Thursday, 27 December 2012

Multi-Channel Retailing – Threat or Opportunity?


Multi-channel retailing means offering the customer the opportunity to make transactions with one store or business, via different channels, all of which are linked.  These can be offline stores, websites, mobile friendly sites, mobile apps and all allow the same level of service including browsing, buying and returns.  Gone are the days of a single route to market, now the communications from a single brand are multi-faceted.

Where multi-channel retailing is most successful, as in the case of Next, John Lewis and US stores such as Neiman Marcus is when the various routes have been built up from a customer centric point of view, not just offering different ways to shop, but keeping the brand in firm view as one that the customer can trust, wherever they shop from.

Threat or Opportunity is of course a really daft question, as obviously multi channel retailing presents a huge opportunity to all, enabling customers to shop via whatever channel they choose, and the wider the offer, and the more buying options, the greater the gains will be. 

Take Boxing Day, for example, with retailers such as Selfridges and John Lewis seeing record levels of sales, both online and off.  It’s easy to say, ‘ah, but they have all the money to develop both their bricks and mortar stores and online shopping sites’, but consider that they have proved a point;  those offering different ways for people to shop are doing best.

As Andy Street managing director of John Lewis, said: “It’s been a record Christmas for John Lewis, and that’s been between shops and online.

“Customers are using the two absolutely hand-in-glove. We saw it played out this year – the retailers with the best integration between shops and online have done the best.”


My clients tend to be a lot smaller than these huge retailers, but they all embrace the multi-channel approach, recognising that a tiny store in London (or anywhere) can offer its wares to anyone, any how, anywhere in the world with a simple but usable and well designed website which will work on multiple platforms. 

There are few limitations on where you can sell, and those small stores who resolutely keep to offline and complain that online is stealing the market are losing the plot, and their businesses, rapidly.  One of the greatest difficulties is that those who have waited the longest may have left it too late to recover by an online push.

Here’s a article written in 1999, titled The Death of Retail.  As a precursor for 2012 it has a strong vision. Practically clairvoyant.  And seriously worth a read.

Multi-channel retailing is the only way forward.  It is moving exceptionally fast and retailers from small to large need to embrace its potential.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

5 Essentials of Great Taglines


Your tagline or mission statement or strapline (whichever you call it) is the short punchy phrase or sentence that sums you up, and sits somewhere near your logo.  The importance of a great tagline can’t be ignored.  It says who you are in a very few words, and it tells your visitors if they’ve found what they’re looking for instantly.

It’s very easy, when you’re creating your own website and trying to be ‘clever’, to be over clever with this incredibly important piece of your home page real estate.  Let me repeat.  Great taglines are clear.  Very.  Any opacity and the meaning may be lost on everyone who visits your website.

Don’t ever forget that you only have a very few seconds to grab someone’s attention when they arrive at your home page.  2 or 3.  And if they don’t ‘get’ what you’re about almost instantly, you may have lost them.  After all, who has the time?

One of the most important messages I can get over to my clients is that clarity goes hand in hand with web usability. 

Here are 5 essentials of great taglines.

1.   They immediately tell people what they will find on your website
2.   They sum up who you are
3.   They are long enough to inform, but short enough to be scanned
4.   They make you different
5.   They convey a value proposition

Household names can make do without taglines, most websites can’t, make sure yours is lively, punchy and crystal clear.
Come and join me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1

Monday, 17 December 2012

Simple Typos and Punctuation Mistakes to Lose Fast.


I started reading an article about SEO this morning and came across ‘your’ instead of ‘you’re’ in the first paragraph.  All too easy to do when you’re trying to publish things quickly.

Careless would be more accurate than stupid, but I have to confess that I immediately stopped reading as this is something that everyone needs to concentrate on more; editing, editing and re-editing.

Two mistakes found all too often (and I’ll hold my hand up as well, I’ve done it also) are using ‘your’ as in ‘your car’, instead of ‘you’re’ as in ‘you are’.
and even worse:
‘They’re’ as in ‘they are’
instead of ‘their’ as in ‘it belongs to them’ or ‘there’ as in ‘over there’.

These words all have totally different meanings.  We can accept if someone whose natural language isn’t English makes this kind of mistake (just) but not, surely, if it’s a writer wanting to sound professional about a serious subject.

Having written several books which not only I but my editor edited and re-read several times and still found typos once published I know only too well how easy it is.  And there will always be typos.

But my advice is to read and re-read anything you intend to publish.  And if necessary get someone else to read as well.  And look out for your and you’re and their and they’re and there and whose and who’s and there are far too many more to mention.

Read Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss for more mistakes most of us make. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

How to Market Yourself Without Really Trying


How many times a day do you receive an email from someone and decide that the obvious action for you to take would be to call them?  You look fruitlessly for a telephone number and find nothing, which starts off a frustrating hunt for something that should be totally obvious.

Most of us don’t like to ‘sell’ ourselves, and despite being happy(ish) to sit in front of a TV camera or radio mike or even to stand up and talk to a large group of people we don’t really consider that ‘selling’, and yet of course it is.  But we’re happy to let slip the most obvious trick in the book, that of the email ‘signature’.

Email gives us all a huge opportunity to sell ourselves without really trying, to give our details, website address, graphics, email address and phone number to everyone we come into contact with.  And yet so many don’t use the chance.

Setting up your signature on your emails is a couple of seconds work and it’s well worth doing it properly and right now, making sure that you use the right font and layout to project your brand or style. 

I know what you’re saying…….but what if I don’t want to give them my phone number.  Simple, really, just hit delete.  Or don’t reply.  But make sure that those who you want to be able to contact you easily can do just that.

On another topic, but email related.  Change the subject line when you respond to someone about something specific and different from the original email.  The number of emails I have deleted as a result of an old, out of time subject line is countless. 

We all do things much too fast, particularly with email, and staying on track is the only thing that works in this fast paced virtual online world.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Christmas is Coming - 3 Things to do to your Website Right Now

 

Christmas is an exceedingly busy time for most retailers (hopefully) and particularly for those online.  In the rush of getting all your products up and the logistics of coping with what is expected to be the busiest Christmas ever this year online – with shoppers expected to spend 4.6bn online in the next two weeks and visits expected to be up on ‘Cyber Monday’ December 3rd, alone, by 36% over last year, the rush is well and truly on.

You, of course, want to be one of the winners this year, not one of the ‘maybe I’ll get it right next year’, so here are three things I recommend that you do to your website TODAY, to be ready for the onslaught.

