November 7th, 2014.
You have built a website and sell product from it. You have entered the wonderful world of e-commerce. The question is, how well is your site performing? How are your e-commerce conversion rates?
There are a number of relatively straightforward ways to improve the conversion rates of your e-Commerce site. Here are forty ideas that you can use to ensure that potential customers find visiting your site a pleasant experience; a place where they find it worth their while spending their hard-earned money.
1. Define your engagement strategy
It is vitally important that you determine exactly how you intend to engage with your potential customers. You want to ensure that these customers perceive that you are giving them value
2. Use social media as a sales channel
There is a considerable amount of marketing done using social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest etc. Firms use these channels because they work
3. Have a clear, navigable product page
Make it as easy as possible for people to find their way around your site and make a purchase. People are not going to be bothered if it is hard to work their way around your site
4. Make product features prominent
Customers really want to know about your product. Therefore product features should have the highest prominence on your page.
5. Don’t forget about mobile
In mid-2014 mobile internet usage exceeded computer internet usage. It is absolutely vital that your web presence is usable by people on mobile sites. It is a very good idea that your site is fully responsive, and (unless you have a separate mobile-specific site) your site scales down appropriately for mobile usage
6. Think carefully about your online copy – use key words and SEO
Always write with SEO (search engine optimisation) in mind, to ensure that the potential customers have a good chance of finding you in a Google or Bing search.
7. Make certain that your content is original
Your products may be the same as those on many other websites, but you need to ensure that your product descriptions are not a direct copy of those elsewhere. You need to reword each description to ensure that it is different to your competitors’ descriptions. The search engines look for, and penalise duplicate content.
8. Use photos
The internet is a visual medium. Web surfers spend much of their time looking at pictures and graphics. Potential customers want to know what a product looks like, showing the product in use if relevant.
9. Use lots of variety in your product photos
As customers cannot physically feel your product, they expect to be able to have a good view of it. This depends to some extent on your product, but in many cases potential clients are far more likely to buy your product if there are photos of it from different angles, giving an all-round view. A number of the better sites even have 360 degree viewers.
10. Provide tools to zoom in on your product photos
Another way to utilise photos of your products is to give potential customers the ability to zoom in and look at the fine details of your product.
11. Use videos if relevant
Many people browsing your site will be converted when they see a video of your product in action, particularly if it makes it clear that your product is useful and easy to operate.
12. Use a well-designed drop-down menu
If you have well-designed drop-down menus as navigation on your site it makes it easy for potential customers to find their way around your site. Avoid having these menus go more than 2 levels, though, because it can get confusing after that, and you lose the responsiveness for mobile browsers
13. Have a good site search function on your website
Site search makes it easier for customers to find what they want. Surveys show that up to 30% of people visiting a site use the site search function.
14. Offer complementary products on your product pages
Customers thinking of buying a particular product may choose to buy these complementary products, e.g. batteries beside electrical products, or on book sites show other books written by a particular author.
15. Make certain that you appear trustworthy.
There are too many fly-by-night firms on the internet. Customers want some evidence why they should trust you. Include a genuine telephone number. Include genuine reviews. Offer guarantees. If you use a certification brand, like McAfee Secured, make sure their logo is displayed in a prominent position.
16. Display a free phone number
Customers expect to be able to talk to you. Reputable firms use free phone numbers, so it is essential to your firm’s reputation that you do too.
17. Make chat available as a means of communication
It is all very well to offer a Freephone number and a Help or FAQ section on your site, but the easiest way to get interaction with a potential customer (well a reasonably computer-literate one at least), is to have a chat facility. It’s as close as you can get to there being a salesman in person to answer the customer’s questions
18. Consider offering video-chat on your site
This is even better than normal chat – your customer can see and interact with a real person, who could even demonstrate some features of the product
19. Make certain that your prices are clear and obvious
You don’t want disgruntled customers leaving, either because they can’t find the prices amongst all the guff on your page, or because they get to check-out only to find hidden costs added on. Prices need to be totally clear to your customers at a glance
20. Price competitively to your opposition
On-line customers have far more ability to do price comparison than brick and mortar customers. They can, and will, do price comparisons. You do need to be price competitive.
