Opening an e-commerce business is easy, or so you thought! Now that your storefront is open you’re realizing a need to put more thought into how to increase your online sales. The competition is stiff out there, and everyone is vying for the eyes and wallets of potential customers -- including you. How will you increase website traffic and improve conversion rates to get your products and/or services ahead of the pack? Here’s our comprehensive guide to help you along that journey.
I’m routinely surprised by the number of online merchants who don’t have a Google Analytics account. Or have one and don’t know what to do with it. When you sign up for Google Analytics (which is free) you’ll receive a tracking code to install on every page of your website.
Google uses the tracking code to collect data about user interactions with your website. There is a ton of useful information that Google will collect for you, including the amount of traffic you receive, where it comes from, and the demographics of your visitors.
Before you begin working hard to drive more traffic to your website, it’s important to know your starting point. Later you’ll be able to look at your Google Analytics account, see how your traffic has improved over time, and tie it back to the actions you’ve taken.
Most e-commerce platforms make it easy to add the Google Analytics tracking code. If you can’t find where to add it, call your platform’s customer service number or talk to your web developer.
Organic traffic happens when unpaid search results provided by search engines like Google or Bing deliver visitors to your website. To attract these visitors you need to have online content that appeals to the search engines. So what appeals to search engines and what’s the best way to create online content?
More than 90% of website traffic comes from the first page of the search engine results. The result that occupies the first position on page one gets more than 30% of the traffic, while the result in the tenth position (the last spot on the first page) receives about 2%.
Clearly being on the first page of the search results is highly desirable. If you’re not on page one, your target audience probably isn’t noticing you. But how do you get there? Google considers over 200 factors when determining the order of search results and keeps most of them a closely held secret. However, here are some things you should keep in mind:
The goal of today’s search engines is to deliver helpful content to its users. Helpful content typically addresses questions that begin with “How”, “What” or “Why”, provides comparisons, or helps users arrive at an informed decision. Having great, relevant content is the surest way to improve your search rankings.
Google is constantly crawling websites looking for the most helpful content it can serve up to its users. Routinely add new content to your website so it isn’t seen as stale. Refine existing content to constantly improve it.
A URL, or uniform resource locator, is the text that appears in the address bar of your web browser. Make sure you use URLs for your pages that relate to what the page is about. A webpage with a URL of https://mysite/products/reading-glasses will rank better for searches for reading glasses than https://mysite/products/8498746.
If it takes more than a few seconds to load a page from your website, it’s probably harming your page rankings. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see how it views pages on your website. Get help from a professional if your website isn’t performing well.
Make sure your website is responsive. A responsive theme adjusts the appearance of your website based on the user’s screen size and resolution. If you’re not sure if your theme is responsive, open your website and drag the edge of your browser to narrow the browser window. If the layout of the page changes, then you have a responsive theme.
Make sure your site has an SSL certificate and that it is properly installed. An SSL certificate encrypts the traffic on your site so that your visitors are protected from criminals.
Before you dive into creating awesome content, it’s important to understand who your intended audience is, how your content will be relevant to them, and how you can keep them engaged.
Google keeps track of how users interact with your content with metrics like average time on page, bounce rate, and exit percentage. Google will reward you when arriving visitors spend time on your landing pages and navigate to other pages on your website. If site visitors tend to leave your website after just a few seconds, Google will deduce that the page was a poor fit for the search phrase and reduce its ranking accordingly.
Develop content with your intended audience in mind, and keep in mind why they’ll be looking for it.
It’s important to establish who you’re selling to, and why you think your product or service is going to be important to them. This means creating “buyer personas” which are personality/behavioral profiles of your ideal customers.
Don’t fall into the trap of simply saying, “Our ideal customer is anyone who’d want to use what we provide.” Some key points to keep in mind when creating accurate buyer personas include:
Once you've established a firm set of buyer personas, you'll need to start familiarizing yourself with their journey. Every potential customer is different and will have different ways in which they'll interact with your brand. Taking the time to curate a streamlined, yet authentic, customer journey will pay off in spades once it comes time to start selling. The customer journey is comprised of three stages:
With your buyer personas in hand and their journeys understood, now you're ready to tackle the next important step of your online sales strategy: your content marketing plan.
There’s more to a content marketing plan than a few well-timed blog posts. You’ll want to create content that aligns to the buyer’s journey and that appeals to your buyer personas. Let’s revisit the three major steps of the customer journey and explore how to approach each one thoughtfully. I’ll use a diet plan to give you some practical examples.
During the awareness stage, your prospect has realized a goal or challenge. The goal or challenge is expressed with terms like: improve, increase, prevent, fix, repair, learn, start, or stop. How do your products/services align with these terms and terms that are similar?
What would your buyer persona type into Google to do some research? “How do I…”, and “What is…” are examples of how people phrase their searches in this phase of the buyer’s journey.
