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25 Things to try for your Holiday eCommerce Business

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Jessica

'Tis the season for shoppers to be hitting the internet hard and fast in their quest to find the must-have products at the must-have prices. And if you're a savvy business, you'll have spent months preparing for the best time of year for any merchant: Black Friday and beyond, when most businesses are able to make sure they end the year in the black by offering killer deals that just can't be passed up. With online sales on Black Friday now surpassing 1 billion dollars, and holiday shopping during the months of November and December resulting in significant profits for businesses, you want to make sure that your website, as well as your sales and marketing staff, are ready for festive business. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and make the most of the holiday shopping season:

Plan ahead. Always plan ahead by getting as early of a start as possible on your ecommerce plans for the holiday shopping season. Begin making tentative plans and product and sale listing schedules as early as June and July.

Don't panic. Even if you didn't optimally plan for the holiday shopping season, you can still make the most of things. Jump in with some festive decor for your website, renewed interest in corresponding with customers on Facebook, and the offerings of holiday sales and promotions.

Give your site a festive makeover. With as much as 41 percent of holiday spending being done during the Black Friday weekend, make sure your site is ready to go with its holiday look no later than the week of Thanksgiving. Simple touches like adding a bundle of ornaments to your logo, setting a jaunty Santa Claus hat onto the corner of the first letter in your business name, or changing link colors from blue to red or green can go a long way in showing your holiday spirit. And on the SEO end of things, you'll definitely want to incorporate such search-engine-grabbing keywords like "Black Friday Sale" and "Cyber Monday Sale". Use these in headings, links, site content, and even as the ALT descriptions for relevant images.

Set up PPC campaigns. The opportunity to earn traffic, visitors and ultimately sales from PPC campaigns is at its best during the holiday shopping season. Utilize Black Friday and Cyber Monday keywords and banners to get the most clicks.

Add a holiday countdown ticker. Create a fun yet slightly panicky sense of urgency on your site by showcasing a holiday countdown ticker. Set the ticker to show how many days there are until Christmas. Additionally, consider placing brief information about your shipping info nearby - for example, underneath a holiday ticker you could have wordage such as, "Order by 12/20 and select 2-3 day shipping to get your package by December 24th!"

Promote gift cards. There isn't a better time than the holiday season to promote your gift cards. Gift cards are a so-so buy during most of the year, but at Christmastime, when there are plenty of parents, adult siblings, and co-workers who have no idea what to get one another, gift cards are sure to be a big hit. Offer expedited shipping on gift cards or even e-mail delivery to further entice buyers.

Show off the clearance merchandise. You may be able to finally move clearance merchandise off the shelves by showcasing some of the good, gift-worthy stuff to your holiday shoppers. Dedicate a spot on your page or within a product listing grid for your clearance items. Be sure to highlight the ultra-low prices on these items, which will attract frugal shoppers.

Offer gift wrapping and Secret Santa shipping. Many holiday shoppers don't have the time or desire to wrap gifts, especially if they have to then pay to ship those wrapped gifts to their final destination. Throw in free gift wrapping on orders of a minimum price, and be sure to include Secret Santa shipping - with this option, the recipient receives a receipt with the item, but no prices are listed.

Highlight holiday shipping deadlines. The biggest question holiday shoppers have in regards to purchasing online merchandise is, "Will I get it in time for Christmas?" Put together a simple table that lists product ship dates on the left, and product delivery dates on the right. Encourage shoppers to choose shorter shipping options (though these are usually a bit costlier) or do their shopping sooner in order to avoid stalking the postal service mercilessly in the days leading up to Christmas.

Clearly state payment and shipping info. Going hand in hand with what has already been mentioned - always be clear with stating costs and times associated with preparing orders for shipment and the actual shipment of those products. If there are daytime deadlines for placing orders that will ship on that same day, make sure you are clear with this, too. And if you offer free shipping or a free product on orders that meet a certain threshold, make sure this is clearly explained, so that you don't have disappointed customers walking away from their shopping cards.

Offer free shipping. Eat some of the shipping costs your customers will have to deal with by offering to cover it yourself. Reasonable exclusions make sense, but you should be willing to offer free shipping on smaller purchases, like jewelry, makeup, clothing, and toys.

Promote your festivity on your blog and social media profiles. The Christmas season is everywhere, so even if you're less of a Santa Claus type and more of a Scrooge, it's important that you paste a smile on your face, plop a Santa hat on your head, and take to your blog and Facebook status and Twitter update with proclamations of how exciting this time of year is. Or, at the very least, showcase and highlight some of the more festive, holiday-oriented sections of your website.

