For more than a decade, marketers have exploited the World Wide Web to bring out the best of brands. Their biggest challenge or should we say the biggest focus area was visibility in search results. Hence Search Engine Optimization or SEO became a household name and every website owner starts to think about it the moment they are live on the internet. But then comes the question! How do smaller websites or newer entrants compete with established websites for search engine rankings for similar business interests?
Before we go into the tips, let’s check out three main parameters that make established brands so attractive for search engines:
With years of providing quality services to their customers, established brands have their own fan clubs and also have folks who regularly search for products or services with their brand name along with it to get results from only them. This rakes up a huge advantage in search rankings.
Big ticket marketing
With their size and bank balances, biggies can afford to spread word about them in a multitude of channels be it print, TV, web ads, search engine ads, social media advertisements and several other mediums. It is easier for customers to notice at least one of their popular ads in any of the different communication mediums. Marketing draws up user searches and that too with a huge proportion of organic search traffic. This translates into higher SEO rankings.
When established sites post content, there would be several sites that would backlink to them including sites that have higher rank authority like for example famous media portals or news portals. This increases contextual importance of the content and these pages would hence be a darling of search engines.
Now moving onto the advantages of small sites, well you have a pretty long list. Let’s just break it into a few points here. The advantages of smaller sites or newer sites in terms of SEO are:
Ability to experiment with ideas
Easier to integrate more tech since business starts from scratch
Able to focus on niches
More personalized consumer interactions due to smaller user base
Now let’s answer the question we discussed in the beginning. How do smaller websites compete with bigger ones for SEO?
Choose keywords that bigger brands do not often care to target
When a bigger brand does its SEO it takes into factors such as generalised domain of operation, the associations they have with partner brands or selling channels, audience demographics, globalization of products/services and much more. But as a newcomer, you have all the luxury you need in terms of keyword focusing. Choose long-tail or editorial or comparison or any other type of keywords you may wish. Since bigger brands need to strict to generalization and global or national operational areas, you can focus on localized keywords to grab more attention. You are free to target neighbourhoods or localities, create content that may or may not create conflicts between associated brands( because you will not probably have them) and can easily draw attention from search engine users.
Be as specific in your niche as possible
For example if you are competing against TripAdvisor for travel or accommodation arrangements, then you could focus on niches such as City specific packages, or localized travel options, local attractions, etc. to gain more unique site visits. These would add up to organic traffic which would further boost your rankings.
Educate your customers more than showcasing your ability
For users to navigate to your new site, there needs to be some take away or value addition they would get. The bigger brand names will already be registered in their minds and the best way for you to garner some interest would be to educate them with tips and tricks or how to articles for your domain of operations. Write great content that educates users on how to make the best selections in your business domain and in the end you could put up direct sales or contact links to specific pages.
While you create great content on your social media channels, make sure you respond more actively to engagements you receive. People may share your content, comment on updates and link back to your pages. In all cases, try to keep up the conversation so that search engines are able to trace active engagements. This will automatically translate into higher rankings. As a smaller brand, it will be easier for you to interact with responders as they would be limited in number. But it is a great way to start building trust with your customers. You stand a greater chance to convert them into brand advocates in the long run.
That sums up our tips for small website owners to grab some serious share in search rankings. Size is never a constraint and the smarter you work, greater will be the results you will gain.
The E-Commerce industry is going through rapid innovations and retailers now have to face challenges on multiple frontiers. They cannot just sit back on the sales and revenues that have been generated so far. The game has just begun. As Cersei of House Lannister says: “When you play the game of thrones (E-Commerce), you win or die. There is no middle ground.” Some of the key challenges ahead for the e-commerce are:
Understanding the Customer beyond Personalization
In order to cut through the intense competition, building the right customer experience is primary and to do so, you need to understand how your customers interact with your products, services and brands. It is not just about the numbers. By looking at the customer’s buying behaviours, social media engagement and digital footprint we can learn their individual needs and preferences. But personalization is not the all-encompassing cure. Personalization is limited to few elements of an e-commerce site. It is just one of the spokes in the wheel of building the right customer experience. To deliver a shopping experience that is relevant to each individual customer, we need to look at the bigger picture. For instance, your Customer Service, Merchandising and Marketing teams have different approaches to interacting with the customers. Customer experience is about the entire context, every customer touch-point. Data is the key to building great experiences and only by a unified approach to disparate systems such as search, recommendations, merchandising, banners and navigations can we drive a fully optimized customer journey. Also, the customer experience is not just for special occasions like thanksgiving or Diwali. It is for Life.
