And it’s got very good at it.

Play nice or face the consequences

Many dodgy SEO tactics are still being used by unscrupulous companies, even though the Google algorithms have been updated numerous times to recognise and penalise these tactics.

These methods are useless at best and downright dangerous at worst. And who gets penalized for these actions? The website owner. That’s you.

So if you want to steer clear of a Google penalty that bombs your search rankings, you need to make sure any SEO activities for your website are best practice.

What is good SEO?

Good SEO is about giving Google what it wants. Which is all about giving the user what they want…

> top quality, helpful content (web pages, video, pdfs etc)

> relevant to the search query

> on an easy-to-use website (technically sound)

> that other people recommend (through quality, earned backlinks)

So what are your options?

Firstly, do yourself a red hot favour and learn some SEO basics.

>>> Start with this article, or this one, by yours truly, written as a simple intro to SEO for people with little or no prior knowledge.

>>> Read up about SEO. There are a huge amount of free resources online like this SEO guide from Google itself.

>>> Take an introductory online SEO course like the one run by my pal Kate Toon called “The Recipe for SEO Success”.

When you’re up to speed (it doesn’t take much to learn the basics!), you’ll have a choice to either pay an SEO specialist to do the work for you, or do it yourself.

Use your smarts when you pick an SEO supplier

If you’re going to employ a specialist, please don’t randomly pick one (or reply to one of those unsolicited emails). Speak to other business people to find out who they use and recommend, and search online for good reviews.

A legitimate SEO company should be able to

  • explain the SEO techniques it uses
  • show you examples of their work
  • put you in touch with happy customers
  • provide detailed reporting of their work and the results it’s getting

Their services should include

  • keyword research for your specific niche
  • an SEO audit of your current website with advice on what to fix to make it more SEO friendly
  • a strategy and support to build quality backlinks
  • help with content development

With a good understanding of SEO at your disposal, you should be able to weed out any dodgy dealers.

The takeaway?

Don’t waste your time and precious cash trying to outwit Google. Understand how to work with them, not against them.

Whether you choose to hire an SEO specialist or DIY, maintain a good quality website and you’ll enjoy a stream of visitors who want to be there.

 

9 simple ways to earn backlinks to your store

link buildingInbound links (backlinks) are important to the success of your ecommerce site for two reasons:

1. They bring visitors to your site from all over the web, and

2. They help push you up search engine rankings

Search engines love links

Google has always considered backlinks when assessing web pages for search engine results. In their eyes, it’s a vote for your content; so it’s got to mean it’s pretty good and deserves to be promoted, right?

But over the years, link building has been abused and search engines have made it tougher to get the kind of links you need.

Gone, thankfully, are the days of buying masses of irrelevant links to get better search rankings (if you’re approached by a company saying they can get you lots of cheap links, run!). That just annoyed everyone.

Now, the quality and relevance of backlinks are more important than quantity. The ones you want should come from good quality, reputable websites.

Here are 9 ways you can get these precious links.

Earn them with your awesomeness

The preferred method.

1. Create interesting and useful pages on your website, packed full of information and images.
A frequently updated blog is great way to provide this kind of content. Read our post explaining how to write good quality posts. Make sure each blog post havs social media share buttons so it’s easily spread around.

2. Establish and build your social media presence.
Social media is one of the best ways to promote your awesome content (see above point) to attract more traffic and natural links.

As well as maintaining a profile on the obvious networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube – explore others like StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Delicious and SlideShare and see how you can get involved with those audiences.

3. Reach out to popular bloggers in your niche.
Earning a mention on a popular blog can bring you instant results. If you have a unique product or piece of content you think their audience would like to hear about, offer to send it to the blogger to consider reviewing or promoting.

Search online for popular blogs whose audience may be interested in your products (use Alltop or google “xxx blogs”). Then send the blogger a short, friendly email introducing yourself and explaining why they’d be interested in featuring it (what’s in it for them). Don’t be salesy, be tempting and compelling!

4. Try guest blogging.
Writing unique content that’s published on other blogs is known as guest blogging. It takes more effort than blogger outreach, but can open more doors if your content’s really useful. Again, when you look for popular blogs to approach, ensure your ideas will be relevant to their audience.

Create them

Use with caution and remember the golden rule – quality and relevance. And don’t buy them. Ever.

