01 Oct

22 Tips to Boost E-Commerce SEO and Conversion Rates

E-commerce SEO and conversion rate optimization can double your traffic and sales. And, best of all, it’s not even that difficult to do. Follow these 22 tips and watch as your e-commerce numbers climb.

Out of stock items

  • Leave the pages up. Some people like to hide the pages of out of stock items, but if they are going to be restocked later, just leave the pages as is. You may want to put a note saying the product is currently out of stock and will be restocked later, but don’t hide them or redirect people away from the page.
  • Offer alternative items. Offer similar alternatives through widgets on the site. Not only will you be providing your customers a great service they’ll appreciate, but you’ll also help search engines find relevant pages and understand your site structure.
  • Inform users when it will return. Provide the anticipated date when the product will be in stock again so visitors will know when to check again.
  • Offer to backorder the product. Let customers order the product and send it out as soon as you’re restocked.
  • Offer an incentive to come back and buy. Provide some kind of incentive to them to wait and order from you rather than looking elsewhere for the product. This is usually best done as a discount.

Obsolete &/or Expired Products

Regardless of what you sell, you’re going to have some products that just don’t get restocked. You first instinct may be to delete these pages and leave it at that, but that’s not a good practice to get into because you lose SEO value and anyone who may have that page bookmarked is going to find an error message waiting for them next time they try to visit the page.

You can try one of the following options to deal with items that will not be restocked.

  • Permanently 301 redirect expired product URLs. If you are replacing an older model of a product with a newer one, use a 301 permanent redirect from the old page to the page with the newer model’s URL. This redirect tells Google you want this page ranked instead and you get to retain your SEO value.
  • Redirect to the parent category. If you have similar products as the expired one, you can direct visitors to the parent category.
  • Permanently delete everything to do with the expired product. If you do not have any closely related products, it may be a good idea to delete the page completely. You can do this with a 410 status code, which tells Google that the page has been permanently deleted and will not return.
  • Reuse URLs. If you are selling products where technical specifications and model numbers are not relevant, you can reuse the URLs of expired products. This will preserve the page’s authority in Google rankings.
  • Leave the pages for informational purposes. Sometimes it’s best just to leave the pages up with a note saying they’re permanently unavailable now. They can help people researching the product, or help previous buyers with information, help and service.

Product Pages with Little or No Unique Content

Running an e-commerce site is time-consuming, so many people don’t think about the importance of having unique content on their product pages. Many people pull information from databases or just post the manufacturer’s content on their site. This, obviously, can lead to duplicate content issues.

  • Add unique content for your most popular products. Use web analytics tools to identify your best-selling and most popular products and then update them manually with original content.
  • Focus on product categories. Some e-commerce sites have tens of thousands of products. Manually entering original content for all of them would be nearly impossible. So, focus your efforts on your parent categories. Improve your internal link architecture, improve your site’s breadcrumbs and add relevant products. This will help the search bots and teach them how to best crawl your site.
  • Add user generated content. Have your customers help out by allowing them to leave reviews for the products. This will help differentiate your product pages from other duplicates on the Web. Reviews from happy customers will enhance your SEO campaign and boost sales conversions.

Category Pages

Next to the home page, your category pages are the most important ones on your site.

  • Treat category pages like mini home pages. Think of  your categories as hubs that contain closely related product pages.
  • Add unique content to your category pages. This is much less work than adding it to the individual product pages.
  • Build deep-links to product categories. You can use guest blogging, content marketing, paid ads and social media to build these link networks.
  • Tag socially shared content. Share links on Google Plus, Twitter and other networks and be specific with your tags.
  • Be conscious of design. Design category pages to provide search engines and users the best possible service.
  • Use search-friendly URLs. The most effective URL structure for category pages (and product pages) is:
    • Category Page: Website.com/category/
    • Sub-category page: Website.com/category/sub-category/
    • Product page: website.com/category-sub-category/product-name/

Internal Link Building & Architecture

Internal link building helps with SEO and rankings, but to achieve the best results, you need link architecture, not just “link building.” Internal linking should focus more on user friendliness and not on making things easier for the search engine spiders. They’ll find their way. It’s your customers’ experience you need to keep in mind.

