If you have a Web site development or redevelopment project in your strategic plans, don't ignore SEO.
Last year's holiday sales season wasn't so joyful for online retailers. But early reports indicate that things are looking up a bit this year. Initial Coremetrics data from Black Friday reveals that consumers spent 25 percent more this year, with orders totaling $170.19 on average -- an increase of about $44 over last year's average Black Friday order online.
While the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season turned out to be a relatively good day and a welcomed relief for many online retailers, the data doesn't necessarily indicate that the recession is entirely over. It simply shows that online shoppers are buying more gifts online this year than last year. We'll have to wait for brick-and-mortar sales reports to get the complete view of the kickoff of the holiday sales season, as well as data from Cyber Monday.
Coremetrics also reported an 18 percent increase in the average number of items purchased per order this year on Black Friday. Last year, it was 4.56 items per order, but this year it increased to 5.40 items. The upturn of $3.80 per average order isn't exactly substantial, but online retailers will take any sales improvements to the bank. After all, they worked for it, and more importantly, they planned for it.
Launch and Relaunch Planning
If you have a Web site development or redevelopment project in your strategic plans for 2010, don't ignore SEO (define) until after the site is launched or relaunched. Just as it takes a great deal of planning and coordination to produce successful holiday sales campaigns, it takes forethought and research to produce a search optimal Web site. Before you start working on any SEO project, you'll need to know three things:
Internal resources frequently make technology choices that can ultimately determine the success or failure of a site launch or redesign relaunch. These decisions are often made without considering SEO. Before you select your next content management system (CMS), make major navigational changes to your site's architecture, or add advanced site search functionality, you should remember that content is still king for search engine referrals.
Before you start evaluating technology platforms, you need to understand your target audience and what your messaging entails. That's the only way you can determine if your message is search engine relevant. And to do that, you'll need to get your marketing, advertising, and public relations team on the same page.
Of course, in smaller online organizations, the site design or redesign team could be comprised of you and you alone. If that's the case, then you'll need to break the project down into small, manageable tasks. For SEO considerations, the best way to go about this is to think in terms of building page templates that facilitate content optimization.
It's important that you try to bake keyword targeted themes into all available SEO attributes on a template-by-template basis. Keyword themes should center on relevant phrases that can drive search referred traffic and be rooted in substantive keyword research.
All SEO attributes should have bulk upload capabilities built into the CMS administrative functionality, but each SEO attribute should be readily editable for customization and tweaking. Content optimal templates should include, but aren't limited to the following SEO attributes:
Coremetrics had some interesting data on how users behaved on retail Web sites on Black Friday. The average bounce rate rose by nearly 40 percent, and browsing sessions decreased by 5 percent, suggesting that consumers were focused less on "window shopping" and more on specific items and deals. If shoppers couldn't find them on a specific Web site, they simply left and kept searching.
Next year, you can plan on keeping your bounce rates low if you make your content relevant for search during the design process.
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P.J. Fusco has been working in the Internet industry since 1996 when she developed her first SEM service while acting as general manager for a regional ISP. She was the SEO manager for Jupitermedia and has performed as the SEM manager for an international health and beauty dot-com corporation generating more than $1 billion a year in e-commerce sales. Today, she is director for natural search for Netconcepts, a cutting-edge SEO firm with offices in Madison, WI, and Auckland, New Zealand.
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