SEO Guide for Printfection

SEO Introduction

As many new POD store owners have found, building a store is the easy part. Driving relevant traffic to the store is where your effort are rewarded. One of the keys to having a successful store and attracting potential customers is to be found easily on search engines like Google and Yahoo. This is where SEO or Search Engine Optimisation comes into play. This article explains the factors involved, what you can do and relates my personal SEO journey with my store, Ukulele Shirt World.

What is SEO?

SEO is the practise of creating and configuring web sites so that the achieve as high as possible ranking on the search engine's listings for a particular keyword or search term. The challenge of course is that Google and the other search engine companies do not publish their metrics and algorithms for how things are ranked, however there are a number of factors that can contribute very positively.

Pick your target

The first thing that you must decide on when starting out on an SEO journey is the keywords and phrases that you want to target. Think carefully and do some basic research on how hard it is going to be to hit the heights on a particular search keyword. Go to Google and search for your chosen keyphrase and see how many results come up. For more advanced analysis, use something like the SEO Tools Keyword Difficulty Check to see what you are up against. The beauty of Printfection is that with the free premium stores, you can have as many stores as you like to match each of your targets.

SEO Factors

Now that you know your target and what you are in for, it is important to understand some of the factors that influence your rankings. There are two main areas that these factors can be grouped into, Internal and External. Internal factors are those that you control from within your store, whilst External factors are those that rely on other websites often outside of your control. There is no magic spell in either of these areas, however the following things consistently achieve high results for POD stores.

Internal Factors

Store Name - Keyword Use

Why is this important? -
This is probably the most important SEO factor and in a way, sites the tone for all of the others. A well chosen Store Name that includes your key words or phrase gives you a double hit, as it is also used in the body of your store as content, both in the breadcrumb and various alt tags.
What to do with your store -
When you set up your store, enter a good keyword filled store title or phrase. Remember, the store name can be a whole sentence or just a few words. For your store you might go with a unique name followed by a short descriptor - "Fat Tony's - Mafia Shirts for Good Guys" or "Wonder Wear - Weird and Wonderful shirts" would both have their advantages. In my case, it is no accident that the store is called "Ukulele Shirt World".

Store Body - Keyword Use

Why is this important? -
The saying around Google used to be "Content is King" and this is still the case. Good relevant content that includes your target keywords and phrases in regular context will ensure that the google spider works your store out very quickly. As the search engines get smarter, the are increasingly taking relevance into account, so ensure that your keyword are well positioned within quality content.
What to do with your store -
Make sure that you have a store description or add to the HTML of your store. Make ure that each of your sections and products has a relevant description. This is all content and gets used to index your store.

META Tags - Keyword Use

Why is this important? -
The Meta Description and Meta Tags are very important parts of your SEO strategy. They are used in the header (first few lines) of your stores HTML and help the search engines to immediately identify what your store is all about. The Meta Description is also shown in the search engines results, so a good description helps click through as well.
What to do with your store -
Make sure that you enter a Meta description of between 50 and 100 words that makes sense and ties in with your store name and content. The real key to using META tags for SEO is to make sure that they are relevant to your headings and content.

URL - Keyword Use

Why is this important? -
The URL of a website is a very important part of how the search engines see your store. If the URL contains one or more relevant keywords, it goes together with the other factors to prove relevance for that topic.
What to do with your store -
Each Printfection page URL is made up of three main areas, two of which you have complete control over. They will typically look like this: http://www.printfection/storeurl/section-or-product-name. The store url is managed through the general store settings. Ideally, you would create a url that suits the name of the store, but is keyword specific. For example, you may have decided to call your store Bob's Fishing Shirts, you might then consider a URL that ties it together , fishingshirts or anglingshirts. The second part of the url that you have control over is driven by your section and product names. To add to your SEO, choose section names and product titles that include keywords with suitable relevance

Internal Links and Structure

Why is this important? -
Think of your store as a city map and the links within your store as streets on that map. If the search engines were a visitor to your city, they would be more inclined to tour your city and see the sights if they were able to easily find their way around. Therefore think of your internal links as paths to other deeper content, with the more links you have on each page adding to the depth and navigability of your store.
What to do with your store -
The links in your store are mostly taken care by the underlying Printfection system, however you need to consider if you have a menu and if you show a breadcrumb on all pages, both of which are big link drivers in your store. Also consider how many levels deep you want to make your store heirarchy. A 2-3 levels is good, more than that can have an impact on both spiders and human visitors.

