Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas Services–Where Have you Hidden Yours?

Matches Fashion Christmas Page










Sometimes I wonder what kind of business online retailers think they are in, in that they hid so many of their good conversion messages and information deep within the buying process……such as; ‘yes we do gift wrap’, but we’re only going to tell you about it when you get to checkout, and; ‘yes you can have your order delivered by courier to Holland’ but again, we’ll tell you about it later.

Matches Home Page Christmas

It was with not a lot of surprise that I discovered Matches Christmas Services page today – after all, they’ve been at this game for quite a while, however they deserved a special mention as this year they’ve surpassed what they’ve done before and not only linked all their services to their home page, but also created a special Christmas at Matches page offering everything at a glance, and enticingly so as well.

This one is well worth checking out and making a note of, you probably haven’t left it too late this year, but just in case you don’t have the time to change anything right now, remember it for next.  You’ll find it here, in any case, just to remind you…………….

Monday, 6 December 2010

What’s in a Name?…………The Importance of a Relevant URL

Chris Colour for Online Fashion BusinessYou may think this isn’t the time of year to be thinking about this – everyone’s so busy with Christmas, however with the sheer volume of online sales expected this year there will be plenty of wannabe online retailers out there thinking (belatedly) hmmmmm….. it’s really time I went online.

Obviously if you’re already well known you are going to stick to your brand name and I hope you secured the domain a while back otherwise you’ll probably find it’s been taken by a.n.other which would be infuriating as it will cost good money to get it back…..if you can.

Otherwise you need to have a name that is relevant to your product or service, is not so generic (no matter how clever you think you are) that search will not work properly for you and the more relevant and unique it is to your product or service the better it will be. I have three, for my website and my blogs, which are www.thesiteguide.com, www.webhints.co.uk and www.glamoursleuth.com and whilst not perfect you may well say, you have a rough idea what they are about before you decide to click.

So if it’s right now that you are considering going online keep the words ‘relevant’ and ‘SEO’ in mind. There are so many seriously bad, not thought-through URLs out there. Please don’t add to the list……………

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Twitter Tips: What your Twitter Pic says About You

There are some quite extraordinary profile pics on Twitter, from shop fronts to logos to fancy dress and more. But do you ever stop to think what the people talking to you would like to see - and what's going to make them listen to what you have to say.

If Twitter is about the conversation, surely you want to know who you're talking to? I for one block immediately anyone who doesn't have a picture I can relate to, and I far prefer to chat to people whose faces I can see.

If you're a household name, a major brand or store (such as ASOS) a national newspaper or you only tweet or retweet news on a specific subject (and have thousands of followers, such as @tweetsmarter) then you can get away with a logo or symbol that viewers will instantly recognise. If you're trying to establish yourself as an individual 'voice' on Twitter then for goodness sake let us see what you look like, we're far more likely to want to respond that way.................

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Email Marketing Tips – Five Ways to make it Work for You

Patricia's PicThis is assuming, of course, that you’re already running an email marketing campaign……I was talking to a business recently with whom I’m doing some consultancy work and it dawned on me that they weren’t. Weren’t what? Well communicating with their customers, the visitors who happened on their site through a link on another website, the world out there who might be interested in hearing their news, their successes, their awards, their opinions and anything that might make those customers/visitors want to come back again and order from them.

If social media is all about building conversations, email marketing is the cornerstone – the way to keep your prospects/customers/friends close, to keep in contact and to tell them what you’re about. To not do it, in my view, is a complete waste of a huge opportunity.

Here are the basic rules:

Put your sign-up box ‘above the fold’ make it attractive and interesting. Just having the word ‘Newsletter’ is not enough. Make it a proper sign-up box – people love to fill in the blanks and name and email address will do just fine, thanks.

Make it possible for everyone who visits your website to sign up. You want as many as possible whether they are your existing customers or new visitors. They may go on and sign up for your ‘Free Trial’ or they may not. It doesn’t matter. If they’re so interested in you that they’ve landed on your home page you want to know who they are. And then be able to talk to them. And if they’re not already, convert them to customers.

Create an email template that is attractive and easy to use. The less complicated the better. Make sure that your logo is clear, your mission statement is clear and anything that you always want to show is built into your template – such as the message ‘Now sign up for our Free Trial’ at the foot of every email you send out. That way it won’t take you long to create your message and you can concentrate on that, rather than having to worry that the essential elements are included all the time.

I use a system called eshot which is incredibly quick and easy to set up. This is run by my developers at www.e2esolutions.co.uk and we’re still speaking (well most of the time) after working together for eight years, which must say something about them, me, or both of us. I suspect it’s the latter. If you’d like an introduction let me know.

Whatever you do do not go for a system where you are charged by address, but one with a fixed fee within certain parameters. This way you are free to email whenever you want to and even if your list grows like topsy you will not pay as much.

Make your Subject Line as Interesting as Possible. Your subject line is what will determine whether your email is read or not. It needs to arresting and interesting. Ideally you will test different subject lines for the same content but if this isn’t possible don’t try and be too clever, but do go for something attention grabbing.

Email your list regularly, although don’t go for overkill, and make your newsletters friendly and interesting. If you can’t write find someone who can. You want to entice your audience to read what you send, not to yawn, say ‘oh for goodness sake not another one from them’ and delete you. The general idea is that they sit up when you send something as they know it’ll be amusing, informative and relevant.

Include links whenever it makes sense but make sure they always open in a new window. Readers online love to click on text links and picture links – test the best format for you but I think you will find that the more the better, provided again they are all relevant to what you are writing about.


Make sure that people can opt out or unsubscribe. This option has to be available with every email you send out. Period.

Check all your links, both text and picture links. I am as guilty as the next person of sending emails with broken links and anyone who says they haven’t ever done this I suspect is not being totally honest. So check and re-check. Preview your newsletter in a browser, then send it to yourself and check again.

If I am writing dedicated emails for retail clients I send a preview to them as well so that they can check too. Some time, some day, someone is going to find a link that doesn’t work. You would much rather it was you than someone else. Believe me.

