How to create great landing pages

 

create great landing pages

Landing pages are an essential marketing tool for small business ecommerce. They can play a key role in helping increase conversions.  Defined simply, a landing page is webpage built specifically for a particular purpose, such as to generate leads or bring about a purchase. It is the page people land on because they have been directed to it by your campaign channel.

“Specific page(s) on a web site created for visitors referred from marketing campaigns which are designed to achieve a marketing outcome.SmartInsights 

So what is the difference between a homepage and landing page? Unlike your ‘campaign specific’ landing page, your homepage is more of a hub for your whole website.  It usually caters to a number of different purposes, and therefore often has more than one objective and call to action.

Creating landing pages can help increase conversions

So why is it important to create a separate landing page for specific campaigns and what’s wrong with always directing people straight to your homepage ? The most compelling reason to create separate landing pages for each campaign is to increase conversions. A successful landing page makes it clear from the outset what it is you are asking your visitor to do, leading them firmly towards  a specific call to action. If visitors are sent to the homepage after receiving a specific campaign message,  they may get distracted by all the other messages and ‘call to actions’ that are going on the page. The key message of the campaign gets lost and the chances of a conversion are decreased.

How to create a great landing page

What makes a successful landing page? Great landing pages can help engage your visitor, lower your bounce rate and increase conversions. Creating a landing page in itself  won’t automatically increase your conversion rate. You need to craft your  pages so that they actively do all that they can to entice your visitor to perform a specific action. We’ve outlined some tips to ensure your landing pages are working as hard as they can.

Create a unique landing page for each separate campaign.

We talked earlier about the difference between your homepage and landing pages. Landing pages should reflect the campaign you are communicating to your customers. For example if you have sent out a special 25% offer email, then you should have a specific landing page focused on the 25% offer. Likewise, if you are trying to generate leads via a ppc advertisement for a  free e-book download , then you need to create a unique e-book landing page.

Here is an example of a Boden email about new clothes that are ‘New In’ and below is the specific landing page . Customer aren’t directed to the homepage rather they are taken straight through to a specific landing ‘New In’ landing page. By focuses solely on clothes that are new in it is reflecting the promise of the email message and meeting customers expectations.

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Landing page content should reinforce your campaign’s message

Whatever  message you have enticed your visitor to click-through with should be clearly reflected in the content of your landing page. When visitors arrive on your landing page they will have a clear idea if what they expect to find. If the content doesn’t match the promise then they may well leave without bothering to find out more. Make sure that the customers are given the information they are expecting.

Here is an example from HubSpot. The first image is an email I received about a free e-book download and the second is the landing page I was taken through to. Then landing page content clearly reflects the message in the email.

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Consider your goals and have a clear call to action

What is the key purpose of your  landing page – what is the main goal? Are you generating leads, building relationships , looking for sales conversions. For example when visitors arrive at you landing page do you want them to make a purchase, download an e-book, sign-up to a newsletter, refer a friend, complete an order, enter a competition or leave a testimonial? When you have determined your key goal you can then ensure that your content is focused clearly towards achieving that goal.

Visitors should be left in no doubt as to what it is you are wanting them to do. Have a very clear, standout call to actions buttons on both your original campaign channel and the landing page . For example; Add to basket, Buy now, Download now, Register here, Shop Now,  Open an account, Enter here. Here are a few examples of some strong call to action buttons.

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Choose campaign specific keywords 

As we mentioned earlier the relevance of your landing page is essential – your content needs to reflect the message of your campaign. No more so than if the channel is via PPC ads. Make sure that you include the same keywords that you have used in your ad campaign in the body of the landing page as well. Landing pages whose text is directly relevant to the ad text will score better ad rankings. The more relevant your page is,  the more helpful it will be to your rankings and the higher the likelihood of an end conversion. So if your ad is promoting your new line of christmas gifts, then ensure your landing page is solely focused on your new line of christmas gifts.

Plan your layout to optimise response

How you layout your landing page is also important. I well-designed page will support your key goal and help optimise response.  The purpose of a landing page is to convert your visitor as quickly as possible to your key objective – whether that is to download and e-book, make a purchase or enter a competition. So the when you design your page keep this in mind.

Headline: 

Your main headline should directly reflect the message of the campaign that your visitor clicked through with. So if they clicked off a PPC ad then your headline should closely reflect the wording you choose. Your headline should marry with your visitors expectations about what the page is about.

Landing page copy: 

The body copy of your landing page should reflect your headline and support your campaign message. You are looking to convince and encourage visitors to convert to your end goal. Use bullet points, sub headers and images to break up text.  People should be able to skim over the page and still understand the key message you are conveying.

Call to action: 

Your call to action, whether that’s a sign-up form or a button, needs to be clear and standout near the top of the page – certainly above the fold. Your call to action should leave the visitor in no doubt about what you are asking them to do.

Here are a few articles about optimal layout for landing pages which you may find helpful.

The anatomy of a perfect landing page

How to design a landing page that delivers customers

11 Great landing page examples

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of creating landing pages, so please do leave a comment

 

How to build online trust – 6 helpful tips for small business ecommerce and start-ups

online trust

Trust is integral to the success of any business. A customer will only buy from you, continue a relationship with you and share their experience positively if they trust you. Of course, building trust takes time so a key challenge for small business ecommerce and start-ups is getting customers to engage when they have no experience of you or your business. Therefore, as a small business owner or ecommerce start-up you have to work harder to instill a sense of trust in order for a customer to feel comfortable handing over their hard-earned money.

