5 Online Marketing Tools That Benefit eCommerce Business

5 Online Marketing Tools That Benefit eCommerce Business

Popular Marketing Tools

An online marketing plan is no longer optional; it is a necessary component of an overall business plan to succeed. With all the forms of digital marketing available, it’s no surprise that many businesses become overwhelmed at the complex, time-consuming work required to implement and optimize the right flavors of campaigns to contend in their industry. Not all businesses have the resources for a digital marketing specialist, social media manager, or a data analytics team.

Fortunately, there are many tools available that simplify the various components of digital marketing.

Social Media Marketing Tools

Social media plays an important role in customer research, content distribution, new customer acquisition and even customer service. Merchants use it to engage with customers, promote new products, and spread brand awareness. However, using social media takes time. A merchant needs to compose messages, post it at the right time of day, interact with customers, and manage multiple accounts between Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and so on. To make managing social media easier, a merchant can consider using a tool like Hootsuite.

#1: Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media management tool that allows a merchant to schedule social media messages, track how people respond to posts, manage multiple accounts from one dashboard, and much more. Rather than switching back and forth between different social media accounts trying to do everything throughout the day, a merchant can get it all done at one time with this great tool.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools

Another important component in marketing a business online is ongoing SEO. Using good SEO practices help a website to appear higher in search engine results, thus delivering the improved opportunity for more of the right site visitors. There are several aspects to SEO, among the most important is the health and crawlability of the actual site, known as on-site SEO.

#2: SEMrush

SEMrush is an excellent tool that can be used for both research and maintaining a site crawl campaign to assist with ongoing search engine optimization. It can be used for keyword and competitor research, as well as a checklist of necessary on-site improvements including, but not limited to, broken links, duplicate content, slow page load times, and broken images. SEMrush is our favorite SEO utility but there are several other valuable SEO tools available for a serious eCommerce marketer to utilize.

#3: Yoast

Yoast can be used to ensure that keywords are being properly used on the website. Yoast is best known for it’s WordPress plugin, but they actually have a Magento extension as well. With it, a merchant can make sure to have the right keywords on the right pages, optimize site content, and make sure pictures are formatted properly, among other things. Yoast also provides SEO training courses to learn best practices and DIY pro tips for managing campaigns on a budget.

Data and Analytics

Finally, even for those who research keywords with SEMrush, optimize their site with Yoast, and make social media usage more efficient, merchants still need a way to tell how well those efforts are working. Hence the need for analytic tools to understand patterns of success or failure.

#4: BuiltWith

BuiltWith can show what platform a competitor website is running, where it’s hosted, and what tracking snippets are in place, giving insight into what marketing tools the competitor is using. It’s a great way to learn about common tools used in a specific niche and to find opportunities to expand.

#5: Google Tag Manager

Google Analytics is the staple analytics tool used today. However, there are ways to utilize more powerful capabilities using Google Tag Manager and Analytics Enhanced eCommerce tracking. When properly implemented, Google Analytics will track traffic source, engagement metrics like time on site, time on page and bounce rate, as well as general conversion rate metrics. Additionally, Google Tag Manager events can be set up to see in-depth data such as cross-device tracking, page scrolls, individual product add to cart rates, giving you better cart abandonment data, and more!

Make the Most of Available Tools

There is a wide range of tools available to online marketers— this is only a glimpse of some of our favorites. The key is to start with a few of the essentials, master them, and then start exploring others. By doing this, marketers and merchants can learn which tools provide the most value, and which ones they prefer over others.

If you’d like to learn more about online marketing tools that can help your eCommerce business, please contact us at any time.

3 Common Social Media Mistakes Made in eCommerce and How to Correct Them

3 Common Social Media Mistakes Made in eCommerce and How to Correct Them

Social Media Mistakes

Social media has become a popular marketing tool for eCommerce businesses over the past few years. It’s a great way to connect with customers and share brand information without having to spend money on paid ad campaigns. An article from BigCommerce reports that for online stores, social media is critical for success in eCommerce: “Online stores that have a social presence have 32% more sales on average than stores that don’t.” Social media can boost sales, promote brand identity, and increase trust – but only if used correctly. 

Misusing social media may seem impossible; the bright blue “Tweet” button is easy to use and recycling company phrases seems easy enough to do. However, haphazardly posting content and sharing posts isn’t enough. There are some common social media mistakes that eCommerce merchants make and by learning how to prevent them, social media can become a valuable asset for any merchant.

Below are three common social media mistakes that eCommerce merchants make and methods for prevention.

1. Rarely Interacting With Followers

For social media to be effective, communication needs to be a two-way street. Merchants can’t only post information about themselves such as new product announcements, current sales, etc. and hope that will satisfy followers. Interaction with customers, especially when they have a problem or question, is crucial for success.

Many customers turn to social media when they are having an issue with a product or service to receive fast and courteous assistance. When customers are ignored or receive a delayed reply, it is likely for that customer to unfollow and do further damage on social media by spreading negative comments or reviews. People want to feel that they are being heard, so take their questions and complaints seriously. When running a social media account, make sure an employee is monitoring that account for complaints or questions and are able to take direct action in assisting any customer’s needs in real time. Proactive customer service is important for maintaining repeat customers and for building trust.  

Repeat Customers are Important Customers

Good customer service is not only a good business practice, but it also plays a large role in encouraging repeat customers. If customer needs are met and they have had a meaningful customer experience, it is more likely that they will continue to return in the future.

Trust is Everything

An article by Nextopia states thatTrust impacts buyer decisions at every step of the purchase process. Specifically, trust influences the decision to visit your site, buy your product, promote your brand, and return to the site again. If they don’t trust you, visitors won’t do any of those.” In order to gain that trust, merchants must be credible in all aspects of their business, including social media.

Studies indicate that fast response time on social media builds trust because it demonstrates a certain level of accountability that customers appreciate and view as good customer service. When a customer submits a complaint on social media, they expect it to be handled quickly. An article from Shep Hyken reports that 64% of consumers on Twitter expect a reply within an hour. That means that no matter the issue, don’t make excuses or try to ignore it. Take responsibility, apologize, and make it right with the customer quickly.

