Whether your business is strictly online or it’s a combination of online and brick-and-mortar, you know you want to be at the very top of those search results when anyone Googles something related to your industry. Read more
With mobile devices and social media dominating 70% of digital media time, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are arguably the best place for you to find new customers and expose them to your unique products or services. No matter what kind of business you have, social media can, and should, be a key ingredient in your overall marketing and advertising strategy.
Your guide to a successful e-commerce design starts here. We’ve put together the essential design elements that make up a great web store, how many of these features does your store have?
Many of our clients have asked, “Why should I care about HTTPS and SSL?” Well, the number one reason is it ensures a secure connection between you and your customer. This security builds the most important part of your online presence, trust. How will users know your site is secure?
Yahoo Small Business, the makers of Yahoo Store, have made it easy to make your store compliant with Google Chrome’s new requirement that your store be fully secure. This security requirement has been discussed in many forms since 2014. Google has boosted secure stores to higher positions in search results pages, while Google Chrome promotes stores that are secure with a very official looking “SECURE” message by the URL bar.
When building your website or migrating from one e-commerce platform to another, it’s important to be aware of the content that you’re publishing. Your Google organic search results are highly dependent on many factors, duplicate content being just one of them. Duplicate content is a negative factor that can harm your website if Google determines that your content is not valuable because the same content exists in many other places.
Your site navigation is one of the most important features of your storefront and overlooking any aspect of it can be catastrophic to your business. If you want to sell more, your customers need to be able to find what they want with ease. Any good store design begins and ends with a positive user experience, which always relies heavily on the simplicity of your navigation.
There are far too many online stores that spend a great deal of time on designing large, beautiful site images, only to offer a sub-par and confusing navigation structure. You can design the most beautiful and effective landing pages for your products, but it won’t matter if customers can’t find them.
With this in mind, here are our top recommendations for improving how people navigate your online store:
1. Simple & Apparent Navigation
Though it seems obvious to say, your navigation must be simple to use, easy to find, and consistent through all pages. Users have to learn how to use every new website they visit, so making your navigation structure the same throughout your site will make it easier for them to understand. Navigation menus should never interfere with other site functionality.
2. Top-Level Menu Items
The pages/categories that are at the top of your navigation structure must be intuitive and obvious. Each of these must be on the same level of importance. Don’t place categories in the top level that make more sense to be subcategories of another category. Your store should be structured like a tree, with the most important branches supporting smaller branches.
3. Clickable Categories
Everything in your navigation menu should be clickable. If you have a category with 3 sub-categories under it, customers should still be able to click to a page for the master category, even if that page only has a short category description and links to the sub categories.
4. Number of 1st and 2nd Level Items
It’s important to limit the number of 1st and 2nd level items in your navigation structure. If there too many, the category will feel too heavy and may be best served by splitting it up.
5. Obvious Labels
Terms that are used in your navigation must be easy to understand and not overlap. If the customer is confused by what category they should look in to find a particular item, then your category labels should be made clearer.
6. Featured Product Display
You can implement a featured product display within a “megamenu”-style navigation to show a good example of what kind of products will be found within a category, and possibly get your customers to the most popular products faster.
7. Intuitive Breadcrumbs
Make sure to include a useful breadcrumb trail on every page on your site to show your current location in the site structure so that users to navigate easily to parent pages. If you have a page that exists in more than one parent category, consider displaying two different breadcrumb paths so that users have a choice when navigating backward through the site structure.
8. Single Navigation Menu
Whenever possible, your site navigation should not compete with any other menus so that users do not get confused. If you have a navigation menu that spans the top of the page, do not have a competing menu on a left sidebar, or another menu on top for items of lesser importance.
You may not have noticed it, but Google made a major change to the way it displays search results. Google recently removed all pay-per-click ads from the right side of it’s search results pages. After more than ten years of Adwords pay-per-click results taking up both the top 1-3 spots and the entire right column being a long list of ads, this is a significant shift in how Google is going to provide “answers” to search queries.So why did Google remove a major source of revenue on the right column of its search results? The answer is almost certainly a result of testing and monetization. Google thinks it can provide a better user experience, and make more money, by using that space more wisely. But what is going to go there? To learn where Google is going, you have to be fully immersed in the world of all things Google. Luckily for you, that’s pretty much all we do. :)
Over the past few months, the team at Ventura Web Design has noticed that there are many queries that bring up a special box called a Knowledge Panel on the right with relevant info about your search. While the knowledge box itself is not new, how it displays specific information about medical searches is very interesting. Look at the results for “hay fever”:
Even the knowledge box is styled and looks nothing like any other knowledge boxes. Google commissioned illustrations from licensed medical illustrators for use here. The colors and attention-grabbing layout differs greatly from what Google has provided in the past.