Well-known companies have built up trust over time to the point that it becomes ingrained within the brand (think John Lewis). Start-up’s don’t have that luxury – you need to impart a sense of trust from the first moment a potential customer comes in contact with you business. You have to be able to quickly convey the message that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy company.

Happily there are some practical actions you can implement that can help send out trust signposts to potential customers signalling that you are a business they can feel comfortable and confident engaging with. A good starting point is to take a look the entire customer experience – start to finish. From initial promotions (both online and offline), a customer’s first experience of your website , right through to the checkout process. Identify all the touchpoint along the customer journey that can provide you with the opportunity to develop your  message of  trustworthiness.

6 ways to help instill trust

1. A great website

Like it or not first impressions count. Your website may well be the first significant experience a customer get of  your business. If a new customer lands on your site and it it looks disorganised, dated and unprofessional any natural hesitancy they had will be amplified and it will be increasingly difficult for you to win their business.

Your website needs to look professional, be easy to navigate and information should be up-to-date. Go through it with a fine tooth comb and check for broken links, spelling mistakes and out-of-date information. A credible website makes a customer feel comfortable and secure. Think about the following aspects:

  • Navigation – How simple is it for your customer to access the information they are looking for? Can they get to their desired destination within a few clicks?
  • Usability – Does it load quickly? How easy is it for a customer to complete a specific action such as sending an email request,  adding an item to their shopping cart or completing the checkout process? Make your website as user-friendly as possible.
  • Design – we’ve already mentioned the importance of a good first impression. The design of your site has powerful impact on how your business is viewed. Is your website structured so your customers don;t have to think too hard. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain interesting and engaging images?

2. Relevant, fresh and engaging content

online content

The quality of your content is central to building trust and establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers. Offer customers a wide range of interesting, engaging and informative content. Think about how you can provide information that is of value to your audience. For example blogging is a great way to show you are interested in your customers, it helps keep new content coming into your site and can add an air of authority to your business.

Look at your content continuously on an ongoing basis. Nothing shrieks unprofessional as stale and out of date content. Customers may think if you can’t be bothered to take time over the content of your website you may not be too bothered in other areas either. Keep your content fresh, relevant and up-to-date and don’t forget if you have a presence on social media, the same applies – keep active and post fresh, interesting content regularly.

Finally, do also have a think about the tone of voice and approach you take to your content. As your brand develops and becomes more established you may take more risks and become more playful in your tone but when starting out then it is probably safer to take a friendly but professional stance – for example err on the conservative side!

3. Customer reviews and testimonials

  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers

Customer reviews on your website can act as a significant trust signposts. Customers trust reviews from other customers almost as much as word of mouth from friends and family – this can be particularly useful when starting out in a new business. Customer reviews can help improve customer trust in your product and/or service and helps build brand credibility. Having visible customer reviews on your website also conveys that you are confident in your product, having nothing to hide and are genuinely interested in and value the opinions of your customers.

There are plenty of online review sites available to help you manage and automate your customer reviews – for example Trustpilot, Feefo, Reevo. Alternatively don’t be afraid of directly contacting customers or clients  for a testimonial directly. If customers have had a positive experience they are usually quite happy to review you or provide you with a testimonial.

4. Display Trustmarks

 

trust mark security logos

Trustmarks in isolation won’t solve a customers concerns over the credibility of your site, but they can play a supporting role. A well designed, usable shopping cart checkout process is key but displaying trust marks security logos can help reassure customers that it is safe for them to shop on your website. Security logos and badges such as McAfee, Norton, TRUSTe, Twarte, Commode, PayPal will reassure customers that you have taken the appropriate steps to keep their personal  data safe and protect them from credit card fraud and identity theft.

In addition, if you are a member of any industry bodies or trade associations then it is worth flagging this up to. And, if your business works with closely with your local community or  supports a particular charity then highlight these activities as well  – they all help send out trust signals to customers that you are a credible, trustworthy and all-round good company to do business with.

5. Open communication channels

Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily. Making them jump through hoops to make contact will undermine any trust you’ve built up. Being visible and easily contactable shows you care about your customers experience and have nothing to hide!

Ensure your contact information is flexible. Customers should be able to contact you in whatever way is most convenient to them be it phone, email or letter. Your ‘Contact Us’ page should be visible and easy for customers to find.

Central to developing trust offering excellent customer services. Being able to reassure a customer about an order or  a delivery goes a long way towards establishing a trustworthy relationship – particularly when a customer has no previous experience of your business.

6. Present a human face to the business

As a rule people like people and like doing business with people. Adding a human element is a great way for small business and start-ups to establish a rapport with potential customers. If they like the look of you and your business ethos, they are more likely to feel happy and willing to do business with you.

Checkout Riverford’s About Us page. It has genuine sense of community and you get a real feel for the people behind the business. So too take a look at Stella & Dot’s video – again is gives you a feel for the personalities behind the business.

Riverford About Us

 

Establishing brand trust doesn’t magically happen overnight it grows along with your business. However, as we’ve outlined above, when you are just starting out there are a number of trust signposts you can implement early on to help send out signals to potential customers that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy business that they can feel confident in engaging with. 

Online shopping image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumbs up image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of building trust so please do leave a comment

5 e-commerce Site Design Trends for 2016

e-commerce Site Design TrendsOnline shopping has become a regular affair today. Almost everyone shops on the Internet, not only during the holiday seasons when online retailers offer huge discounts but throughout the year. According to Commerce Department estimates, annual e-commerce sales in the U.S. totaled $304.91 billion in 2014, almost 15.4 percent up from the previous year. The fourth quarter i.e. the holiday seasons sales accounted $95.98 billion, which represented 31.4 percent of the total eRetail sales in 2014.