2. Not Understanding the Audience

To be successful on social media, it’s critical to understand the customer audience. A common social media mistake made by merchants is posting the wrong type of messaging to the wrong group of people at the wrong time. It’s true that the frequency for posting on social media isn’t always clear. Further, what works for one merchant might not work for another. For new merchants starting out on social, it might be tempting to post every hour in order to reach as many people as possible. Or, it might be difficult to get a post once a week if the staff is busy with other obligations. Ideally, both of these extremes should be avoided.

Posting too often will likely annoy customers and turn them away as they grow tired of seeing repetitive content. On the other hand, posting too little will do the opposite and customers may forget about the business altogether.

To start, try posting unique content at most 1 or 2 times a day. If people are regularly engaging, keep it up or consider increasing the amount. If posts are ignored, try scaling back or consider posting higher-quality content less frequently.

It’s also important to test content and frequency out on different platforms. For example, what works on Twitter may not work on Facebook or Instagram. It’s helpful to do research on the target audience as well to establish which platform is best to spend time efforts. For example, for merchants targeting Millennials or the Gen X generations, statistics from Spredfast show that the two groups are more likely to share content on Facebook.  For those targeting teens, Instagram may be the best platform with 53% of teens saying the image-based platform is the best place to advertise products.

Further, age isn’t the only demographic to study. Pinterest has 200 million active users. Notably, 60% are female. Therefore, merchants looking to target the male population on Pinterest will need to think of a smart strategy for reaching them or consider a different platform.

The type of content posted on certain platforms is worth considering as well. For example, coupons and offers have a history of being successful on Twitter with 84% of Twitter users noting that they use the platform to find deals.

3. Never Establishing a Voice

Finally, the purpose of social media for eCommerce merchants is to connect with customers on a personal level. However, being personal is hard to do if every social media post is robotic. People want to feel that they are connecting with another human being on social media. Customers are not interested in seeing multiple automated posts over and over again. To be personable, it’s crucial to develop a certain tone of voice for the brand on social media. In order to develop a voice, the first step is to figure out what that voice should be. Some companies take a cheeky tone. For example, Wendy’s the humble fast food chain, has received a lot of positive attention after a very noticeable change of voice on Twitter. The company started posting edgy tweets roasting their competition.

It was a gamble that worked for Wendy’s. Many marketers are using an edgy tone to stand out from the crowds of larger competitors with more marketing dollars to spend. Wendy’s noted that their strategy is good-natured and fun but they don’t take themselves too seriously. In an interview with MarketWatch, Ken Kane, chief concept and marketing officer of Wendy’s stated that “We take food quality seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That helps guide us to what the line is, what we should be calling out, and what are the types of things we should be staying away from.” Clearly, their 2.7 million followers agree with the updated tone.

While the edgy brand tone worked for Wendy’s, it won’t work for everyone and that approach requires thought, serious wit, and strategy. Professional tones, playful tones, or even masculine or feminine tones all work as well for the correct audiences.

Once a tone is set, there are some key ways to develop tone including reinforcing the brand’s beliefs, monitoring the audience’s responses, and injecting some of the company’s personality into every post. Social media is meant to be more relaxed and playful. Post lighthearted content and avoid having a rigid structure that every post must follow.

However, even though it’s important to be personable and fun on social, keep it professional at all times. Unprofessional accounts warrant unsatisfied customers and in certain cases, may even be subject to viral criticism.

Learning Social Media Takes Time

Creating a social media presence as a business takes time and patience. Though social media mistakes can occur, the key is to recognize those mistakes and then work quickly to correct them and prevent them from occurring again. Mastering social media will not likely happen overnight, but the process is well worth it when taking into account the many ways it can be profitable.

For more information on how to improve your social media efforts, please feel free to contact us or give us a call at (513).469.7042.

5 Simple SEO Tips That Don’t Require a Developer

5 Simple SEO Tips That Don’t Require a Developer

SEO tips

Many merchants understand the importance of SEO – they know they need it, but they aren’t always sure how it works or why they have poor rankings. There are some common technical SEO issues that prevent Magento sites from ranking as high as they should and those issues don’t always require an SEO wizard to fix them. Broken links, long load times, and duplicate content should be addressed immediately in order to rank higher on popular search engines.

Listed below are five simple SEO tips to clean up search engine optimization without requiring outside assistance.

Fix and Redirect 3xx, 4xx, and 5xx Error Issues

Eliminate any redirect chains where one URL redirects to another and another and another. It not only wastes server resources but also slows down page load time. Replace all redirect chains with a single rule that redirects from the target URL to the final URL, and ensure all old indexed URLs are redirecting straight to the new page.

It’s also important to note that catalog management processes shouldn’t be contributing to this issue. If redirect chains are a recurring event, the management of products and categories may need some adjustments in order to fix the problem permanently.

Correct Missing or Low-Scoring Metadata

Resolve any missing or duplicate meta content in page titles and meta descriptions. Templates are fine for defaults, such as “Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name,” but uniquely written page titles and meta descriptions can improve click-through-rates. Think of it this way: meta descriptions should explain a solution or answer to a question that users are looking for. Those few sentences should accurately advertise the information to the user in a clear and concise manner.

Repair Broken Links

Broken internal and external links do not bode well for any eCommerce merchant. In addition to creating a very poor user experience, too many 404 pages are indicative of a neglected site. Be sure that all internal and outbound links go to functioning URLs and are linking out to highly respected authority sites to increase the relevancy of the web content.

Optimize Images

Page load times are also an important part of the website ranking algorithm. If people have to wait even a few extra seconds, they may leave. Research proves this causes an increased bounce rate that hurts SEO ranking. One of the best ways to clean up the load time is by optimizing images. Resize and compress images before uploading them to Magento. Also, rename images using hyphens instead of spaces or underscores and keep it relevant to the photo topic.

Address Duplicate Content Issues

High-quality content should be found on every single page. Engagement rate should be as high as the amount of time visitors spend reading content. The more time they spend, the more positively it will impact SEO ranking. Delete any duplicate content and make sure the copy is catered to fit the audience’s needs; this commonly means avoiding overcomplicated jargon and shortening content.

These fixes may be simple, but they have a considerable impact on search engine optimization.

Learn more about search engine optimization and your Magento site by contacting InteractOne today.

