Perfecting a creative small business homepage (Part One: SEO)

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Aime Cox
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It’s Ask Aime Anything time again, whoop whoop! Today we’re looking at a question from the lovely Libby of Libby Ballard Ceramics: What changes can I make to improve my homepage to make it more visible in search engines and more appealing to customers?

I had the absolute pleasure of properly meeting Libby and many other creative business owners at the recent Bristol Etsy Summit, beautifully organised by the Bristol Etsy Team. Libby is an amazing stoneware ceramicist who makes all her own glazes, and best of all – it’s all dishwasher safe. How cool is that?!?

Anyway. Libby’s question is a great one, as it covers the two areas of website design that are most over looked and in my opinion, most important. The first is search engine optimisation (SEO) which is a silly acronym for basically making your website as appealing as possible for search engines.

The second is user experience (UX), and even sillier acronym for optimising websites so that they work with the psychology and behaviour we know web users exhibit when surfing online.

We’ve written a lot about SEO theory, including a deep dive two-part AAA article on SEO for the Chroma Stationery blog. We’ll go into more detail on UX soon, it’s just a little too heavy for a sunny Monday afternoon. For this post, I’m going to give a rundown of 5 ways Libby can improve her website SEO, and in Part Two we’ll discuss 5 ways she can improve her homepage UX.

SEO Improvement 1: Fix site speed

The Libby Ballard Ceramics website has a very serious site speed issue that is only affecting the homepage. It’s so bad that Google Pagespeed Insights, the best tool for analysing your site speed, times out before completing a proper analysis.

Girl that is real, real, bad.

When it works, Google Pagespeed Insights gives you a list of actions that will make your website faster. A few of these involve some code twiddling, and are therefore terrifying to most people.

Now this is where Libby’s site absolutely flummoxed me. The most common cause of slow websites is also, thankfully, the easiest to fix: massive images. However, although not optimised, Libby’s images aren’t the actual worst.

If you’ve built your own website, or manage a website with a template at it’s core like Squarespace, Shopify or a WordPress theme, I wouldn’t worry too much about it unless your overall speed score is under 70/100.

Time to call in the husband. I had our technical director/my bae Alex take a look under the hood at some rogue javascript files (stay with me) that were absolutely massive.

Unfortunately, Wix ain’t as nice as the other website builders in this area, and are using phenomenally large files to power their ecommerce functionality. We only discovered these fat files whilst researching this blog post, and it looks like it’s something Wix is aware of and working on, but I’m going to add it to the list of reasons why I don’t recommend the Wix platform.

There might be a few things that can be done ‘under the hood’, it’s be worth running through all the settings and making sure anything not in use is disabled and/or removed. Although this won’t fully fix the issue, it’ll minimise the chance of rogue code slowing everything down.

SEO Improvement 2: Optimise images

I know, I know, I just said Libby’s images aren’t the actual worst, but they’re pretty hefty. The beautiful seascape on Libby’s homepage displays at 1415 x 600px, the image can be cropped and compressed saving valuable bytes and increasing the page load time.

SEO Improvement 3: Add more words

Search engines like Google crawl all the information on your website, so that when someone performs a search query, they can pull up a list of what it believes are the best answers and solutions.

If your website doesn’t contain much information, particularly written information, you ain’t giving Google much to go on. Sure, we all love those big gallery-style websites with massive pictures, white space and clean lines – but they are proper crap for SEO and that’s a compromise most small businesses can’t afford to make.

Now I’m not saying that Libby should include an essay on every page of the website, but a little more information would go a long way.

Libby’s ceramics fall into two collections, Seascape and Coastal, and yet these aren’t mentioned on the homepage. I’d create two image banners with no more than a sentence introducing each one, and clicking through the right products.

Customers can also enjoy pottery classes with Libby Ballard Ceramics, and they sound awesome. Unfortunately, they only sound awesome if you click through to the Pottery Classes page, as they’re not mentioned on the homepage at all. Add that pish to your website shop front and get even more lovely information on the homepage.

I’d also add a short bio to the bottom of the homepage, summing up Libby as an artist in one paragraph that can click through to her about page.

And just for an extra SEO treat, a shout out to some suppliers at the very foot of the page would be great. Edge of Ember, an ethical jewellery brand, has a great way of displaying this kind of information on their homepage.

Although displaying their press & influencer coverage, this ‘Loved by’ layout would rock for stockists too.

SEO Improvement 4: Load in lovely keywords

I must sound like a broken record, always banging on about keywords. Keywords are just words, phrases and snippets that are crucial to your brand, and should be at least part of the search query someone uses to find your site.

I have developed a fool-proof system for managing your own keywords, because I’m lovely like that, so check out The easiest way to pick and use your brand keywords. I’d encourage Libby to develop her own list of keywords, but here’s a few terms I would like to see loaded into the Libby Ballard Ceramics website:

  • Libby Ballard Ceramics
  • Potter/pottery
  • Homeware
  • Stoneware
  • Wiltshire
  • Handmade
  • Coastal

Now, to be totally clear, by loading I mean using these keywords as much as possible, but only where it makes sense. So changing a button from saying ‘Shop now’ to ‘Shop homeware’ is great.

Changing ‘Find me on Instagram’ to ‘Find Libby Ballard Ceramics the Wiltshire potter who handmakes homewares from stonewares with coastal influences on Instagram’ is actually pretty tight on keywords, but totes overkill to the max.

SEO Improvement 5: Complete the metadata

The web and marketing industry is filled with cruddy jargon that over explains everything, and although it’s not designed to alienate average-yet-fabulous people like us, it really does. Y’all do need to learn about metadata though.

Metadata is just data about other data. It’s the information that says “hey, this ‘ere is a page heading” or “oi, this is a well nice dish with a five star review!”, or at least that is what meta data would say if it was as Bristolian as I am.

Libby’s website is missing some key metadata which basically means there is information on the home page, but Google doesn’t know what it means. The most pressing action is to complete the page title and meta description, the markers that tell Google exactly what a website and web page are about.

Every website builder handles metadata differently, Libby uses Wix which has published their own instructions for managing page titles and descriptions. You can also find loads of blog posts about how to write a great title and description – but I suggest to just keep it simple. For Libby’s homepage, I’d go with something like:

Libby Ballard Ceramics | Handmade Homewares and Pottery Classes

Handmade crockery, homewares and decorations from Wiltshire-based Libby Ballard Ceramics. Shop ceramics online or book your private pottery class.

Concise, slightly seductive and with a clear call to action. Oh, and loaded with sexy keywords. Win, win, win. Win.

So that’s it for part one. As usual with the Ask Aime Anything posts, I fully intended to cover everything in one sitting but it’s gone 7:30 on a Monday night and I’ve written 1400 words that have probably bored 90% of the people who started reading this article.

I’ll get onto part two when I’m back tomorrow. But right now it’s time for Deliveroo, RuPaul’s Drag Race and a blanket. #teamtrixie #teamblanket

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