In its recent report, the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that the U.S. eRetail sales for Q3 2015 was $87.5 billion, up 4.2 percent from this year’s second quarter e-commerce sales.

But what makes people click the purchase button?

Well, it isn’t easy to answer. From pricing to usability of your e-commerce site, a lot of factors can encourage your visitors to make the purchase. But one thing is extremely important – the overall look and feel of your online store. The design of your e-commerce website affects your business in more than one way. To begin with, it obviously affects how your customers view your brand. In addition, your website’s design also affects the user experience, which again, affects your sales directly.

e-commerce Web Design and Sales

A 2006 study by Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek, & Brown indicates that it just takes 50 milliseconds for a user “to develop an impression of a website and decide whether he or she likes it. If your users feel that our e-commerce store is difficult to navigate, requiring tons of clicking they will abandon your site sooner than you imagine. In fact, users can even abandon your online store if they don’t like the theme or color of your website.

The design of your online store is therefore as important as any traditional brick and mortar store. The layout, the navigation, the look and feel, everything affects your sales. Attractive online store design has always been a key factor in determining the store’s sales and marketing as it increases your products’ perceived value to your customers apart from making your website seem more trustworthy.

One thing with e-commerce website designs (just like any other website design) is that the trends change almost every year. In 2016, for example, online stores are more likely to look alike as designers are now employing similar user interface design patterns and card-like layouts to the e-commerce sites. The popularity of these design trends is most driven by the higher usage of mobile devices. Studies indicate that more than 50 percent of all e-commerce traffic come from mobile devices. In 2013, one-third of all holiday season e-commerce purchases were made using a smartphone.

eCommerce Web Design and Sales

The user interface design patterns that designers are now using work well on both mobile devices and desktop computers, making the online stores truly responsive. As a result more and more designers are incorporating these patterns to provide convenient and similar shopping experiences across devices.

The following are 5 e-commerce design trends that you should keep your eyes open for in 2016.

1. Flat and Material Design

Flat and material designs have similar design style, although they differ in certain aspects. Both the designs are trending right at this moment. The key reasons for their popularity are as follows:

  • You can easily adopt them for responsive sites
  • They are content-focused
  • Provide a young, fresh look to your website

Both the designs have minimalistic style that highly appeals to users in terms of accessibility and simplicity. For one thing, both flat and material designs provide a gimmick-free feel. Combined with vibrant and bright colors, these design patterns reflect the true essence of young brands like Google, Dunked and Needle in Seattle.

Flat and Material Design

Although they look very much alike to the untrained eyes, difference lies in the details. Besides, they both have certain pros and cons that you need to consider when settling for one design over another.

Flat design, for example, is a great option if your users are highly attuned to digital interaction. Material design, on the other hand, allows you to communicate and response to your users’ actions. It basically attempts to combine the real and digital worlds and is essentially multi-dimensional, even though it is aesthetically flat. It is an evolution of flat design and more robust in nature.

But keeping aside the debate regarding flat design vs. material design, we will be seeing a lot of e-commerce websites implementing these design patterns to focus on UX.

2. Responsive Design

Responsive web design is here to stay, thanks to the growing trend of mobile Internet usage. This is definitely a good news for online retailers as responsive design provides a rather affordable and simple way for businesses to create an effective mobile-friendly site that also improves user experience.

In fact, responsive web design is more than a trend now; it is a best practice, especially after Google released its Mobile Friendly update in April 2015. It is therefore quite obvious that more and more websites, including online stores will become responsive in 2016, if they haven’t already. Now, this isn’t happening just because Google says so; responsive design is highly compatible with minimalism, helping designs to keep the page weight down. In addition, it works well with other popular design trends like cards and car-like layouts when it comes to fit the screen size.

While this design is versatile, there are certain things you need to consider to provide optimum user experience. Your responsive e-commerce store should be lightning fast across all devices. Performance remains the biggest issue for many. It is therefore recommended to apply performance testing in order to measure and optimize your e-commerce store effectively for each device and screen size.

3. Card Design

Card Design

Card and card-like layouts are trending for one simple reason. It allows you to add and organize amounts of content with little or no effort. The card-like boxes are used to encapsulate text, images and resources. e-commerce websites are highly leveraging this design pattern not only because it allows them to add huge amount of content, but is also pleasing to the eye. A bonus – card design is extremely easy to use. Users can check out their options with an immediate glance. And as mentioned earlier, card design works really well for responsive themes.

This design pattern has just started heating up and isn’t going anywhere soon. Rather, quite the opposite; it will be much more prevalent in 2016 and beyond especially in the e-commerce landscape.

The popularity of cards and card layouts was largely driven by their inclusion in Google’s Material Design. Microsoft too is jumping onboard in order to stay relevant. In addition, many websites, e-commerce and otherwise, are using card designs. Coca-Cola’s “Ahh” campaign and Pinterest are the two most popular examples. Some e-commerce examples include Adidas, Lord & Taylor, Watb and Belk etc.

4. Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling or long-scroll pages are nothing new. The technology was initially used in 2D games and has been extended to business websites, especially e-commerce sites in the recent years. In fact, this design trend gained much momentum in 2014 and hasn’t lost its charm yet. But why parallax scrolling?

