WEBSITE REMEDIES Expert help for ailing sites

Boost your e-commerce site's search ranking

SEO experts pile on the tips to help a chocolate pretzels e-tailer lure in Web traffic - and turn clicks into sales.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)

fretzels.03.jpg
Which candidate would be the best leader in a bad economy?
  • John McCain
  • Barack Obama
Success doesn't come from driving traffic to your site - it comes from retaining that traffic and turning clicks into sales.More

(CNNMoney.com) -- Question: I've been learning about SEO and trying to work it into my company Web site, fretzels.com, which can definitely use an SEO makeover. My company, Fretzels by Jill, makes really unique hand-dipped gourmet chocolate-covered pretzels like you've never seen or tasted before.

I have Google Analytics set up and notice that most of the traffic comes from those who are searching for my site. What can I do to increase my Web site's visibility when people are searching for more general keywords related to my product? For example, I'd love for people searching for "corporate gifts" or "unique gifts" to be able to find my site. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

-Sweetly, Jill

Dear Jill: Your Web site designer did a fantastic job with the layout of your site: The colors, text and images are crisp and fun and convey a unified brand image. However, the designer missed out on some back-end stuff that can really enhance your search-engine rankings. We recruited three search-engine optimization (SEO) experts to reveal tips on how to get better rankings - and on how to get visitors to make purchases once they find your site.

According to Chris Padavick, president of Hieroweb Interactive, you don't have a lot of verbiage on your site that's working in your favor. "If you are interested in getting people looking for corporate gifts, you must have keywords on your page that relate to that," he says.

In the same vein, you should be aware that as search crawlers scan your site for keywords, they do not register images, even if the image contains text.

"There is no value to the terms in your navigation bar at the top, your logo or your tagline because they are images," says David Crompton, founder of Tiverton, R.I.-based Zeus Design. "Keep the placement the same, but turn all the images that contain text into actual text. Make sure those important words, including your company name and tagline, are on each page."

How do you know when what looks like text is actually an image? Run your mouse cursor over it: If you can't highlight the words, they're an image.

Fixing your image-versus-text issue will help solve another problem Crompton notices: All the important key terms on your site appear way down in the code lines. As the search spiders for engines like Google and Yahoo crawl down your site, the spiders take note of how long they take to see key terms. Your site is working against you because keywords and the body of your text appear after code for hidden fields.

Though you want customers to land on your site when they search for "corporate gifts," Crompton and Padavick think that arena might be too competitive.

"You'll just get mixed up with those looking for hats and keychains," Crompton says. "In order to get prominence for 'corporate gifts,' you'll need to build out a lot more pages that are all relevant to that keyword."

Try to find a balance between the corporate-gifts Web searchers and the fine-foods Web searchers.

"The search term 'corporate gifts' is too generic, but 'chocolate pretzels' is too specific, so try words like 'gourmet chocolate corporate gifts,' 'unique gourmet gifts,' 'unique gourmet chocolate,' and 'candy gifts,'" Padavick suggests.

Tagging keywords

Meta keyword tags have taken a backseat these days in search relevancy, but description tags have not. Crompton notices that your pages lack description tags, which means you are missing out on an opportunity to highlight relevant content on each page. And don't neglect title tags, one of the most important and attention-getting elements of a Web site. The title for your homepage contains five words now ('Fretzels | Gourmet Chocolate Covered Pretzels'), but could fit in a few more. Crompton suggests adding more keywords: For example, "Gourmet gifts: White and dark chocolate covered pretzels."

Another element that holding you back is your URL. "Freztels" doesn't carry much weight, but a URL that contains popular search terms can give you a boost. (Crompton notes that gourmetpretzels.us is available.) That way, every page on the site that the viewer clicks will support the most important keywords right off the bat in the browser. (Don't worry - Fretzels.com can still exist as a redirect.)

One last tip about keywords, from Steve Wiideman, account manager for Lake Forest, Calif.-based Visionary View: To best figure out what keywords you should be choosing, check out free tool keyworddiscovery.com. And to see what keywords your competitors are using, pay a visit to spyfu.com.

Wiideman notices a couple more problems. First, notice that if you click on "home" or the logo on the homepage, the URL adds /index.html to http://fretzels.com. To some search engines, this reads as two isolated pages, so you may want to ditch the link to /index.html. The distinction matters more to Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) and Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500)'s MSN than to Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), but Wiideman says it's still important to fix. (And yes, he's aware his own site doesn't currently follow his own best-practices advice on index.html linking; he says a fix is in the works.)

Ensure that your purchasing pages are https://, which shows that the site is secure. If there is no security certificate, people may not feel comfortable buying your product.

Another small point Wiideman notes is that you are using an older version of Google Analytics; he recommends upgrading. Another useful tool Wiideman suggests adding to your arsenal is the free Alexa toolbar, which allows you to compare your traffic to that of your competitors.

Also, as we advised in our last Web site makeover, check out W3C.org to get rid of your compliancy issues.

Wiideman thinks your site could really benefit from a sitemap. He recommends going to xml-sitemaps.com. There, you can pop in your URL and get a free map. But before you do that, let's reorganize your site a bit.

None of our experts are impressed with the path viewers have to navigate to purchase your product. All agree that there should be a call to action right away. Integrating words like "sale" and "special" for a particular product on the homepage will entice people to make a purchase.

"'Discount,' 'free shipping,' or any other marketing verbiage will get them interested right off the bat," Padavick says .

But for the remaining products, it's not a good idea to make the viewers click "products" and then "original assortment." Cut out some steps by displaying your products right away when visitors hit the "products" or "shop" tabs.

Make buying easy

Once a surfer gets to the products page, they expect to be able to find out more about each Fretzel or buy it by clicking on it. Instead, they get a pop-up window with a larger image and a negligible amount of text.

Crompton thinks your site would be more user-friendly and rank higher on the search engines if you created a page for each Fretzel type and for each boxed assortment.

"In the 'shop' tab, for instance, there is way too much information. The search engine doesn't know what is important," he explains.

So as you create one page per product, use header tags (also known as H1 tags) that emphasize facts such as quantities available, price, description, ingredients and history. Why will this help? The text that falls under each of these categories can be chock-full of keywords for each of your unique products. Furthermore, header tags are prominent to search engines and will give the users what they are expecting. And finally, this organizational structure will enhance your site map and overall reliability of the site, in Google's eyes.

Best of luck, Jill. To find out more, check out a video Steve Wiideman made which analyzes your site and shows you how to get more traffic to Fretzels. Also, check out Wiideman's Top Ten Tips and Tricks.

In our "Website remedies" feature, CNNMoney.com enlists Web marketing and search-engine optimization specialists to analyze small-business Web sites in need of an overhaul. Could your site use a makeover? E-mail us at smallbiz@cnnmoney.com. Plus, share your tips for improving our featured sites in our discussion forum.  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.




QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.

More Galleries
My part-time job is a dead end, but it's all I can find CNNMoney profiles 4 of America's 7 million part-time workers unable to find full-time jobs. More
Cool cars from the LA Auto Show There are some of the standout vehicles on display this year at the Los Angeles Auto Show. More
American Dream homes: Prices in 10 cities How much does the American Dream home cost? From $2 million in Los Altos, Calif., to $65,000 in Cleveland, here's what you'll pay for a 4-bedroom, 2-bath house, according to Coldwell Banker's annual survey. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.