Posts Tagged 'eCommerce'

CRO and Keyword Advertising

Keyword advertising costs money.

Now that we’ve stated the obvious, let’s look at another simple statement of truth. Keyword advertising offers one of the most cost effective and flexible mediums to advertise your business.

The second ‘truth’ depends greatly on your commitment to finding how best to convert ad clickers, into customers. The smartest businesses focus on conversion rates. It’s smart business, because it gleans the greatest return on your advertising investment.

Keywords and the Diverse Internet Audience

Because the internet involves such a diverse group of users, one size will not fit all. Good keyword advertisers internalize this concept when writing ad copy. The words you use, affect the types of users you attract.

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Many internet users search before buying. This group searches using more general keywords—they seek information to make a final decision.  Other users want to commit to a purchase. These users tend to search using specific product names or brands. Professional internet marketers know that each group requires its own ad text.

Include Keywords in Multivariate Testing

When implementing CRO, remember your groups, and their varying motivations. Landing pages consume a great deal of the conversion conversation. Multivariate testing often relies on testing variations of landing pages, but not variations in keyword text.

Your ad text may compel one market segment at the initial click, while your landing page compels clicks from a different segment. You then begin the ‘black box’ task of reworking your landing page. Changes in your ad text, may be the key to unleashing an already effective landing page. Using this approach saves work, and has the potential to reveal valuable market segments.

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SEO and CRO: The Long and Short of It

landingrhtcolpromoIf your small business maintains a website, you’ve most likely considered, talked about or implemented some type of SEO strategy. The belief being, that if you can attract traffic, you will by default attract customers or registrants. This may be the case to a small degree, but doesn’t accurately represent how things usually work.

Your site does need to attract visitors, but it also needs to drive those visitors to some goal. Establishing that goal, and subsequently compelling the user to satisfy that goal, means just as much to your business. Internet gurus label this concept conversion. Though the concept remains the same for all websites, the specific outcome— the actual goal, may vary. Your desire may be to register users, request a sales call or make a purchase. In any case, the final outcome provides some benefit to your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

SEO and CRO work in concert to benefit your business.

Just like SEO, where we optimize our sites so they will be found during user searches, we need to optimize websites so that they convert as many visitors to successful visits as possible. This concept is known as Conversion Rate Optimization. Many experts agree, including most major online retailers, that conversion rate should be considered just as important as SEO. Jamila White, owner of E-Commerce Diva said about conversion, “So many small biz owners don’t know that is THE most important metric.” The two concepts do not contradict, actually one complements the other. They do need to be approached with a different perspective.

SEO the Long Term Strategy

Irrespective of many claims by some SEO consultants, results from SEO take time. That’s because SEO is organic in nature. You should commit yourself to at least a six month effort before expecting consistent benefits. During that six month time span, you’ll need to work and rework your strategy to stay ahead of the pack. In short, SEO strategies are long term strategies.

CRO

CRO focuses more on the present. In short, it focuses on how well we compel the current site visitors, to accomplish a desired result upon visiting.  CRO has a more immediate effect. Conversion rate matters, whether you receive 100 visits per day, or 1000 visits per day. Conversion rate impacts your website efficacy more than SEO.

You can receive 100 visits per day, but convert twenty visitors into customers. This would have more impact than receiving 1000 visits per day, and then only converting ten visitors into customers. Again, we can stress the immediate focus of CRO, no matter the number of visitors, we need to convert as many as possible.

SEO and CRO a Combined Approach

SEO and CRO should not be considered competitive concepts. As website owners we should combine the two practices, knowing that our strategy will have short as well as long term business impact. It should also be noted that  CRO will benefit your SEO efforts.  CRO helps to better identify successful market segments, thus enhancing your ongoing SEO practices.

When converting customers, you will hopefully have analytics giving you customer data. Knowing what regions, pages or search terms used to find your site will elucidate more about the segments that find your product, service or information attractive. If this market doesn’t match your present SEO focus, now you know how to adjust, or better focus your current strategy.

SEO and CRO: Continual Efforts

Both CRO and SEO require continual modification. Consistent testing of landing pages and conversion paths– your CRO efforts, will greatly benefit your long term SEO. Let’s look at an example.

CRO can be affected by numerous factors. If a CNBC guest makes recommendations about what to look for in certain financial products, or throws out a new term, this could alter what financial products customers seek. Sudden drops or increases in conversions, could be the first clue to  a change in your visitor’s needs. Knowing this, allows you to also adjust your SEO strategy to be in place when that CNBC audience turns to the internet to find the company who will sell that product.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Build a Web Presence, Not a Website

webconstructionI spoke with a friend looking to put her business on the web. She stated that she only wanted two or three pages.  I asked, “What do you want from your website?”.  The response was a moment of silence– followed by a not so clear response.

This happens to many small business owners looking to build their first website. Often, the push to get on the web, overshadows the more important need for effective planning.

The Internet: Just Another Business Tool

Websites are business tools.  With all the buzz concerning the web, there exists a false expectation of the internet’s return on investement and websites. Entrepreneurs are better served viewing their website as a very useful and flexible business tool— one that can benefit the business in numerous ways.

A business owner should treat a website in the same manner as their phone, their computer or their word processing software.  Each has a purpose, you thought about your desired benefits before investing.  You could clearly elucidate the reasons you need a phone— to contact customers quickly, to be accessible to customers, to conduct business remotely. 