Statistics indicate that users spend 76 percent of their browsing time in scrolling. It is, in fact, great for capturing your visitors’ attention quickly, to ‘wow’ them. It allows designers to:

  • Guide visitors through storytelling model, which has gained a lot of popularity lately
  • Show 3D model using movement, page depth and animation
  • Create timelines to provide a fun and very visual presentation

With the popularity of m-commerce, clicking is fast becoming a thing of past. Hand-held devices are designed in such a way that users find it easier to scroll down pages for a seamless content experience. And the smaller the device’s screen is, the longer the page scroll would be. This is the basic theory behind parallax scrolling sites.

Parallax scrolling also reduces the loading time and information is presented in a storytelling format, further enhancing user engagement. It is easier to navigate the store, which in turn increase your chances of generating sales.

When it comes to designing, sites implementing parallax scrolling usually have one larger home page linking to other similar kind of pages. Some sites are also opting for one single long page, aided by infinite scroll. However, they aren’t recommended for e-commerce sites.

Using parallax scrolling technique along with scroll-triggered animation and Ajax/jQuery techniques, designers can really get innovative with the setup. Being such a dynamic technique, parallax scrolling sometimes challenges designers to look for more creative and innovative methods to leverage this trend.

Further advancements with CSS and JavaScript are opening new opportunities for designers. More and more businesses are embracing this technique, especially after market players like Facebook and Twitter adopted this style, breaking the ‘above the fold’ stereotype. Many leading e-commerce sites are also implementing this style including Porsche, Sony and Fitbit. Other e-commerce sites that did a brilliant job with this technique include Ditto, 47 Brand, Neronote and White House | Black Market.

Parallax Scrolling

You can refer to them in order to emulate their style but remember that just like any other design style, parallax scrolling too has its drawbacks. So choose wisely and consider its advantages and disadvantages instead of following the trend blindly.

5. Interruption Merchandising

Interruption merchandising. A fancy name for something we are already familiar with. Remember the pop-up advertising! Of course you do, who can forget those annoying online promotion? In the 1990s the so-called pop-up advertising were first introduced; when you click at them, albeit mistakenly, the ads and sometimes the entire website opened in new browser windows every time. Worse still, many of them were deceptive and you never know what will open.

I hated them; in fact, most consumers hated those irritating pop-up ads. It was therefore no surprize that pop-up blocking services became commonplace soon enough and shortly after, web browsers too started blocking them.

But why am I talking about pop-up advertising once again? Because, they are making a comeback. And quite interestingly, interruption marketing is now being embedded in website design. This design trend is using the pop-up as a model. Online retailers are using them to offer special discounts and in exchange asking you to subscribe to their email list and/or follow their various social media profiles.

Interruption Merchandising

The reason behind this comeback is obviously email marketing. For online retailers, email marketing is one of the most powerful tool to reach out to their target audience. More number of email subscribers means more visitors and more chances of getting sales. Online retailers understand this very well and therefore use any means to attract more subscribers (read sales).

These pop-ups and interruption merchandising will become a common sight in 2016, especially for online stores. Many of the top retailers will start leveraging them, although selectively. This means, these pop-ups won’t be showing up every time you visit the online retail store. Sometimes, it will be displayed only when you take a specific action such as scrolling or when you attempt to leave the site.

Some of the brands that are already using modals on-site effectively include Ann Taylor, COS, Big Lots, AQ/AQ, Taylor Stitch and Pretty Little Thing. There are several apps to help you set up a pop-up seamlessly to promote your email subscriptions.

Conclusion

There are some e-commerce website design trends that are fading fast, while others are here to stay. Designs that further aid consumers’ mobile shopping experience are specifically hooked for long as the popularity of mobile Internet usage is likely to increase even more in the coming days. As a result, more and more online retailers will be focusing their e-commerce design strategies on those platforms to stay relevant. Minimalism, simplicity and clarity will play key role in the year ahead. But before jumping onboard, make sure they are best for your users. After all you following some trends blindly only because they are ‘in’ at the moment isn’t your goal; you should rather strive to provide the best possible user experiences to your consumers.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

How to spring clean your small business website with 7 top tips to optimise your online presence

website spring cleanTime to spring clean your website?

When was the last time you put specific time aside to review and improve your website?  When first setting up a website a huge amount of time and effort goes into its design and function. However, once up and running smoothly we tend to breathe a sigh of relief and get on with all the other demands associated with a small business. It’s all too easy to get complacent and before you realise a significant amount of time has lapsed without any proper review taking place.

In the world of business nothing stands still for long so it is essential your website evolves and develops to accurately reflect the current environment.  It is essential you put proper time aside to take a fresh, objective look at your website, rid yourself of out-of-date content and implement any necessary improvements.

Revisit the core principles of a successful website

Creating a positive and engaging online experience for your customer is at the heart of a successful website. So when you are giving your site an overview it is a good idea to revisit some of the key elements of good website design. You probably considered most of these when you initially set up your website however they provide a solid base from which to start your review.  As it currently stands does your website tick all of the following boxes?

Navigation. Is it easy for visitors to navigate your website?  Are they able to find the information they are looking for within a few simple clicks?

Design and layout. Does your website make a good first impression? Are your pages simple, clear and visually appealing?

Usability.  How quickly does your website load? Can a customer to complete a specific action easily?

Credibility. Does your website have enough trust signposts to make a visitor feel secure about completing a transaction or imparting personal information?

Accessibility. Can your website be viewed equally well from a mobile, tablet or desktop? Is your website accessible to everyone irrespective of any disabilities they may have?

