There's no shortage of ways to spend money promoting your online shop - and certainly no shortage of people willing to take your money! However, search engines can be sending you qualified customers all day every day. How do you get a piece of this traffic? It's estimated that 70% of people stop at the first 10 results in most search engines and over 90% don't go beyond the first 30. If your shop isn't in the top of the search results, you're missing out. We'll go through the five steps to getting you higher in the search engine rankings.
Choose the right keywords
You need to decide which search term(s) you want to be top for. This might not be as obvious as you think. Firstly, you need to know what people are (and aren't) searching for. Being the number 1 result for a search term no one uses is no good. The Overture keyword selector tool can show you what people are searching for. Take some guesses as to what people are looking for, try them out and see what the tool says - you might be surprised! Do a Google search for a possible keyword. If, for example, you see 5,000,000 results returned you have to consider: can you beat 4,999,990 of them? You might be better off getting a number 1 position for a lesser keyword than a number 200 for a big one. Be careful not to be too ambitious - that keyword with the most traffic might be highly competitive in the search engines. If you are competing against a multi-million dollar online shop you're unlikely to win.
Make sure your site is search engine friendly
The goal here is to make sure the search engines like your shopping cart site. You might need some help from your techies with this.
- Create a sitemap pointing to all your pages, or all your key pages. This helps the search engines find all your pages.
- Include your keywords in your HTML title tags in all your key shopping cart pages.
- Include your keywords in a h1 tag.
- If your shopping cart or CMS uses session IDs in the URL, turn this off, or change to a different tool. You can usually tell if you have this turned on if you URL looks like http://www.widgets.com/products/page.php?product=2329&session=29dha9198yfka8129fnv0. The big long session number is the dangerous part.
- Make your HTML code clean & validated - most search engines prefer this.
- Make sure your keywords are included in the copy on your site.
Some shopping carts such as Erol or osCommerce (with an add on module) provide excellent search engine optimization tools.
It's no secret - most search engines love sites that have lots of links pointing at them. Get your customers & suppliers to link to you. This is the single most important thing you can do. There are companies that specialize in helping you get links - look them up if it's important to you.
Watch your traffic
If your web host provides you with web statistics, then check them closely. Probably the most popular web statistics software is AWStats. This provides information on what people are searching for when they arrive at your site. This data is gold. Find out what people are looking for, and make sure that they can get it - easily!
Content, content and more content
Search engines love content - the more content the better. Detailed product descriptions, articles relevant to your product line, whatever, the search engines love it. So start writing, it's not as hard as it looks!
Lastly, be patient. Search engines operate in their own time and results can take months to show. If this is an important area for you, consider enlisting a professional which can save you a lot of time. However, there is a lot of helpful resources and if you want to do the work yourself, roll up your sleeves, work hard and watch the customers pour in every day.
Mark Baartse is the founder of Shopping Cart Reviews , the webs most comprehensive Shopping Cart information site.