5. Email your suppliers and business partners and ask if they’d be happy to mention you on their website and link back to your store.

6. List your store in relevant and reputable online directories
As I mentioned above, search engines got smart to the hundreds of poor quality backlinks coming from free directories and will downgrade or exclude sites that use this tactic. Only list in a handful of authority directories. Start with True local (AU), Yellow pages, Dmoz.org, Hotfrog and Yahoo! Directory Listings.

7. Look for opportunities to add your business to professional association websites.
They may have a member directory, for example.

8. Check backlinks to your competitors’ sites and see if they could work for you too.
It’s handy to know where your competitors are getting link love. There could be some goodies there you can go after. Type the website address you want to check in link checking tools like open site explorer. It can be an eye opener!

9. Sign up for alerts from online PR sites.
Journalists looking for sources for their stories often use sites like Sourcebottle to find them. Sign up for email alerts and keep an eye out for opportunities to promote your goods or your expertise.

OK. I think that’s given you enough to think about for now.

Building backlinks to increase traffic and impress search engine takes time but it’s worthwhile in the long run. Keep chipping away at it!

How to attract more business to your online store

how-to-attract-more-business-to-your-online-storeThe answer is already in your hands. And it’s free.

Tucked neatly into every Spiffy Store is a simple promotional tool that can make a big difference to your business.

What am I talking about? Your store blog.

7 ways a blog can improve the success of your store

If you’re already up and blogging away, good for you! You can skim through the rest of this post if you like. For the rest of you, pay attention.

Contrary to what you might think, a blog’s not just for foodies and cat lovers. It’s a powerful marketing machine that can be working away 24/7 to support your store by:

  • Helping your website to rank higher in search engine results
  • Attracting more traffic from search engines
  • Growing awareness of your store
  • Building your credibility
  • Developing your unique business personality
  • Building relationships with browsers and customers
  • Building your email list (as people to subscribe to your blog)

To show you how that translates in real terms, I pulled out some online research.

US Marketing company Hubspot regularly surveys businesses around the world about their marketing habits. They found that web sites with a blog received 55% more visitors and 97% more inbound links than those without.

Not only that, they discovered that 57% of companies with a blog had acquired a new customer from it.

How does something as simple as a blog do all that?

The answer lies in the potent mix of quality content and search engine optimization that a regularly-updated blog provides.

Your blog is the information hub of your online store. It’s the place to share interesting news, opinion, advice and even entertainment with your audience. As you add to it, your online presence and authority grows.

And it’s a search engine magnet.

Search engines like Google look at specific elements when indexing web content and deciding how it will rank. Some of the most important factors are the amount of relevant information it contains, how many quality links are present and the number of social signals it generates (likes and shares etc.) One of the simplest and cheapest ways you can do all this is with a blog.

Now, are you ready for action?

Don’t put it off any longer because you think it’s hard and scary, and you don’t have the time. I’m here to get you up to speed.

Don’t ignore it because you have a Facebook page. You should be driving traffic to your own website, not Mr. Zuckerberg’s.

Over the weekend, grab a cuppa, sit down and invest a little time reading other blogs for inspiration. Blog directories like technorati and blogarama are a good place to start looking.

I’ll be back next week to guide you through the basics. Get ready!

E-commerce secrets: What are you really selling?

what-are-you-really-selling-blogWhat are you selling through your online store? Stationery? Clothing? Art?

Think again. In your customers’ eyes, you’re providing a solution to fill a need, and to feed an emotion.

You’re not selling sweaters, you’re providing warmth and comfort, style, and protection from the cold.

You’re not selling quality wallpaper, you’re bringing beauty to a boring wall, allowing someone to express themselves and helping them create a home.

The key to creating compelling and engaging copy is to understand the problems your product solves and to tap into the emotional connections to it.

When you develop your brand and write content for your online store, don’t think in terms of selling goods. Think about solutions to problems, that’s what you’re really selling.

Want to learn more? My next post is all about nailing those fiddly product descriptions.

Related articles

Tips for online retailers: How to optimise your store for search engines (part two)

In part one, we covered the first two subjects in our online retailer’s guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), using your keywords effectively and producing regular, quality content.

In part two, we will cover two other important aspects of SEO, social media participation and link building, and how to tackle them with confidence.

Dive into social media, and keep swimming.

One of the most recent Google updates increased the amount that social media activity counts in search engine rankings. Now, your engagement in social media will enhance your SEO efforts as well as increase your reach and popularity.