Content. Is you content up-to-date, relevant and engaging to your target audience and does it accurately reflect your business?

 7 topID-10031660 tips to make the most of your online presence

75% of users admit to making judgments about a company’s credibility based on their website’s design

1. Out with the old. Nothing is more off-putting to a visitor than information that is out-of-date. It shrieks unprofessional and does little to enhance the credibility of your site. Have a thorough read through of all your content and check everything is current and correct. For example check for:

  • Broken links
  • Pricing
  • Policies – such as terms and conditions or delivery and returns
  • Expired discount codes and vouchers

Update or get rid of any information that is out of date or no longer relevant.

2. Focus on content. As we’ve said many-a-time content is central to the success of your website and critical to how you are viewed by search engines. So it is important to objectively review yContent Imageour existing content:

  • Is your content still relevant to your target audience and will it engage them?
  • Have you included a good mix of relevant and natural keywords and key-phrases (absolutely do not keyword or key phrase stuff – neither visitors or search engines will appreciate it)
  • Is it concise, clear and to the point?
  • Does it accurately reflect your business?
  • What needs updating and what could be improved?
  • Look for any gaps in content. For example do you have enough visual content such as images and videos? 

3. Is your website search engine optimised? Make sure you are doing all you can to make your website inviting to search engines. If you have lots of pages it can be easy to forget to add-in search engine friendly information on each page. So it’s worth going through and checking any pages you’ve missed or that could be improved.  Part of Search Engine Optimisation involves making lots of small adjustments to individual pages to make it easier for search engines to understand the content of your website. We mentioned keywords and key phrases earlier, but also look at:

Page Titles. These usually appears in the first line of  a search engine’s results page. Ensure your title tags accurately reflect the content of each individual page. Try to keep them short, relevant and to the point.

Description Meta Tags. These give the search engines and users an overview of your page. They are usually a short paragraph containing one or two sentences. Have a unique description for each page and try to make them informative and interesting.

URL’s. Your URL’s should be relevant to the content of each page and should be simple for search engines and users to understand.

For further reading on SEO checkout these two excellent free resources:

4. What are your analytics telling you? Web analytics are there to help you so use them. For example you may notice some pages may have a significantly higher bounce rate than expected. This may indicate a problem so it needs to be investigated. It could be that the content may not be relevant, the page may be confusing or there is no obvious call to action. You can then address the problem and implement the necessary changes.

visual content on social media5. Is your website multi-device friendly? You may have a fantastic website but does it view equally well on any device? Remember 80% of internet users now own a smartphone. A successful online presence includes being able to offer a positive user experience so ensure your small business website is accessible to everyone no matter the device they are using.

If you’re not already set up consider responsive design. This essentially adapts your website to fit the device on which it is being viewed without having to create a numerous device specific websites.

6. Curb appeal.  Make your website as visually appealing as possible to users. Go through each page and check that the layout is straightforward and the page looks clean and clutter free. Research indicates that white space is good and relevant supporting visuals are essential.

7. In with the new. Having reviewed your online offering and implemented any of the necessary changes, have a think about what else you can add to further enhance your small business’ online presence. Are there any obvious gaps in content?  For example try:

  • Setting up a blog
  • Adding in customer reviews and testimonials
  • Growing your visual content such as including more video’s and infographics

Check out other successful websites, both competitors and non-competitors, it’s a great way to get ideas and inspiration.

These are just a few ways to help ensure your small business website remains successful in terms of both user experience and search engine optimisation. Do try to put specific time aside for giving your website a review and remember regular checking really will help you keep on top of things.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on reviewing your online presence, so do please leave a comment.

Success image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How small business ecommerce can improve their online content

Website sign postAs a small business owner how can you improve your online content?

Quality content plays a crucial part in the success of your ecommerce business and as such, it should be right at the heart of all your online activity. Good content should be the foundation of your marketing practice, search engine optimisation, web design and your customers’ online experience. Poor, ill-thought-out content can be a real barrier to online purchasing.

Despite its importance, we can all get a bit complacent with our online content and forget that it needs updating and refreshing on a regular basis. If you review and update  your content frequently then fantastic but, if like most small business owners, you are constantly juggling multiple roles and tasks, then finding time to review and plan content can be a challenge.

However if you can manage to schedule some time in your diary to follow some of the content suggestions we’ve outlined in this blog then it will genuinely save you time and money in the long run. Don’t forget quality content is at the core of a successful online presence – do it well and it will make all the activities that follow far more effective.  So, put some proper time aside to review your current online content and ways you can improve on it.

SEOSEO – customers should drive your content efforts.

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“ Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Interesting, relevant and fresh content is not only what will bring customers to your online business and keep them coming back it is the back bone of search engine optimisation (SEO). As far as SEO is concerned the practice of keyword and key-phrase stuffing are well and truly over. Search engines are looking for quality content that is relevant to your market. The best way of creating just such content is to keep your customers in mind. Ask yourself –

  • What will my customers find interesting?
  • What content is relevant to my business?
  • What information is my customer looking for?
  • What information do they need to make a purchasing decision?

“Develop great content” may be the most oft-repeated suggestion in the SEO world. Despite its clichéd status, though, this is sound advice. Appealing, useful content is crucial to search engine optimisation….Crafting fulfilling, thorough content that addresses searchers’ needs improves your chance to earn top rankings.”  MOZ Beginners Guide to SEO.

Planning start pointThinking about your content in terms of your customers needs is essential.

Where to start?

