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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

Have You Heard about Google’s Responsive Update?

fortune3-responsive-design-imagePerhaps by now you’ve heard of Google’s new responsive design update. Search Engine Land reports that Google will release this update on April 21st.

No one knows the exact consequences, but some estimates hold that not having a responsive website could cost you around 40% of your mobile traffic and 20% of your site’s total traffic.

The good thing about this update? You know about it, and exactly what you have to do, BEFORE it rolls out. And you have several weeks to make your fix.

How Do I Know if My Website’s “Responsive?” 

It’s actually easy to tell. Visit this URL and take Google’s “mobile-friendly” test. If your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll see something that looks like this:

 

Yikes! The owner of that website’s in trouble.

Google is sending e-mails with the subject “Fix mobile usability issues found on http://www.yourdomain.com/”

Google’s Actually Talked about the Importance of Responsive Design Before

While it’s not totally clear how having a responsive design affected your site’s rankings in the past, Google loudly and clearly discussed the importance of having one. In fact, they did so on their Webmaster Central Blog on June 6, 2012.

The New Algorithm Update Affects Mobile Search Only!

So if users search from a desktop or laptop computer, your rankings don’t take a hit. At least, that’s the current understanding. In terms of total impact on search rankings, it could do more damage than either Panda or Penguin.

What Should I Do If I Don’t Have a Responsive Design? 

You need to redesign your website so it is responsive as soon as possible. You really have no way around it. No one’s sure of the exact consequences, but it will cost you a significant percentage of your site’s overall traffic.

To check your potential impact, go to Google Analytics. Then navigate to “Audience” and “Mobile.” There, you’ll see what percentage of your traffic comes from various sources. Some estimates believe around 50% of your mobile traffic could be gone after the update.

Most sites have an average of 50-60% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. If you hit the “devices” sub-menu under the “mobile” menu, you’ll learn which mobile devices people use to view  your website.

Do you really want to risk the hit?

Web designers will be busy, so you should contact one right away.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

E-Commerce to Hit $414 Billion in Sales by 2018

e-commerce-forrester-research-sales-imageForrester recently released a new report analyzing the state of e-commerce. You can purchase the report here, but it is $499.

According to their statistics:

• E-commerce sales will account for 11% of all retail sales in 2018
• Sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.5%

What will be driving that growth is increased consumer use of mobile devices, tablet PCs, and stronger offers from online retailers.

How to Create a Compelling Offer

What you have to offer is one of the biggest differentiators in the e-commerce space. So, let’s check out some ideas for offers:

1. Product Quality – So this isn’t a specific offer, but really it’s why people buy from you. The best thing you can do is to give them the products they want at the right price.

2. Free Shipping – Who doesn’t love this? A compelling free shipping offer would allow your customers to ship free both ways. Zappos has this policy, and it works great for them because they sell high-end clothes. The offer takes all the risk off of customers because if they don’t like the clothes or they don’t fit, they don’t lose any money.

3. Coupons – They’re always nice for your customers to get, but you’ll have to test them a lot. You never know which coupon or offer will work the best.

4. Rewards/Loyalty Points – “Gamification,” as it is officially called, is a great way to get customer interest. Some businesses have been completely transformed with this. That doesn’t mean yours should do it, but it’s an idea to consider.

5. Limited-Time Offers – For most SMBs, this is honestly one of the areas where big mistakes are made. It’s important to specifically state the limited time period. If you just say “limited time,” customers don’t take it all that seriously. But if they know the offer ends tonight, they get antsy and have to decide whether to act. More people act when you specify a time frame

6. FREE Gift When You Purchase – This one falls lower on your customer’s interest level. They’ll love the FREE shipping both ways more. But, it can still work and be helpful for your sales.

7. Save More When You Buy More – You don’t see this promotion too often, but you can use it. To be truthful, it’s not one of those promotions people tend to respond to. But every business is different, so it may be worth a try.

Remember, on the web, the sky is the limit. If  you can think creatively of a better offer than these, go ahead and run it and see what happens.

At least now, though, you have some ideas to start with.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

How to Get 100% Google-Safe Links: Part 2

fortune3-safety-first-link-building-imageSearch Engine RoundTable tells us what they call Panda 4.0 has now been rolled out this month. In our last post, we told you about Penguin 3.0!

