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Six Steps to Successful SEO – Step 3 – Pin it down

Six Steps to Successful SEO – Step 3 – Pin it down
Wednesday November 2 2011

In the last article we looked at your competition and why research is so important before beginning to SEO your website. In Step 3, we’re going to begin to use that research to pinpoint your direction and marketing strategy.

If you were able to answer the six questions I put in Step 2, you should have a clear idea of your aims and objectives, as well as having given real thought to why your competition are successful.

You might wonder, understandably so, how you can begin to compete with a website that is ranking more highly with the search engines than yours, with similar search terms.  A lot of your success will come down to this very stage.

I’m going to give you an example to illustrate my point.
When I search for ‘Car insurance for women’ I get three advertisements at the top of Google (the majority of people ignore those and move on to the organic results) and then, in the top four organic results following, there are two companies and two brokers.  We’re going to look at the top two companies for that search:
Diamond - http://www.diamond.co.uk/
Sheila’s Wheels - http://www.sheilaswheels.com/

Upon visiting these sites, notice the differences, as well as the similarities.  While they both have a basically pink design, Sheila’s Wheels is much more glitzy, putting one in mind of a night out with the girls, perhaps to the local bingo hall and then on to have a raucous night out at a club. 
The Diamond website is aimed at the kind of woman who perhaps sits and chats with her friends at home, drinking some good coffee, or visits a quiet bar to share a bottle of wine.  You get the idea.

Both sites offer car insurance aimed primarily at women, both sites acknowledge the importance of the website design appearing feminine. But they are able to compete effectively because they have pinpointed their markets accurately.
I’m sure the insurance they provide is similar; I’m willing to bet the pricing is similar, but their customer base is very different.  They want you to relate to them; they want you to feel at home while visiting their website.

So, by now you should have a clear picture of who you are aiming your website at, and some idea of how you’d like it to look to best capture the interest of your target market.  Don’t feel worried or embarrassed about giving your web designer examples of websites you like, and also ones you don’t like, when you begin this process.  All information is good for a web designer.  Equally, ensure that he/she is aware of your research and ideas at the very beginning; it all helps to reduce the cost of changing your mind further down the road.

Now, I’m going to take you through a little exercise to help clarify your layout. Take a nice big piece of paper and draw a smallish square in the middle, label it ‘home’.
Imagine the first square is the home page of your website and is truly the hub it must be.  Thinking about the aims of your website (we will use car insurance for women as an example), draw a line from the home page and draw another box, naming it relevantly e.g. car insurance quote. Then think about the next ‘product set’ e.g. motorbike insurance quote and so on, until you have summarised and categorised logically your entire product or service range. 
You should aim to keep it concise and not split it more than necessary.
Following on from that, you need to put in your ‘closer’ pages. This could be a submit button for a quote (all quote pages can redirect to that one page) a purchase page for products or a sign up form for forums.

Finally, any pages that do not contribute to the main aim of the website, e.g. a contact page, a find us page or your news feed/blog should all be linked directly to your home page.
When you have finished your chart, examine how many ‘clicks’ it will take your prospective customer to do what you want them to do.  This could be choosing an option from the home page with click one, choosing a product from the product page with click two and committing to buy the product with click three.  Keep your clicks to a minimum.

Whether you are running a forum or aiming to make online sales, you should bear in mind that lengthy commitment forms are off-putting for the majority of people.  Don’t try to gain their life story, just get the minimum information you require and make it look easy!
Conversely, the information you give them, subject to clever design, can be as lengthy as you wish.  Present it logically, fully and if possible, include reviews and comments from other customers.  To see a good example of this in action, visit www.Amazon.com .  Their early inclusion of customer reviews and product options means that it is a trusted site for many shoppers and ranks very highly with all search engines.

If you are selling online, you should be aware that, from a web development point of view, including payment providers can be a painful experience. Do hire an experienced web designer and offer as many payment options as you can. Many people will use Paypal, for example, where they would not wish to handover credit card information to you.

If you have followed the steps up to this point, you are well on the way to a well thought out and designed website.  You’re not quite ready for the web designer to put keyboard to code yet, but it’s getting close.

In Step Four “Content is King” we will look at the part of the process that is imperative for good search engine rankings, how it is the most important element of marketing your website and how you should approach the task.

- Clare Green is a search engine optimisation consultant and freelance journalist based in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.  If you’d like to read more articles about SEO or get in touch with Clare personally, please visit www.seo-to-go.co.uk

Tagged as: seo | optimisation | website |

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