The e-commerce market is very competitive, with conversion rates relying heavily on a website’s design, usability, mobile optimization, and pricing. The two biggest obstacles of an e-commerce site are getting users to the site, and converting them into customers.
Tracking Google analytics data
First off, one of the many mistakes e-commerce companies make is that they don’t have the proper analytics in place to track conversion rates. It’s as simple as turning on e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics, and updating the script on your site. The other asset you’ll want to utilize is Google webmaster tools and enable Analytics sharing so you can view search engine queries, impressions, and clicks. Once you’re properly tracking your user interactions, it’s important to keep track of key analytics data to create a strategy.
The important data you want to keep tabs on include:
- Mobile, Tablet, & Desktop user ratios
It’s VERY important to be informed about how many of your users are on mobile devices. You would be surprised as to how many of your users are on them. Statistics online about average e-commerce market share are not applicable to every site. I’ve seen many sites averaging 30-50% of their users on smartphones & tablets. If your e-commerce site isn’t optimized for a mobile user experience, you may want to consider responsive design or a mobile version. Additionally, if your conversion rates are poor on mobile devices, improvements in usability or user flows may be necessary.
- E-commerce Analytics
Setup some conversion rate and value goals in Google Analytics, track if you’re meeting them, and strategize how to improve them. Check your user flow metrics to analyze where users are exiting your site (more on that below).
I also recommend checking out product performance analytics – pinpoint which products are the most popular and promote & cross-sell those to your customers. If your product images and content are not optimized, it may be a good idea to start with those.
- Monitor Your Referrals
Social media is not the end-all be-all of referral traffic, but I’ve seen small businesses that generate thousands of referrals per month Facebook alone. If your website isn’t getting many referrals, I recommend reviewing your social media and listing strategies. The big hitters are Facebook & Yelp, but don’t forget about external blogs and local media outlets.
- Search Engine Optimization Queries
This section in Google Analytics will show impressions (how many times your site has shown up in a keyword/phrase search), clicks, and average position (where your site ranked for that keyword or phrase). Even if your site is averaging in the top ten, which is still first page results, if you’re not in at least the top five you are likely to experience a low click through ratio (often less than 5%). Organizing content around those keywords or phrases and directed users to the appropriate product pages can help boost your statistics in these three criteria.
- User Flows
Pinpoint which pages users are falling off on by checking user flows. Falloff on product detail pages may indicate that your products may not contain enough information, not have appealing images, or your pricing isn’t competitive. Checkout page fallout can result from a poor user experience (such as too many steps to complete), shipping options/pricing may not be ideal, or they simply changed their minds. Buyer hesitation is unavoidable, but creating a better user experience is in your control.
- Site Speed
Analyze your marketing & SEO strategies
In a nutshell, SEO for e-commerce websites is primarily your strategy for content and backlinks. If you don’t have a strategy in place, you’re definitely not maximizing the potential of your product sales.
- Product & Category Descriptions
This is a problem that is so common in e-commerce websites, it’s astounding: very brief and/or redundant product & category descriptions. You don’t even have to pad your content with keywords; review it, and put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Does your content make sense? Is it descriptive enough? What questions might I have about the product? Answering these questions in your product content will not only improve your SEO, but it will also reduce the amount of falloff and inbound contacts from your customers asking questions about your products.
- Internal Linking to Your Products & Categories
Search Engines crawl your website and analyze your linking structure internally as well as externally. Your pages should have links to your products and categories, on as many pages as possible. Features such as “related products” or lists of categories/subcategories accomplish this, but there are other pages that can link back as well, which brings me to…
OK, so you may not call it a blog; some call it a news feed, or articles, but regardless of naming conventions, it is extremely beneficial to have a section where you can release content on a regular basis. Putting all your content in menus and submenus will detract from your site’s user experience, but a single menu item with a blog can let you freely communicate with your customers continuously, and all that content is indexed by search engines. This should be a major part of your SEO strategy, by analyzing keywords and writing content around them. The content should, of course, be relevant to your industry, and also be original. Keep in mind that articles with “thin” content won’t get you the results you’re looking for (especially with Google’s Panda updates). 1,000-3,000 word+ articles are the way to go, and for e-commerce sites I recommend cross-selling your products in the article as well.
- Google Adwords
Let’s face it, Google Adwords can get expensive. If you’re using it already, then you’ve probably already realized this. Many companies use this as a sole strategy for their internet marketing, funneling upwards of $10,000 per month to bring customers to their website. While this strategy may kind-of work for businesses that provide services or have high-end products that average $1000+ per purchase, what if your product’s average price is $10 and you’re paying $6/click? Even if they load up their cart, low conversion rates will often make Adwords spending cost more than it’s worth. Additionally, if you were to remove Adwords altogether while having no organic SEO strategy, it’s likely that your sales would drop drastically. I recommend balancing your paid online advertising with organic SEO services.
Even with the changes to Google’s algorithms over the last few years, which absolutely destroyed the backlink strategies that used to be utilized (now called “black hat” techniques – these were essentially paid-for links that were usually bought in bulk), backlinks are still a powerful asset when implemented properly. I’m not going to fully cover backlinking strategies in this post, but I’ll cover some basics for e-commerce websites. It’s not a good idea to always link back to your home page. There are a few good directory listings out there such as DMOZ or Yahoo Directory Listing (paid), which should be linked to your home page. Linking to e-commerce product/category pages or blog posts (which should be setup to link to your product pages), will get you better results because it helps diversify your link “portfolio”, while letting you link to more relevant content (another thing that’s a part of Google’s Panda Update).
Refine Your User Experience
Some of this was covered in the data analytics portion previously, but I will re-iterate a little simply because of the importance of this section, which is about creating a great user experience for your customers.
- Steps to Checkout
Difficulty finding products and proceeding through the checkout process will often lead to customers leaving your website to find a more user-friendly one (I know, because I’ve done it, and you may have too). An easy way find out if your website is performing well in this area is to count the number of steps it takes for a user to get from the home page to checkout completion. If it seems like too the process is too long, try reducing the amount of information you require to a minimum (an option to checkout as a guest, login, or create an account is ideal). An important factor to take into account is if you are using single page checkout, which will let your customers complete their purchase without refreshing their page.
- Category & Subcategory Organization
Unorganized categories and subcategories lead confusion to both you and your customers. Properly arranging these will help with the overall user experience – I find it more common that e-commerce sites setup too many categories rather than too few. One important reminder if you decide to re-organize your site structure; make sure you setup 301 redirects to the new urls from the old ones!
- Product Pictures
Your e-commerce product pictures should be cleaned up in photoshop and at a decent resolution for viewing on the web. There should also be alternative images to display different aspects of your products. This will help customers feel more comfortable purchasing your products.
These tips I just covered will help you analyze where you need to make improvements on your e-commerce website. In the competitive world of online shopping, every step you take to improve your user experience is crucial to ensuring your business' success. If you would like assistance with your e-commerce website, please dont hesitate to contact us. For more information about our services, visit our e-commerce services page.