E-tailers: To Stay Relevant, Up Your SEO Game

Apparel retailers are now being aggressively challenged in the online search battle by sites like Gilt Groupe, RuLaLa, Groupon and Amazon, according to PM Digital, a New York-based digital marketing agency specializing in paid search advertising (PPC), natural search (SEO), social media, and shopping feed management. But this does not have to be the case.

In a report titled How Apparel Retailers Can Take Back the Fashion Discussion, PM Digital uses as an example a Google search for the term "men's fashion," pointing out that of all the listings on the first page, only two are retailers, and only one is a major fashion retailer. 

"The threat here is not that content sites like GQ or About.com are taking control of the men's fashion discussion," said Chris Paradysz, CEO of PM Digital, "but rather that a straight affiliate play like www.mens-fashion-tips.com could capture more natural search attention than Armani, or Ralph Lauren, or even Land's End. These brands are significantly more important to the American fashion scene than some of the minor players on this query."

There are four pillars for how apparel retailers can more effectively optimize their websites to raise their search profiles:

  • Pillar 1: Understanding Keywords and Targeting
  • Pillar 2: Controllable Variables -- On-Site Optimization
  • Pillar 3: Influenced Variables -- Off-Site Optimization
  • Pillar 4: Content

Pillar 1: Keywords and Targeting: To properly position themselves to be part of a broad conversation, or even to infiltrate a targeted conversation in the search engines, retailers must have some degree of relevancy or they won't have the legitimacy to be in that conversation. For example, in order to play in the "men's fashion" game, sites needs to have the keywords "men's fashion" as a prominent part of it. Retailers need to research and target those keywords that show the widest visibility and greatest point of consumer engagement and create relevancy on their site by creating content that is appropriate to the target keyword, create pages that are appropriate to the target, and create excitement around that target.

Pillar 2: Controllable Variables -- On-Site Optimization: In the world of the Internet, the only things that retailers can totally control are the elements of their own site. By mastering these elements, such as titling and tags, as well as search-optimized navigation and site structures, they can create an environment that is more conducive to search engine visibility for the terms that they target. These elements are crucial to the search engine spiders being able to access all of their content. And, of course, in order to play at the widest end of the discussion, they need to have great content around the target.

Pillar 3: Influenced Variables -- Off-Site Optimization: Off-site optimization, or more fundamentally, link building, is a core exercise in building overall awareness, but laser-focus on link building from topically-relevant sites with anchor text that targets the target keyword is the key to achieving top visibility for a particular keyword. While this may seem like a dark art to some, targeted link building drives relevance to sites for their target keywords, and the search engines recognize this as authority and highly relevant context. The goal is to find the appropriate link partners and craft the right message to get them engaged enough to give a retailer's site a link with its target keyword as anchor text.

Pillar 4: Content: Content, they say, is king. And, the single biggest reason that apparel retailers have not seen success in infiltrating the broadest kinds of discussion on the Internet is because they do not create much content outside of product descriptions. In order to compete with the editorially driven sites and earn their right at the premier place for the largest search volume query, they must have content that is unique, targeted, well-executed and is focused on both the search engines and the users. Like editorial players, the goal is to drive visibility through the leveraging of their domain expertise. Content is hard to create, but the double benefit of increased presentation and velocity driven customers is simply unparalleled. 

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