My first ever SEO website project was SteelFromChina.com, which I made for the steel trading company I work for in Beijing.
The idea for the website came about over drinks with a customer visiting from Australia. He shared his frustration as a steel buyer trying to find a decent Chinese steel supplier from a Google search because the only sites that ever showed up in the results were B2B websites such as the infamous Alibaba.
Once you arrive at a B2B website like Alibaba you then have to sift through hundreds of “same same” adverts from all sorts of dodgy looking suppliers competing to post as many ads as possible so you’re more likely to click on them.
All the product photos are the same because everyone just copies and pastes each other’s.
The results at the top of the list are not the most trusted sellers, but simply the ones who have paid Alibaba to rank high, so there is absolutely no way of knowing who is legit and who is not. If you then click on a supplier’s advert, instead of going to their company website you’re taken to their Alibaba profile page (which opens in a new tab).
All the profile pages look exactly the same too and if you want to see their actual company website you need to first click on the link to their contact details (which opens in a new tab).
Then if you’re lucky they’ll have a link to their company website listed there, which you can click on and guess what, that opens in a new tab too!!!
So with four tabs open you finally arrive on a potential supplier’s website – great news right? Well not really, because when you finally get there, 95% of the time you’ll be hit with a monstrous mess of flash intros, stock photos, pulsating banners, a jumble of fonts and absolutely nothing that builds trust or makes you want to do business with them.
I realised that our company was no different from anyone else on Alibaba and it was time to not just give our old website a facelift, but create a whole new customer experience from a totally blank canvas. It was time for us to leave the Alibaba swamp and stand out from the crowd.
After contemplating what people search for when they want to buy Chinese steel I used the Google keyword tool to check the search count for “steel from china”. I was shocked to see it had a global monthly search score of 90,500! immediately after I checked GoDaddy to see if steelfromchina.com was available and shockingly enough, it was!
So with absolutely no plan whatsoever I marched into my boss’s office, told him to buy the domain name and pitched him the idea to let me make a brand new SEO website.
At that time I had absolutely no knowledge of SEO and thought the site would only need to rank for the keywords “steel from China” to bring in a heap of traffic.
Two weeks later, after reading The Art of SEO and a few articles online I realised how naive I’d been. For starters, when you do a keyword search for the purpose of SEO on Google’s keyword tool you’ve got to tick the “[exact]” box under “Match Types”. When I got the unbelievable results of 90,500 I’d had the “Broad” box ticked, which is useless for SEO purposes. In fact, after doing an [exact] search for “steel from China” I found there were only 28 searches per month. Oh well, at least it’s a catchy name!
So after learning the harsh truth that I couldn’t just focus the website on the keywords “steel from China”, I made a plan to divide the structure of the site up as much as possible so that I could give the best keywords for steel their own individual pages. I essentially created the skeleton and layout of the site based on the main keywords I wanted to use, rather than just sticking with generic pages such as about us, contact us, products, etc.
For example, “China steel” is a great keyword because people searching for that will likely be wanting to buy steel from China. So instead of simply writing this keyword on a few pages I gave the keyword its own page and wrote very specific information about Chinese steel grades. This way, the page is very relevant to the search term and Google will see it as a useful answer to someone’s search engine query.
Currently the page steelfromchina.com/china-steel is the site’s number two landing page (second highest to home) and the keywords “China steel” and “Chinese steel grades” are positioned 4th and 2nd for bringing search traffic to the site.
I built the entire site around this idea (of rewarding keywords with their own pages) as much as possible, without making it look too spammy and with a good structure of inner links making it easy for visitors to navigate. This way I could spread what could easily be contained in just 25 pages into over 100 pages – thus making each page more specific to one or two important keywords and more targeted for a Google search.
The other critical reason for doing this is it helps massively with offsite SEO. If for example you want to rank a page on your website for the keyword “China steel” and write an offsite article about China steel with a link to your site that says: compare China steel grades, Google will see that the url embedded in this link (http://www.steelfromchina.com/china-steel.html) contains the keywords in the link description “China steel”, therefore, this link must be relevant. More relevance = more SEO juice from Google.
If, however, the embedded link contains none of the keywords mentioned in the link description, Google will not think this page is so relevant and thus not reward the page with as much SEO juice.
After steelfromchina.com launched in January 2012 the SEO specialist (Steven) I hired to manage the offsite SEO was very positive about my newbie job and quickly ranked us on Google for some great keywords. Steven’s typical methods of link building include article writing, blogging and social bookmarking.
Apart from the quantity of pages and heaps of SEO juiced up content, the way I made the site totally different to any other Chinese steel supplier’s was by doing the following:
- posting shipment photo updates of customers’ orders (we were the first to do this in the industry)
- open book list and map of the steel mills we source from (usually kept secret by traders)
- easy to use “Quick Quote” form
- weekly steel price updates page you can subscribe to
The shipment photos were the key trust builder because it instantly and visually says we are legit, without any bullshit. It is a risky experience sending thousands of dollars to someone on the other side of the world, so anything we can do to relieve the customer of our sincerity and show them we our trusted by others, is a great selling point in an industry clouded in fraudulent practice.
Other than making the site trustworthy and SEO’d to the max, the most important thing was to get visitors to send us enquiries. After all, even if you give people many reasons to interact with you, you still need to give them a little push to take action. If you’ve done a good job of making yourself worthy of interaction then why not ask for it?
To convert visitors to leads I put big red “Quick Quote” buttons on every product page and top landing pages. If a steel buyer likes what he/she sees they can request a quote at almost any stage of their exploration around the site. This helps steel buyers make the decision to get in contact with us a lot easier, plus, the promise of a quick quotation is tempting
The other method I used to get leads was to put an unthreatening email sign up form for weekly steel price updates on the top of the steel prices page. This is not only helpful to steel buyers because they get a weekly look at the prices in China, but it is also a more passive way of encouraging interaction because some people may not be ready to buy yet.
Furthermore, the email sign up allows us to keep in touch with potential customers each week and maybe one day they’ll acknowledge our helpful service and deem us worthy of sending an enquiry.
Since the site launched in January 2012 it has accumulated over 700 quality leads with an average of 50 leads per month. This may not sound like much, but for the steel industry niche this is quite a big deal, especially if you consider that when the company’s sales team sends introduction letters the ratio of replies to emails sent is 2:100.
Let’s shoot some bullet points to sum up how the site has achieved this:
- website built with SEO framework
- easy navigation
- builds trust with proof of business
- helpful and informative content
- two different calls to action
I hope you enjoyed my first ever blog post on clambr!
If you are in a similar industry and you have testimonials or evidence that customers are buying from you, show it off. If you are an expert in your industry and think your customers would benefit from what you have got to say, blog about it. The more you remind your customers of your sincerity and professionalism, the more they will want to buy from you.
I will continue improving steelfromchina.com to make it convert better for the future
What other things can we improve on steelfromchina.com to increase conversions?