I know that I know what I’m talking about here, but you may not be so sure. In case you’d like to know, just 5 days after my latest site went live, it ranked number one in Google for “Hot Rod Glamour Shots”. That also happens to be our business slogan. Nice, huh? Really nice. Take a look, then let’s move on. I want to help you make a better looking site for your business, and explain how you can get some Google-love in the process.
What we used to put our site together
We wanted a WordPress theme that screamed “classy”. We wanted an upscale look to LizotteStudios.com. Classy, simple, and a theme that put the focus on our images. We needed something to showcase our photography, but something that would allow us to have private galleries and ecommerce for online proofing and print ordering, as well. We chose the Photocrati theme. It did all of these things very well.
We did do two things a little differently, though. The way we price our photo packages requires us to be able to take coupon codes. The ecommerce in Photocrati does not accept coupons at this time, so we went with the ecommerce plugin we use on several other of our sites: WP-eStore, from Tips n Tricks. We also use their Affiliate Management Plugin to handle our revenue sharing with guest photographers. And although Photocrati’s galleries are easy to use and absolutely stunning, we couldn’t get our ecommerce plugin to work the way we wanted with them, so in some places (like the home page for instance) we use Photocrati’s gallery, but in places where we need ecommerce infrastructure, we chose to go with NextGen Gallery. This wasn’t a problem either. As of last summer, NextGen is also owned/supported by the Photocrati people, so we weren’t concerned with integration issues.
Last, but not least, we host 6 sites on Dreamhost. We really like them. Unlimited sites, email, bandwidth, etc., starting as low as $8.95 per month if you pay for your first year or two in advance. Use the coupon code: DoinkSave20 if you’d like to save $20 when you sign up. Check them out here. The “unlimited” part is very important when you’re hosting and serving up a huge number of 10 megabyte files!
Important points you should remember when designing your business website
1. Google is your friend. Google is not your target customer! Too many people think Google is their customer. Google isn’t. Don’t ignore Google when planning your site, but design your site and write your content for your target market, not for Google. Google wants to serve up search results for sites that are easy to use and informative for people. If you write for people, and do it well, Google will love you for it. Don’t piss off your customers by doing all sorts of keyword-stuffing in product or post titles. Use common sense. Keep keywords in mind, obviously, but remember, Google doesn’t purchase your product. People do. If you build it for people, Google will come.
2. Content is king. Make sure you give all the information your customer needs. Measurements, weights, variations available, etc. Don’t leave them wondering…they’ll go somewhere else. Make sure your descriptions are complete. Make sure your photos look professional. Show them related products if you can. Google loves content, too. Putting a blog page on your business site helps keep the content fresh. You’ll do better with Google if you are consistently adding new content. Related content.
3. Photos are important. Use them where you can. Make sure they are clear and professional. If you can, try to maintain some sort of consistency with your backgrounds. And label your photos. People like that. So does Google. If you already have photos on your site, go look at them. Are they all in focus? Are they all labeled and tagged? If not, this one small change could do wonders for your site. By the way, did you notice how large the thumbnails are in our galleries? We don’t want our customers to have problems seeing what we want them to see. You might think about using larger images on your site, too. Be aware though, there is a trade-off on image size and page loading time. Find the right balance for your site and your customers.
4. Your contact information should be easy to find. Do you want to do business with a site that doesn’t list a phone number or even an email address if you have questions or problems? I don’t. I won’t. Have a contact page with all your contact information, including an address (even if it’s just a Post Office Box). Put your phone number or email in other places on your site where people might have questions. If you’re scared to talk to your customers, then you shouldn’t be in business. If you don’t want to talk to your customers, send them to me. I’ll be very happy to talk to them! Just don’t expect to get them back.
5. Keep your customers on your site, don’t send them away! How many sites do you see with an overwhelming number of Google Adwords or other links in their sidebars? Limited links are just fine when they make sense, but I’ve seen far too many ecommerce sites that are just littered with outlinks. That makes me wonder: Are they selling a real product in their store, or are they selling ads for someone else?
In summary, having a great site isn’t difficult. It takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, but none of it is too difficult. It’s about common sense. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes when you’re working on your site. What would help them? What would make it easier for them? Are your policies clearly explained? And fair? Can they contact you if they have issues? Would you buy from your own shop?
Design your site for your customer. They will love you for it. So will Google. And if you have legendary customer service, you’ll also have a lot of repeat customers. Life is good.