Astley Clarke Home Page 
1.  Make your home page look inviting and festive.  Change those banners.  Invited visitors clearly into your store to look at those great ideas you have for them this year that are going to make their life easier.  Don’t waste their time, don’t make them search, take them by the hand and lead them straight in from your home page.

2.  Be totally clear about your Christmas services – again lead to a full information page from your home page. 

Your last order dates for Christmas – display this one on your home page
Your delivery options, from standard delivery to next day to ‘we’ll send it round in a cab for you’ (well of course not everyone can offer that one but you know what I mean).
If you offer gift wrap
If you ship internationally

Shout these from the rooftops with a Christmas banner or lead in that is obvious to the eye.  do not expect people to search – who has the time?

Send an email to your subscribers showing them your best selling gifts (not the ones you want get rid of, that won’t entice them in) but those that have a proven click and sales track record.  And also tell them about your services.  Tempt them, treat them, and get them to click through to your website.

And finally, if you’re not already doing this:

Clearly display your ‘this online retailer is to be trusted’ logos on your home page.  Don’t take it for granted, unless you’re a household name, that people will expect you to be a safe place to shop.  Make it obvious with accreditation schemes, awards, and payment card logos.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cyber Monday – What’s it all About?


Hold on a moment do I hear you say?  Wasn’t that………a few days ago?  Well yes it was if you’re in the US, where ‘Cyber Monday’ is traditionally the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, when shoppers go for broke online.

This year, according to Mashable/IBM, Cyber Monday sales in the US increased by 30% on the previous year and 18% of shoppers used a mobile device, up 70% from the previous year.

So how does that affect us in the UK?  Our ‘Cyber Monday’ is anticipated to be Monday 3rd December, and the start of a two week online shopping bonanza with shoppers expected to spend over 4.6bn pounds.  The day itself has been predicted by Experian Hitwise to be ‘the busiest day ever in online retail history’ with visits expected to be up 36% on last year.

Those who are the most likely to be in a position to take advantage of this online shopping bonanza will have honed their offer over the past year, speeded up the customer journey and reinforced brand values with a clear well marketed and competitive multichannel offer and regardless of whether shoppers use PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Those who have spent the year wondering how to improve their websites, and why customers visit and leave without buying will be left far behind. It’s time to take action, if only to benefit in 2013.  With online taking over sales from traditional outlets it’s time to join in the game.  And it may be too late for this year, but there’s more growth to come in the next.

Come and join me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1

Friday, 23 November 2012

Successful Email Marketing – When to Use Images


If you’re anything like me, you’re flooded with emails trying to sell to you.  Most of the time, when you take a quick look, all you see is the headline and blank spaces where the images will go should you choose to download them.

You will give yourself approximately two seconds to decide if you want to take a look at the images offered, and that decision will be completely based on the strength of the headline and the first couple of lines of content.

There’s a huge danger in designers making images the heroes of email newsletters because frequently they’re never seen.  The most successful newsletters I have ever sent for clients have a strong headline, a simple but engaging graphic that is not too deep and content with lots of links through to best selling product areas.

The next time you design an email campaign, imagine that whoever looks at it will not do the following:
a)  Open your images
b)  Scroll down
c)  Do anything other than read your headline and the first couple of lines of your content (if you haven’t pushed it too far down the page with a large image).
And decide if you would open it if it was sent to you.  If not, stop trying so hard and start again.  Simple is frequently best.
Come and join me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The 5 Rules to having a great LinkedIn Profile - Updated

Linkedin LogoIf Facebook and Twitter face towards your customer base, then LinkedIn faces towards your colleagues, suppliers, would-be employers and business contacts in any field and your LinkedIn Profile is becoming more and more important.

On Linked in you can connect with people you may be working with now, contacts you may make in the future, and people who you know, if they knew more about you, would most likely want to do business with you.  LinkedIn is also a great way of re-connecting with those you have worked with in the past.

Think of your LinkedIn profile as showing your face to the business world, who you are, where you’re working, your past experience, references and connections.  You wouldn’t send out a resume half finished or badly presented, so your LinkedIn profile, which can act as an adjunct to your resume, needs to be up-to-date, well presented and inviting to those who happen upon it.

1.   Your LinkedIn profile picture – and yes you do need one, needs to be both professional and friendly.  It’s the face you show to the online business world.  Don’t try and be too clever with this one – you don’t have to have a professionally taken picture, but a really clear picture of your face, preferably with a smile.  

You can be formally or casually dressed but the picture has to be of you, looking at the camera. Ask yourself.  Would I want to do business with me if I saw this pic? If the answer is no, then change it.  And don't think for a second you can get away without a profile picture.  You simply can't, as people will think that you're trying to hide something.

2.    Your History and Experience – Get it all up there and keep it updated.  Think of it as your resume (again).  Anyone could see it.  If it’s not informative and updated visitors to your page will think you can’t be bothered….and leave.

3.     Your Summary – This is where you write the most about yourself.  Keep it relevant, concise and informative.  If you’re not sure about writing about yourself then draft something out and ask someone to read it and edit if necessary.  Not everyone can or likes to write, let alone about themselves, but your information is essential and it needs to be very readable.

4.     List your Skills and Specialities – Not only does this tell people about you, but it gives you the opportunity to show your voice and tell visitors more about you.  Don’t be bashful, list them all in a professional way.

5.     Network and Connect – Find people you’ve done business with, you are doing business with, or you’d like to work with.  Look for colleagues past and present.  Join Groups that interest you, and where you think you may find like-minded people.  You never know when you will have the opportunity to travel or meet up and being part of the same LinkedIn Group can give you an introduction where otherwise you might not have one, to someone, somewhere you would like to connect with.

Look at LinkedIn as a business opportunity, which it is.  It’s waiting to be utilised.  And best of all it’s free.

Come and join me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Easiest Way to Write Hero Headlines – 6 Tips to Getting Read


Whatever your subject, If you don’t get someone to open/click or read your headline in the first few seconds you might as well have left a blank page, as your content will never be read, whether it be blog, newsletter or article.  You only have a very few seconds to grab the attention of your would-be reader and if you don’t get it instantly you’ve had it.

As an average, 80% of those who receive your communication will scan or skim your headline, but only 20% will read your copy.  It’s a scary thought, particularly if writing isn’t your strong point.

So what this boils down to is that you can’t just write the first headline that comes into your head, unless you’re already excellent at hero headlines. 

You Need To:

1   Decide on your topic and be sure that people are going to be interested in it, not just because you are.

2.  Fix on your keywords that go with that topic and use the Google Keyword Tool to make sure that its being searched for.  Don’t just assume, as so many do, that someone is searching for what you want to write about it.  Substantiate your assumption before you put ‘pen to paper’.