If you haven’t already please consider concentrating on your email campaign – it can be very rewarding, create loyalty and increase your sales. Contact me if you want help. But just do it. It’s all part of the conversation.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Five Things to do to your Website This Week

In all the frantic rush of getting ready for Christmas – getting Christmas products up (if they’re not up already) and sorting the logistics of coping with what will undoubtedly be a busier Christmas online this year than last (IMRG/Capgemini forecast that £6.4 billion will be spent online this December, as against £5.5 billion last year) it’s very easy to forget that there are simple things you should be doing to your website to make sure that you reap the benefit of the huge numbers of people who are going to be flocking online in 2010 to do their Christmas shopping.

restoration hardware screen shot

Make your home page look inviting and festive.  Even though it may be early, the excitement about Christmas is gearing up and you only have to look at www.restorationhardware.com and www.netaporter.com to see how a subtle move towards the Christmas gift and party spirit will help to build anticipation.  The full blown season is only a couple of weeks away with the peak online shopping week predicted to start on November 29th.  Make sure you’re ready for it. 

netaporter screen shot

It’s too easy to make festive look tacky, by the way if you haven’t got the resources of these two great online retailers.  Subtle has to be the name of the game.

Be absolutely clear about your Christmas delivery policy and shout about it from your home page.  Don’t even think of hiding Delivery within T & C’s.  People need to know very quickly what your last delivery dates will be for Christmas, so start telling them now and they’ll bookmark your site into their emergency list for that last minute guest they may have forgotten about. 

Make them search for the info?  Forget it.  They won’t bother.  And if you’re not already offering next day delivery with a reliable courier I suggest you consider it now, even if it costs.  You’ll be amazed at how many are willing to pay the extra.

Offer Gift Wrap if you’re not already doing so.  I know, it may be a bore, but you want that person who’s looking for a gift to be sent on their behalf up to Birmingham from Devizes to come to you, don’t you, rather than to someone who’ll wrap, write the tag with a personalised message and send out on their behalf?  If you don’t you will lose sales.  If necessary bring in the extra help - you will get the extra orders.  And shout about that from your home page as well.

Email your customer/subscriber base NOW with information about your new services and remind them of your best sellers by featuring them with a short lifespan special offer.  Use pictures and content links of your best sellers.  These are the most likely to get them to come back to you. 

When I am writing dedicated newsletters for retailers I always ask them for their six to eight top sellers.  There’s always a temptation to feature items that you want to get rid of.  Don’t do that at this time of year.  What you want is as much relevant traffic as possible to your website to remind them of what’s there now and how you’ll be helping them over Christmas.

Make sure your visitors know you are to be trusted.  Never take this for granted.  You know you’re honest, efficient and reliable but how are the casual browsers that arrive on your site through search or your Adwords campaign going to know?  There are frankly just too many websites out there.

Display the ISIS logo if you are a member prominently on your home page, and if possible offer independent customer reviews by a company such as www.feefo.com  – in this viral marketplace news travels exceptionally fast.  Make sure that all the news, good or bad, comes to you so that you can respond, and show your visitors that you care about what your customers think about you and are not afraid to show it. 

Showing that you are a member of an accreditation scheme and offering customer reviews are two excellent ways of establishing trust and loyalty with your visitors and customers.

There are two retailer offers, for ISIS and for Customer Reviews which you can click through to in the retailers section at thesiteguide.com

Clearly display your Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode logos on your home page if these are applicable to you as well and any other accreditation schemes or awards.  Do not keep these for your payment page or About us Page, and do not hide them for the sake of a ‘clean home page’ which is something I so often hear.  Shout about them.  Your visitors need to know. 

Take a look at these home pages and you’ll see what I mean - http://www.coast-stores.com/  http://www.my-wardrobe.com/  http://www.sogifted.co.uk/ – whether it’s secure payment methods, Feefo customer reviews or ISIS – they all display them loud and clear.

If this sounds a lot to do it really isn’t and everything here will help you be prepared with the Christmas rush, when there’s barely time to grab that cup of coffee, let alone make changes to your website.  Start now and this Christmas will be better than ever – and online.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

SEO Tips–Three Ways to Optimise your Home Page Content in time for Christmas

chris colour for home pageI’ve written quite a bit about Title and Meta Tags, with your Title Tag being the first place you start in optimising your website for natural search.  All the links to those posts and any other relative to this one are below.

Your home page is the most important and powerful page on your website.  You may have dozens of other landing pages that bring conversions, but the majority of your traffic is going to start on your home page.  It makes sense to get that right first.

It actually doesn’t matter what time of year it is – your home page content is key to bringing people to your site with natural search and there are three fundamentals.

Keyword Research;  This is your first step and there is no quick fix.  You almost certainly know your business better than anyone else so don’t hand this over to a junior please.  With just a little time and knowledge of how to use the Google Keyword Tool (the one I use – there are others) you can identify the key words and phrases which are most relevant to your business, which are being searched for, and where there is space for more competition. Hopefully you have done this already.

Offer intelligent, friendly, keyword rich content; There are a lot of small to medium (and large) sized online retailers who have quite simply not bothered enough with good content.  It’s time to get going.  A vast amount of business will be done online this Christmas - £6.4 billion according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index – make sure that at least some of it comes your way.

You have a business, you have great products, you need to tell the world about them in a way that it attractive to look at and interesting to read.  If you are a household name ok……you can do away with some of the extra words.  If you’re not, you have just a few seconds to get your visitors interested.  Are they going to find what they’re looking for on your website?  How will they know?  How quickly can you attract them?  Clear keyword-rich headings and words plus good pictures tell the story every time and you need both.  Your keywords are not just for your title tags.

Make your home page come alive by featuring optimised images of your best sellers and and linking through to them.  The most likely things to capture attention are the items that are your best sellers so feature them on your home page.  Google will not see your pictures, but will be able to crawl your image description, the alt text and your image caption. 

