Archive for the ‘Internet marketing’ Category

A picture is worth a thousand words – based on this, infographics would carry hundreds of thousands of words, yet if you let a reader choose between a full-length 1000-word article and an infographic that needs a few scroll-downs, they’d probably prefer absorbing information straight from the infographic. What’s not to like? Colored charts and illustrations deliver connections better than tables and figures and as users spend time looking back and forth the full infographic, they stay on the site longer. Plus, readers who like what they see are more likely to share visual guides more than articles.

While not everyone can make infographics from scratch, there are tools available on the Web that will help you create your very own infographics. In this article, we’re listing more than 20 such options to help you get your messages across to your readers, visually.

What About Me?

“What About Me?” is a personalization tool that produces colorful infographics that display your social media habits automatically from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The tool is provided by Intel. Create an infographic of your digital life and become inspired by the people you know, the things you see, and the experiences you have online.
what abou me-ravi bhushan seo

Vizualize.Me

Vizualize.me allows you to create an online resume format that is beautiful, relevant and fun, all with just one click. It enables you to express your professional accomplishments in a simple yet compelling personal visualization, and will help optimize your LinkedIn Profile to get a kickass Visual Resume.
vizualize-me-ravi bhushan seo

Piktochart

With Piktochart, you get to create an innovative Infographic using a combination of different types of visualizations: themes, icons, vectors, images and chart exporter. Drag-and-drop and click your way through color schemes, shapes and fonts, then export the materials as static or html to easily embed it for use at your site.
Piktochart-ravi bhushan seo

Easel.Ly

Easel.ly is a fun tool to create your Infographics with drag and drop features and a simple interface. You can easily create and share visual ideas online, supported by ‘vhemes’ or visual themes that help you get started from the preset Infograpic style. Drag and drop a ‘vheme’ onto your canvas to turn your idea into a full infographic.
easelly-ravi bhushan seo

Visual.Ly

Visually helps you customize infographics in seconds, and no, you don’t have to be an analyst or designer to make infographics with Visually Create. Visual.ly allows you to also discover infographics and favorites from other users.
visually-ravi bhushan seo

Infogr.Am

Infogr.am is a simple yet most exciting way to create static and interactive infographics. Import raw data to Infogr.am, and the site’s online tool will help you turn that data into a nice looking chart or full-blown infographic in minutes.
infogram-ravi bhushan seo

Many Eyes

Many Eyes is an experiment by IBM Research and the IBM Cognos software group with a simple belief: ‘Finding the right way to view your data is as much an art as a science’. Many Eyes provides a range of visualizations from the ordinary to the experimental, where each can be put together with a click.
many-eyes-ravi bhushan seo

Venngage

Venngage is an online infographics tool that helps you create and publish custom infographics, and at the same time, engage viewers and track results. Venngage allows you to create beautiful infographics for blogs and websites and you can also watch the numbers of your audience grow with compelling and beautiful content.
vengage-ravi bhushan seo

ICharts

With iCharts, you can create great-looking charts in minutes with interactive and easy-to-share data. iCharts makes it easy to visualize, share and distribute big and small data.

icharts-ravi bhushan seo

Dipity

Dipity is a free digital timeline website, if you are looking for a different type of Infographics. The mission is to organize the web’s content by date and time. Dipity is the fastest and easiest way to bring history to life with stunning multimedia timelines.

dipity-ravi bhushan seo

Timeline JS

TimelineJS is a beautifully crafted timeline that is easy and intuitive to use. You can pull in media from different sources with built-in support for Twitter, Flickr, Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and more.

timeline-js-ravi bhushan seo

StatSilk

StatSilk offers web-based and desktop software to make data analysis easy, efficient and enjoyable, to cater to diverse mapping and visualisation needs.
StatSilk-ravibhushanseo

InFoto Free

InFoto Free is an app for your Android to create an infographic of your photo-taking habits, using a Photo stats analyzer. With InFoto Free you can create awesome looking high-res infographics from your photo collection. It tells you things like what time of the day you prefer to take photos in, whether you prefer horizontal or vertical orientations as well as your favorite city to shoot in.

ifoto-free-ravi bhushan seo

Photo Stats

Photo Stats is an iPhone app that analyses the photos you take on your iPhone. The app generates cool and stylish infographics that shows how, when and where you take your photos from. You get to easily visualize your photo-taking habits and share it with friends.

photo-stats-ravi bhushan seo

More Tools for infographics online free

ChartsBin – An online tool to create your own interactive map instantly with no installation or coding needed, and you can embed the map in your own website or blog easily too.

