How to Optimize SEO, Website Design


There’s a famous quote from the late ’80s baseball movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they’ll come.” While we’d like this saying to apply to all areas of our business, it’s not always accurate, especially when it comes to your website.

For jan/san distributors who are considering creating a new transactional website, or perhaps improving your existing one, it’s time to think about what that website really needs to do to be successful. E-commerce revenue in the US is growing exponentially year over year, and the opportunities abound even in the more traditional B2B space. (See Chart 1)

Chart 1

Your website isn’t just the face of your business, it’s a moneymaker. This is the only asset that could quickly encourage (or discourage) a potential customer to do business with you.

So how can you make a great first impression, gain trust, and close/keep business through your website? Let these questions guide you:

  • How will people find your site?
  • What do they want to do there?
  • Are they having a good time? Really… that’s a serious question.
  • What else can you do to increase your digital presence?

It’s all about the SERP

Out of sight is out of mind when it comes to searching for information online. As potential customers search for the products and services you offer, Page 1 is where you’ll want to be. This is the smartest part of any online marketer’s strategy; the most coveted and the most difficult to obtain, especially in this competitive industry.

There are literally thousands of people – from independents to large online retailers – selling the exact same products as you. How do you beat them to the top of a search engine results page (SERP)? SEO, of course! This is the most important acronym to date: Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is a science. This entire article could be about techniques you could deploy on your site to boost your organic rankings, but here are some digestible tips instead:

  • First, write the website copy and content with SEO in mind. The rule of thumb is always to write for users first, of course, but you have to do it with search engines in mind. Focus on these elements:
  • Title tags and meta descriptions. These should be 55 and 160 characters maximum, respectively, and unique on each page. But how do you do that when you sell thousands of products? Many e-commerce systems will allow you to set rules for using copy and/or information from product detail pages as title tags and metadata. If you have this option, consider setting the “Product Title” as the title tag and the “Short Description” as the meta description. Any categories you care about should benefit from a little more custom SEO love.
  • Rename your URL structure to include keywords and phrases. Clean up long URLs and also remove extraneous characters.
  • Add internal links to your static copy. An internal link is a link in your website copy, usually placed on a priority keyword or phrase, that will easily take the user to that page of your website. Search engines love them because that’s how they essentially crawl from page to page on your site.
  • Create personalized content that is educational and adds value, often solving a problem or answering a question. These take the form of blog posts or guides. All content should aim to build expertise, authority and trust, following the Google EAT principle (see Figure 2) Pro tip: Create personalized content several times a month. If you don’t, search engines will think your site is outdated and irrelevant, causing you to drop in organic rankings.

Chart 2

Sticky, not sticky

How “sticky” is your website? By sticky, we mean what do users find appealing upon arrival that would make them want to stay? The answer lies in a well-designed user interface (UI) and a well-thought-out user experience (UX).

By definition, a user interface is the point of human-computer (or website) interaction on any device. A well-designed user interface will be intuitive, making the user experience simple and effortless, streamlining the desired outcome. User interface often refers to the aesthetic elements of a website. User experience, although very similar, is the overall experience of the user on the website and what they get out of it.

Think of it as a home: UX is the base, and UI would be everything that makes it great: paint, decor, and furniture. Just like your home, you want to invite guests to feel warm and welcome, and to stay, instead of wanting to leave immediately.

When it comes to user interface and user experience, consider these factors of your site:

  • Easy and simplified navigation: Determine which categories are important to your business and your customers. If you rely on your wholesaler’s category structure, it may not work for you overall. Most e-commerce platforms allow you to rename or define your own categories, so that your top-level navigation and subsequent sub-categories meet your customers’ needs.
  • Merchandising: Does your homepage promote products in a thoughtful way? Is it clean, simple and attractive or does it look like a disorganized retail store? Think of your site’s pages as aisles, like those in a retail store. If the flow doesn’t make sense – pants are lumped together with tops and clearance items are disheveled – it makes for an unpleasant shopping experience. Keep merchandising and product design organized and clean.
  • Simplify your payment process: Minimize steps and offer a guest checkout process. It can be difficult to set a contract price for guests, but it should be done because new customers want ease and convenience. Not offering a guest checkout process could deter new buyers from using your site. Once you’ve made the initial sale, talk to them to come up with a better contract pricing plan.
  • Update your site frequently: Redeem featured products and promotional banners. Add educational and beneficial blogs and guides for your customers. Sprinkle in reviews and make sure your product detail pages have the best content possible.

Below is an example of a website optimized for ease of payment, navigation, and merchandise promotion. Visit the website for Grainger, a Denver-based cleaning supplies distributor (see Chart 3).

Chart 3

Once on a subcategory page, you can easily dive into more specific product categories, filter products, search within that subset of results (see Figure 4).

Chart 4

In short, make the experience and interface simple, streamlined, timely and relevant. By doing so, your customers will stick around.

next page of this article:
Tips Distributors Can Use to Drive Website Traffic


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