I can’t recall how many times a prospective client has come along where my initial thought was “wow – this one’s going to take 250 hours of SEO to get them to even compete with all the sites that have been there for years”. Sometimes that turns out to be the case, while at other times, the majority of sites are so poorly optimized that the biggest hurdle is their longevity in the SERPs and maybe inbound link depth.
While the inbound link depth is one that can be the most challenging, ensuring your client’s site is highly optimized and deep enough in non-duplicate content usually overcomes some, or even all of that depending on how you go about it.
Where this can get complicated is often in dealing with a site that’s built either on an off-the-shelf content management system (CMS) or one that was built by a single web development company in a proprietary framework. In these situations, you’re going to need to get what might turn out to be some serious customization in place both in that CMS and on the front end. Just as often you’re going to need the underlying database modified.
Warning! This is another one of my more extensively detailed articles. So grab that latte’ or cup of chai before reading further…
This past August, I wrote an article entitled Six Rules for Custom ECommerce SEO that gives a solid foundation of the “how-to” for customizing and automating search optimization. That article covers issues including URL structure at the category/sub-category/product detail page level, and a few other ways to automate your work.
In this article, I want to carry that to the front end of the site. Not just for eCommerce sites though. Both that article and this one include methods that can be applied to any site that involves drill-down navigation.
Going Beyond WordPress-Like Functionality
If you’ve spent any serious amount of time in the blogosphere, a lot of what I’m about to show you will already make sense just from how well WordPress offers much of this functionality, though here I’m going to turn it up a notch even beyond what you can get from blog software, because I don’t want to get a bunch of #Fail comments. I’m paranoid like that, ya know?
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to use the field of Stock Photography as the product offering, but the fact is that you really can apply this to just about any type of products or services.
Now don’t go running to Google and seeing if what I’m showing you has gotten me results in the stock photography field. Because you won’t find any site I’ve optimized in this niche. Instead, I’m taking what has worked for me in other markets and applying it to the first market that came to mind as I, myself was looking for stock photos this past month.
From The Top
All too often I see sites that have top level landing pages semi-optimized or not optimized at all. Now, I understand that this is often because graphic designers think from a minimalist perspective, or clients demand an “uncluttered” look. That’s all good and fine if your client doesn’t care about being found through organic results, or if the niche they’re in is so thin that all you need are quality page titles, or if you have the time to build 45,000 quality inbound links.
Since we’re talking about taking this to the next level, let’s talk about the anatomy of your top level landing page.
1. Naming The Entire Group Properly
I can’t tell you how often I go to a site at this level and see the Title, URL and heading all say “Gallery” or “Catalog”. This is one of the saddest things going. There must be fifty million pages on the web that use one of those words as the ONLY name for such pages. Or how about “Our Gallery” or “Online Gallery”?
Please people – let’s drive home the importance of proper phrase implementation at the highest level.
So if you’re dealing with a stock photo site, insist on having each of these critical elements properly seeded.
2. Optimized Content
Here’s the next big flaw in most sites – there’s no content on these pages. None. Just a bunch of pretty pictures and maybe one word captions. One of the best ways you can beat the competition is to insist on getting actual content onto these pages. It may be as simple as the example above, or it may require more content. You may not be allowed to have it appear above the photos, but if it’s not, then you’ll probably need more than you would if it were higher in the page.
3. Avoid Ugly Repetition When Possible
Sometimes you can’t avoid it – you just need to have every link or every caption include the primary phrase – so instead of seeing captions “sports”, “landscapes”, “people”, you end up with “sports stock photos”, “landscapes stock photos”, etc. Well, there’s a couple flaws in this. First, it can look butt-ugly. And since we’re probably already alienating the site’s designer, we want to avoid that if possible. Second, look at the example “landscapes stock photos” – how many people search with that kind of phrase? A lot less than people searching for “landscape stock photos”. This gets even more difficult if you’re stuck with having to use the category names your client insists on.
Worse, even if you spend time training the site owner or their 16 year old kid (you know – the one they get to do site maintenance so they don’t have to pay a professional) you can’t control what they’re going to type in for category names right?
So how do we compensate for this?
Image Alternate Attributes.
Don’t assume this is one you don’t need to have customized. Sure, most of us know this is a fundamental thing – getting the Alt attributes seeded. Except in most eCommerce systems I’ve seen, the Alt attribute is either automatically set to repeat another field (like the category name) or it’s not even built into the system. Just because the caption is one word doesn’t mean the alternate attribute has to be.