3.  Don’t just start writing.  Go away and really think about what’s going to make your article/blog/newsletter arresting.  What is going to make someone sit up and say ‘yes I want to know about that’?  You won’t get it by hunching in front of your computer and racking your brain, you’re far more likely to get inspiration elsewhere.

4.  Make it obvious that you’re offering a benefit, and that you’re not going to waste your reader’s time.

5.  List headlines frequently work (ie, those that use numbers) as they make a specific promise.

6.  Make it interesting.  Anyone can write boring headlines – make yours irresistible.

I come across a lot of people who don’t like putting pen to paper and when they do they don’t really know what they’re doing, so that write pieces that don’t get read and wonder why.  As with most things, writing great headlines comes down to creating a successful formula and then sticking to it.  And by being relevant, compelling and interesting.  From headline to full stop.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Friday, 2 November 2012

Meta Keywords for SEO – Should you or Shouldn’t You?


Working with a client on her SEO on an about to be launched website I checked on the automated Meta tags that had been set up and saw that the default included Meta Keywords.  Now just in case you’re not sure you frequently have the option of completing the following Meta information:
Title Tag – The top line of your browser that everyone sees from visitor to Google.  Essential optimisation and don’t think you can get away with what you were doing a year ago.  The structure has changed.

Meta Description – The snippet of text that encourages people who find you on Search to visit your website………or not, and that can be written by you or taken from your site by Google.

Meta Keywords – The space you can stuff with every relevant or near to relevant keyword related (or not)  to the page that you’re optimising.

Google, via Matt Cutts, of the Google Search Quality Team has quite clearly stated that it does not use Meta Keywords ‘Google doesn't use the "keywords" meta tag in our web search ranking.’ See the whole post above and ignore any conflicting current rumours you may read with regards to News Keywords (and I won’t go on to confuse you) as they don’t apply to you.

Google has the lion’s share of the UK search market, in August at 91% so whatever Google says you want to follow, whether you agree or not.  And watch out as Google is quite capable of changing its mind, just not today.  You cannot just ‘optimise’ your website, sit back and relax, you have to constantly work at it.

So whatever you are doing with your SEO lose the Meta Keywords.  The only thing that may happen is that you get penalized, by someone, some day, for keyword stuffing or use of page irrelevant keywords.  And if you spot a developer putting them in point him at this post.  And ask him why he’s doing it.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Value of Great Customer Service


Rose Bouquet I’ll start off by saying that I’m going to be kind here, because this story is to make a point, and not to point a finger.

I was out in the US a week or so ago and thought I had forgotten an important birthday.  A 92 year old’s birthday which by any measure has to be important.  So I went to one of my favourite online stores, spent £50 and ordered what though looked to be a very pretty flower arrangement, simple and modern, to be sent out.

What arrived, on time, was a puny little arrangement which no way looked the value of what had been spent (and this picture is not what I ordered, by the way).  So I did what I’m very good at.  I complained.

Now the company I ordered it from is famous throughout the land for offering excellent quality and service, which is why I had never had a qualm.  They offered me a £5 Voucher to make up for a) sending something out which did not look anything like the value that had been spent and b) making me look stupid in selecting it in the first place.

I complained again.  They offered me a £15 refund.  Me.  What was the point in that?  It was never about the money.  It was about giving something beautiful to someone who would enjoy it. I deleted the email in a state of……..er……….anger. 

Let’s get it absolutely straight, and I know that most know this already.  But it is sometimes amazing the ones that don’t.

Great customer service is about turning customers into loyal friends who say nice things about you.  In this day and age with viral marketing whether you’re naturally that way or not, you can’t afford to do otherwise.

Great customer service is about going the extra mile.  Doing more than the complaining customer expects so that they’ll shout about that to the world instead of what they were complaining about.

Great customer service is about being clever, taking advantage of a complaint to let the customer know that you really do care, you really are listening, and you’re really going to do something nice for them now.

Great customer service doesn’t pretend to themselves that the customer is always right.  Of course they’re not.  Anyone in retail or who has been in retail will tell you that.  But great customer service doesn’t let the customer go away thinking they’re not special, right, and important. 

Great customer service encourages the customer to come back, whatever has happened.

I’ve written yet another email, and we’ll see what happens, but what I’m interested in is what does great customer service mean to you?  Comments please…………………………..

Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ten Tips to Selling Products on the Web


Bijoux Heart Cuff If you want to sell your products on the web you have to realise that they, whatever they are, are your ‘heroes’.  This is why when you look at the most successful e-commerce sites you see the products first and foremost and everything else is secondary, although great navigation obviously helps (understatement).

Flash, over-clever intro pages – which will slow down your website and lose you more visitors than you could possibly guess – colourful backgrounds, over use of different fonts and general clutter will distract the eye and stop your visitors from doing what you really want them to do, which is to click buy.  They will only do that when they’ve got up close and personal to your products.  So you need to make it easy for them.
Here are my top ten tips to selling products on the web:

Lose any slow loading flash intros – visitors won’t even get to your products.

Get rid of coloured or patterned backgrounds to your website as a whole.  They will distract from your products.

Invest in high quality product photography, preferably with nothing more than drop down shadows as distraction.

Always show products on a uniform background unless you are deliberately using lifestyle shots throughout.
Vivienne Westwood Tartan Handbag


Show several view of each product, including close-ups and model shots as well as stills where appropriate.  One shot of a product is not enough.

Allow people to zoom in as close as they want to (or is possible).
Amara Zoom Dl Candle

Show close-up detail shots – these can also add atmosphere

Give clear information about each product, well written and without typos

On your product page layout ensure that the product is what stands out, that your main picture is clear enough and large enough.

Show each product in each colourway offered. These become separate products, heroes in their own right, and you can’t know which will be your best seller unless you show the colour options.

Unless you do all of the above you will find it difficult to complete on the web.  Content is King, as they say, and the way you show your products is part of your content.  Combine the above with clear navigation and a good range and you’ll be in with a chance.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Writing Great Title Tags for Google – SEO Tips


You may think that those title tags you wrote a couple of years ago are still doing a great job for you, even though you may have been slipping down in the search rankings and not quite knowing why.

Things have moved on, and Google (and let’s just refer to Google for the moment) is placing far more emphasis in how relevant your title tags are to the page they represent, and how they read, both for Google and for your visitors.  No longer can you stuff your title tags with a lot of keywords, now a focused and intelligent construction is imperative if you’re going to get results.

Title tags are of course just a single element of your on-site optimisation, but they are the starting point of your page optimisation hierarchy and they are of great importance.

