Boost Your Website Sales: 8 Simple E-commerce Tips That Really Work

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert? This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

OK, so you’ve won half the battle. You’re driving traffic to your site. Now what? How can you get your visitors to convert?

This is a challenge that most every website that sells a product faces. The following are some tried and true tactics that, over the years, I’ve seen make a difference. Some may seem simplistic, but they DO most definitely impact your online conversion rate.

Here are a few things you could do to boost online sales and gain loyal customers. These can be applied and refined for most any business, industry or niche:

1. Make Sure Your SSL Seal And Other Consumer-Trust Logos Are Prominent. SSL or secure socket layer is a sign that the site is encrypted … that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most e-commerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe and others. It’s a good practice to display the vendor’s logo on your order page, as well as make sure in the browser window the “https” or image of a lock is present. This is a clear and comforting sign to consumers that they can order online with confidence. Other logos that are in plain view and are anchors on each page of your website can also instill confidence with potential buyers. Some may require membership or purchase, when applicable, and may include Better Business Bureau (“BBB”), PayPal Verified, Authorize.net Verified Merchant and virus protection software (i.e. “McAfee Secure”). Also, if you accept credit cards and have a money back guarantee, there’s nothing more powerful than strong, eye-catching graphic image icons, such as “100% Money Back Guarantee” or “We Accept All Major Credit Cards” (than have images of Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover).

2. Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Response Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5 percent to 10 percent if they order online versus by phone, fax or mail. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees, such as telesales or order entry personnel. These Web-only specials can be highlighted on your homepage via a banner ad, as well as on your product pages near qualified items.

3. Offer Free Shipping. Many e-tailers already factor all or a portion of shipping into the retail price of an item as part of their COGS (cost of goods sold). If you are truly offering free shipping, already factored shipping into the product’s cost, or are simply having a limited time free shipping special—if you’re offering it, mention it—big and bold on your home page. Free shipping offers have a huge psychological affect on consumers when they’re comparing competitor’s products and websites. In addition to product quality and value, offering free shipping can make all the difference regarding the final purchase decision.

4. Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or indicate next to select items “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item.” Also, have some glowing customer testimonials or reviews next to the product itself for potential prospects to see. Sites like Amazon, Babies”R”Us and others are pros at this strategy as well as using ratings and ‘Likes’ to convey a product’s popularity. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. as well as see that it’s popular with the masses. Seeing a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product provides validation and a feeling of comfort to a consumer. In addition to helping the conversion rate, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.

5. Advertise Products in Google Shopping (formerly Google Product Search, and before that, Froogle). http://www.google.com/shopping is a free product information platform from Google where you can post a single item or submit a data feed. Your products will appear in Google Product search and may also appear in Google.com search results, depending on keywords used. This is simple and easy way to increase your product’s visibility and market share.

6. Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. Sounds obvious, but many folks overlook their catalog and product pages. After doing some keyword research on actual search behavior for your product, refine your meta description, meta keywords and title tag of your product pages. This will help consumers find your product in the organic listing of search engine results.

7. Have a Special Coupon Code “Call Out” On Your Home Page. This is a best practice with online fashion retailers who typically have a banner ad or interstitial ad on their homepage stating something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234.” But this concept can be applied to virtually any industry. This is another great way to offer a special discount for your online customers that makes them feel good about the purchase. You can also encourage viral activity by having “forward to friend” or “share” create viral marketing. Make sure to have some great intro copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family and colleagues.”

8. Consider Payment Plans. For higher-ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. HSN.com and QVC.com have mastered this. If an item is, let’s say, $200, you might want to offer a flex pay option of “6 easy payments of $33.33” that is conveniently auto-billed to their credit card. Just be diligent when calculating your payment prices, as well as creating your return/refund policy for these items. The general rule is that your actual production costs/hard costs should be covered in the first one to three payments.

It’s all about being strategically creative and taking the consumer’s point of view into account regarding e-comm strategies. Remember to keep testing methods that help improve sales and drive prospects to your storefront.

Make note of when you implement new tactics and then after a month of being live. Compare sales results year-over-year to see if your efforts had made an improvement. I’m confident that you will see a positive difference in your online conversion rates.

What Social Sites Should YOU Be Using?

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

Most people know about mega-popular social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However, I get a lot of questions about other, underutilized sites that are on the tipping point of mass popularity—specifically, how these sites can be leveraged for marketing purposes.

But before I go into that, I’d like to clarify the differences between various “social”-type sites:

Social bookmarking, news and tagging are sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious and Pinterest. These websites allow users to “bookmark” things they like—content, images, videos, websites—and allow others in the community to see what’s been bookmarked and “follow,” if they wish. This is the epitome of viral marketing and community interaction. When groups of people are like-minded, it’s fun and easy to share feedback of things of common interest. For business purposes, it’s also a strong way to bond with your audience through content, news and images that are synergistic and leverage those interests for increased website traffic and more.