Make sure you’ve done your keyword research for the items you’re featuring so that your content will be relevant.  Also make sure your images are high quality.  Poor images = fewer clicks.

If you’d like any help with your home page content please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Links to other Posts:

How and Why to use the Google Keyword Tool
How to Write Great Title Tags – Ten Things You Need to Know

Monday, 8 November 2010

How Not to Sell Online………………………….

I wrote earlier today at www.glamoursleuth.com, about the Juicy Couture Tracksuit, Hermes Kelly and Cartier Tank.....................sort of. And guess what? When I went to link to some beautifully and luxuriously branded (!) pages so that everyone could visualise what I was talking about - as if they didn't know already - I confirmed what I already suspected. That it was impossible without a major struggle. And I simply didn't have the time.

Cartier deigns to sell online in the US and Chanel does not, anywhere. Ok so what's new? Louis Vuitton has a very beautiful website and does sell online but try to link to a page? You can't on any of them because these are all FLASH websites and I dislike flash intensely. But then I would because I'm an impatient functionality girl and I want to be taken to the product fast. At least at Louis Vuitton you can get up close and personal to the handbags and order online.

All of these websites are beautifully photographed, fantastically (in some cases over) designed and too clever for words but one thing they, other than Vuitton, are not designed to do is sell, and surely by now brilliant online retailers such as Net-a-Porter have proved that we are waiting, willing and able to spend oodles of dosh online?

It is far too late to start saying that 'people need to touch and feel' or 'our luxury products are just too special to sell online'. We know for a fact that is no longer the case and that if you have a great product and an easy to shop from website there are those out there who will spend spend spend. There will be fewer and fewer browsers who will be willing to wait for a flash site to load no matter how beautiful (as flash sites take so much longer), they will be rushing off to Tiffany, or Net-a-Porter where they can spend as much as they want and calm down.

The web is not a patient place. We are becoming more and more used to instant gratification. If I want that taupe leather Balenciaga handbag, or Alexander McQueen dress, I can, provided it's in stock, almost certainly have it tomorrow.

And that is what the web is about, with the best websites offering extremely well designed, easy places to shop that tempt us to part with our cash with ease and never keep us waiting, wherever they are in the world. We can get so close to the products we can practically touch them and we can shop quickly and easily at any time of day or night. And we do. I hope and suspect that the day of the over-endowed flash website is coming to an end and that all major brands, luxury or otherwise, will be offering their products globally online soon.

What? Do I hear that you actually don't want the extra sales?......................scratches head in bemusement. Oh well....................................................................

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Twitter Tips - Why your Twitter Bio Matters So Much

I was talking to someone earlier today who had very few followers on Twitter (no names, sorry) and when I had a look at her bio I completely understood why - it was a joke; literally.

Twitter, and apologies for repeating myself, is all about the conversation, and whether you're engaging with discussions with other Twitterers, useful information, links to your blog, links to relevant news or just what you happen to be doing at any given moment people will decide to read about you/follow you on the strength of your bio as well as what you say.

Your bio on Twitter needs to be short, preferably amusing, to the point and tell people about you. Mine reads:

Author, blogger, fashion & lifestyle web directory md, online consultant.  Glamour, music and travel lover.  1 husband, 3 kids, 3 dogs.

Which is pretty well all you need to know about me to start with.

Take a look at your bio and use the space you have to let people know who you are, or believe me they're unlikely to want to talk to you. I won't, anyway. And if you're in doubt about what to write contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com and I may well try and help, unless I'm on a plane, that is.

Come and join me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Importance of Google Analytics for your Website

I'm one of the least tecchie people on the planet, so I'm not going to pretend I know all the ins and outs of setting up Analytics, you'll find most of them here although I have always ducked the issue and cajoled my developer at e2esolutions to do it for me. So you can either battle your way through it or be a wuss like me.

The point of this is that every single website should be using analytics as without it (or some similar package which you will probably have to pay for) you are quite simply flying blind. I was slightly horrified at a meeting with a prestigious retailer last week when they mentioned that 'now they were using analytics they could see where their customers were coming from'. Sorry? What?

Google Analytics will tell you the following;

Where your traffic is coming from - ie: natural search/referrals from other websites/or direct to you.

How many people are visiting your site by whatever period you choose and you can compare against previous results.

What your bounce rate is - what percentage of your visitors are not staying on your site, but are leaving it almost instantly.

How much time people are spending on your site

Favourite places to browse (and least favourite)

Which keywords are bringing traffic to your site

And a whole host of other functionality and information from navigation to customised reports and advanced segmentation.

I use analytics for both www.thesiteguide.com, www.glamoursleuth.com and www.webhints.co.uk and I check a snapshot of each every day. For those like me with little time to 'tweak' their websites it's a goldmine of instant information, helping you to concentrate your efforts on the most popular areas of your site and improve those results quickly, and also to see which areas of your site your visitors are not that interested in which you can either drop, or improve.

If you do one thing to help your business this week (for those who aren't already doing it) install analytics for your website. It's an invaluable tool.

Affiliate Marketing - Should You or Shouldn't You?

I am an affiliate marketeer through my website www.thesiteguide.com and have over the years built up a very good relationship with several of the major affiliate organisations who I talk to regularly.

They are in business, of course, as we all are, to make money first and foremost and will on occasion sign a merchant who (in my opinion) would be better off examining their conversion rate, usability, range and SEO for natural search before paying to stand, arms open, saying ‘here I am’, because what affiliate marketing may do is get you on other people’s websites (where you may or may not want to be) but it will not help you much if you have a site that doesn’t already convert well.

Those who have been involved in affiliate marketing and extremely successful at it for a while may leave the room now. Those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com.

I have noticed quite a lot of e-commerce sites recently who should not be in affiliate programs yet although they are. They are there often because although the website does not perform well enough, someone has said that joining an affiliate program should help. It will not.