21. Look at offering Price Match
Being prepared to match your competitors’ prices will build up trust in you by potential customers. You may not earn as much from a particular sale, but hopefully you will make up for it with future sales. This is probably one to test over a period of time, because it will not be suitable for everyone.
22. Give limited time discounts
A classic marketing trick. Make your customers think they have to rush their decision and make a choice now, before they lose a discount.
23. Make payment easy for customers
The more payment options you have available the more potential customers will shop at your site.
24. Make a point out of offering free shipping
This is, of course, only viable if your margins can cover the free shipping. If so, then it will often be the deciding factor when a potential customer is trying to decide between you and a competitor –albeit the customer is still paying in a more indirect way
25. Offer quick delivery times
Customers like speedy delivery of products ASAP, and will often be willing to pay a premium for urgent delivery.
26. Show your daily cut-off delivery time on your site
Indeed it is very useful if you show a timer, indicating how long your customers have left to be able to get goods dispatched for delivery today. This probably depends on where you sell stock to – if most of your sales are overseas, it probably makes little difference whether the stock is dispatched today or tomorrow
27. Show your returns policy
It removes potential customers’ doubts if they can clearly see the ease with which they can return goods. If you offer Free Exchange, or a Money Back Guarantee, display it prominently.
28. Have low stock indicators on your site
It helps your customers if they know whether you have a particular stock item on hand (and if you don’t, how long will it take you to get replacement stock?
29. Use product reviews by customers
Customers like to see how others have found using the products they are considering buying. Include product reviews to assist potential buyers.
30. Show your seller ratings if you are operating in a community marketplace
If you are just one seller amongst many, for example a store in the Amazon Marketplace, displaying your seller rating (and other information about yourself) will build up trust.
31. Have clear Call to Action buttons
Make certain your call to action buttons are clear and obvious. Make certain that you test these out before they go live.
32. Use coloured buttons to direct customers through your check-out process
If you want to direct potential customers to take a certain path, highlight the button you want them to push a clear and obvious colour. Conversely, make any buttons that reverse you back through the check-out process, grey.
33. Make certain there are no programming errors visible to your customers
Nothing looks more amateurish to website browsers that when an error message comes up when they try and order from your site. Only the most determined will continue forwards – anyone else will leave your site almost instantly.
34. Use test shoppers before your shop goes live.
You do not want real customers to find flaws in your system. It is far better if you hire a few people to act as test shoppers first, and take good notice of any flaws they find navigating and using your website.
35. Use relevant tools to optimise your site
There are some tools specifically aimed at optimizing your conversions, e.g. Optimizely, Visual Website Optimizer, Qualaroo, The Cart Closer etc. Try them out and keep using the ones that suit you best
36. Ensure your check-out fits on a single page
Multi-page check-outs send potential customers away, and a number pull out of the transaction part-way through the process. Make certain that the plugin or whatever checkout method you are using enables the check-out process to occur on a single page
37. Avoid compulsory registration at the checkout
Customers are often turned away because of the rigmarole of going through a compulsory registration process. It is far better to have an optional registration process once the order is processed
38. Only ask for essential information from customers
Potential customers get put off by having to fill in too much information. The simple rule is that if an item of information is not absolutely necessary, do not ask for it. Have a clean, stream-lined check-out page
39. Use automatic address recognition at your check-out
There are various apps / plug-ins that simplify the process for a customer entering their address. A customer is more likely to go through the purchase process if they do not have to make too much effort to get through the check-out
40. Use one-click process to speed up the check-out
Add an Amazon or PayPal button to your checkout to speed up processing of orders for your customers.
I suggest that you take a close look at your website and see how it rates in relation to these guidelines. If need be, make some changes. They will almost certainly be worth your while and the outcome should be increased sales.
