One of the major things that has helped me with my t-shirt brand, Assault, since it’s inception in late February of last year was optimizing my site for Google and other search engines. I’ve worked as a SEO consultant and developer the past 7 or 8 years for various companies, and our list of clients contain some of the biggest names and brands in the world.

I’m not going to add to the gigantic list of of great SEO resources and basic SEO 101 strategies that you can easily find all over the web. Instead, I’m going to go over a few secrets that I have developed specifically for my online store, Assault Apparel, that will help those of you who are like me and don’t have any sort of money to use for marketing and PPC like some of the other t-shirt shops around town.

Think like a robot – Link Text, Title Text, Content Keywords, Landing Pages

A search engine spider uses a lot of information about your site to determine your search engine rankings. Using links with system text pertaining to your search term is a big factor. Using landing pages with specific keywords in your page title, as well as throughout the text in your actual page is another thing that gives you proper keyword density pertaining to the page titles.

Disable your sites’ stylesheet to get an idea of what a search engine is seeing when it comes to your page. The link text and text position on the site is very important. Be sure to have your links near the very top of the page, and to carve out your sites’ links by putting rel=”nofollow” on your anchor tags associated with pages you do not want spidered. This cuts down on the number of links on the page, thus giving you more weight on your pertinent links.

My links to the right all use the word t-shirts as well as link to my landing pages with the same keywords sprinkled throughout the content. I would say that about 2% of your pages content should contain your keywords. Anymore than 2% is overkill.

Think like a human – Keyword Choices

One of the most important tools I have used to determine naming conventions for my pages, shirts, and images is the Google Keyword Tool. Everyone uses this tool, and everyone who’s good at SEO is following the standards as laid out by Google in their SEO Starter Guide pdf, but what most places aren’t doing is choosing the high volume search keywords that aren’t being target by everyone.

For example, you’re never going to show up in the first 10 results for the keyword t-shirts, or tshirts, or even shirts. If you’re just starting out, there’s no point in trying to compete for this word. It’s already dominated. The words you should be trying to get in the top ten for, are other searches with the word, “t-shirt” in them. Assault‘s top keywords besides searches related to “Assault” are things like

  • zombie t-shirt
  • band apparel
  • graphic t-shirts
  • skull t-shirts
  • rocker apparel
  • chicago t-shirts
  • band shirts

You get the idea. These are the keywords you need to use throughout your internal and external links to your pages as well as your actual physical file names. The way you work your way in the top ten is to carve out your niche in other t-shirt related searches and over time you will finally begin to sneak into the top results for other one word searches. Currently we’re between 5 and 9 for the keyword “Assault“, and we never even used to get into the top ten.

Register your brand with local search results

We registered our business as a local business with Google and we’ve seen a significant increase in traffic from “chicago t-shirts” related searches. This is what gets you in the local results up near the top of the search results page.

Link backs are incredibly important to move your site up

The number one thing that determines your page rank on search results is link backs. (This isn’t a proven fact, but we’ve seen our best results from a precision link back campaign) This means if you want to get in the top results for t-shirt related searches, you need to start exchanging links with popular websites, and sites that show up in the search results for t-shirt searches.

A couple of my tips/tricks to get high quality link backs

  • Start an Ebay Blog. There aren’t any rel=”nofollow” on your links back to your own site. This is the best quality link juice you can get
  • Flickr Photos with links back to your site. This also gets you top quality linkback text to your specific site
  • Provide the exact linkback text to your link exchange partners so that it uses proper link text pertaining to your site.
  • Forum links – participate in relevant forums and generally your links will not have the rel=”nofollow” on them.
  • Start a Public Facebook Fan page. These are showing up in search results now as well.

Myths and irrelevant techniques

While everything I’ve said are examples of things that have worked for me, I should precede all of these things with this statement:

Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing. Last year it changed over 300 times, and no one is 100% sure exactly how it works. Don’t fall for the companies out there selling expensive “black magic” to get your site in top results. Most SEO boutiques are full of shit. I’ve done SEO campaigns for small and big time clients, and independent SEO boutiques trying to scam business off of them gave our SEO work an F grade… no joke. Be wary of SEO marketing companies. There are about 50 techniques, and everyone is doing them. Any SEO company is probably on the verge of spamming if they’re over promising results.

Google, Search Engine Watch, and the Search Engine Round Table are about the only 3 places I really trust.

Google does not use meta keywords, some search engines do, but I wouldn’t waste too much time on this.

Loading up 30 character file names and 40 word alt descriptions on images is a waste of time and resources. “SEO Experts” like Acronym may tell you to do this, but the time wasted doing this could be used somewhere else and you may get flagged as trying to game Google. While it is important to use alt tags, and to name images appropriately, overdoing this by using 40 word alt tags, and 30+ character names for your images is a bit of a waste of time and you run the risk of being flagged as loading your image and alt tags.

Don’t use hidden text to fool Google. They’ll find out and you’ll get penalized.

Make an XML sitemap and submit it to Google, and update it constantly.

Don’t overdo keywords in the title. Be specific, but don’t be a total spammer.

Use Google Analytics, and setup E-Commerce tracking. You’ll be amazed at the value of the information you get from this tool. I get 70% of my sales from organic search results, and plenty of that comes from Google Image search related to finding my product images with quality names and alt tags. Like I mentioned before, it’s important to use proper, specific names, but overdoing file names and alt tags is a unnecessary.


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