Once you've got your store set up the next step is getting people to find it. Preparing your site for search engines and directories is worth the time and effort and pretty simple to do with the templates. We've prepared a very brief introduction and guide below but you may want to visit a site like Webmaster World for a deeper understanding.
If you look at your HTML code, you'll find something like this near the top of your page <TITLE>Untitled document</TITLE>. It's crucial to have a good title, around 10 words that clearly explain what the page / site is about and including words and phrases you think people will search on, so if you're selling widgets for example you might have something like this
<title>Professional manual and mechanical widgets from My Company</title>
It's important to use different titles for different section/pages of your site, so on a help page you might have:
<title>How to install mechanical widgets</title>
Much less important than the <TITLE> tag but still useful for some search engines. The description tag is particularly handy for controlling how your link will appear. Here you want to use 12 to 15 words that describe the content of your page, preferably using the same collection of words and phrases that can be found in your main body of text. This again should change from page to page depending on content. For example:
<meta name="description" content="Quality widgets and fidgets for sale. Buy online at low prices at My Store">
Many of the major search engines will pick up the text from your site and use it, amongst other factors, as a test of relevancy for the search. So having keyword rich text is extremely important for giving the search engine something to pick up on. You shouldn't go overboard here but certainly having your keywords near the top of the page is going to be an advantage. Don't try fooling the search engines by hiding text, or listing your keywords 50 times to improve ranking.
Be careful of using manufacturer supplied product information as your page content should not be identical to others on the web selling the same product line. This can lead to duplicate content issues and lack of ranking. Be sure your content is unique!
Each graphic on your site should have accompanying alt information - that's the text in a box you see when you pass your cursor over a graphic. Apart from aiding the disabled viewers, you can also help with your search engine optimization by using concise keyword rich descriptions. For example:
<img border="0" src="images/manual_widget.gif" width="140" height="113" alt="Manual Widget">
It appears that particularly for Google, the importance of quality links to your site will improve your ranking. You may want to spend some time asking to have links placed on related sites, preferably text and with your keyword(s) incorporated. You can start off by adding your store to our directory here.
Also consider how you are going to treat deleted products. Once you have deleted a product, the product detail page will be lost from your site but the URL still may be available in the search engines, causing people to find broken links and go elsewhere. One solution would be to set up Custom 404 pages (your host can help with that), another would be to mark the product as out of stock rather than completely deleting it from your store.
A good domain name can help so you might want to look for something like manual-widgets.com or mechanicalwidgets.com. Use your keywords in your page names where possible and without going over the top.
We have more information on our search engine friendly options.