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Making public stores customer- and search-friendly


Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the term used to describe all the techniques that you can use to make sure search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo list your store and products in their search results. In addition, optimizing a store so it's more search-engine-friendly not only improves your chances of getting pages listed high in search results. Many of these techniques also make a store easier to use for your customers.


Make sure your store can be found

Create links to your store and product pages

The more hyperlinks there are to a store, the better. Search engines use the number of links to a page as one of the main criteria for determining its value. Links to the home page of a store make it easier for people to find the store. Links to specific product pages increase the chances of those products being listed higher in search results.

The following are all opportunities for adding links:

  • Link from your company website to your store
  • Link from your company Facebook, Google+ and Twitter page. If you add new products to the store, add a direct link to the product page in your Facebook post or tweet.
  • Check if any of the trade associations that your company belongs to maintain an on-line directory of the websites of their members. Have your store added to the list.
  • Your store can be listed on the 'Powered by Apogee StoreFront' page by sending a request to your Agfa Services team or dealer.
  • Contact the local newspapers when you launch or revamp the store and ask them to mention the store and add a link in their article.
  • Use a blog to create links: If you are in a niche market, consider creating a blog which offers valuable content to people interested in your niche products but which also links to products in your store. Do not, however, underestimate how much work it can be to maintain a blog!
Links should be meaningful

Do not add a line on your website that says 'Our store can be found here' but use 'In our web shop you can order business cards, wedding invitations and posters'.
Notice the two differences: the second link associates words like  'order', 'business cards' and 'posters' with your store, and it has an ALT-text (which you see if you hover your mouse over the link) which contains additional information such as the location 'Antwerp'.


Optimize the store content

The home page is your online reception desk

The first sentences on the home page of the store should describe the store's purpose. Search engines put more value on these first paragraphs so make sure they contain the essential keywords that are relevant for your store: its main products, the location of your shop if you are targeting local buyers, some essential keywords like 'order' or 'buy' and any other terms that you want to associate with your store.

StoreFront allows you to customize the title and description tags of the home page. Make sure to enter a short descriptive text in both fields. This information needs to convince potential customers that your store is the one they should look at when they do a search on the web and your page is listed in the search results (the SERP).


Optimize product categories

If the store has many product categories, it makes sense to sort them by importance: if you mainly sell business cards, make that category the first in the list. Both for SEO purposes and to simplify the site for users searching for a specific product, create an alphabetically sorted list in the left column of the home page. The list should have links to each category or even to sub-categories of products. The latter can be created by adding tags to all products and then linking to a query results page that searches for specific tags.

Optimized product categories in the Apogee StoreFront web-to-print solution

For categories it is also possible to enter a custom description tag. Make sure this short text informs prospects about the type of products that can be found in the category.


Draw the buyer's attention to popular products

Adding direct links to bestselling products on the home page is good for SEO as well as direct sales. Text links will work better than image links - provided you use proper keywords and ALT-text.


Use the support pages

Make effective use of the additional pages that visitors can access using the top menu bar of your store. Use a mix of text and images for any content you add to these pages. Structure the text properly using H tags for headings and make sure there are relevant keywords in each heading. For these pages you should also fill in the fields for the title and description tags.


Optimize product pages

Write meaningful descriptions for all the products in the store

StoreCenter allows you to enter a summary and a full description for all products. The text in the summary field is used for the description tag of the product pages. In the full product description field you should not only describe the product but also explain what it has to offer for your customers or list some examples of its use. Elaborate on how product options such as a heavier paper grade or an extra gloss coating can make a difference.


Use the right keywords

When people search for a product online, they will type a few keywords in the search box. If your product name and description also contain these keywords, this improves the chances of being listed high in search results. Keyword analyzer tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool are a great resource for finding the right keywords for product descriptions. For example: it's usually better to use the singular instead of the plural form for category and product names. For 'posters' however, the Keyword Tool indicates that more people use the term 'posters' than 'poster' in search queries. Keep in mind that you are always competing with the entire world to get listed high for specific keywords. It is incredibly difficult and expensive to be listed on the first page for very generic terms like 'posters'. It makes more sense to aim for very specific groups of keywords. Adding your city or local region in the keyword mix is an example of trying to reach a specific potential market.


Use meaningful names for product images

If you sell a poster of Siamese cats and use a JPG-image as a product illustration, don't name the image 'DSC239658.jpg' but name it 'siamese-cat-poster.jpg'. Search engines also look at these file names so proper file naming is important. Use hyphens to add multiple words in the file name and avoid using underscore (_) characters. Don't overdo it: use relevant terms but don't create file names that are too long.


Add examples for generic products

Do you sell generic products such as uploadable brochures or customizable cards? Ask customers who ordered nice looking creative prints if you can show an example of their work on your site. They will be flattered and you have an excellent opportunity to add inspiring artwork to your store. Such examples can be used in two ways:

  • Add pictures of the examples as product thumbnails in the store
  • Add a page to your company website or blog showing the example and then link from that page to the matching product in your store.