  • Offer category level navigation. This will make it easier for your users to get an overview of what they will find in the subcategories and pages.
  • Link to category-level relevant products. Take intent and needs into consideration, but also optimize for the right keywords.
  • Use breadcrumbs on all pages and category pages. This ensures that users and Google can navigate up one level to a parent category.

Following these tips can help boost your e-commerce site’s SEO power. Use them to help with site optimization and to boost traffic and, more importantly, sales.

[Photo courtesy of Paloma Gomez on Flickr.]
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10 Sep

Best E-Commerce Advice from Successful E-Commerce Brands

A lot of e-commerce websites have changed not only the way we purchase things, but have taken products completely beyond the usual and traditional. One way of striking gold in selling online is to promote a product that is unique and has a specific need to fulfill.

If you are just starting or are about to start a new online business, getting things going may seem overwhelming. Will your product address the needs of your target clients? Will your website’s look attract followers and customers? Will your e-commerce processing system work and not create problems for you and your buyers?

Here are some of the best pieces of e-commerce advice from successful e-commerce brands. Many of these businesses started online and have now grown into huge online empires that earn millions.

  1. “Find ways to tell the story of your makers. Spend time getting to know your makers, and tell their story when you are telling your story as well. People want to see where their products are made, and it creates a stronger connection with your customer, and builds trust.” – Nathan Rothstein of Project Repat
  2. “When engaging with customers, do things early on that don’t scale. Write little personal notes on packages. Say hi to them on Twitter. Invite local customers to come check out your shop” – Bill Trammel of Catan Boards
  3. “Find what you love and let it kill you. We had no idea what we were getting into when we first started. Building a brand and launching a store is easy; it’s what you do with it afterwards that’s hard.” – Joey Nelson of Southern Swim
  4. “Find a way to be genuine. There is so much noise out there and consumers are savvier than ever – you have to really believe in your product and have an honest commitment to your customers to find a message that resonates.” – Kishore Hiranand of Lookmatic
  5. “Make sure you have something awesome that your friends want. If your friends don’t want it, then somebody else better want it, otherwise, it’s not worth doing.” – Mike Krillvsky of Rage On
  6. “To build up interest in the new version, we documented the entire process. Along we way, we shared sketches and pictures of early prototypes and gave our followers a glimpse behind the scenes of our product photo shoots.” – Fred Perrotta of Tortuga Backpacks
  7. “There are always challenges but if you have a clear idea of what the store should look like it will help define the flow of the site and all the other logistical stuff that is critical for a successful online store.” – Ryan Babenzien of Greats Sneakers
  8. “Don’t underestimate the importance of marketing, especially paid advertising. With our site being online only, this has been essential for us. It kick starts everything.” – Jenn Louise
  9. “By using high-class photography, we are able to evoke the color and texture of our fudge so that we can invite online shoppers into our kitchen, the heart of our business.” – Giancarlo Di Sotto of The Fudge House
  10. “Instagram and Facebook has been huge for us. We can engage with our customers and let them be a part of our ‘world’ through Instagram.” – Jess Brumpton of Three Little Birds
  11. “People hate to wait for their purchases and they want to know where their items are, all the time. Pay a little more for a good shipping partner, because it will pay off in the future.” – Diogo Cruz of Vertty

[ Quotes were originally featured in this article. ]

[Photo courtesy of jen collins on Flickr]

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03 Sep

The Top 10 Startup E-Commerce Mistakes to Avoid Like the Proverbial Plague

It’s a common notion that plans may not unfold the way they’re supposed to. The same is true with setting up an e-commerce website. A lot of mistakes can occur in an e-commerce startup from planning to implementation to after-sales care.

