The English Chilli Company

June 23, 2009 Steve

The English Chilli CompanySo here it is … the first ever surgery review on Affiliate Doctors!

We have a series of posts coming up from this first round of clinic and surgery reviews, and to kick things off, our first site comes from Alex.

Alex runs a niche site called www.theenglishchillicompany.com. His original plan was to sell the chilli seeds that he produces online, but as time has gone on, the site has morphed into selling chilli related products using Easy Content Units to incorporate products of interest to his readers.

Alex asked:

“I am new to SEO and was wondering what were the best online resources and books for a total beginner to SEO, and would appreciate any advice on information resources.

Also, if there are any schoolboy errors then I would appreciate those being pointed out too!”

Here’s what the docs had to say …

 

Kieron DonoghueYou’re making the same mistake a lot of newbies make. You’re putting SEO in front of the actual design, content and marketing of your site. Instead just make sure you have good descriptive title tags on the site and that’s it. Don’t worry about any other aspects of SEO. Instead concentrate on making the site look slick and professional, and of course easy to use and navigate.

I have a feeling I’m going to be saying this a lot but ADD LOTS OF FRESH CONTENT. I can’t emphasise enough how important fresh content is. UNIQUE content is one of the only things that can not easily be manipulated, so we are seeing Google placing more and more emphasis on sites that produce good regular fresh content. That is the only SEO secret you need to know.

You have a good little niche there, if you have an interest in all things chilli then it shouldn’t be a problem in writing some fresh content.

 

Al CarltonThe best place to start with SEO is www.seobook.com.  Also, follow sites like Patrick’s www.blogstorm.co.uk and www.davidnaylor.co.uk. If you have the funds and time available it could be worth attending one of the main SEO conferences.

Looking at your site, one of the first things I noticed is that the articles are hosted externally (e.g. http://tecc2009.blog.co.uk/2009/06/13/indian-lady-in-record-chilli-attempt-6295554).  You’d be better off hosting these on your own domain.

I’d also be tempted to move away from SiteBuilder.  Looking at the source code on
www.theenglishchillicompany.com/history-of-chillies.html for example, it’s a real mess and difficult to follow for a proper review, like having the h1 header tag at the bottom of the source code, WTF.

 

John LamertonHey Alex – nice looking site, and excellent use of ECU! You’ve already customised the units to fit your site pretty well – I think some customised “buy now” buttons would help “brand” your site and would help build confidence – The “Chilli Shop” image on the homepage looks really well designed, but doesn’t seem to “fit” with the rest of the site.

Regarding SEO, there’s a ton of resources out there – most of it junk and opinion. Head over to Webmaster World or one of the SEO Doctors blogs and you’ll find all the info you need to get started.

Finally, love the Eric Morecambe quote – adds a nice bit of randomness to the site! Companies like Innocent Smoothies have built their entire brand around this sort of randomness! So here’s another one for you – “My neighbour asked if he could use my lawnmower. I told him of course he could, so long as he didn’t take it out of my garden”.

 

Kier MarstonHi Alex.

There’s absolutely tons of resources out there for SEO. For a complete beginner I’d recommend you check out the actual book from www.seobook.com and that should give you plenty to be getting on with. Also check out the Google Keyword Tool (just Google it :-)) as this will allow you to check what keywords people actually use when searching so you can optimize accordingly. Most of your pages look like they haven’t been built with actual search terms in mind as things stand.

As regards your site, the main question I’d be asking myself is – what is the purpose of my site? Is this a hobby or do you want to make it into your full time occupation? If it’s the latter then I’d advise you not to mix up your merchant and affiliate roles too much. I was unable to work out if you were still intending to sell your own seeds or act purely as an affiliate?

If you are going to be selling seeds and you can’t source the products you’re linking to and sell them direct, then maybe consider having separate affiliate sites for them rather than putting it all under one roof and giving the traffic you’ve worked hard for to an (indirect) competitor to your merchant business. Currently the site feels like it’s somewhere between merchant and affiliate, and as such, your visitors may be put off.

