Search Engine Optimization.
It's something we should all know about if we want our e-commerce websites to actually sell our jewellery instead of sitting on the internet gathering cyberdust, but how many of us start to glaze over at the mention of metadata, keywords and analytics?

Lesley H Phillips is a jeweller who has grasped the nettle and learnt about the technicalities of SEO to promote her own jewellery business. Her website is a constant presence high in the Google rankings and she has generously written a series of articles for the GoJD, exploring the practical essentials of SEO. Written by a jeweller, for jewellers, we hope these articles will inspire members to make changes to their websites that will lead to more visitors and ultimately, greater sales.

An Introduction to a Jeweller's Guide to SEO

Why don’t I get sales or enquiries from my website /online shop?

Have you asked yourself this question?  If so, then the following series of articles are sure to be of help to you.
The articles will take the form of a brief overview for improving your website’s “search and stick ability”, with subsequent smaller articles breaking the individual topics into greater depth.

1.  Your website should be viewed by you as a bricks and mortar shop. First impressions count!  You are selling yourself /your products, so if it appears unprofessional or difficult to negotiate then you’ll never have another chance to create a first impression.  Ensure your website grabs the users’ attention so they remain on your website.  To keep them coming back, give them a reason by keeping it fresh and innovative.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - What is SEO?  
SEO affects only organic search results on the search engines, not paid or sponsored results.  When you type a search into a search engine, the results which appear which do not have “Ads” or “sponsored” above them are the organic results.  For the purposes of the articles, Google will be the search engine of choice as this is by far the greatest used search engine on the net and each search engine uses different algorithms, albeit fairly similar.  SEO is the means by which you can influence the position on which your website appears within these organic results.

Given that jewellery is one of the most competitive markets on the web, it will be difficult to achieve rankings.  It appears we are second only to sex!!  It can be done, but fight the battles you can win, rather than try to compete against the giants who can pay £100,000’s to acquire their customers.

There are 2 forms of SEO - On Page and Off Page factors.
On Page is where you amend something directly onto your website and Off Page is where something affects your website from elsewhere.  For example: On Page – the title of your page / Off Page – the age of your domain.
Do remember that every page can be individually ranked within the organic results by the search engine and where the searcher opens your website is described as the ‘landing page’.  They could be landing on your contact or individual product pages, rather than your home page. It’s important to bear in mind that point 1. must therefore extend to every page of your website.

What does this little penguin have to do with your website?  Everything!  Google’s latest algorithm update is codenamed Penguin and it affects you greatly – for the better.  Google is now placing higher emphasis on the content of websites (On Page rather than the Off Page factors). Previously Off Page Factors could account for 70%-80% weighting as to where you appeared in the organic search results and this emphasis has now changed.  So, if you have a well written site and attend to your On Page factors you have a far greater chance of being ranked – more than you did just a few months ago.  The Off Page factors however, still play a key role.

It’s also important to remember that the general SEO goal posts are constantly changing.  You will be attempting to rank against your competitors who may also be working on their SEO.  So clearly if all your competitors are amending key elements on their websites and have other factors weighing in more heavily than yours – then you will have to amend yours as well.

There are two ways of carrying out SEO and search engines only approve of White Hat SEO, in fact Google actively encourages it.  Black Hat SEO should be avoided at all costs.
You should never pay a company to carry out your SEO work unless you have actively sought them out and vetted their credentials.  This, and Black Hat SEO will be explained further in the in-depth articles.

A company building you a beautiful looking website does not necessarily have the skills or offer the services of SEO.  They are in fact, two very different services.  These articles therefore extend to readers who run an Etsy/Folksy shop, have built their own websites and those who have commissioned theirs.  Don’t automatically assume that SEO has been included in the package by your webmaster – if they haven’t mentioned it, they possibly haven’t done it.  You will of course, know your business better than them, so they need to be told how you would like your site optimised.

SEO does not happen overnight
The search engines index sites frequently with their spiders or robots; however major searches and updates are often carried out once every three months.  After the last Google algorithm update, Googlebot (Google’s spider) wiped hundreds of websites from their page 1 positions, whereas others employing strong White Hat SEO techniques gained dramatically.  Give your SEO time to work before ‘tweaking’ it.

There a many elements to SEO work and the numbered items will have a definite effect with regards to gaining rankings on the search engines.

2.  Page title
Page title or title tag tells the search engine what the page is about and ideally every page should have a different title.  This will be seen in the search bar when the page is opened.