We hope this list of the top 10 e-commerce startup mistakes will help you avoid doing them yourself. You may as well learn from other people’s mistakes, right? So, take note of these errors:

1. Too much focus on site development over marketing. If you’re spending too much time upgrading web server specs in lieu of creating e-mail newsletters, stop right now. You are running an online store, not a web hosting company (unless you are really running one, of course).

2. Obsession over getting the “perfect” website design. Don’t fret too much about whether the sidebar should be on the left or the right side. Things are rarely perfect on the first day of launch. You can always adjust it later if you want.

3. Incomplete product information. Your online customers cannot physically see the product, so make sure that your product information is complete and accurate. Attach clear pictures that they can zoom in on.

4. Equating web buyers to store visitors. People who buy in-store prepare themselves to go to your physical store. Online purchasers, on the other hand, mostly visit your e-commerce site by chance. Show your online visitors everything you’ve got in a few pages.

5. Too bloated of a home page. Over-decorating your main page may lead to a slow loading website that discourages online visitors and search engine bots. It can also hit people with too much information at once. It may be better to ease them into your site rather than try to do it all at once. There is a reason that clean and simple designs usually win out over busy designs.

6. Not implementing website security measures. Trust is one commodity that online buyers cherish. Show them that buying through your site is safe and secure. The last thing you want is for them to see some kind of warning from their web browser about your site being unsecured or untrusted. Most of them will likely click on the “Get me out of here!” button when faced with such a warning. And first time visitors will not be back.

7. Jumping on trendy marketing gimmicks. Focus first on tried-and-tested marketing techniques such as e-mail subscriptions, social media updates, and SEO. Once you’ve got these set up and working, then try your hand at something different. You never know, maybe you’ll start an online marketing trend.

8. Not monitoring site analytics. As the online store owner, you must know which pages are visited the most and which products have high sales. This way, you can focus your strategies on these areas of your site. Yes, they can be confusing to look at at first, but make sure you learn how to use Google Analytics.

9. Separating your physical store from your e-commerce site. If you have a tangible store, you should use it to advertise your online store. You should also use your e-commerce store to direct customers to your physical store. Remember the internet isn’t separate from reality. It’s just a tool you use.

10. Lack of customer support. Assure your online consumers of after-sales support by providing a feedback form or contact information.

If you find yourself falling into any of these ten traps, now is the best time to re-think your strategy and change your game plan. If you’re just starting out, good luck and treat these mistakes like Ebola and avoid them at all costs.

[Photo courtesy of Lisa Moffatt on Flickr]
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27 Aug

What to do When E-Commerce Goes Awry

Many companies and business owners think that setting up an online business will be a breeze. But it takes a lot of effort and even when you have it set up and running smoothly, you have to keep a near-constant eye on it. Failing to regularly monitor your business is just asking for disaster.

Something is bound to go wrong, regardless of how careful you are. Some of the most common errors that may lead to an e-commerce website’s downfall are the following:

  • Incorrect estimation on shipping costs
  • Third-party errors beyond your control: This may include problems involving an external product shipping partner, which may not handle your products properly during transmission and delivery.
  • Technical automation errors within the website framework
  • Website downtime or total deletion of the site without having a backup (gasp!)

In order to prevent these headache-inducing issues from dampening your spirits and destroying your reputation as an online business, here are some tips on what to do when e-commerce goes awry:

  1. Relax. Reacting emotionally to any problem will most likely not help solve it. When you discover the problem, pause for a few moments to calm your emotions. Afterwards, you should be calm enough to analyze the problem by finding the root cause and addressing it through logic and reason.
  2. Find the root cause of the problem. There’s a real reason behind the 404 error on your e-commerce website, and it can only be solved if you find the root cause. If you identify the root of the issue correctly, you can prevent any similar errors in the future.
  3. Draft a plan of solution. Once you find the primary reason behind the issue, find a solution. It’s really easier said than done, but if you’re familiar with running your business, you’ll be able to iron out the kinks. Make sure that this plan will solve the problem and not just delay the problem-solving process.
  4. Act on the problem immediately. Most problems don’t get solved on their own. Once you have pinpointed the cause of the problem and discovered the solution, act on it as soon as possible.
  5. Take responsibility for your actions. If you are contributory to the problem, be humble enough to take responsibility. This gives you a sense of ownership not only to the company, but also to any problems that may arise.

