Web promotion tips

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PROMOTE YOUR PASSION
Search Engine Optimization
By Rodney Blackwell

Once site is up and running, your next important step will be getting customers to your site.

There are many ways to bring quality traffic to your shop. Offline promotion, word of mouth and advertising are all ways to increase the exposure of your new or existing online shop. Not everyone has the budget for buying offline advertising, and telling your family and friends only goes so far.

More than 75% of all internet users rely on search engines to find the information they're looking for. It only takes a few minutes to make your site more "search engine friendly". A few minutes is something that everyone has to spare to make sure that your potential customers can find you. With over half of search engine users abandoning their search after the first 2 pages, it's even more important that you do it right the first time. It doesn't cost a thing, and the results are well worth it!

So what can you do to compete in the search engine game?

With a few simple adjustments to your website, you'll be well on your way to getting the results you need from the search engines. Making search engine promotion a part of the priorities while setting up or working on your shop will be one of the best things you can do for your shop, and it won't take a dime out of your budget.

SEARCH ENGINES 101
By now, you've probably heard that you should submit your site to search engines to get listed. You may have even gotten emails or read websites where you can submit your site to 1000's of search engines in just a few clicks (some may even want to charge you for this service). The fact is, there are only a handful of major search engines and directories that most web surfers use that can bring significant traffic to your shop.

Before we start, we should define the difference between a search engine and a directory.

A search engine (like google.com) accepts submissions to its database of website listings via a free submission form. You just give the form your web address (URL) and once the form is submitted, it sends out a program (called a robot), to collect information from your site to decide what should be shown in the search engine results. The results it collects are sometimes added within days or more likely, weeks. This same robot often checks the existing sites that are in the search engines database for new information and to follow links on those sites to find new additions to the database.

A directory (like dmoz.org) also accepts submissions for new sites via a submission free form. Only, this time YOU input information about your site including the title and description of your site. After you submit the form, an actual person reviews your site, which takes time. That person visits your site, verifies whether it fits the category you submitted it to and then check the accuracy of the information you submit. Not all sites that are submitted to a directory get listed, and ones that do can take weeks and sometimes months as the editors work to review each site submitted.

It is important that you have your shop prepared before you submit to either service.

FOCUS YOUR PASSION


Where do you start? Let's try working from the top down.
First, you should find a focus for your site. For the best results, you will need to choose a theme that most stands out in your shop. Results show that a focused effort will bring more qualified surfers to your pages.

For example, if your shop sells t-shirts for various dog breeds, it would be wise to pick the most popular dog breeds to focus on, or dog shirts in general when making your site search engine friendly.

TITLE YOUR PASSION

The TITLE tag of your web pages is probably the most important (and most underrated) aspect of optimizing your website for the search engines.

While the first instinct will be to put in a company name or shop name, when optimizing for search engines it is important to craft a good title to help control the keywords you are ranked well for.

TITLE tags should usually not be longer than 80 characters at most. Most search engines will truncate the TITLE tag wording in their results to 50-80 characters.

Try to work in as many keywords as possible into your TITLE tags and STILL keep it a coherent, readable sentence. The TITLE of your website is the first thing that is shown in the Search Engine Results Pages when a surfer does a search. A clear, descriptive title that includes the keywords a person was searching for will entice a surfer to click your link above the other results.

This is something to keep in mind for all pages of any website you create.

For example, if the current title of your dog portrait shop is:

Stacy's Designs

Depending on the keywords you'd like your shop to show up well for, I would suggestion modifying the TITLE tag some to include those words.

Finding the right keywords to emphasize on a web page can be tricky. What I do is try to get into the mind of a customer to try to think of the words they would use to find my shop. You can also ask "non-techie" people you know what they would search for if they were trying to find a product you sell.

Once I have a basic start, I head on over the handy Overture keyword suggestion tool:
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion

This is a tool that Overture (the popular pay per click search engine) uses to allow its advertisers to choose quality keywords to "bid" on. It shows what are the most popular searches and keyword combinations used to search for a particular subject. Over time it has also become a great tool for web marketers who use the tool to help optimize their sites.

So if one of your keywords you wanted to use was: dog

By putting in dog in the keyword suggestion tool, you find out that:

dog was searched for 1,098,542 times last month

BUT

dog breeds was searched for 301,426 times last month!

So instead of focusing just focusing on dogs, it would be a good idea to put the keyword dog breeds in the TITLE tag.

Another popular term would be: t-shirts

In the Overture keyword suggestion tool, we see that t-shirts was searched for 145,212 times.

Sometimes you'll need to decide which terms you think will define that particular page better than others. This will often times go outside of what the keyword suggestion tool suggests is a highly searched for term.

My recommendation for your TITLE tag for your hypothetical Dog Portrait shop would be:

"Dog breed pictures and portraits on t-shirts, coffee cups and other gift items."

This TITLE tag incorporates important keywords like "dog breeds", "t-shirts", "coffee cups". You may want to edit it to fit your needs and focus on the products you want to promote the most in your shop, however it gives you the general idea. Put the most important focus of your shop nearer to the front of the TITLE.

Edit the "Shop Name" field to change the TITLE tag in your shop.

You can see the relevancy "hits" that a search engine pulls from a particular listing by viewing the terms that are in BOLD type in the search results. Most will show relevancy hits on the TITLE, and then will look for actual text content on the page that matches the search term.

GIVE YOUR PASSION KEYWORDS

In the current search engine landscape, keywords are not as much of an importance as they used to be, however they do still factor into how websites are ranked.

Your meta keywords can contain up to 1000 characters and the meta description tag should contain no more than 150 characters. If possible, keep each META tag on a single line of your HTML code, without line breaks.

