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Thursday
Oct062011

SEO Initial Search Engine Comparison

So my eCommerce site, Pet Pawfection, has been up and running for about two months now. I've noticed some interesting differences in the search engines to date.

Indexing

Google started indexing the site within the first week or two after I submitted a site map in its webmaster tools. The indexing was pretty aggressive. By the end of the first month, just about every page in the site map was indexed. I also signed up for every related Google service I could find: AdWords, Analytics, Merchant Center, etc. That may have helped Google notice me but I can't be sure.

Yahoo was the next to start indexing but it took about a month for that to start happening. The indexing was frustratingly slow, and to date, Yahoo has only indexed 20-30 percent of the site.

Bing was the latest to the indexing party. Bing finally noticed me a couple of weeks ago and has now passed Yahoo in the number of pages indexed. I estimate about one fourth of my site's pages are now indexed on Bing. Not too bad for a couple of weeks worth of indexing. I plan to update a lot of the product pages (the pages not yet indexed) with more content so hopefully that will help.

Webmaster Tools

IMO, Google has the best webmaster tools, especially when you factor in Google Analytics. Yahoo and Bing were both initially showing inconsistent indexing metrics from one page of the webmaster tools to the next. This problem seems to have gone away in Bing now that more pages are indexed. Yahoo still has some issues on the Statistics page. Yahoo's webmaster tools will be shut down at some point (a result of the merger into Microsoft), but only traffic data from Yahoo is currently being shown in the Bing tools. I still take a peek in the Yahoo tools to compare pages indexed but that is about it.

Back Links

Back links are links from external sites to your own site. Even being late to the game, Yahoo was the first to register most of the back links to my site. To date, it still has the best list. Bing actually displayed back links similar to what Yahoo registered even before indexing began in earnest. This is possible because most back links are targeted at my home page, the first page to be indexed in all of the search engines.

Google was the last to register back links. This is odd since it started aggressively indexing my site soon after I launched it. I suspect it noticed the back links much sooner but just didn't display them in the webmaster tools. So don't be surprised if this happens to you.

Search Results (SERPs)

I haven't done a thorough evaluation of search results but I have noticed one interesting difference. Google provides the best results so far for long tail keywords that appear on my site. However, Bing and Yahoo provide much better results for searches involving my blog topics (The Lap Pack). I'm not sure why there is a difference. I'm going to pay special attention to this disparity over the next month to see if it is just a fluke or something I should be concerned about.

The Skinny

So if you are just starting out on your own web site adventure, be patient. It will take months for your site to be fully indexed with back links and all of the other things you want the search engines to notice. Start with these steps to get the ball rolling:

  • Make sure your site is easy to navigate for both humans and search engines.
  • Make sure your site is full of rich content with as little repetition as possible. Humans and search engines love this!
  • Register your site with Google, Bing and Yahoo webmaster tools and be sure to provide a link to your site map for each. Do the same for any associated blogs you have.

There are many other things you can do, like immersing yourself in the world of SEO, but the three basic steps above are the most important.

Saturday
Aug132011

SEO Trial By Fire

I didn't know the term SEO from Adam a month ago. It stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the practice of optimizing a web site to perform better in commercial search engine rankings. It may sound pretty straightforward at first, but as I quickly found out, SEO is an ongoing set of activities that involve numerous aspects: site content, structure, keywords, marketing to name a few. I am using the term SEO broadly here because most other people do. Just trying to keep it simple!

So why is SEO important? Well, if you just launched a new eCommerce site, company site or blog, your success will largely be determined by how much traffic you can drive to your site. Where does most traffic come from? You guessed it, search engines. And search engines are fickle little beasts that like to keep secrets!

A whole industry exists around SEO, but since I am on a very tight budget with my current eCommerce effort, I have no choice but to tackle it on my own. I am already well into the process and learning every day as I go. I know there are many people in my situation so I want to share a few resources I used to jump start my in-house SEO practice.