Increasing relevance of AR, VR and Wearables
The latest technology trends such as wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality are finding use in the e-commerce industry faster than you would imagine. This is truly the era of Virtual, Augmented reality. Sports retailers, for instance, could track user activity on a fit-bit and push relevant recommendations. Lego Digital Box is another interesting case, which can greatly enhance the in-store customer experience. These technologies are increasingly helping the retailers by driving the sales, enhancing the in-store experiences and creating a niche for themselves among the competition. Facebook buying Oculus Rift, Google Ingress and Samsung GearVR are just examples of the fact that the industry is moving towards the technology of the future. Such measures will definitely revitalize the brands and provide competitive edge over the rivals.
Over the last few years, Customer social engagement has drastically changed. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram, the customer has increasing number of channels to communicate and share their experiences. Social Media has become a valuable resource for information. Each day, millions and millions of users post their opinions and reviews on various channels. Identifying and categorizing these vital data points can help the retailers to understand emotions around their products and brands and provide productive insights that can be invaluable. This is where the gold (read as data) is. It also acts as a useful market research tool. Through customer emotional analytics, retailers can track digital marketing performance and align their personalization campaigns appropriately. By analysing what is being said in the social media, the personalization strategy can be tailored to help customer make that last jump to conversion. This again ties back to understanding the customer and increases the relevance of their shopping context. The challenge is to correctly comprehend all the nuances of human communication through a machine. But increasing levels of accuracy only points to the fact that we are getting close.
Smart Home wars
The idea of a smart home is no longer alien but futuristic, practical and accessible. But the market is still struggling to move from the early-adopter phase to a mass-market phase. Google, with the recent announcement of the launch of Google Home, has made its intentions clear that it would not let Amazon take the lead. The competition is getting hotter. Just like Amazon Echo, which lets the customer place an order through a voice-activated smart home, Google Home is a voice-activated assistant. The conversational voice command paradigm of Google Home is expected to be a sure hit with the tech-savvy audience. Through the prevalence of smart homes, retailers will be encouraged to set up online stores and users can use their smart devices to place orders. This is where the future battles will be fought. Initially the conversions might be little too less, but once the smart home becomes a mass-market, retailers can expect huge traffic from these devices.
These are some of the key challenges we feel will require the attention of online retailers in the coming years.
Checkout is perhaps the most decisive area in an eCommerce website. It is the place where people buy and retailers get paid. In other words, it is the area where the most crucial data interchange takes place. The data includes financial credentials, personal data of shoppers like address, telephone numbers, emails and much more as prescribed by the retailer’s delivery information norms. Retailers need to make this experience as smooth, simple and secure as possible for shoppers and win their confidence. From our experience in helping some of the most prolific online retailers, we have created a list of 6 most coveted essentials that an eCommerce Checkout process should have. Let’s have a look at each of them:
In a majority of cases, a visitor at checkout is a genuine buyer who wants to buy the product at the listed price. He or she might have already put in a considerable amount of thinking before arriving at the purchase decision. Their only aim now is to finish the checkout ASAP. This is where the Checkout forms need to be as simple and flawless as possible to enable a quick completion of the transaction. As a retailer, your success lies in the ability to offer a Checkout process that requests only the bare essentials needed to complete the transaction and deliver the product. Having a single page checkout process is the best option. No unnecessary buttons, information fields, surveys, recommendations, etc. should consume the time of shoppers.