Tableau Public – A free application for your Windows computer that brings data to life. You can create and share interactive charts and graphs, stunning maps, live dashboards and fun applications in minutes. Anyone can do it, it’s that easy.

Creately – Want to create beautiful diagrams in no time? Creately may be a good choice to use as it can be used across all sectors by individuals, corporate teams, developers, software architects, students and teachers alike for diagramming purposes.

Gliffy – Gliffy helps to easily create professional-quality flowcharts, diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, and more. You can easily drag-and-drop your way through the makings of an infographic using the many shapes from an extensive library.

SIMILE Widgets – SIMILE is a free and open-source data visualization Web widget.

Tagxedo – Tagxedo turns words – famous speeches, news articles, slogans, themes, even your love letters – into a visually stunning word cloud. Every word is individually sized to highlight the frequencies of occurrence within the body of text.

Wordle – Wordle is a simple web app for generating “word clouds” from the text you provide. While the clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text, you can also tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

Advertisements

Link building is a project, often long and lengthy in nature. Good link building campaigns employ diverse strategies to build backlinks over the course of months, with diverse goals and objectives.

It doesn’t take thousands of backlinks to rank. The goal in link building should be sustainable activity that will continue to result in good links that make sense, without creating abnormal patterns or high link velocity.

This mindset is often hard to sell, and can be difficult for those used to link building of the past. Yet building confidence and trust is absolutely vital to a successful link building project.

There are five different strategies worth examining at the start of any campaign, which will help build confidence in a fresh link building project. They are:

404 Pages and Link Reclamation
Competitor Analysis
Fresh Web Mentions
Local Link Building
Past/Current Relationships

Local Link Building
Local link building is a commonly untapped resource, which can lead to quick yet quality links.
Not every website will be able to take advantage of their locality, but it absolutely should be scrutinized at the start of a fresh link building campaign.
ow let’s explore some great strategies to build local links, as well as why they’re worth pursuing.
Why Local Links Matter?
If a site has any potentially local customers, it’s definitely worth the time to invest in a little local link building. Especially when you consider the effect of localization in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google will boost your site in the SERPs (for searchers in your area), if there’s even a hint of local intent in the search. If your business has any chance of selling to local customers you’re letting a great opportunity slip through your fingers by not pursuing at least some local links in your link building campaign.

Especially since local link building can result in really great links.

So, how do you build these local links?
Local Link Building Strategies
Local link building isn’t wildly different than industry based link building, except that the relevance/focus is shifted. I’m a big believer in the importance of relevance in link building.

The relevance in local link building centers upon location, rather than niche.

If a link building company, for example, were going after industry based links, the relevance would be link building > SEO > online marketing, from narrow to broad. In local link building the relevance would be city > region > state.

If you can find double relevance – a website that is relevant both to your locality and to your industry – so much the better. But it isn’t absolutely necessary when building local links.

Other than that, all the same link building tactics you might use in normal link building apply, although keep in mind the inherent value you will already have to local sites, since you share the same community.

Here are four common local link building tactics, which can work for any business.
1. Interact Locally
Helping clients get active in their community is one of my favorite tactics for building great local links. Typically these links take a little more time and investment, but the payoff can be huge both online and off. This works best for sites that are more invested in local.

If you’re looking for quick and quality links this might not be your go-to link building tactic, but I still urge you to at least consider it.