The Right Price Model For Your Next Development Project: Fixed-Price vs Time and Material

The Right Price Model For Your Next Development Project: Fixed-Price vs Time and Material

fixed-price vs time and material

When outsourcing web development, choosing the right contractual arrangement is essential. A wrong decision can lead to tough consequences such as a major issue with project budget, quality, and timeline. Many merchants end up experiencing headache after headache without getting their projects completed.

Most development partners offer one of two pricing model options: fixed-price or time and materials. Both models have their pros and cons, and depending on the project, one may make better sense over the other.

The following compares the two pricing models so merchants can better understand the difference between fixed-price vs time and material and why each has their time and place.

The Fixed-Price Model

A fixed-price agreement sets an agreed upon price for the completion of an entire project. There are two characteristics of this project type necessary for it to work. First, the parameters and requirements for the project are clear from the beginning. Second, the process for making scope (requirement) adjustments is very clear. Small or very repeatable projects work well with this model.

Fixed-Price Model Advantages

Organized

Due to fixed-price projects being completed under clear requirements and set deadlines, projects are more organized and easily manageable. Generally, project payment timing is agreed upon ahead of time and based on the percentage of work completed, which requires minimal management from the merchants perspective when expectations are laid out. Further, day-to-day tasks are set from the beginning to ensure delivery and to meet deadlines.

No Surprises

Perhaps the best part of fixed-price budgets is that there is little to no guesswork for pricing. Fixed-price contracts are predictable. With a fixed-price contract, requirements and set deadlines leave little room for surprises. Further, fixed-price contracts are generally budget-friendly. For many smaller eCommerce businesses, knowing the cost ahead of time makes it much easier to complete projects on budget.

Fixed-Price Model Disadvantages

Inflexible

A fixed-price model leaves little room for flexibility which is essential for successful eCommerce development.  Merchants may realize the original plan needs to be revised and edited. With a fixed-price agreement, scope changes can be complicated and costly to manage since they require much more time to review and process.

Quality

Fixed-price development projects, by definition, are done on a budget. The developer or partner must complete the project within a specific timeframe. But even if the project does not have a strict time frame, it still benefits the developer to finish the project quickly to be profitable. Some developers may rush, take shortcuts or agree to projects without understanding the full scope and complexity.

Lastly, if the final result is of subpar quality, business owners will need to pay additional fees to the current developer to fix the project, settle for the current state of the website, or hire a new developer. In fact, many fixed-price projects end up in a state of “abandoned in design.” Often, the scope of work turns out to be much greater than initially estimated and the developer is forced to walk away from the project. Generally, due to not having the resources to fix all the bugs resulting from the shortcuts taken to deliver the agreed-upon scope.

The Time and Materials Model

A time and materials agreement generally involves an estimate from a developer or agency. The budget is not agreed upon ahead of time. Instead, the merchant receives a bill for an hourly rate for the duration scheduled by the developer. The final cost of the project is for how many hours it took the developer to do the work and the cost of any additional materials that were needed.

There are many more advantages associated with the time and material model when building eCommerce websites. Time and material projects are still very custom and the template is not as repeatable as say, for example, building a house.

Time and Material Advantages

Flexibility

Many would agree that a significant advantage of the time and materials model would be the flexibility of the process. As projects progress, objectives and needs often change. Further, when a merchant changes their mind during development, additional features can be improved. In other words, as the scope of the project changes and evolves, the development work can shift with it. For example, features can be added or removed halfway through a project. In general, the developer’s goal is to ensure the client is happy and the project is complete. With time and materials contracts, developers tend to not rush to the finish line hoping the job comes together.

Timeliness

With time and material pricing, merchants do not have to go through an RFP or bidding process. Business owners can quickly interview a developer or agency to discover hourly rates, certifications, and experience. The time and materials approach will help save time and allow most merchants to begin immediately. Further, time and materials contracts should provide detail to include the time spent on each feature. Transparency allows both the merchant and the development partner to stay on the same page and working towards the final goal.  

Cost Savings

Time and material projects tend to deliver more value per feature than fixed-price projects. Due to the enhanced efficiency of the time and materials development process since the change order process does not hinder it.  Also, the quality of the initial code build is often higher on a time and materials project since the development team is not being pushed to cut corners. High quality leads to cost savings over time since there are less bug and performance issues to resolve.

Time and Material Disadvantages

Time Commitment

With a time and materials pricing model, merchants must be willing to be an active participant in the development process. At the beginning of the project, it is crucial to lay out necessary features, the vision of the project and any business issues that will need to be resolving in the final project.

This type of communication provides the developer with a deep understanding of what the client needs to have at least a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) at the end of the project and allows the developer to provide feedback and suggestions for optimizations and functionality that the project could, or should, have. Then, over the course of the project, the developer will send regular updates about the progress of the project and require feedback from the merchant. While this aspect allows for flexibility and transparency, there will be a significant input and commitment expected from the merchant or client.

Budget Changes

With a time and materials pricing model it can be difficult to estimate what the final cost of the development project will be. In some cases, a merchant will require easily implemented features. For others, the project may be much more involved than initially anticipated. Initial estimates may change as additional features need extra development hours.  

Which is the Best Choice or Which Seems Like the Less Risky Option?

Experience has shown us that for many Magento development projects that the time and material pricing model is often the best choice. Many times, fixed-rate contracts lead to a low quality finished product which creates a lower ROI and long-term bug and performance fix costs (technical debt). During the development phase of a project, the client is generally responsible for resolving any unexpected issues that arise that weren’t part of the original scope of work. Further, with a fixed-rate model, the developer makes a more substantial profit with fast completion. Quick completion undoubtedly causes a rushed job and cut corners.

An unknown budget or even one with an investment range may seem daunting. However, if merchants partner with a trustworthy and experienced developer, the developer will provide regular budget updates and even agree to put a hold on work at the end of an hourly limit before project completion. Additionally, the lack of fixed-time constraints means that the developer can provide the best job possible given the agreed upon budget constraints.
 
And then there is the time commitment. It is true that a time and material pricing model does require business owners to be heavily involved. This should be considered a good thing. Involved merchants can be sure that when the final product is complete, it will be exactly as required.