Once you have done your keyword research (and more about that later) and decided on your chosen keywords for the page your are optimising you need to do the following:

1.   To make sure your title tags show in full, make them no longer than 65 characters in length.  Yes the optimal length has got shorter.
2.    Your title tags need to be unique.  Do not replicate elsewhere on your website.
3.    Place your keywords or key phrases near or at the front of your title tag.  People are more likely to be searching for those than for your brand, so if you want to include your brand name put it at the end. 

If you have strong reason to believe that your brand is being regularly searched for, put it at the front on your home page.
4.     Write your title tags for humans to read, as well as for search, and make them enticing.  They advertise your website after all.

5.     Use the pipe bar as a divider | You’ll find it (in the UK at least) but hitting shift/forward slash.

6.     Don’t stuff your title tags with keywords.  Two at most can be built into a readable sentence.  One may be stronger, which will then be used throughout the hierarchy on that page.

Google is now penalising websites with keyword stuffed title tags, title tags that are not relevant to the page they are on.  So take a hard look at your title tags now as the start of your re-optimisation process and make your way up the rankings ladder a step at a time.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Is your Contact Us Page Losing you Sales

It may well be.  One of the most important areas of making your website attractive to visitors and customers to shop from is your Contact Us page.  There’s no getting away from it.  We need to be able to contact you.  Properly.  Not on some form (although you can have that as well) but, if need be, we need to be able to send you snail mail, email or even pick up the phone and give you a call.  Yes seriously.

There are still e-commerce businesses out there who don’t understand the importance of letting the consumer know that they can get in touch.  Here are two Contact Us pages I came across recently;

Lenstore
contact lenses
Which one would you choose to purchase from?

The importance of good customer communication cannot be underestimated.  Leave out one facet of this, from your clear contact details to how you respond and you will inevitably lose sales, deservedly so. 

Customers today are ever more demanding in terms of price, range, quality of service. Make sure your service doesn’t let you down, and communication is part of that.


Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Website Usability - Personalised Gifts Specialist Make it Personal Launches a New Website

 

Personalised Gifts website Make it Personal offers gifts such as engraved gifts, wine gifts, personalised mugs and photo frames plus an exclusive range of birthday banners plus personalised gifts for kids including Fifi and the Flowertots and Roary the Racing Car, and has just launched their new website at www.makeitpersonal.co.uk  – offering a perfect opportunity to demonstrate how poor website usability worked against them on the original website and is greatly enhanced on the new.

This is the original home page.

Old MIP 3

Make it Personal were generating reasonable traffic to their website via their SEO program but the conversion rate was very low.  And most were leaving from the home page. 

On looking into the home page usability it wasn’t too difficult to identify the changes that were needed;

  • The site needed to be focused on the mainly female audience, buying gifts for family and friends.
  • The home page was far too busy and confusing – a more simple and clear design was required.
  • The website speed needed improving 
  • The buying path required clarifying
  • The onsite search needed improvement
  • Website security needed to be more obvious 
  • The website lacked a sign-up box to encourage customer communication

Make it Personal decided to go for a redesign and the new site has just launched.  If you compare the usability between the original site and the new you can see clearly the improvements. 

The whole feel of the site is much more modern, clean and attractive, right through from the home page to the check-out pages and it is directed to the gift buying female audience.  The navigation is very clear, helping visitors to find what they’re looking for in just a very few clicks - there’s also a much wider choice of personalised gifts on offer.

Here’s the new home page…

MIP Home Page Banner Area

MIP New website 2

MIP New Website 3

The footer area is beautifully clear, containing all of the social media links, newsletter sign-up, security logos, payment gateways and utilities. 

Make it Personal is now poised to grow in a busy market but one which is full of websites that are not as well designed as this one now is.

The jury’s out of course, as the site has just launched, but there are no inhibitors here against a fast track to higher conversions.

Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Friday, 10 August 2012

Email Subject Lines–What are you talking about?

No I don’t mean the type of subject line you put on your newsletters.  I’m talking here about email subject lines for the every-day emails you send out all of the time.

The temptation is, even if you are changing the subject, talking about something completely different, to just click on the last email from your chosen recipient and ignore changing the subject line.  The problem here is that when you want to refer back, to find the email about this particular subject you won’t be able to, because it will have an inaccurate subject line.

To make life easy and clear in this age of ever increasing virtual communication I suggest you look at the subject line of each and every email you send.  Forget being in a hurry, this will pay huge dividends later, trust me, I know these things.  Make sure that your subject line refers exactly to the subject in the body of your email and don’t click and send without doing so.

We all do it, it’s far too easy.  But it’s time to talk specifics.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Mozy Data Backup–Backing Up Into the Cloud


Mozy LogoData backup is something many do automatically, and others (like me until just recently) don’t pay enough attention to because we think ‘it’ll never happen’.

Deciding, as I was about to go away for three weeks, that the time had come to take the plunge, I did some research and decided that data backup service Mozy was going to be my cloud of choice.

Founded in 2005, Mozy has more than 3 million customers and 80,000 business customers backing up 90 petabytes of information to multiple data centres around the globe.  It is backed by VMware and EMC Corporation.

For those of you out there who as I was, and haven’t properly got around to it, I suggest you click on this Mozy link right now.  Firstly it’s very reasonably priced (there are different levels depending on how much space you want) and secondly it couldn’t be easier to set up.  Forget the discs (does anyone do that any more?) and the physical hard drive – you do all of this online.

One of the best features of Mozy to my mind, having got the backup out of the way, and particularly ifstash you, like me, do quite a bit of travelling, is the ability to sync your most active data across multiple computers.  This facility is called Stash

First download the Stash software onto your PC and transfer into it the documents you want to be able to access regularly and from anywhere, those most important to you.  Note that they will move across totally from whatever files they were in previously to Stash and will be held only there.

Then download Stash onto your laptop, iPad or wherever else you want to access them from remotely.  They will be synced constantly.  Every time you make a change it will appear in your Stash document.

You can also access Stash (and Mozy) via any browser.

There are many other backup and sync options out there – this is one I have tried and tested.  It’s simple, and it works. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Why you Need Your Picture on LinkedIn


Blank Linkedin Photo


It’s time to forget being shy.  Everyone who has their profile on LinkedIn should have their picture there as well.  The whole point of LinkedIn is to get yourself out there, who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer others.  To leave your image box blank begs the question why?  Are you trying to hide something?  Or can’t you be bothered to include a picture, in which case why should I be bothered with you?

