Archive for January, 2009

Online Top 10 Retailers: What We Can Learn

analyticsrhtcolpromoTake a look at the Top 10 Online Retailers for December. You can find the info at Marketing Charts.com. First thing to notice— the list relies on conversion statistics not total sales. That measure of success, reiterates the importance of conversion rate optimization (CRO).

Also notice the conversion percentages  ranging from 19 to 31%.  That’s pretty good, especially when research from Fireclick tells us the average conversion rate hovers between 2 and 3%.  Imagine the impact of a 10% conversion rate increase for your small business’s revenue.

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, let’s look at some things you can replicate in your site, that may help increase your conversion rate.

Keyword Ads Link to Product Pages

The right keyword text, linking to the right landing page. When the user clicks on keyword text that says ‘luxurious lingerie’ , they don’t land in the soap section of victoriassecret.com. They don’t land at the home page either. If the visitor searches for potatoes, they want potatoes.

Graphics Heavy Home Pages

All the big winners had very graphic intensive home pages. The text explained large graphics highlighting featured products.  Outside of that, very little text. Its all about the visual and pushing product. Be assured that the featured items are most likely proven sellers.

Unique Page Titles

Every page has a unique title.  Product pages were titled with their respective product names. They do this because page title holds a high priorty in page rankings. Make sure your ecommerce application allows you to use product names as page titles. 

Alt tags for Every Image

All images posses ‘alt’ text. Another SEO strategy,  alt text influences search engine page ranking.

Products to the Left, Checkout to the Right

All the product pages held true to form– product image on the left, description, size charts, colors and checkout on the right. Visitor attention tends to gravitate towards the visual first. Marketing research suggests that users have a harder time moving from right to left, than left to right. Looks like our top ten retailers saw the same study.

The Conversion Lynch Pin: Understanding Search Habits

All these retailers understand the search habits of online buyers.  They search based upon specifics, not generalities. A web buyer looking for shoes, generally will search for a specific shoe type– ‘xj7 running shoe’, ‘rockport men’s dress shoes’. Knowing this, its better to focus your ecommerce SEO efforts on your product and category pages, not just the home page.

Ramping Up
You’ve got almost a full year until the next Christmas shopping season. Start implementing changes now. Starting now gives you the opportunity to test what works best. It also allows you to evaluate your ecommerce application. Make sure it automates things like page titles and alt tags. If not, check the upgrades or another vendor.

By the time the heavy shopping traffic begins, you’ll be in prime position to convert visitors into revenue.

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Get It In Writing

requirementsI just finished reading Startup Daddy’s post, Starting A Business: Define Your Definite Major Purpose & Envision Your Desired Outcome. The post focuses on the concept of defining one’s purpose, as in what’s your purpose in going into business. It speaks about the importance of defining one’s goals, both personal and professional, and how that helps in selecting your niche.

New web entrepreneurs often ignore this step when building a new website. You need to establish your site’s purpose. If you don’t, you risk a lack of focus that will cascade throughout your web presence, inhibiting SEO planning,  online marketing efforts and many times delaying site completion. You can’t select the best keywords, write good ad copy or build effective conversion paths without site focus.

Just like your business, your website needs a sound plan. That plan should be built before you ever speak with a web designer. In business its called a business plan. In the techie world, we call that plan a requirements document.

Building the Document, Then the Website

Start your document off with a purpose– literally.  Write down a few sentences about your business. In this summary include what you do, how you do it and your market segment. Don’t forget to include any differentiators.

Follow this with a short paragraph about the reasons you desire a website. Try to match your need for a website, with the summary of your business. This purpose will provide scope to your web project.

Determine Required Site Sections

List out all the sections that need to be included in your site. If you can diagram them using Visio or some other tool, that would be great.

Next you want to describe the pages to be included in each section. The ‘Services’ section of your site will have a Services landing page, and most likely a page for each Service you offer. 

Now list what you want included on each of the pages listed under each section. Include images, cross promotion, forms or widgets.  For forms and widgets, be specific about what functionality should be included.  For forms list the fields that should be included, what to do with the form information and designate required fields.

Add the Icing

Now list pages, content or functionality that would be nice to have, but not mission critical. This might seem like wasted effort, but it helps to understand future goals when designing your current website.

