Friday, June 29, 2007

Shop Review

David asked if I could give him my opinion about his Shiny Black Sheep shop. No problem, David, I'd love to. I like to analyze stuff.

First impression - beautiful, very modern web design. Second impression - great, actually fantastic designs - very original, very artistic, very attractive and very well thought of. As for the designs and the artistic value I have the best impressions and words of praise.

The prices are quite low and affordable, so they are fine. I would have them higher, though. The site is so well designed, it looks upscale, so I'd expect higher prices. Still, that's a personal choice.

Unfortunately, it's not enough to have beautiful designs to sell stuff and that is especially true for online selling. Here are the problems I can see with this shop.
  • The "above the fold" area is not used well.
The above the fold area is everything you can see on a web page without having to scroll. The fold is the line dividing the immediately visible area from the area that can be viewed only after scrolling down. Internet visitors are not very patient and a bit lazy, so as much of important data as possible should be placed in the above the fold area.

The top banner, although pretty, takes way too much space and it's not very informative. Actually, it takes quite a bit of scrolling down to reach the area where the actual products are displayed. That's a good way to lose visitors.

Speaking of losing visitors... the sidebar links to the blog, MySpace, eBay and the other links are taking away the visitors, as well. The goal is to get shoppers into the shop and keep them in for as long as possible. While they are there, they should be paying attention to products and not get sidetracked by shiny banners.
  • Bad SEO!
David says that the shop gets visitors. That's nice, but who are those visitors? Are they looking to buy t-shirts, mugs, pillows, buttons? Are they looking to buy anything? Judging by the SEO, I'd be surprised if many shoppers visited the site.

Lets go from the top. The title bar of the browser says: Shiny Black Sheep : Not good. The search engines give a lot of weight to the text in the title bar, so it's very important for the SEO. Is "Shiny Black Sheep" an established brand that people are searching for? I don't think so, so putting that into title bar does nothing for SEO. Words like t-shirt, shirt, clothing, gift should be put into that title bar, so that the website would be associated with those products. Those words alone are too general, so just putting them into the title is not good either. The shopkeeper, David in this case, has to decide what type of stuff he sells and how he wants to market it. I am not going to go deep into that, so I'll pick one possible option and that's retro (this could be a wrong pick, remember that I am just giving an example). Now, off to Keyword Selector Tool and search for retro. First good choice "retro clothing", next "retro t-shirt". Ok, I thought of another one parody. Back to the keyword selector tool and I get "parody t-shirt". So there... those are the keywords that should be put into the Title bar, something like Retro Clothing, Parody T-shirt and Gift Collection.

In the same way, the section titles should be chosen. Remember, they end up in the title bar, too.

These should be changed from time to time, especially when there is something seasonal to add to them... ie. "Christmas Gift".

The title bar text of the front page is the text entered in the Title line that can be changed in the Adjust Shop Information area of the shop. The title bar of a section is the title of the section.

All the descriptions should be written in a similar way. For example:

"Welcome to Shiny Black Sheep (A.k.A. S.B.S.), You have found a great selection of t shirts & accesories, get ready for the Black Sheep, dare to stand out!"

This text is taken from the shop as it is made now. It's not only short, it is not very informative for the search engines, either. Just "t shirts & accessories" is too general and says nothing about the shop. What kind of t-shirts, what type of accessories? What else? The text is the food for search engines so you've got to give them lots of it and incorporate as many descriptions of what you offer. Bold text - great idea - but from the SEO stand wrong text is bold. Search engines give importance to the bold text. Is anyone searching for "dare to stand out", if they are, are they looking to buy shirts and accessories? The keywords should be printed in bold.

When writing any text think of the visitors that are not yet on your page - those that are searching the web. What would they enter into the search box? The texts on your page should match those search terms. The text is your link with them. That's all you have. They can't see pictures to understand what your site offers. Those that are already in the shop will look at the pictures and the text is not all that important for them.
  • No titles or descriptions.
This has everything to do with the previous topic. No titles, no descriptions - no feed for the search engines - the site is not communicating with the search engines.