While each pricing model for website development has its pros and cons, the best way to decide between the two is to base it on which one will best suit the needs of the merchant company and the format of the project.

Contact us to learn more about our development processes and how we work with our clients.

Allocating Digital Marketing Budget Funds for Optimal ROI

Allocating Digital Marketing Budget Funds for Optimal ROI

Digital Marketing Budget Allocation

With ever-changing developments in technology, digital marketing is always evolving. Knowing where to allocate marketing funds while proving ROI is a challenge for many merchants. When planning a digital marketing budget for the future, it’s important to examine which strategies will create the best return on investment.  

A challenge that merchants and business owners face is choosing the right people for the job, allocating the right amount of resources for each area, sticking with the plan over the course of its lifespan, and determining whether or not the strategies were successful.

We’ve cultivated some helpful advice for planning a digital marketing budget with tips on how to start planning, ways to start building a budget, how to measure performance, and when to ask for help.

Analyze and Create a Plan

An ROI focused marketing plan should always center around business goals. Make sure these goals are clear-cut and actionable. Further, It’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page for determining business goals and objectives. As objectives are defined, start to plan specific approaches for each area. Analyze percentages, statistics, and dollar amounts on previous marketing spend, to help visualize what is needed to achieve those goals. Consider what resources are required for each activity to be successful. Keep in mind that in-house efforts still require an investment of time, research, and other resources that may not be immediately clear.

During the planning phase, be realistic about goals and what can be accomplished to achieve them. Create a timeline and break certain aspects of the initiative into manageable stages. For example, decide what needs to be completed for the next quarter, or by the second month of the fiscal year. Take into account the size of business, and the amount of work that can be accomplished in-house.

Measuring Efforts

ROI is an essential metric used to figure out which campaigns and strategies were most successful. By tracking ROI, it is possible to see which areas of marketing are working and which aren’t. When crafting a plan for the next few months, think about which strategies have been most successful in the past. Analyzing past efforts is an excellent opportunity to learn from past mistakes. Using tools like Google Analytics can be helpful to examine trends over a specified time, whether it’s a month, a quarter, or year over year.

Traffic and conversion rates are measurable but how is branding measured? Companies with healthy traffic and hearty conversions over an extended period can likely conclude that branding is doing well also.

Traffic, conversions, and branding all influence one another, and none of them exist well on their own

There are several additional tests and areas for optimization to measure. For example, analyzing the best time to post on social media. Are there certain times of the day or days of the week where customers are more active on social? eMail is another area to monitor. It’s essential to research industry benchmarks and learn when is the best time and day to send eMails. Analyzing key landing pages and performance is necessary as well. Try split-testing landing pages and product pages. While there are plenty of sources out there that claim to know the best answers for these areas, sometimes it just comes down to what works best for a particular business.

Create a Marketing Budget – A Formula For Success

When planning a budget, think about the current size of the company, and its growth trajectory for the future. Look to create a marketing strategy that can be flexible with the growth of the company. Next, scope out competitors in the industry. Think about what is needed to compete, or stay on top. Establish the top priority for the business at the moment.

Keep the target customer top of mind. Different audiences respond differently to marketing efforts, and there is no “one size fits all” marketing plan that will work for every business. There are, however, specific areas that can better structure a marketing plan to make sense in today’s digital world.

Three main categories drive a marketing plan and budget: branding, traffic, and conversions. In an article from The Good on marketing budget allocation, they describe the three critical factors and how they work together. Stating that “If one fails, they all fail, but branding is where the process begins. The more people know and like about you, the easier the rest of the marketing flow will be.” All three are essential when it comes to creating a plan that will accomplish the end goal.

Branding

Branding creates a distinctive style that is apparent throughout all aspects of a digital presence – social media, websites, and advertising. When people mention an industry, well-known brands come to mind first. It’s essential to establish an audience and customer following by providing informative, helpful content, and a deep well of useful resources.

Traffic

Traffic, both paid and organic, is measurable with Google Analytics but can be difficult to increase. An SEO strategy is vital for attracting a steady stream of organic visitors.  While paid traffic requires upfront costs, organic traffic has hidden costs as well. Creating attractive SEO friendly content requires expert care, creativity, and some tech-savvy.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Companies with measurable branding and a steady traffic flow who are unable to turn visitors into conversions are experiencing a problem. It is essential to make the path to purchase or ecommerce shopping experience easy, intuitive, user-friendly, and fast.  Customers require exceptional customer service and reliable products that solve problems.

When To Seek Outside Resources

Even for merchants with digital media pros already on the team, remember they’ll have to take time out of their already-busy work days to invest in a new marketing plan or strategy. To see real, measurable success across the board for digital marketing, merely doing SEO or PPC “on the side” isn’t going to cut it.

Analyze the current team to assist with efforts. Are there enough hands on deck to carry out a marketing plan to its full extent? If not, consider outsourcing efforts to the pros. An experienced digital marketing partner can help in both the planning of a strategy, the execution, and will offer different levels of services depending on what’s required.

Also, there are plenty of tools available to help marketing teams with their efforts. Tools like SEMrush allow merchants to perform competitor analysis. SEMrush can show which keywords competitors are using to drive both paid and organic traffic. A competitor analysis is a great way to learn what others in a particular industry are using and then offers ideas to get ahead. Tools can be helpful, but only if utilized to their full potential. In an article from Neil Patel on marketing budget spend, he discussed how he has seen clients spend a small fortune on tools that weren’t being used to their full potential or not used at all. While marketing tools are great, some are costly. It’s important not to throw money at the problem and hope tools work. Many services offer free trial versions or free versions for small businesses that can grow with a team. Be sure to monitor all tools used and remove any that aren’t helpful or productive.

Another plus for outsourcing marketing efforts to a partner is that they will usually have the knowledge, access to and experience with an array of tools to assist clients. A marketing partner and even third-party tools can help spend time and resources more effectively while automating a lot of marketing efforts.

Contact us to learn more about optimizing a marketing budget or on how to create a new marketing strategy for Search Engine Optimization, Pay-per-click, or Conversion Rate Optimization.

