Lets you and I take a imaginary trip, on this trip you are the owner of a small business with an e-commerce website looking to improve and maintain the growth of website traffic and ultimately revenue. You want to really push the company forward but are unsure where to start with optimising your website to put it in front of potential customers and then convert them.
This post is a 10 point list of steps, with which you can start to optimise your website and make a real difference. Do note however this is just a simple guide, something for you to really build on and make your own - as all websites are different. If you have any additional points for the list or general feedback, leave a comment.
10 Steps to SEO Success
Review the Existing Website
The first part of any SEO strategy is to perform a review of the website itself. Take a look at the design, the code, internal link structure, information architecture (content strategy), use of keywords and key phrase, descriptions and navigation. Gather as much information as you can and make a fix list if things are broken or something is missing from a page (for example if our e-commerce website is huge it is possible not all product will have a description, do you decide to auto generate these from a description or write them yourself?)
Review the Analytics Data
This is possibly some of the most important information about your website there is. With it, if used correctly, you can really push your website forward in it's market and become number 1. Review things like visitor paths, visitor entrances, which pages visitors leave on, whether they put things in your basket and then leave (why do they do this on your site?) - now look at the keywords people find you using, are there any that you could push further that do quite well but could do better. Finally in this part of your review take a look at products which are best converters, which sell most in your online store, take a look at those pages see what is good about them and how you can apply this elsewhere.
Most SEO campaigns are based around keywords and key phrases, these are words you are targeting in the want to be found for. If you are selling to a niche marketing then your research will be based around that niche (speaking of the overall website) so for example CheapTents are targeting lightweight tents and waterproof clothing as they are an outdoors company. Where as Spirit Beauty are targeting the beauty industry with phrases based on well known brands. Both work well so you need to find your niche. Remember the site should target around 7 words itself (the whole site) and keywords specific to a product - this is often easier as it may be the brand name and product name plus one or two others. Each product page should be targeting a max of 5 keywords. To see how popular keywords maybe you can use tools such as Google's Keyword Tool, but also match your words with what is already poplular on the site from your analytics review. Another tool to use would be the Google Trends tool as mentioned in a previous post.
Something a lot of website owners forget about is what their competitors are doing, what products they sell compared to your online shop, what keywords they use, what their site looks like, how they make a customer feel etc. The competition to target online is not your real life local shops, but those stores which are appearing on the first page of Google results for your wanted keywords. If they are number one they maybe the brand, ignore these move on to shops not brands, take a look inside them and their code - how does it compare to yours and what can you do to improve your code, design or content.
Setting out a SEO Strategy
After you've done reviews and analysis you need to create a report for yourself and any other website stakeholders to show where your site is compared with other similar sites, what you think needs to be done and a timescale for works. A good idea is to always cut down the work over a period of months, works overnight are ok if its a revamped site but if you are keeping the site the same (assumption you aren't changing software or template) updating over months can be more effective. It also means you can evolve your plan as you continue to research and compare.
As I've already said above you should review both your own stores keywords and descriptions but also your own. This is where the hard work really begins as you need to ensure an appropriate length for the title, description and number of keywords. Each page really needs these meta tags, if you don't have them your website may not perform as well as it should be doing. Take meta tags seriously and you will find yourself moving up the rankings. Oh and remember just because Google don't use keyword tags doesn't mean others won't so keep them in there!
Getting the Tone Correct
One of my pet hates online is the rigid and formal tone of websites. It is so yukky that one day I will vent my anger in a blog post. However in the meantime think about how you want your brand to be seen, consider giving it a personality. SEOAndy's personality is a person talking with you on an individual level in an informal manner, it allows for a more flowing type of content. Where as other sites may use jargon and appear to be speaking to a group. Which is best depends on your market but get it right and you will begin to convert more and get more customer recommendations to friends. Getting it wrong can spell disaster as you will just look plain dumb. Oh and don't just copy a manufacturers descriptions, other sites do this but all e-commerce having the same description means no one will win ultimately.
SEO for Images
Images are a vital part of your e-commerce website, currently you have some good and some bad pictures. Some a blurry and others are fantastic. It's time to get rid of the blurry and replace them, even just with the manufacturers images will do. Ensure they each have ALT text and a meaningful file name, such tweaks can mean you will be targeting keywords again and may get more hits via google images etc. It also means its much easier to find and less confusing for you. A tip is to ask you developer to automatically program alt text such that you can do it manually or automatically. So if you don't add some ALT text it reverts of "product name" > "shop name" ... such defaulting makes life easier and means you can optimise later.
Making the Most of your Call To Action
Earlier you performed an analysis on your website, this hopefully included your calls to action. These are the buttons that say "buy now" or your sales pitch ads. Taking a look through your analytics and you should see which perform best and which worst. Compare the two and see where you can improve your conversion rate. It could be as simple as making a button bigger, but it could also be that you need to redesign a particular area. For example Walk and Ramble used to have multiple products on a page, pretty bad for seo, they now have a single product per page layout which makes information nicer to read and less confusing. Such a design change could really be boosting their sales!
Do it again!
The most important tip is this. Your on-site optimisation for your e-commerce website, which is what all of this is about, should never end. Your site needs to be an evolutionary site, constantly tweaking and changing to make the user experience better and the search engine rankings too. Reports go stale after a few months so do a new set or alternatively iterate your reports too!