How you handle adversity in business may be the biggest indicator of whether or not you’ll succeed. Those who are able to quickly react to problems and solve them using common sense are more likely to stay in business for the long run.

[Photo courtesy of f1uffster (Jeanie) on Flickr]
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20 Aug

7 Important Factors for Magento Speed

Once you have set up a Magento-powered e-commerce website, the next step to focus on is how to optimize it. There are many ways to improve the performance of your Magento store, but all of them boil down to a shortlist of factors.

If you are looking to speed up your Magento online store, take note of these important factors for Magento speed:

  1. Use NGINX instead of Apache. NGINX is more lightweight than Apache, so if you’re starting with a simple store that sells a few products, you don’t need the features of the heavier Apache server. NGINX helps you save RAM resources to optimize PHP and MySQL.
  2. Take advantage of multiple CPU cores and fast engines. For this tip, I suggest you use MySQL 5.5 or Percona 5.5, while PHP-FPM 5.3 or 5.4 should address PHP engine speed.
  3. Assess unified backend implementation and site speed for multiple stores. Running many stores on a single unified Magento Backend System could take its toll on the speed of the sites, as they’ll be running on the same set of resources. If speed is being compromised, consider using separate backend systems for each of your stores.
  4. Prioritize shopping cart rules over catalog rules. Let the bulk of server processing run during the shopping cart stage instead of doing everything during catalog browsing.
  5. Don’t use unreliable Magento developers. These developers may come cheap, but don’t expect a smooth-running website. Stick to the big guns when it comes to developers.
  6. Be on top of SEO and search bot behavior. Search engine bots may index your site without rules, which can slow down your store and affect your site’s search engine ranking. If you’re not aware yet, you may customize the bot rules for your website. E-commerce web hosts such as GeeXSE can give you an advanced bot webserver configuration that can help you both prevent misbehaving bots and also create advanced fast cgi caches specifically to improve bots’ access to sites by feeding them all cached content.
  7. Test everything before going live. Always test modules on a developer version of your site before launching it online.

Keeping in mind these seven things will help your Magento-backed store run quickly and smoothly, leading to happy customers.

[Photo courtesy of Jonel Hanopol on Flickr]
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06 Aug

Choosing Correct Software for Your E-commerce Store

Starting a business online is no small feat. If you have decided to put up your own online store to sell your products or services, you should be prepared not only for the eventual sale of your items but also the deluge of preparatory requirements before setting it all up.

One of the first things that any online business owner should decide on is what software to use in running the store. A lot of applications are available for use by anyone interested in starting an online business, and each one has its benefits and pitfalls.

The three most common e-commerce applications are PrestaShop, Magento, and WordPress with an e-commerce plugin. Allow me to discuss the pros and cons of these three popular applications to help you in choosing correct software for your e-commerce store.

PrestaShop

With close to 4 million downloads and counting, PrestaShop remains one of the top e-commerce frameworks available for free download. The developers of PrestaShop assure its clients of fast, efficient, and easy-to-use software to build an online store. It’s easy to install, and its light framework will make your website fast. PrestaShop is also easy to configure and debug, especially if you’re adept at PHP development.

The bad side of PrestaShop is its poor rewrite system. Compared with the other two software applications, PrestaShop has the fewest modules and themes.

Magento

This rich and robust e-commerce platform has become a reliable go-to software for any individual or business wanting to set up an online store. Magento is highly extensible and able to handle large catalogs. Its popularity has spawned thousands of modules, so you can say there’s a module for practically anyone. On its backend, Magento can handle multiple sites in different languages.

