“Think it through before you say and do,” was one of the quips my high school math teacher made so regularly. ¬†And, he very much hit the nail on the head.
It takes some experience in life before you really get what that means. ¬†How does that apply to e-commerce? ¬†Here are some things to think through before you actually open your store:
1. ¬†How do You Start Building the Store?
There’s a number of ways to do this. ¬†You can build it yourself (if you’re a very skilled programmer and have a lot of time available). ¬†You can hire someone to do it (very costly). ¬†Or, you can use a template that you set up with a few clicks, like the one Fortune3 has available. ¬†Then, when revenues increase, you can think harder about more custom modifications.
2. ¬†What Payment System Should You Use?
Paypal is the easiest to use, ¬†and the most trusted, but it has pretty killer fees. ¬†You might also consider using Authorize.net, which charges a $99 setup fee, $20 per month, and 10 cents per transaction. ¬†If you want to accept credit cards, set up a merchant account with each individual company.
3. ¬†How Should You Calculate Shipping Costs?¬†
With the larger shipping companies, they can calculate this for you at no additional charge. ¬†You can even have these costs calculated right into the prices of your products. ¬†If you can offer free shipping over certain purchase amounts, then do so – it could be a competitive advantage that gets you more business.
4. ¬†How Do You Convince Customers to Purchase Your Products?
Make sure your products have clean, crisp images viewable from all angles. ¬†Don’t use the manufacturer’s product descriptions! ¬†They stink. ¬†Instead, either hire a copywriter to create better ones for you or write some yourself, making sure you highlight the benefits they provide and the features that make those benefits possible. ¬†If you can add videos, do that too. ¬†Reviews are also helpful as well.
5. ¬†How Should You Handle Returns?
“The customer is always right…even if they’re wrong.” ¬†Follow this mantra when doing returns. ¬†Even if the customer is being ridiculous, do what it takes to make them happy at least twice. ¬†If it’s anything more than that…well you can’t make everyone happy.
A gracious return policy makes customers feel at ease when purchasing from you, which makes it more likely that happens. ¬†Additionally, when people realize you honor your return policy, that builds your reputation.
6. ¬†Should Customer Reviews be Allowed?
The answer is a resounding “Yes!” ¬†Good and bad feedback help your store. ¬†Good feedback shows other customers what products to buy, and you get to know what you’re doing well too. ¬†Bad feedback is an opportunity to make your store a better place for more customers. ¬†If people consistently give certain products negative reviews, remove the products and find better ones. ¬†It’s invaluable market research physical stores simply cannot get.
So if you consider these six things prior to creating your e-commerce store, you’ll be better off when it launches. ¬†Enjoy a smoother running business and more profits!
Got questions? ¬†Let us know in the comments below:
Every e-commerce store needs to have a few things in order to really come across as credible and legit within its space. ¬†With that in mind, here are the specific features yours should have in place right now:
Simple and straightforward – your logo shows what you’re all about right away. ¬†If you can get one that eventually gets recognized on first sight, then it’s really going to help your sales.
2. ¬†Special Promotions
People don’t spend much time deciding whether or not you’re the right store to buy from. ¬†So, why not grab their attention with a special deal right away? ¬†Make sure it beats the typical deal similar websites offer so you really stand out.
3. ¬†Most Popular Products
Once they know the deals you have available, let them know what you have to offer. ¬†And to maximize the chances you capture their interest right away, show the popular products off that they’re likely to enjoy.
4. ¬†Show Branded Products Immediately
If you have some of your own unique products, show some of those. ¬†Customers who don’t know what they want or are just browsing then have the opportunity to get interested in your own products.
5. ¬†Shopping Cart, Login, Search
They’re almost always placed together, and especially at the top right of the page. ¬†Remember, the cart option reduces risk in people’s eyes, which means they’re more likely to add products and purchase. ¬†If they have to purchase right now, they’re more likely to actually do so.
6. ¬†Icons of Accepted Payment Methods¬†
This seems almost completely unnecessary, but remember, American Express isn’t always accepted at many physical stores. ¬†More importantly, you’ll sometimes have international customers whose payment methods vary widely. ¬†Place the logos visibly where clients check out so they know what they can use.
