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May 27, 2014

Online Aspects you Need to Get Right

If you’ve ever thought; do I really need a Twitter account? Is blogging really necessary? You need to check out this article. It explains the different areas of being online and the role they play in driving business to you. To simplify it, we’ve related an online store to a physical store in a mall. Putting it in these terms, it’s easy to understand why each area is so important. 

From SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and backlinks to images and text, it all plays a role into how customers find you and perceive your business. With more and more activity moving online these days, it's more important than ever to get it right.

The Mall = Search Engine

Imagine the biggest mall in the world, full of one particular type of business; let’s use jewelry as an example. There’s one main entrance and the further a store is from it, the less traffic and customers it attracts. You could literally walk for days in this mall, discovering new businesses with each step. They’re all there; the good, the bad and the ugly, and where they’re located is dependent on several factors like;

  • how much rent they pay
  • how relevant the business is to people looking for jewelry
  • if they’re following rules the mall has created
  • how long they’ve been around, etc.

Online, the mall is your search engine, which for most people, is Google. When people open Google, they enter a keyword (i.e. “jewelry”) into the search bar; this brings them to their virtual jewelry mall. The entrance of the mall is page 1 of Google and the further away you get from that page, the less traffic you’ll receive. There are ways to get to that coveted spot including:

  • paying for Google Adwords
  • having content that's relevant to the keywords entered in the search bar
  • following Google’s rules for SEO (i.e. clean code, original content, page titles, etc.)
  • having an established site

Mall Directory = Blogging

When people head to the mall and are looking for a specific business or type of business, they head to the directory and look at the map. The mall puts this directory together and wants to be sure that they look good by keeping it up to date and relevant. For stores to appear on that map under the proper category, the mall needs to be aware that a new business has moved in, is ready for customers, know their business name, location, what they sell, etc. In other words: businesses need to be on the mall’s radar.

Blogging helps your website get on Google’s radar. Having keywords and unique content that is relevant to what people are searching, will get you higher up in the search results. You can add several unique articles to your site with useful information on jewelry, how to clean it, different types of stones, etc. as well as use keywords in your descriptions, titles, etc. This lets Google know that you’re legit and that people are going to get something out of heading to your site. A jewelry mall wouldn’t put an electronics store right at their front entrance just because they sell a Fitbit watch; that would give the wrong impression to people who are visiting the mall looking specifically for jewelry. And Google isn’t going to put a website at the top of their searches if they only mention “jewelry” once on the site; that tells Google you're not the best fit to present to someone searching for jewelry. Think about the keywords you want associated with your business and find a way to work them into your website and articles.

Posters = Backlinks

Imagine walking through the mall and seeing a variety of posters for one particular business hanging throughout the hallways. If you follow the posters, they would lead you to that store. The posters are increasing the visibility of that store and driving more traffic to it.

These posters are the equivalent of backlinks. Backlinks are exactly as they sound; links spread out across the world wide web that lead back to your website. Not only do these help with SEO, they’re like an additional store in the mall. Each backlink creates a new link on Google and an additional way for your business to be found. If your business has:

  • Facebook page
  • Twitter account
  • Instagram account
  • Pinterest account
  • an article written about you on another blog or website

That’s 5 additional links that will appear when someone Google’s your business name and 5 additional ways for people to discover your business. Can’t go wrong with that right?!

Store Sign = Page Title

When you’re walking though the mall, the way you identify each business is by the sign that displays above the door. If you’re familiar with the business, you’ll know them right away and head in. If you’re not familiar with a business, the name of the store and tagline will give you a better idea of who they are and what they sell to encourage you to stop in.

Online, this is your Page Title. Each page of your website should have a unique title tag that is relevant to the topic on that page. For example; your home page should be your business name and perhaps your tagline, if it's not too long. Your About Us page may read; About Us – Your-Business-Name-Here. If you’ve had your website built by a developer then you can have them update this text if needed. If you’re using a platform like Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress; Google the phrase “how to change my Page Title on ___________” (enter platform you use).

Window Display = Meta Description

When retailers are creating a display for their store, they want it to quickly communicate what type of business they are so that people walking by are intrigued. If they're selling vintage jewelry, they might want their window to say: "we sell vintage jewelry for a variety of occasions" by having a vintage setting and showing a variety of their best pieces on displays or mannequins.

