Paul Dawson (Hydro Photographics, Port Macquarie) introduced the retailer audience into the arcane world of search engine optimisation in his PMA presentation, with some pointers on how to move up the rankings in browser searches and make a good impression as you do so.
Paul recently added ‘Google Trusted Photographer’ to his list of credentials. He is one of a group of around 60 photographers around Australia who Google has authorised to go into businesses and take those 360-degree interior photos which are increasingly appearing on the right hand side of (Google) web search pages. (See http://www.mapsbusinessviews.com.au/)
The presentation focussed pretty sharply on Google as the search engine and Chrome as the web browser, as this is by far the most common combination for web searches.
In terms of traffic, while Internet Explorer was dominant in 2009, ‘over time Chrome has gotten better and better and Internet Explorer worse and worse as more people shift across. If you haven’t got Google Chrome, download it because most of your customers are actually using it now.’
That is, you need to be seeing your website in the same format in which your customers are seeing it to be able to make an assessment of its quality. This is equally true of mobile views of your website in both Apple and Android operating systems.
He added that desktop is still the most popular medium for web searches but that more people are searching on mobile devices, especially at night.
And with Google searches comes (without us even asking for it!), Google My Business – that part of a Google listing over on the right of the screen which features a map and other details such as address, opening hours, customer reviews, etc. While this is valuable in itself and as far as many retailers might want to take it, this can be the basis for Google’s version of a Facebook page – a Google Plus page for your business.
Google My Business is available to all retailers who have a personal Google Plus account. Somewhat like Facebook, you use your personal account to create a searchable business listing. And the Google Plus page.
Claim your Google Plus account as a person first, then you set up your map page afterwards. You claim your map page as you would claim a Facebook business page.
The process is quite straightforward – after logging into Google Plus, go to google.com/business and simply follow the step–by-step instructions.
‘It doesn’t help with SEO but it does give customers a map to your store and he ability to go inside your store and check it out,’ Paul explained. And, of course, it’s ‘free’.
One thing not to do is to ‘claim’ your Google Plus account and then leave it dormant. This will just annoy prospective customers and give a bad impression of the business – much like a Facebook page which isn’t updated regularly.
Paul questioned the value of paying for a search listing when using Google Plus. For instance most Camera House stores are supported by Google Ads, with every click on the paid-for listing attracting a cost to Camera House – but over on the right hand side, Google Plus information is there at the top of the page anyway.
‘If the ad wasn’t there they would click anyway,’ he pointed out.
Clicking on ‘Maps’ rather than ‘Web’ when you do a search gives ‘a pretty good idea of whether you are going to be found.’ (A quick check of around half a dozen camera stores showed them all to be listed on Google Maps, with accompanying street view, although not all have interior views.)
Paul flagged a future in which these interior views would become more integrated with online retailing; eventually people will actually browse the shelves of these store interiors and be able to click on an items and buy it online.
He told retailers they shouldn’t assume that a Google Plus page wasn’t effective. His own Hydro Photographics Google Plus page has had over 2 million views, he said.
It’s right, right?
Paul advised retailers who already have a Google My Business page to check that all the details are correct – addresses in particular need to be in a standard format and often aren’t published exactly as anticipated.
It’s important, also, to make sure any citations your business might have – in the Yellow Pages, or White Pages or truLocal, for instance – are also correct. Website owners can have a Citation Search done on their site to check where they are listed and whether the listings are correct.
Website health checks
Website health is something which needs to be monitored, especially on a site in which content is changing regularly. There is a whole range of criteria which make a website work for you. Speed of response is perhaps the most important as prospective customers will move on if the website is sluggish.
Some other factors are obvious – having the correct name and a description of what the business does, for instance. He gave an example of a hotel business which also sold strata titles. Google mistakenly defined the business as a real estate agency. Meta descriptions allow you to influence how your web pages are described and displayed in search results. A good description encourages the viewer to click through to your site.
Others factors are more technical, such as ‘IP Canonicalization’: ‘Be careful, your server IP is not forwarding to your website’s domain name…This will result in duplicate content’ (pardon?), or the Inline CSS Test: ‘It’s a good practice to move all the inline CSS rules into an external file in order to make your page “lighter” in weight and decreasing the code to text ratio.’ (Too right!)
Paul introduced two nifty website check-up websites which will scan you site, check performance and generate a report. These are seositecheckup.com and woorank.com. Each is offered in a free or trial version.
Once you generate a report – complete with recommendations for improving performance – it can be shared with your web designer to tweak the site. (Although it might be a good idea to get a quote for the work first!)
While retailers need to make sure their search terms accurately describe the business they are in, they also need to file information in the right places.
If you haven’t filed information in the places that the Google spiders can find it, ‘it’s like throwing books through the front door of a library’, as Paul described it.
It’s also wise to use synonyms – so for instance a business which offered photo restoration should also include similar terms such as ‘alter original print’, ‘digital scan’, ‘computer graphics’.
Another free service, and one which the audience seemed more familiar with, was Google Analytics This service from Google generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources and for online retailers helps measure conversions and sales. The basic service – which is more than adequate for small retailers – is free of charge.
Google Analytics can track visitors from where they came from, including search engines and social networks, direct visits and referring sites – what they look at and where they leave your site. It also tracks display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents.