Marketing and SEO for Ecommerce Websites

While a complete examination of marketing and optimizing an e-commerce site is beyond the scope of this book, I'll try to provide a quick primer for you. There are also other marketing info and tips scattered through the book, where they make sense in relation to the material. And inevitably, there's a lot of marketing involved in your site setup.

tip indicator

I’ll be giving you some links to quality information on SEO later, but first I would like you to read through the section here concerning on-site content optimization. I truly believe that if you follow my recommendations for content generation, and do the following you will be ahead of most other sites in your niche the day you launch.

Entire collections of books have been written about online marketing and the various aspects of SEO. It changes to an extent every time Google updates their algorithm. There are some basics that always hold true (so far) though, and I'll concentrate on those in this section.

Just putting up your site is a waste of time if you don't get any traffic. When it comes to traffic, you have a few options:

 Pay Per Click advertising (You bid to position your ad on the Google search results page)

 Organic search engine traffic (You just show up on the Google search results page)

 Social Traffic (you become part of the community that includes the market or product you are promoting)

ferret sweaters ads

*Google is always moving things around - currently the sidebar ads are not showing, and ads are top and bottom of organic listings.

The easiest way to get visitors is PPC. Not coincidentally, it is also the most expensive.

My recommendation is that you use the other two methods in conjunction. As Google continues to include social signals in the search results, it becomes more and more important to achieving good ranking for organic traffic as well.

On Page SEO

The only way to get free traffic in any appreciable quantity is to show up on the first page of the SERPS (search engine results page) for keyword searches that relate to your products. In our earlier table saw example, you might want to show up for terms like these:

  • Table saw (duh)
  • woodworking
  • buy a table saw
  • table saw jigs
  • table saw setup
  • table saw alignment

The shorter and more popular a keyword is, the harder it usually is to rank for that keyword. The good news is that some of the best terms are longer phrases:

  • They will usually be easier to rank for
  • Longer keyword phrases can indicate a searcher who is further along in the searching process: Craftsman xb-50 Toolkit vs. Craftsman tools
  • Often they have less competition

This is where all of that targeted, product specific content you generated comes in. While "table saw" may be difficult to rank for, "Craftsman LT-9 Table Saw Manual" may be something you rank for a week after your site goes live - without even trying.

Another treat is that keywords like the one above are usually associated with a desire to buy something. You want to rank for phrases that are associated with a desire for specific product information, and narrowing down selection.

So in addition to the above list, you'll want to rank for:

  • table saw comparison
  • best table saws under 500.00
  • table saw accessory kit
  • table saw warranties

You get the idea I'm sure. Getting this done is a two-step process. First you have to find out what the buying keyword phrases are for your market, and then you have to properly set up your content to rank for them. Don't worry - basic SEO is neither complex nor difficult to understand. I'll walk you through this.

Keyword Research

First, let's find some keywords, shall we?

Go to: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Enter your main product keyword into the phrase box. Select from the options directly below. I selected United States and English. Hit search. You will be showing broad match results by default. Here’s what Google has to say about the match Type selections for this tool:

Match Types

The traffic volume that appears in the statistics table for a specific match type is an approximation of the traffic that a keyword gets in a month on Google with that match type.

  • Broad match: The sum of the search volumes for the keyword idea, related grammatical forms, synonyms and related words
  • Phrase match: The sum of the search volumes for all terms that include that whole phrase
  • Exact match: The search volume for that keyword idea

If we were searching for specific terms around which to build a page or write an article, we would choose Exact Match, so we could see Google’s estimate of how many times per month that term was searched for.

In this case, we just want to gather as many different terms as we can that contain or are related to our product keywords so we can sort them for buying keywords. So we’ll proceed with Broad match to cast as wide a net as possible.

Google KWT

Once we have our keywords, we hit download and get them onto our computer. Select Download, then All and save the file as a .csv file to your desktop.

gkwt excel

Once it is there, open it up in your favorite spreadsheet program and take a look:

keywords in excel

Now let’s find some buying keywords. In Excel, go to Editing > Sort & Filter > Filter. Then go over to your Keyword column and click the dropdown arrow to expand the filter menu for that column. That gets you this:

keywords in excel

Make sure you have a check next to (Select All) and then enter your search term into the field indicated above. Hit enter and check it out:

keyword in excel 3

Repeat this for all your buying terms you can think of, or find in your spreadsheet. For example: Buy, find, Review, Purchase, Best, New, Portable, Top rated, On sale, Cheap, and Discounted

Copy all of these keyword phrases and their data into their own worksheet.

In this example, I would then start filtering on Brand names, like Craftsman and Makita and copy all of those over to a sheet.

Then I would go to work on parts & accessories like fence, dust bag, stand, jig and so on.

An hour or so of work should give you a fairly detailed spreadsheet with a ton of keywords sorted out by several different factors.

Don't get hung up on the number of searches a keyword gets. Anything over a few hundred per month can get you some sales. Remember you are not just after traffic - you are after targeted traffic.

Go through this process for all of your products and markets, so long as they are different enough to generate different results.

Adding Keywords to Your Content

Open up the folder where you are keeping all of the content for your site. Now open up your spreadsheet and for each piece of content, see what keyword phrases you can insert into it without it sounding forced or unnatural.

Normally when I am doing this, I simply replace words with keywords that fit well. Sometimes I'll see enough related keywords in the list to justify writing a new page section or product description that better suits my purposes.

Resist the temptation to wedge an inappropriate sounding keyword into your copy just because it gets a lot of searches. It makes your site look as if it was written for the search engines instead of visitors, exactly what you don't want.

