Unless you’re Amazon.com or a nationally-known brand, people need to know what you sell and how to find you online. But a person’s not just going to happen upon your site when looking to buy – not without help.
So give them the assist that makes you money – optimize your product pages. ALL of them. You may not know why eBay survived when everyone thought everyone else forgot about them? It’s because their pages show up when people want to buy. 1970s lunchboxes? It’s a broad category but eBay tops the list. Vintage Playing Cards? It’s a fairly broad category and eBay comes on top again.
E-Commerce is a thousand times easier to set up than it used to be; easy enough where not everyone has to be on eBay to get it done. This is where “control freakism” comes in handy. I’m half-joking, but you want the traffic to your site, you want the branding your site allows and you want the opportunity to direct people to other activities your company either does or sells.
It’s easier now than it used to be, yet a lot of work is still involved to get your inventory online – or to even offer simple merchandise with your logo on it. Once you find an E-Commerce platform you’re comfortable with, product photography is perhaps the biggest step. Search Engine Optimization for your pages is the next biggest and will give reason for your site’s existence. Whether you want to sell exclusively online or are transitioning to growing your online presence and sales, SEO is the way to grow.
That First Product Page Is the Hardest
You might suddenly develop writer’s block as you look out at your long inventory spreadsheet. You might have forgotten there is such a thing as writer’s block because you’re not a writer and never have been. If it’s in your budget, think of hiring someone to do the production work. If it’s not in your budget, follow this checklist to get it done.
Your first page like your last page needs these things:
- Create as many pages as possible that still makes sense. Colors or sizes of a T-shirt could use their own pages, as long as duplicate content is kept to a minimum but better would be to use mouse hover abilities to see other colors and sizes.
- Choose a headline, with terms people will look for. Most often that’s the product name.
- Descriptions, with as many keywords as possible. Talk about what that product can do, and how it can be used. Include action statements with the product name to naturally increase the frequency of the term on the page.
- If possible, set up your URL structure to include the name of the product (i.e. http://your-url-here.com/subcategory/product-name). It should be possible; think of this capability when choosing an E-Commerce platform.
- The category “buying tree” of your inventory. Think of how things are organized in grocery stores, they do the basics well: deli, fruits and vegetables, cereal, soft drinks, alcohol. And then you need to forget what they do when it comes to specialized products and do it better and in more detail. For example, “ethnic foods” is not a good way to describe anything; it’s too vague but I’ve seen it in almost every national grocery store I’ve visited. In this example it’s much better to break it down early into the cuisine of specific countries, Korean Foods, Greek Foods, etc. It will usually be useful to break it down further, Global Cuisine > Greek > Desserts.
- Product pictures, with ALT tags, are absolutely necessary. Everyone is visual when it comes to buying. The tags don’t have to be pretty but do have to include the words people will search for and what will be crawled by search engines.
- Online selling means you instantly have the potential to sell to all 50 states and beyond. That means two things:
- You need to keep a local personality. You can add local flavor and geography to the product pages by simply having a tagline that includes where your company is based.
- You need to be aware of state sales laws and how to keep track of your sales. E-commerce packages usually provide pointers on this. The Streamlined Sales Tax group also keeps track of the latest changes in online retail laws and its own effort to make online sales much easier.
- Make it clear in your marketing – on the front page of your website – that you in fact sell online. This step is often-overlooked. This is especially important if you have not always done so or it’s a new direction for your company. Links to your site will increase its visibility and ranking.
Yep, that’s a lot to do on product pages to make sure you get noticed.
Like any big task, break it down in stages or, if you won’t have the time yourself, give these tasks to different people. Get the titles done first, and then product descriptions. When it comes to descriptions, it’s nice to get your inner Lord Alfred Tennyson out, but maybe bury the urge for a while. Think utilitarian more than flowery to start with.
Your Services Need Pages, Too
People who don’t have products, can and should still set up pages for each service they do. A firm of lawyers specializes in 20-25 different areas of law. Produce 25 pages, detailing work in the past and your approach. Photographers – maybe the ones you’ll need to hire to take product shots – need a page for each type of photo shoot or occasion they cover. Look at what we do here at Vertical Measures: we have two parent categories of “Our Approach” and “Services” and then sub-categories that break the umbrella terms down even more (i.e. Content Creation, Social Media, etc.)
It’s sometimes possible – depending on your services – to make these E-Commerce pages too, by setting up packages and a “Buy Now” button with a 3 or 5% online discount for making your life easier. Of course, we have to warn against duplicate content when creating these pages. You cannot just copy and paste sections from each page – Google does not like seeing duplicate content and you could be penalized, resulting in a lot more work to recover.
Lastly, don’t forget that pages for the people in your company can give space for freedom and creativity – and also provide another chance for SEO. Just try to leave the “Buy Now” button off these pages to avoid confusion.
Update Those Pages
Once all your pages are up, like any sales tool, they need to be maintained and brushed up so they don’t grow stale. If you update every few months or on a rolling timeline you remain in-tune with what your website is telling potential customers. If done right, these pages are how people will first interact with your company’s website and perhaps even your company, so they are very important.
If you update regularly, people who have found you will also come to know that there’s new things to see on your site and come back to visit. They’ll know because you’ll tell them. Don’t hesitate to write a blog post about what’s new or even set up a “New Arrivals” section. Send out an e-mail blast to customers (you have been building up that e-mail database, right?) and broadcast it across social media.
Loyal customers need a reason to stay loyal; those same loyal customers like to let other people know the cool things they’ve found. These types of external and internal links enhance visibility to customers and to search engines.
Lastly, any change on a page is noted by Google as activity and those alterations or enhancements to copy or images tell it and other search engines that someone is paying attention.
Add-ons for Even Greater SEO Enhancement
As you get deeper into setting up your E-Commerce, there are more in-depth steps you can take to structure your website to make E-Commerce more of a focal point. Roman Villiavin in Search Engine Journal suggests pointing Google in the right direction by indexing your site with noindex, follow, and noarchive commands.
“Each time Googlebot visits your website it has quite limited time allocated for your site,” Villiavin writes. “Try to persuade the bot to visit (“follow”) as many pages as possible without wasting the time.”
Google itself recommends “canonical” tagging of pages. Simply adding (<link rel”canonical” href=”YOUR PRODUCT URL”/>) into the head section of your preferred page will do the trick. This too, gives direction to search engines – in this case, particularly Google. If your product and product descriptions need to appear in multiple categories, you can tell Google which one you want it to pay attention to most. It will not automatically spider only that page, but it’s a strong signal that’s never ignored.
At some point, too much work in this area is no longer cost-effective and sets up diminishing returns. But the basic steps you need to take are here so you can start selling effectively to people who haven’t heard of you, yet. Spread the word about your awesome sauce – and salsas and chutneys.