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.

Labels: ,