Once you have your content properly set up you can start building your site.

(See our chapter on TheBestCoffeePot.com for a complete site-building tutorial)

As you build each page, you'll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the page title keyword rich and is the main keyword associated with this page at the beginning of the title?
  • Is the page URL keyword optimized as well?
  • Does the page contain one or more pictures? Is the picture filename descriptive?
  • Does your picture have an alt tag? Is it also optimized?

If your page is a post, make sure you're putting it in the proper category, and using the best tags. A quick note about tags - their point is to help visitors find subject matter quickly on a large site. If you just create tons of them will nilly you aren't doing your visitors any good, and you're generating a ton of useless pages on your site. That's right, every tag makes its own archive page.

For an e-commerce site, I recommend that you use the All in One SEO Pack or a similar plugin to “no index” Tag archives, author archives and date archives. You don’t need them adding bloat to your site. Note that some premium themes will have this functionality built in.

You can use your automatically created category archive pages as Product category pages like we do here on our coffee pot site:

 favorite coffee

Note that we take advantage of the description field in our edit category page to include more text on our category page, above the posts in that category. On our demo site, it’s pretty much fluff – but your site should show product related text, with a few keywords thrown in.

Internal linking strategies

Internal linking is important. It not only helps your visitors find things quickly, it helps Google understand what your site is about. And a lot of internal links to a page is an indication for Google that the page is important.

Having said this, be careful about having links from your product pages. Supposedly you already have your customer where you want them: They are on the product page reading your copy and about to hit the buy button. Why lead them away at this point?

Before you add an internal link to a page, ask yourself: Will this actually help my visitors? Or am I just trying to manipulate the way the Googlebot sees this site?

If it’s the latter, remember that Google is getting better and better at determining what a site is about. Concentrate on making things better for your visitors, and Google will follow.

If the above sounds like I’m trying to discourage you from adding internal links, I’m not. I’m just saying that your customers come first. The best situation is when an internal link helps your visitor and points Google to a page you wish to promote.

The Social Side of Things

When I talk about Social promotion of your website, I am not talking about sending out thousands of tweets or “you like my page, and I’ll like yours” circles. Nor am I talking about any of the plethora of automated social linkbuilding tools out there.

I’m talking about actually getting involved in your website’s and your products’ marketplace online. You can start with a Facebook page.

For a small e-commerce site, I’d start off by building a Facebook page and trying to get some “likes”. You’ll want 25 of these so you can claim the “Vanity URL” for your page. It’s the difference between having a FB page with this URL:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Grabapple/130880066955235

and this one:

http://www.facebook.com/Grabapple

After that is set up, I would get some free links wherever I can. Remember that your link profile needs to be as diverse and natural looking as you can make it. This means getting links not only from a lot of different places, but from a lot of different kinds of places.

Forums & Blog Comments

Remember way back in the content creation section where you found forums and blogs that were related to your product and market? Now’s the time to get back into those places and become part of your community.

A forum may require you to have a certain number of posts first, but eventually you will be allowed to include a link back to your site either in a forum post or as part of your signature.

Watch your behavior and protect your reputation in forums related to your business. If you ask intelligent questions and offer good advice, you can leverage your presence there into some business, as well as links.

When adding comments to a blog, remember that the blog owner wants on topic, relevant comments that make sense and add to the conversation on his site. Respect the site owner – adding your content to his property is a privilege.

Guest Posting

If you already have some exposure in your marketplace, or some expertise that you can exploit, you may be able to get the opportunity to write a guest post for someone else’s website. Normally this will include a link back to your site, and not only will you get a link, you’ll get some traffic as well.

Grabapple Site Launch Checklist

Prelaunch

1) Make sure you have Google Analytics or another analytics package installed. Once people start coming to your site, every single search phrase they’ve typed into Google is gold. Check your logs about once per week. You’ll see that you will start ranking for phrases you had not considered before. Add them to your page, and watch your ranking go up, and you visitor counts grow.

2) Once you make your Facebook page as described in the section above, put the Facebook Like Box on your site. It’s not hard. All you have to do is copy the code into a sidebar widget location. Configuration and other info here from Facebook:
http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like-box/
This will enable your visitors not only to “like” your site, but to see their friends who already did so. This is what we call “Social Proof” and you want it.

3) Check everything one last time. Are all of your pages optimized? Run back through and take a look. Product and category pages are particularly important.
Make sure that images all have alt tags, descriptions & descriptive file names
Pages and posts have meta tags and titles
Your URLs are what you want them to be – keyword rich and relevant

4) Make sure all of your supporting documentation has links to the product it supports. If you re-wrote the widget manual, there should be links to the product page in your version of the manual. Wouldn’t hurt to have one at the top and again at the bottom of the page also.

5) Make sure your housekeeping pages are complete and accurate. Your About Us, Contact Us, and other pages should be full of real info – and have a call to action if you can work it in: “We pride ourselves on personalized service, and that’s why we’re your #1 source for ferret sweaters.”

6) Make sure your Shipping and Return policies are clear and concise. Don’t leave any wiggle room. People are usually OK with anything they can understand and agree to in advance. Customers don’t like surprises.

7) Install Mailchimp on your site and start collecting email addresses. Don’t abuse your subscribers trust by sending them spam-laden dreck. Give them real info and genuine deals on your products.

8) Have someone not associated with the project, but internet savvy go through your site from one end to the other. Make sure they click every link, download every .pdf and read through every page. If your site is huge, split it up – but get it done – by someone who did not work on it.

end of content

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