7. ¬†Social Media Icons
If you have a decent follower count going and some activity on your pages, display your social media accounts. ¬†Customers often wait until they get to know you better before purchasing, and this is one way to engage them.
8. ¬†Phone Number & Online Chat
If something’s going wrong, customers want to speak to you…make your phone number easy to find by prominently displaying it on every page of your site. ¬†If you have the manpower, do online chat. ¬†And if you don’t, try to implement it soon because it’s becoming a standard expectation of the modern consumer.
9. ¬†Trust Logos
If you belong to the BBB or other reputable industry associations, display their trust logos. ¬†The BBB will even give you an icon that displays your rating.
So…those are some of the standard expectations consumers have for any e-commerce store. ¬†Do you have all of them in place?
In our No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO series of blog posts (the previous 6 posts), we laid out specific techniques you can use to increase your search rankings.
But one thing you need to also have about SEO: ¬†realistic expectations.
What can you realistically expect from the process of performing SEO?
Here are a few guidelines:
1. ¬†Conservatively, Give it a Year
If you have a website with strong authority that isn’t optimized, you can see increased rankings is as little as a few weeks. ¬†But, that’s not a guarantee.
If you talk with a SEO professional regarding the time frame during which you can expect results, any honest SEO pro will tell you to wait six months at a minimum, and more likely a year before you see a noticeable improvement in rankings and traffics.
It’s just not a fast thing, and Google’s going to keep it that way because it only wants legitimate, authority websites at the top of its search rankings – not brand-new websites which could be providing sketchy content.
2. ¬†How Much Sales Can You Expect?
That’s impossible to predict as well. ¬†One way to maximize these first involves running a PPC campaign on your targeted keywords. ¬†Then, before you even start optimizing for various keywords, you know which convert well and which don’t.
Keep in mind that if you’re not selling as well as you’d like right away, don’t worry. ¬†”Conversion rate optimization” is another process that involves optimizing how well your page sells. ¬†For an e-commerce site, this could include writing more impactful product descriptions, including pictures or videos of the product, using a very noticeable colorfor your call-to-action button, or making a more powerful offer.
3. ¬†You Probably Won’t Become a Millionaire…
But you will most likely notice a nice jump in business. ¬†There is some off chance your campaign performs much better than expected, but in general, it’s better for your mental health to expect a nice increase in revenues that makes your business more stable. ¬†Again, however, you have to remember to be patient.
4. ¬†You May Not Be Able to do It Yourself
White-hat SEO involves content creation, link attraction/building, activity on social media, keyword research, optimization of each page on your site, and a number of other factors. ¬†It’s really getting to the point where you can’t do it yourself anymore, unless you’ve targeted some very noncompetitive keywords.
SEO companies are used to working with smaller businesses though, so if it isn’t something that fits in your budget, you may be able to ask the company to do some of the work for you, while you handle some yourself. ¬†One option some companies allow is to run a PPC campaign for you to help you generate revenues, which you can then use to pay for organic search optimization.
There you have it – that’s what you an realistically expect during your SEO campaign. ¬†Above all, the most important thing to have from your side is patience. ¬†Combine that with persistence, and eventually you’ll find yourself at the top of the search rankings in your niche.
In this sixth, and final part of the¬†No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO¬†series, we’re going to cover what Google gives the most love to for any SEO strategy – links.
Some people get a little worried about “link-building,” but make no mistake – as long as you do with the right attitude (with the intent of contributing value to the web), then you’ll be okay. ¬†And yes, there’s no reason to suspect that Google will kill the power of links in SEO.
Google will change which links are valuable in order to remove SEO manipulators from its rankings, but if you go about the process honestly, you’ll be okay.
Here’s what you should do in 2014′s SEO environment:
- Connect with bloggers. ¬†The new PR powerhouses are blogs. ¬†They offer fresh, relevant content, which Google loves. ¬†So, they’re going to continue to command a ton of power in the search engine rankings. ¬†Some blogs will allow you to pay to post your content on their site. ¬†In other cases, you can give your product for free to a blogger in exchange for a review. ¬†Or, you could swap posts on a regular basis.