Changes that are made by governing bodies and organisers to complex structures are almost unavoidably likely to have an impact on uninvolved bystanders; such is the nature of any system.
Modern economists make frequent use of the law to explain how decisions at a governmental level have significant unintended consequences further down the food chain.
Examples of the law in practice include wind farms that actually harm the environment by killing birds. Laws used to promote green vehicles which with the help of an enterprising salesman resulted in free golf carts for businessmen, and the Australian law making cycle helmets mandatory that actually resulted in an increase in the risk of death and serious injury to cyclists.
So what does all of this have to do with Google?
In the search engine world, there’s little doubt about who makes the rules; and with its recent Penguin update, Google has left some innocent websites suffering in its campaign for good SEO practices.
Some Early Examples
Now of course there is some history here. There are many early examples of unintended consequences that have arisen from decisions and courses of action that Google have taken,
- Using Pagerank to dictate that links had value resulted in the link economy, blog networks, comment and forum spam and a proliferation of low quality web directorie
- Google AdSense for publishers led to an explosion in content scraping, copyright theft and MFA (Made For Adsense) sites.
- The introduction of rel=nofollow led to Pagerank sculpting and siloing.
So Where Does The Penguin Update Fit In?
The Google Penguin update was introduced in April 2012 as a means of identifying and demoting websites that had previously benefitted from aggressive SEO techniques.
According to Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s WebSpam team), the update targeted ‘all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site.’
To put it bluntly, it was designed to demote websites that appeared to be benefitting from undeserved backlinks.
The principles behind Penguin meant that it was welcomed by most web users. It would ensure that websites that engaged in link-spamming and other underhanded black-hat techniques would drop down the rankings. Google speculated that the first update would only have an impact on 3.1% of English search queries and 3% on searches made in the German, Chinese, and Arabic languages.
The Penguin Update was largely successful, resulting in the demotion of a hundreds of thousands of websites that had been ranking unfairly. Unfortunately it also affected some sites that hadn’t knowingly engaged in shady link-building practices.
For example, the specialist WordPress site WPMU.org was crushed by the update, dropping from 8,580 daily visits to a paltry 1,527 after it was introduced.
Despite the site’s owner, John Farmer claiming that there had been no keyword stuffing, link schemes or had any problems regarding quality. Matt Cutts came forward with the claim that the site had been penalised due to a few bad links pointing to it.
Largely it was felt that due to the nature of the site (a WordPress resource); there were bound to be links to the site indicating authorship and design of blogs often of a lower quality – links that were keyword heavy and in footers, blogrolls and often sitewide.
Even so, the damage had been done and it was left for WPMU to rebuild their rankings.
One major unintended consequence of the Google Panda Update was the ‘bad-by-association’ approach to some sites. If one site was penalised, sites associated with that site were shown to be affected negatively. In an online discussion Michael Martinez of SEO Theory said, ‘what they are seeing is a Cascade Effect where the websites that link to them suddenly lose value. So the real problem lies 1 or 2 tiers back. These are not false positives, although they are collateral damage.’ However we define this problem, it is clear that some websites have experienced a drop in traffic and money-earning potential through no fault of their own.
The Target Changes…
Some leading SEO experts have revealed that some more aggressive (and less-ethical) SEOs have posed as their rivals and petitioned sites with fake requests for the removal of perfectly good links. Such tactics have been adopted as a means of reducing competitor’s website rankings. Thankfully as yet this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread.
When fake emails aren’t enough, there have also been some reports of unscrupulous webmasters building spammy links to rival websites hoping to see them penalised as a result.
Even examples of blackmail threats made to websites with the threat of black-hat SEO and possible penalties.
Members of the specialist SEO Forum Traffic Planet revealed how devastating this tactic could be by test-targeting two websites with ScrapeBox blasts. This involved the creation of thousands of anchor-text based backlinks and resulted in a substantial ranking drop for the sites targeted.
