Posted by & filed under Content Strategy.

 Blog OptimizationBy now, what you’ve read has you convinced that your e-commerce business needs a blog to build relationships with your customers, so you’ve written your first post and added it to the website. And the result is the sound of silence. It doesn’t appear that people are reading the blog at all, so what’s your next step toward winning readers’ attention? These tips will help you with winning blog optimization for the best results.

Act as a Mentor for the Best Blog Content

While the ultimate goal is to convert readers into buyers, when you write blog posts, you need a different mindset. Make it your priority to mentor potential customers beyond just your own products. Answer the readers’ questions and provide them with useful information relevant to those questions. Include quotes from authoritative sources about related topics. For example, if you sell cookware, include a statement or two about using cast-iron skillets from Ina Garten or Ree Drummond or other popular, well-known chefs and cooks.

Keeping the content up to date is important, as well. Web spiders, which crawl the web looking at sites and ranking them, don’t like sites that never change. At the least, update your blog weekly, more often if you can. For the best blog content, use original content and don’t limit posts to straight text. Be sure to include photos, videos, and even podcasts.

Make Content Easy to Read

If readers must work at deciphering your blog, they aren’t going to bother reading it. Stick with dark letters on a light — preferably white — background. Pick an easy-to-read font and use a larger size than you would for emails or printed letters. Save the fussy backgrounds and fancy scripts for special text blocks for blog optimization that keeps them coming back.

Keep the lines and the paragraphs short, as well. Having to scroll from side to side to read an entire line is not fun and may discourage readers from continuing. Keep lines to 75 characters or fewer, as much as possible. Break the copy into short paragraphs of six lines or fewer whenever possible, and use the extra white space to make the page visually appealing and easy on the eyes.

Ensure That Collecting Email Subscribers Is Easy

Conversions rely on more than just your blog, although it is an important open door. Building an email subscriber list should be the next step in your marketing strategy, so make it simple for both your readers and yourself. Add a two-step, opt-in subscription form. When readers click at the first step, a form appears for them to add their email addresses.

Take off distractions like RSS feed icons. Having readers subscribe to those feeds doesn’t do anything for you, so keep the focus on that email list by eliminating the distractions. While you are adjusting the display, add a “popular posts” section to help readers find useful information that encourages them to subscribe to the email list.

Offer an “honorable enticement” to encourage signups. Provide a special report, a webinar, or even an e-course to those who join the club. You may even want to give a small discount on the next order to those who sign up, which may also build brand trust.

Use Blog Optimization to Aim for Increased Social and Search Traffic

Generating Search TrafficGenerating a buzz about your company is another goal of your business blog and blog optimization, so you need to make sure that you are making it easy for people to share and to find you through search engines. The most obvious solution is to be sure your blog has social sharing buttons available: a quick click sends the post to Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. Also, make sure that your images match the best-fit sizes for your favored social media channels. If they are either too large or too small for readers to see them well when shared, you lose all the power of pictures.

Strong headlines make a big difference in generating search traffic, too. Take care to use brand authority by mentioning the benefits of the information found in the post by using strong adjectives and numbers when feasible. Be sure your keywords and phrases appear in every headline, and aim for them showing up in the first 55 characters.

Backlinks are also valuable in generating social and search traffic. One or two authoritative links, especially from .edu or .gov sites, carry more benefits than dozens of less selective links, and making sure the anchor text includes or is relevant to your keywords is crucial. Remember to link back to your own content, as well, whether it’s to other blog posts or to your product pages.

Remember That Clean Copy Works Best

It seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook these tips. Make sure your blog loads fast, and check that all the links work. When possible, shorten the permalinks — those used to find the site — to match your keywords. And ensure that your blog (and the rest of your website) is mobile responsive. Larger and larger numbers of people read blogs on their phones and tablets, so confirm that yours shows well on the devices.

Once you’ve incorporated these tips, sit back and “listen” to the chatter your blog generates.

Posted by & filed under ecommerce, SEO Strategy.

Image OptimizationImages are powerful tools for your product pages. As the saying goes, “A picture paints a thousand words.” However, some pictures are stronger than others for converting browsers to buyers. With these 10 tips, improve the image optimization for all your product photos to get the most from them.

