OuterBox’s eCommerce Blog
If you pay any attention to search engines whatsoever, you are more than likely aware that Google is the largest search engine in the world. They’re not just slightly ahead of their competition either; they are leaps and bounds ahead of their competition. A glance at this pie chart shows you that in March Google had 73.5% more people using it than any other search engine.
Attempting to work alongside Google when it comes to search engine marketing can be as equally rewarding as it is difficult at times. While Google certainly does paint a broad picture in order to allow search engine marketers to grasp a general idea of what it’s looking for, it will likely never allow us to know the many finer brush strokes that make up its ranking algorithms, and for good reason. For this reason the dance between the search engines and search engine marketers will continue endlessly, especially as Google begins to announce larger changes to its algorithm such as the new Penguin update that is on its way.
Another instance of Google collaberation being both rewarding and difficult, is the recent Easter Egg it has hidden in its Image Search. Searching for the term [Atari breakout] will lead to a screen filled with images of a random search term (such as cows, Rottweiler, tartiflette, quinoa, and lasagna noodles) that transforms into the actual game, which is fully playable. While this is extremely fun, it may or may not have lead to a prolonged amount of decreased productivity trying to see how high this blogger could get his score. (6856 in case anyone is wondering.)
Go ahead and try it out yourself and let us know in the comments what your high score was.
The weather is finally getting warm again here in Akron, and not a moment too soon. It seemed as if this past winter was never going to end, although that’s how most winters in Northeast Ohio tend to feel when snow storms continue to pummel the area well into April. Spring and Summer in Akron can be gorgeous times of the year, with temperatures making it just nice enough to be able to keep windows open, but not so overwhelmingly warm that we have to close the windows back up and turn the air conditioning on. Along with this change of weather come many things that we OuterBoxers love to enjoy when we’re not busy at the office.
Spring time in downtown Akron brings with it the sights and sounds of America’s favorite pastime, baseball. The crack of the bat, the grills firing up and getting ready to cook some hot dogs, the throngs of crowds that descend upon downtown in the late afternoon. All of these sights and sounds are a clear indication that it’s time to put the snow shovels and boots away for a few months and embrace the beautiful weather that Northeast Ohio is about to bestow on us. Akron’s very own minor league baseball team, the Aeros, play right across the street from the Outerbox office, so there’s a strong possibility that we get way more excited about minor league baseball than most Rubber City residents.
If you don’t happen to find us at the OuterBox office or over at Canal Park enjoying an Aeros game, you’re likely to find most of us outside enjoying the parks and trails the greater Akron area has to offer. From golfing to running and everything in between, there’s no stopping this group from getting outside and competing. Speaking of competing, if you’re in the neighborhood sometime, you should stop on by for a game or two of table tennis. I’ve tried my hand several times at taking down some of the top notch players here and unsurprisingly it always ends in an embarrassing and sweaty defeat. That doesn’t mean the guys who wield ping pong paddles can’t be taken down though, I’m sure there are at least a few other Akronites that can defeat them.
After a long day of building custom websites and a few games of ping pong, you can also find us down at the local watering hole, enjoying the newest craft beer that Baxter’s or the Lockview has on tap. With offerings on their menus that rise above traditional pub fare, it’s not surprising that a few of us end up staying for dinner too before heading home for the evening.
This is just a brief glimpse of where you will find us when we’re out and about in Akron, if you see us, feel free to say hi and join us, we promise not to talk nerdy about the internet the whole time. Where will we see you this summer?
OuterBox is a many headed beast when it comes to website development and mastering the art of online marketing. Several teams work within our office cohesively in order to pull of feats that would make any normal human cry at the thought of the amount of work, passion, sweat, and tears that go into any given project.
While one of our strengths as a company lies in the facts that our teams at OuterBox work so well together, many individual parts have made us the company we are today. Much like snowflakes or a dog’s nose print, each team at OuterBox is unique in the various strengths and personality traits they bring to the company. To get a good glimpse into what makes these teams tick, we decided to give you a brief overview of what each one does as well as what breakfast
cereal, game, candy, and super hero best represent their character.
The SEO team is made up of individuals who each have a background in various elements on marketing and web site development. Their daily tasks are primarily made up of making sure that client’s sites rank well for key words that are important to their particular market, and also spend a good deal of time making sure that the components of a client’s site will influence visitors to make purchases on that site. With this in mind, here’s a breakdown of the SEO team.
