by Allison Banko
White Hat Holsters' website was tailor-made for returning customers, optimized around company-created brand names. The challenge was taking off its brand blinders to appeal to new customers by implementing more generic, SEO-friendly search terms into the website's brand-centric foundation.
The company had self-invented terms describing its holster models — MaxTuck and BaseMax, for example. While it's common for retailers to categorize products with specialized brand names, the issue for White Hat Holsters was that it optimized the majority of its website entirely around these terms, using them as page names rather than basic terminology.
Though preexisting customers may be familiar with the jargon, potential customers, were not. A customer conducting a generic search for a handgun holster wouldn't type "MaxTuck" into his or her search tool. But, it was those lesser-known terms White Hat Holsters had optimized for, not basic keywords.
In order to increase traffic and sales, White Hat Holsters needed to gain exposure.
"I just knew we had to get more visible because if you searched for hybrid holsters, we weren't on the radar," Tony Farah, Owner, White Hat Holsters, said. "There was nothing there that would direct customers to us."
To get on the radar, White Hat Holsters needed a successful SEO strategy to optimize its website around those more common keywords instead of its branded keywords.
It needed to get back to the basics.
Step #1. Research and uncover related, generic keywords
The process began by deciphering what the best keywords White Hat Holsters could work with. This was achieved through:
- Keyword, SEO and search engine ranking tools
- Competitive research
White Hat Holsters collaborated with an outside vendor to compile a preliminary list of guideline keywords most likely to be used by a novice searching for a holster.
Those keywords were put into tools which then delivered a list of related keywords. Finally, that list was shaved down to quality, non-branded terms that weren’t too highly competitive but at the same time, would still yield a substantial amount of organic traffic.
Most importantly, this list was comprised of keywords most likely to be used by those potential customers White Hat Holsters was struggling to reach.
Step #2. Review the site structure
Now that a list of generic keywords was completed, the next step was determining where and how they needed to be implemented within the website. This was done by carefully reviewing the existing structure of the site including page names and titles, as well as the location of those pages.
The existing pages and title tags were pinned with the branded terms White Hat Holsters created (MaxTuck, BaseMax, etc.), and the website as a whole was optimized around those terms.
White Hat Holsters was a special SEO case because it wasn't in need of a new website design — it already possessed a complete website. This is why an inspection was done to see how the existing site could be optimized to save both time and effort.
It was ideal to avoid changing the structure too much and focus on optimizing within the existing site instead of starting from scratch.
Scraping the website
To dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of the site structure, White Hat Holsters’ vendor used an SEO spider tool
to scrape on-site elements for SEO such as:
- Meta description tags
- Image alt tags
- URL page titles
By submitting URLs into the crawler, the tool created a spreadsheet of data divided into tabs and filters to make SEO examination efficient.
Step #3. Optimize on-site elements with findings
With results in place, the next step was implementing all of those findings into the website while minimally hampering with its structure.
Step by step, White Hat Holsters' on-site elements were optimized to target the higher traffic keywords
compiled in step one.
But first, that list of keywords had to be whittled down just a bit more.
When dealing with keywords, you don’t want to stuff your site to the brim at the risk of:
- Raising the suspicions of search engines
- Making your customers uncomfortable
To address this, White Hat Holsters settled on three to five keyword phrases to target per page.
This included the assignment of keywords to different pages and the tweaking of title tags, image alt tags, page titles, headings and other elements.
For instance, those brand-named page titles "MaxTuck" and "BaseMax" were swapped for generic descriptions.
On White Hat Holsters' current homepage
, there is a tab titled "White Hat Products." Within that page are additional pages with types of holsters — "IWB Holsters," "OWB Holsters," etc. It's within those pages the MaxTuck and BaseMax products are now featured instead of relying on those terms alone to serve as a focal point on the homepage for search engines.
Focusing on the area above the fold
Of course, optimization spans beyond keywords. Well-placed content on pages also ensures sites stand out to search engines.
In regard to Web design, any content a customer must scroll down to view is considered below the fold. For SEO purposes, sites should focus content above the fold because search engines give this area high priority. A vendor suggested an ideal word count in this area of the page would be 500 to 1,000 words.
With that in mind, White Hat Holsters needed to implement its best keywords above the fold while employing those word counts to further excel in SEO.
This involved writing webpage content that not only contained those targeted keywords, but also appealed and offered value to White Hat Holsters' customers.
Step #4. Create a blog to engage customers
While White Hat Holsters' overriding goal was to increase sales by reaching previously untapped customers, interacting with its customer base remained at the heart of its efforts.
"From a marketing standpoint, of course you want to sell your products," Farah explained. "But it is also very important to me … to build that relationship with your customer."
A way for the company to kill two birds with one stone was to create a blog to not only build a relationship with customers, but to appeal to search engine spiders, as well.
The creation of a blog with regular posts would change the value of the site's fresh content which is important from an SEO standpoint in that it cues search engines to index it.
If a site isn't edited regularly, search engine spiders won't waste time crawling it as often, placing a site on a backup list that is only indexed every so often. Thus, a site won't show up frequently in search results.
In White Hat Holsters' case, its vendor set up a subdomain almost identically to White Hat Holsters' e-commerce site.
The blog engages customers by encouraging them to share their stories related to the brand such as their first memory of shooting a gun.
"I feel like the blog posts are really an opportunity for us to communicate more intimately with the customers and get them involved, too," Farah said.
Farah added while White Hat Holsters utilizes Twitter and Facebook, he values the blog because it's an area where the brand can showcase what it values while conducting a conversation with customers that’s actually integrated with the website.
"It is something that keeps us thinking all the time," he said.
Incorporating long-tail keywords
White Hat Holsters' website had covered all its bases in respect to those more basic keywords it was previously missing. So, what about those longer, more specific keywords? Where would those fit into the new search engine optimization?
The blog provides a platform to target those long-tail keywords that aren’t used as often. For example, if the blog contains a post focusing on holsters, a long-tail keyword might be "What is a hybrid holster?" While this keyword phrase may not have come up in previous research for the generic terms, it can easily be added into the blog post to pull that traffic.
The results White Hat Holsters experienced from the campaign were:
- 400% increase in traffic — just over 2,000 visits a week increased to 8,000 visits a week over an eight-month period
- 100% increase in sales over a one-year period
"As online intensive as our sales requirements are, SEO is so critical," Farah said. "One mistake or one missed opportunity translates into real dollars that we are losing or misdirecting."
- SEO tool
- Keyword search
SourcesWhite Hat HolstersThrive Internet Marketing
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