by Connor Walberg
Starting a clothing line is a massive undertaking on just about every front.
It seems so simple and direct initially, but that phase is usually fueled by our own creativity and motivation to build something. Once you get that something up and running and the tees are printed and sitting in your garage, then thing's become an entirely different story!
Years ago I worked with Superior Ink to start my clothing line, Concrete Coast. I had a vision that it was going to take over the skate world and become the next Vans or DC. Looking back on it all I was pretty naive, but in a good way. Because once you know how much goes into building a brand it's much harder to commit to going all in.
I happily ordered stacks of shirts and took them to Superior Ink for printing. Getting them printed was an INCREDIBLE moment, that feeling of having my vision come to life, to feel my designs on tees and get to wear them. A moment in my business that's only matched by the times that even to this day, I still see the t-shirts on random people in public.
But I've skipped quite a bit of the story at this point... Because getting to where I was actually selling tees was a long process, and I kept pumping more and more money into ordering tees, getting them printed, and trying every single marketing effort under the sun.
And when I say every marketing effort...
I mean EVERY MARKETING EFFORT.
From social media posting, new video content, sponsoring athletes, selling through local shops, handing out discount cards on college campuses, selling in-person at events, running contests, giveaways, pay-per-click campaigns, Facebook ad funnels... the list was ENDLESS.
Selling in-person was the most effective and I'm confident that it's the single easiest way to sell. Especially if you have a product that is local to where you're selling or related to the event that you're selling at. But it's not the only option and overall was a pretty exhausting and un-scalable approach. I remember sitting in a tent when it was over 104 degrees F for 14 hour days - only to generate just a few sales because the event was poorly marketed by the people who ran it. Selling at events was a wildcard depending on weather, other events the same day, and on and on...
The place I ultimately wanted to sell was online. I wanted to run an e-commerce operation that would generate sales while I slept (that's the dream, right?) And the best way I found to do this? SEO.
What is SEO?
Ok, this is where most people are lost. My own Mom still thinks I do something called "SCO," or some other variation on the term.
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. Sounds complicated, can be complicated, but DOES NOT HAVE TO BE complicated! From a 30,000 foot view it's simply setting up your website and content so that Google will feature you in results for the searches that matter to your business and customers.
SEO is an area that few fashion/clothing brands ever focus on at all. From what I can tell, people avoid it because it sounds technical. It also takes time before it starts to work. But here's why I'm a firm believer - the screenshot below shows my site growing from a few visits a month, to over 200 visitors per day. And some of those visitors bought from the site!
The approach worked so well that I actually started an SEO business and began helping other businesses to build an SEO strategy using my SEO Lead Machine approach.
How does SEO work? What can I do to make this happen?
The real key to all of this is having a niche. This means that you know your audience, what they want to hear about, and you're very specific to that audience. Specificity wins over broadness every single time. It means that you don't just sell skate t-shirts, you sell longboard lifestyle t-shirts (longboarding is a sub-niche in the skate industry - and it's exactly what I shifted my brand to target). Almost ALL of my traffic came from one single article that I wrote on Types of Longboards.
After researching keywords I found this clear opportunity and knew that it was a great way to educate people looking to buy new longboards - people who would appreciate my longboard style tee designs. My niche was designed to build a community in my brand.
I'll be the first to say, however, that if you haven't started a brand yet, this is backwards. If you build your community first, AND THEN build your brand around them, success will be far easier to come by!
But back to SEO and how it works...
People search Google every second for different things. And they know what they want to find, they want answers to what they are searching! Through SEO, we create excellent content that answers these specific questions. Pretty simple, right?
Now, to rank online, we need to be FOUND by Google - Google is NOT the internet, it's just an outside party that "crawls" the internet and builds a database containing sites and what each one should be known for in it's search index. So to get found in the first place, we need links. Links are when other sites on the internet send people to our page from one of theirs. These links are like popularity votes saying, "go check this out!" Google/Bing/Etc.. transfers some of that popularity over to your site - kind of like when you hang out with the coolest kid at school and start getting recognition for that.
That's the just of SEO.
Should you start an SEO approach for your clothing brand?
From my experience, ABSOLUTELY, BUT... make sure you have your niche dialed and you are very specific. If your niche is Funny Tees, it's going to be nearly impossible to rank. So it needs to be a strong and not completely over-saturated niche. Maybe your niche is "funny shark tees," that would be a whole lot more specific buy you'd want to do research first to see if people are searching that term by using a keyword research tool like KWFinder or SEMRush.
But there's one other thing to keep in mind if you're thinking about implementing an SEO strategy. SEO truly turns your site into a lead machine. Meaning that you'll have CONSTANT traffic coming in once it's setup and working. It's a long term strategy that pays out very highly over time, but it's going to take time! However, you can build SEO up as slowly or quickly as you want - you'll be building your site into a real asset that educates customers and generates more sales, and that's pretty powerful!
There are a ton of free videos and sites around to help you get rolling. The first thing to do is start with a list of your customers biggest questions, then take them and figure out a theme. From the themes you find, you can start creating articles. To amplify this all, you'll want to learn how to do some proper keyword research (because some words are easier to rank for than others!)
Hopefully this get's you on a solid path to ranking online! To learn more about my approach of if you have any questions at all, check out Connor Walberg SEO here.