Now of course there’s no way I can know your conversion rate, but what I do know is that if your content and pictures are not good enough, your title tags are not set up properly, you have a too small range and your functionality is questionable you will be converting at a lower level than you should be or want to and you need to sort these issues out first. Then and only then can affiliate marketing work for you as it should do.

Affiliate marketing can have excellent results and is the way forward if you want to get onto the good directories and other sites – it’s the way that e-commerce is moving but please get your site right first or you will be wasting both time and money.

One more thing on this subject – unless you really don’t care where you are, retain control over who you allow to publish your links and banners. Therein lies another tale………

Contact me on any or all of the above at phd@thesiteguide.com ……………………………

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Writing Great Title Tags – How Important is Keyword Research

The whole point of keyword research  and having the right title tags is so that you can be found in natural search on the basis that your website clearly offers what people are searching for, with the emphasis on ‘clearly’. 

You can throw as much money as you want on Adwords and get to the top of the page every time, but think how much better it would be if you got near or to the top of the page without spending all that money.  With some time and effort analysing what people are looking for via a keyword tool and matching the results with those exact searches on your website you can get there and not spend a dime.  Or you may choose to do both.

As to which keyword tool you should use I always use Google’s keyword tool – there are others of course, and if you’re digging deep for long tail keywords then an aggregate may well be helpful, initially I suggest you stick to Google.

Your HTML page titles are your starting point for SEO, and therefore the most important thing to get right first.  They need to be short enough to display in full and they need to contain the two or three key words or phrases most relevant to your business and the specific landing page, plus your company name.

For which ever page you are optimising you are aiming to appear on the first page in search, preferably in the top three spots which get by far the highest number of clicks.  Think of something you would like to search for, put it into the search box and then scan the results.  What do you look at and how long do you spend.  Did you go past the first page?  I suspect not.  Do not try and use phrases that are too generic in your title tags, you are likely to encounter far more competition

It is obviously harder, bearing in mind the competition, to get to the first page, however with enough keyword research and concentrating on phrases relevant to your business and your customer you should be able to get there.

SEO is important to every website.  It’s the difference between being invisible or easily visible to the people who you want to be able to see you.  It’s very much worth spending time on, and, if you employ anyone else to do it, making sure that you understand what they are doing and that they understand your business.  It is not rocket science, though many SEO agencies would have you believe that it is.

Some extra reading:


Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Power of The Picture

chris black and white for blogAt a recent meeting at IMRG the subject ‘Content is King’ came up.

Now of course there was plenty to be bandied about on the latest website innovations; rich media; the use of flash; video streaming and general brand experience but all of these, to my mind, although very important from a ‘keeping up with the Jones’s point of view’ may not necessarily add to the basic shopping experience if you’re in a hurry and looking for something specific. In fact they may just detract from it (and more about this later) if your site usability is not crystal clear.

I know that I’m going to be shot down in flames for saying this, but am I seriously the lone voice out there whining that actually I really just want to buy a pair of shoes, I want them to be black (!) high heeled, elegant/sexy/daytime/night time and I want to get to them as quickly as possible? I don’t want to watch the movie. I don’t want to see 100 pairs of brown, beige, red or, help me here, purple shoes. I just want black. NOW!

Which brings me back to the Power of the Picture, and Content is King, and the things that, if you are a normal, not over cash-endowed online retailer of shoes, bags or anything else, you have to do if you want to keep up in today’s online marketplace and which in fact, if you don't, you will seriously get left behind.

So here they are:

One product picture is not enough; It doesn’t matter how clear it is, how colour correct it is – nowadays you need to show multiple views including interiors. Two of the best websites for demonstrating this are http://www.netaporter.com/ and http://www.forzieri.com/. You need to be aware that now, if I’m going to buy something from you, online, I want to be able to do everything but pick the thing up before I’ll splash the cash.
Forzieri bag 1 Forzieri bag 2 Forzieri bag 3

The benefit of this to you is higher sales and lower returns as your customer can see exactly what they’re buying and will be less likely to make a mistake and therefore have to send their purchase back.

forzieri bag zoom

Make zoom as large as possible; There are still (naming no names) some retailers out there whose zoom facility is little better than the original picture. Sorry, again that’s not going to get you there in this market. Make your zoom as large as it can be and really let me get up close and personal. This pic above is not full size by the way, it’s just to give you an idea.

Isabella Oliver New Pic Catwalk and 360 rotation
; These are expensive, but I suspect for the larger sites will become the norm and there will be less expensive options developed for smaller applications. One company who does this really well ishttp://www.isabellaoliver.com Take a look at this and tell me that, if you were in the market for this type of dress, you wouldn’t be tempted to buy? There isn’t a lot you can’t see, is there?

Now all of this comes at a price but there are two things you need to do right now. Firstly you need to know what the market developments are so that, when the price comes down, or you get big enough, you can apply what you need to quickly. So keep up to date. Secondly do the smaller things now – take the extra shots, increase your zoom size and be totally aware that if you don’t, you will lose sales and those on the starting blocks now will overtake in a nano-second.

How and Why to use the Google Keyword Tool

This is a tool that always astounds me not everyone is using as I consider it essential for anyone who writes content for the web - Google's Keyword Tool is a relevation and there are several great reasons for using it.

1. It's free. Totally, absolutely free - so there's really no excuse not to make use of it.

2. It's ridiculously simple to use, and once you've started you'll want to use it for everywhere on your website, from title tags to images.

3. It will show you what people are actually searching for, rather than what you think they are. For example - you may think that you should be calling one of your categories 'Fashion Footwear'. It has a good ring to it with a bit of illiteration thrown in for good measure, but take a look at the results in the keyword tool and you'll discover that, last month, there were 3,600 searches for 'Fashion Footwear', and a whopping 74000 for 'Fashion Shoes'. Which term should you use, several times over from your title tag to your meta description to your header to your content? Well obviously - Fashion Shoes.

Try it for yourself, use words you might not immediately think of, such as 'vanity case' vs 'cosmetics case' and you'll see what I mean.