Skittles (So many different flavor possibilities!)
Calvin Ball (Google is constantly changing the rules on us, but we still find ways to win.)
This is the team that keeps us on the ball here at OuterBox, they make sure projects are completed on time and that sites stay up and running smoothly.
When there’s a problem, this team barely breaks a sweat, casually handling crises like they’re the John McClane of the eCommerce world.
A handful of cereal and 3-4 cups of coffee
Chess accurately reflects this team as it is a strategy filled game that requires a lot of concentration and practice.
Batman, he simply gets the job done when it needs to be done.
The design team at OuterBox is made up a group of cutting edge guys that have a knack for making anything look beautiful. They do this without sacrificing
the functionality of any given element that they create for our clients’ sites.
Eggs, sunny side up with rye toast and a grapefruit sliced in half, all arranged meticulously on a plate in order for it to provide both a beautiful
scene and a plate filled with a nutritious breakfast.
Blue M&M’s filled with peanut butter.
Settlers of Catan is a game that has a gorgeous layout and requires with plenty of strategy.
Iron Man, this guy never sacrifices how he is going to look in order for his suit to consistently function and perform well.
The Programming Team
This team of hard workers is made up of people that understand the ins and outs of how to build a website from the ground up. They are constantly staring
at screens and writing code to make sure that all of the pieces of a website, from SEO, to design, to eCommerce, as well as everything in between work
together smoothly. They are known to work around the clock just to make sure that every element works in cohesion.
The Nintendo Cereal System, a cereal that brilliantly combined both the Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda video games into one delicious meal.
Jelly Beans or Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Jenga, a game in which precise movements and a knack for balancing many components are keys to winning.
Mr. Fantastic, who is also known as Reed Richards, a prodigy in most fields of math and science, and has the ability to stretch much further than the
average human. Our programming team is made up of some really smart guys that are regularly stretching to make sure that our sites are constantly running
That’s just a brief glimpse into some of the teams here at OuterBox, there’s much more to us than just those 4 categories, keep checking our blog to find out more about us, and if you have any questions about building custom eCommerce websites, make sure you call or click today!
While one would not imagine that Otters and web development companies have a lot in common, this does not keep people from confusing us with another company that is known for its super protective cases for mobile devices. We receive roughly 2 dozen phone calls a day from individuals seeking to replace their phone case, or just calling with general questions. We do our best to lead people in the right direction and inform them that they are looking for Otterbox, not OuterBox.
If in the future you are confused about the difference between an Otter and our company, OuterBox, here are some fast facts about both groups to help you determine if you are looking for Otters (or a Otterbox phone case) or a web development firm (OuterBox)
Grooming: When it comes to grooming, otters are vigilant about maintaining a clean coat in order to keep warm. Their coat is the secret to their insulation and it allows them to be comfortable in chilly water for long periods of time. It is estimated that an otter can spend up to 48% of their days grooming themselves. Most Outerbox employees have average to above average grooming skills and probably spend 3% of their day grooming themselves. Except for our sales department, those guys probably spend close to 68% of their days grooming themselves.
Sprainting: Otters depend on their feces to mark territory and release odors in order to communicate with one another. OuterBox employees rarely do this.
Play: Some researchers have opined that when otters are sliding, they are not only traveling while using very little energy, but that they are actually playing. OuterBox once tried to build a slide in their new office; this didn’t exactly work out so we just went back to work.
Sleep: Depending on whether the otter is a fresh water otter or a sea otter, they will sleep in their environment of choice, meaning that the freshwater otters will sleep on land and sea otters will sleep in the ocean. Sea otters often cling together when sleeping in moving water, this is also true of most OuterBox employees.
Well, it turns out that there really aren’t that many differences between the average OuterBox employee and an otter. Remember though, if you are looking for an Otterbox phone case, we’re not really the people you want, but if you do want custom fully built web sites made, feel free to give us a call or email us for more info.
As SEO specialists we work hard to produce the best results for our search engine optimization (SEO) clients. However, there are several ways that our clients can help make our job easier and in turn yield better results with their SEO campaign. We put together a list of things that can be done before and after a web site is launched that will help with search engine optimization.