- Educate with video reviews. ¬†Your videos don’t have to be works of art. ¬†Make sure the clarity is reasonable, and the sound understandable. ¬†Teach people why your product works, how it works, and show them creative uses for your products.
- Answer forum/blog questions. ¬†Target questions related to what you do. ¬†If you give great answers, people will link to you.
- Update your own blog. ¬†Do at least 1 authoritative blog post per week. ¬†Don’t worry too much about length, but do make each post at least 500 words. ¬†By going in-depth, you’re more likely to stand out from the competition. ¬†That gets you links.
- Share useful, relevant information. ¬†Do it for all of your social profiles, and use Hootsuite to manage them all. ¬†Eventually, people see you as a useful resource, and they’ll share and link to your site.
- Create press releases. ¬†Google is devaluing the links that press releases themselves provide. ¬†But, when you launch a new product, special offer, or make an organizational change, write a press release telling the story. ¬†If it’s interesting enough, people will link to your site.
A Couple Guiding Principles…
Regardless of where you choose to build your links, make sure you keep these principles in mind as you do so:
- Be constant. ¬†Google likes links built at a nice, consistent pace. ¬†It also likes fresh, relevant websites. ¬†Keep adding content and links on a regular basis to stay atop the search engine rankings.
- Focus on quality. ¬†Don’t worry so much about the quantity, though, as you do the quality of the linking source. ¬†1000s of links from low-authority sites can easily be outweighed by 10 links from high-authority websites. ¬†Also, the more valuable your content is, the more likely news of it will spread far and wide.
Well, that concludes our No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO series. ¬†Follow the principles laid out in these various parts, and you will be well on your way to SEO success.
You’ve probably heard that Google gives preferential treatment to websites that get a large number of social shares in its web rankings.
Why on earth would it do such a thing?
In part five of six in our¬†No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO¬†series of blog posts, we’re going to help you figure the social thing out.
Google Wants to Rank Recognized Authorities at the Top
Social is just another way of confirming you are an authority on your topic. ¬†If you have a grand total of 3 followers who never actively share your content, how authoritative are you, really?
However, if you have a few thousand followers who regularly share your content, then it’s much more likely you know what you’re talking about.
How do You Grow Your Social Communities?
It’s getting tougher by the minute because everyone recognizes that it’s important to be active on all the major social media. ¬†However, if you follow these tips, then you give yourself a chance of standing out and growing your follower base:
- Create special offers/develop unique content – Not only does this get people sharing, but it attracts links too.
- Offer free information in exchange for following – On your website, create a special report or white paper people can download in exchange for following. ¬†Just make sure you put everything you have into it, or hire someone that does have that passion. ¬†Once people see how valuable your content is, they’ll share it and grow your follower base even more.
- Capitalize on current events/breaking news – Whatever’s going on, tie something in to your company that reflects it. ¬†Is LeBron James doing something major in the media? ¬†Create a blog post called “The LeBron James Guide to [solving customer problem],” but do make sure the current event relates to your audience somehow.
- Comment on controversial topics – This one can be risky, so do it with caution. ¬†Do be aware that most businesses are afraid to do it, so if you take a stand, you’re probably going to attract attention.
- Promote offers on Facebook – This is the best social media platform for a promotion, and there are tons of great tools for managing Facebook promotions.
- Engage in dialogue with your community – Make sure your posts are interactive. ¬†Ask questions, and make sure you comment on people’s questions.
- Resolve customer concerns – If someone complains publicly on one of your social media profiles, view it as an opportunity to show your customer service skills. ¬†Resolve the concern publicly for the person, and you’ll build much stronger trust and gain more followers.
Growing multiple social media communities is no simple task, but if you follow these tips, you put yourself in a good position for making yours as large and active as possible.
What is a bounce rate? ¬†In part four of six in our¬†No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO¬†series, we’re going to tell you what it is and how to keep it low.
Simple put, it’s the number of times people visit your website, view one page, and then head back to the search engine results pages to look at additional listings.