Put your Photo on LinkedIn and More People Will Pay Attention to You

Ask yourself the question, why am I on LinkedIn?  If you’re not sure then read this article on Forbes.com on why you should be on LinkedIn.  There’s no question that LinkedIn is the fastest growing place to see and be seen, to find new employment or to check people out.  Where Facebook is mainly about social, LinkedIn, albeit still social, is about who you are and what you do. It’s a place to have your resume, skillset, experience and main attributes visual, globally, all the time, and it’s not a place to cut corners.

I was recently told by the senior partner of a major law firm that they not only had a talk about the importance of LinkedIn, but were advised to update their profiles pronto.  If it’s good enough for them it should be good enough for you.

The Format for your Picture on LinkedIn

You may think that you don’t like your photos, or that people will judge you more by the way you look than what you can do.  Suffice it to say that they may.  So get a picture taken of you, professionally or by a friend, that is

Friendly and still professional. 
You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, in fact this may be a put-off, but you do have to look approachable and respectable.  No funny business.  Just you, pure and simple.

And you do have to have your picture there.  Last week I had a meeting with a major online marketing executive.  When I went to her page on LinkedIn there was no picture.  I hope there’ll be one very soon.  To not have a picture on LinkedIn is a serious sin of omission.  Get with the program and help it to work for you.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Your Header Design– A Checklist for Sign-Ups, Cookies and More


Working with clients on their websites and working through new website developments it always surprises me what people think the header area is for.  It's what any visitor to your site see first....and judges you by first.  Yes it’s about your logo.  Yes it’s about your strapline or mission statement if you have/need one but it’s also the first place visitors look for vital information about your company and your website.

Too often the cry goes up ‘but I want to keep it clean’, ‘I want visitors to understand about our branding from the minute they arrive at our website’ and I agree with both of those, however there are some things that just should not be left out, and if you do you will affect your chances of conversion.  Remember, you just have a very few seconds to grab the attention of those who arrive at your website, and you need to make the most important details as obvious as possible.

Your Logo - Left or Center
Your Search Box (centre or to the right)

Telephone Number or a link to Contact Details
Store Finder (if appropriate)
Delivery Information Link
Currency Converter and Country (If appropriate)
Basket Details

This may sound a lot, but remember that so many will now be browsing your website on a tablet or mobile device and so much of what you would, in the past, have put in the footer, and may repeat there, needs to be fully visible at the top for quick clicks.  Too far down the page and the information may not be spotted..

Email sign-up Box – you think it’s obvious, unless you don’t have one………….
Two websites I have worked with recently had no email sign-up box on their home page.  Hands thrown up at such a missed opportunity.  Just in case you’re one of those, do something about it right now.  It is an essential piece of home page real estate and cannot be left out.

Privacy and Cookie Policy – Another hot topic (and one which will remain so) more and more websites are putting this also in their header area.  Make sure you have updated yours in any case. More about this here.  And take a look at how net-a-porter.com and johnlewis.com have handled this.

Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Friday, 8 June 2012

E-Commerce Awards–You have until to 22nd June to Enter

PrintAs an online retailer there are several awards you can enter for, and with trust building such an important factor in converting visitors to customers it’s well worth considering entering for a recognised award so that you can publish any wins on your home page.

The e-Commerce Awards were established to recognise the e-commerce businesses that have performed best in a range of areas over the past year. They’re hosted by IMRG – the UK’s industry association for e-retail - in association with the e-Commerce Expo, held in October of each year.

There are 15 separate awards available that e-businesses can put themselves forward for this year, with a further two to be decided by the Awards’ Judges: the Online Gold Award (OLGA) and Outstanding Contribution to e-Commerce.

Here is the link to the information page and registration form. http://www.ecommerceexpo.co.uk/Content/eCommerce-Awards/11//

Awards categories are as follows:
1 Best Multi-Channel Retailer of the Year

2 International e-Retailer of the Year

3 Large e-Retailer of the Year

4 Small e-Retailer of the Year

5 m-Commerce Strategy of the Year 

6 Best Use of Rich Content Online

7 The e-Commerce Innovation Award

8 Re-design/Re-launch of the Year

9 Best Customer Service Award

10 Best e-Retailer Delivery Award

11 Best e-Commerce Marketing Campaign

12 Best Social Media Engagement Award

13 Green e-Retailer - The Consumer Choice Award 

14 The Online Gold Award (the OLGA)

15 The Outstanding Contribution to e-Commerce Award

16 New e-Retailer of the Year

17 Best Payment Innovation in e-Commerce

Don’t think because you’re small, new or evolving fast that you shouldn’t enter, this is something that every online retailer should be aspiring to, and there’s nothing better than pinning that awards badge to your home page at the end of the day.

The last date of entry has been extended to June 22nd

Friday, 1 June 2012

Customer Service–5 Ways to Improve Customer Traction

It doesn’t matter how beautifully designed your website, how competitive your prices, how excellent your range.  You are only as good as your lowest common denominator – the man or woman at the end of the phone when a customer calls with a query or to make a complaint.

It’s no surprise that the most successful e-commerce businesses also have the best customer service.  That’s not to say that nothing can ever go wrong, but when you deal with companies such as Amazon, John Lewis, Asos or, in particular, Zappos in the US you expect to get speedy, efficient and friendly customer service, however the contact is made.

In the US and from a report by customer service blog Fonolo (read the full report here) 64% of brands got a rating of ‘ok’, ‘poor’, or ‘very poor’ from their customers (Forrester), and 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. (RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011). 

It costs over 6 times more to gain a new customer than it does to maintain an existing one, therefore boosting customer retention rates can bring huge benefits to your bottom line.

This is something that many businesses don’t concentrate on, rejoicing every time a new buyer appears but totally forgetting that existing customers will not hang about unless they receive great customer service, which should, in any case, be the cornerstone of your organisation.


5 Essential Ways to Improve Customer Traction.

1.  Make sure that your staff understand from top to bottom that the customer should always feel important.  Competitive pricing, a great range and speedy delivery will be as nothing if the person on the end of the phone isn’t properly educated in how to talk intelligently, informatively and helpfully to a customer.  Too many businesses get this one wrong and you can lose business in a second.

2.  Be there for your customers – have a person to answer the phone.  An unmanned phone and/or voicemail will not do it.  Make sure your customers know that you are there for them when they want you, not when you make time for them now and then.

3.  Handle complaints quickly and efficiently – this is actually one of the fastest and easiest ways of turning a customer into a friend as it not only shows how much you care, but increases the conversation and ensures that your service won’t be forgotten. 

4.  Go the extra mile.  Do more than your customer expects.  Make yourself remembered by always doing just that little bit extra in whatever context, from handling complaints to the efficiency of your service.  This is what will make a customer remember you and want to return.

