3 Steps to Upgrade and Update your Ecommerce Site

e-commerce

While an increasing number of consumers are migrating to the web to make purchases, the competition between ecommerce sites for those dollars continues apace. One of the key changes in this environment is that the web has flattened pricing structures, making it difficult to compete by offering ever lower prices without eroding profit margins completely. Absent the ability to compete on price, many ecommerce sites are now making changes to offer the best shopping experience possible from the point of arrival to the completion of  the checkout process.

These changes include:

 ·        Rolling out the red carpet for mobile consumers – Mobile access is the future of the vast majority of ecommerce sites and making upgrades to offer an enhanced experience on smaller screens is now mandatory. Rudimentary interfaces and minimalistic mobile experiences are now being replaced by responsive design architecture that allows much of the same functionality as that of desktop screens. One aspect in particular is the ability to zoom in on images which, on smaller screens can be a critical step in the buying process. Additionally, mobile users are increasingly attuned to the sites that cater to their interests and are more likely to leave sites that are still trying to offer a one size fits all experience. Upgrade to responsive design architecture now.

 ·        Adding videos – While talking about the fantastic new features on a product is fine, showing them on video is better. When incorporating videos in your ecommerce site, avoid the temptation to “sell, sell, sell” and instead offer video content that gives consumers the information they need to make an informed buying decision. Additional videos on how to use and/or optimize specific products can instill added confidence by displaying post-purchase product support.

 ·        Enabling purchases without a long application process – Let’s face it, many consumers that are buying from you may assume that the purchase they’re about make will be their only transaction on the site. In these cases, requiring a drawn out sign up process prior to making a purchase can have them looking to buy products elsewhere with less upfront work. Instead, streamline the purchasing process and allow your customers to decide if and when they want to start an account.

Ecommerce is evolving as fast as or faster than any activity on the web. By integrating these changes, you can ensure that your site offers a high quality customer experience, whether the interface takes place via a desktop computer, a smartphone or a tablet.

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  • User Experience and SEO

    SEO

     

    Prior to Google’s implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm in the second half of 2013, search engine optimization and delivering a positive user experience with published content were distinctly different practices. Despite Google’s mission to surface high value content, its algorithms were easily manipulated with SEO tricks that didn’t necessarily deliver the information that the search engine users were looking for. At the same time, content that delivered relevant information often earned lower rankings than poorly written articles that prioritized packing in keywords over adding value.

     

    Hand it to Google, the search engine has stayed true to its commitment to deliver improved user experiences and is now far less vulnerable to manipulative practices. Its ranking algorithm now factors a variety of signals that result from positive user experiences, including:        

            

            Links from authority sites – Content that contains valuable source material, topic-relevant information or delivers a positive user experience in general can earn links from authority sites to provide additional information or to be cited as a reference. These links carry an increasing amount of weight in the ranking algorithms due to the quasi-vetting process from originating authority sites. This is a completely different ranking methodology than the one which rewarded web pages that had thousands of spammy backlinks purchased for a few pennies each.       

            Social actions – When content is posted to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, user can elect to share that material with their friends and/or followers. Sharing or liking posted content is referred to as a social action, which is an indication that the content delivers a positive user experience, whether it’s entertaining, informative or a combination of the two. Steady and/or increasing social actions with specific web pages can then boost rankings due to the implied legitimacy of independent referrals.    

             Active and positive comment threads – Quality content draws engagement in the form of active commentary threads. Content that is generating shares and likes will also elicit commentary, with the actions reinforcing each other when being weighed by search algorithms. While these reinforcing actions are great for SEO campaigns, they are equally capable of driving higher rankings for negative content, such as news stories.    

     

    In today’s SEO campaigns, manipulating the algorithms has become increasingly difficult. This is due in part to the growing sophistication in algorithm methodology that can detect spammy links and content. It is also due to the evolution in the way people communicate and share information on the web. The paradigm change now forces SEO and content distribution campaigns to focus on the same primary goal; delivering a positive user experience. 

  • One SEO Change to Implement Now

    social-media-marketing

    As the sophistication of search algorithms continues to increase, search engines are improving their understanding of what their users are looking for with their inquiries. Prior to replacing its search methodology with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, search results typically showed results that had a high percentage of the same keywords included in users’ inquiries. While the pages that were returned based on keyword matches generally reflected some relevance to the search, there were also results that had nothing to do with the nature of the inquiry.

     

    Two of the primary reasons for these unrelated results were black hat techniques that were used to trick the early algorithms into granting high ratings, as well as words that were spelled the same but had different meanings, known as homonyms. An example of a homonym is the word “lead”, which can either be a noun as in the metal or a verb as in “to guide”. An inquiry such as “lead dog” could list sculptures of dogs made of the metal as well as dog teams in the Iditarod race. Refining the search to “what is a lead dog Iditarod” could still return mixed results. With the implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm, searches provided results based on the context of the inquiry, rather than trying to find pages with identical keywords.

     

    The change to contextual search, in addition to providing a higher percentage of relevant results for all users, was also influenced by the more conversational nature of inquiries from mobile device users. When voice commands are used, it’s more natural to ask a question than limiting inquiries to a few key words. As the search phrases became longer, keyword-based algorithms struggled to return listings that answered the questions that were being posed, which required follow-on searches and lead to a less than optimal user experience.

     

    For businesses that have not changed the foundation of their SEO initiatives to the new search methodology, previously high rankings are likely to start falling, if they haven’t already. The key to success in context-based search is to modify content so that it answers the questions posed verbally by mobile users. As a simple example, a searcher may pose the question “Where is a pizza place in Anytown?” Content that answers that question, which would earn a higher search listing, would include something like “Jack’s Pizza is located at 123 Main Street in Anytown.”

     

    As Google and the rest of the search engines try to deliver the best user experience possible, the focus is on eliminating listings that don’t deliver the answers sought by searchers. To that end, the listings that are presented will increasingly address the full context of inquiries with the delivery of specific answers. In this environment the SEO campaigns that are modified to answer questions, rather than match keywords to searches, will deliver website and storefront visits which will drive revenues.  

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