E-commerce Platforms: is yours search engine friendly?

Posted: January 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: E-commerce, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

If you are planning to launch a small e-commerce site, you may want to stop and consider whether search engines will be able to find the products you will be offering. Some platforms don’t offer the ability to edit certain criteria that are crucial to search engine friendliness.

Here’s a short checklist.

  1. Customizable Page Titles: Above all, the page title MUST be editable for each individual product. Remember, the page title is what you see on the search engine results pages and in the top of your browser window. As far as Google is concerned, it’s the most important element on the page.  Some e-commerce platforms use a template that only allows you to specify one page title that will be used for all products. This is disastrous for SEO!
  2. Customizable “Alt” Tags: You should be able to specify the “alt” tags for the product images. Some e-commerce platforms automatically use the product name as the image “alt” tag– which is better than no “alt” tag at all — but ideally you want to specify your own tag. Why? Well, more and more searchers are using the image search on Google to find what they’re looking for. For humans, a picture’s worth a thousand words. But not to Google, who can’t see the pictures unless you describe what’s there in the “alt” tag. So if you’re selling a pair of kid’s shoes by Stride Rite, maybe your product name is “Corey”. That doesn’t tell Google much. You’d want the “alt” tag to say “Stride Rite Kids Shoes – Corey – Pink/Silver Sneaker”. That way, an image from your site could come up for a search like “pink kids sneakers”.
  3. SEO-friendly URL’s: Many e-commerce platforms use database-generated URL’s such as www.site.com/product/19. Since the number 19 doesn’t tell us anything, it’s preferable to use descriptive words instead. Consider an e-commerce solution that generates static HTML pages rather than generating dynamic pages on the fly. Search engines prefer permanent links.
  4. Related products: It’s really useful to be able to link to related products within your catalog. Good for users AND good for search engines. Check to see if your e-commerce platform provides this option.

Please comment with your own suggestions to add to the checklist. Also, if you have a favorite e-commerce solution that fits the bill for SEO, please post it here.


Why Local Matters

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Local SEO | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Internet, to many, is an opportunity for global exposure. So, why focus on local markets? There are several reasons.

  • Money that you spend outside your local area or at chain stores, whose headquarters are generally outside your area, is siphoned right out of your community. Every dollar that is spent locally, however, stimulates about 32 cents in additional economic activity in your community. Read more about local economies here.
  • Your local area can serve as your niche– if you offer a service with a lot of competition, it’s much easier to differentiate yourself in your local area.
  • Your Internet marketing strategy works in connection with word-of-mouth referrals from others who know you– and more often than not, those people live in the same region as you.

So now that I’ve convinced you that local matters, make sure to set up your Google Local listing and to print your location information in your page footer!


Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 2: Stream your blog posts and tweets to your static home page

Posted: October 26th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Google Page Rank, Local SEO, SEO | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

This month I’ve been auditing some small, local Brooklyn web sites for searchability, or more accurately, findability. In Part 1 of this article, I touched on a few elements that help a page stand out on the search results page. Here in Part 2, I’ll offer two tricks for keeping some fresh content on the home page of your static web site.

From an SEO perspective, static web sites are at a certain disadvantage compared with blogs. Search engines like to see text, and they like to see that pages are updated periodically. A blog automatically fulfills both of these criteria. The home pages of the static web sites that I looked at were just that — static. And some were almost completely graphic without hardly any text at all.

For those owners of static web sites who also have blogs, there is a quick and almost automatic solution. Create a box on your home page that will automatically display your latest blog post titles with links to your blog posts. You can also include a short excerpt from each blog post if you desire. I employ this tactic on my own static home page. This is relatively easy to accomplish using this Feed to Javascript service.

In the same vein, if you use Twitter, then you can automatically display your most recent tweets on your web site. Go to the Goodies/Widgets section of Twitter to get the code to add a Twitter badge to your home page.

Doing one or both of these will keep your home page fresh with updates and relevant keywords. Best of all, once these are set up, you will be able to see changes to your home page that you generate yourself without any help from your webmaster.

If you have neither a blog nor a Twitter account, then I recommend adding a Twitter account to get started — it’s a much smaller commitment than blogging, and it will still help enliven your static home page.


Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 1: Mind your search engine results page.

Posted: October 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Google Page Rank, SEO, Web Design | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I’ve had a good response this month from Brooklyn bloggers, entrepreneurs and artists looking for ways to increase traffic on their web sites. I’m happy to report that all the sites I looked at are headed in the right direction and can easily increase their traffic by devoting about 5-10 hours to that end and changing a few habits. I’ll be devoting the next few posts to talking about some of the things I found when doing these audits.

Many small business web sites use the same duplicate page title on every page. My guess as to why this happens is that the coder uses a template, and doesn’t think to change the title when plugging copy into the bodies of the pages. The small business owner who is employing the designer/coder doesn’t, in most cases, know what a page title is. If they don’t see it within their design they don’t realize it exists. It’s seemingly a small oversight but the stakes are high. Google awards quite a bit of weight to page titles, but there’s another reason to be concerned about them. They are what users see in the search engine results page (SERP). Getting a page onto the SERP is only the first step. On the SERP, there are 9 other pages competing for one click– so the title really has to be right.

