I’ve lived by this rule since 1997: If you name your products using the keywords customers search for to find and buy what you sell, you’ll do better selling online than if you use the manufacturer’s name or industry jargon for your product names.
I’ve been working on product pages on online stores for a long time, and I don’t get too excited about new techniques or tricks for boosting sales by optimizing product pages.
I think I’ve near ‘bout tried everything I’ve read about or seen online. We’re always testing stuff, and trying new things, but every once in awhile something sneaks up and gets me!
In today’s episode, I’m going to share how I spent less than thirty minutes optimizing a single product page which resulted in a 300% explosion in sales on that SKU, which rocked my world a little bit. It made me wonder what else I’m missing out on!
You Broke The Product Page In IE8
Back in November, I got an email from my production manager that a product page was messed up in some browsers. What looked fine in my Google Chrome on my Mac looked broken in Internet Explorer on a Windows machine.
Whoops! Bad dog, no biscuit. Here’s the original product page.
My philosophy is that any time I touch a page on my Yahoo! Stores, I try to fix everything else that hasn’t been updated in a while. After all, who knows when I’ll be back in there!
After fixing the broken HTML, my assistant Nikki and I sat down and looked at the page and made a list of what could easily be improved. This page had never been optimized or customized, but was still a very popular item in a not-so-popular product category.
Here’s what we saw…
The name of the product wasn’t very helpful:
1 in. Mendota Hunt Dog Leather Center-Ring Safety Dog Collar
The <Title> tag was created from the name, so it was pretty poor as well.
The caption was less than perfect:
Hunt Collar – Leather. A must for the distinctive working dog. Great looking and extremely durable. Center “safety” ring relieves pressure when caught on an obstacle and is also a handy place to attach a lead. New fully stitched design with solid brass roller buckle, center ring and dee ring.
Boilerplate text about collar sizing was on dozens of collar pages, and was three times as much text as the unique text about this specific product, so it was doubtful this page was a good SEO entry page.
Finally, there was no compelling headline or call to action that illustrated the benefit of buying this product once we did get someone to the page.
Send In The Clones
Instead of fixing these issues on this existing product page, I decided to do a little experiment.
What if we made a clone of this product page, named it what people called it instead of what the manufacturer called it, and pimped it out even just a little bit? How much better would this product page perform?
My original concept here was called the keyword clone. Build a duplicate of a product page around a generic product keyword to target both organic Google traffic and shopping feeds.
You don’t want to do this on too many products (or even multiple times on the same product) because that’s a little spammy, and you’ll probably get whacked. Instead of cloning products, just name your products what real people call them!
Target Generic Product Keywords
Most generic product keywords that don’t reference a brand name or a specific SKU are simply too broad to apply to a single product, and often the most relevant page on your site for that term is a category or sub-category page. Sometimes, the second or third most popular term is more suited for this approach.
First, we had to pick a phrase. Google Search Suggest – those keywords that pop up when you start typing in the search box — is a great way to do quick and dirty keyword research, but you could probably pull better data out of your Web analytics.
Go to Google and start typing the name of a common phrase to see what Google suggests, then type the whole phrase plus a space to see additional terms.
For example, when we searched on Google for “Leather Dog Collars,” Google suggested several additional, more refined terms:
Leather dog collar with name plate
Leather dog collar with bones
Leather dog collar kit
Leather dog collar custom
“Leather dog collar with name plate” was perfect for this experiment. Now that we had a keyword, we need to pimp out the product page a little.
Building The Product Page
First, we created a second page. I made the page name leather-dog-collar-with-name-plate.html for whatever boost that would potentially give us SEO-wise for keyword in URL.
Name: Leather Dog Collar with Name Plate
The way our templates work, unless we override them with custom tags, the name generates the TITLE, the H1/Headline, and the anchor text of links pointing back to this page on category pages.
Headline: #1 Best-seller: Leather Dog Collar with Name Plate
This product is a best-seller in its category, but it’s a dinky little category. It’s a big fish in a little pond.
Subheading: Get your free, 4-line brass ID plate
Here’s a call to action with the main reason folks buy our collars. They love those personalized ID plates.
Remember, this page experiment was supposed to be a quick hit, but when I looked at the caption (what Yahoo! Store calls its long product description field), I realized we were very light on text content on the page.
I didn’t want to turn this into a major project, I only wanted to spend maybe 30 minutes tops, so I called my brother Steve (the product expert in-house) as he was driving home from the office and got some answers to some pretty basic questions about this type of dog collar.
- Why do some customers prefer a leather collar over other materials? Is it just the appearance?
- Why buy this leather collar and not one of the couple dozen other ones we sell?
- Why is this specific SKU a best-seller?
- What benefits does it provide?
Steve told me about the training benefits of using leather collars. He said that there was some maintenance involved when you used leather collars, but some folks didn’t mind that. He explained these were our bestsellers because they looked so good, were a relatively good buy, and why they were better quality than the cheaper leather dog collars we sold.
