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Everything eCommerce

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Continual Improvement Continued - Key to Ecommerce Success

I talk to ecommerce merchants daily as I help them build their stores, market their sites online and find ways to make more money from their e-business. During these conversations over the years I have learned many things that separates out my most successful ecommerce clients from the ones that languish. One of the key things all of the most successful e-merchants have in common is continual improvement.

I find myself stressing the importance of continually updating and improving your website to customers more and more. One area that most benefits from this approach is search engine positioning. Search engines use a whole suite of algorithms and methods to calculate the relative rankings of a page. Some of these methods include number of links to a page/site, content on the page and how new the content is, which is also known is "freshness."

Continual Improvement directly affects 2 out of 3 of these ranking methods. By constantly updating your content and tracking the change in ranking and sales, you not only improve the quality of the page from a customer's perspective while also optimizing your keyword density, but each time the search engine rolls around, you're providing it with fresh content.

Okay, I know it's a lot of work, we're talking about updating every page on your site, and when you finish starting over again. You're wondering if it's really worth it. It is, and here's why. Sites that are updated continuously are indexed deeper and more often than more static sites.

Think about that for a second. By updating your site continuously, your new products that you offer those hot ones that are new on the market are found quicker by the search engines. This article, which I'm writing on August 30th will show up when doing a Yahoo! Search before the end of the day. Why? Because I also am sending the search engine an RSS feed that has all of my new content in it. Yahoo! Sees that I have a new everything ecommerce content and rapidly incorporates it into it's vast databases. Which is really one of the points of this article, you see I've been ranking really high for the term ecommerce by itself on Yahoo!, but I've been busy and haven't been updating the site as often as I should.

The result: going from #8 to #21. Being towards the bottom of page 1 vs the top of page 3 results in a drop in search engine traffic to 1/20th of what it was before.

Here is a little bit of homework.
Look at your site, go through the products and look at the descriptions. Read over them. Do they answer every question you can think of? How much does it weight, is it compatible with what I own, what does it feel like, when will it ship, is it in stock, when will it arrive, how can I return it, how long will it last, will it void the warranty, etc.... If your descriptions don't answer every one of your potential customer's questions, start adding content and answering those questions. The result will be higher search engine rankings and greater conversion rates.

If you want to learn more, or are ready to take the plunge and make your business more successfully, contact me, and we can work together to make sure you're capturing every sale you can from the upcoming holiday push.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Newsflash - Annoying Websites Cause Customers to Leave

A study that came out today reaffirms my personal mantra. Get customers to your site, let them find and buy what they want as quickly and painlessly as possible. Anything that gets in the way of customers ordering results in lost sales, and negative feelings about your company.

Here's an excerpt of what they said:

The Center for Media Research reports that over 70% of consumers said they'd give a company the old heave-ho if they find a "pet peeve" on their website. But only 25% of them say they'd complain to the companies about what they found objectionable. "The Internet has matured to the point where consumers demand an easy online experience. ... Consumers are warning companies, 'You're going to lose my business if your web site experience is annoying,'" says John Lee, vice president of Hostway Inc., the author of the survey.

The consumer's list of website pet peeves:
· 93% find pop-up ads to be annoying.
· 89% don't like installing extra software.
· 86% hate dead links.
· 84% are annoyed by confusing site navigation.
· 83% dislike registration log-on pages that block free content (some
are even taking action-click
· 83% said slow-loading pages are an annoyance.
· 80% are annoyed by ineffective site-search tools.

Here are some mopeeves peaves to think about:
· Splash pages - For 99% of sites with every click there is drop off between visitors and shoppers. The less clicks between entering your site and checking out, the greater the conversion rate.
· Sound - you're reading this right now as you're working. Now let me plaannoyingd anoying sound clip that says "HEY I'M NOT WORKING" - not the best way to keep a customer.

