September 1, 2014
I’ve had my fair share of conversations with eCommerce site owners. The two issues that seem to always come up during the course of our discussions are search engine optimization (SEO) and sales. Frankly, some get it and some just don’t.
Truthfully, most of what you read online regarding SEO and conversions is outdated misinformation that has simply been repeated (inaccurately most of the time) from someone else. There are precious few actual authorities that you should follow. This is one reason so many eCommerce sites have a hard-fought battle when it comes to getting rankings and converting shoppers into buyers.
Allow me to offer five tips (based on serious mistakes I’ve seen other eComm sites make) that can help you boost sales and search rankings.
1 – Take Some Time to Plan
During all those conversations I’ve had with eCommerce site owners, another issue also typically comes to light: lack of planning. There are some that take the necessary steps to research keywords, outline a logical navigation structure and determine a sales flow from site entry to the buy now button. Kudos to you.
I’ve said it a hundred times before: Planning isn’t sexy, but the results it brings are.! If good SEO and high conversions are two of your priorities, you’ll want to take time to look over:
- Keywords that cater to every phase of the buying process (see No. 2)
- Logical site navigation that intuitively leads shoppers to where they need to be
- Cross-sells and upsells that flow effortlessly with the products your visitors are looking for
- Copy that unquestionably lets customers know why they should buy from you and not the 1,000 other sites selling the same things
- Elements that lend to your site’s trust and credibility and help shoppers to feel confident buying from you
2 – Choose Keywords that Drive the Sales Process
Keyword research for eCommerce sites is a bit of a different animal than doing research for – say – a services-based site. Buyer intent plays a huge role in the keywords you select for the various types of pages on your site.
For instance, did you know that the more specific a keyphrase is, the closer the searcher is to making a buying decision? Putting very broad keyphrases on a product page typically isn’t the best idea. Those types of terms are better suited to your home page, which attracts general traffic and then directs it to the next phase in the buying process.
Not familiar with the buying process?
There can be numerous steps, but in its most basic form, the buying process has four steps: need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives and decision-making.
During the need recognition phase, shoppers are trying to decide what they need/want. Maybe they have a problem (leaky faucet, something for kids to carry books in at school, etc.). They understand the need and have thought of a few things that might solve the problem (a new faucet, parts for the faucet, a backpack for kids, a book bag, etc.).
Here you’d use broad keyphrases in your copy and content marketing such as “Moen faucet parts” or “back to school bags.”
In the information search phase, shoppers investigate the options they thought of and look for ones they might not have known about. They are trying to create a list, per se, of all the items that might solve their problem/want. Category pages tend to show up well for these types of searches because they offer groups of products/solutions.
Once customers begin to evaluate all the products they’ve found, they begin typing in searches such as “Moen faucet reviews,” “denim vs. leather satchel book bag” or “Lands’ End backpack comparison.” Having this content on your site can be very helpful in returning your pages to customers who are very close to making a buying decision.
Finally, when the shopper has decided what to purchase, s/he begins to compare stores and prices, look for coupons, etc. Precise model or style names and numbers as well as keyphrases that deal with sales or coupons are best used on product pages or in content marketing efforts designed to drive traffic to a particular item.
3 – Differentiate Your Site from Other Resellers
Think of your own shopping experience. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Your MP3 player starts acting weird and only playing out of one channel. It’s time to buy a new one before this thing dies completely. What do you do?
You go through a buying process pretty similar to the one described above. And, then you look for the cheapest price. That’s how most shoppers go about it, too. Other than low price, how can you set yourself apart from all the thousands of other sites that sell MP3 players? This is a vital question for eCommerce resellers to answer. Otherwise, you’re doomed to constantly fight the price battle.
I know what you’re thinking… customer service! Yes, that’s important, but here’s the thing about customer service being your differentiator… most people will never experience your customer service unless something goes wrong during the sales/shipping process.
Give some serious thought to what you can offer that sets you apart. This article from my copywriting blog will offer some ideas.
4 – Write Unique Copy (for Two Reasons)
I know that creating original copy for all your products can be a big challenge depending on the size of your site. But think of it this way: When you have the exact, same product descriptions and other content on your site that every other eCommerce reseller has, you are training visitors to look only at your price.
Unless you give them something that others aren’t giving them, the only differentiator is how much the item costs.
Secondly, if you’re using identical copy as other resellers, Google will have a harder time judging the value of your site. Contrary to popular belief, there is no duplicate content “penalty,” but Google does filter out web pages that don’t offer some sort of unique value.
If you must use manufacturer-provided (aka canned) copy, add unique value somewhere else on the page. Enable customer reviews or Q&A. Add care and use instructions or demo videos. There are dozens of ways to add value to your product pages to offset the use of duplicate descriptions.
5 – Reduce Friction to Increase Sales
Another issue common to ecommerce sites is elements or processes that add friction. You want the sales flow and checkout processes to be as smooth as possible. The more questions or hesitation a shopper has while on your site, the higher likelihood she/he will abandon her/his cart and go elsewhere.
Consider your own shopping experiences for a moment. You get to a site, find what you think you’ll like and add it to your cart. Then – about the time you’re prompted to give your credit card information – the questions start to fill your mind:
- How much is shipping?
- What if it doesn’t fit?
- Am I going to unknowingly sign myself up for a bunch of e-mail that I don’t want?
- These prices seem really low. Is this stuff new or refurbished?
- Is my credit card info safe or has this site been hacked before?
- Can this site be trusted?
Your customers have the same questions you do. When they are on your site, they need this information in order to feel confident buying from you. Otherwise, there is friction, and where there is friction, people leave.
The answer? For one thing, you can create brief, easy-to-understand policies for customers to read. Make any stipulations for free shipping clear. If you just post “Free Shipping!!!!” in your banner area without explaining that there is a minimum $100 purchase, then when visitors get to your checkout, they will feel as if they’ve been tricked.
Quickly let shoppers know what your return policy is and then link to a more detailed explanation if necessary. Use trust icons and secure checkout symbols to affirm to customers that your checkout process is secure. Taking a few extra measures to clearly communicate can seriously reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate and increase sales.
Take some time this week to evaluate where you stand in these five areas. Just making a few simple changes over time can bring significant increases in traffic and sales.
Karon Thackston is president of Marketing Words Copywriting Agency helping Amazon sellers, eCommerce site owners and content marketers rank higher, convert better and make more sales.