The Not-So Dog Days of Summer for the E-Commerce SEO

The retail e-commerce calendar is so compressed and focused on the October-to-December selling season that summertime is site development time. Any site enhancements, redesigns and relaunches must be completed with adequate time for testing and rollout before the critical autumn selling season.

e-commerceFor many businesses and individuals, summer is a time for vacations and refreshment while the weather is good and extended school vacations open up time for family time. In my almost 20 years of working with e-commerce sites, I have yet to find that summertime is time when the living is slow and easy. The retail e-commerce calendar is so compressed and focused on the October-to-December selling season that summertime is site development time. Any site enhancements, redesigns and relaunches must be completed with adequate time for testing and rollout before the critical autumn selling season. This usually means that August and September are very busy for organic SEOs, with clients making significant changes to their sites for the upcoming holiday season.

The amount of work that the SEO must be involved in depends largely on how extensive the changes are. For example, a reskinning of the site without any fundamental changes may require just a brief review. Implementing a new architecture or platform takes substantially more SEO time and resources. Unfortunately, it is humans who develop sites, and humans make mistakes when they rush or are distracted. I’d like to share a couple of small human errors that had big consequences. They were all created by hurrying to meet a deadline.

First, the Site Must Be Indexed

With Google’s advanced technology, site indexing is no longer the wait-and-see game it was years ago. With a combination of site maps and the tools made available to Webmasters, it is virtually impossible – unless you are on vacation and not watching the tools – to pull off the stunt a client of mine did some years ago. I was called in to help solve a problem. The problem articulated during the sales cycle was simply: “Please, SEO, answer why my lovely new site has no traffic from search?” The answer was very simple. It took me just a few minutes to figure out that in the excitement to launch the new site, someone had forgotten to remove the small line of code in the robots.txt file that warned the spider not to traverse the site while it was under development. This simple oversight was costing the company both revenue and momentum during the run-up to the selling season. Even though development and testing environments have come a long way since this incident occurred, it points up how easy it is to make a small mistake that has consequences.

Second, Get Dirty With the Code

Among my many hobbies is gardening, and I love to dig in the dirt. Organic SEO requires that you dig in the code as vigorously as you might dig in a garden. This is particularly important when a site undergoes major changes. Again, it is the little things that can create havoc. One client launched a major new section to the site and complained that in the early stages when business was up, the new section just wasn’t performing, particularly in search. Again, a quick look revealed that someone, another pesky human, had failed to implement the analytics tracking codes on the new section. After the codes were added, it quickly became obvious that the new section was, in fact, performing outstandingly well. These and many other similar incidents have made me very cautious about sites making changes during the summer. My mantra for site changes is: Review the code, watch the changes and don’t go on vacation when the site is about to launch or relaunch.

5 Types of Google AdWords Conversion Tracking

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything. Oh boy, have the times changed

When I first started using Google AdWords in 2006, conversion tracking was in its infancy. There was only one type of conversion pixel code and there was no option to customize anything.

Oh boy, have the times changed. AdWords now gives advertisers five different conversion types, along with options to customize exactly how conversions are tracking in your account. For example, you can now track all conversions or you can track only unique conversions to exclude the instances when prospects complete multiple forms on your website.

In this article, I’m going to bring you up to speed on all five different conversion types:

  1. Webform Submissions
  2. Online Sales with Revenue
  3. Calls from Website
  4. Calls from Ads [Call Extensions]
  5. Offline Sales [Import]

1. Webform Submissions:
Again, this was the only option for me back in 2006. Webform submissions like quote requests, demo requests, or any other key action on your website should be tracked as a conversion in your AdWords campaign. This can be easily set up by adding the conversion code to the “thank you” page of all your webforms.

2. Online Sales with Revenue:
Eventually, Google introduced the ability to assign a value to your conversions, which revolutionized campaign management. If your business sells anything online, then you absolutely must set up revenue tracking for your shopping cart. Once set up, you’ll start to see revenue data in AdWords so you can calculate your profit per keyword, placement or ad.

3. Calls from Website:
Just last year website call tracking was launched so that advertisers can see how many phone calls are generated from the AdWords ads. This code is fairly technical so I recommend assigning this task to your webmaster to get set up. Once installed you’ll start to see conversions in your AdWords account any time a prospect calls after clicking on one of your ads.

4. Calls from Ads:
Most people do not call directly from the phone number listed in an ad, but some do. In AdWords you can track these calls by using a Call Extension, which is one of the many Ad Extensions available in AdWords. When you set up your Call Extension, make sure to click on the advanced options and check the box to track phone calls using a Google forwarding number.

