Being a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, I see so many client websites on a daily basis that are desperately in need of optimization services. I must admit I find it quite amazing that so few web designers have actually bothered to learn at least the very basics of SEO. To me this would enhance their value and potentially create a longer term business relationship between the designers and their clients.
I say this having reflected on my experiences when I first decided to start an online business. I thought it would be interesting to retrace my steps with my first internet based business, because I feel that my experiences before becoming an SEO consultant reflect the experiences of so many others. People who like me felt they had a fantastic idea or identified a niche in the market, decided to launch an online business to seize the opportunity only to be disappointed and disillusioned when the sales didn’t come flooding in!
Before I continue I would like to say to anyone who is in that position, don’t give up! The internet provides a fantastic opportunity to make money, but I would urge you to seek professional advice from a SEO consultant, possibly before even engaging with a web designer.
When I started out, I openly admit that I was very naïve, I came up with an idea which was a good idea, and I know this now, because I run one of the most successful online diving equipment stores in the UK. The idea came about, because of my love of scuba diving, I had completed my diving certification in Mexico, when I returned to the UK I decided to start purchasing some of my own scuba equipment. Being quite internet savvy (or so I thought), the first place I looked was online, however I was amazed that hardly anyone was selling diving equipment on the internet and that was it I set about creating my own online dive store.
I looked into web designers, and found what I thought was a cost effective web designer, he could create an e-commerce site for what sounded like an absolute bargain, but of course there was a catch! The catch was that we ended up being charged massively over inflated charges for bandwidth (in other words we were charged based on how many visits the website received), but I’ll come back to this later.
Anyway the site went live, products were uploaded and now all we had to do was wait for the orders to rush in. Well we were waiting a long time! I was monitoring the website stats, which showed a good number of hits each day, so I started questioning other areas of the site, such as was the pricing right? Did we have enough brands/products? Is the site actually good enough? This went on for some time, and to be fair was probably not a completely wasted exercise, as this is an important thing to do, however I was aware that we had to launch the site sooner rather than later, and it was not bringing in the numbers we wanted. We ended up launching the site, shared it with some friends, and within a week or two we were pleasantly surprised by the heavy traffic coming our way, so we scrapped the bandwidth and started to get more business as a result.
So how do we do this? Well here are some points in no particular order:
- Advertising and promotion is the number one priority, outsourcing to an SEO company is essential.
- Quality content – you need to make sure that your website has high quality content throughout. In other words if you want to impress prospective customers, you really need to make sure your website is full of beneficial and informative content. You can’t expect people to come to your site and not give the information they are looking for. Search engines love good quality content, and are far more likely to rank your page or site higher Up until recently, I would strongly advise all newly established online businesses to spend some time and money on improving their content, it is the single most important determinant of a sites ranking.
- Keyword research – I would urge you to get hold of either a free or a subscription tool for keyword research, the most popular one is the Google Keyword Tool, and I personally use both Google and Keyword Tools. If you can find the right keyword tool for your niche, you will be able to see the quantity of monthly searches for that particular keyword, and perhaps most importantly, see what the competition is like. Remember that it is better to rank for a less competitive term, and then work your way up to the more competitive terms. There is nothing more annoying that trying to rank for a term that has hardly any searches, and appears on the results page for a number of highly competitive terms.
- Unique content – it is important that your website is not only keyword rich, but that it also reads well and is informative.