OuterBox’s eCommerce Blog
With new browsers launching recently (IE9 and Fire Fox 5), we wanted to take a look at which browsers are being used most. Through our own research (thanks to Google Analytics), we’ve look at 100,000+ visitors in the last month across 50+ websites, both eCommerce and informational. Below is what we’ve found in June, 2011.
As you can see, IE is still in the lead, but is only slightly above 40% of total website traffic. Mobile browsers (not on the list above), we’re very minimal, usually in the 1-2% range.
There is a credo adopted by the SEO community: Optimize for your users, and the engines will follow. Simply ignore the algorithms and just stick to creating a relevant, quality experience for your site visitors. But does the industry, SEOers and engines, alike, practice what they preach?
Not always. There are several instances where conflicting advice on SEO best practices can leave you utterly confused.
Contradiction #1 – Rankings & Revenue
You should focus on revenue, not rankings, but rankings correlate to relevancy, which in turn correlates to revenue.
During a talk at SMX Advanced, Google’s Matt Cutts stated that our focus should be on revenue – not rankings. Last week, Carrie Hill reminded us that, as an agency SEO, “…if I don’t care about my clients’ organic rankings, I’m out of a job.”
And she’s right. It’s important to know where our clients rank to understand if our efforts are landing them in the realm of relevancy. Plus, when we analyze conversion metrics, rankings can help clarify what is going right or wrong with a campaign. After all, isn’t Google’s algorithm meant to rank the most relevant sites at the forefront? If we can trust Google’s algorithm to be one that promotes relevancy, then ranking can correlate to revenue. Pure and simple.
Contradiction #2 – Schema.org
Schema.org is a web-wide markup movement to more accurately tag content to ultimately improve relevancy among all the engines. In other words, we’re aiding and abetting algorithms, which we’re told to ignore.
Following its recent release, many have espoused the numerous benefits of Schema.org. From their homepage, Schema.org states:
This site provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines including Bing, Google and Yahoo! rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.
With Schema.org, SEOers are being told to create that user-centric, relevant, quality experience by a specific standard approved and supported by the major engines. And aren’t we supposed to pretend algorithms don’t exist?
Understandably, there are gaps in algorithms. We all know this. No engine delivers the best results all the time and that’s just the nature of the beast. But when online marketers are told to ignore the algorithms, optimize for the user, the absolute last thing we want to hear is of a new schema that we’re supposed to take time to implement to please the engine’s standards and make their results more relevant. While Schema.org is being touted as a coup for SEO, why does it feel like I’m an un-paid employee of Google and Bing?
Contradiction #3 – Link Popularity & Social Media Marketing
Search engines are declaring a war on irrelevancy, and social media will suffer the greatest casualties.
Algorithms, not people, rank websites. Once upon a time, search engines turned to link popularity to add more of a human edge to ranking and to improve the relevancy of search results. Then linking got the crap spammed out of it.
Now social media mentions are stepping in to save the day, along with the “un-social” +1 Button. It is unclear exactly how or how well social media marketing will impact SEO, but it’s the glimmering great hope on the horizon. There is the risk, however, that three to five years from now, the social media landscape will be inundated with useless information, there but for the sake of online marketing. Like link building before it, true relevancy in social media mentions may arrive at a premium, rendering them nearly useless for the typical user.
After hearing the conflicting information…optimize for the user, but use these tactics to make your site more SEO-friendly, but pretend algorithms don’t exist, but here, use this engine-approved schema to markup your content for the engines to rank your site better…what’s to be done when it’s time to sit and optimize my client’s site?
Our answer is, do our best to make everyone happy. Optimize for the most relevant phrases; gain rankings for those relevant phrases so that conversions will improve; build an off-page campaign; track all of it at the macro and micro levels; and through it all, never spam and never take a short cut.
Getting visitors to your website is one thing, but turning them into customers is another. This is called your conversion rate (learn more about eCommerce conversion optimization ). A solid product details page is often where the customer is making the final decision (as long as you have a solid checkout) on whether or not they want to buy from you. There are some basics in eCommerce website design and development that should be taken into consideration. Remember, if your web design company makes these type of recommendations, do you best to see how they can apply to your business. Often we make suggestions that are shot down simply because “oh, we can’t do that”.
