New SEO - The Catalog Challenge

Vestique Women's Apparel Store & New SEO

Had lunch on Friday with Heather King. Heather is a talented online ecommerce merchant helping the equally talented founders of Vestique, a successful women's apparel retailer in Raleigh, Charlotte and Greenville North Carolina, move from bricks to clicks. Vestique, like many catalog or brick and mortar retailers, faces unique challenges after Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates including:

  • Pages not supported by social shares don't get much New SEO traction. 

  • Social Shares hard to get because inventory moves so fast and unpredictably. 

  • Inventory uncertainty hampers inbound link building.

  • Uniting inventory, website and Point of Sale (POS) systems is a challenge. 

  • Time crunch for founders and shoppers. 

Here is Vestique's Internet marketing data:

Bricks, Clicks and New SEO

This post is about sharing ideas to help Vestique and other online merchants harness the power of our "new SEO". This "new SEO" is characterized by a need for engagement, efficiency and love. All websites need the hearts and minds of their brand loyal followers. This post shares 5 ideas for how Vestique can capture more hearts and minds without spending much. By aligning any website to this "new SEO" it will perform better meaning it will engage more and so bring more converting traffic.

Engagement Tip #1: About Page

Vestique founders LOVE women's fashion and that love comes through on their Our Story page. As regular readers of ScentTrail Marketing know the lowly About page is now, post Google's algorithm change, on of the most important pages on any website. The about page sets the stage for the values, ethics and philosophy that makes an online business unique, authentic and loved.

I would rewrite the Vestique about page in first person. The third person voice currently used takes away from the power of the words.
Example of first person voice & Vestique rewrite ideas:

Vestique's Founders Story 

Thanks For Visiting Vestique.

Caroline (on the left in the picture) and I were college friends at the University of North Carolina where we shared a love of fashion and unique style. After graduation we worked in corporate jobs we didn't love AND took a leap of faith.

We built on our passion for fashion and packed Vestique orders on lunch breaks, after work and weekends.

As Vestique grew we opened our first store and left our corporate safety nets. On October 5, 2011, we opened the doors to our 1818 Oberlin Road store in Raleigh, NC 27608. Next we opened the 1532 East Blvd. store in Charlotte, NC 28203 and our most recent opening was our 1922 Augusta Street, Suite 106 store in Greenville, SC 29605. Soon we will open 631 Harden Street in Columbia South Carolina 29205.

Finding unique fashion that helps customers look and feel great is our mission. With almost 30,000 Facebook fans, great supporters on Pintererst and a growing following on Twitter and GooglePlus Vestique is a hit.  

Vestique is a hit because our "fashion-wise" customers help Caroline, me and the Vestique team by taking an active roll in looking great. Our customers attend our fashion shows, join our mailing list, visiting our New Arrivals, Sale and Game Day pages frequently and let their friends know about Vestique's passion for fashion.

Express your passion for fashion, join Caroline, me and the Vestique tribe today: 

Vestique Mailing List              Vestique on Facebook

Vestique on Twitter                Vestique on Google Plus

Vestique on YouTube             Vestique on Pinterest  

This copy needs editing to sound less like me and more like Caroline and Morgan, Vestique's Founders, but you get the idea. Share your creation story, be specific (about store locations and social links and likes) and credit and thank active customers, customers willing to share and advocate. Link to key pages on your website and places where visitors can become advocates (social media).

Engagement Tip 2: Add Cross-Sale

Vestique has 110,000 pages in Google, but many of these pages are "ghost" or "zombie" pages. Vestique's inventory comes in and out so fast it wasn't hard to find active pages with no social support or rank such as:

Note inventory is 0 on all three of these dresses AND they have no social shares or PageRank (checked with Page Rank Checker). Vestique is doing the right thing by not removing these pages if we were doing Search Engine Optimization the old way.