Our prospect decides he needs to lose weight. He might type, “How do I lose weight” into his search engine. The search results page will contain information on many kinds of weight loss strategies, such as diet pills, special diets, and exercise.
Your content for the awareness stage should be informative and relevant to the research the buyer is performing. Don’t be biased towards your solution. You want to be genuinely helpful. Using our diet plan example, a content piece written for this part of the funnel should introduce all (okay, maybe “many”) of the weight loss strategies.
Content written for this part of the funnel has the broadest appeal and you want to attract a lot of visitors. Site visitors who have a real interest in the topic but aren’t good prospects still have value. If your website is relevant to the topic and these visitors stick around to read your article, it will have a positive impact on content intended for prospects further down the funnel who are a good fit.
The Awareness stage content is where your customers are most likely to encounter your brand for the first time. This is your opportunity to begin building brand awareness. The more helpful and credible you are, the more trusted your brand will be and the more likely you’ll continue to be considered through the remaining stages of the buyer’s journey.
During the awareness stage, the buyer collected different options and arranged them into categories. During the consideration stage the buyer will eliminate categories that aren’t appealing. Within the favored category the buyer will identify the options to consider.
After researching information about the pros and cons of diet pills and investigating how much of a commitment exercising would be, our prospect has decided he’s interested in diet plans. He’s identified several diet plans he wants to look into. The searches he performed are: “Pros and cons of diet pills.” “How much do I need to exercise to lose weight?” “Best diet plans for weight loss.”
Understanding the categories your buyer will identify during the awareness stage and anticipating how the buyer will go about sorting through them will allow you to create relevant content specific to this stage of the buyer’s journey. Remaining a valued resource in the consideration stage will have a positive impact on your conversion rates.
This stage in the journey is all about making comparisons between competing brands. The buyer will seek information on prices, product specifications, and reviews. Product comparisons are a common type of content for the decision stage. If you’ve done a good job tracking the buyer’s progress, an emailed offer for a free trial or discount may be well timed.
Our buyer has visited the websites of a half dozen companies that offer diet plans. He’s studied their approaches and read their reviews. He sought out opinions by searching “diet plans comparisons” and ultimately decided that he’d choose between Nutrisystem and the South Beach Diet. To help him make his final decision, he searches for “Nutrisystem vs South Beach Diet”. If you are one of these two companies, this is a piece of content you might want to write.
Moz, one of the leaders in the SEO world, defines Search Engine Optimization as the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
You can use SEO tools to identify keywords and keyword phrases to include in your content. Examples of popular tools available through a subscription include AHREFs, MOZ, and SEMRush. You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner, which is free if you have a Google Ads account. These tools will give you data on how often keywords are used when performing searches and other valuable statistics.
Use relevant keywords and keyword phrases throughout your content to attract the right type of visitors. Google is a big fan of well-organized, highly searchable content with low bounce rates. The more effort you put toward driving quality traffic to your landing pages, the higher your chances will be to convert leads into sales.
SEO is a complex topic and this brief mention of it as it relates to creating content is the tip of the iceberg. There are many other SEO practices that can be employed to help advance your search engine ranking goals. If you have an interest in this topic, the book SEO 2019 by Adam Clarke is an excellent resource to start with.
For Google to take notice of you, you need to introduce new content regularly. How regularly? Weekly, and if you can’t keep up that pace then consider doing it at least monthly.
You should start seeing results in three to six months, depending on how regularly you post, and how good your content is. Remember, the goal is to be helpful, so don’t simply create content for the sake of it.
Paid online advertising, also called Search Engine Marketing (SEM), refers to paying for website traffic. Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is an example of SEM that most of us have seen. These are the listings on Google’s search results page that are tagged with “Ad”. As many as four ads can appear above the organic search results, and in some cases ads will also appear below them.
Paid online advertising will have an immediate impact on your website traffic. You may see it as an attractive option since it can take months for a content marketing strategy to begin to bear fruit. Just be aware that when your ad budget is gone, so to is the traffic. Content, on the other hand, works for you 24/7, even when you aren’t feeding it your hard earned dollars.
How much traffic can you drive with paid advertising? You can drive as much traffic as you have money to spend. Be very careful with online ads though. If you aren’t, you can spend your whole budget in just a few minutes and have nothing to show for it.
Online ads are paid for by either Pay Per Click (PPC) or Cost Per Thousand (CPM). When ads are PPC, you pay for them only when your ad is clicked on. You pay for a CPM ad based on the number of times the ad is displayed.
Ads can be search ads or display ads. Search ads are text based and appear with organic search results. Display ads are rich, graphic based ads that appear on websites in areas reserved for them. They display to people surfing the internet that match the target audience you define when creating the ad.
You can purchase ads from Google and Bing, and from most social media platforms like Facebook and Linked In. All of the platforms have sophisticated tools that will allow you to control when and who your ad is displayed to.