An average bounce rate is around 40-60%, so if you’re somewhere in that range, you’re in a good position overall. ¬†Why does Google not like websites with high bounce rates?
That’s simple, because it implies something’s not quite right with the user experience.
That could be any number of things, such as:
‚ÄĘ Your website’s design
‚ÄĘ Content that’s too heavy with keywords or not very interesting to the user
‚ÄĘ Copy that doesn’t have enough keywords so users aren’t sure if they’re on the right page for their search result
‚ÄĘ A webpage that takes way too long to load
So, if your webpage isn’t meeting searcher’s expectations, of course Google’s going to look at other webpages and rank them higher if they do meet searcher’s needs better.
What should you do if your bounce rate is high, or simply not where you want it? ¬†Follow these tips:
1. ¬†Use Keywords Naturally and Clearly
Every page on your site should have a H1 heading tag. ¬†That makes the font big and noticeable. ¬†It’s important to have a keyword the user searched for in that heading, or a variation similar to it.
Equally important to that keyword, however, is having an interesting headline. ¬†To be interesting, you need to incite emotion within the reader. ¬†You can do that by asking a question, stating incredible benefits, promoting a free offer, or anything else you know to be interesting and relevant to your ideal client.
2. ¬†Ensure Fast Load Speeds
Creativity is okay to have in your website design…but don’t make your site’s functionality creative! ¬†From a visual perspective, a creative design attracts attention, and that’s a good way to capture interest quickly.
The navigation should be very straightforward. ¬†Make it your goal to have every page on your website load faster than one second, and definitely under two.
3. ¬†Regularly Produce Diverse, Fresh, & Original Content – & Clearly Link to It
A great way to keep people coming back over and over and browsing throughout your website is to compose fresh content and make it easy to navigate to. ¬†People also want diverse forms of content – video, infographics, blog articles, and pictures. ¬†Do your best within your budget to serve your audience fresh, original content.
4. ¬†Focus on Your Landing Pages
Ideally, you created many pages to be landing pages. ¬†However, you also have many pages that account for most of your traffic. ¬†Optimize those for user experience first, and make sure you make it very clear what people should do next.
Use a compelling call-to-action to get your visitors moving.
5. ¬†Use Image Captions¬†
Can you name a single website that does this? ¬†Very few do. ¬†Derek Halpern, who runs the Social Triggers blog, says that studies show people read captions below images twice as much as body copy.
He’s got more than 200,000 subscribers to his blog, so why doubt his advice? ¬†It’s a minor change – just add 5-10 words below each image on your page.
Watch Your Bounce Rate Plummet & Your Rankings Skyrocket
That’s all there is to it! ¬†If you’re still having problems with your bounce rate after reading these tips, then it’s time to re-evaluate your market. ¬†Maybe they want something different than you’re selling. ¬†Perhaps there’s been a change in behavior you missed.
Whatever you do, make sure you know your market and always work to keep that bounce rate low and in the cellar where it belongs.
We’re now on part three of six in our¬†No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO¬†series, and now we’re on to what Google’s making the most important factor for any website: ¬†content.
Quantity is important, but quality is hundreds of times more important. ¬†Google is learning more and more how to find the websites with the best content and place them at the top of its rankings.
No, it’s still not perfect yet, but if you get on top of this now, you put yourself in the best position for good search rankings now and in the future.
If you’re not a writer yourself, consider hiring a freelancer to handle the writing for you. ¬†And if you can’t afford to hire one, make sure you do this with your content:
1. ¬†Write in a Conversational Style
Every page on your website should be written as if you are speaking directly to your customer in person. ¬†You don’t need to know fancy words to sell successfully on your website!
People today want a personal experience when they’re on your website, so give it to them. ¬†Writing in a conversational style, though, does improve with experience, so there are benefits to hiring a freelance copywriter if that’s something that fits within your budget.
2. ¬†Do Your SEO Where Appropriate
“SEO is dead” is probably the greatest lie spreading around the ‘net right now. ¬†It will always be around because Google needs some way to identify how to rank your website and what to rank it for.
