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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? 

3 Reasons to Choose a Responsive Design for Your Company Website

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Jessica

Businesses today must accommodate a wide variety of devices accessing website content; designing a website that caters to the biggest screen on the market just isn't a good idea anymore. Ideas of "responsive design" and how this approach to web design will ensure a page may be read on any type of device drives web design features and internet marketing projects for 2013. With smart phone sales exceeding desktop sales, the time for responsive design has come.

1. User interface setups continue to expand

The significant sales of smart phones have clearly driven the focus on responsive design for today's website designers, but it's not just tiny smart phones that are starting to serve as a person's portal to the internet. Many people run a system with multiple monitors, and this might cause problems with a website that can't accommodate more than one screen. Websites must be designed for anything from a 3 inch smart phone screen to a 70 inch HDTV screen.

2. Your website always looks terrific

About a decade ago it wasn't uncommon for website designers to tell visitors that a particular site was "best viewed" upon a specific screen size or with a particular browser. Good web design techniques have always included a design that would look good on any desktop computer, but the addition of smart phones, tablet computers, and even phablets (that's a tablet that's a little too big to be a smart phone) has forced web designers to accommodate tiny screens and greatly reduced user interfaces.

One of the only ways around the requirement of designing a site for a smart phone is the creation of an actual application designed to be used on the smart phone instead of the company's website. This technique works, but a business should usually have a responsive website and an application, instead of one or the other.

3. Google likes responsive design

When Google recommends something, internet marketers and web designers tend to listen due to the dominance that this company has over everything searchable on the internet. Google suggests that utilizing responsive web design is the best way to design a website and that creating separate websites for each type of user interface just won't cut it anymore.

The reason why Google likes responsive design is that an entire website through which its spider must crawl will have only one URL and a single library of pages instead of many separately designed pages and multiple URLs that all offer the same exact content.
Do you utilize responsive design for your company website? Why or why not?  Let us know in the comments below! 

Understanding the Panda and Penguin Google Algorithm Updates

Posted on May 22, 2012 by Josh Mc

Google recently made two changes to its search algorithm that have forever changed the way search engine optimization works. These two algorithm changes, known as Panda and Penguin, affect every website on the Internet, including eCommerce websites. While I know that search engine optimization can be a scary and confusing thing to look at, I thought it would be best to lay out some understanding on the updates and how they can best be combated in the eCommerce world. I have left resources at the end of each linking to people much smarter then me, if you feel like you have been affected by and of these updates you should check out the resources for more information. For exact dates on specific updates check out this post.

Panda Update

The first of the two updates was the Panda update. This update to Google’s search algorithm placed a greater emphasis on on-page content / SEO and was released last year (but is updated every couple of months which is why it is still relative). Websites now, more than ever, need to offer new, quality content to their visitors in order to combat the attack on low quality pages that the Panda update went after. If you were trying to promote a website with a bunch of advertisements above the fold and generic, duplicate content and other problems, these were the pages that were most affected in this update.

Adding fresh, high quality content to your site, and fixing low quality pages, is a good way to counter this Google update. If Google sees certain on-page metrics such as time on site, page views, and number of unique visitors, then these are all positive signals that the user was able to find what they wanted on your site, so dive into these in your analytics to see where you have pages that may need to be updated.

When dealing with an eCommerce website, you could also consider adding a blog or articles to your website in order to get this fresh content, or you can go through and refresh old product pages that have not gotten the updates they need. Refreshing product pages is a big one as these pages are often exact copies of what is on manufacturer pages and other competitors around the internet. If you only have a small amount of pages it is a great place to start. Always remember to provide value to the user and to focus on some of the above signals to make your site better and hopefully help you stay away from a loss in future Panda updates.


Penguin Update

The most recent Google update is the Penguin update. This search algorithm update has to do with targeting web spam, specifically targeting spam tactics like keyword stuffing, link schemes, etc. In the old days of SEO, you could simply build a large number of backlinks to your website from any other website on the Internet, and often it did not even matter where the links came from just as long as you had them. Now, this is no longer the case, as Google really only wants to see sites receive backlinks from relevant websites and not places that will sell you 200 links for $9.99. If you run an eCommerce website selling baby items, you will want the majority of your backlinks coming from websites that also discuss topics related to babies, which is a no brainer, but something that many companies lose sight of. This will help Google determine what your website is about and whether or not it should serve up your website in the search results for certain keywords related to the baby item niche.