While we’re on the subject of SERP’s, let’s talk meta tags for a moment. Ever since we found out that Google doesn’t use the description meta tags, many web designers and coders out there have decided that meta tags are dead. That may be when it comes to PageRank but that’s not the whole story. If there’s no meta description tag, then Google grabs the first few words of the web page and uses those as the description on the SERP. In many cases, it’s the navigation that shows up– and it’s great to be using text links in the nav — but, which of the following two examples would you click on?

Example 1:
SERP example 1

Example 2:
SERP example 2

So, before spending money on PPC ad campaigns, small businesses should take a look at their sites and see if they can make a few small tweaks that could go a long way.

Notes from a Handful of SEO Audits – Part 2


Free Offer: SEO audit for small Brooklyn businesses

Posted: October 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Brooklyn, Local SEO | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

For the month of October, I am offering a free SEO audit to any independently owned small Brooklyn business, entrepreneur, or sole proprietor with an existing web site.

What does this mean? Send me your web site address, and I will provide you with a document that details what you could be doing to drive more traffic to your web site.

You must meet the following criteria:

  1. Your business must be based in Brooklyn
  2. Your business must have no more than 50 employees
  3. Your business must be independently owned and operated

This offer also applies to freelancers and sole proprietors such as artists, acupuncturists, etc. There’s no need to be a bricks and mortar operation in order to qualify. The offer is good October 1 – 31, 2009.


Why doesn’t anyone read my blog? 5 blogging fixes for newbies

Posted: September 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Blogging | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Starting a blog is easy. But building a readership for that blog is not. If you are a small business owner, you may have decided to start a blog to bring more attention to your business. But if you thought, “If I write it they will come”, you may be wondering now where all those readers are. Here are the top 5 mistakes I’ve seen, in no particular order.

  1. You are using your blog as a platform for advertising yourself instead of offering useful content. Try offering some of your expertise. Your services are the solution to a problem that people have. What is that problem? State the problem, and then offer free advice. Most of what you write should be useful. You should only occasionally try to plug your services.

    Of course, make sure that people know where to go if they do want to find out more about your offerings. If you have a separate web site, be sure your blog links to it. If your blog is your web site, make sure your contact info is easily accessible.

  2. You are not participating in the “blogosphere”, yet you expect others to participate on your blog. You need to find other blogs that are relevant to yours, and participate meaningfully in discussions. Even better, add those blogs to your Blogroll. Stop thinking of them as the competition, and start thinking of them as colleagues. And be a good citizen of the web– contribute to the discussion, don’t just leave a comment that says “Visit my blog” — it’s very doubtful that your comment will get approved.
  3. You don’t post often enough. People are not going to check back or bother subscribing if you post too rarely. Write several posts before you launch your blog, and then post them one at a time, about two posts a week. (And yes, I realize that I’ve already violated my own rule! But, it’s still a good rule).
  4. Google hasn’t found your blog. Google finds sites by following links on existing sites. Make sure you link to your blog from your static web site, if you have one. Or go one step further and have the home page of your static web site programmed so that an excerpt from your most recent blog post automatically appears on your home page, with a link to the rest of the post. (Here’s an example: www.jdainternational.com)
  5. You are not taking advantage of categories and tags. Here’s some good advice on how to use categories and tags. Scroll down to the “Categories vs. Tags” section. This will help your site get indexed with the proper keywords that will bring the right traffic to your door.

There’s a lot of information out there on this topic. Here are a few other blog posts to get you started.


Does your web site say what you are?

Posted: September 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Local SEO, SEO | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I am repeatedly amazed by how many businesses, large and small, do not define themselves on their web site home pages. When I point this out to clients, they are stunned.

Take, for example a Brooklyn hair salon with a highly functional and well designed site. When you arrive at their home page, you can tell immediately that they’re a hair salon, and if you already know that the famous neighborhood Park Slope is in Brooklyn, then you can tell it’s a Brooklyn hair salon. But, Google can’t! The words “hair” and “Brooklyn” do not appear on their home page! The word “Slope” as in “Park Slope” does appear, but is invisible to Google because it’s part of a graphic in the logo.

With the yellow pages model, hair salons are forced to think of themselves as hair salons, and can be found in the hair salon section under the letter H. The freedom of the web unfortunately frees us up to completely miss the most basic opportunities for getting found.

One way to make sure that your business is correctly defined is to create a footer that appears on every page of your web site. The footer should include, in HTML text, your business category as it would appear in the yellow pages as well as your location.


If you do nothing else to promote your small business web site, do this

Posted: September 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Local SEO | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Register your business location and web site with Google Local. Your web site itself may rank low for the search term “Brooklyn bike repair”– but without doing a single thing to your web site, you can get listed on the first page of Google’s search results by verifying your business address with Google Local. When you do this, you have the opportunity to appear on the Google map that appears at the top of your search results when you search for location-specific businesses.

Simply go to http://www.google.com/local/add and add or claim your business. Even if your business has already been listed, you should claim your local business listing so that you can edit it and add more specific information.

For example, a client of mine is an artist with a storefront studio. In addition to selling his art, he also does commissions, such as ketubahs and pet portraits. By claiming his listing, he was able to label his business with up to 5 categories. Now, he is not limited to coming up for the broad term “Brooklyn portrait artist”– for which there are a lot of results. He also added “ketubahs” and “pet portraits” as categories and he now comes up for those as well.

Here’s some more information on Google Local