Put your best business hat on and go forth and participate in social networks such as twitter, facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. Set up accounts under your brand name and share images and stories, ask for opinions and comment on other people’s posts. Retweets, shares and comments on your social media content are taken into account in search rankings.

Continue reading

Tips for online retailers: How to optimise your store for search engines (part one)

Like most people setting up an online store, you probably know you should be optimising for search engines to get more qualified traffic. The trouble is, you may not know where or how to start.

Never fear! we’ve put together this two-part blog post to get you up to speed in no time.

Let’s kick off with a quick refresher on why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is so important.

SEO is not paid search marketing such as Google AdWords. We will look at that in a separate post. SEO is a bunch of techniques that you can apply to your web presence to help you get into Google search results without paying for advertising. It’s commonly called ‘organic’ search.

Search engines send out ‘robots’ to find your web content and index it so they can refer to it quickly during search queries. Once your content is indexed, the search engine can then list it in the organic search results for the relevant search query. The whole process is very complex and highly automated – it relies 100% on the information the robots can find.

Therefore the ‘trick’ to good SEO is for your content to be easy for the robots to find and highly relevant to the keywords your target audience will use to search.

Luckily for you, your Spiffy Store is already brilliantly formatted and coded to be search engine friendly, but you will still need to use your keywords in the right places, create interesting content, embrace social media and build links to your site to improve your search engine ranking.

We’ve broken four basic SEO principles down into manageable techniques that you can do yourself. In this post we will cover using keywords correctly and creating quality content. Using all four elements will make a real difference to your search engine rankings, pushing your pages further up the results listing towards that coveted first page position.

Continue reading

Enhanced product tags

Here’s a small but useful enhancement that has just been released for your Spiffy Store.

We all know how important it is to add tags to your product, as they help your customers find the right product and add extra information about your product that search engines can use to help you get a better ranking for your online store.

Well, we’ve just made it easier to add more descriptive tags to your products. From today, you can create multi-word tags which means that your tags can more accurately reflect the terms that your customers will be searching for.

When you create or edit your tags, they will now be separated by commas, which means that you can include multiple words in a single tag.

Now you can create a tag for ‘spiffy stores online store software’, rather than being restricted to the single words, ‘spiffy’, ‘stores’, ‘online’, ‘store’ and ‘software’.

Don’t forget that product tags are also used in the keyword meta tags for your site, and whilst these are going out of style, they are still very important to use.

25 Tips for improving conversion rates in your online store

If you’ve already set up your own online store, or you’re just starting an online business, there are many things you’ll need to do to ensure the success of your new online business.

This article is the second in a series of articles designed to help you get the most out of your online store. In my last post, I covered ways to increase traffic to your online store.  If you follow our tips to increase your traffic, then more orders should start coming in.

If you follow the tips below to increase your conversion rate, then you could effectively reduce your advertising costs, whilst converting more of your visitors to buyers.

In e-commerce marketing, a conversion rate is the percentage of unique visitors to your online store who actually buy something.

Generally, if your store is laid out well, and you have good product descriptions and images and your products are reasonably priced, you should achieve at least a 1% to 2% conversion rate.

That can be easily increased to 3% if you follow the tips below.  If you go further than what we suggest, you can increase your conversion rate even further. Continue reading

Marketing your new online store

Increasing traffic to your online storeThis may come as a shock to people starting a new online store, but the days of “If you build it, they will come” are well and truly over.  Just creating an online store doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly going to become an overnight Amazon.com

To be successful selling online, you will need to market your online store. If you don’t… you’re really wasting your time.  Seriously.

Over the next couple of weeks starting today, I’ll be publishing tips on how to increase traffic to your online store, how to improve conversion rates in your online store, and going into further detail about our proven methods for doing so.

At the end of the day, you can take our recommendations with a grain of salt, but be warned… if you don’t do any of the things that we recommend, your store just isn’t going to succeed!

So here’s the first instalment for you…  20 sure-fire ways to increase traffic to your online store. Continue reading

5 vital SEO tips

So you have your online store but just can’t seem to get good ranking in Google’s search results. Well, if you’re a DIY search engine optimiser then what’s best way to fix this?  To most people, why sites rank well on google is a mystery,  so here are basic some tips on just what it is you need to do….
Continue reading