This is a major shift in Google’s philosophy. This layout shows the direction Google is heading: to a more display driven layout, rather than its historically text only layout. Remember when Google’s single goal was to get you OFF of their website and on to what you’re seeking? Google is now answering a question without linking away. But more importantly, Google is now in the content creation business. This is a major historic shift for the search leader. Think about that for a moment. Google is using the power of all the data it has access to, that you no longer have access to via Google Analytics, to guide its own decision making on content creation.
From the Google perspective, this new direction improves the user experience by providing “quality” answers even faster than before. Google’s stated mission is to answer the question you have, before you’ve even fully typed the question in to the search box (instant search (link:https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/186645?hl=en).
The knowledge box is a function of Google’s Knowledge Graph, which launched in May 2012. it’s used both by Google itself to improve search relevancy and also to present the knowledge boxes that provide facts about people, places and things alongside regular results. Google reports it has over 3.5 billion facts, including information about 500 million entities, including movies, museums, bodies of water, music, astronomical objects, buildings, sports, medical ailments, and more. Similar to how Google uses a link graph to model how pages are interlinked to and which are relevant for searches, it uses the knowledge graph to determine relationships between entities and report facts about them. If you currently have a knowledge graph card and want that information to change, you need to request a change from Google. Here is the link for more information on changing knowledge graph cards. (link: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/6325583?hl=en)
There is currently no mechanism to include yourself or your site as part of the Knowledge Graph. If you run a blog all about movies, there isn’t a way to be listed as a suggested source for information. Tagging information on your landing pages with rich snippets can be helpful in the long run, though it’s no guarantee of inclusion. This is where good SEO efforts can help. Your goal, as a website owner, is to have Google view your site as the leading authority of information on a particular topic. If Google determines that your topic is popular enough, it may create Knowledge Cards and include a link to your site or information in that card.
Most of the visitors to your site are going to get there through search engines, the vast majority of which from Google. There are many companies out there that will promise to get you at or near the top of Google rankings for your keywords. Stay away from these companies; stay far away. There are no guarantees in SEO, particularly if you are in very competitive field with many established competitors. If you are a new company with a brand new URL, even if you do everything right you might still find yourself buried on page five in the organic search engine results.
That being said, there are many simple things you can do to increase your chances of being listed higher in Google. This guide is intended for someone who is just starting out and has no experience in SEO at all.
Behind the Scenes Code
- Page URLS: Each page should contain a keyword rich URL. For example if you have a page on your site about fishing boats, example.com/fishing-boats/ is a much better and more descriptive URL than example.com/fshngbts/
- Title Tags: All pages should have unique title tags that are keyword rich and no longer than 55 to 60 characters in length. The title tag should accurately represent and describe what the content on the page is about. Don’t repeat keywords or make the title just a string of keywords.
- Meta Description Tag: Each page also needs a unique meta description, which should be no longer than 160 characters. The meta description should be easily readable by humans and accurately describe what the page is about. The meta description should be keyword rich, but don’t repeat a keyword more than once.
- Meta Keyword Tag: Ignore the keyword meta tag. Google doesn’t currently use them. They were prone spam, as people would try to game the system by repeating the same keywords over and over.
- Image Alt Tag and File Names: Google can’t tell what your picture is about by just looking at it. It uses the file name and the alt tag to determine what the picture is about. This info is also used by Google to help it understand what the page the image is on is about. For example, if you have a picture of a Tracker Pro 160 Mod V bass fishing boat, a good file name for the image would be: tracker-pro-160-fishing-boat.jpg, and a good alt tag would be “Tracker Pro 160 Mod V bass fishing boat”. Don’t just put the image on the page with a file names\ such as image1.jpg or DSC_0001.jpg. Make sure you give it a descriptive file name. The alt tag shouldn’t be too long. It should be short and to the point. Google will see excessively long alt tags as spammy.