In addition to obtaining backlinks from relevant websites, the Penguin update made it more important to diversify your anchor text (the text that makes up the link). Previously, the more backlinks you had using a specific keyword as the anchor text, the better the chance your site would be able to rank for that specific keyword. Now, in an effort to fight webspam, Google is often penalizing sites that try to manipulate anchor text. This doesn't mean that no links should have the keyword you are targeting, just that it is now more important to diversify your anchor text when building links, that way the links do not come across as spammy to Google.

The biggest thing Google is looking for in regards to a link building is a natural looking backlink profile. If all of your links are from one type of website using the exact same anchor text, this will not look very natural in the eyes of Google. Cleaning up old spammy links and making an effort to obtain links from a variety of websites related to your industry, that use simply anchor text like your company name, is becoming one of the best ways to work on improving your search engine rankings after the latest Penguin update.


All that to say, creating good content and bringing in good links is more important than ever to the prolonged success of your site in organic results. While Google recently made changes to their search engine algorithm, it is possible to still improve your site’s rankings through improving the quality of your site’s content. Adding fresh content to your site, obtaining links from relevant websites, diversifying the anchor text you use when building your links and cleaning up old spammy links are all great ways to do this. Obviously these are not guaranteed to help you recover from a penalty or shift but they are a great place to start. If you were affected by either of these updates I recommend the resources above as a good place to start. Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

Five Product Page Optimization's for Traffic and Conversions

Posted on February 7, 2012 by Josh Mc

While it is natural for ecommerce sites to focus on optimizing the home page, individual product pages also deserve some attention, and can yeild great rewards if they are keep up to date and optimized. Every web page can be modified to send a clearer signal to search engines and provide greater opportunities for conversion and sales.

Keep in mind, there are two "audiences" that need to be addressed when optimizing product pages: the search engine spiders, which are constantly gathering data and ranking web pages for there informational value; and live human users, who are gathering information to make informed shopping decisions. A well-optimized product page will speak in perfect harmony to search engines and people alike. Here are a five easy tips for optimizing your product page for more traffic and more conversions.

1. Unique Content
Search engines, like Google, Ask, Bing and Yahoo!, will place great SEO value on unique content that appears nowhere else on the web. Rather than copying descriptions from product manuals word-for-word, write your own exclusive content that romances the product in new ways. Well-written product descriptions are a powerful search engine attractor as well as a helpful sales tool.

2. Keyword Usage
A lot is said about keywords in optimization, and there are a few cardinal rules to follow. The most important is to optimize only one keyword or phrase (precise string of keywords) per page. This means do not push multiple keywords on the same page as it becomes very easy for your message to get lost. Research the keyword you would like to target and optimize the page for it.

3. Product Page Titles
When naming your product page, write a strong title that prominently features your selected keyword. A long, descriptive page name will tend to dilute its effect, so give your product page a short and concise title and put your most important keyword near the front.

4. Page Layout
Make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for with an on-site search box. Shoppers will favor the top part of a web page for conversion, and search engines also evaluate content from the top down, so keep your most important messages "above the fold." Also, you can help pages load faster by reducing excessively large graphic files to smaller sizes.

5. Link Directly to Product Pages
Back links are like SEO gold, but linked keywords don't always have to land on your home page. In fact, linking straight to product pages is one of the most effective optimization techniques known. Put your keyword to its best advantage by linking right to the exact page that inspired it. It is one of the most powerful tips for optimizing your product page.

These are just a couple tips for optimizing your product page. Let us know in the comments if you have any additional tips that you would recommend.


How the Google +1 Button Can Influence Rankings

Posted on August 30, 2011 by Josh Mc

Over the last couple of months Google has been shaking up the social media world through their creation of Google+. Up until now, Google+ was and still is a closed social media network that you must be invited to in order to participate. It is not hard to get an invite, but you have to have one to create a profile. Once a part of the network you can start to “+1” things ranging from search and ad results to independent websites. All of which will get added to your +1 history and gives the owner and website a happiness boost since their site is being interacted with.