Go for High-Quality Product Images

Your product photos need to be high-quality, professional images. This is not the time to save by shooting them yourself with your smartphone. If you can’t use a professional photographer, at the very least, use a good digital camera and read up on these types of shots. Focus on lighting that shows the products without glare or shadows. Keep the background simple and without distractions, and shoot at the highest possible resolution.

Show Products From Multiple Angles

When shopping online, customers give up the chance to pick up items, turn them around, and see them from all sides. To increase conversions, make up for this lack of touching and feeling the products by posting multiple images that show the items from all 360 degrees around.

Place Products in Context

Product images of isolated items, even from multiple angles, aren’t as effective as shots showing the products in use. Show off your jewelry by picturing a model wearing it, or let customers see how great your garden tools are with pictures of someone planting with them. Also, cross-sell by pairing products to show how they go together — besides that photo of the model wearing a necklace, post pictures of the matching bracelet and earrings.

Increase Photo Size for Image Optimization

A case study by Skinner Auctioneers shows that larger product images bring a 63 percent increase in conversions. If the number of pictures involved means you can’t post bigger photos, set up the page so that hovering over or clicking on the thumbnails allows viewers to zoom in. Being able to see the details of the products might be what customers need to make the final decision to purchase.

Include Product Videos

Depending on your products and your site space, consider adding a 360-degree video shot for some products. Action pictures are more impactful than static ones, and videos of products in use are very powerful. As a bonus, show more than the usual uses, giving potential buyers ideas they might otherwise miss. For example, film someone using your gardening trowel as a pet food scoop.

Name the Image Files for Web Spiders

Grab all the attention you can with your photos by using your keywords in the file names. This is an easy way to add the search terms to pages without “stuffing” them unnaturally in the text. Spiders crawling the web rank your site higher for your efforts at improving your image SEO.

Add Strong Alt Text Tags

Alt text tags appear when, for whatever reason, your product photos cannot display. They need to be in plain English — no jargon, no flowery language — and add them only to product photos, not to those elements that are purely decorative. Don’t overuse keywords in these, and do include model or serial numbers when applicable.

Reduce File Sizes

If you want customers to spend time on your e-commerce site, it needs to load quickly. Large-sized image files can slow loading down to a crawl, leaving your potential customers hanging and ready to move on to someone else’s store. Use online photo editors, like PicMonkey, Pixlr, FotoFlexer, or GIMP to condense those files of 70 kilobytes or smaller.

Choose the Best File Types

Image File FormatDeciding on the best file type, such as .jpeg, .bmp, .tiff, .gif, .png, and more might seem overwhelming, but it’s easier than you think. You only need to consider three types, and you only have to choose one of them for the product shots themselves.

Joint photographic experts group, known as .jpeg files, are best for product images. While you may lose some sharpness in the pictures, .jpeg files have a 24-bit palette, allowing up to 16 million colors. They are also less grainy than some other file types, and they transfer faster than most others, especially when compressed.

Graphics interchange format, called .gif files, and portable network graphics, or .png images, work best for non-product images like borders. They only allow for 256 colors, but they produce smaller files that load quickly. Take note that although designed specifically for web use, .png files may not be compatible with all browsers.

Pay Attention to the Thumbnails

Because you already know that you are going to set up a zoom option with your thumbnails, make these files as small as possible, even if you lose a little of the quality in the images. Customers still see the better images when they look at the larger versions. When you add the alt text tags to thumbnails, do not use identical tags as those you chose for the larger pictures.

With these tips, you can harness the power of image optimization for maximum conversions from your product pages.

Posted by & filed under Business & Entrepreneurship, ecommerce.

Product ReviewCustomers have always been king, but now they have more of a voice than ever when it comes to your brand’s success. That’s because they can influence the opinions of other shoppers worldwide with just a few simple words — a product review. According to a Zendesk-sponsored survey, 9 out of 10 people they questioned said positive reviews online shaped their choice to buy, while 86 percent said negative reviews had the same effect. Add to this the inherent bias that negative reviewers are more likely to follow through without encouragement, and you’re looking at a real need to get honest, authentic positive feedback to balance the scales. If you’re unsure how to encourage customers to leave product reviews, try one of these five techniques.

Ask: If You Never Ask, the Answer Is Always No

First and foremost, you must ask for feedback. In-person requests are often the most successful for small businesses and chains alike. If you run an online store, though, still make the ask.