5.  Be reliable, always – if you say you’re going to do something do it and get a reputation for doing so.  ‘They never let me down’ is something every business wants to hear said about them.  The opposite is a fast way to losing business.
In this time-short age we expect next day delivery, efficient service, competitive pricing and a wider and wider choice, particularly online and online, unlike offline retail, is still growing.  Take advantage of this fact by making sure that no element of your customer service lets you down and you stand a chance out there.
As Sam Walton, founder of Walmart said ‘The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.’

Your LinkedIn Profile–Three Essential Updates to Make you More Interesting

Linkedin LogoAs of April 2012 over 2 million companies have LinkedIn company pages and there are more than 9 million individual members in the UK.  There are 150 million plus professional users around the world (http://press.linkedin.com/about).

LinkedIn has fast become an essential tool for any professional and corporation, however there are many who simply don’t take the time to make sure that their profiles and pages represent their brand, or themselves, in the best possible way.  There are thousands, almost certainly millions of unfinished, badly written and poorly presented LinkedIn pages, sometimes from surprising sources.

If you are an individual on LinkedIn, here are three updates to do today, or over the weekend, and updates you should without a doubt make time for.

1.   Your profile picture.  Don’t try and duck this one.  You may think it unnecessary for a number of reasons, but you are more likely to get interest if you have a reasonably professional looking picture on LinkedIn rather than an empty box.  No picture and you will undoubtedly find it harder to gain traction and connections, let alone business, from LinkedIn.

2.   Your past history.  For any prospective employer your resume is essential and LinkedIn is one way of telling people what you’ve done in the past – it’s a kind of informal resume that can generate interest and is constantly available.

Of interest also is how long you have remained in any position, those who hop about are less likely to be the next best thing for a large corporation than those who have stayed for a while.  Make sure that your past history is clear, well written and interesting as well as being informative.  Don’t use wordy paragraphs, no one reads them.  Use short paragraphs and bullet points if necessary and spell check as well as checking for grammatical errors.

3.   What you’re doing now – When was the last time you updated your current occupation?  We’re all guilty of leaving this too long, moving on and forgetting to tell the world.  You know immediately if this applies to you, if it does, get writing.

Someone, somewhere is out there searching for you and your abilities – make it easy for them to find you, and then when they do, make them want to get to know you.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

SEO–Creating Effective Title Tags

Without SEO, and no matter how attractive your website is it will underperform and miss out on relevant and targeted traffic.

SEO is not, as some would have you think, a dark art.  It is made up of a lot of different activities from alt tags to backlinks, but the most important of all is without a doubt your Title Tag, which forms the cornerstone.  This is the absolute basis because your title tags not only make your site look much better, adding an intelligent title to your page, but it drives clicks to your website and influences your ranking on Google search.

The first thing you have to get your head around is your keyword research, which is where many come to a halt.  Keyword research is what finds you relevant words and phrases that the outside world is looking for and you cannot write effective title tags without it.  The Google keyword tool is free so it is well worth getting to know this if you don’t already, and then using it religiously before you write any content for your website.

Identifying key words and phrases can take a while but there is no quick fix and this work needs to be done if you are going to have a website that works effectively.  You can employ someone to do it for you, or you can do it yourself, but it’s an essential task.

Setting up your Title Tags.

Once you’ve worked on your keywords you’re now ready to create your title tags. 

You need to create tags that can be read in their entirety, in other words the entire tag can be viewed at the top of your browser, so keep them short, to no more than around 63 characters.

They should be both keyword rich and interesting and there is often a conflict between the two in people’s minds. But this will achieve more clicks to your website and also higher rankings, so consider both when you’re writing and don’t just ‘keyword stuff’.

You cannot use the same title tag on every page of your website – does that sound obvious?  You would be amazed at the number of clients’ websites I visit for the first time who are doing just that, either because that is the way the developer set up the website or because they haven’t had the time to go in and change them.  Quite simply it looks unprofessional and it won’t help your rankings either.

Put your most searched for keywords or phrases at the front of your title tag – don’t worry about your brand name, the likelihood is that, unless you’re extremely well known, people will be searching for a product and not for you.

Make sure that your keywords are relevant to the page they’re related to.  People and Google look for relevancy.  If they don’t find what they’re looking for on each page they’ll leave in a flash, so forget the number of searches for a specific product or service if it doesn’t relate to that particular page.  Those keywords will not help you at all.

Should you brand your title tags?  There are varying schools of thought about this one.  They boil down in the main to yes for category and sub category pages, where your brand name should go at the end of each tag to encourage recognition, and no for product pages.  With regards to your home page it is up to you whether it should go at the start or at the end.  But the choice is yours.

Always remember that people are more likely to be searching for brands or products (or services), and probably not specifically for you, so the hero in your title tags is your keywords.
Find me on:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Product on the Web–How to Shift it off the Shelf

I looked yesterday at the same products on two different websites, both of long provenance, one multi-channel and the other web only, and wondered why the web only store had got its product category pages so wrong, making me want to click away immediately (too many products on the page – small photos).

The important thing here to realise is that you only have a very few seconds to get the attention of a visitor to your website, forget if they’ve come to you because you’re at the top of search, paid for or otherwise, forget that you have the very product they’re looking for.  If you don’t display your products in a way which is instantly enticing you’re likely to see them go.

kabiri jewelleryThe answer is quite simple, and it’s the reason why more and more websites display ‘quick buy’ buttons, enabling your to order your chosen product off the category web page, rather than the individual product page.

Yes, that’s right, product category and sub category pages have become selling pages in their own right, by virtue of clear, large photographic images and cut down information.

You need to review your category pages and make sure of the following:

That you’re not trying to display too many products across – three seems to be the perfect number.

That each product image is a sales tool in its own right – sharp, clear, and same size within the frame to all the sister products on the page.  A mix of sizes, views, skews, stills and model shots can look very messy.
Kabiri trend earrings
There should be concise information about the product including the price on the category page.

An invitation to ‘add to bag’ or ‘buy now’ without going through to the individual product detail page and leading straight to the checkout.

There’s no doubt that we as consumers have little time to waste online shopping – so many products to compare, so many websites to browse – when we find something we want to order we want it NOW.  So make that possible.

This is not to denigrate the importance of your product pages – there, for the buyer who wants it, should be the full detail, multi views, zoom, and any other necessary information.  However give your customers the opportunity of buying without having to make another click and you’re likely to increase your sales.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mobile Shopping–5 Tips for Customer Engagement

mobile wallisMobile shopping is growing at a huge rate, with most retailers running hard to catch up, and many falling way behind.  It’s not enough to simply ‘be online’.  Mobile shopping is about to take over.