Before you launch yourself into all sorts of new and exciting content ideas – you first need to get the foundations right. This means reviewing your current offering, setting goals and objectives , identifying content gaps and putting a plan in place. This will better help you understand the content needs of your business and provide you with a solid and realistic base for future content. It also means you are more likely to get it right!

Where are you now? Review your current offering

Take a long objective look at the content of your website.  Be honest with yourself and try to be unbiased (if you’re worried that you can’t see the woods for the tress then get someone you trust to review your content).

  • What are you current strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you do well?
  • What could you do with a bit more of or less of?
  • Do you have a good balance of content? For example, is there too much lighthearted content and not enough informative content or vice versa.
  • Does your content read well?
  • Is your interesting and relevant to your customers?.
  • Have you had any feedback from customers – what would they like to see?

It is only by taking a really thorough look at what you currently offer that you can set yourself realistic objectives and identify any content gaps.

What do you want to achieve? Set yourself goals and objectives? What is it that you need your content to help you do? Are you looking to grow the traffic to your site, increase your sales conversion rates or rank higher in search engine results pages? Once you know your overall goals you can then set yourself some SMART content-related objectives.

Where are the gaps? What is your current content missing. Once you’ve reviewed your current offering you will better be able to identify content gaps. Think about the balance of content you have. For example is your content primarily entertainment – are there ways you can introduce some more informative content to your website. Conversely if you are business-to-business you may find informative and educational comes easily but you could do with a little more content that entertains.

Take a look at Smart Insights Content Matrix – it offers some excellent ideas to help you fill in some of those content gaps to give your business a better balance of online content.

How are you going to achieve your goals and objectives?  This is where you take all the information you have gleaned from above and put it into a workable content plan with a schedule of actions for the forthcoming year. If you have a content plan in place you are far more likely to stick to it and focus on achieving the actual objectives you have set out.

Content Image 6 practical tips for more effective online content

To get you started we’ve highlighted a few key areas you could  consider improving to help build your online content.

1.Product pages

Product pages can easily be overlooked but actually they are a critical part of your customers’ experience on your website. Your product descriptions are a good way to start improving your content. Make sure your product descriptions are written with your customers in mind. What information are they looking for to help them make that all important purchasing decision? Think about what keywords and phrases customers might  use when searching for that particular product.

Whatever you do don’t just use the product description provided by the manufacturer (search engines don’t like replicated copy).  Rewrite the descriptions to them to make them original and customer friendly – it’s a great way to provide some unique, fresh and relevant copy to your website..

2. Blogging

If you haven’t already started a blog for your business then it is time to think seriously about setting one up. Blogging is a great way to support your SEO efforts. A good blog provides you with regular, unique, fresh and interesting content. It also helps drive traffic to your site and increases engagement amongst your customers.

Still not convinced?  Then take a look at these impressive statistics from The Blog Economy:

  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links
  • Websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages
  • 81% of consumers trust advice and information from blogs.

And, if you are not quite sure where to start then take a look at our helpful blog article ‘How to start a successful blog for your online business’.

3. Video

Visual content is playing an increasingly important part of ecommerce content strategy – and for good reason. Search engines like visual media such as video content so it is great for your SEO purposes. Of course we only need to see the phenomenal success of YouTube to see how is popular a medium it is amongst consumers.

Digital Sherpa provides some interesting video marketing statistics :

  • Video increases people’s understanding of your product and service by 74%
  • 50% of users watch business related videos on YouTube once a week
  • Your website is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engines result page if it includes a video.

Have a think of a suitable way you can use video for you business. For example a video tutorial is a great way to show customers how to assemble or use a product. And, if you want to build your ‘brand personality’ video can be a great way to your business a face. You could use video  in your email mail as way to entice customers to your website. Indeed, an introductory company email that includes a video receives an increase in click-through rate by 96%.

4. Informative content

Having content that ‘educates’ and ‘convinces’ is an important part of offering balanced online content. This content tends to be more authoritative and informative; for example –  industry trends, whitepapers, news articles, demo-videos, infographics, business guides, research reports and press releases . If you have them make them available to view on your website, if you don’t then think about implementing some.

5. User generated content

User generated content is another excellent way of introducing new and unique content to your site. By this I mean opening up your business to content that is generated by your customers such as customer reviews, blog comments or community forums. Search engines like user generated content:

“According to the latest ecommerce SEO trends, the more your brand, products or links are discussed by commenters across the Internet (including your own site), the better your page ranking will be. Google has increased its focus on these conversational searches because, as hinted above, comments and reviews are much harder to fake or manufacture in high numbers than other types of content.” Volume 9 

So be open to including user-generated content on your site. Do remember though if you are going to accept user-generated content,  you will need to regularly monitor it.  It is a good idea to introduce some guidelines  that visitors wishing to comment online must adhere to or risk being removed – such as not accepting the use of profanities, posting explicit photos or images, any bullying behaviour or derogatory comments.

6. Content that entertains

Having more interactive, entertaining content is a good way to draw customers to your business. It is often the case that business-to-consumer companies often find this type of content generation comes a bit more naturally than business to business companies.

Because business-to-business companies may find it slightly harder they may fall a bit short on more ‘entertaining’ content.  It is as all about creating a good balance of content therefore interspersing more informative content  with a bit of  ‘entertaining’ content is a good idea. If you are business-to-business think about including more light-hearted content such competitions, quizzes, community forums or video.

 

ID-100253237Finally – don’t forget to alert customers to all your great content!

So you have implemented some great new online content, the next thick is content distribution. How are you going to alert people to your content? Content is a great way to drive new traffic into your website so you need to bring it to the attention of your customers and potential customers.

