Ten stupid things catalog marketers do to mess up their sites

catalog-marketer-frustrationCatalog marketers – wake up! It’s time to “get” SEO – or run the risk of having a poorly-performing site and subpar search visibility.

Last week, I enjoyed the honor of speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s ACCM conference.  And it was an excellent reality check for me. Although I’ve been talking about SEO copywriting for over 10 years, there are many catalog marketers who just don’t “get it.” Maybe it’s because they just started to think about SEO copywriting. Maybe because they tried to do it themselves without having a clear understanding of what they’re doing.  Either way, the results range from so-so to dreadful…and these marketers are frustrated.

“Getting it” is incredibly important for catalog marketers right now.  Multichannel Merchant reported that online-only catalogs in March 2009 totaled 2,011 – up from 1,868 in March 208. During the same time period, print-only formats decreased from 1,574 to 1,347. This means that the online catalog competition is getting more heated…and catalog merchants need to do everything they can to stay on track.

Does your catalog company “get it?”  Here’s 10 of the most stupid things that catalog marketers do to mess up their site.

  1. Uploading your print catalog content without rewriting it for the online market. Yes, I know that rewriting every product page sound prohibitive from a content management and cost point of view. The reality is, the sites that have unique content are typically the ones that position better for the keyphrases they target (plus, they see higher conversions.) Focus on your top 20% pages and rewrite those first. You’ll definitely see an increase in search rankings and conversions.
  2. Wanting to put every applicable keyphrase on your home page, figuring it’s “the most important page.” The goal of SEO copywriting isn’t to get folks to land on your home page. Instead, you want prospects to land on a page that more closely matches their search query – and that’s typically an inner page.  Besides, shoving every keyphrase you’re targeting on your home page will make the page impossible to read.
  3. Same Titles across all site pages. One of the fastest ways you can quickly improve your search engine visibility  is to create unique, keyphrase-rich Titles for each page. Unique Titles help the search engines understand what your page is about – and well-written, “clickable” Titles help encourage conversion off the search engine results page.
  4. Not researching keyphrases. You may think you “know” how your customers are searching. However, keyphrase research allows you to double-check your hunches, plus find other keyphrases you may not have thought of. Ignore this step at your peril.
  5. Focusing on only 5-10 keyphrases (and the site has over 5,000 products). Most ecommerce sites have hundreds – if not thousands – of applicable keywords (depending on the site’s size.)  Although some keywords are higher value than others, don’t focus on a few at the expense of the many. If you do, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach folks at all phases of the buy cycle.
  6. Making the “add to cart” button impossible to find. If you want people to buy from you, you have to ask for the sale. Hiding the “add to cart” button (or making it hard to find) will do nothing but force people away from your site.
  7. Hiring cheap writers who write poorly. I just spoke to an ecommerce site owner who went offshore for his SEO copywriting – and he complained that he wasted over $2,500 on bad writing that didn’t help him. Unfortunately, that’s a common story.  SEO copywriting – like any form of direct marketing writing – is a “get what you pay for” proposition. If you can’t hire it out, consider training your marketing staff instead.
  8. Not updating the site. Every see someone with a mullet and think “That’s SO 80′s!”  A Website mullet (old, outdated content) is just as off-putting.  Make sure that your blog posts, press pages, articles and product pages reflect your most current information.
  9. Assuming that people will call you for more information. No, putting up “teaser” content to trick people into calling for more information is not a good idea. People rely on your Website to help them make an informed decision. Forcing people to call your company for more information is a good way to lose conversions. Not to mention, sites with little-to-no content typically don’t position well.
  10. Not leveraging other types of customer communication and content. Can’t change your content template? Start a blog. Want to keep in immediate touch with your customers? Consider a Twitter campaign. Having an ecommerce site is just the first, foundational step. There are many more ways that you transform surfers into spenders and expand your online branding. The key is setting a strategy, controlling what you can control and making it happen.