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Get Noticed Online!

Volume 142 NO. 3 July/August Furniture World Magazine
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Article Summary: In a cluttered online world, attending to the basics of good website design and marketing can make a huge difference to your furniture business. Covered are practical tips and techniques.


Business owners often rely on their website to build awareness about their company and stand out online. However, to drive traffic and get noticed, you must consider all aspects of online marketing. Here are a number of different techniques furniture retailers should use to take their online visibility to the next level.

Achieving notoriety on the World Wide Web where anything and everything is accessible can seem overwhelming, but with an effective strategy it can be the key to business success. Many businesses feel that their online efforts are complete once they have established a professional website. To be truly effective, however, your virtual space should be used as the cornerstone to build a notable and attractive reputation with customers. There are many valuable opportunities to develop this strategy that are often neglected.


Example #1 Homepage


Poor Homepage:
  • Words are simple and boring. They do not contain any industry buzz words to help with SEO.
     
  • Images are boring, do not stand out, only chairs are shown without captions or tags.
     
  • Contact Information isn’t specific.
     
  • No internal hyperlink for the directions to store.
Improved – Homepage:
  • Now includes terms: “contemporary design”, “affordable prices”, “world’s top manufacturers”, “charismatic collections”, “superb craftsmanship”, “cutting-edge design”, “natural materials” and “large selection”, for SEO.
     
  • Includes a variety of furniture pieces pictured in a setting to inspire shoppers.  
      
  • Title image is bright, drawing eyes towards the top of the page so the title “Lauren’s Furniture Store” stands-out.
      
  • Contact Information has the name of the store added, and a link to a “Directions” sub-page that is found under the “Contact” page.
      
  • Internal hyperlink added giving store directions.


A professional website creates a designated space for you to tout the positive attributes of your inventory. It is a platform to present your unique selling points with target customers while also providing them with an information resource that is always available. But once the site is live on the Web, consider how you can best utilize it to maximize awareness and outreach. To do this successfully requires online marketing initiatives that are the important next steps for business growth. Opportunities with search engines like Google, online listings in virtual directories, social media and even analytical data about website activity are all channels to use for expanding touch points between business and consumer.

Before the birth of digital media, prime marketing techniques included public displays, sponsorships and advertisements in print publications. Today, the focus has shifted from print to online banners, ad words, virtual communities and search engine marketing placements, as well as from one to two-way communication. And although furniture retailers are aware of this shift, many have been slow to become fully engaged in its implementation.
 
If you suspect that you could be getting better results from your online marketing efforts, and do a better job of developing and maintaining customer relationships, keep reading.


Example #2 About Us Page:


Before – About Us:
  • The wording is vague and unhelpful.
     
  • The team members have no description nor contact information.

Improved – About Us:
  • Spruced up the wording – added buzzwords “dream home” “design appeal” “comfort” “in-style furniture” “knowledgeable”, “professional”, “sales force” and “design team”.
     
  • Added title and email to the team members.

The number and categories of online advertising opportunities in general has dramatically increased thanks to a rising emphasis on gaining consumer trust and proving relevance instead of merely ‘shouting the loudest’ amongst competitors.

Start Promoting Your Furniture Website


If you are unsure of how to get started, it may be beneficial to start small. If you are like most furniture retailers, focusing your outreach to consumers in your local trading area is ideal. As a first step, market your business through online directory listings on local search engines. Placements in these resources help boost visibility when someone searches on the Web for a retailer in your area, and will display a business’s contact and website details for immediate accessibility. Checking with your current Web hosting provider for tools that help push your business content out to several directories like Google™Maps, Yahoo!® Local, Bing™, Ask.com™ and Yellowpages, is also a good idea. Submitting information once rather than individually to each listing can greatly save on time.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are great for making personal connections. These platforms have been transformed into popular marketing tools for managing customer relations. Social media is no longer just a tool consumers expect to be used among their personal circles; instead, it is now an avenue the public requires businesses to also utilize for communication. Along with your website, this all combines into a testament of the quality items and customer service you can offer to customers.


Example #3 "Our Collections Page"



Poor – Our Collections Page:
  • A simple list of furniture categories.
     
  • No pictures to view the collections. It’s just a statement saying to visit the showroom.

Improved – Our Collections Page:
  • Furniture now listed as hyperlinks to photo galleries that display the different pieces accordingly with prices.
     
  • Added buzzwords to more detailed text: “large selection”, “hand-picked”, “quality” “value”, “unique pieces”, “highest quality” and “eco-friendly”.
     
  • Highlighted the feature of natural/eco-friendly pieces in the appropriate color of green.
      
  • Added product lifestyle images.

Taking Next Steps With Furniture Website SEO


A website is great to have but not nearly as effective as it could be if not utilized through other online channels. Many opportunities on the Web keep a website at the heart of its strategy. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of them. The primary benefit found in SEO is the careful look it forces you to take at your website. For example, is your site’s content enhanced with keywords and features that push the site to a prominent position in online search results? In other words, if someone were to search for a furniture store in your specific area, will search engines consider your website relevant enough to place it prominently in the list of results? Working to enhance SEO for your business website is a free technique you can use to get better visibility in search engines. Try it by doing the following:

  • Strategically place keywords and industry vocabulary in site content.
      