If you are going to focus just on being an affiliate then make it more informational, focus on the content (by this I mean text) and less on using pre-made content units. These are good for a quick fix but you’ll find it hard to get decent rankings without relevant content. If you are going down the purely affiliate route, then you could consider revamping the site as a blog and just try to review two or three products a week at least, linking to the retailer in each case with an affiliate link.

 

Kirsty McCubbinRather than doing an SEO critique of your site, which I suspect others might be a bit more able to do, I thought I’d concentrate on some hints and tips re learning about SEO.  It’s a bit of a minefield at the best of times, and completely baffling at worst.

Being introduced to SEO is a bit like learning to drive, it’s a strange and bewildering world when you don’t know how to do it, and when you try to learn it’s not uncommon to feel very disorientated!  The first and best bit of advice I usually give to someone I’m training or helping out is to not take everything you read about SEO literally.  There is a lot of misinformation on the internet, and nothing about SEO is really cut and dried.  An open mind is essential, as is taking things people tell you on forums with a pinch of salt!

I regularly read:

http://www.seomoz.org/
http://www.webmasterworld.com/

… and of course our very own UK affiliate forum:

http://www.affiliates4u.com

From the horses mouth itself:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html

(a good basic guide to what you need to pay attention to)

Putting Your Information To Good Use

When trying to learn about SEO, you often find yourself in information overload.  I suggest taking a simplistic approach.  Read some basic information and learn about best practice in dealing with and creating site content and the optimisation of page elements such as titles, headers and links.

On your travels you will also find people talking about ways to super charge your traffic, create millions of new visitors in a short time and/or thousands of relevant pages to add to your website complete with automatically generated content.  Bear in mind the golden rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it definitely is!

Similarly any tool that mass submits, mass creates, or produces any kind of result it would take you many hours to do manually is to be avoided at all costs.  I don’t know of a single thing that will do the hard yards in SEO for you other than hiring an expensive consultant!

Also if you come up with any “shortcuts” of your own over and above the hard slog of creating unique content and building quality links – forget it.  Google’s already thought of it.

 

Steve KennySo that wraps up the first site review for the Surgery; hope you can put it to some good use Alex!  Okay, not everyone agrees in places, but then everyone will have their own opinions and way of doing things.  SEO is constantly changing, but as a nice little intro to SEO, you’ll also find Frank Paul’s free basics guide to on page SEO a great help to kick you off.

On the site/blog front, why don’t you give WordPress a go?  It’s very easy to ‘learn’/use (this site uses it), is Google friendly and has a host of plugins that you can use to make your life a whole lot easier.  If you have some spare cash, you could invest in getting a custom theme designed (not as pricey as you’d think), or there are lots of free themes you can use.

Thanks to the docs for some excellent feedback and also to Alex for having the balls to send in the very first site for review!  There are a few more to come, so keep your eyes peeled.

If you’ve got any feedback on today’s surgery, we’d love to hear your comments, and if you have a site that you would like the docs to review, head on over to Ask a Doctor.

Alex was brave enough – are you?

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12 Responses to “The English Chilli Company”

  1. hi, everyone, on my lunch hour so have had a quick look!

    Here’s an SEO quick win:

    all of the ‘News & Articles’ content that Alex is dilligently adding is more-or-less wasted. It’s being managed through a third-party site & then pulled into the main site using an iframe. That means it has next to no SEO benefit for the site itself.

    For example, the latest article is ‘Indian Lady in Record Chilli Attempt’. Search for that on Google & you’ll see it drags you to http://tecc2009.blog.co.uk/2009/06/13/indian-lady-in-record-chilli-attempt-6295554/ rather than to the main ‘English Chilli Company’ site.

    If Alex can integrate the blog better into the main site, the shop will benefit from any inbound links to that content & he won’t be splitting his SEO efforts across ‘tecc2009.blog.co.uk’ & ‘theenglishchillicompany.co.uk’.