“Interesting content is one of the top three reasons people follow brands on social media” The Blog Economy

Use an integrated approach to market your content, if possible use both online and offline methods. For example if you’ve posted a new blog article then tell people in an email alert and on your social media sites with a link to the article. Great content will draw people in – you just need to bring it to your customers attention.

“Fulfilling these intents is up to you. Creativity, high-quality writing, use of examples, and inclusion of images and multimedia can all help in crafting content that perfectly matches a searcher’s goals. Your reward is satisfied searchers who demonstrate their positive experience through engagement with your site or with links to it.” MOZ: Beginners Guide to SEO 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this subject so please do leave a comment.

  1. Website, forum, blog signpost image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  2. Catching SEO word image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  3. Start business image courtesy of kashasa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  4. Announcement Quote image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 tips to improve your e-commerce product pages and maximise conversions

welcoming online product pagesIf you want to increase online sales make sure your product pages are welcoming

Don’t underestimate the importance of your online product pages. Showcasing  your products to their full advantage is a crucial part of the selling process.

Having worked hard to get visitors to your site the last thing you want is for them to leave because your ecommerce product pages are unwelcoming, ill-thought out and poorly displayed. We take a look at 5 simple ways that will help you improve your online product pages and maximise your chances of that all important sale.

Think of it as a bit like being in a clothes shop. If you walked into a clothing store and saw all the clothes in a heap or thoughtlessly crammed onto a couple of clothing rails, the chances are you’d walk straight back out again. I certainly wouldn’t bother wading through piles of poorly displayed clothes to find what I was looking for. I’d simply take my custom elsewhere.

Ecommerce product pages should be approached in the same way. It should be easy for customers to find what they are looking for. Products should be visually appealing, shown off to their full advantage and the information your customer requires should be close to hand.

5 Top Tips to improve your online store’s product pages

copywriting tips, copywriting for small business, how to write copy, digital marketing copy, copywriting online1. Product Descriptions.

Product images on their own are not enough. Your products also need to have a product description. A good product description will provide customers with the added information they need in order to make a purchase decision. Plus, including product descriptions is a great way to help add relevant and fresh content to your site for SEO purposes.

Of course, make sure you are writing your own copy. Simply replicating the manufacturers product description is a no-no! You need to create your own unique product descriptions.  Not only do manufacturing descriptions tend to focus primarily on function, search engines also won’t appreciate you duplicating other people’s copy.

Re-write your product descriptions and make them relevant and user-friendly to your own target audience.  What keywords and phrases are they most likely to look for? Product descriptions from manufactures can be very dry – rewriting them can give them a bit more zing and present important information in a more interesting and digestible manner.

ID-10090359Product Images

High quality visuals with alternative views are important. Remember when people are purchasing online they want to be sure that there are no nasty surprises when it’s delivered.  Going back to our clothes shop example suppose I was buying a jumper, in all likelihood I’d go to a fitting room and try it on before I made the purchase. Of course online people don’t get to try the product on for size beforehand therefore, they need a bit more help in making the final purchase decision. This is why it is essential your product images are as accurate a reflection as possible to the actual product. Customers are more likely to feel reassured and confident enough to make a purchase if they feel what they see is what they’ll get.

Therefore high-resolution images offering multiple and alternative views are a must. Indeed:

  • Offering multiple product views and other alternative images can lead to 58% more sales 

You Tube on ipadProduct Videos

Videos are an excellent way of spicing up your product pages. Not only do they provide your customers with additional information about a product in a user-friendly format,  relevant video content is also great for SEO purposes – search engines like video. Indeed, websites are 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of a search engine results page if they include a video.

Research also indicates that video can have a positive effect on a customers purchasing decision:

Don’t just use video as a promotional vehicle. Think about video can be used to provide useful and relevant information to your customers. For example if any of your products require assembly then have an easy-to-follow instruction video. Showcase your product in real-life situations, this makes it easier for customers to visualise how they will use the product in their own environment.

word of mouth marketingProduct Reviews

Having customer reviews next to your products actually help improve your conversion rates. Reviews can help allay fears or remove any last-minute concerns a customer may have over a product. In addition, reviews show customers that you are a trustworthy, transparent business that believes in the quality of your products and values customer opinion.

ID-100150130Are you offering too much choice?

There is an argument that offering too much choice can actually overwhelm consumers and lead to less conversions. Renowned research carried out by Colombia University showed how offering too much choice can actually be demotivating to customers. Researchers used jam to test how choice effected end purchasing.

On the first day 24 jams were offered to taste and on another day just 6 jams were offered. Researchers found that although more shoppers stopped when there was 24 jams, when it came to purchasing 30% of shoppers who stopped at the 6 jam counter purchased a jam whereas only 3% of shoppers who stopped at the 24 jam counter actually purchased a jam. Researchers called this ‘choice fatigue’ where too many choices actually put customers off.

So when you are arranging your product pages think about how many products you have on each page. Rather than long lists of products, categorise them into more manageable, logical product groups that you can have on different pages. This will look cleaner, more organised, visually appealing and far simpler for your customers to navigate.

 

Finally, if you are looking for a bit of inspiration and some examples of online businesses who do it well, then Econsultancy has a great article on 15 inspiring examples of commerce product pages. It showcases online business who display there products in an interesting way and to their maximum advantage.

 We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject, so do please leave a comment.