A list of potential ways to involve yourself in the community, with the opportunity for great links:

Host, sponsor, or participate with a local charity.
Create, host, or sponsor an event, association, or club that ties into your industry.
Start a local scholarship for high school students.
Interview an important community member or group.
Feature an important community member or group on your blog (assuming you have one).
Start a discount/product partnership with a local group (if applicable).
Contact your local media and offer your expertise as a source for future work.

Now some of these could technically be categorized as paid links, such as obtaining a link by directly sponsoring an event. But would Google count that as a paid link, or hidden advertisement? Not currently, and I don’t believe they will anytime soon. However if you are worried, you can always ask that the link be nofollowed.

Paid links are an endless rabbit hole, and the issue isn’t quite as white and black as Google would like it to be. There are many ways to build great links that technically involve the spending of money, but I wouldn’t classify as a “paid link”.

Regardless, all of these activities can lead to absolutely superb local links. Links that are acquired through valuable actions, not just tactics or online strategies.

However, most of these will require a real investment into the community. Not bad, although if you’re looking for solid early campaign wins this might not be the most straightforward path, especially if your website only has tenuous connections to your local community.
2. Create a Community Resource
reating a community resource is a great route for local link building, notably for websites that will otherwise struggle to build local links.

So, if your site doesn’t have much of a local presence, you haven’t interacted much locally, and you’ll struggle to justify why your site should be considered a community resource, creating a community resource might just be the way to go.

Here are some examples of community resources you can create (fairly easily) that can still net you great local links:
A map of local:
Tourist attractions or sights worth seeing
Pet-friendly locations
Free Wi-Fi spots
Outdoor attractions
A local guide to:
Best restaurants in the city
Must visit bars/pubs
Things to do in the city
Cultural attractions
A calendar of local:
Governmental meetings
Charity events
Sports events
General entertainment events
Those are really just a few convenient ideas that should get you thinking. Bonus points if you can make a creative local resource that is relevant as well to your industry.

Simply create something useful that doesn’t currently exist – but first make sure there’s public interest. Don’t waste your time creating the resource before you’re sure you’ll be able to get a few great local links from it.

Local governmental sites, colleges, schools, libraries, and community sites are great places to find resource lists. Vet them to see what sort of resources they list, and the probability of your potential resource being included.

Check out this page from NYU, featuring local online resources for undergrads. This is typical to colleges; you can see the potential power of local links.

Also, this guide from Geoff Kenyon of Distilled provides step-by-step instructions on how use Google Maps to create local links, along with a few other strategies worth checking out for local link building.
3. Leverage Local Relationships
As I mentioned before, part of the reason local link building can result in quick, quality links is due to the inherent value of being local.

This means leveraging relationships you’ve built locally. SEER wrote a fantastic guide on 35 local link building opportunities, and after #9 they’re all about leveraging relationships by providing a testimonial in order to secure a link.

Now obviously you shouldn’t be providing a testimonial if you didn’t truly value or appreciate their service. But if you did? Share the love and get love back.

Here are a few ways to leverage local relationships in order to secure a healthy local link:
Provide an honest testimonial for any local businesses you interact with, including:
Service providers
Local restaurants
Local vendors
Local charities
Participate in their events
If you’ve already established a relationship, odds are they’d be happy to have you participate in events they’re involved with. Great for getting links back from local blogs.
Further the relationship
This might not result in an immediate link (unless they blog about it or have a list of “sites we like”), but it certainly can’t hurt.
Ask for inclusion on their resource list
Plenty of local companies will list “preferred vendors” or “partners” – if you have the relationship, see what it will take to be included. Sometimes it just takes asking.
Ensure proper linking
Often in local your website/company will be mentioned but not properly linked to by other companies. This is especially true for older/established websites – check to make sure every link is solid.
4. Join Local Resource Lists or Directories
Getting included in local resource lists is one of the best ways to clue Google into your local authority. So, if you’ve already worked to establish local authority, or your website is a true resource for your locality, there’s nothing left to do but outreach.

Find local sites that have authority within your community, that also host lists of local resources.