    Other bits:

    1. Stick a copyright notice at the bottom of the page, if nothing else to make it appear more profesisonal.
    2. There is hidden white text in H2 tags on some of the pages. This could trip a ‘spam’ algorithm somewhere – unlikely, but it is not doing any benefit.
    3. might be worth changing your homepage link to ‘English Chilli’ instead of ‘Homepage’, or making the logo clickable & giving it the alt text ‘English Chilli’ (assuming that’s a worthwhile term to target.
    4. Would be useful to have a breadcrumb trail to push people back to the section they’re in. At the moment, if I land on the site on an article page, there’s nothing at all to tell me whereabouts I am on the site.
    5. ‘Chilli Recipes’ & specific recipes (particularly chilli con carne) seems to be a decent pool of keywords to target.

    Longer term, if you’re looking to build up the site in its current state rather than a standard ecommerce store, I’d move it onto wordpress. Much easier to manage the content than the present system (homestead?), is much more scalable, and comes with most of the on-site SEO stuff built in.

    Hope this is of some use!

    dan

  2. Hi Dan.

    Thanks for the added feedback. I think you’re spot on, move it to WordPress and run the whole site from there. The specific SEO plugins that spring to mind are all-in-one-seo and headspace2, but the first is probably easier to follow.

    Alex – forgot to mention, check out http://www.yoast.com, it’s a great WordPress resource and delves more into the plugins with Joost’s recommended list.

  3. Friends, Romans & Doctors,

    Firstly I just want to say thank you for all your effort & hard work, it is all very much appreciated indeed.

    I will go through all your advice line by line and take it all on board.

    I think that in some instances you have moved my thinking on and in others have redoubled my conviction.

    I think my plan will be:

    a) move the site to WordPress (I have started http://www.theenglishchillicompany.co.uk) – this will help me get away from Homestead, their dodgy code and my equally dodgy attempts to circumnavigate it

    b) become purely an affilaite

    c) I have no graphic desigh capability – so I have begged some favours (that’ll be the good stuff that looks a bit out of place on my site) – I think I will find someone to do this and pay them

    d) Content seems to be the way forward

    This is just for starters,

    I feel like a mountaineer who has, packed his bags, got to the airport, flown to India, travelled to the North and then arrived at the bottom of Everest and the full realisation of what I have to do is just sinking in!

    However, I will give it a go and see where we end up,

    Thanks again everyone,

    Alex

  4. Further to Dan’s point 3, make sure you’re consistent with how you link to your home page – you’re currently linking to “/index.html” – it would be better to link to the root folder “/” instead as Google will see “www.theenglishchillicompany.com” and “www.theenglishchillicompany.com/index.html” as two different pages and it could cause problems or hinder you later.

  5. Very impressive levels of details from the Docs!! Coming together nicely Steve ;)

  6. Cheers Matt!

  7. You’re welcome Alex ;-)

    I wouldn’t think too much about it as a huge mountain to climb … just keep plugging away, add the content and enjoy it!

  8. Tremendous indepth advice from the doctors! This is going to become a fantastic resource.

    Keep up the good work.

  9. Thanks Nadeem. Glad you like it … lots more to come!

  10. Hello Doctors,

    I thought I’d just post a quick follow up,

    I have been somewhat caught up with the day job, I’m afraid, which does consist of managing the Blue Inc Clothing affiliate program – so I am picking up some useful learnings there.

    However, I have set up a WordPress blog here – http://www.TheEnglishChilliCompany.co.uk and I have a good friend who is coming over today to help me polish the look & feel of the site and come up with some page templates as well – so very soon I will be adding lots more content onto it.

    Also, I have neglected my other site http://www.TheEnglishChilliCompany.com – however I have just noticed that in July I got my first ever affiliate sale through Webgains – for Greenfingers – which actually came as a result of one of the Doctors recommendations – so thank you for that.

    Will post again when the .co.uk version is up and running.

    All the best

    Alex

  11. Nice one Alex, I hope that it is the first of many. I used to manage the Greenfingers programme so I’m glad you got your first sale there!!

  12. That’s a nice looking theme you’ve got there for the new blog, and congratulations on the first sale! Would be great to do a follow up in 6 months or so to see how it’s progressing.

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