1) Domain name selection: The search engines put a great deal of importance on your domain name and the words in that name. If your site is going to sell coffee cups, it is not a good idea to use the domain name “first-rate-products.com” or “smithco.net.” Buy a domain name that has 1 or 2 words that describe what your web site will offer such as “coffeecups.com.”
2) Image names: The search engines use all of the underlying code that makes a web page to determine which visitors it directs to that page for certain searches. One item that is often overlooked prior to launch is the name of the product image. Are you selling a corkscrew? A great name for that image would be a descriptive word or brand and then the word corkscrew such as “electric-corkscrew.jpg” instead of “image43.jpg.”
3) Category names: Every ecommerce web site has categories which determine what a visitor will find in each section. When naming a category avoid using industry jargon, broad terms, or a word the average search engine user would not use as a search term. Does the category offer car tires? It would not be a good idea to name it “vehicle wheels.” This is because the phrase “car tires” is searched over 12,000 times a month whereas “vehicle wheels” is only searched 73 times.
4) Product / Page names: Similar to category naming is choosing the product name. The product name is turned in to the name of the link to the product so when choosing the product page name try to be descriptive with what the name of the page is. Once again, use words someone would use to find that product. Name the product page “black-and-decker-cordless-screwdriver.html” instead of “b-and-d-model-23465.html.”
5) Category and product descriptions: Every category and product has a place in the administration section of the web site to enter a description. You do not have to write a novel, but a paragraph or two describing the product or category with 2 or 3 keywords thrown in to the mix will increase your chances for success. The search engines add this text to their database and if someone searches for those exact words, your site has a greater chance to be in one of the top positions for that search term.
6) Lower your expectations: Unfortunately we cannot get your site the #1 position in Google in a month. If anyone says they can do this, they are lying. Sure, you can use Google AdWords and pay them to be positioned first in the Ads section at the top of Google, but to rank #1 organically takes time and patience. As your SEO campaign progresses your web site will start ranking for the keyword searches we are optimizing the site for, but it will not happen overnight. It is a process that takes several months but you will, as time goes by, rank well for the keywords related to the products you sell or services you offer.
7) Regular unique content: Fresh text is like chocolate to a search engine crawler. They love to find new words and put them in their database. Whether you have a blog or like to write articles about what you offer on your web site, we would be more than happy to optimize and publish your content. It can be just a few paragraphs or it can be a series of articles, as long as it is something new, your web site will be crawled on a regular basis and the words in the content will be added to the database.
8) Social media marketing: Regularly updating your companies Facebook page and Twitter feed is important to search engines. An active social media presence is an indicator to a search engine that you are involved with your customers and the number of followers you have indicates a higher level of trust.
9) Ignoring spammers: You will receive a number of emails from supposed SEO experts that make empty promises and outlandish claims. Whether they offer to get your web site thousands of links, write 50 original keyword rich articles for $9.99, or get your site to #1 in Google in 1 week, the unethical techniques they would use would likely result in the banning of your web site from the search engines altogether.
10) Communicate: Let us know if you have an upcoming promotion or have the need to liquidate a particular product because a new version is coming out in a month. Let us be aware of newsletters you’ve recently sent out that we can publish on your blog, or about that magazine where your company was mentioned in, or the blog post where somebody wrote about your awesome customer service. All of these things can be highly beneficial to your site. Keep us in the loop so we can work as a team to incorporate our SEO strategy with your business activity. We like to be included as a member of your team so we can help with your success.
When your email box starts filling up with spam from robots filling out your online forms, such as a contact form, the first thing you’ll think to do is add a captcha to the page. Well I think that’s rude! So now when a visitor wants to contact you, or fill out a form for an estimate, they also have to strain to figure out 6 random swirling numbers and letters. Whatever happened to good usability and the best customer service? A captcha seems to me like some of the worst usability ever invented.
Research has been done to see how a forms conversion rate is affected when a captcha is on and when a captcha is off. Based on the article Captchas’ Affect on Conversion Rates by SEOmoz.org, they suggest having a captcha will result in 3.2% less leads. These stats are not surprising to me and if the form is a lead generations form it could end up in your company’s revenue down by 3+%. That’s not a chance I’d be willing to take them there are other options out there.
What are other options?