  • Update website material on a regular basis.
      
  • Offer credible third-party links that expand on information about topics to visitors.
      
  • Write descriptive captions to photos of individual pieces of furniture.
      
  • If you deliver, specify the regions within your area that you service.

To help determine valuable keywords, place yourself in the shoes of your target customer. Conduct a search on Google that you think they would use to find your business (i.e. quality dining room tables, comfortable sofa, etc). Use this strategy to develop a list of terms to use throughout the site and ideas of how to organize content. While there are no fool-proof methods that guarantee a top placement in results, utilizing multiple avenues can significantly improve visibility and reputability on the Web.

Just as SEO can be extremely effective, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has also become a valuable strategy for those business owners. Unlike SEO where website content is the key, SEM uses online ads to place information on search ranking pages. This includes banners or graphics around the border of a search results page and sponsored links that connect directly to the company’s website. In practice, this heightens brand awareness and recognition among consumers while giving you, as a business owner, more control over targeted marketing initiatives. Your Web host can be a valuable source of information about SEM.
The science behind successful SEO and SEM strategies is yet to fully be perfected by marketing experts. But to help you get a basic understanding, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about SEM and SEO from business owners.

How is SEM impacted by my website? Ensure that your website’s homepage is relevant with the keywords used in your online advertisement. If Google cannot determine the connection between the ad and your site’s homepage, the relevance will be missed and it will not consider your website as significant as those from competitors. Additionally, ensure that your website loads properly and all Web pages are fully functional.

What does a Google Ad consist of? The advertisements consists of three different parts - a title linking to the website, up to two lines for a description, and the business’ URL. The topic of the advertisement can be anything relevant to your organization, from an overview of your store to a specific promotion you currently offer.

How long does it take for SEO to impact my listing in search results? This is difficult to say. SEO is not an overnight fix, and takes many things into account. It can take up to a few months after any changes are made for search engines to recognize the new optimized content. Also, rankings are affected by elements such as the number of visits to your homepage and links to your site in other online content. These recommendations are a key factor for your SEO technique. If other sources are recommending your website, your credibility and in turn your ranking will improve.

What is an ideal number of keywords to include in website content? It is not necessarily how many different words you use, but how often you use them that matters the most. Forcing this vocabulary into places where it does not make sense will hurt your reputation as a knowledgeable source and potentially damage how search engines analyze your website.
Is there a special process that a search engine like Google will use to “find” my website? There is, but only to a degree. Search engines send out “crawlers” around the Web each time someone performs a search online. Depending on what the search terms are specifically, these crawlers will focus on reading and analyzing websites that include these exact words or similar phrases. An extensive algorithm is performed on the back end and the resulting analysis of sites’ content produces a list of links from most to least relevant.

Analyzing Your Efforts


Your website is up and running for people to visit. You have optimized content to pull traffic from search engine results and use a Facebook profile as a key source for customer feedback. With a website at the heart of your online endeavors, analyzing the impact your site is having on consumers is vital to tuning into your target demographic.

Website data, or site analytics, is an efficient tool to use to measure the success of a site with an intended audience. This batch of statistics measures important details that can act as learnings about what and how to improve your business presence, revealing details like levels of traffic to site pages, geographic locations of online visitors, time spent on the site and keywords used in search engine requests. Businesses can also ask visitors questions directly through surveys and polls posted on the site. By offering two-way communication between business and consumer, surveys allow a business owner to get specific information about what customers are interested in both on your website and about their services.

As you leverage your website in communicating your services, you are raising awareness with those who matter the most for your growth and success. Accessibility to your business increases and clients have a resource to share with others.


Crafting An Online Marketing Strategy (sidebar):

  • Create a Facebook business page and link it with your website.
     
  • Link to Google Maps. Include mailing address, Web address and phone number.
     
  • Determine valuable keywords for your website and use them to structure its content.
     
  • Regularly update website content.
     
  • Contribute content and comments on other industry forums or blogs.
     
  • If budget is available, investigate SEM opportunities.
     
  • Use analytics to determine what pages of your website are most successful and which are not.
     
  • Don’t give up! It will take time for you to notice the impact of your efforts.

About The Author: Richard Stevenson, is Head of Corporate Communications for 1&1’s hosting divisions worldwide. Having worked in web hosting for 10 years, Richard has spent many years working with media to raise awareness for Web related issues to small business audiences all over the world. His key areas of interest include championing micro-sized businesses on the Web, and discussing ways to improve consumer experiences online.

1&1 Internet provides small- to medium-sized businesses with web-based solutions for getting their business online successfully. As a global leader among Web hosts, 1&1 is well placed to deliver high quality service to its customers.

For more information about website development and website marketing, email press@1and1.com or visit www.1and1.com.

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