- Posted by Melanie
- 04 February 2013
- E-Commerce Design, Ecommerce Marketing, Ecommerce SEO, Small Business, So you want to be a Shop Owner Series
With all the Panda, Penguin and buzz surrounding them it's very easy to get caught "putting out fires" all the time. It's very tiring and not so successful overall... so let's get going!
Below is a punch list of the things "I" think ecommerce shop owners should be concentrating on in 2013.... In order of priority. Call it a plan of attack, new year's resolution... Call it whatever you like, but get out in front of that monster and stop "putting out fires".
1. Content is still king if it's not crap. What are Google and the other search engines looking for in content?
- Make sure each page has a couple of good paragraphs.
- Avoid lists and comma separated values.
- Keep to that page's topic when writing content.
- Use common words that people might use to find your content in your content.
- Write for the masses, not everyone is a college grad.
- Structure your content properly with heading tags and organized paragraphs... Make it easy to scan.
- SPELL CHECK
- Your content should be written for your shoppers! If it's pushed down to the bottom of the page Google weighs it less and your shoppers likely never see it! #WasteOfTime
2. Usability is a never ending process. Making shopping easier gets more sales out of the visits you have already.
- At least once a week shop on your website and go all the way through checkout.
- Do you have pages that are really good but hidden from navigation?
- Do you have the trust signals you need such as highly visible phone number, SSL, security seals, guarantees and such? These really do increase sales and Google is looking for them!
- Do your pages load quickly? Start here
- Are your product descriptions and images adequate for me to throw money at you?
- Are you using colors in buttons and navigation to create a proper call to action and funnel people along?
- It is REALLY clear what payment methods you accept? Here is a cool payment image generator.
- Can I get a shipping quote before providing you my personal information?
- Have privacy, conditions, shipping and returns in place and easy to understand?
3. Social Media is not going to go away just because you think it doesn't apply to you... Instead you will go away =0
- Minimum you should have a Facebook page. People have begun using Facebook to search for products, services and businesses instead of a search engine!
- Very likely you should also have Twitter and Google+ (make sure to link your Google+ page and your website properly).
- Having a Facebook page is not enough.... engage these people and find sales in return.
- Your product pages should have at least Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest buttons for sharing. The benefit from even 1 pin is really huge!
- Get on board with Rich Snippets to help the search engines and social media platforms understand your products and give you the credit you deserve.
- People love product videos.... if they're short, helpful and perhaps funny.
- The Internet is very much a popularity contest.
4. Link Building is "the job that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends". Links are still important it they're not faked, from junk sites or spammy.
- Build links by creating business profiles on business directories. Google Local, Yahoo local, Manta, Yelp etc.
- Find niche blogs, forums, Facebook groups and such related to your products and get involved. Note this is not a spamming venture... be helpful and be loved.
- NEVER, EVER pay for links or trade links..... Google will get you.
- Create a community page of your own on Facebook or similar.
- Join the Chamber of Commerce in your area and get in to their website directory.
- Post coupons on websites like BlueMountain and ReatilMeNot
- Make donations to local organizations and ask only for a thank you link from their website.
- Make use of Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Google Places & Google maps if you have a brick & mortar location.
- Have you tried free press releases?
5. Google Analytics is a wealth of knowledge! If you're not using it, shame on you.... If you are, make a commitment to spend 15 minutes a week in there "poking around". You will find that you will accidentally stumble upon things you didn't know to help you understand and grow your business.
6. Mobile technology is developing faster than we had ever expected. Devices have come down in cost and urban WiFi hub spots have put millions of users online who would not be otherwise.
- Tablet traffic accounted for 8-19% of total shopping traffic from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.
- Total sales from tablet type devices ranged from 7-17%, with iPads representing a disproportionate 94 percent majority of the tablets.
- Tablet shoppers on average converted as much as 38% higher and average order values were up to 15% larger.
- Look in to creating a mobile version of your website. Delia has a great mod for this purpose.
- Perhaps a Facebook catalog page?
These items here are pretty Google Proof. I mean they have been the right thing for a long time and are going to continue to be right. Stop thinking so much about "how to rank" and start thinking about how to "wow" your shoppers instead. You will earn the trust and love of your shoppers and Google at the same time. Toooofer!