Add Review Reminders to Your Normal Communications

Newsletters, invoices, product packaging, follow-up emails after contact — you communicate with your customers more often than you realize. Each time you do, include a call to action to rate a product they’ve purchased or provide general feedback. Make reviewing easy to do. Remove barriers such as logins, and optimize all rating systems so they work equally well on mobile and computer devices. Consider a fast scoring setup with a space for comments so feedback is uniform and easy to provide. Product reviews on Amazon and customer reviews on eBay are both prime examples of how to simplify the review process.

Focus on Timing and Wording to Get Customer Reviews

When you’re sending requests specifically to solicit reviews, timing matters. Studies show asking between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the client’s time zone gets customer reviews more consistently than asking any other time of day. Also, choose language that matters to your industry and carefully word the subject line. Studies show subject lines with a question mark rather than an exclamation point have drastically different effects depending on your industry, while companies across the board succeeded when mentioning incentives. Here’s a summary from Yotpo.

How to Get More Customer Reviews: The Ultimate Guide

Connect Reviews to a Loyalty Program

If your company runs a points program or offers other loyalty rewards, give members extra points for each review they provide. Remember, the point is to get a bunch of reviews, not necessarily all excellent ones. If you have only positive reviews, customers will think you’re either working for the best company in the world or aren’t allowing honest feedback. Most will lean toward the latter.

Offer Small Incentives for Reviews

Even if you don’t have a loyalty program, you still can incentivize your customers to provide reviews. A regular giveaway on your site or social media page is an easy way to get product reviews without the shadiness of appearing to pay for them. Provide a coupon for a future purchase in exchange for feedback, and up the ante with additional coupons for social media sharing. The key is to be up front about the fact that you’ve asked for reviews and that ratings have no bearing on the likelihood of winning.

Soliciting reviews for your products is equal parts art and science, and it starts with being willing to request what you need. Ask regularly at the right time, use the appropriate wording, and add a little incentive to encourage customers to leave product reviews. Feedback from your customers is what you need to help you make the right business decisions.

Posted by & filed under Content Strategy, Content Tips, ecommerce.

Content to Build Trust with AudienceYour customers are, quite literally, inundated with information constantly. While estimates vary, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 million new blog posts popping up every day. That means your content marketing strategy has to go beyond 500-word posts. Also, your social media posts have to do more than merely promote your products. Today, content should be a bridge between you and your customer and a vehicle to build brand trust for your company and products. Demonstrating that you are not just an authority, but the authority, in your niche lets buyers know they can trust the quality of your goods and your customer service, and as a result, are more likely to share that content with their online community.

“How Does This Benefit My Customer?”

Remember, your customer is more distracted now than ever. No matter what demographic you’re targeting, the minute someone picks up a smartphone or opens a laptop, information comes pouring in. Here’s a secret: creating content to build trust is the key to grabbing their attention.

“How does this benefit my customer?” is maybe the important consideration to consider before you build your strategy or create your editorial calendar. Successful content marketing campaigns work when you’re truly taking your audience into consideration. Your brand doesn’t always have to be front and center of every video, blog, or sponsored post. Try looking objectively at every piece you create and think, “Would I want to share this?” If you always address content marketing from the perspective of your customers — your busy, constantly distracted customers — they are far more likely to engage with it and enjoy it.

“How to Content” Creates Instant Brand Authority

Brand AuthorityEvery company needs to tell its own story in a refreshing, authentic way. How your brand message and your story translate to customers needs to be sincere if they’re going to inspire loyalty and return visits. As you’re building your plan, look for creative ways to help your customers understand not just how and why to use your products but also to provide them with advice and ideas for their lives in general.

Lifestyle brands can share original recipes or outdoor adventure guides. If you sell pet products, short articles about seasonal pet care or potty training advice reinforce the trust factor. Consumer electronic products sites should create free product reviews and buying guides that educate people. Simple how-to videos that may involve your products but not necessarily focus on them directly, can really help your search results. For example, if you sell household cleaning supplies, create a video that shows how to remove grease stains. For sites that sell women’s cosmetics or clothing, videos that feature you or your staff during hands-on demonstrations about how to follow the newest trends is a good example of how using content to build trust can win over a new customer.