Offer themed gift shopping pages. Just as many holiday shoppers will traipse up and down the aisles at department stores, trying to find that special someone just the right gift, plenty of shoppers will be aimlessly browsing your website, hoping to click upon the perfect item. By taking the time to put together gift guides for different recipients (co-workers, children, teenagers, men, women, etc.), you'll make it easier for your shoppers to find a gift, and then purchase that gift.

Show your holiday spirit by giving back. Many businesses are giving back to communities by donating proceeds of certain purchases to charity, or even by directly donating shipments of clothing, toys, or food to neighborhood programs. You too can get on board with this, and you'll definitely want to toot your own horn by mentioning your decision to give back on social media. You can promote your decision to give to those in need on your website by offering customers the chance to give to. Offer to add on $1 donations to their purchases, or let them select a charity to send an item to if they make a qualifying purchase. Holiday shoppers are quick to notice and talk about businesses who aren't just thinking about their profits during the holiday season - this is a group of businesses you definitely want to be among.

Be mobile ready. If you're not yet mobile ready, now's the time to make the necessary changes to your website so that your visitors can easily access and navigate your website, whether they're on a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. 30 percent of shoppers plan on shopping online, and more than half of the purchases they make are done on a mobile device. Don't lose out on sales because your website isn't designed to be responsive and adaptable to all mobile platforms.

Update your site regularly. Do daily check-ins to look for mis-priced merchandise, incorrect inventory, and even simple things like types or mis-aligned images that need tending to.

Check in on social media. Cross promote your site and its selection of holiday-perfect items on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and even Instagram. Use your company's name as a hashtag to make it easier for others to find and chime in on your conversations.

Hit the email marketing hard. Now's a good time to put together daily email newsletters. Each newsletter can have the latest and greatest must-have products listed, maybe a few DIY gift and baking ideas, and a handy countdown to Christmas ticker to motivate customers to click and buy.

Collect emails. While you're working on building traffic and sales, throw up a pop-up that offers new customers the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter with just one click. Many consumers will do so, even if for no other reason than to hope for coupons and exclusive discounts.

Utilize coupons. Coupon codes can be a saving grace during the holiday season, when tight budgets are stretched even tighter. Offer a simple 10 or even 15 percent coupon that has no conditions to be met, and watch how your customers will suddenly swarm your site to make purchases.

Hold a giveaway. Consider holding a giveaway for a high value item, or even a $50 or $100 gift certificate to your store. Set up the giveaway somewhere on your site or blog to draw traffic to your site, and encourage entrants to browse your site, follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, etc., to build your social media following.

Be there and be ready to chat. Set up a live chat service, and make sure that it's actually staffed by a person who can jump in to answer a customer's questions.

Prep staff. Prepare your staff for what they can expect during the holiday shopping season, and consider adding one or two more people, especially if you offer live chat and phone support.

Staff your site's back-end. Last but certainly not least, make sure that your website's server is equipped to handle the increased load from traffic and website purchases. Considering upgrading resources such as bandwidth, and even CPU and RAM, to make sure that your site will stay up and running at all times.

Are you in the eCommerce business?  What tips would you recommend following next year? 

Which Shopping Engine is Best? This Study Compares Them

Posted on May 3, 2012 by Josh Mc

CPCStrategy put together an interesting article comparing many of the top shopping engines to see which ones preformed best for things like traffic, revenue and conversion rate. It is a great study for those that are involved with shopping engines and I recommend you check it out.

Here's a quick breakdown of some of the results:

  • The study analyzed 4,274,820 clicks
  • 82,845 orders
  • $1,158,604.41 in spend
  • $7,867,575.91 in revenue

Best Comparison Shopping Engines (overall):

  1. Google Product Search
  2. Nextag
  3. Pricegrabber

Best Paid Comparison Shopping Engine (overall):

  1. Nextag
  2. Pricegrabber
  3. Shopping.com

Best Converting CSEs:

  1. Google Product Search
  2. Nextag
  3. Pronto

Best Paid COS (spend / revenue) CSEs:

  1. Pricegrabber
  2. Nextag
  3. Shopping.com

Biggest Traffic Driving CSEs:

  1. Amazon Product Ads
  2. Google Product Search
  3. Shopping.com

You can check out the full article on comparison shopping engines to see all of the other data they put together. Make sure to leave us a comment to let us know what you think of this study.

Developing a Successful Content Strategy

Posted on March 8, 2012 by Josh Mc

Fresh content is an integral part of any internet marketing strategy. Content can be anything from posts on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, to blog entries or product descriptions. In order to be effective, a business content strategy should have a cohesive goal and direction, and be centered around the natural use of targeted and long string keywords.