The Traffic Planet case study was just one way of outlining the effects of a wide reaching problem. Danny Sullivan, the Editor in Chief of Search Engine Land pointed out that, ‘As for not accepting there’s no negative SEO, I’ve repeatedly said that it is possible … perhaps it [is] more viable now because it’s cheaper now. That’s exactly the opposite or refusing to accept that links could be cheaply and trivially pointed at any site. What remains unclear is how serious a threat it is to the vast majority of sites out there.’
The cautionary message here appears to be: as much as Google’s addressing of black-hat SEO may make for a quality content-driven user-experience, it’s by no means flawless. When in doubt, leave it out and play it safe.
In 2012, Google launched its Trusted Stores program in the USA. Now, the search engine has opened the program to UK retailers, aimed at creating a better shopping experience for both consumers and eCommerce websites.
What is Google Trusted Stores?
Google Trusted Stores is a program that is beneficial to both consumers and eCommerce sites. With the Google Trusted Stores program, retailers that meet certain criteria get a Trusted Stores badge, which displays on their site, and on paid search engine results. This badge allows stores to show they offer fantastic customer service and consistent, on-time deliveries.
Benefits to Consumers
The Trusted Stores Program benefits consumers in a number of ways. As online stores have to meet strict criteria to join the program, consumers are able to shop with more confidence. Online, there are thousands of stores for consumers to choose from, and often, consumers don’t know which ones are going to provide them with the best shopping experience.
When a consumer sees the trusted stores symbol on a store, it differentiates that site from others. It allows shoppers to more easily identify stores that offer a high quality shopping experience. Merchants with the badge will also offer free purchase protection from Google.
Benefits to Businesses
For retailers, the program can be highly beneficial. It provides merchants with the chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The Trusted Stores badge immediately makes a store stand out.
For example, a person searching for a floor lamp on Google will see an abundance of stores. However, if they see one store is displaying a badge, they are most likely to visit that particular store. This increased level of visibility will attract more customers, and therefore, increase sales and conversion rates.
Most importantly, however, the objective data offered to consumers through the program can drastically increase a store’s customer base. When a consumer places an order with a site, they want to know that it offers a good shopping experience. The Trusted Stores Badge provides consumers with more objective information on a store’s quality level.
When a consumer hovers their mouse over the badge, they will see a report card. This card offers information on a store’s customer services and shipping reliability. Also, it will display overall data on the store, such as returns, delivery times, email response times and the overall shopping experience. This data is collected through an independent shopping evaluation company called StellaService. With this symbol, the consumer is given an objective review of the site, and will be more likely to purchase with that store.
Applying: Who should Apply and How to Apply
Stores can apply to the Google Trusted Stores program, only if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
- Process a Certain Number of Orders: Your site must consistently process at least two- hundred orders, over twenty-eight days to be eligible.
- Use Shipping Tracking Numbers: On the majority of the orders your site ships, you must use shipment tracking numbers. This is so Google is able to see how quickly your shipments were delivered, and how many were delivered.
- Cannot Sell Restricted Items: If your website sells any restricted items, such as tobacco, weapons, and certain pharmaceuticals, it won’t be eligible for the Google Trusted Stores Program
- Must Offer Reasons for CancellationsIf your site becomes part of the Trusted Stores program, it must provide reasons for cancellations. When an order status changes to cancelled, you will be taken to a pop-up screen. On this screen, you will have to state the reason for the cancellation. In order to keep your Google cancellation feed up to date, you have to enter this data.
- Deal with Customer Escalations Promptly: If a customer is not happy with one of your employees, and wants to talk to someone in a higher position, this issue must be resolved within one working day.
- Use a Custom Domain and Have an SSL Certificate: Your website must have its own custom domain, and have an SSL certificate to participate in the Google Trusted Stores program.
Launching in the UK, the Google Trusted Stores program is sure to have a big impact on eCommerce and paid search, and may helpincrease conversion rates for many stores.
September 16th, 2014.