Owning your own business has long been the American dream. The Internet, ecommerce and vast technology advancements have made this possible for Joe American. However, just like anything else, there are problems. These problems and issues are like a disease eating away at the American dream. Every possible screw up from bad choices, lack of knowledge, outright criminal behavior and stupidity are at your fingertips as you begin to try to fulfill your dream. My goal here today is to give you a quick reference guide on how not to get screwed... or screw yourself as you begin this journey with Zen Cart.
First of all understand that Zen Cart is FREE GPL licensed software. This means in a nutshell that Zen Cart owes you nothing. Lucky for you the development team at Zen Cart takes the development, support and ability of their software very seriously. However, before you get started you need to know that even with all of this support YOU will ultimately be responsible for staying up to date with version, patch, security and other Zen Cart software developments. You do that by subscribing to the Zen Cart release announcements thread. Do this right now.... even if your store is already built.
Modules for Zen Cart are predominantly free and available here. The trick with modules is knowing, researching or seeking advice (from more than one company, person or source) is an absolute MUST DO. While these modules add flexibility and functionality to your store... They have a dark side. The simple installation is generally not very simple for your average shop owner, the installation (even if properly written in overrides) will cause extra costs in future upgrades and believe it or not... Some don't even work. So the simple rules of thumb for Zen Cart modules is don't install it unless you really need it, seek out the support thread for advice and keep track of all the modules you have installed... Preferably keep a folder of the module installation zip.
Think security. Even a small business like yours is susceptible to hacks and business ending fines. You can be penalized by a search engine, hacked and receive a fine from the credit card companies, have your customers orders emailed to hackers, get screwed by developers/programmers/designers and simply suffer the lemon disease where you just continually throw money at your site without any return on your investment. My aim here is to teach you some of the security and business security traits and behaviors you need to have to avoid these dangers. So I have a short list... as I realize we all have short time and attention spans.
- Ask around about your hosting company. Ask about PCI/DSS compliance, security, support and backups.
- Use strong alpha numeric passwords and change them frequently.
- Give others access to your hosting and cart in their own user account so you can easily remove it when their need is done.
- Investigate the modules and addons you need to use, and I don't mean just one resource.
- Checkout any company you intend to do business with. Does their site look professional? Do they have a portfolio and testimonials? Can they provide references? Google a Google search for things like company name +complaints, reviews or check the Better Business Bureau for complaints filed against them.
- Plan your Zen Cart project, keep notes, names, modules installed and anything else you have or are provided during this endeavor. This is not just for prosperity, but rather makes your future development, problem solving and help seeking easier, more effective and fruitful.
- If they say they "Guarantee" to put you on page 1 of the organic results... They are lying. If they claim to be affiliated with Google for example, they are lying.
- If someone tells you they know Zen Cart, invite them to prove it.
- Do not buy or reciprocate (trade) links.
- Do not hide keywords in your code.
- Do not cloak pages for users vs. what Google's crawler sees.
- Make sure you have sought out a legal professional to help you craft your privacy, conditions and shipping & returns policies.
- Read your merchant agreement, and any other for that matter in full. If you don't understand ask.
- Unlimited bandwidth or web space is NOT unlimited. (Read the TOS)
- PCI/DSS compliance is required if you accept credit cards on your site or in your place of business. This is for everyone, and their are no exclusions.
- Email is not secure. Do not send sensitive information in an email.
- If it seems to good to be true it is!
- Take good care of your customers and their issues... One bad bark on the web regarding your company can ruin you.
- Do not let a developer or designer register a domain for you. It's really not that tough and you may be sorry later when you lose the domain.
- Do not rely on just one resource for your website... People come and go at an alarming rate in this business and you need to be able to continue your business.
- Keep a full account backup of your website weekly on your own hard drive. If the hosting company does not have this ability find one that does!
- This is hard work and you will not be rich in a month, but if you work hard and learn the ropes you can make a living.
I may add to this list, but the most important point is that this is YOUR business and YOUR responsibility. Don't blame or rely on others to "own" the responsibility, it will most certainly come back and bite you in the tail.