With the summer months already behind us, our attention turns to the long Christmas buildup. Yes, that’s right – you need to start planning now because Black Friday will be here before you know it. Which means the busy period has already begun for retailers.
So I figure now is a good time to run through some tips on how to optimize your eCommerce store. Luckily, the leading names in online shopping platforms are quick to offer up some advice on how to get your stores selling more products. And in this article I’ve collected some key advice from the biggest names in all things eCommerce.
Tips from Shopify
Anyway, enough about tools, let’s talk about tips. The creators of Shopify built the platform because they felt the other options available at the time weren’t good enough. So this firm really approaches online selling from the right angle and their tips are worth listening to.
SEO can be particularly difficult for eCommerce sites – largely because you have more pages to maintain than most. However, the guys at Shopify say you must keep on top of the three basics for every page:
- Title: Up to 70 characters (Google cut’s off long titles in search results. Cutoff is based on pixel length of the title not the number of characters. To be safe, keep your titles between 50-60 characters.)
- Meta Description: Up to 160 characters containing one of your keywords.
- URL: The URL should be short ideally contain relevant keywords to the specific page.
So whether you’re setting pages up for the first time or auditing your site, make sure these core basics are in place for every page. As Shopify’s Richard Lazazzera says, these elements are extremely important from an SEO point of view – both for search engines and users:
“Completing these field can significantly help Google better understand what your store is all about as well as increase the chances of people clicking on your links from the search results page.”
All I will say is be careful about changing the URL of any pages that have already been published. If you get the process wrong, you’ll be doing far more SEO damage than good and breaks any existing links or bookmarks to that page. Changing URLs can be done, but there’s always an element of risk and added work involved. Pick your battles when you optimize your eCommerce store, because you already have more work than most to take care of.
In the same article, Richard also offers up some advice on product descriptions. He has the following three questions to ask:
- Are all your product descriptions original or have they been copied from your supplier/manufacturer?
- Do they contain all the important information and technical details a visitor would need to make a purchase decision?
- Does the product description sound compelling and make someone want to purchase it?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, Richard says you should probably spend some more time on your product descriptions. I would say he’s spot on with the first two questions, too, but the third is a little more tricky.
I would suggest hiring a professional copywriter if you want some compelling product descriptions. There’s a fine line between compelling and cringeworthy, where no amount of time spent on your job descriptions will increase sales.
If you need more tips on product descriptions, check out this post 9 Simple Ways to Write Product Descriptions that Sell (also a Richard recommendation).
Tips from WooCommerce
If there’s another team of eCommerce developers and marketers you want to listen to, it’s probably the guys over at WooThemes. And you can even sign up to their email list for tips on preparing for the holiday season.
Images and layout
We all know images are vital to any product page, but using them effectively is another thing altogether. Luckily, WooThemes co-founder Mark Forrester has some great tips on how to make the most of your visuals by using less:
And while images are definitely a good thing in terms of increasing engagement and encouraging conversions, too many can be distracting, especially if you’re trying to cross-sell on a single product page. Too many related product widgets or promotional offers can make your site cluttered and unintuitive, according to Shopify, which has a direct and negative impact on conversions.
So opt for the less is more approach. A large, centered product image on an individual product page captures attention.
So the idea is to keep things simple and this is especially true for mobile users. A bloated layout takes more code to make responsive while every image and widget slows down performance. Not to mention the information overload you end up throwing at users once your pages eventually load.
Forrester also has some tips on product descriptions and I think he’s spot on with this comment in particular:
Descriptive yet to-the-point sales text should skip over the high-pressured sales pitch and stick to information with a little bit of flair. Basically, people are wise to the “hype” these days so a “just the facts, ma’am,” approach is best.
We have to take a more subtle approach to things like product descriptions and our marketing tactics in general now. This only becomes more true with time as people get “wise” to the usual tricks. The fact is people like to believe they make their own buying choices rather than being seduced by hype.
We also have some tips on navigation from eCommerce expert and WooCommerce author Nicole Kohler. This couldn’t be more important for any website, but especially eCommerce sites where there are so many pages to navigate. So let’s see what Nicole has to say:
- Label your pages in a sensible manner. You may be tempted to call the section of your store where you sell handbags the “depot” or “collection,” but that’s confusing to users… and not at all search engine friendly. Label all of your pages simply, using keywords where appropriate, and use your graphics or page copy to jazz things up.
- Keep your main navigation simple. Although Google will crawl every linked page on your website, your visitors are likely to quickly leave if they can’t figure out how to get to a specific page, and a high bounce rate means your rankings might take a hit. Keep your main navigation simple and focused, limited to the most important pages, and move the others to your footer.
- Enable “breadcrumb” links. Breadcrumb links appear at the top of product pages and allow visitors to travel back to previous category or landing pages. They’re especially helpful for search engine visitors who may want to see more than the page they landed on, and can also help with your SEO.
- Link to every page. Google won’t know a page exists unless you link to it (and preferably more than once). Creating a sitemap should take care of this for you; many eCommerce platforms will generate and update your sitemap automatically, but double-check to be sure it’s present and linked to in your footer.
As Nicole points out in the same article including these tips, the navigation of your site is crucial to how Google reads and ranks your pages individually and collectively as a domain. While intuitive navigation and features like breadcrumbs make it easier for users to find their way between different products, categories and other sections of your site.
Tips from a Magento specialist
Magento tends to be the scary eCommerce option for non-developers but it’s a great platform none the less. And Magento specialist (at Creatuity) Jenna Warren has some tips for maximizing conversions from your traffic:
- If shipping isn’t free, be upfront about it. Show costs as early in the shopping process as possible. I adamantly recommended split testing Free Shipping to see if it improves your Conversion Rate and Average Order Value enough to justify the cost – you might be surprised.
- Display your phone number in the header. Be easy to contact, via live chat, phone, email and FAQ pages.
- Return policies should be clear.
- Delivery timelines should be clear. Shoppers prefer to see the estimated delivery date (“Expected delivery is 12/1/2016”) rather than timeframes (“3-5 days”). Plumrocket has an Estimated Delivery Date Extension that puts this information right on the product page.
- Quick checkout with [a] variety of payment options, including at least one “wallet” method like PayPal or AmazonPayments.
- Lack of trust can kill a sale quickly. Google Trusted Stores is free to apply for, and Wyomind has a Magento extension.
These tips are intended to increase the number of people who convert and reduce your exit and cart abandonment rates. Things like asking people to pay for shipping at the last stage of the checkout will stop a lot of people completing the purchase. Your aim is to reduce this number by providing all the necessary information before users click “buy” and making the checkout process as smooth as possible.
So there are some tips from the biggest names in eCommerce as we gear up for the busiest period on the consumer calendar. Now is the time to start planning for Black Friday and the Christmas season – so get your sites in order now, while there’s still time.