Designing Online Boutiques and Shopping Carts

Many designers in the indie designer world are maidens of many trades, including computer work aka graphic design. Their websites are beautiful, and they're 'in' with all of the right directories and online consignment shops. With a little time, and if you're linked into the right communities, this can be a great thing. But there is more. Much more. I'm talking SEO (search engine optimization), Froogle, Google Analytics (free website analytic program), page design, etc.

A great project has just been started by the editor of Search Engine Guide, Jennifer Laycock, called Real Small Business, Real Big Ideas. She is taking the most in-need small business owners and helping them revamp their sites so that they get more traffic, and more traffic of relevant people, people that want to buy the stuff that's being sold. She's bringing in consultants to work with these small business owners and will cover copywriting (for the search engines and for online buyers), website analysis (analyzing the site stats), viral and link campaign planning, and the checkout processes (shopping cart).

Real Small Business, Real Big Ideas comes out with the weekly newsletter of Search Engine Guide, which offers SEO techniques and more. Most non-website designers would snore at (and some website designers actually snore at it, which is not good! it would certainly give them a competative edge) but its offers free valuable information to the small business owner who can't yet afford to hire a consultant to do the work instead. But when they can afford that consultant, they will be that much closer to knowing who the heck they are hiring and why, instead of throwing money at some scam artist on the other side of PayPal.

Quick Tips for Optimizing Your Website:

  • Flash isn't good for Google. Google is always improving and trying to read information on websites, but for now, it chokes or cannot read what is inside of flash. Your pages of content will not be acknowledged by Google, and not included in search engines.
  • Don't design the whole site in Flash. I knew a good designer who did this, and when I went to recommend specific pages of her site, I could not get to them because the URL stayed the same for every page. Flash may offer other ways of doing this, but I don't use Flash and know nothing about how it works. I just know when I (a customer) or a search engine can't get to it.
  • Google can't read images. If you create a pretty image that has major core content it, re-strategize the pretty design. If on your home page you have: "Betty Sue's custom made bridal gowns are perfect for New York brides...", and you want to come up for "Betty Sue bridal gowns" or the like, forget it. No content = no Google. Take the words out of that graphic and put them into your HTML.
  • Fill up your tags! Each page has a title tag, meta description tag, and meta keyword tag. They should each include your keywords that you want search engines to find you on. BUT, those keywords should be on the page of those tags. So, you wouldn't want to stuff keywords in there, like "organza" if organza was nowhere on that page. Title tag is the title that displays in the top of your browser to let you know what page you're on. It also is the linked copy Google displays in its search results. The meta description tag is a description, and sometimes shows up in search results. The meta keyword tag is a place to list keywords. Feel free to not include "or" "and" or any of those things, because Google does not include them either. If you're using a template shopping cart for your website, make sure you ask your website builder to make sure you can easily add tags. Or go into forums and figure it out! ZenCart now offers an easy way to add tags.
  • Links - get them. Get relavent ones, though. Don't join link farms or big general directories. IndieDesignerLabels is a great directory because it offers relevent links and content. Google will give you popularity points, and the visitors from the directory will check out more than one page on your site.
  • Links - which are good ones? Study your site statas. A super program is free from Google Analytics. All you need is a Google account. There may be a waiting list, but if you have a Google AdWords account, you may be able to get access to Google Analytics. This is where you advertise on the side of search engine results, and it can be very cheap (I do $5/day at $.10 or $.30 a click, and I don't hit $5 a day). One of the reports can quickly tell you which links are sending you visitors who click through the most pages. So, for, clicks from random people from a Google search are generating about 2-3 pages per visit (I need to improve my copy and get more relevent searchers!!). Clicks from the links pages of other designer's sites are visiting 4-6 pages per visit. ScoopDuJour always sends me very interested visitors who can sometimes click up to 12 pages. There's LOTS to analyze. But this means that you know where too solicit worthwhile links from (or where you need to improve copy)!
  • Build a site map. Can be simple or how Google suggests you build it, but have one. It's good for your visitors if they get super lost (although they shouldn't need to go there), but really it's for search engines. It's like lunch for them b/c there are so many yummy links to follow.

I think that's all I can remember for now.

Real Small Business, Real Big Ideas

As my grandfather (James of katie james) would say, "Up and at 'em!"

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