Pricing: The basics of pricing is always have the best, or at least a competitive price. But what about how your display your pricing? Having the MSRP and showing what the customer can save with your price will let them see that they are getting a deal. Even showing a percent saved figure isn’t a bad idea.
Product Photos: No one wants to buy something if they’re not sure what they are getting. Having professional product photos will go a long way. Remember, you don’t want to look like you’re shipping this stuff out of your basement (whether you are or not). Also, pay attention to where multiple photos of a product could be beneficial. A lot of items warrant close-ups or multiple angles.
Reviews: We all look at reviews when purchasing online. Not having a reviews section, or have “0 reviews” is not going to help that conversion rate. Try hard to encourage reviews and even get some via email or over the phone and post them for your customers. Everyone wants to know what someone else who went through the same purchasing experience thought about it.
Discount Codes: If you’re running promotions and offering discount codes, make sure these are prominent on the product page. Too often these are only displayed on the homepage or within the checkout. If no one adds your product to their cart, they’ll never see the checkout!
Videos: If you have videos, or the manufacturer does, make sure you show them! Video will allow a visitor to learn a lot about a product in a small amount of time.
Warranty & Returns: Make sure these are somewhere that can be found. Before purchasing, customers want to know what they’ll need to do if something breaks or they are unsatisfied.
Shipping: If you can show a flat rate shipping price on the product page, do it! Visitors love to know the shipping before adding to the cart. Also, tell them when the product will ship. Saying “Ships in 24 Hours” or “Ships Now” will get people buying!
Phone Number: When they have questions make sure they can call. There is nothing worse than shopping online and not being able to find a phone number. Without a phone number, you’re going to lose a lot of business. And oh yea… make sure someone picks it up!
Trust Seals: If you have an authorize.net account or your own SSL, make sure you display your seals. Other seals such as Verisign or McAffe can also instill confidence.
In a word: everything.
It’s an immense undertaking to define, catalog, interpret, and tend to all the factors that may influence your typical online shopper; anything about a user’s experience (design, navigation, colors, logos, steps-to-checkout, etc.) may be interpreted as an influence on their buying behavior, for better or worse. For the sake of efficiency, we’re looking today at the lowest-hanging fruit – several factors of an ecommerce site that are easily changed to help boost user experience, and, yes, conversions.
This list originates from Adam Audette’s article 3 Important Ecommerce Trends to Watch, which solidly explains how the following three factors may impact an ecommerce site’s success.
When EVER has price not been an influencing factor in buying trends? And it’s not always the lowest price consumers seek; propelled by the adage “You get what you pay for,” many shoppers are perfectly happy, willing, and able to spend more to hit their standard of quality or remain loyal to a brand.
Yet, over the past few years, the brand bias has slipped as consumers adopt a more frugal attitude. Yes, the economic fall-down is a contributing factor to consumers’ spend-thrift ways, but couple this with the popularity of CSEs, or Comparison Shopping Engines. Searching a CSE as compared to, for instance, a store’s site, a searching shopper is reminded not only of brand, but also of price. According to comScore, from July of 2008 to July of 2010,
shopping across more diverse brands (including generic) increased by 10% to 62%
unique visitors to comparison shopping sites increased by 30%
Dovetailed into the influence of price points are shipping rates, which can push a shopper to abandon their purchase at the last crucial step. Some interesting statistics from comScore, July 2010, in regards to online shopping:
23% of shoppers will make purchases only if they receive free shipping
47% of shoppers expect to pay between $0.01 and $4.99 for shipping
70% of shoppers will only pay $4.99 or less for shipping
You want to buy a shirt.
Consider the shopping experience provided by a catalog: you have a picture, a little description, a smattering of color swatches, and a handy size chart stapled in the center.
Now, consider the shopping experience provided by a typical ecommerce site: you have a picture (or 12) with a magnifying glass and click-and-drag functionality to view your item at each and every 360 degree angle; you have a little description with text links, user reviews, and ratings; you have a smattering of swatches and the ability to view your product in each available color; there’s a size chart there, too, sometimes with testimonials regarding an item’s true fit. Moreover, there is a handy list of similar items you may be interested in; a pair of pants that match that shirt, or a coordinating sweater.
