Our tips for improving your online shop positions in Google Search
Please be aware that our free tips as given below were written a year or two ago by ourselves and may not be fully up to date now
NO TIME TO READ ? Go to (12) - the summary section
For an online shop to be a commercial success it needs to appeal to two completely different audiences ourselves human beings who like visually attractive sites and the search engines such as Google that provide the free clicks to sites, but who can only read text, but not graphics or videos.
Most if not all business/website owners are fully aware these days of the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in order to get good positions in Google, Yahoo & Bing. Since Google is the leading search engine everything we do with SEO is done with Google in mind. Get it right for Google and success with the others should follow !
According to www.google.com/corporate/tech.html Google have 200 different parameters in determining Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Many of these parameters are secret and given this, it's impossible to know every factor used for determining SERPs. Our tips for improving positions in Google SERPs are based on a mix of our own experience and what is already in the public domain.
We have listed the most important known factors along with our tips with our own marks out of 5, very important=5, non important=0 .
It is believed and worthwhile noting that Google operate approximately
50 global data centres, with approximately 15 in the USA and 2 in the UK and each of these will return different SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) according to where your connection to the Internet is. (If you want to see how your online shop appears in the USA visit the free proxy server www.sneakme.net and where its says enter URL, then enter www.google.com then enter your search in Google).
(1) Your Domain Name (5/5) - If you are starting with a new site, itís best to chose a domain name that contains relevant keywords. For example if you are AXBYCZ Ltd in Hampshire and you sell shoes, then ideally you would go for shoes.co.uk (that would have gone ages ago) but you should not go for axbycz.co.uk unless your company is well known or you are planning to spend a lot on marketing.
Whatever you choose, words should be in relevant plain English and HampshireShoes.co.uk (no longer our domain) could be an alternative to shoes.co.uk, albeit not as good. Google not only read your page TITLE (see 10) and other content in determining where you appear in their SERPs, but they also read your domain name/URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and are capable of reading word strings without the need of inter word spacing, hyphenation or word capitalisation.
We have used capitalisation in HampshireShoes.co.uk (no longer our domain) simply to emphasize the words used. Capitalisation can also make a domain name easier to read when displayed on screen or when printed, as in this leaflet.
Because root domains names/URLs are read back to front, our recommendation is that the high value keyword, in our example shoes, should ideally be at the back of your domain name. If you are just planning to sell in the UK, then you should find a .co.uk will be better than .com.
If you are already successfully running with your domain then you should not panic about changing, but you might like to consider our domain name advice for another online shop in the future. It is worth noting itís extremely unlikely a site with a co.uk domain will appear in say New Zealand any more than a .co.nz site will appear in the UK, unless that site has completely unique content that Google cannot find elsewhere.
So if you are also planning to sell outside the UK, say in Germany, we would recommend a dedicated online shop for Germany (and not just because of the language difference), with the domain name with the country extension .de (eg HampshireSchuhe.de). Ideally the .de name should be registered with an address in Germany and likewise the online shop should be physically hosted on a server in Germany, albeit this is not mandatory.
(2) Relevant Inbound Links (5/5) Extremely Important - Make sure you have as many relevant inbound links as possible from other sites, similar in subject matter to your site. A site without relevant inbound links is almost a dead site, unless it has unique content !!!!!
Search engines think of relevant inbound links as referrals and the more referrals a site has the better it must be and therefore worthy of being returned in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Links to a bad site are very unusual, so relevant links are always considered positive.
Having said that an online shop selling TVs and linking to say HampshireShoes.co.uk will count for nothing as there's no relevant linking. To examine how many links your site has, go to the Google search field and enter link:[your domain] For our website domain address that would be link:www.webstore.co.uk Then check the site that comes top in Google, for the chosen keywords for your market sector. No doubt you will find that will have lots more relevant inbound links than your online shop.
Trying to get relevant inbound links, ideally non reciprocal, is not easy ! Our suggestion is you should try asking your suppliers for a link (ideally included in content) from their site to your site but providing that they have a good Google PageRank (see 4). If they only sell through retailers, such as your company, they should be happy to do this. Outbound links from your site to other sites do little to help your own site and are of little use to other sites unless you have a Google PageRank.
If you want to provide a few outbound links, make sure your online shop is set up properly so new additional browser windows open on those links. Failing this visitors could be leaving your site too early.
Other good sources of inbound links for your site can be links from online blogs, forums and PR sites but those should be thought of as extras and your focus should always be on building those relevant inbound links.