Social networking sites are communities like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. It’s a way for groups of people to meet and stay in touch with each other, for personal and professional purposes. People can friend, follow or fan someone based on affiliation or interest. Another new site is Quora.com, which is a social question and answer site. Users can view by category and post questions or answers on virtually any business-related topic.

Social media refers to sites like Youtube, Flicker or Tumblr, where groups of users share media content such as video, audio or pictures (photos). There’s also new sites like Spotify.com, which are social music sharing sites, where users can listen to mp3 files themselves, as well as with friends, via Facebook.

The following are some social sites that you may want to include in your online marketing mix as well as some other tactical tidbits:

  • Pinterest.com is a social community where users “pin” (think of a bulletin board) things that they like. Quite simply, it’s a virtual pin board. Users can re-pin (which promotes viral marketing) or follow someone with the same interest. Pinterest is a fun site because it focuses on the visual element. You can leverage your keyword-rich content when you add your descriptive text to your “pin.” In addition, Pinterest asks for your URL, which will be a back-link to that webpage. This will encourage search engine marketing, branding and webpage traffic. Pinterest uses graphics, images (pics) and video pictures. And that’s what will grab community members’ attention, along with well-written descriptive text.

Important Tip! For marketing purposes, you can use Pinterest to promote your business or websites related to your business, such as landing pages, squeeze pages, product pages and more. What’s important to know is that if your website, or the webpages you’re thinking of pinning are flash (dynamic) webpages, you will be unable to “pin” it, as there’s no static images on a flash page for Pinterest to “grab” for posting.

So if you’re thinking about using testing Pinterest in your social marketing plan, make sure to pick websites or modify your own webpages to be graphic-, image- or video-rich. Also, like any marketing tactics you’re testing, make sure it’s in sync with your overall marketing plan and target audience.

If you’re target audience is an older crowd, then this may not be the best website, or channel, to reach them.

  • Quora.com is a great online resource community of questions and answers. If you want to reinforce yourself as an expert, you can search questions related to your area of expertise and post responses that are useful, valuable and actionable. If you have a legitimate question about any topic, you can post by category and view replies from others who may be versed in that field. Quora is a great way to create visibility for yourself. As well, it allows you to upload relevant back-links which encourage website traffic and linkbuilding.

Important Tip! It’s important to keep a steady presence on Quora. Stick to your areas of expertise (categories and topics). Make sure you have a keyword rich descriptive bio about yourself and include back-links to relevant websites. As with most all search, social and content marketing strategies—relevance and usefulness is key. All of these things help with credibility and branding. In addition, Quora’s pages are indexed by search engines and do appear in organic search engine results pages (SERPs). That, in and of itself, can expand your reach and visibility, which can lead to increased website traffic, which can then be parlayed into leads or sales.

  • Digg.com.com is one of my favorite content bookmarking sites. You can upload content “snippets” or news nuggets. The site will also pull in any images and well as back-links appearing on the same page as your content. Content can be given a “category,” so that the right readers will find it. The more popular your content (number of “digs”), the more people in the community it gets exposed to. Viral marketing and traffic generation (to the source website in the “digg”) are typical outcomes from this website. Reddit.com is a similar site, which allows users to upload a content excerpts (article, video, picture) and link to the full version. This is a great site to increase your market visibility and extend reach. It’s also a powerful platform to drive website traffic.

Important Tip! Use content that is “UVA”—useful, valuable and actionable, something newsworthy and/or interesting to your target reader. It’s very important to have a strong, eye-catching or persuasive headline that people in the community will want to read. There’s so much background noise on Digg that you want your content/headline to jump out at the reader. Also, include a back-link in the body copy you are uploading. This will help with branding, link-building and traffic generation. With Reddit, your content excerpt space is limited, so make sure to pick content that will not only resonate with the target audience, but also screams out to the reader to “click here” to read more. Then link to your full article, which should be posted on an inside page of your website.

  • Google+. Google Plus is Google’s attempt at social networking. It’s not as popular … yet … as behemoth Facebook (900 million users as of April 2012), but it’s got “teeth,” at around 90 million users. And because it’s Google, there’s some great search-friendly benefits built right in. For example, it’s indexed by Google, so your messages can get found faster. This helps with search engine visibility and website traffic.

Important Tip! For business purposes, you can share relevant information and personalize your “social” circles; thereby, targeting your message better for each group. It’s easy to share and rank (a combination of Digg and Facebook) content such as posts and messages. And there’s also a variety of sharing options like content, video, photos (similar to Pinterest, Flickr and YouTube).

With social marketing, it’s a matter of matching the content type to the most synergistic platform and audience. Social marketing may not be for every business. But I believe it’s certainly worth a strategic test. Just remember an old copywriting rule of thumb, which is “know your audience.” If you know who your target reader (prospect) is, then you can craft enticing messages and pick social platforms where those prospects are likely to congregate.

