Your 5-Step Guide To Maximizing E-Commerce Sales For The Holiday Season
Is your e-commerce site ready for the holiday season? It’s nearly here, and these tips can make the difference between getting the sale and losing a customer to your competitors.
Step 1: Research your Competitors
Before you can prepare a strategy that will outperform your competition, you need to understand what strategies your competitors are using. Start by using a tool like Mozbar or SEMrush to get a good idea of what keywords they’re targeting.
You can also use tools like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO to analyze their inbound links, enabling you to see what sorts of outreach strategies they’re performing, with whom, and how successful those efforts are. This information will also provide you with potential outreach partners to contact as you execute your own strategy; if they worked with your competitors, maybe they’ll be more likely to work with you as well.
I also recommend setting up social media and web monitoring for not only your own brand name, but also those of your competitors. There are various services that will email you whenever your brand name is mentioned across the Web or in social media channels, allowing you to gauge the buzz and sentiment surrounding your brand. My favorites for social media mentions include Sendible, Hootsuite, and SocialMention.com. For Web alerts, I recommend Google Alerts or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer.
Step 2. Perform Keyword Research
Once you have determined the keywords that your competitors are focusing on, you can use that information as a starting point for your own keyword research. For some detailed walkthroughs on how to perform keyword research and what other factors to consider as you do, see these articles:
Step 3. Make Your Homepage Awesome
Your homepage will usually get more organic traffic than your other pages. Capitalize on this fact by making it visually appealing and memorable. Consider it your only opportunity to communicate with your visitors why they should make their purchase from your website rather than move on to a competitor. What’s your unique value proposition? Do you have a killer deal that nobody else can beat? Are you offering free shipping? Free gift-wrapping? A unique product that nobody else can sell?
Studies have shown that people tend to form a first impression within the first seven seconds of experiencing something new. So, be sure to convey your unique value proposition in such a way that visitors can quickly and easily understand it. Typically, image-based messaging is the most effective way to accomplish this.
Next, think about your homepage from a technical SEO perspective. Make sure your homepage title tag includes your business name along with the primary keyword phrase that you’re targeting. This title tag should be under 70 characters so it doesn’t become truncated in search results.
While the homepage meta-description is not as important for SEO purposes, it’s usually what will be displayed underneath the title tag when people find your website in search results. Use it as an opportunity to deploy your marketing creativity and write a punchy, catchy, 160-character or less description that makes users want to click on your search result as opposed to someone else’s.
For more technical SEO elements that affect your website’s visibility in search results, see this awesome onsite SEO guide.
Step 4. Optimize Your Website’s Usability
A simple, intuitive, easy-to-use website will keep visitors around for longer, increasing the likelihood they purchase something. If you want to get fun and creative, consider using gamification to encourage your visitors to leave reviews in order to earn badges or points.
Page load speed is another factor to consider. Not only does it affect the usability of your website (along with bounce rate and attrition rate), but search engines also use it as a factor in the ranking algorithm. Studies have shown that 40% of visitors will leave if the website takes more than three seconds to load. Streamlining your website, optimizing images, minimizing code and using a good caching utility can improve load times and keep your visitors happy.
Part of optimizing for usability includes mobile device compatibility. Over 20% of online shopping sessions now occur on mobile devices. Ensure your website uses responsive design or is otherwise mobile-optimized, or it could display and function poorly on mobile devices, costing you sales. For more information on optimizing for mobile devices and responsive design, see these articles:
Step 5. Optimize Your Product Pages
Your product name should be present in the title and URL of each product page. Be careful when creating product pages to ensure you don’t have duplicate content for similar products. The information architecture needs to be organized in such a way that each product title, description, image, and image description are unique.
Typically, product pages with more content on them will perform better in search engine rankings, so put on your thinking cap and write some awesome product descriptions. Augment your product descriptions with product-specific customer reviews, and ask your happiest customers to write product reviews that link to your product pages to maximize their potential in search engine rankings.
Search engines will typically use the meta-description for the product page within search results, so pay careful attention to each one; it could be the difference that leads to attracting a visitor and making a sale.
How does Google Panda fit in?
Google Panda is a search engine algorithm that specifically looks for sites with low quality and/or duplicate content. Unfortunately, e-commerce sites often use the same product description as many other websites that carry common products; this is typically the exact manufacturer’s description and product specifications. If you do this, it can hurt not only the ranking potential for that page, but the entire website.
Instead, ensure every product page has a unique description that can’t be found elsewhere on the Web. It’s okay to include some manufacturer information or details, such as dimensions, weight, color, etc. But ensure that your original content far outweighs the duplicate content.
How does Google Hummingbird fit in?
In late 2013, Google released its Hummingbird algorithm, which allows Google to better understand the meaning and intent of a search query as a whole. Natural language (ie, spoken) queries were the clear target with this algorithm update, since the rise of mobile device usage continues to accelerate.
As a result, it’s clear that Google has recognized the mobile device trend, and is catering to it. What this means for e-commerce Websites is that mobile-optimized content is more important this year than ever before. Don’t ignore mobile compatibility!
How does Google Penguin fit in?
Google Penguin is an algorithm that routinely inspects Websites’ inbound links in an attempt to detect manipulative activity. If your website traffic took a steep, sustained plunge on any particular day between April 2012 and now, this is a telltale sign of a Penguin penalization. It’s most likely if you or an SEO agency you hired engaged in manipulative link building practices.
Inbound links are still supremely important for good organic search rankings, but they must be acquired in an ethical, organic way. Here are some of my favorite methods for building links that don’t violate Google’s quality guidelines, and will keep you safe from a Penguin penalty:
Also, if you suspect you’ve been hit by Penguin, no link building campaign is going to do you any good until you identify and remove the bad links for which you’ve been penalized. This process is difficult and time-consuming, but it must be done. Many business owners opt to hire a professional firm for help with this step.
The holiday season is nearly here. Follow these steps to ensure your e-commerce site is ready for the influx of online shoppers, and provides them with the best experience in order to maximize sales.
Courtesy of Forbes