Many eCommerce companies employ some of the best financial security policies during checkout to ensure that financial or personal data of shoppers are not compromised at any point of time. However it has been repeatedly proven that displaying certificates of your safe shopping framework like the verified payment options, trustmarks or trademarks of recognized security providers and merchants, etc. will increase confidence in buyers and accelerate the checkout process.
Enclosing the Checkout
By enclosing, we meant to isolate the checkout page from the rest of the website’s navigational features and other tabs to give only a bare essentials view of the checkout process. This adds up to the simplicity parameter we mentioned above and relieves shoppers from having to focus on too many options and ultimately guide them to a faster checkout.
Guest/Express Check out
Guest checkouts are fast catching up with shoppers today. After all you only need an email address to continue your association with a shopper after they have made a purchase. This logic translates into guest or express check out where you do not force people to create an account on the website to shop. Of course you get less of their data, but there are other ways to gradually collect them. When a shopper is at the checkout page, the primary objective is to get them to complete the purchase and not get them to divulge more of their personal data which could lead to loss of the sale.
We have already pointed out earlier that it is best to have a single page checkout process to better serve shoppers. But in case you prefer to have a multipage checkout process or multiple tab check out process in the same page, it is vital to let the customer know how much ground they have covered in the checkout. A single progress bar on top or an indication of the percentage they have completed in the checkout will be of great use to shoppers.
This is one piece of information you should not leave out on any stage of the checkout process. Make sure you have a persistent area of the checkout screen dedicated to showing the cart. This will allow the shopper to have a crystal clear idea of what they are going to pay for right from the initial stage in checkout. They will not have to abandon the checkout process midway after realizing they missed out on buying something.
This is our compiled list of essentials that every eCommerce site should have on its Checkout process. The whole concept behind all of these is to help the shopper complete the transaction in as fewer clicks as possible. If you are an online retailer, it is highly advised to follow these footsteps and ensure that you satisfy buyers by offering the most user friendly checkout experience they can imagine.
A recent research by Forrester revealed that the US alone is projected to record $523 billion in annual sales from eCommerce by 2020 and 270 million people would prefer online shopping over store purchases in the same period. So how do online retailers draw in digital shoppers to their eCommerce sites? Search Engine Optimization is a major factor that contributes to increased traffic to online stores. So for folks who manage SEO at eCommerce sites, today we look at 5 major trends that you need to focus on while optimizing your eCommerce website for better traffic.
Content in Long-form
Marketers and content creators have traditionally focused on creating crispy and short form content on eCommerce sites. But that has to change because to drive search results, it has been found that long form content with greater detail and with more conversational tone has a greater affinity for search engine bots. Conversational sentences form a good portion of search queries and hence long form content in reviews, product descriptions and other content pieces should be encouraged on eCommerce sites.
Social media centric content creation
Social media marketing is one of the trumpcards for eCommerce companies and surveys have pointed to increased ROI on such marketing campaigns. So while creating content for your site, writers can be advised to create content that would entice readers to share on social media. The greater the number of authentic shares you receive on social media, greater the search engine friendliness of your ecommerce site.
The record growth in eCommerce sales globally will be driven primarily by users who shop from their mobile devices and hence when you focus on SEO for your website, make sure you keep special focus on making your online store search friendly on mobile platforms as well. Make sure your site is lightweight, meets minimum standards for mobile search friendliness as recommended by search engines like Google and create consistency in the experience you render to users across devices.
Optimize for Voice search
It’s the era of digital assistants and voice search. You have Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Alexa and many more intelligent digital assistants available in the market today for devices. Keyboard browsing is slowly starting to pass on some load to voice based searches and SEO gurus have already taken measures to grab their share of the voice search traffic. Better colloquial phrasing, long-tail content, reviews and answers tailored to suit digital assistant searches are now a key focus.
Online stores are making every effort to penetrate new markets and a huge factor driving their efforts is the ability to localize their offerings. No longer do you target a global or national level audience for search optimization. The more you are able to optimize your website for regional specifics, more the traffic flow. Localized names, demographic nomenclature of products and integrating location details courtesy of wearable tech to define search preferences are some of the ways you can aggressively localize your SEO efforts.
