5 steps to higher ecommerce search traffic
Search traffic is essential for ecommerce growth, and it takes time to build. In this guest post, SEO expert Bill Widmer highlights 5 easy steps to rise to the top. There are over 1 billion websites on the internet today, with almost 2.4 million websites created every day. Of those sites, only 10 make it to the front page of Google. And the top result gets 30% or more of all the search traffic. Where does that leave you? If you don’t take SEO seriously, there’s no way your ecommerce site will beat the competition. If you want to make tens of thousands of extra sales every year, without spending a dime on marketing, listen up. It’s time to boost your ecommerce search traffic. Step 1: Start a blog and produce high-quality content Don’t think you can get away with slapping together a few paragraphs about your latest collection and calling it a blog article. The content gods are watching! In all seriousness, quality content is crucial to ranking on the first page of Google. It’s one of their top 2 ranking factors to determine what to show (the other is backlinks). But what exactly does quality content entail? Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth: Google's basic principles for high-quality content Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don't deceive your users. Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, 'Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?' Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field. In a nutshell, Google wants you to focus on providing value to your readers with every blog article. Producing high-quality, long-form content (at least 1,500 words) is the key to ecommerce content marketing and pleasing the search gods. Pro Tip: Not sure what kind of blog articles to produce? As a general rule of thumb, steer clear from anything that’s too obvious and salesy (eg. 5 Shoes From Our Latest Collection That You’ll Love). Instead of this, try to produce content that’s useful to your customers (eg. How To Maintain Leather Shoes: A Comprehensive Guide). With these less salesy articles, you can still include links and call to actions for readers to shop your products after they’re done reading the article. As an added bonus, these articles can help you rank for keywords which your product and category pages can’t (such as 'how to maintain leather shoes'). Step 2: Fix your on-page SEO On-page SEO refers to elements which you can optimise within your website (off-page SEO, on the other hand, deals with external links and other factors). Image from FlightMedia.co With on-page SEO, the first thing you need to do is select the keywords you want to target. Once you’ve got your keywords in mind, optimize your title, header tags, content, image alt texts, and metadata for each page and post on your website. If this sounds like Greek to you, don’t stress. Here’s a step by step guide which will take you through the entire process. Pro Tip:Only target one keyword per page to increase your chances. However, it’s always a good idea to include LSI keywords! [subscribe] Step 3: Add internal links to your most important pages By adding internal links (links from one page on your site to another page on your site), you’re helping Google to understand the relationship between the different pages and posts on your ecommerce site. The more internal links a specific page or post on your website has, the more 'important' it is deemed by Google. Think of your website as a pyramid, with the most important content - your 'cornerstone' content - at the top. You should be linking from your cornerstone content to other related pages in order to pass on link value to them. At the same time, link to these cornerstone pages from other pages in order to bolster their standing. Want to learn more about internal links? Check out this article. Step 4: Build external links Once your internal links are done, it’s time to move on to building external links. You might need to invest some budget into this, but since Google has confirmed that external links are amongst the top 3 ranking factors, I’d say it’s definitely worth your while. First, look for influencers in your industry and reach out to them to enquire if they’d be willing to link to your website in exchange for a small fee OR for a partnership. You can use platforms such as Mailshake and VoilaNorbert to speed up the communication process. Another way of getting backlinks is to guest-post on other websites. Whilst this typically takes longer to execute, it’s a great way of building your brand and establishing thought leadership whilst getting more backlinks. Step 5: Consider paid traffic Assuming you’ve completed all the above steps (and you reallllly should!), this doesn’t mean you’ll see results overnight. It’ll take some time (a few months, or even a year) for you to experience a boost in your organic traffic. In the meantime, you can consider 'supplementing' with paid traffic. Image from ThinkDigi.org The two most commonly used channels are Facebook Ads and Google Ads - and there are tons of useful resources online that will teach you all the basics (read this guide for Facebook ads or this guide for Adwords). Alternatively, if you don’t want to handle your ads yourself, you can always outsource them to an expert. Once those ads are running, a full-cycle analytics platform like Littledata is essential to help you optimise your ad spend and connect it to revenue. After all, the idea isn't just to get more traffic, but to get the best kind of traffic and sell to your best type of customer - the kind that's more likely to convert. The truth about ecommerce growth A few parting words. A lot of ecommerce store owners think that as they become more established, they’ll automatically have more people visiting their website. The truth is, word of mouth can only get you so far - and if you’re serious about growing your ecommerce store and increasing your profits, you’ll need to boost your search traffic through SEO and the other methods discussed above. And you'll want to optimise that search traffic by paying attention to specific metrics such as bounce rates from mobile Google search. Do you want to see a nice exponential curve in your search traffic analytics, or are you content to have your traffic flatlining? The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be able to snag that highly coveted spot in the first page of Google. I’m rooting for you! Bill Widmer is a content marketing and SEO expert who has worked with many well-known brands like Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, and SEMrush.