Sites such as:

City government pages, including:
Official city websites
City/county libraries
Chambers of commerce
City council websites
Nonprofit/charitable organization within your locality
Local associations, groups, clubs or organizations
Local media coverage, including:
Newspapers
Magazines
Popular bloggers
Radio websites
Take a moment and think about who you would consider a true authority within your locality. Who has immediate credibility? Who is immediately recognizable?

These organizations’ endorsement will give real weight. And, if you’re willing to invest the time and energy, it can be surprisingly easy to acquire a link from these websites, provided you can succinctly describe why you deserve to be on the list.

There are also a number of websites that host directories of local companies, which should be worth pursuing:

Yahoo Local
Bing Local
Google Places
Yelp
Angie’s List
Merchant Circle
Yellowbook
ThinkLocal

Enhanced Campaign features have been available in beta since February, yet as with many new technologies, learning the ropes can be a big effort, especially given all the of the recent changes to SERPs over the last 18 months. What started as a perceived loss of granular controls by device has turned into greater front-end efficiency and back-end revenue, which were previously lost by not having the ability to target at the device level.

Maximizing performance and improving efficiencies with Enhanced Campaigns requires five simple steps. Let’s look at how you can gain a better understanding and increase revenue with Enhanced Campaigns.
1. Mobile Optimized Ads
These were arguably one of the most touted features of enhanced campaigns. In effect, this capability was available pre-enhanced campaigns, by targeting campaigns at the device level. However, many advertisers without mobile-ready sites chose not to run mobile. Among those advertisers who did, little attention was paid to optimizing copy for based on device. With an attention to user based intent and a refresh of copy for mobile optimized ads, there have been dramatic increases to mobile CTR and conversions that were formerly left on the table by advertisers not opting in, or optimizing based on users intent by device.
ravi bhushan seo
Tip: Although a mobile optimized site or responsive design is most ideal, advertisers should think twice before implanting tactics that opt them out of mobile search if they don’t have a mobile friendly site, because they could be leaving revenue on the table. With a refined campaign strategy focused on user intent, you can deliver a user experience that captures the demand without besmirching the brand.
2. Keyword-Level Mobile Bid Control
As with most search campaign optimizations, keyword-level mobile bidding also starts with structure. Restructuring campaigns into single-keyword ad groups allows for ad-group level mobile bid modifiers that apply down to the individual keyword level. While this still doesn’t mitigate the loss of keyword-level bid control on tablet devices from the enhanced campaign transition, for advertisers who experience huge variances in conversion rate and efficiency levels across the different device types, any amount of device-level control regained is valuable.
ravi bhushan seo
Tip: Although a single keyword per group might not seem scalable, it is best suited for small to mid-sized advertisers or keyword asset clusters with historical mobile conversion rate levels significantly lower than that of desktop and tablet, and/or without a mobile site.
3. Enhanced Sitelinks
Where Google gives, it also takes away – but not in the case of enhanced sitelinks. With this feature, Google has provided more flexibility and control by allowing edits to the links, versus a removal of text from relevant ads in the campaign. This is a great way to provide additional detail around the link itself and will take your potential customers deeper into your site.
ravibhushan127
Tip: You can load in up to 6 sitelinks, but only 4 typically show. Experience shows the same success as mentioned on the AdWords blog, where click through rates were significantly higher than the same ad with traditional 2- and 3-line sitelinks.
4. Geo-Bidding
One of the most exciting new features with Enhanced Campaigns is geo-bidding, as it provides the most opportunity from both an efficiency and conversion standpoint. There are all kinds of ways to slice and dice the enhanced geo feature, but it starts with having a depth of knowledge about the overall business you are advertising for.

If your budget isn’t allocated differently by location but you see conversion differences based on location, the ability to apply a bid modifier versus having to breakout into a new campaign saves a lot of time. For retailers who are driving users to their brick and mortar stores, you can really perfect a drive to store campaign by using personalized ad copy, spend during the hours where the store is open and modify bids at both the mobile and geo level. Experience shows that by offering mobile users who are in close proximity to a store, an in-store promotion redeemed right from the landing page, a vastly improved conversion – increasing customer and margins because there is no longer a need for blanket promotions but rather tailored offers based on best customer and their purchase intent.