5. Offline Sales [Import]:
Up to this point all the conversion tracking options sound great, but they don’t solve the major problem for non-eCommerce businesses, which is tracking sales generated off of the internet.Luckily Google recognized this problem and introduce the Offline Sales Import conversion option. This is the most technical of them all, but it’s well worth the effort to have your webmaster set this up. Here’s how it works:

  • Your webmaster will have to edit all the forms on your website to add a hidden field called “GCLID” (stands for “Google Click ID”)
  • Your webmaster will set the value of this hidden field using the URL parameter called “gclid”. For example, when someone clicks on one of your ads, Google automatically ads the “gclid” URL parameter, which looks like this 123ABC567DEF. This is the unique tracking code you’ll use to track sales back to your ads.
  • You’ll need to send the GCLID code to your sales team and/or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce.
  • On a monthly basis, you’ll need to find all the sales that have a corresponding GCLID code and import those codes, along with the sales revenue, into Google AdWords.
  • AdWords will automatically match the GCLID codes to the keywords, placements and ads that the customers originally clicked on before ultimately making a purchase off of the internet.

If that didn’t make sense, then just send your webmaster this page and he or she will be able to help. Trust me, it sounds more complicated than it is.

Go through the 5 conversion types again and make sure you have them all set up in your AdWord campaign. These are all critical to maximize the performance of your campaigns.

Want more free Google AdWords tips? Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

Direct Mail: If You Can’t Track It, Don’t Do It

How effective is your direct mail marketing campaign? That’s the question you need to answer in order to make the most of your marketing. Focusing on what works best and spending your budget in the most effective way is key to direct mail. Before you launch any direct mail campaign, set a system in place that will allow you to track the results. Tracking your results means you can see what resonated best with your customers or prospects, what got the most interaction, and what led to the most sales, sign-ups, or other action. You then have the information you need to focus on the things that work, thereby preventing your business from losing money on the things that don’t. Another benefit is that you can test different types of messaging at one time.

How effective is your direct mail marketing campaign? That’s the question you need to answer in order to make the most of your marketing. Focusing on what works best and spending your budget in the most effective way is key to direct mail. Before you launch any direct mail campaign, set a system in place that will allow you to track the results. Tracking your results means you can see what resonated best with your customers or prospects, what got the most interaction, and what led to the most sales, sign-ups, or other action. You then have the information you need to focus on the things that work, thereby preventing your business from losing money on the things that don’t. Another benefit is that you can test different types of messaging at one time.

Here are seven tips on ways to track your direct mail:

  1. QR Codes: The landing page for each scan should be created specifically for each campaign. You can easily track who is hitting the landing pages and what they do from there.
  2. URL or PURL: As with scanning the QR Codes, you need a unique landing page for each campaign.
  3. Coupons: Make sure to create a code on the coupons that you can use to track responses as people redeem them.
  4. Donation Reply Cards: Create a code for each campaign, and imprint that code somewhere on the reply device so that if they return it with their check you can track which campaign it came from.
  5. Phone Call: Use a special phone number for each campaign or if that is not possible, ask for a code you imprinted on the piece as part of your order intake.
  6. Text Messages: Many people find that text messaging it the easiest way to respond. When you setup your campaign either create a special number for each one or require that as part of the text message they need to enter a code from the mail piece.
  7. Mail Piece: One of the easiest ways to track direct mail response is to require the recipient to bring the mailer with them in order to get a discount or some other special offer.

Creating effective direct mail is all about knowing what works and what does not. That knowledge can only be gained through tracking of your own campaigns. Trying to utilize general direct mail trends published by the DMA or others is not an effective method. What you don’t know in direct mail can hurt you. No matter what kind of marketing response method you’re using, ask yourself first how you will track it. Give your direct mail campaigns the best chance of success by putting a tracking system in place so you can compare and contrast their effectiveness and return on investment. You can work with your mail service provider to decide which methods work best for each campaign you do.

QR Codes Can Make Your Direct Mail More Effective

Direct mail is an effective way to reach prospects and customers. But, we have to admit that both customers and prospects are becoming more mobile and therefore digital content is becoming more important

Direct mail is an effective way to reach prospects and customers. But, we have to admit that both customers and prospects are becoming more mobile, and therefore digital content is becoming more important. QR codes are simple 2D barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone or tablet to create a bridge between direct mail and digital content. To be effective, QR codes need to be easy to scan, so make sure that you leave room for the barcode.

Your direct mail is already in your customers’ hands, which means you have their attention. It’s the perfect opportunity to encourage further engagement by using a QR code to invite them to connect with digital content. You want your QR code to work for you—simply linking to your homepage isn’t enough. Your code needs to offer something valuable to your customers/prospects that will catch their interest and encourage them to get in touch, make a purchase, sign up for information or come back for more.