How to choose between free and paid marketing channels
This is a guest post by Patrick Rauland, co-founder of the Lift Off Summit, a free virtual conference for growing ecommerce businesses. When someone starts an online store they usually look at their bank account and if they have money they go with ads. And if they don't they go with free marketing channels. And while this makes sense it isn't the best way to think about marketing and getting traction for your store. In this post, I break down the real differences between paid marketing channels and free marketing channels to help you figure out the best route to help your growing online business reach the next level of success. The Free Channels There are a lot of free channels you can use. Just to name a few there are: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Content Marketing Facebook pages Twitter Instagram Pinterest Video marketing (YouTube) And all of these can drive traffic to your store. But you have to start building an audience on these channels first and figure that out before you start driving serious traffic to your store. This can be especially hard on some platforms like Facebook that suppress organic page posts and instead display ads. Another problem is that these strategies usually take a lot of time. One of the most effective channels for my personal blog is SEO. But it took years to get enough organic traffic. [subscribe] The Paid Channels There are just as many--if not more--paid channels. Here are a few: Facebook Ads Instagram Ads Twitter Ads Pinterest Ads Google AdWords Affiliate Marketing Influencer Marketing What all of these have in common is that they can help you speed up the growth of your brand & store. Speed Up Growth Building something from scratch is hard. It's hard and it's slow. Even if you have a compelling message you might only get that message in front of a few new people each day. And only a fraction of those are ready to buy your product today. Ads let you target the perfect audience. Facebook especially has robust targeting let you target interest, ages, genders, and locations. And you can target users at any point along the customer journey. Whether they've seen your site, visited a specific page, joined the newsletter, or added something to the cart. When you can target the perfect audience you're much more likely to make the sale. If you need 100 visitors to your website to make a sale. You might only need 50, 25, or maybe if you're really good just 5 visitors to make a sale with ads. With ads you don't just pay for leads. You pay for hot leads. What About Costs? The cost of running ads can actually be quite low. I interviewed Facebook marketing expert Megan Adams for Lift Off Summit, she made a really good point about starting small and testing the results: “In the beginning…start with $5 a day and see where that takes you. Or $100 a campaign.” Amber Turril, Chief Funnel Operations Strategist at White Coat Digital said: “You can start a $5/day campaign on Facebook and see where that goes. Or $10/day on Adwords.” For $5 a day. That's $125 a month. A very reasonable amount. Even if every single click-through fails you still learn something. You can tell which ads had the most compelling message based on their click through rates. You can try different copy & different images to learn what call to actions are the best for your audience. And then apply that to your eCommerce site improving the conversion rate site-wide. Break Even First All of the platforms can show you the ROI on each of the ads. And with your first ad you're likely to have a negative ROI - meaning you lost money on that ad. And that's okay. You're going to have ads that under perform. It may take you a few weeks or maybe a month to get to the break even stage. And breaking even is the goal for someone just getting into ads. Turrill continued: “Will that one dollar turn into two dollars? It will. But first go for break even. And then go for that positive return on investment.” Paying on the Backend I've mostly been talking about ads so far - partly because they're what everyone thinks of when they think of paid marketing channels. But also because they amplify what you're already doing. There is another strategy though. You can leverage someone else's audience entirely and after each sale you can pay a commission. That means there are no upfront costs. I'm talking about affiliate marketing & influencer marketing. If you have a product that people are willing to promote (and if you don't you should evaluate what you're selling) then reach out to influencers in your space. Who is in your industry that knows your potential customers. They should know their wants, needs, and desires. And they should already have an audience. If they understand your industry and they have an audience give them an affiliate code. And you can give them a commission on any sales made with their affiliate code. I interviewed eCommerce entrepreneur Pippin Williamson for Lift Off Summit and he said: "At it's core it's really other people saying good things about you." And I think that's why this channel works so well. It's a natural extension of word of mouth. The Three Ways to Grow In eCommerce there are three ways to grow: Get more customers Get your customers to purchase more (higher average order value) Get your customers to purchase more often And when you're a brand new store it's basically just one: get more customers. That's why I'm such a big fan of the paid channels. They obviously have a cost to run. And you should always work on organic methods like SEO & content marketing. But while you're gearing those up start playing with ads. You'll usually see immediate results and can continue to grow & tweak. Patrick Rauland is a public speaker, author, and blogger. He creates eCommerce content for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com. He loves helping people start their own businesses and take control of their own financial future.