The reason behind writing this post is simple. Although AdWords is a very performant and user friendly platform a new user might get caught in a web of settings and technical procedures – the post you are about to read intends to make things easier to understand.
Keywords & Text Ads
No matter how newly accustomed you are to the AdWords platform you must have heard about the famous Quality Score and about the advertisers’ task to make it bigger and bigger.
By now you must now that the bigger the Quality Score is, the better your campaigns will convert and the higher your ROI will be. So let me clarify the rules a bit.
Customers search on Google for different things and advertisers try to target these searches by using keywords. A very important aspect of the keywords is that they have to match the clients’ search terms.
When you are starting a keyword list you should try to enclose all the search queries your clients might use. You should also add the main categories of your business or of the services you provide. Also, break your keywords into related themes – it will make tracking their performance much easier. Remember – your campaigns should look neat and organised!
P. S. If you are running out of ideas when adding new keywords you can use the Keyword Planner to get that much needed inspiration!
The Text ads are those ads that inform the client about your business. You want them catchy and interesting? If yes, just try to apply these simple suggestions:
- Inform your clients about that feature that makes you better than your competitors. Doesn’t matter if its “discreet delivery” or “lowest price guaranteed” what matters is that your “unique” services should be advertised.
- Include the promotions and the prices – let the clients know that your great offers are time-limited.
- The Call-to-Action should be loud & clear. Invite your clients to “order” or “sign up”.
- Remember those keywords we were speaking earlier? Add some of those in your text ads!
- Landing pages should match your keywords and your text ads and present exactly the services you are advertising.
- Location extensions & Call Extensions & Callouts are AdWords’ way of helping you become more visible. Say “Thank you, AdWords!” and make them really work to your advantage.
And remember the quality and the relevance of the keywords and of the text ads are going to have an impact on your CPC so try to make them relevant to your business!
September 3rd, 2014.
We’re always telling our clients that following Google’s best practice is the best strategy to ensure longer-term success in the search results.
So it’s no surprise that every small announcement of changes to their algorithm now gets picked up upon quickly and generates a rush to ‘comply’ regardless of the detail.
In our opinion site speed is really important for the user. Whilst Google will also look at this metric it is way down its list on important factors affecting page/site rankings. Matt Cutts himself even stated that these changes would affect less than 1% of all queries,
You’ll notice that the current implementation mentions that fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result of incorporating site speed into our ranking. That means that even fewer search results are affected, since the average search query is returning 10 or so search results on each page. So please don’t worry that the effect of this change will be huge. In fact, I believe the official blog post mentioned that “We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing.” The fact that not too many people noticed the change is another reason not to stress out disproportionately over this change.
Site owners seem happy to panic about site speed and security before addressing more fundamental (and infinitely more important) aspects such as page mark-up, site structure and hierarchy, and on-site copy.
It goes without saying that a fast site will improve usabiltiy and help conversions and this is as good or better reason for addressing it than for a Google announcement.
Recently Google announced that they will treat sites served with https better then sites that aren’t using a secure certificate.
As with site speed metrics, this is way down on Google’s list of priorities in the ranking algorithm, and we do not consider that it is a particular band wagon to be jumping on with the aim of improving search results. Google themselves admit that
“For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
Google certainly has history of implementing changes which website owners feel obliged to comply with, only to backtrack on them later.
So our advice is to implement HTTPs on your site only if you feel it is required for other reasons than just search (eg customer confidence), we have outlined the possible pros and cons for you below,
- Your site is protected by an additional SSL layer
- A minimal algorithmic gain in rankings, implementation is certainly unlikely to result in any visible rankings changes
- An increase in trust from site visitors, especially important on sites offering more sensitive data or transactions
- The initial connection to your site may be slower, especially if you have to implement 301 redirects from non https pages
- Cost of an annual SSL (if you don’t already have one)
- In some cases you may lose referral data
- You’ll need to ensure all https pages are correctly 301 redirected to the newer https versions
- Need to update your internal link structure if you’re using relative URLs for internal links
- You may find that many products don’t support the use of https