According to the IMRG/Capgemini Retail Sales Index ‘sales via mobile devices have seen a year on year growth of 254%, averaging 300% year on year growth for Q1 2012. And according to ABI research ‘Worldwide mobile sales will grow to 163 billion dollars by 2015’.
Right now the conversion rates for purchasing by mobile remain very low – below 1% as compared with just over 4% for traditional website visitor conversions, indicating that shoppers browse for goods on the move with their mobile devices rather than actually buying.

If ecommerce providers get the mobile shopping experience right then this will change, as soon as later in 2012, but there are problems with customer engagement which need to be fixed as soon as possible, particularly as low ratings for mobile shopping quoted in the social stream can damage a retailer’s brand image everywhere, from bricks and mortar store to traditional website.
Five things to consider with mobile shopping:

Usability

mobile timberlandIt’s really no different from your website experience, although harder to get right on mobile.  The experience has to be as clear and simple as possible, driving customers to what they are searching for without confounding them with unnecessary content.  It is much easier to clutter up a mobile stream, as the screen is so much smaller.   Design your website around clarity for the consumer and you will be much likely to get a sale, rather than just a browse, or worse, a bounce.

This applies whether you’re looking at your website for any application, from desktop through laptop and tablet to mobile phone.  We know for a fact that browsers are looking for the same overall experience from an online retailer as they find on their desktop or laptop, and that they prefer store websites to apps which is an advantage as apps can be expensive and only work on a limited number of devices.

Reduce the number of clicks to product
On many mobiles the constant re-launching and re-directing to a page is time consuming, and you have just a very few seconds to get and retain the attention of a would-be purchaser, just as you have on any other application.  Make getting to the product as fast as possible and remove any unnecessary pages on the way.
mobile amazon
Make Searching Simple

On the best mobile optimised websites the search box is clearly visible at the top of the page, just as it should be on your website.  Search should be the fastest way of reaching a desired product, so make sure that it is.

This involves not just making sure that your search box is in the right place, but that your products are set up to be search friendly, and your internal search engine is as fast as possible.

Be aware of the power of sharing
You can do a damage to your brand by not offering a clearly thought-out, fast and easy to use mobile experience.  With social sharing nothing is secret, make sure that your reviews, whether by Twitter, Facebook or any other social media avenue are likely to be favourable and you’re likely to gain everywhere, from bricks and mortar store to your main website.  The reverse is also all too true.

Make payments quick and easy.

Right now this is easier said than done, but more transactional gateways will be opening up in 2012 to create easy payment possibilities.  The quicker and simpler, the more likely visitors will go down the buying funnel to order.


If transactional mobile shopping is on the rise, and if it’s true that more will be browsing and buying via their mobile phones in 2014 than by traditional desktop or laptop, there has never been more urgency and incentive to get on the mobile shopping bandwagon.  Just make sure you get it right from the start.


Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Thursday, 12 April 2012

5 Tips to Creating Great Content

If you want to rank anywhere near the top in Google search, let alone get people to buy from you, you need to provide content on your website that is unique, relevant and well written, as well as friendly, interesting, informative and sales-generating.  No don’t groan….

It’s a fact that not everyone likes to put pen to paper, to coin an old-fashioned term, and not everyone has a voice that translates well into print or screen, however with Google’s increasing emphasis on high quality content as opposed to basic old fashioned SEO if content writing is not up your street you need to find someone who can write for you.  Fast.

If you need to create your own content here are five important tips

1.  Don’t write long wordy paragraphs.  Not only will the relevance of your text be diminished, but people will not want to read them.  Break up text with short, readable sentences and paragraphs and they’re far more likely to be read.

2.  Make points and create lists with bullet points when you want to highlight information.  These are easily scanned and again, more likely to be read.

3.  Copy check, copy check, copy check and then get someone else to check what you’ve written.  Having written several books, copy checked them myself, had my editor copy check as well and still found mistakes which make me want to duck I know only too well the importance of getting rid of typos.  They make your work look unprofessional and, by the way, Google doesn’t think much of them either.

4.  Regularly update your content.  Static content becomes boring and out of date very quickly to both search engines and readers alike.  Even if your updates and changes are small, make sure that you keep it up.

5.  Never use duplicated content from other websites and never ‘spin’ your articles.  You will do far better with high quality, relevant, unique content than any other.  Shortcuts are quite simply counter-productive.

Content is king.  Period.  Great content will get you high up in the search rankings, visited, read and paid attention to.  Anything else is quite simply a waste of time. 


Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Your Facebook Password and Your Privacy

When you first set up your profile on Facebook, interacted with friends, said a lot of things you probably wished you hadn’t later and published photos you definitely didn’t intend your grandmother to see, you never anticipated the likelihood of being asked for your Facebook login at a job interview.

This is a stirring storm that is going to get bigger unless it is stamped on quickly, and there’s no doubt that the ramifications are far greater than anyone has considered so far.

There are ways of employers viewing your Facebook profile, particularly if you’re not over careful about who you ‘friend’, but is this honest?  Aren’t there better ways of finding out about you?  Having said that, you need to read this article in Forbes, ‘A recent survey by PR network by Eurocom Worldwide of the tech industry found that almost one in five executives said that a candidate’s social media profile has caused them not to hire that person.’

In answer to the question should you hand over your Facebook password to an employer, I believe that the answer has to be no.  I also believe that employers should not ask. 

You should have an honest profile and up to date resume on LinkedIn.  You should have written references that can be backed up by verbal ones from verifiable sources.  There are plenty of other ways of ensuring that you are right for a job other than scurrying around your profile on Facebook.

At the same time you should be very careful what you publish on Facebook, or anywhere else on the web for that matter. And if you haven’t gone back for a while and checked what’s there you should do so right now.  Don’t assume anything can’t be found, it probably can.  Those who don’t do this will without a doubt live to regret it later.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The 4 Main Ingredients of Successful E-Commerce Websites

There are many who when designing or re-designing their websites want to re-invent the wheel.  This can be an extremely dangerous practice.  Retaining your individual handwriting is a must, but playing it reasonably safe and following already proven guidelines is also a must if you want as quick as possible a return on your investment.  And who doesn’t?

These are the 4 main ingredients of successful e-commerce websites, with success meaning the return on investment that everyone is looking for.

Navigation/Usability

Website usability, a frequently used term, means making it as easy as possible for your customers to get around, or to navigate your website.  This may sound obvious, but there are many sites out there who make it far more complicated than they should do, and lose orders as a result. 

If you’re using an external developer, which you probably are, take a look at what they have already designed and compare with some of the bigger, well established sites such as www.johnlewis.com and www.thewhitecompany.com.  It doesn’t matter what type of product you are offering, the design template is the same as we read and use websites in the same way.