4. It will save you money - cosy up to the keyword tool before you start spending money on Adwords or any other type of paid marketing. You will be throwing money away if you don't get your SEO right first, and this is one of the most important ways. Once you've established what people are searching for, and how to use the tool, you'll never look back.

To use the Google keyword tool you need to sign up for a Google Account which, because I'm sure you're all already using analytics (!), you probably already have. Then just go to the keyword tool and start using it before you write anything.

Don't get carried away with the thought that you can find all your key words and phrases at once, you can't. Pick just one at a time and drill down using different options to find the most searched for phrases, and ones that aren't what I call 'saturated', meaning that everyone is competing for them them. Example again; use the keyword tool and put in 'jewellery case', you will see that there were 18000 searches last month, and there is white space in the bar on the left. If you put in 'jewellery box', there were 368,000 searches, but the bar is fully green, and you are unlikely to get anywhere near the top on search if you use that phrase.

You have two options for using the keyword tool, and I suggest that initially you familiarise yourself with how it works by clicking on the 'Descriptive words or phrases' option and test different categories on your website.

Then you can select 'Website content' and input the URL of any page on your site you would like analysed. Hey presto! within less than a minute Google will have analysed your page and all the phrases you are currently using, giving you the search volumes and alternatives. This can be an enormous amount of information so as what you're really looking for are the most relevant key phrases try this and see if it works for you.

In essence what you are looking for is a high search volume which tells you that a particular phrase (of two or three words) may well work for you, but low competition, where you are more likely to get results.

If you aren't already using the keyword tool have a play with it as soon as possible, everyone who writes content for the web needs it.

Product Photography - The Essentials

I have a thing about product photography, and when I'm reviewing small retailers' websites I'm always saying the same things, so it seems to make sense to write about them here.

What some people don't seem to realise is just how important each and every picture on a website is. The saying 'Every picture is worth a thousand words' (and if you want to find out where it originated from take a look here) is in no way an exaggeration, particularly if you are trying to get people to buy product from you.

I know full well, from my dark and distant past when I ran numerous photo shoots, and had the fun and priviledge of working with late Patrick Lichfield amongst others, that photography can be incredibly expensive. In those days we were talking about film and 18 model shots a day if you were lucky (for fashion) and that was considered a lot. In fact I remember having to pay one still famous model an extra couple of hundred pounds to do just one more shot and still finish by 3.30pm. Those were the days - not.

Now of course everything's gone digital, those who said that 'digital just didn't offer the atmosphere', and there were loads of them, have been sideswiped right out of the picture and everything is instantly deletable, photoshopable, enhanceable and changeable in too many ways to mention.

For the small retailer, without the knowledge of product photography, the whole thing is a minefield, so my main advice is keep it simple, but stick to these rules:

1. Unless you are an expert, do not go for model photography. It will be expensive (or your model may portray the wrong emphasis) and you may end up offering something to the detriment of your product.

2. Never, ever use an amateur model. Some of the worst pictures I have ever seen have been taken on 'friends of the family' or 'a friend who wants to go into modelling'.

3. If you are going to go the 'do it yourself' route consider investing in a stills set-up such as Cubelite and make sure that you learn everything about it first. This will be the cheapest option if you can get it to work for you - a little time and effort will pay off here.

Mike Summerfield, of Cubelite, offered the following comments 'With a system such as this you don't need to be a professional photographer, it's easy to set up, including the lighting and all your shots will be consistent. You also own the copyright to your images and have complete control of your photography. You can take pictures as and when you need to.'

4. Make sure that all the product pictures you show on your website are the same size and shape. This uniformity makes a great difference to how your pages will be looked at.

5. Unless they're on a stylish backdrop, such as the ones at Nordic House, your background needs to be the same throughout, lit the same and in the same style, anything else will look messy.

6. Take a look at how the 'big boys' are doing it. Two of my favourite websites for stills are Restoration Hardware and Williams Sonoma, both from the US. Don't get me wrong, I know that these shots have cost a lot of money, but everyone can learn from the ideas behind them, the superb page layouts, and try for something as near as possible. Going back to Nordic House - this is a small online retailer doing something beautifully, there's no reason why you can't as well.

7. Back to fashion photography - be very careful about mannequins and how they're used, and also very careful about cut-out shots on a white background, leaving products floating on the page. Personally I think this is not a great look and will undoubtably reduce conversion rates. If you want examples please ask me.

I know, I've said it before, but take a look at what the greats such as Net-a-Porter.com are doing, who never put a foot wrong. There's no better online example for fashion in my opinion, which is slightly annoying, because it would be great to see someone take up the mantle, but I don't think that's likely to happen soon. From stills to model shots, they're all excellent.

8. Concentrate on the items that you think you're going to be selling in depth and spend money there, offering more detail shots. Whatever you're selling, from lingerie to lighting, you're going to be up against stiff competition. Don't waste time and effort on small return pieces. Go for depth and quality.

9. Understand that if you spend a bit of time you can learn to do your own photography, and that if you do you will save heaps. There is no quick fix however, you'll need to learn how to do it properly.

10. Invest in the best camera you can afford, and take advice before you buy. If you think about how much this is going to save you in the long run, whatever you spend will be a true investment.

11. For best results you will need Photoshop, and to learn how to use that as well. You don't actually need to become an all time expert, the basics will serve you very well (I use it all the time). You may already be using it, but if not it's a great program. I will admit that my eldest son gave it to me a few years back, and he taught me how to use it!

Finally a story from my shoot organisation days - we were shooting swimwear on the top floor of the Berkeley Hotel in London where there's a gorgeous swimming pool. Unfortunately all the shots through the almost Italianate windows were of a dirty grey London day, so our photographer just cut them out and superimposed a real Italian sunny backdrop which looked superb. Digital photography has certainly made an unbelieveable difference to what we're all doing now.

How to Write Great Title Tags - Ten Things you Need to Know - Web Tips for SEO

What do you first think of when the expression 'Title Tag' comes up?

I'd be very interested to know, because frequently, when I'm talking to people about Search Engine Optimisation they think that they should know, but they're not sure. For those of you who are SEO experts, I apologise, but this is not for you!