It is hard to count the number of eCommerce websites that exist today and there is every chance of being left out in the race if you are not competitive. Driving differentiation through multiple areas is the best way to stay ahead of the pack. If you are planning to make it big with your SEO efforts in online retailing, make sure you keep a close eye on these 5 trends.
I’ll never forget the joy and relief the first time I did all my holiday shopping online. No lines at the mall, no parking, no lugging boxes to and from the car. It took all the stress – and friction – out of the shopping process.
As the e-commerce industry has matured, innovation has focused on eliminating friction points for busy, stressed customers:
One-Click Shopping reduces the number of steps to put something in your shopping cart and check out
Same Day and Next Day Delivery satisfies immediate needs and saves time from running to the store or mall
Improved product search makes it easier to find items in a large ecommerce catalog and get just what you need (or want)
Improved site performance so online shoppers don’t waste time or deal with poor page performance
Mobile friendly sites engage shoppers on the go and to satisfy their micro-moment needs (which are typically driven by mobile interactions)
The net result is that e-commerce now totals $340 billion in spending and counts for more than 10% of total retail sales.
This is great for shoppers. For back-end business users? Not so much…
This innovation has been great for shoppers and consumers, but has also created a vegetable soup of technologies for business’s to manage – CMS, PIM, ERP, OMS, VM, AVS, POS and more!
It also means businesses have had to invest in staff and resources to become “technology shops” rather than focusing on their product category core competency or customer segment they serve. This technology fueled innovation has also come at a high cost thanks to traditional on-premise software with hefty licensing and implementation costs (not to mention hosting and ongoing support).
That’s why the cloud is the next revolution – to reduce friction on the backend
Over the past few years we have seen solutions come to market with platforms designed for smaller online retailers. But recently we have also seen the industry’s largest players “go all in” on cloud – including Oracle’s 2015 launch of the Oracle Commerce Cloud and Salesforce’s recent acquisition of Demandware.
Cloud based e-commerce is going upmarket and is about to become the most disruptive force since the first virtual shopping cart came online.
One of the key factors driving this transition is that the market has matured and the processes and software that enable companies to get online quickly and generate revenue have become standard best practices. This has enabled e-commerce software providers to take proven models and processes and leverage economies of scale to build solutions that help online retailers get to market quickly without the traditional headaches.
Some benefits of this new paradigm include:
Faster time to market thanks to a proven, scalable implementation processes
Common functionality and skill sets across platforms that enable rapid business user adoption
Standardized technology reduces the need for complex integrations or customizations
Configurations instead of coding make implementations faster and less dependent on technical resources
Robust functionality delivers traditional enterprise level features to a broader customer base
All of this means reduced friction for businesses that need to reinvigorate their e-commerce programs and compete in an ever increasing busy marketplace.
Reduced friction means a new focus on experience instead of tools
In the long run, this cloud driven e-commerce revolution is going to go full circle and come back to the customer by reducing friction for them too. In a future where back-end users and business managers have access to flexible, scalable e-commerce technology, it means they can return to their core focus and brand value promise – their customers.
It’s a premise that once the tools are easy to implement and use, you can focus on your core purpose and differentiating your products and content in the market rather than trying to figure out how to use the technology.
An e-commerce revolution is coming. While technology is the driver, it will change how online retailers run their e-commerce businesses and will drive new skill sets. Early adopters will ramp up quickly to compete with established market players.
And thanks to this revolution that will reduce back-end friction, we will see continued growth throughout the entire e-commerce marketplace.
This week is the 2016 Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (IRCE) in Chicago – probably the most important gathering of the retail and e-commerce industry. This year’s conference convenes in the midst of disruptive changes that are transforming how companies and brands reach customers and conduct their e-commerce business. Let’s take a look at just a few of the biggest industry shifts:
Last year, Oracle released Oracle Commerce Cloud which takes the most powerful features of the industry leading Oracle Commerce with its ATG and Endeca foundations and made it available in an always up-to-date cloud platform.
But those are just on the platform and software side. What about on the consumer side? What trends are most important for us to pay attention to?