Taking it one step further, studies show enhancing the online shopping experience with video can increase conversions and time-on-site. To be more specific, comScore data shows that on sites that incorporate video into the shopping experience
shoppers are 64% more likely to make a purchase
shoppers will spend an additional 2 minutes on the site
What Should You Do?
PRICE POINTS – Research your completion, research CSEs, determine where your product line falls into the price point spectrum, and ensure your prices will compel potential shoppers to buy from you. With brand loyalty fading for want of lower prices, there is a golden opportunity for many online retailers to snag an attentive audience’s attention with savings.
SHIPPING RATES – Make sure your shipping rates don’t push away a converting customer on their last shopping step. Shoppers like to feel that they’ve found a sweet deal, and nothing is sweeter than free, or even flat, shipping rates.
VISUAL SEARCH – Enhancing the shopping experience is vital, especially as more and more online retailers adopt the same product listing techniques (think images, reviews, ratings, and the like). Incorporating video into the shopping experience shows a tremendous leap in conversions and longer on-site visit. What’s more, it makes your product listing viable for placement within YouTube (arguably the second largest search engine.
It’s almost time. The biggest online retail day of the year (or at least supposedly the best deals). Historically we’ve seen sales around 300% higher on Cyber Monday compared to the previous Monday. Being an eCommerce web design company, it’s also one of our busiest day of the year getting ready. It takes planning and a well executed online marketing campaign to make it happen. From running the correct promotion to PPC ad text, it’s important to get the message across.
Create an Enticing Promotion
First things first, you must create a promotion or sales that makes visitors want to buy. Your competitors will have sales, too, so be sure you create something that you feel will be unique. Watch your competitors and write down what they do each year. In the following years this can be useful information. A few ideas are free gift cards with a purchase, a percentage off, discount codes, next day shipping special and a free gift or product with the purchase of another item.
Getting Your Website Ready
Creating an aesthetically pleasing ad and placing it appropriately on the website is important. This will allow your visitors to see your promotion right away. Make sure to not only place this ad on your homepage, but in a spot where visitors can see it on all pages. Also, you may want to set up a special discount code. For example, “enter CYBERMONDAY to save 40% on your order”. With most eCommerce website platforms and administrations you will have the ability to set the code to activate and de-activate on dates and times. Set it up and let it run!
When watching PPC ads on Google this Black Friday, we noticed about 20% of ads had the word “Black Friday” in them or “Ends Today!”. It’s important to update your ad text in your PPC ads to display your sale and let people know that your website is participating in the Cyber Monday (or whatever day it is) sale. If you don’t make this update, you run a good chance that your competitors ads will be clicked before yours.
A well designed newsletter blast should always be sent out letting all of your current customers know about the sales coming up. Make sure they remember to shop with you and possibly give them an extra 5% off for already being a customer. I feel repeat customers should always get a little something more to keep them coming back. Chance are, they’ll end up telling someone else how awesome your website is and you’ll get even more business.
Social Media & Press
Be sure to update your Facebook status, send of a tweet and pass around the discount codes. Many coupon website will give you the ability to post codes. You may also want to consider a press release. Remember, whenever sending out a press release it needs to be interesting! You have to turn the release into a story, not just a straight promotion. If done correctly, you may end up getting some visitors and even potentially spots in other media outlets.
When talking with potential clients about eCommerce web design it often comes up, “Why don’t we just purchase a shopping cart?” You have a problem and need a solution. Often the general problem is you’re not selling online now and would like to… but to what degree? $1,000 a month in sales or $1,000,000 a month? What is your marketing strategy going to be with your new eCommerce website? These questions all factor into the solution you’ll need, but are questions a cart alone will never answer. You need a team and not a product.
Custom eCommerce Design & Unique Layouts: When purchasing a shopping cart you’re often going to run into issues with your website looking like 100 other sites (if not thousands). This image is probably not what you’re looking for in a strong brand and will not place your company where you’d like to be. A customized solution will allow you (and us) to be creative in the way the website looks and is branded creating a customized shopping experience.