Even where there is a title it's not SEO friendly. Will anyone search for "iTelephone t-shirt"? Will anyone search for "iCasette Mug" or anything iTelephone or iCasette? It's clear what the designs are about once you see the design, but the those searching the net don't have the luxury of seeing the images and they don't know that the cool products are hidden behind those names that are witty, but not what people would search for.

SEO in this shop needs most improvement. Either you work on SEO and attract search engine crowd or you open the wallet and pay for some heavy marketing. Either way, the theme and target audience of this shop should be determined, so that the right crowd is brought in.

This is a new shop, so I can't really say that it's fault is a lack of designs. However, for most shopkeepers it's true that a lot of designs are needed to make regular sales (I am talking hundreds and thousands here).

My final tips:
  • Keep adding new designs.
  • Improve SEO. No need to do it all at once. A bit of this and that each day will do it in a long run. This includes adding titles and descriptions to ALL sections and products.
  • Fix the web design so that more important info can be found above the fold and bring the actual products higher on the pages, so there wouldn't be so much scrolling before the products appear.
  • Spell check.
  • Put to a minimum, or if possible eliminate the outgoing links (eBay, blog... etc.)
  • Have patience. The designs are good. They will sell eventually, until that day keep working regardless of sales and learn not to take it personal when nothing sells.
This is, of course, just an opinion. The final decisions are always the shopkeeper's responsibility.

OK, David, I hope this was useful. Everyone else, I hope there was something interesting in it for you, too.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

member since 6/28/2006

That is what is written in the top right corner of my account page at CafePress. Happy CP anniversary to me!

Most important things I've learned in my first year at CafePress:
  • Patience is a must. Lots of it.
  • Success is possible, but not without long hours of hard work.
  • Premium shop makes the shopkeeper's job a breeze compared to basic shops.
  • At any given moment there is a bug or an unsolved problem going on. Whatever it is, it's not worth losing nerves over it.
  • There is something new to learn every day. Successful shopkeepers are a great source of wisdom and practical knowledge.
That and a million of other important things.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tip Of the Day - SEO Q&A

Here are some SEO basics in form of a Q&A text.

Q: What is SEO?
A: Search Engine Optimization - the art of making a website/shop attractive for search engines.

Q: Why would I care if a search engine likes my shop/website?
A: Because they are the bridge between your shop and the shoppers. If you build a good relationship with the search engines they will send people who want to buy what you are selling right into your shop.

Q: What search engines do I need to impress?
A: Google before every other. Google is the ruler of the cyber universe - it can make a star out of you, or ignore you and make a job of selling t-shirts much harder for you than it needs to be. Yahoo, MSN and other smaller search engines are important, too, but they are used by less people, so they have a smaller potential in bringing shoppers into your store.

Q: How do I get on Google's good side?
A: By having a lot of fresh, keyword rich content on your site.

Q: How do I keep my website fresh?
A: By frequently updating it. This can be done in many ways. You could add new designs, sections and new products. You could go into old sections and change descriptions. You could change the layout of the site, shuffle sections and products... In other words keep tweaking the site/shop, even if the changes are small. That will keep Google aware that the site is active and it will give it more credit and better position in the search results.

Q: What is a keyword?
A: Keyword is a word or a group of words that shoppers use to search the web. "Monkey" is a keyword, "Love Monkey" is also a keyword, "Love Monkey t-shirt" you guessed it - a keyword.

Q: What do I do to make my shop keyword rich?
A: You use every given opportunity to add text to your shop. Write all titles, section teasers, section descriptions and product descriptions. Use the footer of the site to add interesting/funny/educational texts relevant to your designs. Use the headers of sections to give a good description of what is available in the section. While you are at it, fill those texts with keywords that shoppers would use when looking for the stuff you sell or that would attract people who are your target shoppers. Example: "Wide selection of unique and funny monkey t-shirt and gift items for a monkey lover." See how "monkey t-shirt" and "funny monkey t-shirt" and "monkey lover" all fit into one small section. Plus we have words gift and unique thrown in too... so if someone was looking for "unique gift for a monkey lover" your description would allow for your page to be listed in the search results.