3.  Keywords (Metatag keywords)
Keywords aren’t (as a lot of people think) a long list of individual words.  They are actually lists of keyword phrases. Think about how a customer will search for you or a page of your website on the search engine. They do not search by one word only and these search terms should become your keywords.

4. Metatag description
When you enter a search, you will see a short description below the page title of the websites appearing.  This is the metatag description and should (a) advise your potential clients what your site is about and encourage them to visit your site over and above your competition, but (b) also include some keywords.

5. Page content
The content of your page needs to relate to your page title and your keywords. You should specifically include your keyword phrases.  Put too many in though and you will be penalised for “keyword stuffing”.  

6. Bold text
You can tell the search engines that something on your page is important to you by making it bold.

7. Headings and sub headings
The heading and sub heading text on your page should relate heavily to the page content and your keywords.

8. Link popularity (Off Page SEO)
Links into your site count.  They tell the search engine that your site is worth visiting.  However, pay link farms at your peril as this is Black Hat SEO.   If you have a well written site which is informative and interesting then people will want to link to it.

9. Links from Social Networks (Off Page)
Ever wondered why you see Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest etc. dotted around all the leading websites?  Here’s your answer – it’s a weighty Off Page factor in getting their website ranked.

10. Age of your website, domain class and where your website is hosted
There is nothing you can do to influence the age of your website – except wait!  The longer your website has been around, the more trusted it is by the search engines.  The domain class and where your website is hosted are essential to your success.  Should you wish to be found in the USA, but your domain registrar hosts you in the UK and you have a .co.uk address – you simply won’t succeed against competitors hosted in the USA with a .com address.

11. Keyword within the domain
If, like many jewellers (I include myself in this) your domain is your own name, then your home page will not be weighted at all by the search engines for your keywords for this element – unless of course, you choose your own name as a keyword!  You will therefore have to ‘up your game’ for other SEO factors.  It is entirely possible to do this. Indeed, I am consistently ranking in position 1 on page 1 of Google for one search I have targeted. However, this is why it is stated earlier that SEO is a moving game.  If the competition has one or more of the words of your chosen keyword phrase within their domain, you start at a disadvantage and need to monitor their sites closely in order to maintain your position.

12. Keyword use within the URL (the http(s): address at the top of your screen)
For all other pages on your site – you can make a difference!
Your domain is set, but each individual page name can include keywords within in it.  If you’ve already named a sub page, then it’s probably best to leave it alone and focus on other SEO work.

13. Server speed
If your page takes too long to load, the search engines don’t like it.  You can impact this, depending on the content you choose for your page.

14. Readability and HTML validation of your website
The Flesch Reading Ease test is a United States governmental standard to determine how easy a text is to read.  Avoid jargon and remember KISS – ‘keep it simple stupid’.  Web pages are written in special language called HTML and CSS.  The World Wide Web Consortium (WC3) is the governing body that establishes what is valid HTML/CSS and what is not. Search engines obey their standards.  If there are errors in your code on your website, then the search engines may not be able to read them.

15. Naming your images, flash and JavaScript. Keywords in HTML
Spiders cannot read images. They can only read what you want to call them.   Likewise if your website is encoded in JavaScript, it cannot be read by the spiders.  The title you give your image is known as anchor text and, as a user hovers their mouse over your image, this is what they will see.  It is good practice to call it what it actually is (even though you don’t have to because the spiders wouldn’t know) but the humans using your site could get very confused if you called it something entirely different in an attempt to boost your SEO!  You will not want / probably not have the ability to amend HTML, but keywords within HTML can have an effect on your ranking

16. Number of visitors to your site (Off Page)
This is a hard one to influence to a huge extent.  Until you can get your site ranked, it’s difficult to have a major impact on the numbers of visitors to your site.  

17. Links to other pages on your site / other sites
A well-constructed site will have links to other pages and a site map to enable the users to navigate around it easily.  You may also have links to other sites of interest to the users. E.g. The Guild of Jewellery Designers.  The words you use within these links do have a role to play within SEO.

18. Analyse your performance.
How do you know if you’re making a difference with your keywords? You will need to analyse how many people are finding it and what keywords are performing for you.  Then you can start ‘tweaking’.

From reading this summary article, the overriding impression you should have gained is that SEO is not bad practice; there are just good and bad ways of going about it.  If you have an interesting and worthwhile site this will be a key factor in ensuring your site is enjoyed by potential customers and found by search engines, but like any business unless you market your website (and SEO should form part of your marketing strategy) – it will not flourish.

Lesley H Phillips

****Part 1 of 'A Jeweller's Guide to SEO' ****

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