Flexibility of Functionality: Adding functionality is a given. You’ll need to at some point. Whether you need to now or not isn’t always the question, but what happen when you outgrow your eCommerce cart? Who is going to make modification for you? If you have a custom cart you’ll always have developers available, whether us or another company, that can take over your site and add additional functionality.
Search Engine Marketing & Optimization: Many eCommerce shopping carts really lack on the search engine marketing side, or they have to many clients selling the same items. What happens is 50 websites sell the same items, using the same cart and in return all end up with pretty much the same website. Google doesn’t like this. The search engines look to see how unique you are and how you stand out. If you’re just like everyone else, you won’t stand out at all. Also, custom designing the site allows us to constantly use the latest in web code trends and the latest SEO techniques. On each project we strive to implement the latest and greatest!
Controlling Your Destiny: Owning your code is huge! With many shopping cart systems you will not own the code, meaning if you’d like to move your shopping cart to another developer or hosting plan, you do not have access. It’s like renting code. You’re stuck with them!
With more and more eCommerce websites popping up on a daily basis, many of us are trying to find ways to be unique in selling our products online and creating successful online stores. Sometimes our creativity, in my opinion, gets “out of control”. What I mean by this is, no one can tell your even an online store! Whether it’s an atypical navigational format or a strange landing page, it’s probably not helping your conversion rate much. We’re creative, too, and like nothing more than to present unique ideas, but our end goal is always sales (And I think you’d like to make money, too!). With our analytic based approach to creating eCommerce websites we often work hard to figure out what is working on a website and what’s not. Oddly enough, many times the most basic sites convert best. To check a past of read 11 eCommerce Website Rules.
Whether it’s Ebay or Amazon, really, it’s nothing special. Of course this is easy for us to say because we don’t own either and we’re not billionaires like they are, but from a complexity design level, it’s nothing special. Each offers strong unique ideas and functionality which drive their success. Their strong points are ease of navigation and the ability for someone to get to the end goal. The side navigation and top navigation is what we’re all use to, so boring or not, we know how to use it already. There is no learning there. When a user is looking for a product, often they just want to find a website that looks secure and purchase quickly. If you offer them this opportunity, you’ll succeed.
Now I may seem like I’m contradicting myself, but adding some fun features may make the buying process one that has a bit of the “wow” factor as well. This can help in your website winning an award, a customer telling someone else or even your website being featured in a new article. As long as the fun feature does not interfer with a user purchasing quickly, or even better helps them to find what they need faster, it’s great to come up with creative ways to get from point A to B (buy).
SEO (search engine optimization) and Uniqueness – Anything built, if you’d like anyone to see it and you don’t have a huge brand that’s searched 1,000 time a day, should be search engine friendly and optimized. This once again can lead us to traditional navigations, breadcrumbs and some of the pieces we’re used to seeing. Never sacrifice your search engine rankings for a website that looks cool. In the end you won’t have sales and that’ll get you nowhere.
Through this post by no means do we mean to stunt your creativity, but just ask you to take our suggestions to be sure you get found and get sales! Remember, increasing profitable is the goal!
As we’ve been analyzing our most successful clients and working on marketing plans, we’ve seen a pattern…. Pay per click advertising. It’s true. If you can optimize your pay per click campaign it can be very successful and sometimes the results are exponential. Spend a dollar and make two I often say. Who wouldn’t take that? That’s a much better return on investment than I’ve seen on any of my stocks in the last few years! Pay Per Click advertising can be scary, so we really do need to take a good look to understand what it’s all about and how we can reduce risk. It’s all about stats and numbers. It’s not a guessing game and if you make it one you’re setting yourself up to potentially lose a significant chuck of cash. Spending $5,000 a month or $200,000 a month can seem out of the question, but it’s not when the ROI (return on investment) is there. In this article we’ll look more in depth on whether PPC (pay per click) is a method of advertising you may be interested in and if you feel it’s a method that’ll work in your business model.
Will PPC work for me? This depends on a few factors. I’ve listed the main factors below:
1) Conversion Rate (what percent of users purchase after visiting) – A typical conversion rate is 1.5% on the low end. We usually use this number.