What is dying is search engine manipulation (although it still exists). ¬†That being said, it’s perfectly okay to help search engines understand what your website is about. ¬†Here’s what you do to make that happen:
‚ÄĘ Get the primary keyword in the URL, H1, H2, title and ALT tags
‚ÄĘ Do include captions under your images (search engines to spider them)
‚ÄĘ Make sure the primary keyword appears in a natural way within the content
‚ÄĘ …but at the same time do get the keyword in at around a 1.0% density within your content
‚ÄĘ And then include 2-3 variations or so of the primary keyword throughout the content
If you follow that approach to optimizing content, you’ll do it in a natural way that helps Google understand how to rank your website (or the specific page).
3. ¬†Discuss Benefits and Solutions to Problems
If there’s one killer mistake we see e-commerce website owners make, it’s that they talk too much about their own business. ¬†For every product page, your blog, and any other pages on your site, always discuss benefits you offer (like how your product solves a specific problem a customer has).
That answers your customer’s real question: ¬†”What’s in it for me?”
Basically, if you have a good time, be yourself, and focus on helping the customer in a conversational way (while optimizing your content in a natural manner), your content will engage, get shared, and best of all – sell.
So this is part 1 of 6 in our Simple, No-Nonsense Roadmap to SEO series. ¬†When you look at the core idea behind what Google’s really trying to do with the web, they’re trying to place the websites that give the best user experience at the top of their rankings.
Part of offering a good user experience involves making every page on your website load fast. ¬†Ideally, that’s one second flat, but if you can get to two or under, you’ll be in pretty good shape for the most part.
What are some steps to take to make sure your pages load fast? ¬†Follow these tips and you’ll be all right:
1. Reduce Image Sizes
Images are one of the main bandwidth hogs. ¬†But fortunately, it’s simple to compress them. ¬†Just about every paint program provides instant image compression whenever you save the image.
However, part of providing a good user experience also means that your images look sharp and professional. ¬†So do compress them, but not so much that they look grainy and pixelated. ¬†Usually, you can compress and reduce their size around 80-90% without noticeably sacrificing quality.
2. Don’t Use Flash¬†
Flash consumes a fair amount of bandwidth. ¬†However, also remember that the iPhone doesn’t display flash web objects. ¬†It’s best just to avoid using flash anywhere on your website.
3. Enable Caching
WordPress has about a million different caching plugins. ¬†E-commerce suites should have one available as well, and if yours doesn’t, have a developer install one. ¬†You can usually set the plugin to cache the content on your site for a custom period of time. ¬†That could be hours, days, or even weeks.
The benefit to your users is that, if the content isn’t updated, their web browser will load a cached version of the page instead of reloading the entire page from scratch. ¬†That’s some nice time and bandwidth savings for your visitors.
4. Put Styles and Scripts in the <Head> Section
For you web developers out there, and if you’re a site owner make sure your developer does this, all CSS styles, Java script, and any other scripts should be placed in the <head> section of every web page. ¬†Technically, you can put the CSS styles wherever you want, but they can load as the HTML loads if they are placed in the <head> section.
5. Make Sure You have a Fast Host
Much of your site’s speed also depends on the quality of your web host. ¬†If you’re paying for cheap hosting, you don’t get the fastest speed. ¬†That’s all right if that’s what you have to do to make it by on your budget.
But if your revenue allows for it, don’t be afraid to pay for a faster web host. ¬†Tenths of a second make a huge difference when it comes to determining how much people will buy from your website.
By improving the user experience, you’ll have a lower bounce rate, better web rankings, and ultimately, more sales.
Do you have additional methods for reducing page load time? ¬†If so, let us know in the comments below:
Many small businesses struggle with the “me too” syndrome. ¬†You might think yours is different by being “full service,” but that’s not really being different.
It’s a crowded, hyperconnected world out there – so how do you truly stand out from the crowd?
1. ¬†Talk about the Same Thing in a Different Way
Your website design should have a truly unique theme to it. ¬†How many millions of websites have you clicked through in your lifetime, only to realize they all basically look the same (or at least most do)?