Google Buy Me +1 Button

Recently though, Google announced that they are now allowing +1’s from people that you are connected to to influence your search results. While in theory this is a great new feature as you often trust the people that you are connected to on social media so their influence is welcomed. This ranking in itself is very easily manipulated and with the way social media connections are headed you could be receiving results shared by your second cousins wife’s mother in law who you randomly accepted but who’s opinion you may not trust. Also, enter the world of companies that sell hundreds of +1’s for a nominal fee (I won’t link to them but you can find them online if you are interested) and you have a metric that will soon be able to influence lots of searchers and create trust, that can easily be bought. While the same thing is true for companies that sell Facebook likes and Twitter followers, these metrics do not directly influence the search results you receive so their effect is more for social media clout then for results manipulation. I have personally seen a result jump from page 2 to page 1 in my results with just one friend sharing it. You can see an example of what it looks like below.

Google Plus One Influenced Search Result

Google is smart and they will no doubt find a way to combat the selling of +1 clicks, but you have to wonder that since the selling of links to influence pagerank still such a widely used tactic you would think they would not want to release another metric that can so easily be influenced. Either way the implementation of +1’ed results into organic search is interesting and it will be exciting to see where it goes.

What are your thoughts on this, do you think it is a good idea? Let me know 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 ]

Is Organic Google Search Fading Away?

Posted on February 9, 2011 by Zach

Like it or not many retailers are at the mercy of Google and organic search for a significant amount of revenue and traffic. This can be both a good and a bad thing, its free and can represent significant  revenue, but you are also at their mercy and a page drop for a keyword can mean a lot of lost money. There have been many discussions about the changes Google has been making to their search engine results pages recently with Josh even writing about it last year. What interests me is not only how many changes they have made, but what that has done to what is displayed above the fold of those pages. Taking the pages as a whole it may not seem like much has changed, but when you look at the content above the fold I think Google has drastically changed the layout and content displayed. I put together a couple of examples...

A simple search for bathroom faucets has new elements that include: a much more prominent top ad display box with the inclusion of AdWords Ad Extensions such as Ad Site Links, Google instant which will automatically change the results of the page based upon what is being typed, Google Suggest which drops down a box of suggested or alternate search phrases, an altered left hand navigation pane, and a section for related searches which can include other brands, stores or types.


Google Results with Adwords

An alternative search for Kohler bathroom faucets shows the actual Kohler website multiple times in the top three organic results as well as having an ad in the top ad unit.

Google Results One Brand


A search for shower doors shows more prominent local listings with a map on the right and extended listing of local results further down the page.

Google Results Local


What I find interesting, is that over time Google has added more and more elements to their results, given ads a more prominent focus and placement, and in many cases simply over complicated search. Didn’t they used to be known for a simple set of relevant results? Don’t get me wrong, I am a Google fan boy but when looking at the content above the fold on their results pages, I start to get overwhelmed by the number of elements and the amount of ads.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.


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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 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.



Google Search Before Update


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?


Big Changes Coming from Google (Update: It's Called Google Instant)

Posted on September 8, 2010 by Josh Mc

The search world is buzzing today with all of the possible changes that could come from Google's morning press event. Yesterday Google started hinting about a change with their creative logo and a quote from a Googler saying "it is fast, fun and interactive, just the way we think search should be."(SER) Today is no different. The current logo on Google's homepage adds color to the letters as you type, hinting at what many bloggers have been reporting on, streaming search results. If you haven't seen this yet, check out the video below from

We should know by the afternoon if this is rolling out to everyone, as well as what else Google may have up their sleave, but one thing is for sure, the way we search is changing.

What do you think about this change? Do you like it?


Update: Google announced that the real time search is called Google Instant and should be rolling out to Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE 8 today. Google said this is being done to help people save the time wasted when typing a search that the user may not even want to begin with. They predict it is normally around 25 seconds, and Google Instant will completly change this.


Google Instant Response Time