What the update is doesn’t matter because Google will keep changing its algorithm. The general trend from a links perspective will always remain the same:

You must earn links and have the webmaster review and post them, versus placing them on another website yourself.  With that in mind, let’s talk about some more ways you can earn natural links in today’s search environment:

1. Get to know key influencers, and ask them to promote your content. Figure out who they are in your industry. Follow them (usually on Twitter), or on Facebook. Share their stuff. Comment on their blog. Let them know you do it.

When you have an awesome piece of content you’re sure their audience will love, ask them to share it with their social followers. The result: natural links.

2. Create an expert roundup blog post. Ask a simple question, and have the responders provide a 100-word answer or so. Talk to about 100-150 experts in your community. You’ll get around 50 responses.

This goes for you even if you have a small, unknown blog. You’ll get natural links and a nice surge of traffic. You also might get a fair amount of social followers and e-mail subscribers.

3. Optimize your content. It’s tough, really tough, to rank your content in the top 10 of Google. But, with enough links to deep pages and posts in your website, you can rank on the first page of Google.

The first step to doing that is to optimize your blog posts for 3-5 keywords or so. You have to use very natural language. If you’re a technical type and need numbers, you’ll want a keyword density of less than 1.0%.

The main keyword you want to rank for should go in your blog’s title and meta description. Supporting keywords should go in H2’s and the body content. Not every heading needs to be optimized, though. The language begins to sound awkward if you do that.

4. Link to your latest blog post in your e-mail signature. This one’s pretty straightforward. Make sure you and all your employees do it. You’re probably not going to get a ton of links this way, but it’s easy to do.

Remember, the keys to getting links are to contribute value to the web and to target quality websites that you believe will never get penalized by Google in the future. If you attract links with those points in mind, you’ll survive any algorithm update Google makes.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News, How To, SEO for eCommerce

What Does the Alibaba IPO Mean for E-Commerce?

fortune3-ecommerce-ipo-imageYou may or may not have heard already, but on Tuesday May 6, Chinese e-commerce giant filed for its American IPO.  While they’re primarily known for their e-commerce functions similar to Amazon, they also provide services similar to Paypal and eBay.

Analysts value the company at up to $245 billion.  It claims to have sold goods at a value of $248 billion in its marketplace in 2013, and that’s more than Amazon and eBay – combined.

And one New York Times article notes in grew more than 57% in the first nine months of the 2013 fiscal year.  Whew – that’s impressive!  Interestingly, Yahoo owns 22.6% of Alibaba, although conditions of the IPO require Yahoo to sell off half of its stake in the company.

So What Does This Mean, if Anything, for E-Commerce?

Well, the impact for you and I will probably be minimal, at best.  For now, anyway, Americans can already purchase from the site.  So if you want to buy bulk quantities from Chinese entrepreneurs, no problem.  However, the question is: how can you be sure of the product quality?

1.  The Competition Between Alibaba and Amazon will be Interesting

The distinct advantage for Alibaba versus any US company is that it maintains almost no inventory.  Rather than selling items directly, it mostly acts as a matchmaker between buyers and sellers.  Some reports claim the company has up to 45% profit margins – far higher than Amazon or eBay.

It’s still primarily based in China though, so the interesting part will be to see how Alibaba earns trust in the eyes of American consumers.  Amazon already has a ton of credibility, and they’re already working on building regional distribution centers all over the country so consumers can get their orders the same day.

2.  How will Alibaba Expand?

What Alibaba has that the US does not is an incredibly huge population of 1.3 billion.  So even though Alibaba’s already massive by American standards, it may still be very small compared to its potential.  And, the Chinese economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world.

So, it’ll be interesting to see what else Alibaba concocts to take over in the future.  Some speculate it will continue to expand into finance, supply chain management, and other similar services.

There’s no way to predict the future with Alibaba.  The company does many innovative things like offering website design services to merchants selling on its platform and giving them business loans (they already have data on the companies).

Will this be a good, bad, or indifferent thing for most American e-commerce companies?  Hard to say, but we’re sure to find out.

Posted in eCommerce News

What’s the Future of E-Commerce for SMBs?

fortune3-future-of-ecommerce-imageYou’ve probably heard about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos talking about using drones to deliver products.  That’s the possible future for some of the big guys, but it’s not too likely for SMBs.