It is timely that the Code Conference was last week and Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers presented her annual Internet Trends Report. While each year’s report is always full of important nuggets for internet marketers to remember, this year’s report highlights trends that are especially important for internet retailers and and e-commerce marketers to consider.
Global Economic Growth is Slowing
Yes, this isn’t specifically an internet trend but it shapes the internet and online commerce.
Globally, we are seeing lower than average GDP and growth is starting to slow in some of the largest economies including China. We are also seeing a decline in commodity prices and interest rates, which all indicate the global outlook on the market potential. We are also seeing other trends that shape the economy including increased debt and the lack of population growth in some key markets.
However, there is a bright spot and opportunity in this shift.
As Oracle CEO Mark Hurd has repeatedly pointed out, when revenue growth stalls the only way for earnings to grow is through cost cutting. And although IT spending has been declining worldwide, the push is on to move resources to the cloud so IT can focus and grow the core business rather than spending time and resources on running old infrastructure.
Against this backdrop Mary Meeker points out that the days of easy corporate growth are behind us. But this is where nimble, disruptive internet companies can make their mark and transform their businesses and industries.
We are in the Midst of a Generational Shift
You’ve heard it before but just in case… “The Millennials are coming!!!”
Mary Meeker points out that millennials now count for 27% of the population in the United States and are reshaping everything they touch. Thanks to this generation, everything is being transformed from the ways companies go to market (more on that later) to media consumption (have you tried Facebook Live or watched a Snapchat video) to how they communicate directly (the phone is dead… long live messaging. Check out slides 97 through 107 of her presentation for more details).
And don’t forget – Millennials’ spending power is only going to grow as they evolve in their careers and have more disposable income.
These shifts are driving how Millennials (and the rest of us) consume media and our expectations for the brands and companies we buy products and services from.
Brands and Commerce Are Rapidly Morphing in this New Mixed up World.
Mary says it best in her presentation:
Products become brands, brands become retailers, and retailers are becoming products and brands.
Need proof? Look at some of the hottest e-commerce brands out there:
Casper found a new way to build a different type of mattress and have built a unique brand promise along with a great product. Products become brands.
Warby Parker started with the promise of affordable, fashionable eyewear. Now they are opening their own stores in addition to samples they ship to your home to try on. Brands become retailers.
Amazon is rolling out their own private label products for everything from diapers to groceries. Retailers become products.
Of course this trend is going even one step further as retailers are also now coming into the home with new “brand services” such as Stitch Fix and Trunk Club.
The foundation of this shift is data that these companies and brands have about their customers. For example, if you stop and realize that Stitch Fix is really the “Netflix of clothes,” you can quickly understand how customer data drives sales. So much that their CEO reports that 100% of their sales are driven by recommendations.
So what is one to take away from all of this and think about as we start IRCE 2016?
Start by looking for efficiency. If global growth is declining, marketers and retailers need to look for ways to maximize your IT investment and realize cost savings through technology and services that allow you to focus on your core competency and leverage partners’ expertise and economies of scale.
Consider what modern engagement means and select platforms that will grow to meet those new challenges. Your next customers are engaging in ways you never thought of. As you consider new business tools, look for platforms that will grow with market changes and offer new, innovative solutions to engage customers wherever they are.
Don’t be afraid to rethink business models and implement technology that helps you do that. As competition shifts around you, you are bound to ask questions about your business model and how you deliver. Are you a brand to product? Or a product to brand? Or something else? The key will be technology and partners that understand those shifts and help you navigate the waters.
It’s sure to be an exciting week as we consider these trends and we reconnect with partners, clients and colleagues for invigorating discussion. Because in a world where change is constant, you can see how the timing of IRCE is the perfect opportunity to address these trends and chart a path forward.
What do you think? Do you have a different opinion? Be sure to visit McFadyen Solutions at booth 1707 in the Expo Hall at the 2016 Internet Retailer Conference and Expo to share your thoughts.
For more of Mary Meeker’s presentation, be sure to check out her original slides and the video of her presentation.
View the original Slides: 2016 Internet Trends – Mary Meeker, KPCB