Your Title Tag appears right at the top of your browser. It is probably the most important element of your SEO campaign,and whatever else you do with regards to SEO, it's worth learning how to write these properly.

The whole idea of SEO is to match up what people are searching for with what you are offering, using words, phrases and terms that the majority of searchers are using. For example; Do you sell jumpers or sweaters? From a product point of view there may be very little difference, and yet with just a bit of research you'll find that (using last month's search figures) there were more than three times the number of searches for jumpers as there were for sweaters.

You may have a preferred word, and the joy of title tags and content writing is that of course you can include more than one, but the important thing is that the one that's at the front of the queue, the one that'll be found first by the search engines, is the one that most people are searching for.

Here are my 10 Top Tips for writing good Title Tags.

1. Make friends with the Google Keyword Tool - Use it for all of your research, and open it whenever you want to create new content and Tags. Writing for SEO is not a guessing game.

2. Unless you are a household name and if your aim is to get your brand 'out there' include your brand name in your title tags, every time. Have it at the front on your home page and from thereon at the end of each one. Make sure it is visible within your limited number of characters.

3. Be careful to ensure that your title tags do not spill over your allotted space, and that what you see is complete. Anything else looks messy and unprofessional. You have approximately 65 - 70 characters, including spaces, for your title tags. Whenever you're in doubt, check what your tags look like in your browser. Again, don't try and guess.

4. Create a format for your title tags and stick to it. eg. Category Sub, Category, your company name - all search terms other than your brand - It will be easier to set up, and again, anything else will look messy.

5. Make sure that each title tag is relevant and unique to the page it refers to. Google does not like duplicated content.

6. To divide your keywords use hyphens or the pipe bar (usually Shift and the key to the left of the z, which appears broken to create the unbroken vertical line). I've used it in 4 above.

7. Repeat the main keywords or phrases from your Title Tag in your H1 or main header, and then in your page copy, reinforcing your message and making it more visible to the search engines.

8. Be wary of letting anyone else write your Title Tags for you. If you do, make sure they follow the rules and understand your brand and products.

9. Make sure that your Title Tags are relevant to what's on the page and are written in a way that will grab people's attention. You will not earn brownie points from Google or any other search engine by 'keyword stuffing' (yes, that's a real term).

10. Once you've created your Title Tag formula throughout your site keep checking via Analytics to see what's working and build on it. Trial and error is the only way to get up the rankings.

If you have any queries let me know - all comments welcome (provided they're polite, of course).

Ten Tips for Small, New and Wannabe Online Retailers

Yesterday I was asked to take a look at a new small online retailer and see if I could help as things weren't going as well as they had hoped.

Well as you all know, there's a huge advantage to hindsight, and I love reviewing websites. I've had the odd occasion when people haven't been totally happy with what I've said - who likes criticism, after all? But it's happened to me recently, when Debenhams head online honcho made some constructive remarks about http://www.thesiteguide.com/.

I listened, struggled for a moment, as you do, and then went back and tried to implement what he suggested, which was absolutely right, of course.

When I got to this particular site yesterday, I found the following:

A great deal of flash on the home page - with the intro content embedded in flash (which meant that no search engine would pick it up).
Little invitation to buy online, and lots of distractions.
Pretty well no SEO at all
Broken picture links on the Shopping Basket page
No contact phone number
No About Us link
No Search Box
No proper Sign-Up box

Well, as you can imagine, I didn't scratch my head for long, and gave the owner the advice that I am frequently giving to new and small online retailers. I just wish that I could have got to them to start with. So I've put together my initial top tips for getting started or tweaking a website that isn't working properly. What to do at the beginning, if you can. And the 'tick-off' points that every would-be e-commerce giant should know.

The retailer I was (and still am) talking to is Aurlanne Jewellery and I'm delighted that she's been so positive and reactive to what I've said. I started writing this for her - and so I hope she will put a comment here on what she's discovered since I started my - er - critique/mentoring activity. Did I say mentoring? I must be nuts.

Here are my First (because there will be more) Top Ten Tips for Small, New and Wannabe Online Retailers:

1. Do not opt for a flash website. I've written about this before in Glamoursleuth. Simple, well designed websites need to start without flash. Why? Because it will slow you down, it will make Search extremely difficult. It will cost you more. Do not be tempted to start with.

2. Be absolutely clear about what you want people to do on your website, and then help them to do it. If you want them to Shop Online, us those words and make the path absolutely clear. Do not try and be clever. To that end read Steve Krug's marvellous book, Don't Make me Think.

3. Prioritise your best selling categories so that people go to them first. You will be more likely to convert prospects to customers from these. Put your top three best selling products at the top, and everything else alphabetically underneath.

4. Be very, very careful before you sign up to a web developer. Most of them are after just one thing. Your money. I have worked with the same developer now for seven years which is amazing bearing in mind I am one of the least tolerant people you have ever come across. I am willing to wait a little bit longer because I trust them totally, I know they are honest and they know what they are doing. Know what you're doing before you sign.

5. Read every word of any development contract before you sign and make sure it includes absolutely everything you want. Do not sign off any work until you, and others, have tested it thoroughly.

6. Retain as much control of your site as you can. A small website need not be a lot of work to keep updated, but many developers will try and charge you a small fortune for any changes. Take the trouble to learn how to make changes. Pictures, Copy, Internal Links, New Products, Title Tags and Meta Descriptions - none of this is rocket science. Make sure you have the facility to do it.

7. SEO. First buy this book - SEO An Hour a Day and read it from cover to cover. It's not a hard read and will seriously open your eyes to how search engine optimisation works and what you need to do.

8. Title Tags - These are the single most important elements of your web optimisation, matching up what you are offering with what people are looking for via the search engines. Try not to have them directly linked to your category headings, you need to be able to manage and change them yourself and create your meta descriptions (the short ads that will accompany them if the search engines pick them up). SEO is a trial and error game and you need to have control.