Here are five examples of ways you can use QR Codes to add value for your customers/prospects:

  1. Link to exclusive or time-limited content.
  2. Provide specific information about you, your products, or services.
  3. Connect your customers/prospects with media such as a video or gallery.
  4. Direct your customers/prospects to a landing page, email sign up form, or even dial a phone number.
  5. Send out special offers such as coupons or discounts.

As with any kind of marketing campaign, there are do’s and don’ts of using QR codes. Knowing them will help you make the most of your QR codes. Check out four of each listed below.

QR Code Do’s:

  1. Offer An Incentive to Scan
    QR codes are a fast and easy, but people still need a good reason to grab their phone and scan your code. Make sure scanning the code is worth their while by offering them information or an offer they won’t want to miss.
  2. Make Your Destination Mobile Friendly
    When scanning customers/prospects will need to use their smartphone or tablet, so make sure the place they’re headed to is optimized for mobile viewing. If you don’t, they’ll click away and your opportunity will be lost.
  3. Include a Call to Action
    Treat your QR code as you would any marketing materials, with a clear call to action that lets your customer/prospect know what they should do next, and why. Tell them why they should scan your QR code, for example “scan here to receive your free gift” or “scan to watch our two minute marketing 101 video.”
  4. Test It
    Just like everything else you send out, your QR code tells your customer something about your business. That means that as well as offering value and being convenient to use, the QR code destination needs to work, too. Make sure it’s tested for functionality, quality, and mobile compatibility before you send it out to your customers.

QR Code Don’ts:

  1. Assume Your Customers Will Scan the Code
    It’s unlikely that your customers/prospects will scan your QR code just out of curiosity. It’s up to you to encourage them to scan the code by making doing so just a little bit irresistible.
  2. Link to Information That Could Be Easily Found Elsewhere
    If your QR code links straight to your homepage or Facebook profile, you’re not making the best use of it. Use it as a shortcut to something informative or exclusive.
  3. Make It Hard to Scan
    QR codes need to be as easy as pie to use. That means making them at least an inch square, clearly printed and positioned so as to be accessible.
  4. Waste It
    QR codes provide you with an opportunity to track customer/prospect activity and find out what they like and respond to. By tracking how customers/prospects respond to your QR codes you can see what works best and what doesn’t. This information will help to make your next QR code campaign even better.

QR codes are an effective way to make your direct mail more interactive, connecting your customers with digital content that they won’t want to miss. When you bridge the gap between offline and online marketing you provide a better experience for your customer/prospect. This in turn will provide you with better results.

Is Every Door Direct Mail Right for You?

Every Door Direct Mail is a service designed by the USPS to help businesses reach every address in a neighborhood. With a simplified form of addressing that does not require an actual list of addresses, this is meant to make mailing easier and cheaper for individuals at a company

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is a service designed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help businesses reach every address in a neighborhood. With a simplified form of addressing that does not require an actual list of addresses, this is meant to make mailing easier and cheaper for individuals at a company.

When you mail with EDDM, you only need room for the EDDM indicia, endorsement and the address block (which would say postal customer and the city, state and zip code it is mailing to). All the rest of the area can contain your images and messaging. This leaves you with a lot of room for design. EDDM works best for retailers and service-based businesses in a local area, such as pizza restaurants, small neighborhood stores, dry cleaners, etc.

As with anything, EDDM has some drawbacks as well. One of the big ones is that you cannot personalize the mail. Everyone in a carrier route will get the same piece addressed to postal customer. That means that the imaging and messaging must be more generic in order to appeal to more people. Another drawback is that the size of the piece is larger for this program, so printing costs more and can eat away at any cost savings. Take the time to consider if EDDM is right for you. In many cases you will get a better return on your investment if you use a targeted list.

The following types of mail are allowable as EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail):

Flat: Mail size is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. A minimum of .009 thick and a maximum thickness of 3/4 inch.

Irregular Parcels: Must weigh less than 16 ounces and includes parcels such as:

  • Rolls and tubes up to 26 inches long and merchandise samples not individually addressed.
  • Unwrapped, paper-wrapped or sleeve-wrapped articles that are not letter-size or flat-size
  • Articles enclosed in envelopes that are not letter-size, flat-size or machinable parcels.

Periodicals: Periodicals consist of newspapers, magazines, journals or newsletters. To qualify for Periodicals prices, they must meet the following criteria and the publisher must be authorized.

  • The publication must be published in a serial format (such as volume 1 issue 1, volume 1 issue 2, volume 1 issue 3, etc.).
  • The publication must be published at least four times a year with a specified frequency.
  • The publisher must have a known office of publication. This office should be accessible to the public during business hours for conducting publication business.

Bound Printed Matter: An economical service for sending permanently bound materials, such as catalogs and phonebooks, up to 15 lbs in two to eight days. Sheets must be permanently bound by secure fastenings, such as staples, spiral binding, glue or stitching.