Do not be tempted to buy into link exchange sites, as Google strongly disapprove of these and you could find that you will be heavily penalised by Google for using such sites. Google consider purchased links as cheating.
For further information on this visit
You can see how serious Google are about this since they now have a form to report paid links
Furthermore, relevant inbound links ideally non-reciprocal, more importantly need to be from other registrants sites. It is believed that Google check the registrants WHOIS domain records (see 3) and if these are found to be the same (eg one of your sites linking to another one of your sites) links can be of little or zero value.
As with the property business where it's all about location, location, location, for online shops it is all about third party natural relevant inbound links, third party natural relevant inbound links, third party natural relevant inbound links.
Regarding getting appearances in forums etc here are some ideas to possibly follow. Let's say you sell mens shoes. Then go to Google search and enter †:- "mens shoes" †"add comment" † and you should get a result like that seen at the following URL :-
and also do the same for "mens shoes" †"forum" with a result like that seen at the following URL :-
Needless to say you will need to change "mens shoes" to "[your product]"
That's the easy bit ! Now you will have to wade through all those relevant links/ sites and where appropriate get your Company & on-line shop a name mention but you should not do it blatantly and you should work your details into the appropriate thread respecting the T&Cs of that site.
You might be lucky to find some sites that don't require registration, others that require email verification and for forum's like say http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/ you'll need to get registered/ verified and you will not be able to add active web links until you have made 15~20 submissions.
It's hard work and might need 15~30-mins of your time each day to keep plugging away and of course there's no guarantee after all that work that your entries will get picked up by Google etc as inbound links, but you should still benefit from surfers seeing / clicking on your links.
There is a school of thought (ours) if you are making your own entries Google might spot this and not count those as inbound links - but don't let this put you off. Also maybe see if you can
get some of your customers to make such entries giving you a name mention.
(3) WHOIS Domain Records (5/5) - When registering a domain name, do not hide your physical name and address details (assuming that option exists), as this might lead to Google rating your site poorly or they might even ignore your site if registrant details can't be seen. A WHOIS record is the record that contains all the information about a domain name. The Internet registry for .uk domain names is www.nominet.org.uk where you can obtain details for any .co.uk record.
The record for our domain can be seen at http://webwhois.nic.uk/cgi-bin/whois.cgi?query=webstore.co.uk
(4) Google PageRankô (PR) (5/5) - Is a very general measure of a site's popularity and is based on relevant inbound links. Once you have relevant inbound links to your site then approximately 2~6 months later you should get a Google PageRank (PR) in the range PR 1/10 to PR 4/10. Ratings go to PR 10/10 but only very major sites get towards or to that level. You can view the Google PageRank for any site you visit if you have the Google Toolbar http://toolbar.google.com installed with your browser.
Until you get a Google PR your site is unlikely to be returned very much in SERPs where there's a lot of competition on relevant searched words.
This 2~6 month delay is known as the Google Sandbox effect. Google's reason is that they only want to rank established sites. This delay also helps encourage owners of new web-sites to use Google's pay-for-click service Adwords.
Even after getting a Google PR you could still find you need to use Google Adwords and other paid for services to boost visits and online sales.
(5) Holding Page (2/5) - While a new online shop is in build, we always recommend a suitable relevant holding online page with relevant inbound links as this could help reduce the wait for a Google PR.
(6) TITLE (5/5) - Your website page TITLE is what you see in the very top left hand side of your browser. It is the TITLE that appears in SERPs. If this stays fixed for each page, as seen in the top of your browser, then this is a very big negative.
Think of your online shop like a traditional filing cabinet, full of files. If those files are not properly tagged or they all have the same name on their tags, how is anybody going to find anything? Search engines work in the same way and rely heavily on the page TITLE and its relevance to the text content on the respective page.
With our online shop designs the page TITLE can be self managed for every category & product.
The key factor in determining the optimum TITLE for any given page is in anticipating the words surfers are most likely to use in Google looking for products that you sell in your online shop (see 12).
(7) Meta Description Content (4/5) - is hidden text in your site that Google uses to provide a short description in SERPs. As with TITLE this can be self-managed in our online shops.
(8) Meta Description Keywords (0/5) - is hidden text in your site, listing relevant keywords but these are not used by Google. As with TITLE these can be self-managed.
