Archive for June, 2008

Yes, we are starting to sound like we only know two words, “increase sales”. However, you have to admit these are pretty important words for any business. Especially for an ecommerce website where your next competitor is just a click away waiting to take your customer if your game isn’t better than theirs.

Now there’s another word: Game. How well are you playing the ecommerce game? Are you playing to win?

If you’re not sure, here are some thoughts to ponder. Put these thoughts into action and fire up your sales.

  • Are you thinking like your customer?
    Think like you just landed on the site for the first time. Can you find what you’re looking for? Place products in more than one category when applicable, or wherever relevant. Place links to information wherever it’s needed. The easier it is for your customers to find what they want, when they want it, the more likely they’ll buy.
  • Are your prices, offers, and terms easy to understand?
    Keep it simple. Make sure your toll free phone number, pricing, shipping, add to cart button, etc. are all clear and easy for anyone to find with as little thought as possible. It’s a fact that the more you make people think, the more likely they’re moving on to another site. A confused customer is a lost customer.
  • Are your pictures your best salespeople, or are they duds?
    A picture is really worth a thousand words. Therefore, add additional product pictures to close the sale wherever applicable. Keep in mind that most people don’t actually read ecommerce sites, they scan. Make sure you’re getting their attention with the right information to convert them into buyers.
  • Have you marketed your website today?
    Market your website once it’s live and continue doing “something” to market it every day thereafter. A website that isn’t actively working to market itself on a continuous basis, isn’t going to grow and thrive. As with any endeavor there’s no free lunch.
  • Is your site easy to navigate? Is it easy to buy your products online?
    Make your products easy to buy. It seems obvious, but it’s a mistake often made by online retailers. Make sure your website functions well across all areas such as navigation and shopping cart checkout. A site that’s hard to navigate or complete a purchase on will quickly be abandoned by your visitors.

Now it’s time to ask yourself the big question. Is your site meeting these guidelines?  If you can’t answer a resounding yes to each of these questions, you’ve got some work to do. In fact, it would be wise to bookmark this page and refer back to these points periodically to ensure that your site is getting the results you deserve.

Now get back in the game and increase your sales!

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Sometimes it’s hard to look at your website’s home page with a fresh set of eyes, especially if you’ve been looking at it for years. However, it has to be done. The home page is the most important page of your site, and it has the biggest influence on whether your visitors stick around and buy or say good bye. It is vital that you see it the way they do.

So, what should you do to improve your home page? Start with following the steps below, and you’ll be on your way to increased sales and higher visitor retention before you know it.

  1. Take a hard and honest look at your home page. Actually step back from the computer, close your eyes, and open them with a fresh point of view. Does the page clearly show products or services you sell? Does it have a clear call to action to get your visitors deeper into your site? Is the call to action above the fold? If not, make this your first fix.
  2. Is your home page clearly presenting your business as trustworthy? Are you making it clear that your products are for sale online? If not, you’re losing sales right now!
  3. Does your home page feature any animation that doesn’t directly connect with selling your product or service? If so, get rid of it. It’s a distraction to your visitors and it’s costing you money.
  4. Are your images fuzzy, or hard to see? Optimize your images so they are sharp and clear, but keep the file size small enough that they load quickly. No one wants to look at poor quality photos, and no one is willing to sit and wait for your home page to load.
  5. Is your contact info big and bold at the top of your home page? Can your visitors immediately see your toll free number to call you on impulse and buy? If not, you’re losing more sales…

Your home page’s effectiveness is limited only by your creativity and marketing skills. Regardless of your ecommerce skill level, applying the above basics will definitely move you in the right direction.

After implementing the above guidelines into your home page, come back and leave a comment to share your results. We’re sure you’ll be pleased!

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Yesterday, we covered things you should do to improve your website’s SEO, which I’m sure you’ve already started applying. Now we’re going to address what NOT to do, since these tactics will fail miserably and usually have a negative effect on your natural search engine rankings.  Whatever you do, avoid all of the activity we mention below – and if you’re currently doing any of these things, stop now!