Tip: Hound your Google representative for a heatmap and analysis showing SOV, average position, and CPC throughout the territory you’re targeting so you can begin considering how best to utilize the new geo-bidding features.
5. “Opt-Out”
If you are still skeptical and think that Enhanced Campaigns are a ploy to monetize your spend, well you can still have your mobile campaigns. However, heed the warning that this is an imperfect and a dubious strategy – do not fall into the trap clinging to your old ways.
ravi bhushan blog
Tip: Set your mobile modifier to +300 percent and reduce your bids to 25 percent of their current levels. Monitor traffic to the campaign by device and adjust bids down as necessary. Consider making a Keyword ID mapping sheet between desktop keywords and mobile keywords so after natural bid adjustments, you can drop the proper mobile keyword 15 percent or further below the desktop keyword bid level.Early adopters may have the inside scoop on these changes, but it’s definitely not too late to take advantage of Enhanced Campaigns using the tips listed above. Jump on in, the water’s fine!

Manual CPC

This is the classic setting for having total control over bids with a focus on driving click traffic. AdWords will take the ad group default bid first, unless a different bid is manually specified at the keyword level.

Select “I’ll manually set my bids for clicks”.

Automatic CPC

In this setting, advertisers focus on driving click traffic but give AdWords control over individual CPC bids. Set a daily budget and AdWords automatically adjusts your bids with the goal of getting the most clicks for the budget. With automatic bidding, AdWords does all the work to get the most clicks.

There is also the option to set a CPC bid limit. Setting a limit can help control costs, but might also potentially limit clicks.

Select “AdWords will set my bids to help maximize clicks within my target budget”.

Auto CPC

Enhanced CPC

This bidding option is for the conversion-focused advertiser. Conversion tracking must be enabled, so that based on conversion tracking data, AdWords will automatically increase or decrease CPC bids to drive most conversions.

Bids can be raised up to 30 percent for clicks that are more likely to lead to conversions. Bids are lowered for clicks less likely to convert.

Enhanced CPC

CPA Bidding

With a focus on conversions at a specific cost-per-acquisition, use CPA bidding. This is also known as Conversion Optimizer.

Advertisers who want to target a specific cost per acquisition/conversion must have at least 15 conversions in 30 days to use this. The conversions history allows AdWords to predict future conversions.

Because Conversion Optimizer automatically applies its own bid adjustments, it isn’t compatible with the new enhanced campaigns bid adjustments across days, times, locations, and devices (except for mobile opt-out at -100 percent.). Display bids also don’t work. If you turn on Conversion Optimizer with existing bid adjustments, they will simply be ignored.

There are two advanced options for this bid type: Max CPA and Target CPA. The Target CPA is the average CPA you are willing to pay, and Max is the maximum per conversion. The Maximum CPA is scheduled to be discontinued in 2014.

Google recommends a CPA, based on history, which can be used or advertisers can set their own.

CPA Bidding

Flexible Bid Strategies

Allows automated bidding strategies to be more customized and flexible. Automated bid optimizations can be applied to campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.

More options compared to enhanced CPC and Conversion Optimizer options that were previously available and also allow you to mix and match bid rules across campaign and ad groups.

There are five types of flexible bid strategies:

Maximize clicks: This is a flexible version of the Automatic CPC bidding strategy.
CPA bidding: This is a flexible version of Conversion Optimizer used in the target CPA (average CPA) capacity.
Enhanced CPC: Flexible version of the existing enhanced CPC capability.
Search page location: AdWords will increase or decrease bids to target a top-of-page or first page position with ads. This bid strategy works with keywords, ad groups, and campaigns targeting the Search Network only. This doesn’t specify a position on the page (e.g., an advertiser can’t choose to be in third position on the page).
Return on ad spend (ROAS): AdWords predicts future conversions and values based on conversion values advertisers set up. To target ROAS 30 conversions in 30 days is required. Used for Search Network only or the Search and Display Networks. AdWords will try to reach the ROAS targets across all keywords, ad groups, and campaigns.
AdWords’ shared library houses and provides reporting for each strategy in detail.