SEO Diagnosis: Why Pages are Performing Poorly in Search Rankings

SEO Diagnosis: Why Pages are Performing Poorly in Search Rankings

optimize poor search rankings

eCommerce merchants rely on organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing to attract new customers. When organic traffic drops or never seems to get any better, it can be frustrating. There are several reasons why a website or specific pages are ranking poorly in search rankings.

Below are four reasons why a website or individual pages are performing poorly in search rankings and how to fix them.

Issue 1: Technical Difficulties

One of the first things to check is if the page or pages are functioning correctly. If there are technical issues present, that could be a significant factor for search engines to exclude the page from their rankings.

There are few ways to fix fundamental technical issues. First, try doing a hard refresh in the browser, or try viewing the page from another computer or device. There could be something wrong with the HTML, CSS, or any other scripts on that page. Improving the page’s ranking could be as simple as identifying this problem and correcting it.

Issue 2: Duplicate Content

Another common reason for poor rankings is duplicate content. It can be challenging to create new and engaging website copy for every page of a website, especially for a large site with many pages. Some merchants copy text from other pages, from a supplier, or even competitors. However, when search engines notice that the copy on the page matches that of another, they could remove the page from its rankings. Or, the search engine may not know which page to rank first. In this case, it’s possible to have multiple pages on one website competing against one another for the same organic rankings.

There are several tools to help check for duplicate content. Google Search Console will look for duplicate content in meta descriptions and titles tags. To review a website in Search Console navigate to Search Appearance > HTML Improvements. Refer to the image below.

 

There are also site audit tools like SEMrush and MOZ  that can help diagnose duplicate content as well as other performance issues. The key to duplicate content is to avoid it from the get-go. However, accidents do happen. Just be sure to resolve problems as soon as possible.

Issue 3: Page Speed

Page speed is also a key performance indicator for organic rankings. Search engines are serious about page speed. Pages that are slow to load will drop in organic rankings. With Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, it is easy to test page speed.  Add a URL, and PageSpeed insights will analyze the page and offer solutions for improvements.

 

Slow page speed could be a result of broken scripts, server overload, or large image files.

Issue 4: Competitors Are Ranking Better

There are always going to be competitors competing for the same keywords. So another possibility for poor rankings could be that your competitors are doing a better job. Maybe they optimized their pages better, or have more backlinks.

To get ahead, analyze those competitor pages. There are plenty of competitor research tools available. With the competitor research tools, merchants can learn quite a bit about competitors, their marketing strategy and learn ways to make adjustments based on those findings.

Search Rankings Require Regular Attention

The real key to success search rankings is to make SEO a priority. Technical issues can arise accidentally, and competitors will always be working to win. Regularly monitor the website and take care in how pages and content are updated to avoid mistakes. With weekly or monthly evaluations, it is possible to find issues and work to correct them quickly. Being vigilant is critical because even if pages are ranking well now, that doesn’t mean they always will.

To learn more about SEO and organic rankings or to learn why your site is ranking poorly, contact us today!

 

Turning Abandoned Cart Issues into Sales

Turning Abandoned Cart Issues into Sales

Turning Abandoned Cart Issues into Sales

Merchants put a lot of effort into attracting new customers through SEO, PPC or social media marketing to name a few. However, attracting new customers is only half of the battle if they do not make a purchase. Merchants need to convince customers to convert. Abandoned carts and conversion rate optimization are struggles that merchants of every size experience.

In fact, eCommerce merchants collectively missed out on $7 trillion in abandoned shopping carts in 2017.  With much time, effort, and money spent on getting customers to the checkout, it’s tough to lose a conversion at the last second.

For merchants experiencing abandoned cart issues, here are a few ways to increase conversions.

Identify The Problem

The first thing to do is identify why customers are leaving their carts. There could be several factors at play, and it’s important to recognize them all. There are a few common factors among sites that see high cart abandonment rates, which include:

  • Surprise fees, such as taxes or shipping
  • Forcing the user to create an account before checkout
  • A complicated or lengthy checkout process
  • Trained customer base to wait for a promo

Analyzing the check out process from start to finish is critical. Do any of the above factors apply? One way to receive feedback on the shopping experience is to ask customers directly. For instance, ensure your sales and service team is in constant communication with your eCommerce team to convey customer comments and issues so they can be identified and resolved. A survey is also a great way to learn why some customers are abandoning their cart, and learn more about the user experience as a whole. It is becoming more common for site visitors to begin checkout and then intentionally stop, waiting for the best promo email to come their way. Then they circle back to complete their order after receiving a coupon code.

Fix the Problem

Once potential abandonment issues are identified, it’s important to resolve them. For example, on matters concerning shipping costs, be sure to show taxes and shipping rates as soon as possible. Notably, 61% of customers said they abandoned a cart due to high shipping rates. Make those costs known upfront and before customers reach the final checkout page.

For issues concerning an account required checkout, consider implementing a guest checkout option. With 35% of customers noting that they abandoned their cart due to needing to create an account, it would be prudent to offer this option. Conveniently, Magento merchants can implement a guest checkout option in the admin.

For more tips to streamline the check out process, read more about the path to purchase shopping experience.

There are plenty of ways to streamline the checkout process, and the effort to do so will pay off in conversions.

Bring Customers Back

Even merchants with a seamless checkout process will experience cart abandonment – it’s just part of the game. Customers may experience interruptions while shopping, and then forget to come back and finish the purchase. One way to get customers to return to their carts is with an abandoned shopping cart eMail strategy that includes eMail reminders. Personalized, timely retargeting eMails will move leads through the sales funnel at the right time.

Notably, eMail doesn’t have to be a chore, but it does require a well-thought strategy and seamless execution. One merchant found that sending a reminder eMail 30 minutes after a customer left their cart led to conversions. Further, the 30-minute reminder eMail strategy recovered 7.9% of what would have otherwise been lost sales.

Don’t Let Customers Get Away

High shopping cart abandonment rates can be frustrating, but they can also be an indicator of a more significant problem and an opportunity for growth. Analyzing and resolving shopping cart issues is a great way to enhance the user experience for customers and increase conversions and sales.

To learn more about cart abandonment and ways to streamline the checkout process, contact us to get started on your eCommerce project.