The hardware was better quality as well, and this collar came with two different pieces of hardware which wasn’t mandatory, but was pretty handy for folks training their dogs.
Finally, he covered the main advantage of a center-ring / safety collar for folks who let their dogs run around unsupervised – if the dog gets hung up on a fence, it’s that dog’s best chance not to hang themselves.
I actually knew most of this information from growing up in the dog supply business, but it would have taken me over an hour think of it.
After maybe five minutes on the phone with an expert, I had some killer content. In less than 15 minutes, I turned those notes into around 450 words of unique, somewhat compelling product page content.
WHY A LEATHER DOG COLLAR? Some dog trainers prefer leather collars when training their dogs because it won’t pull on a dog’s neck like nylon or other synthetic material when you’re working with a dog. Leather has a different kind of friction. Leather doesn’t spin on dog same as nylon. Doesn’t tangle. Moves better on the dog’s neck when cornering. The collar turns easier.
Many dog owners like look and feel of leather dog collars. Leather is one of the world’s strongest materials and lasts a long time when taken care of properly. Leather is very durable.
On the downside, you have to care for leather collars a little more, especially if you’re working your dogs in water and the leather gets wet. You can clean a leather dog collar with a leather cleaner such as SADDLE SOAP. You also don’t want a collar to dry out, so keep it clean and oiled with neatsfoot oil or other leather conditioner. If you have a dog with a light-colored coat like a yellow Labrador retriever, don’t put something on the collar that will stain the dog’s neck!
Leather has a smooth, finished side and rough unfinished side. On some of the cheaper leather dog collars we sell (which run around $5-$6), the smooth, finished side is used for the outside and the unfinished leather faces the dog’s neck. This Mendota stitched Leather collar is a medium-priced collar. This leather collar is made of 2 pieces of leather stitched together, so the finished slide is on the outside and the inside which makes a great looking collar.
LEATHER COLLAR: BRASS HARDWARE — SOLID BRASS hardware which is pretty and strong. Brass is not only looks good, it’s also good because it doesn’t rust or turn. This collar hardware is made from solid brass not a plated finish, so it won’t wear off. Simply clean with BRASSO. THe hardware matches the FREE BRASS ID NAME PLATE that comes with the collar.
This Mendota Leather Dog Collar has both a center ring AND a d-ring brass collar hardware. Multiple rings are great for training your dog because you have plenty of options to attach leads, leashes, checkcords, and other training tools. For example, if you have your dog on a stake out chain hooked to the brass d-ring, you can hook your leash to center ring w/o unhooking from the stake until you have control over your dog.
Center-ring collars are safety collars, and if worn loose enough, a dog can roll out of a center-ring collar if it gets caught on a fence or hung up.
Once we built the page, I put links to it on both the Leather Collars category page and the Collars category page to try to get the new page spidered as quickly as possible. I also linked to it from a couple of external sites because I wanted it to rank ASAP.
Results Not Typical, Your Mileage May Vary
My office is in the same building as the shipping warehouse, but I never hear from the warehouse folks about changes we make on our Yahoo! Stores unless we blow something up.
I knew we had moved the needle on this one because I started hearing comments from the guys who pick the orders about “sales of this new product that looks the same as an old product.”
Next, the guys who make the nameplates for the collars were complaining about being backed up…”Rob’s doing something with the leather collars on the Yahoo! Store.”
Then, the inventory folks started complaining about how we were selling out of different sizes and the manufacturer was out of stock. We had several hundred on order and my stats kept getting screwed up because we were out of stock of half the sizes for the past 90 days. Now, we’re finally caught up!
Your Homework Assignment:
- Pick a keyword phrase that’s relevant for a specific product page.
- Clone that product page.
- Optimize the name for that keyword phrase. If you don’t have a Yahoo! Store, that means:
- Write a great <TITLE> tag
- Link to this page internally with that keyword as the anchor
- Write a compelling Headline with a benefit and call to action.
- Write 400-500 words of unique Content for the body text
- Link to this new product from another domain
- Deploy this today
Using popular keywords in product names and links to those products is simply good search engine optimization. Well-named product pages will rank better in organic searches.
Good product naming is not just for SEO. Good SEO just gets the prospects to your online store. Product pages using common terms in sales copy will also convert better.
Some people call it scent or continuity when folks see their search terms on your landing page, but customers call it “Hey! That’s exactly what I’m looking for!”
In 30 days, we’ll look at my stats on this particular experiment, and you’ll see:
- how much better the new page converts than the original page
- what channels buyers come from
- how much SEO traffic drives sales
- what SEO keywords generate revenue
- what pages drive buyer entries
- and my big, big secret…
When you make it easy for folks to realize you do sell exactly what they’re looking for, you’ll sell more stuff than if you just upload a data feed from the manufacturer’s product catalog.
Next month, I’ll disclose what I found to be responsible for at least half of the success of this 300% increase – this revelation is what blew my mind. This secret was supposed to be my big finish for this column, but I’m way over my word count, so you’ll have to wait until the next episode to find out. Now, go do your homework!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.