It never fails, a client contacts me in October asking how they can get good SEO rankings for their online boutique in time for the Christmas season. Breaking the news is never easy and I always feel like I should have done more to let people know that good SEO takes time; while there are things you can do in October to help, you will not see the traffic your site deserves if you don’t start planning months in advance.
With that in mind, now is the time to make a plan. I like to use a 5 step boutique SEO process that includes:
- Goal Setting
- Keyword Analysis
- Crafting Meta Titles and Tags
- Content Review/Rewrite/Add
- Measuring Success
Step 1: Goal Setting – if you don’t know where you are going, you’re likely never to get there. The first step to planning for SEO is to decide what you are measuring. Are you trying to get more sales, more visitors, more newsletter signups, more leads? You have to really decide what you hope to accomplish through your site optimization. Then you have to take a close look at where you are at now to decide where you want to be next month (or next year). If your goal is to have more visitors, make sure that you have some way to measure your visitors, and then track it over time. A goal like this is most easily accomplished with visitor tracking tools like AWStats or Sitemeter and a spreadsheet to see the change over time. With both of these, you might not even need the spreadsheet, because both tracking tools keep records of past months, but keeping the data all together on a spreadsheet makes analyzing easier. Whatever your goal, state it clearly and then setup a way to measure over time, keeping notes about changes you made.
Step 2: Keyword Analysis – We discussed this thoroughly in SEO First Steps – Finding Your Niche Keywords and Phrases, but in a nutshell, now is the time to take a close look at your targeted keywords. Jot down the 8 – 15 keywords or phrases you want to be found under. Use Submit Express or another keyword tracking tool to find out if anyone is searching for those words and phrases. Compare this to the number of pages that show up for those keywords and phrases in Google. Weed out to find keywords and phrases that have a good searched for/competition ratio. Find substitions or closely related keywords for any that don’t have a good ratio. Voila! You have an overall keyword list for your site. Huh…overall…what’s that you say? Why wouldn’t it be inclusive of my whole site? Well, that would depend on how big your site was and how many products you were selling. If you have a small site, with under a 100 items and only a handful of categories, yoru initial keywords might cover everything. If you have thousands of products, then you might need to have different sets of keywords for categories or sections of your site. But, take a deep breath, and start with your initial set. SEO is continuous and ongoing, not everything has to get done at once.
Step 3: Crafting Meta Titles and Tags – Unless your boutique or website is brand new, you should already have meta titles and tags for many of your pages, at the very least for your index or home page. Now is the time to take a close look and make sure that your titles and tags are still in line with your newly updated keywords and phrases. This is the phase to tweak your tags and make sure that they still represent your site. There are 3 main tags that you want to look over, and all three belong in the head section of your site, but often your CMS (content management system) or cart will allow you to enter them in through your admin, rather than into the coding of your pages:
- Meta Title – looks like this <title>Baby Girl Tutu Pink Ballerina Skirt</title>
- Meta Description – looks like this <meta name=”description” content=”Sweet baby girl tutu in couture pink. A ballerina double layerd tulle skirt with full satin sash and plenty of twirl. High quality boutique tutu.”>. The description should be between 100 and 150 characters.
- Meta Keywords – looks like this <meta name=”keywords” content=”baby girl tutu, pink ballerina tutu, double layered tulle, tulle skirt, boutique tutus, ballerina skirt”>. I know that google doesn’t look at keywords anymore, but if you’ve done the research for them, might as well get them in there.
You might not be able to control each of these tags for each page – but you should update them anywhere you can. If you do one a day, between now and October you can get a couple hundred done. There will be overlap, which is ok – you don’t want to start from scratch every time, because you expect that your items are related and share keywords and some part of the descriptions. But, you should strive for unique tags and content on as many products and pages as possible.
Step 4: Content Review/Rewrite/Add – I can’t stress enough that the most important aspect of your site’s SEO is the content. There is no substitute for good quality content that utilizes keywords, is interesting to read and adds to the overall likeablity of your site. If your product descriptions are just a sentence or a couple of words, or even worse, don’t exist – now is the time to start rewriting and adding to them. Again, you don’t have to do everything at once – that’s the beauty of getting ready for the Christmas holidays in March. Take one product or page a day, or every other day, and start fixing it. These product descriptions don’t have to be beautiful or flowy prose, but they should be interesting and accurately describe the item you are selling using any relevant keywords. In addition, start thinking about ideas for articles, newsletter topics or blog posts that will help bring traffic to your site – if you can squeeze in an article a month, you could add 9 quality pages to your website, full of content that will draw customers to your site If you have more money than time, this is an area where hiring a copywriter definitely makes sense.
Step 5: Measuring Success – If you aren’t keeping accurate records of where you started, what you’ve done and any gains or setbacks, you have no way of knowing whether your efforts are working. Keeping a one page spreadsheet, to track your rankings with the search engines is one place to start. Tracking your site visitors will also key you in on whether your efforts are bringing more customers and traffic. If new signups for your newsletter is one of your goals, make sure to track those weekly or monthly. Whatever you are looking to measure, make sure to keep a record over time so you can determine each month where you need to ramp up and where you need to scale back.
Doing a little bit every day (or almost every day) from now until the Christmas holiday season hits will go a long way in making sure that your site is optimized and getting traffic in time for the holidays. Before you know it, Halloween will be here, and by then, you don’t have time to move up much in the SEO game. If you start eating your elephant now, one bite at a time and he’ll be down by the holiday selling season.