On Page Content
- Page Structure: The content on your page should fit within a certain structure. You need a heading, paragraph(s) and in some cases subheadings. Make the headings stand out from the main content. Your content should be geared toward the users of your site and not toward the search engines. Use heading tags properly, h1 for the most important headline, h2 for the next most important headline, and so on. Make sure your content is easy to read and typo-free. Your anchor text (text that links to other pages within your site) should be keyword rich. Anchor text should not simply be “click here”, as that doesn’t give any context to Google about the page you are linking to.
- Text as Images: All the important text on the page should actually be text. On some web pages you will see what looks like a block of text, but when you try to copy that text you find out it is actually an image. This is often done to get a pixel perfect layout or because the font used for the text is non-standard. Avoid this at all costs. Google doesn’t read the text in the image so it is useless for SEO.
- Mobile Ready: Your website should look good on both mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. Google favors websites that have mobile-friendly designs. If your website doesn’t look good in mobile it will be penalized in Google’s mobile search results. There are two different methods to make your site mobile friendly, either via responsive design or adaptive design. Both ways work, but Google’s preferred method is responsive design.
- Content: Though this is last on the list, it is probably the most important. Make sure the content on your site is original, high quality, and updated frequently. The content should be easy to read and geared toward people, not search engines. Though you shouldn’t write content that is geared to the search engines, you should keep in mind keywords that your users may use when searching for your content and use those keywords, in a natural way, throughout your pages.
Properly merchandising your online store is just as important as merchandising a brick-and-mortar store. Having a well-merchandised store can lead to increased conversion rates and higher average ticket sizes.
Online merchandising is, at its most basic, a way of displaying your products that entices your customers to make a purchase. There are a myriad of different ways and methods to properly merchandise your store. We will take a look at some of the most important.
- Make sure people can easily find what they are looking for. This includes proper categorization of your inventory. A store with poor categorization can be a nightmare for your potential customers to navigate through. Make sure your navigation is clear and easy to follow. The fewer steps a customer needs to take to get to the product the better. Make sure your store has a search function.
- Provide unique product descriptions. Writing your own product descriptions is more important than having your own product photography. Using the same generic product description is going to hurt your SEO as Google will see it as duplicate content, and you will be lucky to make it on page one of the search results. Writing your own compelling product descriptions will give you the opportunity to include any important keywords that the manufacturer may have missed. It also allows you to optimize the content to your customers and fit within your store’s culture.
- Use high quality photos and product descriptions not provided by the manufacturer. This may seem like a no-brainer, but many stores just use the product descriptions and photos provided by the manufacturer. Using the same photos and descriptions as your competitors will not set you apart from the crowd. If possible, hire a professional photographer to take product photos for you.If professional photography is out of the budget, take your own photographs. You should only take your own photographs if you can match or exceed the quality of the photos that the manufacturer supplies. Poor photography shows a lack of attention to detail and makes your business look like an amateur operation. Make use of alternate images by showing different angles of the products or a close-up of important details.
- Make sure any promotions you are running are prominently featured. Use attractive banners with compelling graphics on the home page to draw attention to your promotions. If you run promotions that are category specific ,don’t forget to add banners to the category page as well. Feature your best selling products or newest items on your home page. And don’t miss the opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell by adding related / alternative products and accessories on your product pages.
- Make it easy for your customers to make a purchase from you. You have done a good job of merchandising your store, you have killer photos and product descriptions, cross-sell and up-sell is properly set-up, and promotions are prominently featured. All this hard work could be wasted if it is difficult for your customers to make a purchase. Make sure your buy button is prominently featured and easy for customers to see.The checkout process should be as streamlined as possible. Do you force customers to sign up for an account before they can buy from you, or can they check out as a guest? Remove any obstacles that may prevent a guest from completing the checkout steps. Do you offer PayPal as a checkout option? Many consumers are reluctant to give credit card information to merchants they are unfamiliar with, but they will use PayPal since that information isn’t passed on to the merchant and it gives the customer a degree of better security.
Merchandising your entire store can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but it’s certainly worth the boost in conversions and customer engagement. Ventura offers professional, personalized assistance in merchandising your online store. Contact us today to see how we can help you.