How have you been navigating through bidding strategies? Have you found a strategy that has proven itself to your business?

Setting Up Your Website with Webmaster Tools

If you haven’t already, the first thing you will need to do is set up your website with Webmaster Tools. To do this, visit the Google Webmaster Tools website, sign in with your Google Account – preferably the one you are already using for Google Analytics. Click the red Add a Site button to begin.

Next, you will have to verify this site as yours. Previously, this involved having to embed code into your website header or upload an HTML file to your web server. Now, if you already have Google Analytics, you can verify your site by connecting Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics. To do so, click on the Alternative Methods tab when verifying ownership. Then select the Use your Google Analytics account option.

Once your site is verified, you will want to submit a sitemap if you have one available. This is a simple XML file that will tell Google Webmaster Tools what pages you have on your website.

If you have one already, you can usually find it by typing in http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml to see it in your browser. To create a sitemap if you don’t already have one, you can use online tools like XML Sitemaps. If you are running a website on your own domain using WordPress, you can install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. Once you have activated the plugin, look under your Settings in the WordPress dashboard and click on XML-Sitemap. Click on the Click here link to build your sitemap for the first time.

Right click on the sitemap link and copy the link address.

Then paste the portion of the URL after the http://yourdomain.com/ of your website into the box to submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools.

It may take a few days for Webmaster Tools to start pulling information about your website if you are setting up your website on Webmaster Tools for the first time. Be sure to wait a bit, then continue on to see what you can learn from Webmaster Tools.

Valuable Information within Webmaster Tools

Once you have data in Webmaster Tools, you will be able to view the following about your website. These are only the highlights of new types of data within Google Webmaster Tools and the most important data you should always remember to check on occasionally.

Dashboard

When you visit your website in Webmaster Tools, you will first come to your dashboard. This is an overview of the important data within Webmaster Tools. You can visit specific areas such as your Search Queries, Crawl Errors, Incoming Links, Top Keywords, and Sitemaps from this screen by clicking on the applicable More links. You can also navigate to these areas using the menu in the left sidebar.

Site Configuration
In the Site Configuration section of Google Webmaster Tools, you can view the following important information.

Sitemaps

Here, you will see information pertaining to your sitemap. If you notice the last date your sitemap was downloaded is not recent, you might want to submit your sitemap to refresh the number of URLs submitted.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are the extra internal links from your site shown below it in search results. If you Google KISSmetrics, for example, you will see their listing plus an additional six top links from this site.

Unfortunately, you can’t specify which pages you want to show up in sitelinks. If you notice one that you absolutely do not want under the sitelinks, you can demote it in this section of your Google Webmaster Tools.

Your Site on the Web
This section includes important data about search queries, keywords, and incoming links that are driving traffic to your website.

Search Queries

The Search Queries section of Google Webmaster Tools shows you the top keyword searches in which your website appears and shows the impressions vs. clicks, average position, and change in position. Why is this now more important than ever? So far, it doesn’t look like it is affected by the not provided keyword trend which leads to missing Google Analytics data. You can click on each search query to see which pages on your website rank for that keyword or phrase.

Links to Your Site

Curious about your backlinks? Google Webmaster Tools shows you the domains that link to you the most as well as the pages on your website with the most links. This is probably the most comprehensive listing of your backlinks that you will find, for free at least.

Keywords

This section shows you the keywords Google believes to be the main subject matter of your site. If these do not fit with what you want your site to be known for, you might want to look at the number of times you are using these words on your website. You can click on each keyword to see why Google believes it is important.

+1 Metrics
If you don’t already have the +1 button installed on your website, you better make it a point to install it. Google Webmaster Tools now tracks metrics related to the +1 button activity on your website and its impact in your search performance in the following sections.