Now You’re Covered

Your requirements document provides insurance on your design investment. When working with a professional web designer or firm, you have more security. Get the designer to sign the form, recognizing it represents what will be delivered.  This prevents confusion with billing. It also helps recuperate penalty fees for missed deadlines.

5 Reasons You Will Use Hiconversion in 2009

landingrhtcolpromoTake note of the term Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). During the down economy, CRO will justify itself more than any other online marketing strategy. The reason being, CRO proves what online marketing strategies produce revenue.

Thinning budgets demand improved ROI. Quite simply, businesses can’t afford to waste resources. Money will not be spent without strong justification. CRO provides the best means to test, measure and justify online marketing strategies.

CRO has been slow to take hold. Mainly due to a lack of affordable choices, and reliable expertise. Until recently choices have been limited to free applications— such as Google’s Website Optimizer, or investing in high end enterprise applications costing thousands.

Zee Agonovic, the CEO of Hiconversion, a CRO software development company, sees CRO taking center stage very quickly.

Online marketers are putting the cart before the horse,” he stated in our recent conversation., “All the money and effort is spent on generating web traffic and very little, if anything, is done about visitor conversion”. It doesn’t matter how many users visit your page, if they never take the next step.

After having the opportunity to see Hiconversion’s tool first hand, here’s five reasons you’ll be using Hiconversion in 2009.

1. Improves Online Marketing ROI

With Hiconversion, you get the CRO benefits, at a much lower cost, with less complexity and a higher level of reliability than any other tool on the market.

2. Works with Low traffic volumes

Hiconversion’s patented algorithms don’t require large volumes of traffic. If your site generates 100 hits per day, you can get reliable data, and improve conversion rates.

3. Easy Setup

Hiconversion utilizes a service based model, like Google’s Weboptimizer. There are no installs— you create an account online and begin testing. Creating multivariate tests has been reduced to simple point and click functionality.  The tool provides the ability to create an unlimited number of test pages, for as many pages as you want.  The tool gives you the capability to test unlimited page element combinations via a graphical interface. You can test entire conversion paths, almost eliminating the need for more complicated analytics reports.

4. Quick Results

With low site volume, 100 clicks per day, you can get reliable results within weeks. With 1000 clicks per day or higher, you get reliable data within days. Many users of the tool start seeing improved conversion rates before they even complete their testing periods. Hiconversion also comes with a complete set of out-of-the-box reports, including real-time and projected ROI analysis.

5. Fits Your Budget

At $99  per month, you can’t find a better way to invest your money. You can get turnkey CRO services  starting at just $995 per project, with a 10% CR increase guarantee.

10 Tips to Improve eCommerce Sales

analyticsrhtcolpromoThe holiday buying season has come and gone. Now its back to the day-to-day grind in terms of sales. What little money many consumers had, has been spent. So now we need to really focus on converting visitors to buyers.

Once you implement your marketing strategy, its time to find ways to close the deal. Internet retailing relies heavily on your technical infrastructure and store design. I’ve formulated ten tips gathered from advice by the biggest players in the eCommerce space. Read now, and you’ll find a bonus tip:

1. Identify Your Top Searches

Plain and simple, you will need to be customer focused to be successful. Knowing what customers want, makes you better able to serve them.  Perform test searches. You want to make sure visitors find what they want– and you provide. For obvious reasons, note searches for items you don’t sell.

2. Find Customer Exit Points

Outside of your sales confirmation page, you want to know where customers most often leave your site. If they leave at your product pages, it might be time for a redesign. If they leave during the checkout process, look at ways to simplify your checkout process.

3. Test Site Performance

Online shoppers don’t like to wait. If they did, they would shop at a physical store. Test how well your site functions at peak times.  Test user flows to analyze your purchasing paths.  Be particularly aware of any errors that occur. Test during low traffic periods as well. If performance problems still exist, this might be an indicator of a software or hardware problem. Compare your site metrics with these indice from ECommerce Times, to see how your site measures up to competitors.

4. Monitor Usability

Usability may be a reason for some of the exit points you found in tip #2.  Navigation should be a key area of focus, especially for sites with large offerings. If users get lost, or can’t find what they’re looking for, statistics tell us they’ll find another retailer. 

You also want to test your usability in various browsers and browser versions. With the introduction of Chrome, there’s a new landscape to traverse in terms of compatibility.