Conversion friendly experiences: reducing landing page friction with psychology
The primary concern of all PPC specialists is how to take all the traffic their ads and content generate and turn it into converting users. If you are taking the time and energy to allocate a budget and strategy for your PPC ad campaigns, literally throwing money at the problem, then you should at least be capitalising on as many conversions as possible. So what is the difference between traffic and conversions? What is it that bridges the gap between the two? Simple: the user’s experience on your page. That’s all there is to it. Optimising your landing page experiences to better fit the user’s needs and to generate a sense of delight in them is how you close the distance between traffic and conversions. There’s countless different tactics and styles of landing page optimisation that different PPC agencies employ. But, for the most part, they all circulate around the same basic concept: using consumer behaviour and basic psychology to increase the “delight factor” of a user’s experience on your landing page. The more delighted a user is with your page and your content, the more naturally they will be inclined to convert on your site. A more user-centric experience is what psychology based CRO is aiming for. Starting from the source Reverse engineering the problem’s of your campaigns is just as important as reverse engineering your goals. Just like when establishing a content marketing strategy, a landing page optimisation strategy requires you to first establish your goal (higher CRO), and then work backwards to identify the tangible changes you need to implement. To better understand how your paid ad campaigns and landing pages are performing as a unit, you need to make sure you are monitoring the right KPIs. Better yet, understanding what each KPI signifies about your user’s experience is an even deeper and more useful insight regarding your psychological research. VTC vs CTC For simplicity’s sake, let’s narrow down the field of analysis to just the advertisement and the landing page. For the first, you’re going to want to be looking at click-through conversions and view-through conversions. Now, VTC is harder to monitor because it records whenever a user sees your ad (an impression) but doesn’t click on it. Later that user revisits your page via a different route and converts on your page. If you were looking only at CTC, this conversion actually wouldn’t be given any credit. But for the most part what either form of conversion metric is doing is looking at how successful your ad is at getting the user to click through to your landing page. Conversion rate, bounce rate, exit rate Once you’ve determined the success of your ad in regards to getting them to your site, it’s time to check out how your pages themselves are performing. This is the where the fault between traffic and conversions splits open. This is where conversion rate and bounce rate come into the picture. The conversion rate is pretty self-explanatory, but the bounce rate needs a bit more nuanced definition because of its relation to exit rate, which can get confusing. Basically, the exit rate of your page examines how frequently a user clicks through your ad to your landing page and leave that specific page via regular means of navigation. They might have gone to a different content page of your domain, they may have left altogether. The bounce rate shows you how often users are leaving your page by means of the back button or closing the browser entirely. While they both monitor the departures from your landing page, one gives a very different picture from the other. You can check out the infographic below by ion interactive for basic schematics and values of the five major landing page KPIs. Asking “why they aren’t” instead of “why they are” With your performance data in hand, you now need to look one step further into the reasons behind your lack of conversions and high bounce rate. Start, as always, by reverse engineering the problem. Ask why users aren’t converting on your site and fix the wrongs of your page before you celebrate the rights. There are three major psychological reasons for a user to be displeased or distrusting of a landing page. Identifying this friction points within your landing page content will help you tailor your pages to user’s preferences and increase the “delight factor.” Lack of information The first psychological red flag for a first-time visitor is a lack of information. This can be a very significant and harmful deterrent. Not supplying the user with adequate information instantly puts them into a sceptical state. The human mind does not like uncertainty. We are famous for “catastrophizing” the unknown because our minds are programmed to fill empty spaces. We subconsciously prefer to imagine the worst case scenario rather than a complete up-in-the-air unknown. When confronted with a lack of information, users often make one of two assumptions: either your site lacks the expert level content they are looking for and your business is not a well-informed authority on the matter; or - even worse - your landing page is a scam and is actually just click-bait looking for meaningless traffic. Don’t let a lack of information put a Vader style force-choke-hold on your conversion rate. Trust leaps The biggest hindrance to a landing page is the inability to generate trust in the user. Creating genuine trust leaps between the first-time visitor and the uncertainty of a business proposition is, at the same time. the sole purpose of landing pages and their toughest obstacle. Trust leaps, however, are a three step process that takes more than just the necessary and adequate information to complete the cycle. The common progression of a trust leap, beginning to end, is “trusting the idea” - “trusting the institution” - and, finally, “trusting the individual.” Too many landing pages over-prioritize the first two of the steps and for that reason fail to convert at a satisfying rate. Making sure you are transparent and authentic in your presentation through and through is key when it comes to user experience. These days, with digital media so entrenched in our culture, we all have a strong nose for spam and we are quick to jump ship if we feel we are in shady territory. Analysis paralysis Lastly, even if you are able to build a successful trust leap with the user, there are still psychological roadblocks that can stop them from converting. You may be so eager to impress and delight your visitor that you provide them with all the different options and services you make available to them. This may seem like a transparent and efficient way to market your services. But what it really does is throws your user into pits of analysis paralysis. While