#1 – Update Regularly
One of the mistakes that many business owners make is starting a content marketing strategy and then not following through. If you want your business content strategy to draw in customers and improve website traffic, you need to update your content at least once a week, more often if possible. Plan on sending out at least three social network posts a week, updating a blog at least once or twice a week and updating important product descriptions as needed. Updating product descriptions does not mean rewriting all of your product descriptions, it means adding or deleting information or setting up a schedule to rewrite several product descriptions on a weekly basis (obviously easier if you have a smaller site).

#2 – Use Keywords Naturally
Once you have researched and chosen your targeted keywords then they should be integrated into your content. Optimal targeted keywords are single or double words that are popular but have low levels of competition (hard to find these but they are optimal). Additionally, research long tail keywords to use in your content as well as these can be easier to rank for. Long tail keywords are phrases associated with your targeted keywords but are at least 3 or 4 words. For example, your targeted keyword may be “shoes,” but your long tail keyword phrase might be “red women’s high heeled shoes.” Research from the Pew Foundation has found that consumers are using long string keywords more often when they conduct online searches.

Keywords should be used naturally within the text of your content. Readers should not notice that you have inserted keywords. Instead, the content should flow easily and be easy to read. Make sure to run a spell check and grammar check before posting content to avoid glaring errors or mistakes.

#3 – Use a Variety of Content Types
Utilizing a variety of content gives you a broader audience to drive customers to your website. For example, you may use posts to Twitter or Facebook to announce new products or seasonal sales; however, posting informational video content to YouTube may create a following for your company and bring an entirely different kind of customer your way.

Blogs and article marketing are also excellent forms of business content to utilize in developing following and driving website traffic your way. Both forms of content can serve as a medium for positive public relations, increase your online presence and establish you as a leader in your field. Additionally, they also are a method of creating backlinks, which can improve your website’s search engine ranking.

When putting together a business content strategy, it is important to carefully choose keywords and integrate them naturally into your content. You should plan on updating and posting fresh content on a regular basis. It is also a good idea to utilize a variety of different types of online content to blanket the internet with your message and to broaden the scope of potential customers your message reaches. By developing a business content strategy, you can improve search engine ranking, increase website traffic and increase your online business presence.

If you have any other tips for creating a content strategy make sure to leave them in the comments.


How Google Makes Their Money: Top 20 Most Expensive Keywords (Infographic)

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Josh Mc

I thought this infographic was really interesting so I wanted to share. The fact that 97% of Google's income comes from advertising was even more then I would have guessed. It is also pretty interesting that there are keywords with over $50 CPC bids. Check it out and leave a comment.

Where Does Google Make Its Money? [ infographic ]


Seven Tips for Successfully Managing Comparison Shopping Engines

Posted on March 15, 2011 by Chad

On the eCommerce paid marketing side, correctly running your comparison shopping engines (CSE’s) is extremely important to seeing your products make it through the shopping channels, as well as getting them in front of the eyes of the customer. While keeping up with the CSE's there are many different things I look for to make sure everything is set up and functioning the way it should. Making sure this is done will protect you from problems that can arise from incorrectly categorized products as well as help give your products the best chance they have to make the sale. Here are some general best practices I use when managing products on CSE’s.

 

  1. Check Where the Product is Assigned - With CSE's you are often forced to blend into what other merchants are doing, as well as what the site believes is the best fit for your product.  In some cases, this can turn out horribly, especially if the CSE is based on the first come first served method.  The first come first served method is used by many CSE's and is essentially when a merchant has added a product with an incorrect UPC and you come along and put up the correct product that owns the UPC, but since you were second to the incorrect data, your product may be matched up with the wrong parent product.  CSE’s don't offer much help to avoid this, so you have to make sure you stay on the ball and check that your products are correctly assigned.
  2. Populate as Many Fields as Possible on Your Feed Template - This is extremely important as it allows customers and shopping site to find and match your products correctly.  Make sure you fill it out correct and complete.  These fields could also help you with ideas on how to improve your own website if you know what attributes customers are looking for in your products.
  3. Complete All Account Information on the Provider Side. This should be a no brainer.  Even if its optional, complete as much as you can as it will help you in the future.
  4. Install User Surveys - User surveys are great in providing feedback as well as allowing you to becoming a trusted seller.  I cannot tell you how many orders I have received, only because our user rating was much higher than the lowered priced item.  Ratings build confidence in buyers, especially if your product is only a few dollars more expensive.  
  5. Ensure Accurate Categorization - Always be up to date with your categories.  Sometimes, your products performance lives and dies with how well you position them.  CSE’s love to change their categories at any time, sometimes even twice a year, so keep them up to date.
  6. Improve Product Data - Don’t get behind on improving your data for your products.  CSE user queries are dependent on this in many cases.  Your descriptions and the keywords you use in your data are what many customers will look for.  Keep this up to date!
  7. Remove Non-Performing Products - Kick them from your CSE’s!  A lot of the times, you can get a pretty good idea of product performance by looking at 60+ days worth of performance, sometimes less.  If it’s all spend and no revenue, then you can determine two things.  1) Customers like clicking on your product on a CSE and 2) They don’t like buying your product once they get to your site.  Kick the product from the CSE while you figure out why this is happening.  It’s obviously not making money for you.  