External Links

Why is this important? -
To continue the map analogy above, the links to external sites that you have in your store are like highways to other cities. Links to other relevant popular sites will help lift your ranking.
What to do with your store -
Think about other sites that are keyword relevant. In the case of Bob's fishing Shirts, you might link to a number of popular fishing related sites or well known anglers. Put the links in your base template or create a complete links page with the instructions here.

Other internals that PF handles for you

Printfection is set up very well for SEO in general. All of your section and product images automatically have alt tags added which add more text to the underlying page and therefore more content to be indexed. The generated URLs are also very SEO friendly with good descriptive text and a structure that ensures you never go too deep.
Alt and Image Titles, url length

External Factors

Once you have set up all the things that you have control over in the internal factors, it is time to consider how you are seen by the outside world. Who is linking back to your store. This of course does not need to be an external person linking to you, it could be you linking from a blog, a comment at a blog or one of the popular social networking sites.

External Link Quantity

Why is this important? -
To take the map example to its full extent, think of this as how many highways from other cities you have linking to you. Typically the more the merrier, however as usual, relevance is still key. The more keyword relevant the better.
What to do with your store -
Add your store to directories, set up a banner exchange / link exchange with other sites and generally tell the world what you have.

External Link Popularity

Why is this important? -
The search engines would appear to place importance on how popular the site is that is linking back to you. Kind of like a flashback to high school where everyone wanted to hang with the "cool kids". You need to find keyword relevant "cool kids" that you have a chance to get to link back to you.
What to do with your store -
This is where marketing kicks in to not only improve your SEO, but to also open up your market. Post on a keyword relevant forum and make sure you include a link to your store in your signature. Set up your own blog, get on to Digg / stumbleupon / kaboodle / etc or even set up a myspace page that links back to your store. Make sure that the content that is linking to you is relevant. Get a really popular blog to write about your store and link back.

Case Study - Ukulele Shirt World

When I started Ukulele Shirt World I set myself the goal of being in the top ten for "Ukulele Shirt/s" and "Uke Shirt/s". I checked the potential difficulty and number of results. I was up against 590,000+ other results and had a potential difficulty of 48%, not impossible, but not simple and certainly requiring some planning. I have implemented all of the approaches outlined above, and if you look through the store, you will notice keywords dotted throughout and lots of internal and external links to keyword relevant pages and sites.

Externally, I have links back to the store from many popular Ukulele web sites, blogs and forums as well as my own external website that offers general ukulele information and music. I have a Myspace profile with a good number of respected "friends" in the ukulele community.

At the time of writing, Ukulele Shirt World's ranking for "Ukulele Shirt" looks like this:

  • Google - 2
  • Yahoo - 1
  • MSN / Live- 1
  • Dogpile - 1
  • Altavista - 3

The main thing stopping it from ranking higher on Google is the URL. Having a short url (http://www.printfection.com/ukulele) is good, however in hindsight, it should have been http://www.printfection.com/UkuleleShirts. I'm not too upset about being number 2 though, when you consider that 6 of the top 10 results are either to my store or to links about my store. I get 90% of my visitors come through one of these search engines, and so far 90% of my sales have come from these 90%, so all in all, my SEO efforts have paid off well.

Conclusion

A good SEO strategy is an important part of your marketing strategy, particularly if you want to attract a good target audience. Choose your keywords well and always remember, relevance, relevance, relevance, with links, content, titles and tags.

Comments (5) 15.11.2007. 13:32