2) CPC (cost per click) – How much will it cost for each visit
3) Average Sale – How much is the average sale
4) Profit Margin – How much do you make on each dollar purchased
4) Potential Visitors – How many visitors do your keywords allow you to receive. Each market and industry has a certain amount of searches per day.
These 3 variables can usually tell you if you’ll make money. An example is a client’s marketing plan we’ve been working on.
We’ll do this based on 10,000 visitors purchased.
20,000 visitors @ $.50 (CPC) = $10,000.
20,000 visits at 1.5% conversion rate = 300 orders.
300 orders X $340 (average order) = $102,000 in sales.
$102,000 (total sales) X .30 (30% profit margin) = $30,600 profit.
Well, the numbers don’t lie. That’s a lot of money to make. Yes, it was a $10,000 investment but it was a 300% return! This is how you make money. The saying “you have to spend money to make money” is the first thing ever business man and business woman knows. PPC is the perfect example.
The biggest thing to look at is whether or not you have a product with a decent profit margin. If you don’t, any advertising is tough. The next variable we need to take into consideration is the CPC. The cost per click is going to let us know if this is possible. If the most per click was $3 for the industry in the example above, PPC wouldn’t be profitable. As you see, it’s a science and not a guessing game. Guessing is expensive. Guessing loses our clients money.
The next step in pay per click optimization is looking at the conversation rate. A 3% conversion rate in the example above would yield results that would be out of the world. Huge numbers. The numbers we’d all like to see. The way to achieve a conversion rate above and beyond the industry average is to optimize the pay per click campaign. The way this is done is to remove keyword that are not converting, run ads move often during times that visitors purchase the most and be sure clients are being driven to the page on the website that converts on the highest level for the keyword. This is done through constantly monitoring and updating the campaign. Creating powerful landing page for specific keywords that have clear calls of action (COA) is also a very important step.
Remember, spending money to make money is necessary, but spend wisely. If you’d like help in creating a successful PPC campaign, contact us.
Before we begin, if you’re not sure what duplicate content is, it’s content or text that’s exactly (or for the most part) the same on multiple websites or multiple pages within a site. Google and the other search engines look down on this as you should be developing unique content that you’ve written yourself and also not be using the same content on multiple pages. Now we’ll get into the post to figure out what happens when someone copies your website.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but I have to admit I’m not thrilled to find the OuterBox website has been copied… multiple times. From web design companies in other countires to whole pages of content, people have stolen our design, graphics and content in various forms. I couldn’t even believe my eyes when I realized a company from across the globe stole our entire website. They used the exact design just by saving all of our graphics and code and then using Photoshop (or paint possible) to change the language on a few of the buttons. Either way, it was our site destoryed to match another language and help another company sell. As frustrating as this is due to the fact that someone stole our hard work, there may be other complications as well above and beyond being very annoying.
Duplicate content can be an issue and it’s very tough to spot other websites from copying what you’ve done. Using a duplicate content checker program we search text we’ve written to see if other website also have the same content on their page. Another easy way to do this (and free) is to go to Google and search for a line or paragraph of your text within quotes. Example: “This is the text you’re checking to see if other sites stole”. The results will bring up any other pages that have this exact text in it. If other people stole your code it means Google may not realize that your content is unique and may not realize that you wrote it. We’ve found however that Google does try hard to figure out who the unique content belong to and they realize people do steal content. Our website for example has been hijacked many times but has not had a major impact at this point. It’s still something we watch our for and we are proactive in always having duplicate content removed.
What to do: Usually contating the website that copied your content and asking them to remove the stolen content will result in them taking it off. Sometimes website in other counties are less responsive, but it’s worth a shot. Another option is to contact the hosting company the website is on and file a complaint of a copyright violation. If done properly and they rule in your favor, they should shut the website down.
I recommend on a somewhat regular basis going through and looking for other site that may have copied yours or specific content. The most important pages will be your main landing pages and the pages that rank the best in the search engines. You want to be sure that people have not copied these. Remeber, as you grow people will try to copy you. Feel flattered, but also fight back! You wrote it and you deserve for it to only be on your website.