Q: How do I know what the shoppers are thinking and what keywords they use?
A: Easy. Use Keyword Selector Tool. Type in a general keyword and it will give you more specific keywords to use in your descriptions. Example: search for "monkey" or "monkey shirt". Go through the results and find the keywords that will be most beneficial for your shop. The more keywords with a specific product name in it - the better. The more people search for the keyword - the better. Don't give up if the page doesn't appear. Just go back and reload. It's worth all the reloading.

Q: What else can I do to pimp up my shop SEO-wise?
A: Make the keywords in shop description, section descriptions and the footer bold. To make a text bold use html. If you don't know how to do that you can learn here: HTML Text Formatting. You should not use html in section teasers, product descriptions or titles. If you add your own images to the shop (banner, logo...) add alt and title tags to the html code for the image. Titles are very important for SEO, as they go into the title bar on top of the browser and they appear as links (both carry importance for SEO), so make sure to pick really good titles - both section and product titles matter.

Q: Anything I can do for SEO away from the site?
A: Yes! Build links from various parts of the net pointing to your shop. Use every given opportunity to do that. Post links to your shop in blogs, Squidoo, on MySpace. Don't spam, but be sure to use an opportunity when you spot one.

Q: Anything I shouldn't do?
A: You shouldn't try to fool search engines. They are smart and will bust you. You don't want that to happen, believe me! Don't use hidden text (same color of the text and the background). Don't repeat a keyword too many times on a page. Any excessive use of one single keyword is called keyword spamming and will get you in trouble.

Q: How can I know if my SEO efforts are paying off?
A: Get a StatCounter for your site, keep an eye on it, especially on the Keyword Analysis feature. Are the Search Terms that visitors are using those that you planed to be your main keywords? If not, you will need to work them into more titles and descriptions. Search terms are also great inspiration for new designs. It's reversed SEO. The shopper is already there and you know what s/he wants, so get busy, create and offer it to them.

Q: How do I find out if a search engine likes my website?
A: Use that very search engine and search for site:your shop's full web address (example: site: As a result you'll get a list of all the pages from your site indexed by the search engine. The more pages - the better, but they need to be in the main list. Those results that have Supplemental Result in the bottom line are not all that useful.

Q: Is there anything else I need to know about SEO.
A: One always needs to keep learning about SEO.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Tip Of the Day - Time Saving

Here is a quick and easy one.

When you are rearranging items in a section don't drag a single item all across the section clicking a bazillion times to do that. Select all the fields between the item you want to move and the position where you want to move it by clicking on the one end and than clicking on the other while holding shift. Than click up or down to move the whole selection and put the item you want to move where you want it to be.


Items stand like this:
You want to move 2 and move it behind 8 so that the items stand like this:
You do NOT select 2 and than click the arrow down six times to do this. Here is what you do. You click on 3, than hold shift and click on 8. This will select everything from 3 to 8. Than, you press the up arrow once and the items will be lined as you want them to be.

It's one of those obvious things... but than I've been known to overlook the obvious. Maybe this will help you save some time. It helps me a great deal, especially since the real sections are made of close to or more than 100 items unlike the example of only 9 items.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fashion Hint

I've been following Roland Garros tennis and I noticed that almost all female players include some variation of purple/violet in their outfits.

I am not a fashion expert, but it's obvious that these colors are in fashion this year. I think it wouldn't hurt to include them in designs that are female orientated. It should make an impression of women who are into fashion and follow fashion trends. Even those that are not that into fashion will probably recognize the colors and feel attracted by them.

I am not going to call this a tip, but it's surely a hint. It might help and I doubt it can hurt... so why not use it.

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