5. Optimize Product Pages

Test various layouts of your product pages.  Try different copy to determine what drives sales best. If you’re serious about increasing revenue, implement a multivariate testing strategy.

6. Find Customer Tendencies

Again, we’re back looking at customer focus. How customers navigate your site says a great deal about their needs. For example, if visitors tend to visit certain products in groups, you’ve got a hint on what to include in your cross-sells items list.

7. Make Your Most Popular Products Easy To Find

Sounds like common sense– and it is. Yet, many shopping sites don’t do this simple thing. If you sell shoes, make sure each subcategory page displays at least your top seller on that page. If you can display your top three, you’re in even better position to sell.

8. Simplify Checkout

As internet retailers, we have to accept cart abandonment. The idea will be to reduce it. Make sure your checkout process doesn’t confuse visitors. Add a step-by-step navigation bar at the top of the cart, indicating what steps still need to be completed. Consolidate steps where possible. Make sure you provide simple easy to understand instructions to facilitate checkout.  Don’t forget to make the ‘help’ or ‘faq’ button highly visible.

9. Address Shipping Charges Sooner Not Later

No one likes surprises on their bill. Provide shoppers with some expectations about shipping costs prior to checkout. 

10. Review Your Customer Service Plan

Recent surveys indicate that customer satisfaction with online shopping has dropped. The causes of this increased dissatisfaction have yet to be thoroughly identified. Be assured customer service will be some where on the list. Asses how well you handle customer inquiries and returns

Test and Retest      

Develop a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. Testing various page layouts, copy and combinations of both, can greatly enhance you sales success. CRO should be just as important as SEO to your internet sales plan.               

Jeff Prus, senior director of user experience at VistaPrint recently stated at the Internet Retailer Conference 09, “VistaPrint regards ongoing site optimization as a revenue-generating function, one that generates millions of dollars per year in proven business value,” . CRO maximizes your SEO benefits. In these economic times every dollar counts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Tips for Better Forms and Qualified Leads

formtips2Finding good leads make or break a salesman. The better the lead, the easier the sale.  This concept has a name— qualified leads.

Generating leads via the web presents its own set of challenges. The online form works day and night, gathering information about potential customers. The form constrains us, due to its finite nature, limiting us to a fixed set of questions. In the end, we act on faith more than assurance that leads will be of any substance. 

Creating good forms, forms that create qualified leads, requires a trial and error effort.  Here are ten ways to increase qualified lead generation via online forms:

1. Ask For the Right Information.

The basics:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Company Name
  • Visitors Title (helps to establish buying decision power)
  • Phone Number (distinguish between work and cell)
  • Reason for the Request/Type of Request (just looking or ready to buy)
  • Market Identifiers (ask questions that will define segment of market)
  • Influencers (who else will be involved in the decision)
  • Anything specific to your industry or product

Obviously the Name and email should be required.  Don’t be afraid to require a phone number, especially for services. Required phone numbers will fend off the casual visitor. In addition, get the phone number type, work or cell. A work number indicates a more qualified lead.

2. Use Dropdowns
  • Use drop down menus to isolate prime targets in your market
  • Drop downs allow for more flexibility, while keeping control of the provided information
  • Drop downs are easier to answer, allowing you to squeeze in two or three more questions
  • Two or three well thought out drop downs are worth one big additional notes text field
3. Generate Specific Forms for Specific Conversion Paths
  • Users in different roles have different needs, cater to the roles in your forms
  • Use specific forms for specific products or services
4. Give Up Something to Get Something
  • Requiring a form for a whitepaper has a less salesy feel
  • Require a form to get pricing
  • Utilize form completion for user group membership
  • Add a private users section to your blog, requiring registration
5. Make Forms Convenient
  • Make sure form questions are easy to read and understand
  • Put forms in the margins of high traffic pages
  • Make text in links to forms real marketing copy, not ‘get more info’
6. Make Specific Forms for Requesting a Phone Call
  • Create a form specifically for people wanting a sales call
7. Strong Validation
  • Make sure you validate important form fields (name, email, phone, etc)
8. Keep the Number of Fields to a Minimum
  • Too many fields can run off potentially good leads
9. Always Follow Up Form Submissions
  • Unreturned requests can harm your company’s reputation
10. Implement a Conversion Rate Optimization Strategy

Optimizing form conversion rate via testing, should be you top priority.  In order to find the best form, you will need to test.  A form completion is a funnel goal. Its a link the visitor clicks that has potential value for your business. You’ll need to test various combinations to get the form that produces the most submitals, as well as the best qualified leads. Multivariate testing provides the best way to optimizing success. If you don’t test, you will waste valuable time and resources, while losing business to your testing competitors.

