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Incorporating Site Optimization into Your Redesign


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November 4th, 2008 | Search Engine Optimization, Yahoo Store Client Launch, Yahoo Store Tips


Incorporating Site Optimization into Your Redesign

Posted on November 4th, 2008 by Colorado Web Solutions - Yahoo Store Developers and Designers

This is a reprint of an article posted today on ecommerce-guide.com

By Jennifer Schiff
November 4, 2008

Despite the recent, sharp downtown in the economy, many experts say now is not the time to cut back on search engine marketing (SEM) and optimization (SEO). In fact, with online shoppers saying they plan on cutting back on spending this holiday season, now may be the perfect time for you to optimize your site to attract every prospective customer you can — and keep your current customers coming back for more. Best of all, optimizing your site, giving it a pre-holiday facelift, needn’t be expensive or time consuming. And the return on your investment could (and should) more than offset the cost.Yet Comes, who is no stranger to technology (as the CTO of a Fortune 500 company in a parallel life), put off redesigning her site for years — 13, to be exact.

There’s Always Room for Improvement — and More Sales

When Comes decided to launch her Internet business, CoffeeCakes.com, back in 1995, she designed the site and ran it herself. And the business, which sells gourmet baked goods (including coffee cakes) and specialty gifts, took off.

Old CoffeeCakes.com Design
Though successful, this old site design was a bit stale.

(Click for larger image.)

In fact, it had steadily been growing 30 percent a year. But as the company added more products and features, the site became increasingly unwieldy to manage and, per Comes’s creative director (and others), was looking and feeling a bit stale. But Comes was afraid to make any changes.

“We were doing very well with the old Web site,” Comes said. “We’d been in business 13 years and were growing 30 percent or more a year.” Why mess with success? But when her Web consultant, Matt Sampson, the head of Colorado Web Solutions, pointed out how gorgeous and professional her catalog looked and that the Web site paled in comparison, Comes took notice. She hired Sampson to help her make the Web site look “as high quality as my print marketing,” she said.

Comes and Sampson’s first priority was to optimize the site, to make it easier for the major search engines, and thus customers, to find CoffeeCakes.com. “We know we have a great product and exceptional customer service,” said Comes, “but that’s all meaningless if our customers and prospective customers never find our site or find it difficult to use.”

Because Comes didn’t have an unlimited marketing budget, she and Sampson came up with a strategy that Comes described as “think big, start small and scale quickly.”

New CoffeeCakes.com Design
The new site design is much fresher, and more optimized for search engines — and sales.

(Click for larger image.)

The first task was to redesign CoffeeCakes.com’s home page, all the templates, and even the shopping cart, to make the site look more modern – and more like the successful sites Comes admired (such as Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn and HoneyBaked Ham) — optimizing the pages in the process.

Just putting up fresh, new content is like catnip to the search engines, she explained.

They also decided to add a ‘Request a Catalog’ link to every page. As a result, “we got 2500 percent more catalog requests in the month of September this year than we had for the month of September last year,” said Comes. In fact, the company received so many catalog requests Comes had to reprint the catalog, a first.

Other things CoffeeCakes.com and Colorado Web Solutions did to optimize the site was to make sure they kept all the search engine optimized key words, meta tags and titles that CoffeeCakes.com already had, reinforcing and adding to them as needed. They also added new content and replaced graphics with text where appropriate (as search engines ignore/do not recognize graphics).

In less than three months, the redesigned site was ready for beta testing — and the immediate results were sweet indeed. In the first few weeks of testing, traffic to CoffeeCakes.com increased by around 70 percent. And Comes said the company’s sales jumped 80 percent, up 50 percent over the previous year’s sales for the same time period.

Part of that success/increase in traffic and revenue was also due to PR, pay-per-click advertising (Google AdWords) and other marketing measures, said Comes, which she said was an integral part of CoffeeCakes.com’s redesign/re-launch strategy.

Determining When It Is Time for a Redesign

So how can you determine if your site could benefit from a pre-holiday facelift? “My suggestion is to look at the site from the customer’s point of view. And if you think your site is inviting, represents you well, is easy to get around, and looks good, then I don’t think you should do a redesign,” said Sampson.But, he added, if you don’t feel confident about any one of those elements, a site redesign, focusing on SEO, is almost definitely in order.

“With the limited amount of customers and the limited amount of dollars that are going to be spent [this season], you want to make sure you can get every single customer you can,” said Sampson. And if your site isn’t attractive to the search engines and/or to your customers, you could lose out to some other site that is.

By the way, don’t be afraid to ask or survey your customers to see if they think your site could use some updating or new features. The results might surprise — and help — you.

How Much Should You Spend on Optimizing or Redesigning Your Site?

While the price of a redesign and/or site optimization will vary depending upon the site, the number of pages, where you are located, and what you want to accomplish, Sampson said you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars.”I’d say on average for an enhanced redesign, without super fancy features [like Flash and/or custom video], you’re looking at around $2500,” he said.

The best way to figure out how much a redesign will cost you? Make a list of what’s really important, or what you hope to accomplish. Then get at least three quotes and figure out if you will be able to recoup the money you spend on the redesign via sales. If the answer is yes, said Sampson, there’s no reason not to do it.

How to Save Money on Site Optimization: DIY Tips

There are many different ways to economize — and still get results — on a redesign/site optimization. Here are a few suggested by Sampson:

  • Make a list of priorities and tackle them one or two at a time instead of all at once.
  • Focus on which changes are going to directly impact your bottom line, not those that will look nice. For example, something like adding a ‘Recently Viewed Items’ feature to pages makes it easier for customers to see where they’ve been and return to previous pages, and often leads to increased sales.
  • Write as much content (e.g., product descriptions) as you can yourself , or have an employee do it. And, be careful about only using manufacturer’s descriptions. You can use them but make sure to add your own copy. The search engines have already indexed the manufacturer’s copy, so you need to add something new to get noticed.
  • Completely re-write the copy on your home/front page — and do it again every month or so or when you have something new to sell, are running a promotion or have big news to announce.
  • Every month, re-write the copy on at least one landing page.
  • Have someone on your team submit your site to all the major search engines (or do it yourself) whenever you make a major change/update the site, instead of paying someone to do it for you.

Colorado Web Solutions Note: Visit www.15SEO.com for Automated SEO Services starting at $15 a month!

Final Thoughts

“Search engine optimization is by far the most powerful thing you can do,” in terms of attracting customers to your site, said Sampson. “It’s also the cheapest thing you can do — and by far the most ignored thing, the thing that people forget about.”So to get your business noticed online, particularly these days, you need to make search engine optimization and search engine marketing part of your long-term business plan and redesign efforts.

Yes, SEO can take time. And if you are looking for quick hits, you should probably supplement your SEO efforts with some pay-per-click advertising and e-mail marketing. But over time, if you do your SEO homework, the hits and sales will come and you can decrease your spending on pay-per-click advertising and e-mail marketing. And while you’re mulling over whether to redesign or not, do have some coffee cake. (According to a number of sources, sales of comfort foods, like coffee cake, tend to go up during hard economic times.)

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Ecommerce-Guide.com and runs a blog for and about small businesses.

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