Most any social marketing site can be leveraged for marketing and business purposes. But make sure to keep your messages fun, entertaining, engaging and interactive. Because, after all, that’s what the “social” in “social marketing” is all about.

Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part III

My last two posts, part one and part two, focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics that were covered included free online press release distribution best practices and social marketing secrets for stronger visibility.

My last two posts, part one and part two, focused on real-life questions I’ve gotten from business owners, as well as my responses. Topics that were covered included free online press release distribution best practices and social marketing secrets for stronger visibility.

This final post in the series will share some powerful, yet easy, ideas to help build your list and boost website performance.

Enjoy!

Question: What can I do to start building a list of qualified leads?
Answer: Creating free content is a great way to give something and get something in return. You’re offering free, powerful editorial content. And, in return, you’re asking for an email address from the reader. Creating this type of content isn’t just good for acquisition efforts, it’s also good for branding and establishing you as an expert within your niche. You can then leverage your free content to build your list (prospect database). Your list is your key to future sales. Growing and cultivating your list through editorial is a proven business model from top online publishers. It’s a great way to bond with … and cross-sell to … your readers. And this helps create a loyal following. And, from there, the sky is the limit!

Question: What are some tips to boost sales and eCommerce performance?
Answer: No matter what you’re selling, whether it’s products or a service (i.e. copywriting, freelancing, consulting) you should always have a variety of price points for customers at every level. Offering front-end products and back-end products gives you room to bring in a customer at a low level and up-sell them. As far as eComm ideas:

  • Make Sure Your SSL Seal is Prominent. This is a sign that the site is encrypted … that the information consumers enter, such as personal and credit card information, is protected. Most eCommerce sites must file for an SSL certificate from vendors such as VeriSign, GoDaddy, eTrust, TRUSTe, etc.. It’s a good practice to display the vendors’ logo on your order page, as well as make sure in the browser window the “https” or image of a lock is present. This is a clear and comforting sign to consumers that they can order online with confidence.
  • Encourage Online Sales vs. Other Order Mechanisms. Offer special “Internet Only Pricing” to customers. It could be a discount of 5 percent to 10 percent. This reduces any potential overhead costs for staffing fees such as telesales or order entry personnel.
  • Offer Free Shipping. Many eTailers already factor shipping into their published price, so when there’s a big, flashing banner next to the item saying “free shipping” it gives consumers that extra little push to move forward with the transaction. It boils down to basic psychology. Everyone likes to feel like they’re getting something for free.
  • Use Buyer Feedback To Your Advantage. Have an area on your website or next to select items that says “Customer Favorite” or “Hot Item.” Also, have some glowing customer testimonials next to the product. Consumers like to feel good about the item they are about to purchase. To see a great testimonial and knowing that others purchased the product is a validation and comforting feeling. In addition to helping the conversion, this tactic also helps reduce buyer’s remorse and product returns.
  • Make Sure Your Product Pages are Optimized for Search Engines. After doing some keyword research on actual search behavior for your product, refine your meta description, meta keywords and title tag of your product pages. This will help consumers find your product in the organic listing of search engine results.
  • Have a Special Coupon Code Banner on Your Home Page. Something like, “Summer Blow Out Sale, Use Coupon Code 1234.” This makes consumers feel good about the purchase. In addition, encourage viral activity by having a “forward to friend” text link that opens an Outlook email window with the coupon or coupon code. Make sure to have some great promotional copy mentioning how customers should “pass on the great savings to friends, family, and colleagues.”
  • Consider Payment Plans. For your higher ticket items, consider setting up extended payment plans that allow customers to pay for an item over a few payments. If an item is $200, you might want to offer a flex pay of “6 easy payments of $33.33” that is conveniently auto-billed to their credit card. Just be diligent when calculating your payment prices, as well as creating your return/refund policy for these items. The general rule is that your actual production costs/hard costs should be covered in the first one to three payments.

Best Online Marketing Practices For A ‘Bionic’ Business: Part I

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man. The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people. Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues.

[Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of three blog posts.]

For those of you who are Gen Xers or Baby Boomers, you’ll probably remember a popular TV show from the 70’s called The Six Million Dollar Man.

The lead character was Steve Austin, also known as the ‘bionic man,’ as he had abilities to do things at an exceptional level, compared to other people.

Well, the following are real-life questions I’ve received from readers, subscribers, clients and colleagues. Little useful nuggets of information and best Internet marketing practices—all to help make your business ‘bionic’—that is—better, stronger, faster.

Today’s best practices focus on online press releases and social media marketing. Enjoy!