Authoritative Content Asks for Nothing in Return

Customers expect to see a call to action (CTA) on every single web page and email they receive. It’s a given that you have “buy now” buttons all over your site. But to build brand trust, create campaigns that don’t ask anything from your customers. When you promote a new blog, create fun and catchy headlines that don’t include a single mention of a product.

For example, you may not sell iPhones, but you do sell accessories. An entertaining 600-word post called “10 Easy Ways to Use Siri” may engage a user more quickly than a banner advertising a special promotion or discount on an iPhone case. These types of posts also make you a brand authority in your industry. Find inspirational stories that relate to your field, and post other articles you enjoyed reading that you think will educate and inform your buyers.

Posted by & filed under Business & Entrepreneurship, ecommerce, Marketplaces.

Selling online is a popular way to reach a wide audience of shoppers, whether you offer products that target a specific niche or those that suit the general public at large. Catching a buyer’s attention, however, is a different story, one which requires significant research and knowledge of the best eCommerce marketplaces that suit your selling tactics. There are a number of ways you can make your listings stand out against the competition and position your products where your customers are most likely to see them.

Choose eCommerce Marketplaces With High Visibility

When selling your products, it’s important to do your research beforehand and make a list of the places you’re likely to reach your target audience. Selling on Amazon, for example, can help you reach millions of consumers in a single location, as it’s a widely known eCommerce market that’s both user-friendly and easy to navigate. Selling on eBay is also simple, but like Amazon, it’s a saturated market that requires know-how when creating listings and marketing. Other potential sites to sell include Etsy, if you sell the right kinds of products, Groupon, and Ratuken.

Provide Eye-Catching Photos

Eyecatching PhotosShopping is a visual experience for most people, and they like to see the products and goods up close and personal. Shopping online makes it difficult, so pictures are the next best thing. Most, if not all eCommerce marketplaces, have several allotted spaces to upload pictures. Hire a professional and showcase your photos adequately on a clean background that’s not distracting. If you don’t have pictures already, hire a professional or set up a light box where you can take your own. Remember that the picture will likely sell your story before the customer ever sets eyes on the description, so it needs to be of high quality.

Write SEO-Optimized Descriptions That Draw Attention

It’s easy to describe a product and put it up for sale, but without optimizing it for search engines, you’re likely to get buried in a sea of listings or stores that offer the same line of merchandise or competing products. There are several keys to a good description, including:

  • Product-appropriate keywords
  • Proper keyword density
  • Unique descriptions for each product
  • Proper use of grammar
  • Reviews

If you’re selling on a marketplace like Amazon or eBay, it’s not just about ranking in Google. In fact, ranking your product descriptions in Google is actually a secondary consideration. In these circumstances, you should follow the marketplace’s specific guidance on using and placing keywords for visibility on that particular marketplace. Amazon, for example, has very different requirements for ranking a product on its marketplace.

Determining Keywords

Determining KeywordsWhen it comes to creating narratives, the keywords are the backbone of every product description. It’s important to do a thorough analysis to see what customers are searching for in the product niche. If you’re unable to do the analysis yourself, outsourcing the work to a professional is highly recommended. Using analytics, each keyword is rated based on the number of times shoppers use the search term and how significant its visibility is on popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

In addition to using the right words, it’s also essential to use the proper keyword density, which refers to how many times a search term appears in the description. Professionals recommend using these established keywords with a density between 1 and 3 percent. Don’t overuse the keywords, as this can lead to being penalized for keyword stuffing. Rather, insert terms organically throughout the text so it reads naturally and not as though you’re trying to oversell the product.

The Benefit of Being Unique

Unless you’re developing something brand new, chances are you already have a lot of eCommerce competitors to contend with. When you’re crafting descriptions for your products, consider the who, what, where, when, why, and how of it and how to best convey the functions and features to shoppers. Put your own spin on it in your company or brand’s voice, while keeping it easy to read and grammatically correct as these factors do affect ranking and visibility on popular search engines. Another thing to bear in mind is that each product should have a unique description. Duplicate content actually hurts rankings. Even though it may appear to be the easier option, it’s actually a hindrance in the long run.

While research and data are instrumental in developing a strong eCommerce marketing strategy, it’s also important to keep your approach to customers in mind with a brand-specific voice. A healthy balance of both will help establish presence, which is the main thing you need to stand out from competitors.