In earlier blogs we spoke about how catalogs drive online sales. As catalogers, we know what must be done to use our catalogs to drive people online. But, ask yourself this: are your product pages ranking? If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” it’s time to start thinking Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are two main ways to get your pages to rank. The first is PPC (PayPerClick) where your company actually bids for a place on the first page search results. Budget is what you need to do this. The second is good old fashioned hard work utilizing basic SEO practices where your page will organically find itself to the top of the search engine food chain.

This is an important topic for catalogers because we don’t want to lose our valued customer to other retailers simply because their product pages are ranking better. And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news here, but it’s the e-tailers that are getting ahead using SEO practices. But as we know from our Steve Lett presentations, the catalog is King. So let’s treat it that way and give it a place to live. Here are a few basic practices to get you started on SEO:

  1. Diversify Your Content:   According to the Lett Direct’s SEO guys (Greg Lett and Geoffrey Hineman), if the Catalog is KING of marketing, then content is most certainly King of SEO. When thinking SEO, we must think content content content. It’s time to leave those one sentence descriptions behind. If you are using a digital version of your catalog, for example, make sure the content and verbiage is different than what’s on your webpage. For each product that you offer you want different content. Different from each other and different from other retailers who are advertising the same, or similar, content. Why? It gives search engines more material to grab on to during a search. For this reason, you do not want to use the packaged description of a product you sell, say a Nikon digital camera, which is also sold at multiple other companies. Let’s not even try to compete with Amazon. You want your content to be unique, but recognizable and you want to utilize as many key phrases as you can.
  2. Create a Blog for Your Website:  If you do not yet have a blog for your website, it’s time to start considering it. Consider the physical retail experience. You’re shopping for a guitar or a fishing pole. The sales clerk will often educate you on the product to help you decide which one to buy. But when we’re shopping online we tend to lose the personalized approach and, worse, the education that goes along with it. Because people learn from other people it is easy to see how a blog not only adds more relevant content that better suites the search engines, but it heightens the user’s experience as well. See below an image from of their blog.
    SEO - Catalogs - Gifttree Blog
    Notice how they use updated relevant and interesting information to sell their flowers? Go take a look for yourself. GiftTree is educating their readers, creating an experience for their consumers, and fleshing out their content. Now their website will not only come up for consumers searching for a place to buy flowers, but also for people researching flower varieties.
  3. Allow Customers to Review Your Products:   Above, I said diversify your content. Now I’m saying allow your faithful customers to do it for you…for FREE! We all know how costly and time consuming content writing can be. Don’t use this as an excuse to ignore optimization. In the end, it will cost you a lot more not to. Don’t see the relevance? When is the last time you were directed to Amazon for a product you were searching for based off key words pulled from a customer review? It happens all of the time. Try it for yourself. Amazon has made itself into a resource to learn and they’re just packed full of content.
  4. Title Tags Create a Virtual Window Display to Beckon the Attention of Your Consumers:  Consumers love window shopping and it is no different online. It’s just a larger shopping plaza. So how can you beckon your shoppers? How do you succeed in getting more catalog requests, more Lifetime Valued shoppers? Make a better window display. Flag the traffic to your catalog. How? With key phrases that you use throughout your diversified content. Title Tags is a great place to start. Many of you who are familiar with HTML have probably heard the term before. A title tag is what is used in the top line of a web browser. As a result, many search engines use title tags in search listings. Are you beginning to see the importance? You want to make sure each title tag on your website uses relevant key phrases. For example if I had a website selling handcrafted jewelry, my title tag on the merchandise or catalog page might read something like “Gold, Silver, Handcrafted, Affordable, Low Priced Jewelry at Jewelry Market Lisbon Maine.” rather than just “Merchandise” or “Online Store.”
    SEO-Catalogs- Google Search Results
    Let me give you another example. First, let’s pick a topic and do a search for it so we can see how everything we’ve said here all comes together. Let’s look up something non retail related. Let’s research something to do with summer. How about: “what is the debris in my pond?” The results are going to look something like this:I want to draw your eye closer to one of the search results here. Do you see them? It’s a cataloger.blogs_catalogs_snippet_062513See how the search engine pulled the title tags into the search? But more, do you see where the tags were pulled? That’s right, from the blog on their website. The title tag was not just “Blog, The PondGuy”. The title tag was “How do I remove algae and debris from my waterfall? | Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A. The Pond Guy’s Blog”.

    So you see how this cataloger is drawing traffic to their website with content and title tags. Are you beginning to see the importance of creating a blog and then using all of that together to draw traffic? Now just maybe while I’m here reading about water debris, I will request a catalog or, better, order something for my pond.

SEO is daunting because there is no set formula. Each retailer needs to start in a different place and more often than not it turns into a puzzle. Although, these are simple tips that can be done off a budget to increase your success rate, bringing in an SEO professional is definitely beneficial. The idea, Greg and Geoffrey say, is that it is very difficult to compete with other sites, especially those like Amazon. You want your product to be purchased at your site without any percentages being paid out to third parties. Hiring an SEO professional who can jump head deep into online and offline page optimization will give you “more bang for your buck.” That said, with a little time, dedication, and education, SEO practices can be done on your own.

In the end, you want to remember that your catalog and your website must work together to create an easy enjoyable fun shopping experience for your customers. Just having a website is not enough to break through the competition. You can’t race motorcycles with a pedal bike, but you can build a motor that can. After all, the world is changing. How will you decide to travel?