SEO Best Practices Don’ts

  1. Never Seek a Quick Fix: High search engine rankings take time and effort. If you find a service that promises millions of visitors overnight, run. These programs are generally based upon aggressive SPAM tactics, and using such services will usually result in having your website removed by the major search engines – including Google!
  2. Avoid Link Farms: Link farms are websites that link to numerous other sites of any type with the hopes of improving search result rankings. Avoid them at all costs. All major search engines, including Google, view such sites as SPAM and often remove sites from their index for participating in such schemes. Remember, affiliate sites are not link farms. An affiliate site will offer valuable content of its own, and the links offered will be relevant to both their own content and to each other.
  3. Avoid Splash Pages: Welcome pages for your website, with a big photo and a link that says “Enter Here” may look nice. Unfortunately, they’re terrible for your search engine rankings. These pages prohibit search engine crawlers from effectively spidering the other pages of your site.
  4. Avoid Frames: Never use frames! Frames are too complex for search engine crawlers to index. Also, most users don’t like them and they make your site look very outdated.
  5. Avoid Search-Box Navigation: This doesn’t mean that you don’t offer a search tool for your visitors. Just don’t let the search tool be your site’s primary method of navigation. Search engine crawlers cannot enter text into the search box to find your pages.
  6. Eliminate Pop-Up Ads: Search engines don’t look favorably on pop-up ads, especially on a site’s homepage. Eliminating pop-up ads will win favor with both the search engines and your visitors.
  7. Eliminate Hidden / Invisible Text: Never have text that’s the same color as its background, i.e., white text on a white page. Search engines immediately recognize this as a SPAM tactic and it often results in a site being removed from the search engines.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read yesterday’s post of SEO Best Practices Do’s. Now get on your site and review it with these tips.

You can thank us for your awesome website traffic later!

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Optimizing your website for “organic” or “natural” search results in search engines such as Google isn’t an easy task. However, it is critical for your online success, since improving your natural search rankings will deliver significantly better visitor traffic to your website in both quantity and quality. Although SEO is both a science and an art, there are some basic steps you can take to improve the chances of having your website found by potential customers online.

Today, we’ll cover SEO Best Practices – Do’s.

SEO Best Practices Do’s

  1. Title Tags (Page Titles): Each page of your website should have a distinct title using between 6 to 10 relevant keywords. These keywords should also be found in content throughout each individual page. For instance, if your web page provides advice on shopping for car insurance, your title might be “Car Insurance Rate Quote Shopping Advice”.
  2. Site Maps: Site Maps are one of the top tools to improving your website’s natural search rankings, enabling search engine crawlers to access each and every page of your site. Keep in mind that your site map should consist of a maximum of 100 links; anything more than this is non-search engine friendly and may result in pages not being indexed. Also, each page of your site should contain a text link to your Site Map.
  3. Meta Tags: Make sure that every page of your website is tagged with pertinent keywords that are found throughout your website. This requires a careful balance, to avoid excessively long tags with unnecessary words that may be interpreted by the search engines as SPAM.
  4. Page Size Under 75k: Always keep your web page sizes under 75k. Anything heavier than this will compromise your site’s performance speed and optimum search engine indexing.
  5. Links: Strong inbound links to your website raise your relevance to the search engines, and your page rank over time. Although there are many methods available to increase the number of inbound links to your website, the best ones are those that create one-way, non-reciprocal links, since the search engines favor these links much more than trading links with other sites. Examples of one-way links include links to your site from relevant directory sites related to your industry, inbound links to your website from comments on blog posts, and links to your site from press releases.
  6. Page Content: Your actual web page content should reflect all of the other SEO efforts you have performed within your page titles and Meta tags. Make sure to place strong, relevant keywords throughout the page body and in text, and make use of pertinent keywords within your headers by using header tags (H1, H2, etc). Keep in mind that keywords in your web page copy can also be emphasized by using bold and italics.

Hope the above tips are of help!  Check back tomorrow for SEO Best Practices Do’s and Don’ts Part 2.

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More and more large brand names are expanding their online branding efforts to social media sites like Facebook.


Ironically, many smaller to medium sized businesses still aren’t following suit, even though this format is the cheapest one out there. Largely, many businesses just don’t know where to start.


So, here’s what you do to get started:

  1. Go to Facebook and set up an account
  2. Set up a Facebook page

It’s that easy. Now, here are tips to set up your page format. 

  • Offer a direct link to your website from your Facebook page
  • Provide a brief company overview of about 250 characters
  • Give a brief overview of the products or services you offer of about 150 characters

You’re done!

Remember keep it short and sweet. Facebook isn’t the place to be closing the sale; it’s a place to mingle with your customers and to make friends who will become new customers.

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OK, so someone did a search on Google, and they’ve landed on your web site. Now what? Will they read what they’ve found, click to another page of your site, or simply hit the back button on their browser and say bye-bye?

Regardless of how fantastic your site is, you will always have a percentage of folks that leave immediately. There are numerous reasons for this exit rate, and you can’t resolve them all. However, there are proven steps you can take to improve the overall stickiness of your site.

Tip #1: Reduce Clutter
You may really like all of that stuff you’ve put on your web site, but too much stuff will do more to distract and confuse your visitors than to help them. Bells and whistles are great on a train, but not on your web site.

Tip #2: Make Your Navigation Intuitive
A lot of designers like coming up with creative site navigation structures. It’s tempting to offer a cute flash navigation, with dancing arrows or Christmas tree ornaments. Don’t.
As creative as you are, no one wants to spend time figuring out how to navigate your web site. As a rule, the more you make them think about navigation, the quicker they’ll navigate to someone else’s site.