(9) Category & Product URLs (4/5) - as in (see 1) not only is your root domain of importance but the same applies to all page URLs especially for categories, products and information pages. For example www.HampshireShoes.co.uk/product123.html is not too good or helpful whereas www.HampshireShoes.co.uk/Mens/BlackPatentShoes.html is.
(10) Online Shop Page Content (5/5) - Mindful you have to appeal to two completely different audiences, humans & search engines, you need to make sure that each web page has plenty of relevant text content. Most importantly if you are selling shoes say, then the word shoes should ideally appear in your Domain Name, TITLE, Meta Descriptions and then appear several times within the Page Content. Likewise shoes images should carry the word shoes in the ALT tag (that's text relating to each image to help Google etc since search engines can't see graphics).
Search engines also like to see plenty of internal site links, in this case some ideally with the word shoes.
Do remember that Content is King and it is good content that is going to help attract natural relevant inbound links. To this end, try and avoid just having a sterile online shop solely full of products.
(11) Get as Much as Possible Online (4/5) - The more pages you have in your online shop, the better. The best way of thinking about this is in fishing terms. For example take a fisherman who only has one fishing line with one hook. He will only be able to catch one fish at a time. Now take a fisherman with lots of lines & hooks. He is likely to catch lots more fish in the same time. Web pages are a bit like hooks and the more pages you have, the more places your site is likely to appear in Google.
To this end you are far better to get as many pages and more specifically category & product pages online as possible. To find out how many pages Google has indexed on your site go to the Google search field and type in the words site:[your domain]. For our website that would be site:www.webstore.co.uk
Having said that even although Google may have indexed "n" hundred or "n" thousand pages,
you will probably find that only a few will initially appear in Google SERPs but in the course of time (could be months to years) more pages could appear according to the popularity of your site.
(12) Getting good positions in Google SERPs (5/5) - In summary to get your site high in Google SERPs you need relevant inbound links (see 2); properly formed page TITLEs (see 6); properly formed Meta Description Contents (see 7); Category / Page URLs (see 9) and Page Content (see 10). The following provides Bad & Good examples of fictitious search results using the example domain/ URL HampshireShoes.co.uk (which we no longer have) relating to a pair of mens black patent shoes:-
(a) Search Engine Result 1 - BAD Example
Hampshire Shoes for all your footwear needs [TITLE]
We offer the best prices for shoes in Hampshire. We are open 7-days a week for ladies & gents shoes [META DESCRIPTION CONTENT]
www.hampshireshoes.co.uk/mens/blackpatentshoes.html [PAGE URL]
The above page URL link relates to mens black patent shoes. As such expectation should be if somebody types in "mens black patent shoes" or "black patent shoes" or "mens patent shoes" into Google, the above link should appear high in Google search results - SORRY NO CHANCE !
The problem is that "mens black patent shoes" does not appear in the TITLE ! It's absolutely critical to have that and also there's no mention of "mens black patent shoes" in the META DESCRIPTION CONTENT The only thing that is correct, is the PAGE URL but that's completely useless without the TITLE being correct with such competitive keywords.
Needless to say, one assumes that the page content is well structured and that the words "mens black patent shoes" appear at least a few times within the descriptive text on the page for blackpatentshoes.html Another problem with the above is that the TITLE is too long and full of irrelevant words.
Nobody is going to enter the words "Hampshire Shoes for all your footwear needsĒ. The key is keep the TITLE short, direct to the point and use keywords surfers are most likely to key into Google to find that particular product.
(b) Search Engine Result 2 - GOOD Example
Mens Black Patent Shoes [TITLE]
Mens Black Patent Shoes in sizes 6 to 11 at discount prices, same day free shipping, callers welcome at our shop [META DESCRIPTION CONTENT]
www.hampshireshoes.co.uk/mens/blackpatentshoes.html [PAGE URL]
The reason why the above should produce a good result is because Google can index the page TITLE as "mens black patent shoes" and that those words also appear in the META DESCRIPTION CONTENT and PAGE URL.
The only downside is that if there are 10 other sites with same or similar wording in the TITLE etc and those 10 other sites have more relevant inbound links than yours and better Google PRs, chances are you might find yourself appearing at position 11 and mindful that most surfers select the first 1 to 5 sites of their search results, all your efforts might go to waste simply because of insufficient relevant inbound links.
Since the above information is given for free and is not complete, we make no warranties as to the impact of applying our advice. The above text is copyright of Web-Store Ltd 2007 ~2010 and may not be reproduced without our express written permission.