  • Welcome letters image courtesy of Lavoview at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Typewriter Image courtesy of Just2shutter / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Retro Camera image courtesy of Mr Lightman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Thumbs up image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Jam jar image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Web analytics for small businesses: why you should embrace your Bounce rate

web analytics bounce rateAs a small online business owner if you haven’t already discovered Bounce rate then you are missing a trick. This helpful, easy to understand measurement is arguably one of the most useful metrics around.

Web analytics help you measure, evaluate and ultimately improve the performance of your e-commerce business. However, the reality of running a small business means time doesn’t often afford you the luxury of becoming a specialist in any one area. Instead you are in a constant state of flux as a salesperson, accountant, marketer, administrator and even web analytics guru!

” If you could only choose one metric to look at, Bounce rate might be your best choice” Google Support 

So if you want to get started with web analytics and measuring the performance of your website but aren’t quite sure of where to begin then this is where bounce rate comes into its own. It can help you quickly and easily understand your online performance, enabling you to implement improvements.

What exactly is bounce rate?

In a nutshell, Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors to your website who only view a singe page for a short period of time before leaving. For example during a visitor session a single hit on a page will be a bounce. So unlike many metrics with bounce rate it is usually the lower the percentage the better you are doing.

If your bounce rate is really high then it may indicate that when visitors arrive on your site there is nothing there to engage them or make them want to visit any other pages. Pulling no punches, web analytics expert Avinash Kaushik puts it in terms of customer experience as;  ” I came, I puked, I left. Literally that’s the definition”.

Before we examine this further there are of course exceptions to this. Bear in mind that there are some pages that when having a  high bounce rate is not an issue. For example if:

  • your website is a single page website
  • the page you are reviewing contains all the information your user requires , such as a contact page, an information page or your blog where visitors have just come to read your latest post offering.

Also, if you haven’t added a tracking code to your webpage you may also see a high bounce rate so check for incorrect tagging.

Why is your bounce rate so useful?

Rather the focusing on the general bounce rate for your website it is of more value look at the bounce rate for individual pages. Excluding the exceptions we’ve just mentioned above, a high bounce rate can help highlight areas of your website that are letting you down and need improving. Most importantly it helps you ask yourself the right questions. For example :

  • Is my content relevant to my target audience?
  • Do my landing pages match up with the offer /promise/ I”ve  enticed them to you website in the first place
  • Do my search term keywords and key phrases accurately reflecting the content of my website
  • Is my website easy for users to navigate or confusing for them to get around.

Bounce rate is a straightforward, easily understood measurement that can allow you to quickly highlight potential problem areas of your website – giving  you a focus and starting point from which to make improvements.

What should you be aiming for in terms of an acceptable bounce rate. Obviously bounce rates are going to vary for page to page, business to business but Avinash Kaushik offers the following benchmark from his personal experience. He suggests anything above 50% is a worry and that  getting a bounce rate under 20% is difficult. So I would imagine aiming for around 30-40% sounds a sensible target to work towards.

How can you improve your bounce rate?

Once you’ve identified those pages with a high bounce rate what can you do to improve on them? Have a look at the following suggestions and think about how implementing them could improve your visitors overall experience and as a consequence reduce your bounce rate. Which in turn increases the likelihood of engaged visitors and higher conversions.

landing pageLanding Pages: Don’t underestimate the importance of your landing pages. If your bounce rate is high you may want to take a closer look at how your landing pages are working. Firstly are they pertinent to the email, banner ad, social media link or key word search that your visitor has clicked through on. If there is disparity between the promise and the actual landing page then visitors will simply leave. In other words makes sure your landing pages matches the message you are conveying in your promotional channel. Ideally you should have a separate and specific a landing page for each specific offer or ad campaign.

Content ImageContent: Take a critical look at the content of the pages that have a high bounce rate. Are they written with your target audience in mind?  Your content is the backbone of your website and should be central to everything you do.  The higher the quality of your content the higher the likelihood you will attract AND retain visitors and thus reduce bounce. So ask yourself is your content:

  • Compelling and engaging
  • Interesting and informative
  • Concise and digestible
  • Relevant, targeted and reflects your visitors information needs
  • Fresh and up to date?

Web Design Button on KeyboardWebsite design and navigation: You may have a great product and top quality  content however if your website design means navigation is difficult and your pages lack curb appeal then visitors are not going to bother to stay around and find out more – they’ll take one look and leave. So make sure your website design is well structured, clearly laid out, easy to navigate and looks appealing.

SEO for beginnersTracking code and keyword/ key phrase optimisation: Firstly check that the pages with a high bounce rate have got a tracking code. Sometimes when you are adding a new page it is easy to forget to add in the tracking code and consequently this incorrect tagging this can result in high bounce rate. If you tagging is all as it should be then spend a bit of time researching your keywords and phrases. Make sure you optimise the content of your pages to accurately reflect the search terms that are bringing users into your site.

call to actionCall to action: Sounds obvious but a surprising amount of landing pages don’t have a clear call to action. When an interested visitor clicks through to your site, it should be immediately apparent what it is you are asking them to do next. Visitors won’t want to play a guessing game so make sure your call to action is unambiguous and clear to see.

 

Bounce rate – useful resources:

Here are a few useful websites and interesting articles to help you get to grips with bounce rate a bit better:

  1. Goggle Support Bounce Rate 
  2. Avinash Kaushik talks bounce rate in this short video
  3. Standard metrics revisited
  4. Kiss Metrics – what you can learn from your bounce rate 
  5. Morevisibility – improving your bounce rate

We’d love to her your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Tennis ball image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigital/Photos.net