On the down side, the rich Magento framework takes its toll on site speed. Magento has the heaviest code of the three software choices in this list, and requires more servers running. It also needs a highly skilled Magento developer to adjust the platform to your business needs. If you want to learn the software yourself, expect a steeper learning curve.

WordPress with e-commerce plugin

The number one blogging platform has evolved into a complete CMS package, thanks to the wide variety of attractive themes and plugins available for convenient installation. WordPress is now able to run an e-commerce website using ready-to-use plugins such as WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, and Jigoshop. WordPress is also ultra-convenient as it makes content creation and editing easy, and does not need additional blogging software. It is innately SEO-ready, but you can enhance it further using SEO plugins.

Most of the e-commerce plugins running in WordPress have limitations, particularly on the number of catalogs. If you plan to increase your product list to over 20,000, then WordPress might not be the best option for you.


 

Choosing the perfect e-commerce platform for your online store will really depend on your business plans. I recommend that you research more on these three e-commerce software solutions to further cement your decision.

[Photo courtesy of Guiseppe Leto Barone on Flickr]
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31 Jul

Common website hosting terminology, Part 3

A lot of terms related to web hosting and website setup sound like gibberish. That is why we at GeeXSE found it important to run this series of common hosting terminologies to help you understand some of the things that may come up in the course of e-commerce website management.

We’ve already featured two articles that form part of the three-part series on hosting terminologies. If you missed the previous articles, you can read the first article here and the second piece here.

Here is the last leg of our definition series. You may encounter these terms sometime during your experience in maintaining an e-commerce website, from the initial stages of installation to the management of your online store as it grows.

Megabyte (MB) is, simply put, a million bytes. However, to be more technical about it, one megabyte is equal to 1,024 kilobytes or 1,048,576 bytes. In terms of the smallest unit of digital data, 1 megabyte is equal to 8,388,608 bits.

Primary DNS or Primary Domain Name Server is the set of servers provided by the web hosting provider for the client’s use. Primary DNS is denoted by IP addresses in the form of “ns1.dnsname.com”, to which the domain name must be pointed in order to “resolve” to a virtual location.

RAID, or redundant array of independent disks, is a technology that involves virtual data storage in the form of multiple disk drives. Its main purpose is for data redundancy to make sure that website performance is not hampered by server errors.

Reverse Proxy is a kind of proxy server that gets resources in place of a client from a server but returns only the resources to its nearby clients as provided by the server. The client making the request connects to the proxy without awareness of the network.

Secure Server (SSL) or Secure Socket Layer is defined as a standard security protocol to connect a web server and a browser through an encrypted process. The link encryption ensures privacy and security of data transferred between the server and the client.

Shell Account is a type of Unix hosting account on a remote server where the user or customer can update the website using the command line via Telnet.

SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol is defined as an electronic mail Internet standard. SMTP is used by e-mail servers for message transmission.

TCP or Transmission Control Protocol is a primary Internet protocol (IP), hence its frequent merge as TCP/IP. This particular protocol processes a reliable delivery of octets across programs in computer networks.

TLD or top-level domain is the highest domain level in the Domain Name System (DNS), and is stored in the name space root zone.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the standard address assigned to any Internet resource that forms part of the World Wide Web. A standard URL usually starts with “http://” and includes a domain name and a specific Internet resource.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) is any virtual machine that contains its own operating system (OS). This server may be offered by a web hosting company to its customers, who will then gain access to the OS and install programs to their liking.

Web Server is a computer or machine that runs a website. It can deliver web pages and data to any client software, most notably browsers.

Web Site is defined as a group of interconnected web pages accessible through the World Wide Web.

XML or Extensible Markup Language is denoted by rules governing document encoding that is readable by humans and machines. The language design is aligned towards simple, generalized, and useful data over the Internet.


This concludes our series on common web hosting definitions. If you have questions or some other terms that you need to understand further, drop us a note in the comments section below.

 [Photo courtesy of Chris Dlugosz on Flickr]
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