More about your home page/website usability here

Search

There are two types of search.  Firstly being found by the search engines, and more about that next, and your own search box.  Make sure that your internal search engine is as fast as possible, and that everything on your website is clearly set up to be found so that whatever the customer puts into your search box is what they get.  Watch the conversions rise when you do this.

Also make sure that your search box is clearly marked and preferably on the top right or top centre of your header area as this is where we automatically look for it.  Don’t try and hide it for aesthetic reasons anywhere else.  It will be to your website’s detriment.

Read more about your search box here

Images

Make your images as clear as possible.  Make your zoom as large as possible, and offer alternative views.  Consider such add-ons as video which is becoming more and more common, and a great selling tool provided it is high enough quality, and 360 spin.

Allow your customers to get right up close you your products, you will not regret this. 

More about your images here in a previous post.

SEO

There are so many websites out there that are not properly optimised for search, thus losing out on the free online marketing that it offers.  The most important aspect is spending the time identifying the key words and phrases that are most relevant to your products and service using a tools such as the Google Keyword Tool and then creating, in the correct format, your title tags, meta descriptions, category names, headers and online content.  All of this matters hugely.  You can do it in house or get an external company to do it for you.  It will either be time intensive for you or costly if you use a large company to do it for you.

SEO also includes off-site optimisation/online marketing, getting inbound links to your website from other sites.  This can be via articles, blogs, press releases and web directories.  Again it has to be done properly and there are those out there who would sell you their services offering links from 1000’s of external sites fast.  Be very wary about these.  Google and other search engines are much more quick to spot bad practices online.

Either way this is a key element forming a cornerstone to online success.  One of the problems is that SEO is often sold as a dark art, which it is not.  It is a series of very logical steps that need to be taken to establish your website out there and this will generate you both traffic and revenue stream.


When you start off designing or re-designing your website, consider the above.  Getting it right from the start will bring huge benefits, in terms of ROI and avoiding having to make costly changes later.


See all the website reviews at www.thesiteguide.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

How to Optimise your Blog–SEO Tips

As with any other type of content optimisation, blog optimisation is what will get you found by the search engines. 

There are no guarantees that you’ll get to the top of page 1, however if you don’t take the time to optimise your blog you’ll be wasting a valuable opportunity to make yourself more visible on the web.

As well as blog optimisation for posts you’ve already published, which you can tweak, think in terms of search before writing new posts.  This may sound arduous, but once you get in the habit, and you see the results coming through, it’ll become second nature and you’ll wonder why it took so much time for the realisation to sink in that optimisation is fundamental to anything you write for the web.

First do your keyword research

If you want people to find your blog you first of all need to find out what they’re searching for.  The Google Keyword Tool is simple to use, and essential for anyone writing online content.  All you do is put your subject or product or any number of words and phrases (and keep them as concise as possible) into the entry box and Google will tell you how high the competitions is, what the approximately number of monthly searches are both globally and locally and also offer you alternative suggestions.

Before you do anything else I suggest you become acquainted with the Google Keyword Tool.  Choose your keywords and phrases and then write using them, without over-stuffing your content with them.  ‘Keyword stuffing’ is a technique that Google does not approve of…… Best of all find one key phrase where there is low competition and concentrate on that, that is most likely to get you to the top of the page where highly competitive key words and phrases won’t.

Here’s another post I wrote about using the Google Keyword Tool, it applies to website, blog or any other type of optimisation.

Writing or tweaking your blog

Once you’ve settled on your keyword or phrase the rest follows naturally as this needs to be your focus point in your Title Tag and your meta description (your off site blog optimisation), your H1 Header, your picture alt tags and your content for your on-site optimisation.

Where your title tag is concerned put your main keyword or phrase at the front so that it stands out. 

You can also go back over old posts tweaking them for maximum optimisation, or you may have written them without optimisation in mind.  It doesn’t matter.  Go back, establish what you were writing about that matches what is coming up in search and change your title, description, header, alt tag and content to match.  Google looks for relevance, so don’t include a keyword just for the sake of it thinking it’ll get you found, make sure it matches your subject matter and then you’ll be in with a chance.

Click here to read The Importance of Great Title Tags
See all the website reviews at www.thesiteguide.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Website Usability–Five Rules for Getting Products Off the Page and into the Basket

The easier you make it for visitors to your website to buy your products the more likely you’re going to get sales.  Ok that may seem very obvious, but probably without realising it there will be websites you visit that you frequently buy from and others you leave quite quickly without analysing why.

With online shopping via pc, laptop, tablet or mobile device the rules are the same.  You have to grab the customer’s attention, draw their eye to the product, make them look at it more closely and give them a reason to want it more.  In other words, feed their desire. 

e-Retail sales grew 16% year-on-year in January, with Britons spending an estimated £5.96bn shopping online (IMRG) so there’s no excuse for you not to be getting your share of the pie…….or is there?

To build customer’s desire for your products you need to do the following:
Main Image

Needs to be reasonably sized on the page and in clear, high quality, so that the eye is instantly drawn to it.
netaporter for webhints

Description

Should be interesting and concise – no one will read wordy descriptions no matter how much you like to write them, what customers are looking for is any necessary information written in a friendly style.  If you have more than one description area segment them into headed paragraphs, tabs or bullet points.

Alternative Views

These are becoming more and more important – a single image just will not do any more.  Give as many views as are needed to show the product in full and in detail.  Never think ‘oh they’ll know what it looks like from the back’……show it.

Zoom

Needs to be as large as you can make it, to give the customer that feeling that they can get right up close.  You must have heard, as I have heard so many times ‘but I like to get up close and touch and feel things before I buy’, well now, even online, you virtually can with expanded zoom.

Customer Reviews

The minute you start showing what your customers think of your products you strengthen your sales pitch.  It’s not just you selling and marketing your products, your customer are giving you incredibly valuable back-up, which in turn via social share plug-ins gives you added both credibility and reach.

There’s no doubt that independent product reviews are the best, where a customer has to have purchased a specific product in order to be able to review it on your website.  However not everyone is ready to go down that route, and publishing simple customer reviews will still make a big difference. 

Gone are the days when potential customers were happy just to hear what you had to say about your products and service.   Now they want to hear what other customers have to say and this ‘want’ is going to grow. 

John Lewis

See all the website reviews at www.thesiteguide.com
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/ShopaholicGuide
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/thesiteguide
LinkedIn:http://uk.linkedin.com/in/patriciadavidson1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/108093314539272860897/posts
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/shopaholicguide/
And contact me at phd@thesiteguide.com