Online, this is your Meta Description. It is the text displayed under your Page Title on Google and should be between 150 and 160 words describing what your website is all about. Be sure it’s clear and will entice your ideal customer to click and head into your website. If you’ve had your website built by a developer then you can have them update this text. If you’re using a platform like Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress; Google the phrase “how to change my meta description on ___________” (enter platform you use).

Front Table = Home Page

Have you ever taken one step in a store and knew right away whether that store was for you or not? Their window might have looked good but once inside it's dark, the music is loud, the front table looks junky with a mish-mash of items and has you confused as to what they sell in there. They may have some really great pieces but the first impression makes you wonder if they’re credible or safe to shop with. If they have a clean looking front table, full of beautiful jewelry displayed in a cohesive color story, you may be intrigued to spend some time browsing around.

Consider this the home page of your website. Site visitors decide in 0.05 seconds whether they like your site or not so if you have an outdated site full of flashing ads and every color in the rainbow, they’ll have no qualms about hitting that back button before you can say hi. You want to put a lot of thought into your website and how it functions. You don’t need to spend a lot these days and you don’t need anything complicated. Complimenting colors, a clear message and simple navigation is all it takes. Think of the vibe you want your business to give off and make sure your home page reflects that.

Sales Person = Images & Copy

A Sales Person works in a store to represent the company, help shoppers find what they need and point out the features and benefits to their products or services. If it’s a high-end jewelry store, the business will likely have their sales people dressed in suits or dresses and train them on certain terminology and sales tactics they’d like them to use. If the vibe is laid back, sales people may dress more casual, talk to customers as though they're their friends and be a little more hands off when it comes to letting people browse.

Keep this in mind when selecting images and writing copy for your website. Customers can’t pick up your pieces so you want them to immediately get a feel for them through photos. If your items are high-end, be sure you’re taking really good quality photos with brilliant lighting and lots of detail shots. Your copy; titles, descriptions, etc. should reflect this as well. If you’re all about casual, your photos should still be high quality, but you may want to play with different backgrounds and using a casual style of writing. Just as sales people may have certain promotions to push in a month, you can do the same with the images you display on home pages where they'll get more attention. You can also use text and pop ups to direct a shopper's attention to a particular promotion or feature you want to highlight.

Cashier = Shopping Cart

The cashier is the customer’s last impression so retailers work hard to make sure their cash desks are placed properly in the store, increase point of sale purchases (last minute items like jewelry cleaner or travel cases that are an easy add-on to their purchase), systems are efficient and their cashiers are well trained and pleasant.

You’ll want your shopping cart and messaging system to run the same online. You don’t want customers wandering around your online store, trying to figure out how to get in contact with you or how to purchase. Make it crystal clear for customers, ensure the process runs smoothly and have some info on what happens next. A blank page after a purchase will leave the customer wondering if everything went through properly. Picture a cashier taking your money then standing there with a blank stare…awkward. Instead, they’re going to package up your purchase, hand it to you, thank you for your purchase and tell you to have a nice day. Follow the same idea online and be sure there is a “Thank you for your purchase/inquiry” message along with instructions on what happens next; an email from you within 48 hours, a tracking number once they item has been shipped, etc.

Customer Service = Email Communication

When you have an important issue, you ask for the manager or call Customer Service. They have the authority to make important decisions and to correct negative situations. If you asked for the manager and they didn’t show up for hours or Customer Service didn’t seem to care about your issue, you’d probably never shop there again and might even tell friends and family to stay away.

Your email communication with customers is just as important. You don’t have the personal touch you would when you’re dealing with people face to face; customers can’t see if you’re smiling when you write that email or hear the sincerity in your voice when you say “thank you” or “I’m sorry”. Be sure to answer emails in a timely manner and put thought into them. It’s good practice to re-read each email before you hit send and read it from a perspective of a stranger who doesn’t know if you’re being sincere or sarcastic. An extra exclamation point or “thank you” can go a long way.

This is just a simplified look at the important aspects of being online. You can definitely dig a lot deeper into SEO, website design, functionality etc. to continuously improve. It takes a lot of work to stay on top, relevant and up to date but it's worth it as the world wide web continues to grow.

*Please be sure you do your research when working on SEO or hiring someone to help you. There are a lot of tactics that might improve your search engine ranking quickly but could hurt it in the long run. A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to SEO; if it seems spammy or like a shortcut, don't do it.

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