9. Your Search Box and email Sign-up Box need to be above the fold, where people can see them clearly. Do not try and be clever (again). The Search Box should say just that 'Search'. Your Sign-up Box must not ask for too much information (such as age, gender, and all the other things you don't need to know), the more you ask for, the fewer people will sign up. Believe me.

10. Make sure all your links work and there are no typos in your copy. It is nearly impossible to be 100% perfect all the time (and don't I know it), but you need to take as much care as is humanly possible to look professional.

There is more, of course, but I'm going to tackle this in small bites as it is all so important and not possible to put here all at once - from the importance of good pictures to how to structure your title tags.

If you let me know an aspect you'd like me to cover I'd be happy to go there first - otherwise you'll have to leave it up to me and I'll be back with more very soon. After I've found my next favourite handbag and written about that, of course.

Wake up your Website this Week

Here are the top Five Things I recommend you to do this week to Wake up your Website!

Make a change on your Home Page - doesn't really matter what it is (although preferably you'll do some keyword research first), but updating has to be the name of the game. Do something, tweak something, to make it look slightly different. You'll want to be doing this all year round but this week it's really important to make your visitors and customer sit up and say 'hey, what's been going on here?'. You'll be amazed the difference a small change can make.

SEO - Check your Home Page Title Tag and Description - Whatever you may think, SEO is not a dark art, and I'll be writing much more about this this year, and the merchants who try to make you think that it is so that you can send all your hard earned cash their way so they can write about your products badly. This certainly doesn't apply to all of them, but certainly some of them, and apologies to the great ones who you, like I, probably cannot afford.

SEO is about matching what browsers and potential customers are looking for online so that they can find you easily. Us the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to search for the key words and phrases that you need and then make sure that they're set up properly in your Title Tag area. Then write a small ad to highlight these.

If you can't get at them because of the way your site is set up, or you don't really know what to do, contact me at mailto:phd@thesiteguide.com and I'll help you get started.

Email your newsletter base - you may not get a huge response straight away, but put together an email about something interesting that's going on on your website and tell the world, wake up your customers and subscribers to the fact that you're still very much alive and kicking and you're going to be keeping in touch.

Create an Offer on your Site - This may be the way to change your home page or something to run as well. Do something now to excite and interest and include the details on your home page and in your newsletter. The whole world's on sale right now so be sure you make it an interesting one or you'll just go into the pot.

Set up your Fan Page on Facebook and your profile on Twitter - You may think that Facebook and Twitter are not for you or not for your customer base but you'd be wrong. If social media marketing exploded last year it is going to grow even faster in 2010, and to not get on the viral marketing bandwagon would be a huge mistake. The world is out there waiting to hear from you and about you, and whereas in the past you had to spend loads of dosh on advertising and marketing now you don't. You just have to put in the time.

Facebook and Twitter are free - there are loads of apps and tools you can use to enhance what you do and if you're not there now, you need to do this right away because otherwise you'll get left behind. As someone who joined Twitter and Facebook (withthesiteguide.com's Fan Page) a while back now, I am totally converted. So should you be.

If you want to contact me about any of the above please send me an email at mailto:phd@thesiteguide.com

The Importance of Getting it Right - Blogging, Tweeting, Facebook and more

I received a contract recently (and no, I'm not going to tell you who it was from) which started by getting my name wrong. It was addressed to Shirley. Well, as you know, my name is not Shirley. I laughed, and asked the person concerned to send me out another contract, knowing full well that what she had done (oops.......she) was to just update one she had sent to someone before, without changing the name.

Bigger mistake, recently, and on my part - I sent an invoice (mucho important one) out to a company I was consulting for, and gave an incorrect sort code, by one digit only, but I'm sure you can guess, my money went to the wrong account and it took ages to sort out. Not only that but there was my embarassement at having to ask for it to be sorted on my behalf.

In this age of email marketing, twittering, facebook, blogging and more (and lets not tlk abt txtng) there is less and less concentration on getting it right. By that I mean checking every word, every phrase and sentence, punctuation, contact names. We're constantly updating, re-editing and mailing in a hurry. Pressing send without checking all the finer details.

I think it's time to get back to basics. To be aware that:

People hate to be addressed incorrectly - they are less likely to read what you send, let alone take it seriously, and will be distracted by the fact that you couldn't be bothered to get it right.

Spelling mistakes are noted and it doesn't matter if you're writing a blog or sending a letter to your bank manager. You will be thought less of if you don't bother to check through.

Punctuation is important. It adds or detracts meaning to what you are saying. Don't take it lightly, make an effort to get your 's, ;s ?s and -s in the right place. This is a very good page to have a look at

Exclamation marks - be very careful where you use them. You think they're adding substance, but very often they're unnecessary and totally over-egging the pudding!!

You should read everything through that you're going to send out, to anyone, several times. We're all guilty of the hurried click, myself included. Slow down and make sure you know, and are happy with, what you're sending. Having proof-read my books, which were then professionally proof-read and then found errors in the printed copies I can tell you that getting it totally right is always going to be near-on impossible. What you can do is get it more correct than you're doing now.

My worst typo ever - When I worked as a lowly assistant for the Financial PR Director of Leo Burnett, in St Martin's Lane (a very long time ago), I had to send a message to famed financial journalist Andreas Whittam Smith, co-founder of the Independent who later became President of the British Board of Film Classification. In my hurry to get this message out to him (and I can't remember what it was), I substituted an S for the all important W. Work it out. I was never allowed to forget it.

I'm now going to have a good read through of this before I publish it. Let me know if you find any typos, please.

The Importance of Having a Great Profile Photograph

Yup, this is me, as anyone who follows me on Twitter, Facebook, GlamourSleuthor LinkedIn, reads my books (although that was a slightly earlier picture) or sees articles I've written for various media, both online and off.

Whenever I'm asked for a pic I don't have to worry, I have it to hand, in glorious technicolour or more subtle black and white, and wherever I create a new profile, there it goes.

