October 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Site redesign perks up traffic at ScentsandSprays.com

Mining customer feedback for new keywords and streamlining the web site’s underlying software coding improves natural search rankings and boosts page views 17%.

ScentsandSprays.com has realized a 30% increase in traffic and a 17% increase in average page views per site visit since a July site redesign, which simplified pages visually to make it easier for shoppers to find products, co-owner Kevin Richards says. The redesign also simplified the site’s underlying software coding to make site content more accessible to search engine crawlers, he adds.

Richards, who also is CEO of Ventura Web Design, which operates the site as a both revenue source and test lab for applications it develops for its retailer clients, says the feedback his team gained from talking to ScentsandSprays.com’s top 100 customers was key to better optimizing its pages for natural search.

“That’s something that would help a lot of retailers with search engine optimization,” he says. “By talking to your customers and asking them to describe what they like about the product, oftentimes you will get a lot of keywords out of that description that you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.” Following its research with customers, for example, the site altered the product page description of its Votivo Red Currant scented candle. The description now compares the candle’s scent to “vanilla bean ice cream” and “sugar cookies,” based on how customers described the top-selling candle.

“We’re fragrance experts, and we know those particular fragrances are not actually in the product, but they are what people perceive,” Richards says. They’re what people search for, too, and as a result, the site is now capturing more shoppers who type in a web search for “candles that smell like vanilla bean ice cream,” and similar descriptions.

In the redesign, Richards and his team also minimized the use of JavaScript, the client-side scripting language that a consumer’s browser reads in a page’s web code to render content. The idea of client-side service is that it speeds up rendering because it uses functionality that resides on the consumer’s browser rather than requiring a web service call to a remote server. But Richards says on ScentsandSprays.com, the heavy use of JavaScript hindered search engine crawlers’ ability to read the page. By reducing its use on pages, the retailer found, the pages ranked higher in natural search.

Search engine crawlers don’t view a site as a person does-they see only lines of code, but simplifying site design helps customers as well as crawlers, he says. It makes pages load faster for shoppers and also reduces the likelihood that crawlers will get lost in the site and simply leave it before they’ve indexed it fully, he adds.

“If you look at some of the biggest sites, not even necessarily e-commerce, but Google or Facebook or other really successful sites that consumers like, they always seem to be pretty simple,” he says.

A more thorough report on ScentsandSprays.com’s redesign will appear in the forthcoming 2010 edition of the Internet Retailer Guide to Retail Web Site Design & Usability, complimentary copies of which will be given to attendees at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability 2010 Conference next Feb. 15-17 in Orlando, FL.

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