On our website we’ve had issues with spam form submission via our free website estimate form, but we’ve found unique ways to stop the spam without using a captcha. I feel that should be the absolute last resort and not the first thing thought of. One way to counteract spam is to think about how the spam robots work. Spam robots look to fill out all of your form fields with fake content and then will submit the form. Often they’ll fill out all of the form fields because they are not sure which are mandatory and which are not. Sometimes certain fields like “name” and “phone” can have fake names and phone numbers, but for the most part is nonsense that is being submitted. What we did to fix the problem was add a form field that is hidden, but robots don’t know that it is hidden. Humans cannot see the form field and do not fill it out, but robots always will. If the form field is filled out we then write a script for that email to not be sent to us. Pretty simple and it still makes the form very easy for our potential clients to fill out.
All in all, whether a captcha or something else that might save your business time, I think it is always beneficial to think about alternatives that would best serve your website visitor. When doing SEO and online marketing, it’s very important to be sure usability to thought of first to keep leads and sales coming in! Make the most of your website visitors and give them the best experience possible!
Why Search Engine Marketing?
If your goal for your website is to have an address that you can put on a business card, then skip this part. However, if your website is to be a powerful, if not primary element in your company’s marketing plan (and it should be), SEM / SEO is not optional. If you don’t do it, you will be ignored. Invisible. You might as well build a sandbox in the desert because no one will find you and no one will care.
A junk website with great search visibility will always beat a great website that no one can find. Get both, and you win hands down.
SEO is not just a function of ranking well for a handful of phrases. Anyone can refer to Google’s recommendations for SEO strategy and, if they’re willing to do the work, can get rankings. It’s about visibility. Searchers are getting more and more sophisticated, as are the search engines. Ranking for a few big keywords isn’t necessarily going to do it for you. It’s creating a quality experience that ranks for a massive space of short and long phrases that these sophisticated searchers are using.
At OuterBox, we are all about your success, and that means conversions. Sales. Here, SEO consists of much more than search visibility. We get involved in the site. We look at how users interact with your site and make recommendations and changes to improve your sites sell through. We’ve even helped clients monitor incoming sales calls, and taught sales staff how to better handle the calls and streamline the process to help turn web driven leads into sales. There’s really no limit to how much we can help you win if you have the guts to run with us and do what it takes.
That’s what makes OuterBox different. You’re not getting a mere web company. You’re getting a team of experienced marketers, working in tandem, sharing information garnered from website metrics openly across multiple marketing platforms to improve results.
Where OuterBox shines is our ability and expertise in both design and SEM, integrated under one roof. I dare you to find a company that ranks better in our field AND has great designs. That’s because your site is built with the marketers involved. Right here. in house. So it’s right from the ground up.
Most companies are good at one thing. They do design. Or they do SEO. Or they do PPC. And just because they do good design doesn’t mean they do good eCommerce. So, you bounce around with two or three companies working on your site, hopeful they’re collaborating their efforts, are on the same page, and are implementing a cohesive strategy. I’d have to say, don’t hold your breath. Your company’s internet strategy is entirely too important to have holes in it. In fact, today, your internet strategy is everything. You know it, and I know it. Over the next 2-5 years nearly every industry will thrive or die based on how well it reaches it’s customers online, and how well it communicates with them once it reaches them.
The fast eat the slow. By the time we finish this video the rules can change, and the first on the field who understand the game wins. Can you keep pace? Not alone. You need help. From a team who lives eats and breathes this stuff. That’s OuterBox.
We all love free shipping. We all know we’re more likely to buy if we get free shipping. Yet, when most of us start an eCommerce website we don’t want to offer free shipping. Let’s face it, we’re cheap. We don’t want to give something away for free!
These days competition online, especially in the new era of services such as Amazon Prime, offering free shipping on most items is almost mandatory. Research shows that 93% of online shoppers say free shipping would encourage them to buy. Two out of the three shoppers said they would buy more online if they knew they could return items with free shipping (credit Econsultancy.com). Of course, if order to offer these services free, you’ll need to set your pricing and business model appropriately.