Most of us are now in the viral swirl that is Social Media, and for anyone who isn't, they're going to be left at the starting gate.

I have to say that I really enjoy the whole hustle and bustle of it, being able to communicate with people I wouldn't come across otherwise, chatting about the web, my dreadful kids (not really), my business and where I went last week, let alone being able to share the dafter things that go on in my life, such as being interviewed by the BBC from a moving train over my Blackberry.

Back to your profile pic; If you don't have one - you need one. It's a simple as that. I think it's really important that it's a picture you're happy with, and then you can stop hiding behind question marks, no picture logos and your product pictures. It's you everyone wants to know about, you you're promoting because let's face it, you are your business.

I'm really hard to photograph well but Chris Parkes, who took my pic, managed to produce something I really like, that I'm not unhappy to show to the world.

I'm talking to him about setting a day for anyone who wants to to come and have their pic taken, I have no idea at the moment how much it would cost so you'll have to contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com and then when I know I'll tell you. You can get in touch with him at christophotographic@mac.com. He's fun, interesting and takes a great pic. He's also at http://www.christophotographic.co.uk/.

Am now asking him why his picture isn't on his website. Sigh.......

Web Hints - What Makes a Great Home Page

You have just a very few seconds to get a new customer to make the decision that he or she likes what they see on your home page and wants to stay a while.

Time-out then for anyone with a slow loading home page , brand puffing flash intro or over wordy introductory text. Timeout. Really. The bird has flown before you even knew it had landed.

If that hasn't already put you in a panic, once you get past the first few second test, you have another few seconds for your visitor to decide if you have what they're looking for. Just a few seconds is all it takes in this fast moving, product searching, instant gratificiation age we live in. Don't kid yourself you have any longer, because you don't.

Most websites fail on the basics, they're slow to load, wordy, un-entertaining and difficult to navigate. Major sites frequently assume that you have time and patience to let them get the message to you, rather than attracting you, informing you, amusing you and enticing you to stay longer.

They don't realise that the customer is the only person that matters, that the only business they're in (as an online retailer or service provider) is to make sales, and no matter how much they've invested in their brand new flash heavy 'product enhancing site (whose designer cared less about sales but was probably be trying to win a design award) that if they can't get you clicking past the home page in just those few seconds you will be gone and they will fail.

I've reviewed thousands of websites, both good and bad, and I'm constantly amazed by the simple things that people can get wrong.

Here are the Top Ten rules for a great Homepage
  • Firstly assume your visitors know nothing about your site. You need an attractive, consistent and easy to follow design which shows in an instant, through keyword rich text and category linked photographs who you are, what you do, what makes you special and different and therefore why people should buy for you.

  • Ditch the slogan - who cares? At the top of your content box you need to state clearly who you are. It's you're title, your mission statement and should sum you up in just a few words.

  • People love to click on pictures - use pictures as well as your text menu on your home page to link people through to the most important areas of your site. Make sure that your pictures are clean and clear - there are far too many horrible ones out there. They are hugely important.

  • Have a search box marked by the word 'search'. Forget 'What are you looking for?' or any other term. The word is Search, so use it.

  • Have a Contact Us link on your homepage, and every other page of your site. Who exactly are you trying to hide from? Your customers? Forget it - be open about how people can contact you.

  • Establish immediate trust by showing how people can contact you, signing up to a retailer accrediation scheme such as IMRG's ISIS, and offering customer reviews. Neither of these are big investments and they're both extremely important. Please contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com if you'd like more information.

  • Terms & Conditions/Privacy/Delivery/Returns/About Us/Contact

    Show these as 'utilities' on your homepage (and every single page of your site) so that your most important information is obvious. Don't hide your delivery and returns information in Terms & Conditions (and yes, vast numbers of people do).

  • Invite visitors and customers to sign up with a clear sign-up box on your home page. Invite them to refer their friends to your site also - goodwill recommendation are the best kind so ask for them. If you don't, you won't get them.

  • Highlight links so that visitors can see immediately that the words and phrases are links.

  • Keep content paragraphs short, interesting to the point. Remember that you only have a limited amount of the most important 'above the fold' page area to use so don't be tempted to waffle.

Web Hints - The Importance of Great Pictures

Quite often when I’m reading a fashion mag or weekend supplement and they mention a new fashion website (or at least one I haven’t heard of) I make a note to take a look with a view to adding it to the fashion stable at www.thesiteguide.com.

Quite often I click away just as fast, horrified that in these days of the web zeitgeist some would-be successful online retailers do not realise the importance of great pictures. Or even good pictures. Or even reasonably good pictures.

The fact is that if you want to be really successful on the web and get anywhere near competing with the big boys you have to have the following;

Clear pictures
Zoom, preferably to almost full page
Several views of each product (front, back, close-up detail)

perfect pics my wardrobe

Then if possible, and obviously particularly for fashion:
Alternative colour-ways, not just colour swatches.
320 degree spin

This sounds like a great deal I know, and some of these may be out of reach for some of you, however bearing in mind that incorporating any of these onto your e-commerce site should substantially increase your conversion rates can you afford not to at least have the first three.

perfect pics forzieri

The idea that a potential customer will stumble on to your site, spend some time there and then buy without good pictures and great content is a nonsense. They simply won’t, and the competition is getting fiercer every day.

There’s a very good reason why some online boutiques succeed and others trail and fail and that is quite simply attention to detail, following the basic rules and keeping up with web developments. Very little of it is rocket science…………………..

Here’s something to aim for…………………………check out both the colourways, the zoom and the spin.

perfect pics sorel

I always think that families are wonderful and having the kids home last weekend was great but oh is it blissfully quiet now they’re all back oop north. A busy week has means meetings in London yesterday and two more tomorrow, then I’ll be on Radio 2 at around midnight tomorrow evening on the Janice Long show. Talking about what? Online shopping of course…….what else.

Unfortunately I didn’t make the IMRG awards dinner which I was very sad about, but a sinusitis and going out late just don’t mix. I just hope I sound clearer for the beeb.