 

There you have it.  Some general steps you should think about when looking into marketing on CSE’s.  Before I let you go though, many CSE’s offer additional marketing opportunities.  Do your homework and research before entering into these.  Don’t entertain features blindly.  Sometimes, there are better and cheaper ways for additional marketing than using a providers services.  

What about you, do you have any CSE tips to add? We would love to hear about them in the comments.


 

Is Google Showing Signs of Fear?

Posted on February 3, 2011 by Josh Mc

If you haven’t been following the Google and Bing clashes of the last week you are definitely missing out, they have been very interesting from both sides of the debate. To summarize, Google has accused Bing of copying their results and have showed many convincing tests that lead to the possibility that this may be true. For the full story read Danny Sullivan’s great recap here or you can read what Google said on their blog here.


Now while all of the evidence is pretty convincing that Bing is using Google searches to influence its own rankings I want to bring up the point of “does this even matter?” In a search game where Google is still over 70% in charge in most polls, how much of a threat does Bing using their results on extremely low volume keywords really even pose. Google will keep doing what it is doing and Bing will keep trying to catch up, but don’t they always say “imitation is the best form of flattery.”


To dive even deeper into this, imitation is widely rampant on the web with every content creator or ecommerce provider being able to name 10 websites that were created when their niche started to prove successful and copy and respin everything that they publish. Why should this be different for Google. Why should they be free of competitors using their “ranking tactics” to create a better experience for their users. Take Groupon for example, you can’t hardly open your web browser without being marketed by another daily deal company trying to get a part of the market and copying what has been proven to work by others.


Google itself claims to be against these types of clone site but they find ways to rank them over and over in their search engine, but Google’s quarrel with Bing has shown that Google doesn’t enjoy it when the shoe is on the other foot. What I am trying to get at is that if this had happened when Bing had only 5% of the market share we wouldn’t have heard a peep from Google. I’m sure there are a thousand sites using their rankings right now with no market share. But the fact that Google has employees preforming detailed tests and then goes on their record calling out Bing in their blog and twitter feeds goes to show that Google may actually be starting to fear the rise of Bing.


All of this is interesting to watch play out, and I cant wait to see how the market shares fair in the upcoming year. One thing is for sure, Google is worried about Bing, enough to publically go on the record denouncing them.

What do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments.

 

Three Tips for Paid Marketers in 2011

Posted on January 4, 2011 by Chad

There are plenty of Top Ten Lists out there in the blogging world, so I wanted add to it; though I am going to take a different approach and only give you three!  These three general ideas should help anyone working in the online marketing world, especially paid marketing, to have a successful 2011. 

  1. Educate Yourself – This is common, but we need to be reminded every now and then to keep up with the technology out there.  There are always new ideas, keywords, and shopping engines popping up, and if you get behind, then you will be hard pressed to keep up.   The old networks are changing; Google is crazier than ever with its many new changes to its interface and Yahoo and Bing have joined forces.  Stay on top of it. Figure out the ways you can use these changes to optimize performance.  Prioritize what is working and move on from what is not.      
  2. Don't Assume – A good amount of advertisers and online users automatically assume that if something is being written all over the blogosphere than everyone is doing it.  This is absolutely not true!  Just remember, you need to make sure something has a real chance of adding value to your customers before implementing it. Try a quick test before any crazy implementation. Don’t get stuck wasting your time trying to make something work for you simply because you think it is working for everyone else.
  3. Stay on Top of Your Representatives – You can read all the literature you want.  You can test multiple variations of single product. You can even follow every successful blogger on Twitter hoping they drop a nugget of information. But let’s face it, no one can know everything there is to know about online marketing.  We all can use help with our accounts.  If the representatives you are dealing with right now are not helping your account grow, it’s time to find the representative that can.   Sometimes we are just too nice, the reps convince us that they are doing all they can…not true.  When a relationship is not beneficial, then it may be time to move on.  Request a new rep, and try to find someone that understand that both sides of the relationship need to grow, not just theirs.