How to Improve PPC Campaign Performance

How to Improve PPC Campaign Performance

Improve PPC Campaign Performance

By Joe Williams, Magento Solution Specialist

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns are the most popular advertising method for merchants looking to market a brand new site, a new product line or specific sales or offers. Google AdWords PPC campaigns have become a staple in most marketing strategies. But, unfortunately, they are also the biggest culprit for wasted ad spend. There are several mistakes that merchants sometimes make when trying to promote a product with PPC campaigns that significantly detract from the ads’ efficiency. The good news is that there are several methods merchants can implement to improve PPC campaign performance.

Six methods to improve PPC campaign performance.

1. Increase Trust and Brand Recognition

The primary reason why PPC campaigns fail is that nobody knows who you are! Window shoppers notoriously click on the most opportune ads to browse and educate themselves on a product. In the end, they go with a trusted brand to make their purchase. So merchants often end up paying to educate a customer on a product that they will end up buying from a competitor. We are all creatures of habit, and although we enjoy entertaining other options and researching a new purchase, there has to be enough trust to go with a new merchant, as opposed to a familiar experience.

The solution to converting window shoppers is to build trust in your brand. Start by marketing to existing customers through remarketing ads, targeting custom audiences, or offering exclusive products. Exclusive products can be either specialized products or private label brands at a lower price than mainstream name brands. Merchants should also place more value on the word-of-mouth referral method. Referrals are generated by focusing on merchant reviews over product reviews and implementing social campaigns to help build an audience and brand recognition.

2. Improve Targeting

Identifying the right customers via personas is critical to the success of an entire marketing campaign. Understanding what the target audience needs to start a relationship and what motivates them to purchase is vital in targeting PPC campaigns to the right audience. As well as, ensuring that a customer has a consistent user experience from the ad copy to the website (more on that later in the post).

Ask yourself the following questions to establish what will attract the right audience

  • Who are your current customers? What do they have in common?
  • Which of your audience’s problems/needs does your product solve?
  • What events need to happen before a customer makes their final decision?
  • What forms of media does your target customers consume most efficiently?
  • Who is your competition targeting?
  • Do customers in specific regions convert higher than others?

The above list is just the beginning, but it will help to get going in the right direction to start creating and utilizing personas effectively for marketing campaigns.

3. Pay Attention to Campaign Settings

Campaign settings in AdWords are often overlooked and left set to default, or merchants select canned settings available without fine-tuning the details. Campaigns settings need to be continually optimized and organized so campaigns can take advantage of testing different configurations to maximize each ad’s capabilities. Below are five campaign settings that can affect ad performance.

Type

The type of ad determines where the ads will display, what kind of ads need to be created, and other customizable ad elements.

  • Search Network with Display Select shows the ad in both search results and on sites around the web.
  • Search Network only puts the ads in search results.
  • Display Network only shows the ads on websites.

For beginners, it’s best to start with Search Network Only ads. When using these types of ads, customers will see the ads when actively looking for products.

Location

It might seem to be a great idea to target a broad geographic area, but it does more harm than good. Especially on newer campaigns. Targeting customers with a defined location will not only improve an ad’s performance, but it will also enable you to track how well the PPC ad is doing in specific areas. For example, if you are targeting the entire United States, Andrew Lolk from Search Engine Journal recommends adding each state individually to monitor the performance for each state.

Bid Strategy

For budget strategy, there are three options available to select in AdWords: manual cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, enhanced CPC bidding, and automated bidding. Which option to choose depends on budget and goals.

  • Manual bidding provides more control, but it can be quite tricky for beginners.
  • Enhanced bidding is somewhat like manual bidding, but Google will set a new bid for searches that convert better.
  • With automated bidding, Google will try to get the most out of the budget. It maximizes clicks or conversions, and this is the best bidding option for beginners.

Ad Rotation

Merchants can choose the frequency of when to display ads to customers by utilizing ad rotation. You can select the “optimized setting” or the “rotate-indefinitely” option. The optimized setting will prioritize the best-performing ads based on keyword, search term, device, and location. Or go with the rotate-indefinitely option. The rotate-indefinitely option will distribute ads into the ad auction without an indication of time. One caveat is that there is no chance to rotate the ad to best optimize it.

Ad Schedules/Day Parting

Ad Schedules allow you to set bid adjustments on certain days of the week and times of the day to better control the budget based on site usage or business hours. The default setting is set to show ads at all times of the day, all days of the week. Meaning ads can be showing at low traffic times or days ineffectively using the budget.

4. Create an Awesome Ad-to-Page Experience

The message you’re promoting in ad copy helps get attention and clicks, but you also need that same message to resonate on the landing page to ensure a consistent user experience. The wording that attracted the customer to click on the ad should also entice them to stay on your site. The message should be relevant to the audience, be specific, prudent, contain pertinent keywords as should the ad’s coordinating destination page.

Always review the final destination page when creating and fine-tuning ad copy. Optimize the messaging to work together with the ad copy based on what’s worked in the past.

5. Use Ad Extensions Correctly

Ad extensions and callouts expand the ad with additional information about your business and can help build trust with a more visual real estate. Extensions can help increase click-through-rates and are available in the form of sitelink extensions, callouts, structured snippet extensions, price extensions, location extensions, affiliate location extensions, phone call extensions and app extensions.

For example, sitelink extensions include additional links to the search ad, and callout extensions append further details to the ads. Use sitelink extensions deliberately by setting them up to cater to the ad copy instead of using a library across the entire account.

6. Manage Negative Keywords

Negative keywords prevent an ad from displaying on irrelevant queries.  For example, if you sell swimsuits for toddlers, you could exclude winter clothes for infants. The best way to find negative keywords is to use the Adwords Search Terms report or a third party utility such as Wordstream’s Query Stream tool. Examine the search queries that generate traffic to the site and add any negative keywords that aren’t relevant to the business, or adjust the keyword type for better matching.

While there are many reasons why PPC campaigns might not be reaping maximum rewards, there are many ways to ignite and boost those stagnant metrics. Contact us today to get advice on maximizing PPC campaigns.