Search Engine Optimization: An Hour A Day

The first resource is a book called Search Engine Optimization: An Hour A Day, Second Edition. I purchased the Kindle version of this book after doing quite a bit of research. Other than the good ratings, I was attracted to this book for two reasons: respected authors with a great SEO resource web site and the hands-on, hour a day approach. The web site is a great resource on its own - especially the blog and resource sections. The book itself presents a wealth of useful tools, techniques and information for SEO noobs like me. The meat of the book starts in Chapter 6 and this is where I think the book begins to shine.

There are certainly other great books out there, but if you are new at this and just looking for where to start, you can't go wrong with this one.

SEOmoz

Interesting name, right? Well, SEOmoz is probably the biggest online presence in the SEO world. Although this site offers a pretty pricey set of tools, it is also a great online resource and community for beginners and experts alike. If you are new at this like me, I suggest starting with The Beginners Guide to SEO. It does a great job of explaining in a very friendly, patient way what SEO is, why you should care and what you need to do to benefit from it.

Be Curious

It is tempting to just barf out a huge list of links but the two resources above will give you a great introduction to the world of SEO and provide plenty of additional resources to really dig in. Now, gotta run and optimize some page titles...

Monday
Aug082011

My First eCommerce Site Goes Live

After a month of late nights and weekends, I launched the eCommerce site for my wife's (Lisa's) new business, Pet Pawfection. I have a pretty varied background but this was a new experience for me to say the least!

So what is Pet Pawfection?

Lisa has become quite the little entrepreneur these days. She was doing a nice business on eBay with jewelry, and although business was good, she was having trouble scaling it up to something she could do full time. This was compounded by the heavy fees eBay imposes on its sellers. She decided to sell off her inventory and try something else.

So what to do? Every great success story starts with an idea, so Lisa focused on the things she enjoyed most in life. After all, if you don't love what you do, how can you expect to put in all of the hard work required to get a new business off the ground? She eventually settled on something involving dogs. Lisa and I have always loved dogs. We currently have 3 King Charles Spaniels named Roxy, Ronnie and Nancy. These little buggers are so much fun to be around!

Our dogs have this unfortunate habit of running around the house and, believe it or not, outside in front of our neighbors with no clothes! All kidding aside, there are many people out there who are crazy about their little dogs and want to dress them up. With that in mind, Lisa decided to focus her next business on the following major themes:

  • Boutique quality pet clothes and accessories at affordable prices
  • Gourmet dog treats with all natural ingredients that are good for dogs

With some input from me, she also decided the following qualities were important for her business:

  • Partner with local dog rescue groups and animal shelters
  • Provide the best customer service possible
  • Create a high quality, professional looking site void of clutter that is easy to navigate

These qualities will be extremely important in the months to come. Partnering with dog rescue groups and shelters via events and fundraisers allows Lisa to help dogs and other pets in need as her business grows. Right now she plans to offer 15% of sales at events and fundraisers for each group she works with. At some point she hopes to devote a percentage of all sales to groups that support animals.

Since eCommerce sites rely heavily on repeat customers, it is important that we treat every customer like royalty. This means making it easy for customers to reach us, being responsive and giving them the benefit of doubt when problems arise. We also want to interact with our customers and partners via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. This will be a full time job alone but will make or break us in the end!

When researching other pet sites, I was amazed at how unprofessional most of them looked. Many of them also tended to be cluttered and confusing. I've gotta believe this is a killer to keeping people on your site. We want the Pet Pawfection site to be warm, inviting and easy to understand.

So those are the basics of what Pet Pawfection is.

Pet Pawfection, The Site

Quite a lot of things went into making this site a reality. I hope to explore some of them in this blog over time. One of the first things I had to do was decide on an eCommerce platform. I ultimately chose Shopify for its simplicity and its developer friendliness. Yeah, it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles that clutter up other eCommerce platforms, but it has everything I need and makes it very easy to develop additional features. I'm really looking forward to growing the site on this great platform. Thank you Shopify!

The current site certainly isn't perfect, but I'm very happy with it so far. Much more to come on that topic...