Some time back, I was asked by a home decor store owner what he could do to boost his store’s visibility online. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money or bring in a full fledged team at that point, He wanted a sort of DIY plan, a basic 1-2-3 type thing that would do “for now.”
Truth be told, I am not a big fan of “do for now” – it sounds like it is supposed to give you some breathing room to sort things properly but what ends up happening is that it becomes “oh! great – it’s sorted.” and that’s the end of it. The ‘band-aid’ becomes the cure. Only it isn’t really. The problems are still there under the quick fix.
Still, I did put together some quick tips for him and thought others might find them useful “for now” as well. But please, don’t let “for now” be “for good.”
Content: What you say, how you say it and where.
- Voice, tone: one of the first things to do in the content development for the site will be deciding what “voice” to use and how to infuse the copy with that style and tone. Your copy should say more about your store than where it is and who owns it. Users should get some sense of philosophy behind it or the atmosphere or the place. Photos of the products are a good start but they can’t do it on their own.
- Placement: I know your products are beautiful and speak for themselves but don’t make the whole first page just pictures and navigation. If you don’t have any content on the front page, it’s a bit like walking into a store and finding no one there.
In addition, from a structural point of view, it’s a problem since it means that there are no hooks for some of the major search engines to catch hold of. We’ll get into a more detailed explanation of the link between content and search engines later but the idea of creating copy with an eye for inclusion in the search engines will be a key part of the content development. There are a few other key places to make sure content is available. I call these “copy mezzanines” — landing pages for product categories with some general or overview text. This can make a huge difference in creating an “action path” to move people toward either picking up the phone, coming in or clicking to sale.
- Search Engine Optimization: One of the primary tool for accomplishing this is metadata. Metadata doesn’t show up on the page that you see. It sits in the code for the page itself and is seen by indexing spiders (the things that drive directories and search engines) and in the title bar of the browser page. It’s the keywords and phrases that people use in searches. Of course, metadata is only part of the story. The other part is optimizing your site copy.
Newsletters: Tremendous potential on many levels. If you’re not doing this, start now!
- Engaging existing (and potential) shoppers in a “conversation,” increases the scope of their connection to the store. They think of it more often and in more context.
- If you give subscribers a little extra something (a special one-day sale only for them, an extra 10% off – whatever) they’ll feel very “in.”
- Single issues can be submitted to relevant online (or print for that matter) publications, pieces of PR, in viral campaigns (see below) etc.
- What about including “back issues” on the site as a sort of archive. – assuming there is content of that nature in there. Any extra – but topical – content just adds value to the user experience. Stuff like that or tips on “table settings for the holidays”, “gift wrapping to wow them” etc. is going to create additional associations in people’s minds for the store. This is a good thing. And because it’s a new addition of content, makes the site appear fresh and active as opposed to static.
- They key is making them a regular thing. (monthly, quarterly, whatever). I know it sounds time consuming but there many options for getting these done and only one of them involves you guys writing anything. Newsletter content for hire is extremely common and can be part of any content development agreement.
Directory listings: Want people to look you up? Make sure you to make yourself available.
- Submission: Make sure you are in as many of these regional and shopping directories as possible such as your local citysearch site or the “resources section” of a local magazine’s Web site. If you live in a “travel destination” city, what about getting listed on the travels sites under things to do. Some of them have shopping categories. Do some online browsing, make yourself and list and start submitting. This is not complicated as much as it can be slightly time consuming.
- Description: Where you (as opposed to a directory editor) have control of the content for your listing (like on citysearch, for instance), the copy should match the style and tone of the copy on the site.
- User reviews: let’s dance into the ethical grey area here. You must have friends and family who have shopped at the store. Tell them to review the site in these kinds of places. They don’t have to use their names. It’s all user names. Who’d know? Are there repeat customers who you think would review it? It’s worth asking – I mean, if they are there on any sort of regular basis they like your stuff. Ask them to spread the word.
Search Engines: Wherefore Art Thou, Retailer?
- Submission: Which ones have you submitted to? And one the ones where you have, where did you end up in their listing? The more the web expands the more dependent people will be on these search sites – general, regional and topic specific – to get them the info they need. Another plus – the more you are included in other places, the higher the Google ranking you get. Google is – deep down at heart – a math equation and numbers add up. More on this later. Therefore, one task will be submitting site information to all major search engines and directories and any specialized directories that relate to your business.
- Search Engine Optimization of Copy: As I have said many, many times – crafting the copy just right is a key element in search engines placement. It’s so important that it bears repeating. Crafting the copy just right is a key element in search engines placement. It’s not thrilling like photos and getting reviews but it is a core issue. One thing you mustn’t forget when working on SEO, if metadata. Metadata doesn’t show up on the page that you see. It sits in the code for the page itself and is seen by indexing spiders (the things that drive directories and search engines) and in the title bar of the browser page. It’s the keywords and phrases that people use in searches.
Miscellaneous Marketing: Other ways to get the word out!
- Linking Efforts: Develop the strategy to identify sites that would attract a concentration of your target audience and see about getting a link to Bae (an additional plus: more links = better Google results). Sometimes they ask for reciprocal links back. This is not necessarily a bad thing and where appropriate should be done. If you’ve got a Links Page, you already have a home for those reciprocal links so structurally it requires no change. If you don’t have a links page, they don’t need to be complicated and they don’t have to be “front and center” so you should be able to fit some space in somewhere.
- Viral Campaigns: It only sounds dirty. You need is some kind of email or web-based “hand along” – poem, graphic, video, article, newsletter, animation, etc. that is so useful or unique that people can’t help but forward it to a friend. This could be some sort of competition, article, tip sheet, e-cards using pictures of the products, anything. Anything to get word of mouth spreading.
- Email collection: If you’re looking to build up an email list or customer database, why not hold a raffle. Put a fishbowl on the counter and tell people to drop in their card or email address and one whatever day, you draw a name out of the bowl and they win a vase or something.
- Value Added Services: Do you do more than sell the items on the shelf? You should. Give people another reason to think of your store. What about offering corporate gift buying services if your product line lends itself to that kind of thing. Do you sell home décor items? What about offering design consultations? If there is a florist nearby, team up and offer special gifts made up of your wonderful vases and their beautiful flowers.
Nothing here is going cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, some won’t cost you more than a bit of time.