In fact, what will the future of e-commerce look like for the typical small business?

Here’s a few ideas:

 

1.  Showrooming is the Norm

If you do happen to have a physical location, it will be almost for showrooming only.  Your customers will try on a piece of sample clothing,  scan and order it online, and then have the clothing delivered to their home just hours later.

2.  Clothing will Gain a Bigger Market Share

Some experts estimate up to 1/3 of all online purchases will be related to clothing and fashion within the next decade.  Because the competition is so intense, and will only continue to get tighter, the real point of differentiation will be how well the product meets the market’s expectations.

This could be good news for small businesses who cannot afford to use other marketing tactics like celebrity endorsements.

3.  Remarketing Continues to Grow

We do some of this ourselves.  It’s simply the practice of paying Google Adsense to continue to show your ad to the same user as they visit other sites in the corporation’s Adsense network.

As people frequently see your ad, they become more familiar with you and are more likely to purchase from you.

4.  Cross-Channel Marketing Gets Streamlined and Emphasized

It’s tough to manage all those different social media profiles, your website, your products, your blog, and any guest posts you make on other blogs, isn’t it?  Well, that’s going to get a heck of a lot easier in the future, and you’ll find SMBs doing it more consistently and with greater frequency.

5.  Focusing More on Assessing their Scalability

It’s easy to scale an e-commerce website.  But, it’s not so easy to scale the shipping and fulfillment functions.  In the coming years, you’re going to find more innovation among SMBs in this regard.

6.  Adding a Human Element

Most websites are fairly generic and stale in their approach.  However, the more you can humanize your website and develop a personal connection with your visitor, the better.  The big brands are really good at this, so research some of the market leaders and create your own personality for your business that reflects what  your customers want to see.

We can’t make accurate predictions.  And who knows?  Some of these might even be way off.  But, we’re reasonably sure they’ll come into play for SMBs for years into the future.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

7 Press Release Ideas for Your E-Commerce Store

fortune3-press-release-for-smbs-imagePress releases are an awesome way to get some exposure and nice SEO juice.  But, don’t count on the links from the press releases themselves to boost your SEO.  Rather, websites must stumble across your press release and then link directly to your website.

Google has publicly stated it’s reducing (eliminating?) the SEO value passed on by press releases themselves.  So, it’s more important to focus on a good story.  And if you tell a good story, you’re more likely to get good links from people who read the press release.  Who knows?  You might even luck out and score an interview from a journalist!

Sometimes, it seems like there’s nothing going on at your business that’s “newsworthy.”  But, there’s always plenty going on – you just have to know where to look.  Here are some press release ideas that may be happening at your company right now:

1.  Whenever You Add a New Product

Okay, so this is the easy one.  But, don’t do it every time you add a new product.  Use it when you have a product you think will sell big, or if you know the product sells well at other websites.  If you don’t know of much else going on, it can always be a filler idea too.

2.  Hold a Sale

This is another easy one under your control.  You can have a sale anytime you want.  When you do, make sure to announce it via a press release.

3.  You’re Acting as a Sponsor or Making a Charitable Donation

If there’s no news going on, you can always create some.  A good way to do that is to make a donation to your favorite charity (or volunteer there).  If there’s a local event, becoming a sponsor is a good thing – just make sure you let the public know about it.

4.  Offer 10 People Free Samples

…Or whatever the number happens to be.  “Free” is one of the most effective words in the sales world.

5.  Receiving an Award or Joining an Organization

If you become a BBB member, that’s a great news story.  Join contests and try to receive an award, and don’t forget to let everyone know when you do.

6.  Making a Personnel Change

If you made a new addition or promoted someone to a high-ranking position, there’s another great news opportunity.

7.  Customer Success Stories

Did you go above and beyond the call of duty for your customer?  Were they able to achieve an extraordinary result because they bought your product?  Let other customers know with a press release.

Those are just some examples to get your mind thinking.  You may have these stories, or others bubbling at your small business right now.

