From the beginning of furniture retail, offline content has been a key part of the shopping journey: catalogs, magazines and more helped furniture retailers engage with shoppers and increase brand presence. But in today’s world, shoppers are increasingly going online to start their purchase journey, using search engines to narrow down their product search. Retailers today need to provide content through a variety of offline and online channels to ensure your brand remains at the top of search results.
This may sound like a daunting task, but the offline content you’re creating can be easily adapted online. By bringing offline assets online, you can create SEO optimized content on your site that will improve your search result rankings tremendously.
Spiders Speak HTML
Before we dig into how we can leverage these assets online, let’s talk a little bit about Search Engine Optimization. Think of search engines like spiders, they are crawling the internet looking for content on each site to determine how it should appear on search results. According to UpCity, “‘Spiders,’ ‘Crawlers’ or ‘Bots’ are just programs the search engines use to index the content found on the World Wide Web.” Crawlers can scan a website for specific tags and data and match it with relevant search queries.
Crawlable content is any web content that a browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) can read and categorize, or index. Browsers rely on crawlable content to create a functioning, accurate and reliable search engine. When a shopper types “red chairs” into a search bar, the browser displays ample results that directly relate to what they searched. You can thank crawling for that.
For a site to be crawlable, the content needs to be in a language that Spiders understand: Hypertext Markup Language, better known as HTML. While images and flash files can be great tools to supplement content, there needs to be HTML on that page for the Spiders to understand what that image or file is providing. When using non-HTML content, such as an image, take advantage of alternative, or “alt,” text. Alt text gives your image context – it tells the Spiders the topic of the photo. For example, to a Spider, an image tag looks something like this:
<img src=” https://firstname.lastname@example.org” alt=”Blueport Commerce Homepage Laptop“>
The text in blue above is the alt text. This piece of the image tag allows Spiders to connect it to related content or queries. To sum it up: the more HTML content you have, the easier it is for browsers to find your website and serve accurate results back to the users.
Bringing Print Content Online (and Making it Spider-Friendly!)
Many furniture retailers have a vast collection of print assets that circulates in their brick-and-mortar locations or via the mail. Print assets often contain information that helps furniture shoppers make a purchase decision. Rather than letting the print assets only serve offline audiences, furniture retailers should optimize this content for the web to broaden their online reach.
Blueport worked with Levin’s to put their spring catalog – a content-rich PDF file that had previously been print-only – online. They already had furniture-related content that could benefit online shoppers, but there was no way for Spiders to access and index it. Rather than put the images directly onto a landing page, with supporting alt text, Blueport took the next step and fully adapted the content to HTML.
Blueport identified five search results pages on www.levinfurniture.com that would benefit from having crawlable content added to the bottom. These pages are highly searched and having the additional copy would give Spiders a better sense as to what furniture is on that search results page.
In the above example, Blueport took the content on Levin’s living room results page directly from the catalog. With a few additional keywords sprinkled throughout, this content gives Spiders something to crawl, understand and put in front of shoppers who are searching for living room furniture.
Additional Benefits of Bringing Existing Content Online
In addition to the five blocks of content added to relevant search pages, Blueport used the catalog content to create five online buying guides. Not only are these buying guides full of crawlable HTML content, but they help educate shoppers in the furniture shopping funnel. If a shopper is in the consideration stage of their shopping journey, a buying guide with informative content can instill confidence in the shopper and allow them to make a final purchase decision. With links to these buying guides from the main navigation, Spiders understand the topics the buying guides relate to and shoppers can browse the content as it falls naturally in the path of their shopping journey.
The example above is a buying guide that uses, and expands upon, catalog content. This home office buying guide is in the Home Office main navigation menu. UpCity recommends building “roads” for the Spiders.
If your pages are hidden (with no links pointing at them) and they are hard for you to find, just imagine how impossible it will be for a Spider. Make sure you have direct and crawlable links pointing to the pages you want showing up in the search engine results.
Over time, this new HTML content on www.levinfurniture.com will likely increase Levin’s organic search ranking and ranking on the individual pages. When shoppers are searching for specific categories – like living room or home office – there is a better chance Levin’s pages show up in the results because of the additional crawlable content that they added to their site. Browsers want to have the most reliable results. Now that Spiders can crawl this content, they can index it and see that it’s closely related to specific furniture categories and browsers will want to deliver this content back to the shopper.
Remember, retailers don’t need to start from scratch in order to put crawlable content on their sites. There is a good chance there is existing content that can be adapted to HTML. Take inventory of the content you already have – whether print or TV – and adapt it for the web. Any content that’s related to your product, can be translated to HTML and can be crawled will help your website rise to the top in relevant search results.