Search Engine Optimization is the single most cost-effective way to market your small online business. If your business is solely online, bringing people to your site is the only way for it to become profitable. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the smartest first step in online marketing because it can be done without paying for any advertising service or space. It puts the name of your business in the first place most shoppers will be looking – the top of their search results. Not only does it make most sense to market an online business online, but online marketing is a smart method to drive traffic to a physical storefront. If local shoppers are looking for a specific item, finding it on your website by way of a search engine can prompt them to visit your store, purchase their desired product, and hopefully become repeat customers. Other marketing strategies could put your name out in front of potential customers, but catching their attention while they are shopping online has the highest chance of leading to a sale.
The first step of Advanced SEO is to revisit basic SEO. For the sake of a comprehensive guide, we will quickly review the basic SEO features and guidelines that apply to Outdoor Business Network CloudCommerce sites. The Administration Area of CloudCommerce sites have several areas that contain easily-editable SEO Fields. The main easy SEO fields are as follows:
1. Header Tags
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/header_tags_english.php
The Header Tags page defines the page titles and associated keywords (technically referred to as “meta tags”) for various pages on your site. The first group of three fields on the Header Tags page defines the default meta tags that can apply to your entire site. The following fields allow you to apply more specific titles and information to other particular pages.
2. Fill Tags
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/header_tags_fill_tags.php
The Fill Tags function allows you to fill in the meta tags added by Header Tags. Many tags are already filled in when a site is set up, but the Fill Tags option allows you to decide whether you want your new tags defined in Fill Tags to overwrite existing default tags, or to only apply to empty undefined areas of your site. To best optimize your site, you will want to clear all default tags then fill in your new tags. Farther down the road, you may use the “Fill Empty Tags” option to add new tags but not overwrite existing tags on existing products.
3. Text Control
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/header_tags_controller.php
If you wish to apply unique tags to a page not originally listed under Header Tags in section 1. above, the Header Tags Controller allows you to add a new page to this list, and add its custom tags.
4. Information pages
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/information_manager.php
The possibilities for Information Page content are endless! These pages serve a double purpose of providing information to shoppers and to search engines alike. Make sure your site contains at least a few paragraphs about your business. The Information Page Manager allows you to add as many pages as you see fit. Links to new pages are automatically added to the information menu on the front end of CloudCommerce site. You can “turn on” and “turn off” pages to update content easily and frequently.
5. Each Individual Product
If products are what you are trying to sell (and of course they are), then individual products should receive special attention. By editing products descriptions, you can add in more words that shoppers might be searching for, making your products more easily found than similar products sold by other retailers. Admittedly, editing each individual product is a daunting project, but it can pay off to plan to edit some products. Simply start by identifying and customizing your most profitable items, and keep updating product information pertaining to a few products at a time as your schedule permits.
- 6. Define Mainpage
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/information_manager.php?gID=2
The homepage is an ideal place to put relevant text. Some sites’ homepages can be edited using Define Mainpage. Other sites need to be updated by Outdoor Business Network staff. Regardless of which method can be utilized to update the homepage, including custom information on the homepage is recommended.
7. Banner Manager
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/banner_manager.php
The Banner Manager allows you to update information in predetermined spaces on a site. These spaces, or “Banners” can include text or images. If utilized for text, valuable words can be added into these spaces. The banner manager also collects statistics on the number of clicks on that banner, which provides feedback on which words resonate with shoppers.
8. Google XML Sitemap
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/googlesitemap.php
A sitemap is automatically generated to help Google index your site faster and more accurately. This is done as part of site set-up, but in extenuating circumstances, it may need to be done again. It is recommended to contact the Outdoor Business Network support team if you have reason to believe the sitemap needs to be updated.
9. SEO URLs
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/configuration.php?gID=16
The SEO URLs option applies relevant wording to URLs that might otherwise contain random characters or less useful information.
10. My Store Options
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/configuration.php?gID=75
This section contains your store name and address, which should be accurate for the sake of SEO.
11. Define Shop Page
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/information_manager.php?gID=4
The “shop” page contains a listing of all categories on your site. You can use Define Shop Page to add a strategically-worded custom introduction above the categories list.
12. Featured Product Titles
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/configuration.php?gID=39
If you have Featured Products Module displayed on your site, you can change the title of the Featured Products Module to something more descriptive than “Featured Products” and this will add one more line of useful text to your site.
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/reviews.php
If your shoppers write reviews for your products, this additional text about a product can be a boon. As many shoppers do not care to take the time to leave reviews, it can be advantageous to provide incentives to shoppers for writing positive reviews.
14. Language Manager
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/language_manager.php
Cloudcommerce Software contains many default messages. In the Language Manager, you can customize these messages. If there is a message that could be more SEO-specific, you can update it.
15. Edit Templates
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/edit_templates.php
Not recommended for most users
Delving into the coding of templates is a large undertaking, but template files are another place where relevant text can be added for the sake of SEO. Additionally, good code allows for faster load times and easier access by search engines, which helps SEO. More can go wrong than will go right if an inexperienced user tries to edit template files, so it is inadvisable to use this feature simply with the intention of adding favorable text; only consider SEO factors if you are already planning to use this feature for a site design update.
16. File Manager
Location in administration area: yoursitename.com/ad_obnv6/file_manager.php
Not recommended for most users
Files can be overwritten using the File Manager. This is a risky feature to use, but if you know what you are doing overwriting a file, and want to update text in a file, you can do so in the File Manager.
Blogs are not managed through your CloudCommerce Administration Area, but if they are set up by Outdoor Business Network, they can be on your domain, and will be a spot for plenty of useful text.