6 Strategies to Boost Revenue with eMail Marketing

6 Strategies to Boost Revenue with eMail Marketing

Boost Revenue with eMail Marketing

Businesses are in business to make money.  Of course, there are other, secondary marketing objectives, like generating more high-quality leads, increasing web traffic and boosting conversions. Arguably, however, each of these goals should be directed to increased revenue generation.  Otherwise, merchants are wasting both time and money.

eMail Marketing, when effectively leveraged, will boost revenue

Although no single marketing strategy can unilaterally help grow business (and all strategies should be effectively integrated), eMail marketing, if done correctly, can be among the quickest and best ways to see a return on investment.  Consider, for example, these metrics from WordStream:

  • Almost 60% of B2B marketers say eMail marketing is their most effective revenue-boosting strategy
  • Consumers who make purchases through promotional eMails on average spend 138% more than those that don’t receive such offers
  • More than 80% of retailers say eMail marketing is their most effective driver of customer retention
  • 73% of Millennials say eMail is their preferred means of business communication
  • ROI on average for eMail marketing is a stunning 4400%

Not All eMail Marketing Campaigns Are Created Equal

Of course, these metrics reflect marketing averages. Some businesses are far more successful, and many don’t do nearly as well. Merchants who experience the best results follow these six best practice eMail marketing strategies.

1. Create an abandoned shopping cart strategy  

According to research from Baymard, almost 70% of shopping carts are abandoned prior to purchase.  Consumers abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons, everything from unanticipated shipping charges and taxes to security concerns to simple distraction. The good news is that there are effective strategies to complete these sales.  One of the best is the use of eMail reminders. According to Radley London, this simple strategy on average will recover 7.9% of otherwise lost sales.

2. Use eMail to upsell and cross-sell  

eCommerce giants like Amazon have become extremely adept at increasing revenues with effective upselling and cross-selling strategies. Amazon, for example, increased total revenues by almost $40 billion with cross-selling in 2015. If consumers buy a particular product, send eMails pointing out that other consumers who bought that product bought other, related products. If someone purchases one item of camping gear, recommend others to boost sales.

3. Segment subscriber list  

According to Marketing Sherpa, segmenting subscriber lists, based on demographics or online behavior, can increase eMail conversions by more than 200%. For example, when customers receive a one-size-fits-all eMail in their inbox, they may or may not be interested in the content and could even conclude that the seller didn’t know who they are or know what they actually are interested in.

On the other hand, let’s say a customer had shown interest in kitchen accessories. Due to this interest, the customer was then added to a segmented list dedicated to kitchen items. A day or two later, the customer was sent a series of eMails with helpful information about kitchen products. Because the customer received information on items that they were actually interested in, they’re more likely to be interested in the seller and more likely to buy.

4. Make welcome eMails count

Merchants that do not send welcome eMails when customers first subscribe are missing out on a golden opportunity.  First, welcome eMails have the highest open rates, between 50% and 60% according to a study by Epsilon.  Second, according to that same study, subscribers who receive welcome eMails are far more likely to engage with a brand for the long haul.  Make welcome eMails count by sending them as soon as possible after customers subscribe. In addition, focus content less on the business and more on the consumer.  And, again, make welcome eMails as personal as possible. For example, if someone shared their eMail address in response to a content offer, reference that offer in the eMail (as in, “I hope the email update on kitchen utensil color options helpful”).

5. Get automated now

Most businesses and marketing teams do not have time to respond manually to every trigger or manage the segmentation of thousands of subscribers.  That’s where automation can help. With an effective automation strategy, merchants can be sure to send eMails at the best times, A/B test various components of eMails and automatically send eMails in response to consumer behaviors. There are many eCommerce-centric email platforms that can help merchants stay organized. In addition, Magento offers several triggered and transactional email settings. Further, Magento has the option to personalize eMail templates within the admin.

6. Nurture, and nurture some more

Success with eMail marketing is all about being in it for the long haul.  Merchants shouldn’t assume that they will inspire consumers to buy their products and services based on a single eMail, no matter how well crafted and personalized.  Remember that effective eMail marketing should reflect an ongoing conversation, one where the merchant provides increasingly helpful, relevant facts to help customers make informed buying decisions. It’s simple, to boost revenue with eMail marketing, institute smart nurturing strategies.

Get started with eMail Marketing

eMail marketing is one of the best ways to increase the return on marketing investment, but it’s not the only way. To be successful, merchants need a comprehensive, integrated digital strategy. To learn more about the ways our Magento eCommerce solutions and PPC, SEO, eMail and social media marketing services can help boost sales and grow business, contact us today.

How a Developer’s Knowledge Can Help With SEO

How a Developer’s Knowledge Can Help With SEO

Technical SEO Tips

In the early years of the World Wide Web, the ideas and standards of fleshing out a website were in its infancy (if even embryonic) and the codependency of HTML usage and finding a site in a search engine was also beyond the horizon of understanding. As HTML developed and elements (i.e. “tags”) were created and retired, the structure of a web page became more standardized and the way search engines handled delivering quality websites to your desktop was (and still is) under constant development. The way the developers, designers, content creators, and search engines all understood how and why things should be structured all eventually started to become a real science as well as an art.

Once upon a time, search engines simply looked for “keywords” to decide if your web page was important to the searcher; then came the consideration of content and how many words were on the page (because if someone is writing a 5-page article on a topic, then their web page must really have a lot of information on that topic and be really useful, right?), then fast-forward to the Google-ized world of today and we have very intelligent search engines powered by very complex A.I. algorithms that consider everything from keywords, to content length, to whether all of those keywords and content are actually relevant to the article, and finally how well structured that content is on the web page as well as how the entire website is structured.

This all leads back to where a developer fits in, as they are the ones who have their hands in actually building out that informative and beautiful website that’s going to provide compelling and informed web pages for the precise topic you were searching, without fail.

Eight Technical SEO Tips From A Developer

1. Page Structure

A web page has three primary sections: head, body, and footer. The head (HTML element <head>) contains other elements with directives to tell the software loading the page (your browser) what exactly the page is structured on, what assets are necessary to build out the page (calls to CSS and JavaScript components) and also what basic information describes the page you (or a web crawler) are viewing, found in the metadata elements <title>, <meta name=”keywords”>, and <meta name=”description”>.

The body (element <body>) of the page contains the main content of the page. This is where the meat is, where all of those headings and vociferous paragraphs of information are laid out for your reading enjoyment. The structure and focus of this section are also extremely important, as there is a specific way to handle the content for both the human and the robot reader (i.e. search bots). More on this later in the article.