Tip #3: Make Sure Your Site Content is Relevant
If you sell leather sofas, make sure your content is strictly related to “leather sofas”. A visitor who comes to your site and finds pages upon pages of pictures of your dog will think your dog is adorable, but they probably won’t buy a leather sofa from you. Therefore, don’t distract your visitors with content that isn’t directly related to what they’re looking for.

Tip #4: Make Sure Your Content is Up-to-Date
Content that isn’t up-to-date is a serious waste of your visitor’s time and your selling opportunities. Therefore, if product information or store hours change, make sure you update them immediately. No one likes outdated or incorrect information.

Tip #5: Make the First Move
Every time someone visits your web site, you have a chance to interact with them. Don’t waste this opportunity. If they’re not ready to buy, make sure you’re offering value such as a free trial, product samples or something they can download such as a white paper. As a rule, the more they interact with you, the more likely they will buy from you.

Tip #6: Be Supportive
Don’t be shy. Make sure you’re there for support when your visitors want help. Always have your toll free number prominently displayed on every page of your site, and an easy contact link for your email address, physical address, etc. It’s a fact that clearly displayed and readily available contact information builds trust among potential customers.

Tip #7: Make it Easy to Share
Make sure you’re actively taking advantage of social marketing opportunities wherever possible. Add Web 2.0 widgets or links to your web site that encourage visitors to share your content with others via social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Reddit and Stumble Upon. People are more likely to visit a web site based upon a suggestion from another reader than from a paid ad.

Your web site will only be as effective as you make it. Therefore, you must work at making positive improvements all the time. Otherwise your site will never reach its full potential.

So fire up the printer and place this post front and center on your desk (or make it your start page) so you can start putting these sticky site tips into action. Once you’ve gone through and applied these tips to every page of your site, you’ll find that your site will perform better, enjoy increased conversions, and attract more word of mouth (or word of web) business.


(And hey, while you’re at it, add the Ecommerce Solutions Blog to your social bookmarking page)

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While driving new traffic to your website will always be important for growing online sales, driving return traffic (and increased sales from existing customers) is equally important.  When used effectively, Web 2.0 marketing strategies are a great catalyst for repeat visits.

Your prospects and existing customers are not online purely to shop. They’re visiting Web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, YouTube, customer review sites, and blogs as part of their quests for more information. Online retailers that are tactfully marketing in these environments are finding that the brand exposure brings in much new business, and keeps existing customers coming back for more.


Some online retailers are still skeptical about the power of Web 2.0 marketing when building their brand and increasing sales.  However, these skeptics are dwindling rapidly as more retailers see the positive benefits of marketing in a user-generated content environment.


A recent Pew survey found that 48% of Internet users watch web videos, 39% regularly read blogs, 30% post online reviews, and 16% participate in social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. While all of these new Web 2.0 marketing tools and sites can have a significant impact on an online retailer’s business long-term, it has been clearly proven that the most successful tools for boosting online sales are product ratings and customer’s reviews.  82% of consumers surveyed last year by the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche said that consumer written product reviews directly influenced their buying decisions, and 69% of them passed these reviews on to others.


On average, an item with a high consumer rating, such as four-star (out of five-stars) will convert at 18 times the rate of a non-rated item. If your ecommerce site isn’t currently using customer reviews as part of your Internet marketing strategy, this is a clear must-have on your immediate to-do list.


Online video is also fertile ground for increasing online sales, if done correctly. Even high-end retailers such as Saks Direct, the online arm of the department store Saks Fifth Avenue, have seen increases in sales due to Internet marketing efforts on YouTube. If online video is well done and genuinely informative and interesting, visitors will talk about you, will want to know more, and will ultimately visit your website.


Blogging has also become a very effective tool for building your brand online and attracting new customers. Blogs that are strongly built around a brand or topic related to your website or your product can become a popular resource for expert knowledge and industry opinions. Effective blogging can also help your business and your products to be perceived as more than a commodity, due to the added value of the information.


Sites like MySpace and Facebook are often undervalued by online retailers, since they are perceived as youth “hangouts”.  Overlooking these high traffic social networks is clearly a mistake.


JupiterResearch found that only 3% of online shoppers use social networks to research purchases. However, according to a study this year by Forrester Research, online sales that result from a social network site average a whopping $50.11 per sale, more than double the $19.33 average for sales resulting from paid search. When you compare the cost of participating in paid search (Pay Per Click) with the cost of social networking (FREE), it’s clear that the additional effort can be a very worthwhile part of your Web 2.0 marketing mix.


Attracting new customers and increasing existing customer loyalty isn’t as simple as it used to be, even just a few years ago. Particularly now that consumers are creating the messages and recommending which products or services should be purchased by others. However, with the advance in popularity of Web 2.0 social networking, online video, and blogging, more opportunities exist to increase your Internet marketing base – if you’re willing to put in the effort to make it happen.


What are you doing to make it happen?

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