<META NAME="description" Content="Your Page description goes here">
<META NAME="keywords" Content="comma delimited string of keywords here">

The META keywords and description should be used on all pages of your site or shop. With custom keywords being chosen for the actual content that is on those pages. Depending on the content of your page (how much text is on the page, is it a flash based or highly graphical page, etc.), some search engines will show the description text you write, right after the title of your website. A well written description META tag can grab a lot more users.

For optimal rankings, you will want to match your KEYWORD meta tag, to your DESCRIPTION meta tag, to your TITLE tag, to the content of the web page. That is to say, each should contain the same words as the other and should reflect the wording that can be found in the actual content of the web page.

Using our earlier dog breed portrait shop, a possible TITLE, KEYWORD, DESCRIPTION, content combination would be:

TITLE: Dog breed pictures and portraits on t-shirts, coffee cups and other gift items.
DESCRIPTION: Sells dog breed pictures and portraits on t-shirts, coffee cups, and various other unique custom gift items
KEYWORDS: dog breed, pictures, portraits, t-shirts, coffee cups, gifts, custom, unique, tiles, sweatshirts, baby dolls

You could also add some of the various dog breeds to your keywords to help fill out the space. Again, you'll want to keep the most important keywords to the front of your list and for best results, you use the plural version of the keyword. A keyword of "dogs", will count towards searches for "dog" or "dogs".

TALK ABOUT YOUR PASSION

Broken down to its most basic element, many would say the web is about information. People are looking for information online.

When they find your product, one thing that helps sell your product is the information you can give about it. Writing descriptive text about your shop and your products will not online help shoppers have the information they need to make a buying decision, it will also help search engines decide where to rank your site.

By putting relevant text content on your site as well as in your product descriptions can help shoppers and search engines make better decisions about your products.

Using our dog portraits shop example, a descriptive shop intro text might be:

"Our dog breed portraits can be customized to show your pet on any of our unique products. Choose from t-shirts, sweatshirts, tiles, coffee cups, framed portraits, posters and more from our gift shop and we will put your pet's picture on your favorite product.

We offer full color illustrations, black and white sketches, and cute cartoon caricatures personalized from your pet photo. Whether you have a Lab, an Akita, a German Shepard or a lovable mixed breed puppy, we've got the design for you. Get started today be choosing a product below..."

Notice the use of the various keywords embedded into complete descriptive sentences. Your shop and products are unique! Be sure to give them the supporting text they deserve so that your customers will know what they're getting and so the search engines have a better idea of the content on your pages.

Many search engines are relying on webmasters to define the IMG ALT tag. Not only to make the site accessible for web surfers with disabilities, but to help identify what the content of highly graphical pages is supposed to be.

One of the most important uses of the ALT tag is to define the "description" of a linked image.

ALT tags are also considered as "content" for pages. So if a page has "dogs" in the TITLE tag, and "dogs" in the META tags and then follows that up with "dogs" in the ALT tags of the images used on its pages, it is going to fare better (for the most part) than sites that have not done their optimization homework.

LINK TO YOUR PASSION

Last but definitely not least, we have the links. Linking is how the web grew and linking is how your website will rank well. Even though this is near the bottom, this IS one of the most important variables that you can control to determine which words your pages rank well for.

By ANCHOR text, I mean the text that is used to define a link.

Case in point:
There are probably 1000's of User Agreement's on the web (Google says over 3,000,000 matches for that keyword phrase).

Why?

A link to our hypothetical dog portrait shop could go from "Visit Our Shop" to "Shop for Dog Breed Portraits". Stacey would then want to ask her friends and business associates to link to her shop using the same text. This not only helps search engines define what they will find at the end of the link, it will also help shoppers decide which links to click on any given site. The more descriptive, the better!

The more links to your site on other people's sites, the better. Try to keep them relevant. While a link to your dog portrait site on a site selling ice cream is nice, a link from a pet groomer's site will mean that much more!

Be creative when asking for links from other sites. It is best to make direct contact with a site owner either by email or phone. No "form" letters here. Only after you have visited a website and feel that a link maybe of benefit should you try to find a specific person to contact.

Show a little good will and add a link to their site first to let them know you appreciate their website resource. Later, ask them to review your site to see if they will do the same. If possible, make it as easy as possible for them to link to you by giving them the HTML code they need to link to your site (with the anchor text you decided on of course).

You'll find that the more quality and informative content you have on your site, the more likely people are to link to your site as a resource for information on that particular topic. Quality sites get links!

By posting here you will be able to find other shopkeepers that have similar interests that you can exchange links with.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

You now have the same tools of some of the most successful sites in the search engines. It's up to you now to implement them into your online shop.

Choose a focus
Remember to be descriptive in your Title, Keywords, and text content!

Get linked!
After you have made your site "search engine friendly", you are NOW ready to submit your shop to the various search engines. Be wary of services wanting to charge you for search engine submission services to 1000's of search engines. You can promote your shop better than anyone. Once you hit the top 10 major search engines, you will find that covers most of the searches people do online.

Have patience. While it may only take a few minutes to get your site ready for the search engines and to submit it, it may take weeks and sometimes months for these changes to take effect in the searches. Some search engines update every 4 weeks, others do it less often. The good news is, once you're in, you usually stay in. Any work you do from then on out only works to improve your existing listing.

And keep at it...you can always make changes to your title, keywords and site text. Tweak the information until you get the results you desire.

Stay informed by reading trusted search engine related websites such as:

http://www.searchenginewatch.com
http://www.selfpromotion.com

 

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