Zlio is a site that allows you to build your own online store.

This is certainly nothing new, there are lots of sites where you can get free online stores. But Zlio has some bells and whistles that are quite nice.

The basic idea is a bit like Squidoo, you create an online store inside Zlio , and it gets indexed by search engines so that when people search for what your store sells, they’ll find you. You create small, focused, stores selling niche products, rather than one large mega store. Similar to creating Squidoo lenses.

One of the nice bits is that Zlio fully supports Google and Yahoo sitemaps, and provides a spot for you to type in the verification code for each. For those of you who haven’t used Google’s webmaster tools, the verification code establishes your ownership of the site in Google’s eyes, and gives you access to diagnostics and insight into your site’s search engine rankings.

There are also spots where you can type in meta keywords and a meta description for your store, and another spot where you put the code for whatever analytics program you’re using (such as Google Analytics). Most of what would need you to edit HTML on a normal website is available in configuration edit boxes in the control panel.

As far as the store itself goes, the interface for picking products is nice, and you can add reviews of products, associate products with keywords, etc. You have complete control over the categories of products in your stores, and can assign each product to any category you want.

For the looks of the store, Zlio has templates available and you can hand edit the CSS for the site (also available in a configuration edit box). There’s also a quite nice drag and drop screen for moving visual elements around on the page of your template.

I can’t report yet on how well a store ranks in search engines, and you do need to do some basic off-page SEO yourself, such as getting backlinks to your store. But the on-page SEO is nicely handled by the store itself and the product keywords you enter.

I knocked together a store about puzzles for kids in about five minutes, so you can see what a very simple store is like. The use of subdomains for the web address is quite nice for SEO purposes, too.

Zlio is quite nice for non-technical people, and saves quite a bit of time for techies, too. If stores rank as well in search engines as Squidoo pages, this is going to become my new favorite recommendation for beginners.

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