Three quarters of all online searches are done through Google. If you want to get started with SEM, then Google Ads is a good place to start. You can create Google Ads account for free.
A valuable tool that comes with your Google Ads account is Google’s Keyword Planner, which you’ll find on the Tools menu. Use this tool to identify the search volume of the words your ideal customer might use when searching for the type of services or products you sell. Use the words your customer is likely to use. They may not be the same words you would use.
For example, consider the phrases “mobile phone” and “cell phone”. The phrase “mobile phone” is technically correct. The phrase “cell phone” refers to a device that no longer exists and hasn’t for years (Surprised?). Yet “cell phone” is used in search 10 times more often. If you’re a stickler for technical accuracy and insist on using “mobile phone” as your keyword, you’ll be missing out on most of your target audience.
Use the Google Ads settings to set a small initial campaign budget. You can count on losing this money, so make sure you’re comfortable with the amount. Think of it as research. Include several variations of your ad in the campaign, and use the settings to rotate the ads. Your goal at this point is to collect data that you can use to refine the ads until you have one that returns a positive return on investment (ROI).
It will probably take several attempts to identify an ad with a positive ROI. Once you have one, you can raise the stakes. It’s common for companies to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars developing a profitable ad, and then thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on the ad once it has demonstrated a positive ROI. The key takeaway here is to closely control your spending during the research and discovery phase of creating a successful ad.
Google Ads uses different match types to understand how you want your keywords to be related to searches. At one end of the spectrum there is “Broad Match”, which means as long as Google interprets the search string to be related, it will consider displaying your ad. On the other end of the spectrum is “Exact Match” which means your ad may only be displayed if the search string matched your keyword phrase exactly (minus any stop words like “of” or “the”). You need to make sure you understand these options as you build your campaigns. If you’re new to Google Ads I recommend starting with the “Exact Match” option.
Another powerful match type are “Negative Keywords”. These are words that you don’t want your ad displayed for. For example, if you sell women’s shoes but don’t sell high heel shoes, you should identify “high heels” as a negative keyword. Your ad won’t be displayed when “high heels” is part of the search string and you won’t be in danger of spending money on an ad that isn’t relevant to the person performing the search.
Why are negative keywords so powerful? Because search users don’t care about spending your money. This is particularly true of mobile users who generally don’t pay close attention to what they are doing. Recently I was blown away by the number of mobile users that clicked on an ad for a product that was completely unrelated to what they were searching for. It was at the top of the search results, so they clicked on it. More than half our ad budget was spent on these visitors and I never anticipated them. Thankfully I follow my own advice and this was an early “data collection” campaign with a small budget. The keyword phrase was immediately added to the negative keyword list.
Although it may seem like you’ve only been reading about how to increase your website traffic, much of it also helps your conversion rate. If your content marketing strategy is effective, you will already have checked the box for many of the factors that are important for conversions:
When you identify your buyer personas and create content for them, these are things that you should be addressing at different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Below are some other things to do to help your conversion rate.
Google Optimize is a free tool you can use to perform A/B testing (split testing) on alternate versions of your webpages. Each page should have a call to action (CTA) which you will use to count how many people performed the desired action. The page with the highest count wins.
Once you have your winner, create another version of the page and run the test again. Repeat the test again and again until you’re satisfied with the result.
Many of your potential customers may perceive some risk in buying from you. Hopefully the excellent work you did creating buyer personas identified what those perceptions are. Reducing or removing the risk will free these prospects up to make the purchase.
Offering a money back guarantee, free returns, free trial, warranty, or service guarantee are common examples of how companies cut down on customer risk perceptions.
If you’re uncertain which strategy will have the best result, use A/B testing to find out.
Think about the purchases you’ve made recently. How many of your purchases were influenced by the belief that the item wasn’t going to be available later, or the special deal you were getting was about to expire?
One way to create a sense of urgency is through remarketing. Remarketing targets people who have already visited your website and shown an interest in your products. You can include coupon codes that expire in display ads for the product they showed an interest in. Display ads can be shown in social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and on websites that are part of the Google Display Network.
The more complicated or confusing the buying process is, the less likely your visitors will be to complete a checkout. Friction can take many forms. Poor page loading times; confusing pages; too many choices; too many fields to fill out; etc., etc. You want your customer’s experience to be simple and straightforward.
There you have it! Use this guide to begin the journey to increase your website traffic and boost your conversions. With a little planning, a lot of due diligence, and some hard work, you can increase your online sales. If this is more than you want to tackle on your own, consider hiring an agency like ours to assist you.
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Eniture Technology is committed to helping online merchants grow their business by executing proven strategies for inbound marketing, creating custom solutions for unique challenges, and offering affordable off-the-shelf products that boost conversions and revenue. It is what we do. This is one of many educational articles that I hope helps you achieve your goals!
Paul Birkhead Eniture Technology