Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What's this SEO thing?

So anyone who has an online presence has probably heard at least once or twice, "You'll get more page views if you focus on you SEO."  I know as I started out with Stitch Silly I heard those words a lot.  My next question was, "What in the world are you talking about?"  I was pretty lost to be honest.  That is until I set out to really understand this part of the business.  As I began my research, my eyes were opened to a whole new world of information.

For instance, sites like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and other search engines have developed algorithms to go out and crawl the internet in order to identify keywords within your site then stores them in a database.  There are some crawling algorithms out there that you must pay to be included in, for instance, Yahoo operates like that, according to Wikipedia.  Being a free, open source person, I'm quite happy to learn there are free ones out there.  Specifically you don't need to pay Google to get your website or blog indexed into their system.

Ok, so you're indexed in a search engine now what?

Well there are a few things you should do in order to optimize your visibility.
  1. Tagging:  Tagging consists of strategically marking your products or blog posts with natural search terms.  For instance, say you were looking for these burp cloths.  There are several terms you may be interested in "googling."  You may just search, burp cloth, but according to my google search 1.7million results were found in .21 seconds.  I think it's pretty hard to stand out in that crowd.  What if I tried terry cloth burp cloths, 231,000 results in .23 seconds.  That's still tough to get noticed!  So you see the more natural the tags are in your product description, the more likely the chances of you getting noticed in this crazy world of the internet. 
  2. Back Linking: Back linking also called cross linking is a method of sharing information within your own site or when leaving comments on other's sites.  For instance, the link above is an example of a back link to my Etsy shop.  The more links you have going back to your shop, blog or whatever, the more likely that these crawling algorithms will pick up on your content.  There is a fine line you need to walk here.  You don't want to link every other word in your blog post to another website, but you also want to make it easy for readers to easily understand your perspective and to access the raw data.  Another draw back could be shameless self promotion, such as look at this new product and oh here's another great one I just did too, and another and another, etc.. Another way I will back link is if I reference someone else's blog post in one of mine, such as in this post about photography, I will typically go to that person's blog and leave a comment saying I linked to their site with a link back to that specific blog post.  This typically accomplishes a few things for me.  
    1. I let the blog author know that their content was referenced on another site.
    2. It lets the other readers of that blog know about my blog thus getting the name of Stitch Silly out to others who may not have heard of me.  
  3. Paid Advertising:  Paid Advertising will increase your chances of you getting higher in the search criteria, but this really falls into a whole new category called ad text optimization (ATO).  Using this method will help you minimize traffic dips as search engines continue to refine and change their crawling algorithms.  Many Etsians saw this traffic dip recently when Google changed their algorithm.  Personally, I have not used the paid advertising approach.  At this point in Stitch Silly's lifespan, we are building a solid localized customer base which is where most of our sales are currently coming from.  I welcome comments from readers who have used paid advertising to drive their SEO, shop views, and website hits to share their experience with the rest of us. 
There are many other means and methods to optimizing your SEO and therefore increasing the likelihood of you getting noticed.  My first recommendation is to focus on tagging, whether it be your blog, website, or product description.  Second, I would focus on back linking.

As I have increased my back linking to other blogs and within my own site, I have seen a significant increase in readership.  Since this blogs inception in May, I saw a 262% growth month over month increase in site visits, on track with this month to have a 116% month over month increase.  I cannot attribute it all to increased SEO, but I believe being more knowledgeable in the area is allowing me use my tags to the best of my ability.  My Etsy shop has not seen the same dramatic increase, but there are other factors at play, i.e. I have not been posting new products as frequently as I had planned due to customer orders I have been getting locally.

I believe that Google Analytics can help with my tagging, descriptions, and product titles, but I have not dug through all their documentation yet.  That's next on my list, keep your eyes peeled for new information about Google Analytics.   

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