To get started with EDDM, go to this website:

  • Enter your desired ZIP code or codes.
  • Select if you want just residents or businesses, too.
  • Select the carrier routes you are interested in, or select them all.
  • There are also some general demographics for each route that you can choose from if you want to.
  • In order to process the request, you will need to set up an account.
  • Once you process the order, the website will furnish you with all the paperwork you need and the amount the postage will cost

There are two forms of EDDM: commercial (using a mail provider) or retail (you do all the work and take it to the post office). If you are using the retail version, you can only mail 5,000 pieces per ZIP code per day, and your postage rate will be $0.175 each. If you are doing commercial, there is no quantity limit and the postage is $0.157 each. If you need to mail more than 5,000, contact a service provider to help you. If you do not already have a provider you can find one near you here.

Help Me Connect the Dots! (A Buyer’s Lament)

On Christmas morning, my oldest son was excited to receive a variety of electronic devices from family and friends. But while he was registering his various new toys online, he became increasingly frustrated as the instructions were NOT intuitive. After three or four of these complaints from him and his other two brothers, it became obvious that many sales and marketing departments get an “F” for their lack of helpfulness and logical thinking.

On Christmas morning, my oldest son was excited to receive a variety of electronic devices from family and friends. But while he was registering his various new toys online, he became increasingly frustrated as the instructions were NOT intuitive.

“It says ‘enter device passcode,’ but that’s not an option on the unit itself. Instead my choices are ‘device registration number’, ‘secret code’ or ‘PIN key,'” he lamented. After several false starts (and error messages that generated warnings that sounded like the device might explode), he finally got everything working properly.

After three or four of these complaints from him and his other two brothers, it became obvious that many sales and marketing departments get an “F” for their lack of helpfulness and logical thinking. It seems simple enough: Label a code by one name on the device, and then replicate that same name in the instructions. Duh. So why do companies make it so hard?

I’m sure somebody in IT created the code itself (and probably created the name of that code), and product marketing was responsible for writing the copy for the instructions (whether contained in the box and/or online) … but why not use the same labeling terminology? Was one group working in another country and couldn’t communicate, in English, with those writing the instructions? Perhaps.

The people at Ikea (who have figured out how to ensure language won’t be a barrier), provided a link to a YouTube video where I could watch Sally and Stan (or Svetlana and Sven) assemble my new furniture without so much as a word, sound or manual. My husband laughingly called it “The Epitome of a Dummy’s Guide to Assembly.” Personally, I loved it—they even supplied the tools you need for assembly in the product box so my new desk was operational within an hour of unwrapping.

Amazon, those amazingly straightforward folks who brought me my Kindle, also clearly understand how to make it simple. One of my kids (who hates to read any kind of instructional manual), figured out to how to set up his new Kindle, link it to my Amazon account (um.. wait…), download 3 or 4 books and start reading, all before I had a chance to shout, “Use your own credit card!”

The i-anything was easy to set up and use—exactly what you’d expect from those Apple people—while the new GoPro camera came with a small book, with small type, that will require a magnifying glass to read. As was to be expected, the college-age son tossed the manual in this backpack (where it will get ripped into several un-usable pieces) and said he’d figure it out on his own.

After a lovely morning sitting around the tree, followed by a frustrating hour or so trying to set up each new gift, I retreated to the kitchen to start working on Christmas dinner. Thankfully, I already know how to read a recipe book. The food processor, and all its attachments, however, might take me until the new year to figure out.

Wine Bottles Belly Up to the Barcode

From the just when you thought you heard it all before files, I learned this week that a popular brand of Chardonnay will display QR codes on its tags.

From the just-when-you-thought-you-heard-it-all-before files, I learned this week that a popular brand of Chardonnay will display QR codes on its tags.

Yes, wine bottles with QR codes.

According to a press release I received from Kendall-Jackson Family Wines, its Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay will display tags on its bottles that feature a QR code, or a 2-D barcode that connects digital information with the real world.

Currently, users of smartphones equipped with QR readers can scan the QR code on the tag and view a video of Kendall-Jackson’s Executive Chef Justin Wangler explaining how to pair the wine with food. Going forward, users will be able to gather wine information, recipes and shopping lists when they view the code on the tag.

The idea? To help Kendall-Jackson connect with consumers, helping them make choosing a wine educational, fun and easy.

“QR codes make it possible for smartphone users to request and quickly receive mobile-optimized content — video, audio, pictures and information about our wines,” said Adam Beaugh, director of social media for Kendall-Jackson Family Wines in the company’s press release.

As I think about it, this is a pretty good use of QR codes. Maybe I’ll go and pick up a bottle now …