Make Your Website Work

You should take the same approach to your website.  Think about specific objectives of owning a website, just as you would when choosing a physical location for your business. The new office location would need to posses enough offices, electrical outlets, network wiring and room to expand as you grow. In fact don’t call it a website, but a web presence. Using the term forces you to think dynamically– your presence means you’re participating in the internet medium.

Taking this approach inherently means you’re investing in the long term benefits of the internet. You can start with one or two pages, but you also have built the foundation as your needs expand. Putting together an initial web presence can be difficult, simply because the internet allows you to do so much. You can minimize the pain of building a web presence by following “The 6 P’s”— Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Useful Site Building Tips

I’ve provided some tips that others have used to help develop an initial web presence.  Obviously this doesn’t represent the end-all list, but hopefully it provides a good foundation upon which to build:

Define a Successful Site Visit

  • From your businesses’ perpective, define what a successful visit means to you.
  • Service based companies may desire qualified leads, maybe a request for quote.
  • Product based companies may be seeking a sale. For big ticket items you might want an appointment request.

Your Site is a Funnel

  • Site visitors start at the home page, decide what end point in their visit benefits you the most.
  • Prioritize information from the most essential to buying details. Make sure your essential information makes the first version of your site.
  • Identify the most important buying objections and questions. You can start to answer these in your secondary site pages.

Identify Your Visitor

  • Define the demographics of your target visitor. It plays an important part in how you design your site.
  • Estimate the knowledge level of the visitor concerning your product or service.  That helps determine what types of content you need to include in your site.
  • Understand how visitors in different roles benefit from your product or service.

Hire a Web Site Designer, Not a Graphic Artist

  • Find a designer that understands more than just web graphics.
  • A Flash developer is different from a web designer.  Flash developers can build web sites, but there exist some drawbacks to this. *see my post regarding search engine web crawlers
  • Make sure your site designer is committed to building your web presence over the long term.

Think Long Term

  • Determine how often  you believe the site will need to be updated.
  • Develop a schedule for writing new site content. This will help when talking about maintenance agreements with your site designer.
  • Plan a schedule for site features you don’t need now, but expect to incude as time goes on.

Additional Resources

Website Magazine
Very comprehensive advice from a business perpective on web design.

Web Design Library
Lots of general advice, with a lean to the more technical side.

Web Design From Scratch
Very plain advice, focused on results oriented web design. 

Internet Retailer
Practical advice for ecommerce based web design.

Site Home Pages: “Sell the Sizzle”

I once worked as a telesales representative for a cruise travel agency. Our new sales hire training contained a module named “Sell the Sizzle”.  The instructor stressed that we should sell the experience, not the cruise.  

As an example, we shouldn’t tell the listener that the cruise stopped in the Virgin Islands. Instead– the cruise let them enjoy the crystal clear waters of the carribean, including access to one of the most beautiful coral reef snorkling experiences available anywhere.

In a nutshell, sell the benefits not the features.   When you sell the sizzle, be creative–  see your site as someone who knows nothing about you.

Site visitors scan your site in seconds, what they see must compel that first click. That doesn’t mean avoid text, it still rules the SEO world. 

When looking at your home page, ask yourself a few questions:

Does a First Time Visitor Know What We Do?

  • Users should understand what your company does with a quick scan of the page.
  • Find a way to encapsulate your business in a few words or short sentence. Use this text on your homepage.
  • Make it easy to find customer testimonials. Satisfied customers love to talk about what you do, and how well you do it.
  • With ecommerce sites, products— big and bold, should be the first thing I see.

Does Your Homepage Describe What Problem You Solve?

  • Right from the beginning, tell visitors how they’ll benefit— sell the sizzle.
  • Numbers work great. If you can reduce costs by 40%, say so– and make sure the words ‘Reduce’ and ‘40%’ are in large type.
  • Convey what makes your business unique. Sure— you sell great steaks, but tell or show me what makes your steaks special.

Do You Have Enough Accessories?

  • Provide information that supports your main point. If you sell BBQ grills, provide great grilling recipes– or maybe a photo of the family having a great time in the backyard watching dad grill.
  • Again testimonials help drive home the point— word of mouth is the best advertising. 
  • Provide answers to common questions. You already know your customers’ most common questions. Provide the answers right up front— there’s nothing else left for them to do but buy.

Do I Establish My Expertise?

  • Provide a very visible link to a basic tutorial about your product or service. 
  • Displaying logos of well known clients provides credibility from the start. Be sure to get permission first.
  • Display logos for professional or trade organizations or certifications. The Better Business Logo goes a long way in making a potential customer feel better about giving you their credit card number.

Do My Images Tell the Story?

  • Make sure your images reinforce the story told by your words.
  • Your images should put your product or services in context. Think back to the image of dad on the grill we described earlier.
  • Always use high quality images.  Hire a professional photographer, it’s worth the investment.

 

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

The Vonage home page packs a punch. It includes many elements to convince vistors to keep clicking.

 

Test to Find Out What Works

Putting all the elements together into a presentable home page can be daunting.  Take it a piece at a time.  Play with different layouts, and combinations– use multivariate testing to verify you’ve found the right recipe.