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Pointing the way to a sale

Search engine optimisation (SEO). It’s something everyone with a website has heard of and it can make a huge impact on site traffic, but where do you start and how do you get the basics right?

Every successful ecommerce business should have an SEO strategy and there are a number of points this should cover. A tip to always remember is that the effectiveness of search marketing - the driving of traffic to your site via search engines - should not be measured by just the amount of traffic but also by the relevance of that traffic, such as number of clicks versus conversion rate.

One of the key factors in successful SEO is content, and part of this content is descriptions and key words. Key words should be used in the title, description and body text on every one of your web pages to highlight the key areas and products you sell. The higher up the page these are placed the more effective they are, but beware of putting key words in places that are out of sync with the rest of the site as this may be confusing for the user and, therefore, for search engines.

Body text should be used to describe a website’s offer in clear, informative language that is relevant to the customer. For example, a young fashion brand should not be using the same descriptive language as a site aimed at the over-45s womenswear market. Know your audience and speak to them in a way they will understand and in terms they are likely to search for.

Finlay Clark, senior strategist for retail at internet marketing specialist Bigmouthmedia, which helps clients including Debenhams and Arcadia with their SEO strategies, advises retailers to use feedback systems from search engines. Google offers Webmaster Tools, which provides feedback on how well your site is or is not optimised, while Microsoft’s search engine Bing has a similar tool. “This can be extremely useful when starting or revising your SEO strategy,” says Clark.

He also advises fashion retailers to look at their online naming conventions. For instance, ‘denim’ is a rarely searched for term, but ‘jeans’ is hugely popular. He also points out that for the best results, fashion ecommerce sites should always “optimise for the brands you sell as well as the product category”.

Links should also be encouraged from other sites, as search engines will take these into account when looking at the authenticity of a site. These could come from associated events, charities or even related products. Bloggers often link back to content they mention, so make sure you have a good relationship with them and keep them informed of all new activity on your site. Just remember, it is the quality more than the quantity of these links that matters.

More hints and tips for SEO

  • Use key words in the page URL of each product, for example company name/womenswear/dresses/leather dress
  • Use relevant key words in alt text and image captions
  • Use key words on internal and anchor links, which navigate you to a specific area of a page
  • Include a site map and submit this to Google and Bing
  • Keep sites open - pages behind registration barriers will not be crawled by search engines
  • Do your research - keep on top of next season’s trends and start adding key words now
  • Use Google AdWords to find the most searchable terms
  • Monitor your competitors and see what key words they are using and how effective they are for them
  • Use Google Analytics to record your site statistics
  • Request links from a range of high-quality sites, as these will help improve the popularity, importance and trustworthiness of your site as calculated by search engines
  • Monitor and update SEO on a regular basis


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