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News, Online Marketing Strategies

Why Use Fortune 3’s E-Commerce Shopping Cart Software?

fortune3-ecommerce-solutionsThere’s tough competition for e-commerce software, and with good reason.  There’s so much to do when you set up an e-commerce website.  You have to:

1.  Get all your products and descriptions in place
2.  Develop the major product categories
3.  Operate a blog
4.  Use social proof in key places throughout your website
5.  Integrate your social media accounts with your website
6.  Be able to accept all major credit cards
7.  Have the ability to quickly manage product prices
8.  Conduct keyword research and optimize every page on your website

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  So, why use Fortune3 out of all the options available?  A few reasons:

1.  It’s Easy to Use – You can manage your entire store from a web browser or an application you can download straight to your PC.  If you know how to use Windows, you can get started creating your e-commerce website.  You don’t have to be an experienced coder or know how HTML in-depth.
2.  24/7/365 Unlimited Tech Support – You’re not going to know how to do everything right away, and besides, it saves you time and money to ask for help when you run into problems.  We have a team of professionals standing by ready to answer all your questions.
3.  Manage Your Site on the Go – We have mobile apps for iPhone and Android, so you can always manage your website wherever you go.
4.  One-Page Checkout and Payment Processing – Your customers can quickly and easily pay with their preferred payment method.  Paypal, Google Wallet, Amazon Checkout, and dozens of payment gateways are immediately available.
5.  Fully Ready for Social Media – Quickly link your store to all of your major social media profiles, including LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
6.  Live Shipping Integration – Give customers real-time quotes from all the biggest, most reputable shipping companies they know –  DHL, Fedex, UPS, and USPS.
7.  Fully Customizable – Need a unique design?  Not a problem – you can customize every last detail of your website.
8.  Reliable Hosting – Get 99.99% server uptime when you use us as your hosting service.
9.  Fully Secure – Our suite is 100% PCI-compliant.  256-bit SSL encryption keeps your customer’s information completely confidential.

So, those are the top reasosn to use our e-commerce software.  And you get it all for a flat, predictable monthly rate, depending on the package you choose.    We offer several different packages – beginning at $24.95 per month for 50 products and running all the way up to $899.95 per month for unlimited products.

Oh, and if you need to check it out first, be sure to try our FREE 30-day trial.

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

Top 3 SEO Techniques to Avoid

fortune3-e-commerce-risks-avoid-black-hat-seo-imageIf you don’t know what you’re doing with your SEO, there’s a high chance you could end up having to rebuild your website entirely from scratch.

Really.

How does that happen?

It can happen primarily through links.  If you get a spammy, unnatural back link profile, you either have the option to ask the webmasters to remove those links, or to use Google’s Disavow tool.  And, many SEO pros have found Disavow is only a tool of last resort and may or may not allow you to remove those spammy links.

Google always changes, but if you do SEO white-hat from the start, you give yourself a 99.9% chance of never receiving a penalty.

Here are some SEO pitfalls to avoid if you want to ensure your website keeps its rankings now and throughout the future:

1.  “Thin” Content Sites Loaded with Ads

How can you judge the quality of content?  If every single sentence reads awkwardly and states general, obvious information, the content is thin.  Google Panda weeded these websites out of the SERPs.

Google doesn’t get as worked up about ads – you can get away with an ad “above the fold” in your website.  But make sure it’s no more than one.  Otherwise, you might risk a knock (not necessarily a penalty) against your website.  If you do any more than one ad, which some websites do, you also harm the user experience and lose customers.

2.  Black-Hat Linking Techniques 

Never ever pay for a link for any reason, period.  Yes, you can do that with some now.  And no, Google probably won’t catch EVERY paid link opportunity on the web.

But why risk it?

In most cases, Google will catch you eventually and especially so if you make this a dedicated part of your linking strategy.

Don’t engage in schemes with other webmasters.  Stay away from “link wheels.”  Don’t purchase links from websites promising you thousands of links for one low monthly price.

Google is also lowering the value of links from press releases and forums.  These aren’t black-hat techniques, but just make sure you don’t church out press releases and forum posts regularly just to get links.

3.  Guest Blogging – The Bad Way

So of course, now that everything else has been addressed by Google, people are turning to guest blogs for links.  This is a good thing overall, but make sure you do it ethically.

Approach other bloggers with the intention of adding value for their audience.  In your byline, use 3 links, and make sure the anchor text of just one exactly matches the keywords you’re looking to rank for.