Question: When it comes to online press releases, I know that PRWeb.com has been the defacto standard. However, I just came across another one that appears to offer a very well-rounded option called: www.prleap.com. Have you heard of them? What do you use/recommend?

Answer: I try to use ‘free’ online press distribution services whenever possible. PRLeap used to be free, now they charge a nominal fee. They do, however, get good listings on the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if you don’t have a budget for press distribution and you’re looking for top notch free sites, check out www.i-newswire.com, www.prlog.org, and www.free-press-release.com. I use these all the time. Another great paid press release distribution service is, PRWeb.com. They provided added distribution to traditional media outlets, publication and periodical websites. Online PR is great tactic to increase your website’s visibility for SEO and traffic generation.

Question: What are some tips for getting the best results with online PR?

Answer: With online PR, the most important things are creating a newsworthy release which is keyword dense. It should also contain useful information for your target audience as well as media and bloggers. Releases that do well with pick up are usually about a company milestone, contrarian viewpoint, trend or forecast, important statistical data, launch of something (product, book, website) and similar information. The headline and sub-headline should have your top 5 keywords. In addition, your keywords should be sprinkled throughout the body of the release. There should always be a link to the longer version, which should be housed on your website in a ‘Press Room’ or ‘News’ section. And of course, there should be an ‘About’ portion of the release containing information or bio on the focus of the release. Having a call to action in the bio section is another great way to drive readers back to your site. For instance, having a ‘For more information or to sign up for our free enewsletter, click here now’.

Question: Can social marketing efforts be measured?

Answer: Yes, they sure can. Even better, the tools are all free and based off of good old fashioned direct response and public relations metrics—the 3 O’s-outputs, outcomes and objectives.

The tools are all free and based off of the 3 O’s:

  • Outputs measure effectiveness and efficiency. For our example, I’d look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic and ezine sign ups the days following social media efforts.
  • Outcomes measure behavioral changes. For example, for this metric, I’d look at customer feedback… emails, phone calls, or website comments following social marketing efforts, and ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ on posted articles. Relevant Google Alert results.
  • Objectives measures business objectives and sales. For example: The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial that may be linked to your social marketing efforts.

For each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance.

Question: Do I need to market my social media accounts? Won’t people find me with the right keywords.

Answer: Not really. You DO need to market your social media accounts. Sure the right keywords in your account profile and bio page will help, but think of your social marketing efforts as an extension of your brand and implement ‘social marketing branding’. Remember to include your social media account profile name, link, or icon in most everything you do:

  • Email auto signature
  • Ezine issues
  • RSS Feeds
  • Website home page
  • Business cards
  • PowerPoint Presentation cover page, footers and end slide
  • Press releases
  • Cross-market on other social sites

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: The Search Engine Results Page of the Future

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Search engine results pages (SERP) continue to evolve before our eyes, consistently becoming more relevant to consumers. Marketers seeking to stay ahead of these advancements in usability and relevancy to own more of tomorrow’s SERP should focus on developing three types of content:

  • paid content: paid search ads;
  • owned content: native websites, videos, social media, local information and blog posts; and
  • earned content: user-generated materials like YouTube videos, tweets and consumer reviews

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Real-time owned content from blogs and social media; user-generated earned content from blogs, tweets, and videos; and such local brand information as addresses, phone numbers and maps will likely all continue to be important in the SERP of the future. These represent just a sampling of the trends directing SERP evolution, but let’s take a closer look at the following three other likely influencers:

Sitelinks and deep navigation
.The SERP of the future will continue to incorporate more anchor links and clickable ad text, clickable search snippet text and clickable URLs. Sitelinks and deep navigation enable users to more easily find the exact page they’re looking for right from the SERP. Incorporating sitelinks into paid search ads, utilizing breadcrumb navigation, clear URL structure, and clear sitemaps helps spiders display more links in natural search listings. Expect more links in body content to permeate the SERPs moving forward.

The growth of mobile
. Predictions say that mobile search will rise to 73 percent of the mobile ad market by 2013 (Kelsey Group, Sept. 2009). With more than 140 million worldwide mobile social network users, consumers increasingly hold the future SERP in their hands; therefore brands must ensure visibility in mobile search by catering to an altogether different and separate SERP experience.

Personalization . Based on the search results that users click, Google already changes the results over time to make them more relevant and personalized. Google’s social search also pulls in results from the searcher’s social circle, such as tweets or Picasa pictures from friends. The highly personalized SERP of the future makes search marketing more complex—brands must have a deep understanding of their consumers to be able to most effectively target them, and this only becomes truer going forward.

How can brands manage the SERP of the future? Simply put, marketers must create and embrace holistic strategies to fully manage owned, earned and paid content that lives on the SERP of today to succeed on the SERP of tomorrow. A working combination of these trends – and more – can help marketers develop a comprehensive search strategy to take advantage of the SERP, while enhancing user experience and relevancy.