Startup Diaries: The Fashion Business, Starting Over And Search Engine Optimisation

Truly Blue - Handkerchief Hem Dress by Coral TurnerCoral Turner talks to The NextWomen about how she relaunched the website of her online fashion boutique and explains how going back and starting over actually helped her business to move forward.

I feel as though I have been on a business/fashion sabbatical since my last writings for The NextWomen. So, my opening address is a colossal thank-you for all of the support and encouragement I have received from you ladies and gentlemen who are part of this entrepreneurial community.

In December 2013 I met with a fashion consultant, and we spoke about why we felt my online boutique was not getting ‘the love’ in terms of traffic to the website and conversion into sales. There had been minor successes in her 3 year conception, but they differed wildly from the projections in my business plan!

One of the key points was in relation to the garments themselves and a lack of consistency regarding the presentation on the ecommerce site. Whilst in the descriptions I talked about the attention to detail and couture sewing techniques used on the garments, this was only evident in some of the photographs and not in others. For craftspeople, it is important that everything is in relation to the ‘fine detail’; people want to see what they are buying, what makes your handmade piece so special.

My focus had primarily been on the models and their poses; the front and back detail of the dresses and tops I felt were self-explanatory - but then, I would.

I’m the one who made the pattern, chose the fabric and ultimately sewed the garment; I am in every step of the process, just like you are in your businesses.

I realised that I had to dig deeper, whilst keep on moving forward. It was important to translate up close and personal through this virtual reality exactly why these couture dresses and tops are all one-of-a-kind, the benefits of that, and what it means to the woman buying one of my couture dresses. I was advised to start over and re-shoot the garments, with the emphasis being on the workmanship that has gone into the making of that dress or top.

Going back to my earlier point of digging deeper, I reasoned that if I am to go back and re-do one aspect of my work, then why not review the whole website and business?

Search Engine Optimisation, keywords, .co.uk versus .com

When I launched my first website, I was totally clueless as to SEO and Keywords, and when I did learn more about it, I felt that running a marathon with little or no training would have been a much easier task!

I also had two websites: www.coralturner.co.uk, the ecommerce site from which purchases can be made, and www.coralturner.com, which made reference to the philosophy of my work as a designer and talked about previous client work with a link back to the ecommerce site. My original strap-line was Coral Turner, ‘distinctively designed garments.... because every day is special’, but I learnt that from an SEO viewpoint people were not typing ‘distinctively designed garments’ into search engines.

Google, Yahoo and all the other search engines were not interested in my lofty philosophy, or viewing the two websites as one entity.

Apart from their algorithms (which is a whole other world), search engines are only interested that I have keywords which are relevant to their users. An example of this is that if you were using the search engine Google.au (Google Australia), when you typed in Coral Turner, hey presto coralturner.com would present itself, but there would be no reference to coralturner.co.uk the online boutique. In effect, the two websites were competing against each other for an audience/traffic. I also realised that search engine optimisation is changing all the time, and trying to keep up creates a distraction from the core of your work, however, the secret here is to remain authentic and consistent with both your audience and the conversation that you engage in.

Closing the website for what I called ‘refurbishments and a new shop-fit’, I found to be quite a cathartic experience, especially as this time around I had ‘hindsight’ as my guide.

With new photography by Minna Rossi, whom I have had the pleasure of working with before, plus taking the time to concentrate solely on the dresses, a new energy emerged. When I relaunched www.coralturner.com in March this year, the Universe gave me a high-five in the form of a new client, who called saying that she was in love with a particular dress on the website, however, it was not in her size: could she commission me to make that same style of dress in her size and in a different fabric – to which, of course, I said ‘yes’!

Truly, there is no failure in starting over; to achieve a standard of excellence, aiming high, you have to be willing to constantly review where you are.

If you don’t like where you are heading or what is happening - change it! A friend bought me a fridge magnet that is a constant reminder of this, which simply says, ‘the road to success is always under construction’. I will always be grateful for being advised to ‘start over’.

To your continuous success....

Coral Turner is a fashion entrepreneur with an online boutique http://www.coralturner.com In addition to her design work she also writes articles in relation to empowering self image and confidence through the clothes that we wear.

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