Repeat the process for every guest blog you approach.  And always make sure the blogs you approach are ones you feel comfortable reading yourself.  If they seem “off” when you consider how they present themselves as a blog, pass the opportunity up.

Links are all About Value and Relationships

You will get more natural links by creating value for others.  If you write a great guest post or create a blog that answers a problem or problems people have, they’ll respect you and view you as an authority.  Then, they’ll naturally want to link to your post or your website.

That’s what getting natural links and SEO is really all about.

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, eCommerce News, How To, Social Media For eCommerce

Should You Care about the Marketplace Fairness Act?

fortune3-marketplace-fairness-act-tax-imageCurrently, if your customer purchases something from you and you do not have a physical presence in that customer’s state, you do not have to charge your customer sales tax.

Legally, the best states can do is to ask consumers to report the value of the goods they purchase online and pay the sales tax.

Does anyone really do that?

They don’t, and that’s why the Marketplace Fairness Act is currently sitting before the House of Representatives after passing through the Senate.

How’s It Going to Work?

If you’re fairly small – If you do less than $1 million in revenues each year, you don’t have to worry about this act at all.  But, as soon as you cross that millionth dollar, you are required to collect sales tax to pay to each customer’s state and local government.

Because states lost out on more than $11 billion in revenue annually and brick-and-mortar stores charge sales tax for the same products e-commerce customers do not pay sales tax for, this act has now almost become a reality.

The Senate passed the MFA with a vote of 69 in favor and 27 against – fairly overwhelming support for a piece of legislation.  Although unpopular with consumers and retailers, it may become the law of the land soon.

What You Should You Look Out For

If this law passes, it will result in a couple of changes and new considerations for e-commerce businesses just like yours:

1.  You charge sales tax based on the customer’s location – This could be an absolute nightmare.  There are over 9,600 different jurisdictions in the United States, if you examine both state and local legislation.  In a certain locale, a candy bar could be considered taxable, but in another it may not.

2.  Tax collection, though present, will be simplified – A new tax program, called the “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement” will be created.  The idea is to make the collection of taxes easier.  One stipulation of this program will be that states are required to offer free tax collection software.

Stay Tuned – It’s Not Over Yet

Despite all this, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte says the bill is unlikely to pass through the House, and further that the House is working on its own version of the bill.

The best you can do for now is to stay tuned in and prepare for the changes as soon as you know what’s going to happen.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News

How to Identify Your Target Market

fortune-3-niche-marketing-imageSales always, always, always increase when you target a specific market.  One of the top mistakes newbie e-commerce store owners make is not selling to a target market, or identifying one that is way too broad.

If you want to sell to many people, the key to success lies in mastering a particular niche first, and then you can target additional niches later on.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending way too many marketing dollars trying to make sales.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you identify your target market:

Have a passion for the product itself – If you like sports collectibles, collect them and sell the online.  If you enjoy antiques, do the same.  If you’re just in it for the money, then you’ll find yourself burning out and not caring about the customer or the business.  Whatever it is that you decide to sell, maybe it’s something new to you entirely, make sure you have a passion for it.

Be able to relate to the audience – If you’re going to sell auto parts, make sure you understand and relate to the mechanics and do-it-yourselfers that you sell to.  You don’t have to enjoy the work that they do – maybe you just like providing the best solution for their problems.

Narrow it as much as possible – Make sure you identify a target age range, gender, nationality, geographic location, income, academic qualification, technical capability, family size, or occupation for your target market.  Be as specific as you possibly can.  The more specific you are, the better rate at which your products will sell.  That means you’ll create more dollars, and if you want to target additional niches, you can do so after you identify and sell well to the first.

Are your assumptions based on research or experience?  – Because you know your product so well, you may be tempted to think that you know your market very well already also.  But, for many entrepreneurs and e-commerce store owners, this is overestimated.  Make sure you research your niche as much as possible in order to confirm (hopefully) your initial assumptions.

Study the competition’s marketing strategy – With more and more marketing happening online, it’s getting easier than ever to study your competition’s strategy and almost completely copy it.  From a research perspective, this is great, but somehow you’re going to have to figure out how to try out new techniques to get ahead of the competition.

What Would You Add?

These are just some started tips for researching your niche.  Of course, there’s much more you can do to study yours.  Are there any tips you would add to this list?

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, eCommerce News, Online Marketing Strategies