Doughnuts are in general pretty much the same thing over and over again, right? ¬†Voodoo Doughnuts, even though they’re the same sugary thing on the inside, look way different on the outside. ¬†Because they’re doing the same thing in a much, much different way, Voodoo Donuts keeps long lines of customers even until very late hours (2 AM).
Let that serve as your inspiration to truly do the same thing in a whole new way.
2. ¬†Use Copy with Personality
Besides graphic design, you should have a unique online personality too. ¬†It really takes the skills of a professional copywriter to develop written language that stands out from the crowd.
Instead of the same-old boring “professional” tone most businesses use, add a little bit of personality. ¬†You can choose your own! ¬†You could go for these types of approaches:
The important thing is to pick a personality that your market really wants to hear. ¬†99.9% of all businesses have the same old boring language on their websites.
3. ¬†Maintain Consistency Across all Channels
And better yet, if you can maintain that consistency from the digital world and extend it into your physical store or customer service departments – wow that makes a great impression. ¬†If you used a Western slang personality, make sure your customer service reps use that language in their customer interactions.
Can you see how this would make your business that much more interesting, even if you do the exact same thing as 1000 other businesses?
4. ¬†Constantly Monitor Your Brand Perception
This isn’t easy, and especially so if you are a small business. ¬†But, when you interact with your customers in person, ask them how they view your company. ¬†If they purchase, ask them why they did that. ¬†Send out surveys in your e-mail.
Do whatever it takes to really keep your fingers on the pulse of your market and their perception of your brand. ¬†Then you can learn how to talk to them in person and in copy.
And guess what? ¬†They’ll purchase more from you because they realize you understand what’s really going on with them.
There’s much more to getting your brand to stand out online, but that’s it for starters.
What else do you think would help? Let us know in the comments below:
In terms of value for the dollars you spend, no internet marketing tactic gives you a better ROI than e-mail marketing. ¬†It can take a while to build a list, but once you get it going, there’s no better customer than the pre-qualified leads you find in your e-commerce list.
Here are some tips to help you get more clicks in your e-mail:
1. ¬†Test the Living Heck out of Subject Lines
“John’s Plumbing December Newsletter” won’t get a ton of clicks. ¬†People want to know what’s in it for them. ¬†Start at least with something that tells people what they’re going to get by reading the e-mail.
Special offers work well. ¬†Also, make sure you indicate the e-mail is from the same source each and every time, and preferably an individual at your company (perhaps you). ¬†Personal connections sell better than ever, and if people feel like it’s you personally interacting with them, they’re going to buy more.
Better yet, encourage them to contact you directly, and when they do, address their concerns as best as you can.
2. ¬†Get all Your Social Sharing Icons in Your E-mail
Not only do these icons make your e-mail easier to share, they also build a heck of a lot more trust too. ¬†The more social sharing options you offer in your newsletter, the better click-through rates you get once people read your e-mail.
3. ¬†Segment Your List
Not everyone who subscribes to your list wants to hear the same thing. ¬†Instead of doing that, figure out who your market segments are and offer them multiple options for subscribing to your list.
Instead of getting stuff that annoys them, they’ll get what they want to hear from you. ¬†You’ll get more transactions, more leads, and better revenue once you have a firm grasp on your market segments.
4. ¬†Speaking of Personalization…
When you write your e-mail, make sure you include their first name at least a couple times throughout. ¬†That way, they feel like you are writing directly to them. ¬†In addition, make sure the offer is targeted toward the customer’s purchase history. ¬†They’ll be more likely to purchase again if you give them a relevant offer.
5. ¬†Focus on One Goal in Each E-mail
What is the one thing you want your customer to do in this e-mail? ¬†If you want them to make a purchase, create a killer call-to-action and explain all the details of the offer.
But stop right there!
Don’t include your website navigation or anything else. ¬†All the other fluff serves as a distraction.
Get it Down to a Science…
The internet is all about precision marketing, so no matter what you do, be it e-mail marketing or something else, make sure you test every little detail out. ¬†Small changes, like capitalizing a word, can dramatically increase your profits.
This blog article at least gives you a starting reference point for making changes to improve your profits.