Let me give an example of success: A client of ours sold a product for $200. This was a unique product and was their brand. There were some sizes and color options, but on average it was around $200. Sales were around $400,000 the first year. Shipping on their product was around $50 a pop. People hated paying $50 and we saw a lot of people leaving their checkout process when choosing shipping. So what did we suggest? Offer free shipping and make the base price around $250. Their sales were in the million the year after. The illusion of free shipping! This is a great option and works well for many clients. Remember, the higher your product price the more perceived value there is. No one sees value is paying for shipping, but they do when paying for a product.
Offering free shipping is also a way to up-sell and cross sell other products. On many website you must spend $100, or another amount, before free shipping kicks in. How many times have you ordered one more book to get free shipping? I know research shows it happens all the time. The more you’re shipping to one address the less your shipping charges will be in relation to your profit on what you’re selling, so it makes financial sense, too. Look at your business, your numbers and see what free shipping is best for you. It will make a difference in your bottom line. Consider your eCommerce features and be sure your eCommerce website solution offers what you need to make it happen.
Raise that conversion rate!
Schema.org has created a standard in website coding to allow developers to include code that the search engines are looking for. Of course this is the most basic description, but it allows you to include certain snippets such as reviews, pricing, etc. that can then be displayed in a unique format by Google. In June 2011 Google officially introduced schema.org and began using schema in their result displays. There are many different elements that can be used on a website but for this article we’re covering mainly elements that benefit an eCommerce website.
The most used eCommerce schema item types for eCommerce include product rating (AgrregateRating), brands, model, product ID, offers and reviews. All of these schema “Product” tags can be found on the schema.org product information page. To include schema microdata into a website is fairly easy as certain tags or html elements are included are specific text or code. For example a tag of itemprop=”reviews” would be included on the section of the website code for your reviews. There is a little more to it than this and certain more detailed tags such as “worstRating”, “ratingValue” and others can be included on detailed elements.
So, what does this get you and why is it important? Below is an example of how search engine results can appear when using these tags. These tags allow Google to identity a product pages important elements and easily display those within the search results. These details create an eye-catching search engine results and typically increase your click-through rate thus increasing your website traffic. If you have products rated 5 stars and you’re showing that within the search results it makes sense that more people would want to look at your product.
Whether you’re developing a new website or already have an existing website these Schema elements can be integrated into your website. For more information and details on this top visit SEO Moz’s article on Schema.org and Why You Need to Use It.
With Google continually rolling out Panda algorithm updates we’ve seen changes in the way eCommerce websites are ranked. Panda updates seem to be focusing heavily on content and on-site optimization. Google is looking for website owners to make their website better, not just build links. Google has said their goal is to make the web a better place and this change is pushing website to become more informative and offer higher quality content.
Content: We’ve seen effects on eCommerce websites that have minimal content, especially on ranking specific product pages. Many eCommerce websites, especially sites with a large amount of products, have weak product descriptions. We’ve seen these pages begin to drop. Other issues arise when sites have a large amount of products with duplicate content. Often similar products may have an identical description as another product on their website. Not only can duplicate content on your own website effect rankings, but also copied or supplied content. For example, many manufacturers provide product databases and product descriptions are sometimes supplied. If you’re using the same product description that other websites are using your chance of ranking is greatly diminished.
To learn more about duplicate content read Google’s page http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66359
Category Pages: Many times large amounts of products in a category will create a type of duplicate content. For example you have category A. Now category A has page 1, page 2 and page 3 as you’re showing 15 products per page. Google often ends up seeing this as 3 different pages optimized for the same keywords. This will give 3 pages a third of the weight that one page could possibly have. There are ways around this that we’re not going to get into for technical reasons, but the easiest fix is to show all products on one page. Sometimes this is easy, as in the example above with only 45 products in a category. If you have hundreds of products showing all of them on one page may not be the best option.
Link Building: We hear so much about link building, especially from clients. It’s old school SEO and everyone still wants to submit 100 articles a month and blast content out to the web with their links embedded. Remember, often these articles end up on a page rank 0 page and the incoming links probably means nothing. Our suggestion is instead of blasting large amount of content to other websites, write great content for your website. I’d rather a client post 4 great article a month on their own website instead of sending out 100 questionable pieces. The content on your website can last forever and bring direct traffic to you!
So, what is our link building strategy? Build good content and people will want to link to you. If you can get other people to link to you because they want to you can then focus on making your website better. It then becomes a circle of developing good content, building your brand and letting others link to you.