you want to provide all the necessary information you can, too much info can overload the user. As much as we all would like to believe the opposite, absolute freedom of choice is one of the quickest ways to drive a person crazy. An old idiom comes to mind when discussing the issue: “When given too many options to choose from, the exit becomes the only clear choice.” Keep your landing pages simple and specified. In almost all cases, you should limit each landing page to a single CTA and a single goal. Make the decision to convert an easy one. Fixing the common problems with transparent solutions So how do you make converting on your page such an easy decision? By removing any obstacles that may be obscuring your message or deterring your viewer. The checklist is simple and straightforward. You want to lower friction between your page and the user by filling in any gaps of information that they need and eliminating any superfluous or extraneous information that may distract them from converting. After you start to lower the friction and build a more user-centric landing page experience, you can consider the more nuanced forms of data presentation that you are employing. For example, many sites love to compare their prices and performance to their competitors on their page. Comparison pricing If you have the lowest prices in the business, why not advertise by putting your low price right next to the jacked up prices of your competitors - right? This may seem like a good idea, at first. But it can actually put the idea of comparison shopping into the minds of users that previously might not have even been considering your competition. On top of that, bragging about your drastically lower prices has been shown to actually inspire a sense of hesitancy in users. They tend to believe that if you are advertising your low price as your main selling point, then your services might not be top notch and it may be worth their while spending a pretty penny on a service that is worthwhile. Don’t overthink your landing page presentations. You’re taking the time to develop trust with your first-time users, so trust them to make the comparisons on their own. Don’t impose market statistics on them as if you are in court arguing your dominance in the field. Let them come to their own decision organically - that’s where “delight” comes from. Urgency with solutions If you are looking to break down roadblocks to ease the user’s conversion path you will also be working towards speeding up and optimising that conversion path as well. True landing page streamlining requires removing inefficiencies and implementing optimizers to replace them. Many PPC management services love to inject a sense of urgency into their CTAs in order to emotionally evoke a higher conversion tendency in their audience. While this is a good idea in and of itself, and a strong “click now!” or “don’t miss out!” CTA can really close a conversion out, urgency only works to emotionally evoke readers when used correctly. Studies show that when given “urgent” warnings, subjects were actually not necessarily more eager to act. What the results showed was that when they were not given any information on how to remedy the urgent situation, test subjects were actually more likely to rationalise themselves as exempt from the urgency and were actually less eager to act! On the other hand, those subjects that were given information regarding the urgent situation (or at least most of them) followed the information provided to them and acted immediately. Remember that we do not like the unknown, so if you are trying to change the mentality of a user with urgency, you must be specific with the reasons why it is urgent and the actions necessary to remedy the situation. Like in the above graphic: if not here, then where? If not now, then when? And if not us, then who?! Put a face to the service Unless you are a snake-haired Greek gorgon who goes by the name of Medusa, matching a face to your service will always help your brand appear more trustworthy. If your landing page doesn’t have any pictures of your business teams or employees and lacks any personable touch, users might start sniffing out your pages for spam. At the very least you should have an employee directory page somewhere within your pagination - which should be streamlined and flat for easy user experience (but that’s another point of discussion, you can check out this post for internal linking strategy if you’re interested). Having a brief personal bio for each of your employees brings an approachability to your page that is sometimes lost in the online retail world. (Also, as a bonus, it will show your employees that they matter to you and aren’t just cogs in a system.) If you really want to wow the users clicking to your landing page, you can go one step further than an employee directory page and introduce employee testimonial videos or team introductions for your possible clients. Our eyes have a natural inclination to pay attention to motion, then image, then text last. So using video on your landing page (above the fold!) is a huge way to increase engagement, even if it isn’t focused on building trust. The trick is not to appear authentic, but be authentic. Users today are well informed and ready for your business, your job isn’t to finagle them into converting, but to get them to embrace you as a trusted authority - the conversions will follow. Focusing on the inputs not the outputs Using psychology in your CRO campaigns means looking one step deeper than the behaviour of users on your landing pages. It means looking into the reasons and emotions behind those behaviours. Too many conversion campaigns these days over emphasise the importance of hitting their quotas and monthly growth percentages. “Don’t make your goals, your goals, make the habits that lead to your goals, your goals.” Focusing on the inputs that will build trust and lower friction on your page instead of making all of your decisions based on minor bumps in your CR% is a simple re-allotment of your priorities and focus, but will make huge and long-lasting changes in the way you develop and design your pages. Happy users are converting users, that transitive step is a natural and quick one. So don’t focus so much on turning your users into business opportunities. Focus on delighting them and making them happy. And making them happy starts with knowing how they tick. Team Bio About Sean Martin - I am a Content Marketing Manager at Directive Consulting, a digital marketing agency in Southern California. We specialise in integrating SEO, PPC, Social, and Content into our online marketing campaigns. Check out my posts on the DC blog to see how we are innovating and changing the game.
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