Our new SEO is about efficiency and the cost for carrying these no rank "zombie" pages is a very low "Link Efficiency Index" or the ratio of pages in Google to inbound links. Vestique's LEI is .0000946 (and that is pretty low based on norms I've seen for other websites).

If I were Vestique I would use Magento (Vestique is using Magento now) to create and insert cross-sale into new products under the heading, "You Might Also Like" or "Poeple who like also like ". Adding cross-sale helps the 111,000 pages in Google continue to work for Vestique.

Providing a link also removes the bounce damage pages with 0 inventory can create. These pages aren't part of Vestique's active navigation, but you never know when someone will find a "zombie" page. By building in cross-sale when a dress moves to zero inventory BUT remains in Vestique's active navigation the page can still make a sale AND it will tick off Google less.

Engagement Tip 3: Create Content Silos

Pages such as "New Arrivals", "Sale" and "Game Day" should be treated as the top of a keyword and content silo. Keyword silos need very specific treatments, treatment I described in Advanced SEO: Siloing, Bottling and Bleeding on ScentTrail Marketing.

Here is how to make a page a "Silo Top":

  • Add copy with a (read more) link.

  • Make sure copy is within the page (called a "div trick"). 

  • Add social support for the Silo Top page (i.e. LIKE that page not Vestqiue as a whole). 

  • Add User Generated Content (reviews or testimonials).  

  • Share who has liked and is following with an avatar list. 

The last bullet is an option within Facebook like to include a list of pictures from those who've liked something. You want these pages to feel "tribal" and like a community has formed so use the Facebook "show likes" option to reinforce the formation of a tribe.

I might remove social from product pages. Normally I would NEVER suggest such an idea, but Vestique's inventory comes and goes so fast it is hard to form a tribe at the product page level. Better to focus likes and shares at the category level. 

Engagement Tip #4: Use Pinterest & Scoopit

Vestique and women's fashion are so visual creating a Pinterest business account is a great idea. There are already fans pinning to "Vestique" boards with over 600 followers. One way to THANK those fans is to follow and repin their pins.

Once Vestique has a Pinterest board it would be a good idea to curate content from their "fan boards" to their board and even to the site. "As seen on Pinterest" might be a cool page to summarize Vestique related content coming from Pinterest.

Pinterest is a great place to see and build on ideas from customers and other "fashion wise" pinners. My Queen of Pinterest board would be a great place for Vestique to share ideas and new content. is a great tool to spider the social web. Vestique can create 5 boards free and look up their spider tool with keywords to easily watch trends, to know what competitors are up to instantly and watch Vestique's reputation.

You can see my feeds here:


Engagement Tip #5: Content Contests

As the 5 Pinterest boards created by Vestique fans prove customers want to help. Vestqiue would be wise to create opportunities for their customers to share with the Vestique team and the Vestqiue community. What is more "community" oriented than fashion?

Easy to extend ideas such as Game Day to a contest. "Show Us Your Game Day Outfit, Win Tickets to the Game" would generate hundreds or thousands of photo shares. Don't forget to include a "voting round" where a handful of entries "run off" against each other for prizes.

The Voting Round is where the New SEO payoff exists since people in the run offs will drive social links to win the prizes. Driving social links into your website is a great "New SEO" engagement metric. Vestique represents a common challenge for small businesses - how to get everything DONE.

My advice is STOP TRYING. Best thing any SMB can do online is to ask for HELP. When you give customers the chance to help you will be amazed at the "New SEO" results.

Engagement Summary

Vestique is doing great. They are growing fast and furious because Caroline, Morgan and Heather love what they are doing and it shows. New SEO tips outlined on this page are easy and cheap to accomplish and they are sure to bring Vestique's online store to the next level.

Why? These tips mute the impact of zombie pages, add two powerful visual tools into Vestqiue social marketing arsenal and help harness the power of User Generated Content. Every SMB must Do More With Less. The amount of possible work is always infinite, so prioritizing work where ROI is greatest is critical. 


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