The aesthetics of websites was slightly less important to them, but the numbers were high enough to merit concern. Just under 60% thought moving text was annoying, while 55% felt strongly that poor choices of colors, fonts and formats were annoying.

The reactions to these annoyances were quite strong, at least in words. Of those surveyed, 74% considered unsubscribing from company promotions or messages, 71% were likely to view the company negatively, and 55% were likely to complain to their friends and associates about the site. If accurate, these numbers are a huge indicator that the look, feel, and overall experience of your website can make or break your online business.

I can releate to the reaction side of things. As I am building a new house I wanted to make it a "smart home" and incorporate all of the latest home automation, control and monitoring. There is a company called X10 that has great prices on the equipment that does this very thing. The problem is X10's marketing is pretty sleazy. They were the ones that started the popunder revolution, featured animated graphics of simulated camera screens panning up and down swimsuit clad women, and change their prices daily. I considered their products repeatedly and even added a few packages to my cart, but each time I couldn't push checkout, because their marketing and site appearance made me doubt that the products would arrive or be even passable quality. I'm sure for every one sale they made, there are at least one person like me who is so turned off by their "crazy eddie" style marketing that they'll never buy from them.

Take the time to look at your site from the customer's viewpoint. Keep things simple, keep things quick, and watch your conversion rate rise. Remember going from a conversion rate of 1% to 1.5% increases your sales by 50%. Little improvements equate to real financial rewards.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Continual Improvement - The Key to Every Business's Success

One difference that I can see between my most successful clients over the years and the average clients is the most successful businesses continuously improve their website. These improvements can be big or small, but the imporant things is that improvements are being made. The reason why this makes the difference between average and phenomenal success can be attributed to a number of reasons.

1. Search Engine Relevancy. - Search engines are continously analyzing sites, and attempt to deliver the freshest/most relevant information to search engine visitors. Sites that do not update, refresh and improve their site slowly drop off their rankings as their competitors update their sites and over take them.

2. Modern design - a site designed 4 years ago is signifcantly different than a site designed this year. With evolving standards, increased processor speed and montor sizes, older sites look stale and dated compared to more modern sites. An example of an old site is a site designed for 640x480 monitors. Visitors coming to a site like that will instantly wonder why it doesn't fill their screen.

3. Conversion - Every businesses ultimate goal is to increase their conversion rate. I will cover methods of doing this in future articles, but consider this: A site that has a conversion rate of 1% that updates their site to get a new conversion rate of 1.5% has increased their sales by 50% by just selling to an extra 0.5% of visitors. Little improvements in conversion rates result in HUGE sales growth.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Websites have Sex Appeal - From Yahoo News

I found this interesting article about the differences in preferences for a site's design based on the sex of the visitor and of the design team. It's not really earth shattering, but men prefer sites designed by men by a wide margin, and women identify with and prefer sites designed by women. Not only does the preference have to do with the colors but also the use of rigid lines vs. softer curves, type faces and writing style.

Here's the article, I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Men and women are very different in what catches their eye on the Internet, which means a website can appeal to one while unintentionally turning off the other, a university study showed.
A study at the University of Glamorgan in the United Kingdom found that the sexes reacted very differently to sites when surfing the web.

Males, for example, favored the use of straight lines, as opposed to rounded forms, few colors in the typeface and background, and formal typography. As for language, they favored the use of formal or expert language with few abbreviations. Women were nearly the opposite.
The study also found that men and women preferred web sites designed by their own sex.
"The statistics are complicated, but there is no doubt about the strength of men and women's preference for sites produced by people of their own sex," statistician and co-researcher Rod Gunn said in a statement released Monday.

Nevertheless, a look at the web sites of 32 higher education institutions found 94 percent displaying a masculine orientation and just 2 percent a female bias, the study said. This was the case, even though all the schools' target audience was almost equally balanced between the sexes.

Research also found that a man or a predominantly male team built nearly 3 in 4 of the sites, while a woman or a female team designed just 7 percent of them.

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