2. Metadata

As implied by their tags and attributes, these sections provide the primary title of the page, plus the short description (typically used in search engines), and any keywords that help target the page for search engines. These sections are likely the simplest to create, and also the simplest to get terribly wrong for SEO. In fact, due to abuse of the keywords meta, it’s often overlooked by modern search engines, but will be considered by some so it’s still useful to keep as long as it’s set up correctly.

Having a “correct” keywords meta simply means supplying only the keywords relevant to the page, and those should be kept to a minimum since the target subjects of the page shouldn’t be more than a few words anyway. Also, keep in mind that this relative to the page it’s on and not the entire website!

The title and description metas should contain keywords as well, but just like the keywords section itself, they should be concise and focused. If they are too short, they aren’t informative. Too long, and they’re distracting and tend to lose focus. As simple as these elements may seem, maybe almost too simple, they are very important when it comes to the initial “snapshot” of your page. Think of them almost as the “business card” that will be indexed by search engines.

3. HTML Headings

This is the part that also seems to baffle many web developers and content creators since the true intent of these headings is often misunderstood. Most who have ever created or altered a web page quickly learned that choosing an <h1> or <h2> or <h3> tag when placing text on a page meant changing how big or small and how bold (or not) the fonts were. It’s easy-peasy web design because you don’t have to choose font-size and boldness (and depending on the design platform, the actual font used) when putting anything on a page that needs to be bold and stand out. The downside to that quick-and-dirty designing is that you may be placing incorrect and/or multiple iterations of headings all over your page without even realizing it, which might look just fine to the human reader, but a robot web crawler that trying to figure out the design and structure of your page is pulling its ever-loving bolts out.

So here’s the secret: Think of your web page (and overall website) structure like the contents section of a book. You want a clean and well-structured listing of headings and subheadings that organize all of your information accurately and logically.

Headings (i.e. heading tags) are numbered from 1 to 6 in level of importance. The main heading of your page (the “title” of your article”) should be inside an <h1> element. The subsequent headings on the page should be represented by the next level of importance: <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, etc. There should never be another <h1> on your page unless it is declaring an entirely new section that holds the same level of importance as the <h1> before. Since most web pages almost never would do this, it really shouldn’t ever be present.

“…but what if I want a really big, bold font in the middle of my page??”

Well, honestly, you don’t. Why? Because search engines also look at the bold text as something important since you took the effort to make it stand out. This gets into nuances of the content where certain text can be highlighted to mark importance. However, don’t go too crazy here since this is also an old technique that has been profusely abused and, just like a soup, too much of a good spice can ruin the pot.

Here’s an image for you visual learners out there:

Technical SEO Tips

In the above image, you can see that there can even be multiple sections to your page where a navigation menu and a sidebar may exist above or alongside the body, but the body’s <h1> heading is the primary heading of the page that describes what all of the underlying content will support. The <h2> subheadings mark out each major section beneath the primary heading, and so forth. As a caveat, the footer section does not necessarily need header tags for the sections under it since those are often simply linked to other pages, but if there are even brief descriptions under those headings (as some design templates provide boxes to allow for a short content description) then it would be helpful to stick to the format.

4. “Alt” and “Title” Attributes for Images

These attributes on images are at best misused (or poorly used), and at worst are completely overlooked. Not only are these helpful for your SEO, but they are mandatory in what’s becoming an area of increasing importance: ADA Compliance.

The “alt” and “title” attributes are available for all images and are intended to provide extra information that a web crawler “bot” can’t glean from the image itself (since bots can’t “see” images).

<img src=”images/happycat.jpg” alt=”A happy cat, drinking some milk from a dish.” title=”Happy cat drinking milk.” />

This image element example shows how to appropriately use the “alt” and “title” attributes of an image. Not only does the image filename itself help search engines figure out what the image might be about and whether it’s relevant to the page on which it’s located, but the “alt” attribute helps provide a concise description of the image, while the “title” attribute provides something even more direct and concise. Both of the attributes help users with disabilities view web pages using a “web reader” that will seek out these attributes and describe the images on the page to the end-user who may otherwise have difficulty seeing the image clearly or discerning exactly what the image is for. Again, adding these attributes not only helps the web crawlers decide what your page and its assets might be provided as information, but it’s also showing that you took the time to flesh it out better so that your page can be completely indexed and digested by search engines, as well as all end users who may find your page a valuable source of information regardless of their abilities or impairments.

5. Sitemaps

Sitemaps are files that provide a “map” of your website for web crawlers and search engines. They can tell search engines which pages on your site are most important, and thus what to crawl first, as well as other metadata such as when pages were last updated and thus when they need to be indexed again.

The inclusion of a sitemap is especially important when launching a new website without a lot of external links pointing to it, as web crawlers spend a limited time crawling a website on a single visit. By providing a sitemap, a web crawler will make the most of each visit from one of those external links, crawling priority pages first and ignoring pages that have not been updated since its last visit.

6. Web Analytics

It is important that web developers setup web analytics for any site they build, as well as give the appropriate individuals access to the analytics dashboard. Examining the keywords users are searching for when they find your site, as well as how they click through it, can aid in the tailoring of content both to search engines and to users.

7. 404 Errors

Site quality is very important to high search rankings, and quality is greatly impacted when a website throws errors to the web crawlers indexing it. The more 404 “Page Not Found” errors a website has, the worse it does. Use Google’s Search Console or your web analytics dashboard to find any errors and be sure to remove the dead links promptly. If an external link is generating a lot of traffic for your site, but is to a dead or improperly formatted URL, consider setting up a redirect to the page that it is meant to go to.

8. Page load times

Bounce rates, the chance that users navigate away from a site after viewing only one page, increase astronomically the longer it takes a web page to load. According to Google, a two second increase in load time from one second to two seconds increases the bounce rate by 32%, while an increase from one second to five seconds increases it by 90%. A web developer can do a lot to decrease the size of a page, from optimizing image file sizes and compressing CSS and JavaScript files.

The know-how of a developer is vital for proper search engine optimization of a website. If you think your website needs a technical review, please contact us to learn more about the SEO services we have on offer.