The features listed above are areas in the administration area of CloudCommerce sites that can technically be used to contain content that benefits SEO, ranked according to their usefulness to accomplish this end. Rather than getting bogged down with how to use each feature, proceed on to the next few paragraphs, form a strategy, and then implement it in the fields that seem best suited for the content you want to include.
The biggest difference between basic and advanced SEO is what goes into the areas above. The greatest payoff in SEO comes from using basic fields beneficially. Once some rudimentary meta tags and information are present on your site, adding and improving the information on your site is an ongoing and unlimited project. Continually adding information not only adds to the amount of information on your site; it tells search engines that your site is actively managed, which search engine algorithms count in your favor. Although there is no way to guarantee increased sales, SEO is a practice that yields according to the time and effort put in.
Before you get into the details of how to market your site, you must have a business plan. Part of this should include what you want to be known for. Familiarity with your products and pushing particular products will help fulfill this plan. Do you want to sell lots of inexpensive or low-profit items, or a small amount of expensive and high-profit items? In other words, do you want to be known as a bargain source or as a premium brand? Consistency in brand identity are more important to shoppers than to search engines, but it is important to appear to be a well-managed business, once shoppers do arrive at your site.
Research and planning are what set good SEO strategies apart from mediocre SEO. The art of SEO is determining what goes into basic fields. You can make your products easily found if you identify what people search for, especially what words they use to search for that leads them to the products you want to push. You need to think like a customer, think what customers ask for, and think how people search online, then make sure those phrases are included in logical places throughout your site.
Once you’ve determined which words and phrases apply to your products and business, and you observe the market, you may realize that you’re not the only business trying to sell those products and hoping to be identified with those words. Popular words are hard to compete with, as other businesses who have been marketing themselves longer, or who have larger budgets, or who simply have more thorough SEO efforts will rank higher for these words. Specific or obscure words have less competition, so words that relate to your particular business plan both lead people to your niche and are easier to compete for. Additionally, people searching with specific words are farther along in their shopping process and are closer to the point where they are ready to make a purchase.
Come up with a list of words and phrases you think may work for your business, then see who else is coming up when you search for these phrases. If you are overwhelmed by results by big-name companies, then don’t count on that phrase working for you. If you find a phrase that is bringing up smaller web stores, consider making use of that phrase. Implement your best hypothetical keywords as you see fit throughout your site, allow some time, and see if your site visits and sales improve. CloudCommerce Administration Areas show easy-to-read graphs of this data so you can track site performance with a glance. If you are happy with the results you’re seeing, you’re on the right track. If your efforts seem lackluster, try tweaking or altogether changing the words you target. Allow the same amount of waiting time as before, and see how your site visits and sales compare. Keep testing, and tweaking, keeping constant the words and phrases that seem beneficial and cycling out phrases that did not help. As you refine your keyword strategy, you will also be maintaining frequent site activity, which further helps your SEO rankings.
SEO is not only based on what is on your site. Backlinks, or links on other sites that lead back to your site, tell search engines that your site is worthwhile. Obviously, getting links on other sites is much more difficult that putting content onto your own site. You can either hope your site is appreciated enough that others link to it (Hosting a blog with interesting content can provide something individuals would find worth personally linking to), you can ask others in your industry to link to your site (often in trade for some sort of reciprocal relationship or favor) or you can participate in online discussions in forums and the like, and include links to your site. Search engine algorithms are currently set up so that Social Media presence and links to your site from social media sites do not count as backlinks, but social media can introduce your brand to people who may provide backlinks.
As there are SEO best practices, there are some strategies that should be avoided. To write content intended to benefit search engines more than humans is known as “black hat” SEO. It can be tempted to “stuff” keywords – to repeat your strategic words and phrases excessively. Search engines recognize this, and penalize sites for using words unnaturally, because it is a sign of a lack of valuable content. Duplicating content also throws off search engines, because it makes each page containing that content less unique, and less valuable. Backlinks on other sites can be bought, but search engines recognize these sites on which purchased links are placed, and then associate the linked sites as being shady. Similarly, some services spread backlinks around the web using “spammy” comments on blogs and forums. Search engines are good at recognizing those as well, and the efforts can backfire. “Cloaking” is another inadvisable SEO strategy that involves showing some content to humans, and including different content to be seen only by search engines. This takes considerable extra effort and can hurt site rankings. Search engines have become adept at detecting good and bad content. Developing straightforward honest content is the best strategy to tell shoppers and search engines what your business really offers.
Research and time are the two requirements for a strong SEO campaign. Theoretically, any administrator of a CloudCommerce site could excel at SEO, and see dramatic results and high profits from their site. It can really be an opportunity to put in work and see a return on an investment. However, in reality, time for most store managers is limited and research is tedious. The good news is that for store owners who do not want to settle for under-utilizing their site, Outdoor Business Network does offer SEO services. The next-best-thing to having the time to dedicate to marketing your own store is to consult with Outdoor Business Network regarding ongoing SEO services, and we would then add and test phrases for a set period of time. As stated earlier, it takes a while for SEO to pay off, so committing to a long-term SEO plan would allow us to test and improve, and see exponentially better results as we worked with your business. On the other hand, if an ongoing SEO plan is too much of a commitment, SEO services can be requested à la carte. It is possible to come to Outdoor Business Network for something as minor as a few meta tag suggestions, just to get you started on your SEO endeavors. We want your site to be found, and we want to see your business succeed.
A site that is not marketed does not generate sales, so you simply cannot afford to maintain a site with no marketing strategy. With simple built-in SEO capabilities throughout your site, and our services available to help you out, you have no excuse to not use SEO to market your business one way or another. You get out what you put into your site, and if at one point you had a vision to make money by selling online, you owe it to yourself to follow through and market it with SEO!