There it is, my top three things that I will be working on and applying to my job at the start of 2011. What about you? Are there any things you will be working on to become a better marketer in 2011?

 

SEOmoz San Diego Meetup Review

Posted on December 22, 2010 by Josh Mc

Last night Tim, Zach and I had the opportunity to brave the crazy Southern California rain and make the trek down to San Diego for the SEOmoz Meetup.  The event was hosted by SEOmoz and Engine Ready at The Beer Company, which provided a great atmosphere for mingling and enjoying their food and drinks. SEOmoz even picked up the first two drinks which was a huge plus. The nights presentation went as follows:


Jamie Smith, Chairman and CEO, EngineReady
Topic: Beyond Google Analytics: Tools for Reporting Automation


Rand Fishkin, CEO & Founder, SEOmoz
Topic: Top 10 Things SEOs Have Learned in 2010


Jamie Smith started the night off and had some interesting data and information, before Rand came and gave a great presentation on the 10 SEO lessons learned from 2010 (Check out his presentation slides).

Rand Slides, SEOmoz


Some of the interesting topics he addressed were
-    Google’s new ranking metrics via social media, including the difference between tweets and links
-    The importance of mentions, even without links
-    Google’s shift to local being strong with Marissa Mayer moving and the attempted aqusition of Groupon
-    LDA
-    Link spam still working
-    Video, images and social all providing opportunity in the future

Rand Speaking, SEOmoz

Rand Presenting

He stayed around afterwords and talked to anyone that had a question. This was really cool as there was a line of at least 10 people at all times for an hour after his presentation waiting to pick his brain on the ways SEO could effect their sites. 

Gordian Project with Rand from SEOmoz

Zach, Tim, Rand, Josh

All in all this was a great night, I wish these events happened more in Southern California. Big thanks to all of the folks at SEOmoz, which makes great SEO Software, for putting on this event and making it free to come and join. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Was anyone else there? What did you think of the event?

 

 

Google Boost: Google Places Results in Paid Search

Posted on November 24, 2010 by Chad

At this time, Google is beta testing a new feature called Google Boost. Google Boost is a disruptor for those bidding on PPC ads as it takes away one of the coveted ad positions and replaces it with a Local Ad. This feature is currently only being tested in three areas: San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. Essentially, Boost Ad’s are designed to list a sponsored “Place” Ad when a user searches for something related to them. This change is good for Google as it allows them to accept local ads from locations all around the world, in additional to the national marketers that are always bidding on these ads.

 

As Josh wrote about regarding Google's change to local results, it certainly seems like “Places” are becoming of great interest to Google. Boost’s Ads may not necessarily be an appreciated addition to some search marketers, especially if their strategy is to take over a certain Ad position, like 2 or 3, in a search result. However, for local businesses, this seems like a real plus in which they could ultimately gain great exposure for their business. If you are interested in Google Boost, you can fill out this form here to express your interest in the feature. 

What do you think? Is this a good or bad addition?

 

Google Search: Now Focusing on Local Results

Posted on October 28, 2010 by Josh Mc

This morning I sat down at my computer to perform some of my normal keyword research on Google, only to be greeted with an “update” Google apparently made over night. In this update Google has significantly changed the way they handle the local results set by completely integrating them with the organic results (only showing up for me in Google Chrome, so may be a test). In the below example search, there are two organic results, then seven local results (that appear like organic results) followed by five more organic results. This change makes a significant difference for the organic SEO’s out there; if you have a result set that competes with local search results, you really have to be in the top 2 for the results to show above the fold. If you were previously ranking at spot three for the results set below, you would now be beneath seven local results before your keyword would show.  Google also cuts back the organic result set from ten results to seven, kicking an additional three results off the first page.

The second person this effects is the SEM user that relies on Google AdWords clicks. With this change, Google has implemented a map that follows you down the page as you scroll. This is interesting for the local results, but covers up the ads in the right bar as you scroll.

Google Local Map Placement



I’m not sure why Google would want to cover up what makes them their profit, but this new update does not seem to be completely well thought out. I know that local search will continue to get more and more popular with time, but this new results set seems to tailor directly to the local results set, while negatively affecting everything else.

Here is a before and after screen shot.

Before

 

Google Search Before Update

After

Google Search After Update


What are your thoughts? Do you like this change? Do you think it will stay this way, or is it simply a test Google is doing?