5 Tips to Convert Visitors to Customers

Does your website work? Yeah sure— it loads, the links work and and you don’t get any ‘page not found errors’.  That only means your website functions properly. But, does it really work? Does it sell or drive business well? 

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

How well does your site convert visitors from search to homepage to customer?

Most small to medium business owners would answer no. The others that answer yes, could most likely see a greater return based on the statistics. The average website only converts about 2% of its visitors into viable leads or customers.

With all the promises of the internet, most of us expected more from a web presence. So how do we do better?

1. Know Your Market

Make sure you identify your market. Your technical SEO efforts mean nothing, if you focus on the wrong keywords. Your customers have unfulfilled needs, that’s why they’re customers. Ensure that your keywords match your customer’s needs.

2. Match Content to Your Market

SEO gets your site ranked at the top of the heap. Now the user visits. Whether the user ‘bounces’ or stays depends on your content. Make sure your content addresses the needs of customers.

3. Build Funnels

I often see keyword ads that direct users to landing pages, that immediately propose the offer. In some cases this works, but most consumers have questions. That’s where funneling plays an important role. Offer multiple choices on your landing pages. The all or none approach leaves you very little room to persuade.

4. Write Good Copy

What you say plays an important role in conversion.  How you say it plays just as an important role. Your users will find certain words more compelling than others. Professional marketing copy helps to convert visitors.

5. Test Your Content

The most important tip of all. Utilize your website metrics to better understand what content works and doesnt’ work. Its rare you that you will build the perfect funnel or write the perfect web copy the first time. You need to vary copy, funnels and page layouts to find the most compelling combination.

Experts call this multivariate testing, or Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). If you haven’t heard of it, you will.  CRO will be what separates the most successful web marketing strategies, from the also rans. Here’s a great article on CRO if you want more information.

Using Analytics to Build Your Funnels

In previous posts we talked about building ‘site funnels’.  Site funnels represent the page-by-page paths site visitors view before exiting your site.  In most cases, you’ll create paths based upon your projected user behavior. What we predict, and what actually occurs, may not always coincide.

Customer Focus

Focusing on customer wants and needs generally produces better results. Your perceived can’t lose ideas, at times fall flat. You want to make user visits more predictable.

Your visitors leave clues as to what they want. The secret decoder ring to these clues will be your analytics report. Users will provide a trail, indicating what natural paths or funnels they prefer to follow.

Like any good hunter, if you follow this trail, you can improve goal conversion with a few tweaks, rather than whole sale site changes. So let’s look at how to use some of those clues:

Use Your Analytics Report To Identify Most Viewed Pages »

  • The most viewed pages obviously contain the information visitors perceive as the most relevant to their needs. 
  • Make note of the ‘bounce’ rate.  A bounce rate of more than 40% signals that users might not be finding what they expected.
  • Now find the  ‘next pages’ statistics.

Follow the Navigation Summary »

  • Note the top two or three most popular next navigated pages.  Look at the percentages, anything under 20% can be ignored.
  • Continue through the navigation summary until you get to points where the exit rate is greater than 40%.

Analyze Your Natural Funnels »

  • Navigate to your site, and click through these user generated funnels
  • Pay close attention to points in the path where exit rates rise above 40%.
  • If the selected paths don’t end in goals, determine what types of goal content can be implemented.
  • Look for opportunities for new promotional ideas.

Develop Goals »

  • Now you can create new goal endings for your user created funnels. If you link to existing goals, make sure your links and text are relevant to the new path.
  • Use multivariate testing to find the funnel goal page that produces the best results.
  • Also utilize multivariate testing to determine user willingness to end these funnels sooner.
  • Think about adjustments to your keyword campaigns, that might lead to greater success.

Play with the percentages, they aren’t set in stone.  If the user defined funnels match your designed funnels, implement multivariate testing to improve weak conversions.  Use goal test points along paths, make the test points related to the most popular next pages.  Knowing where a visitor will most likely navigate next, provides a prime opportunity to begin cross selling.