Search Impact

This section shows you the impact of click through rates with +1 annotations in search vs. without.

Activity

This section shows you the rate of +1′s you receive on your site vs. on other sites. Be sure to change the selection at the top to show All +1′s to get the best data.

Audience

This section, if you have enough +1′s, will show you demographics about people who +1 your site including age, gender, and location. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough +1′s to show Audience data, so I snagged the above screenshot from Distilled’s recap of Analytics & Webmaster Tools changes.

Diagnostics
While there is a lot of valuable information in this section, the area I find myself using the most is the Crawl Errors.

It’s never good to have broken links on your website. When you click on the Not found link, you will see all of the pages on your website that result in a 404 page not found error and how many external pages are linking to them. If you have a lot of them, focus on redirecting the ones with the most incoming links.

Labs
Webmaster Tools Labs are sections where they are testing data. According to their own disclaimer, they may change, break, or disappear at any time. Some interesting data currently shown includes Author Stats for pages on your website where you are verified as the author by your Google+ profile. Also, there is a Site Performance section that tells you how long it takes your site to load and shows you some potential problem pages.

Integration with Google Analytics

Remember the Search Queries section mentioned above? You can view this within Google Analytics by going into your website profile and looking under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. If you haven’t set up data sharing between Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics, you might see this message.

Simply click on the Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing to configure this option. You will be taken to your website’s Google Analytics settings. Click on the Edit link under Webmaster Tools Settings.

On the following screen, select the website within your Webmaster Tools to link to your Google Analytics account.

When you click save, you will then be taken back to Google Analytics where you can click Apply to finish. You will now be able to see the following under Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.

You can also see your top landing pages within search plus the geographical summary of people who see your website within search under the Search Engine Optimization section of your Google Analytics.

I’ve always liked the idea of being a spy, complete with gadgets, fast cars, and an attractive significant other. It would be a great way to get secret information.

Well, it may be too late for me to join the Secret Service, but I can indulge in a bit of undercover information gathering – and you can, too – by taking a sneak peek at competitors.

We’re not talking industrial espionage, but there are plenty of good reasons to see what competitors are doing. You can:

  • Get inspiration for new ways to connect with customers and thereby improve customer retention.
  • Find out if competitors are doing anything better than you and how you can match it.
  • Look under the hood of their search and marketing optimization strategy and see what you can legally steal.
  • Improve your own plans to beat the competition based on data rather than assumptions.

There are dozens of marketing tools that you’re probably already using to monitor your own performance. These can be used to get competitive intelligence. Let’s assume you already know who the competition is. All you have to do is monitor these different areas.
Ad Monitoring Tools
Do you want to know where your competitors are advertising so you can do the same? Would you like to know which keywords they are targeting? If you want to troubleshoot your PPC and display ads, this set of tools will help you:

1. Adbeat is an enterprise tool that lets you see all of the ads that particular advertisers are using, split test their ad copy to help you with strategy, and find competitors you didn’t even know about. The introductory package starts at $99 per month, though that monitors only Google ads. There’s a 30-day free trial.

2. AdGooroo is a multifunctional tool that includes a Display Insight feature. The basic service lets you monitor ads for up to ten competitors, ranked by page views. Its Industry Insight allows you to figure out ad placements, too. Pricing is not stated.

3. AdGooroo also has an SEM Insight tool that incorporates keyword research,competitive intelligence, PPC and SEO tools, and traffic data. Pricing is not stated.

4. MixRank allows you to see the mix of ads that companies are using. You can see a snapshot of this data (without registering) that covers display ads, text ads, advertisers, and demographics, though you will have to create an account for the full report.

5. Moat provides a free ad search tool that allows you to key in your competitors’ brand names and see what ads they have shown recently. You can see the size and some of the places the ads have been seen recently, giving you a good guide for where to place your own advertising.

6. SocialAdNinja has a database of 400,000 social PPC ads. It’s a great tool for monitoring global Facebook advertising. It includes fine-grained search features so you can identify ads targeting your key demographic and find out which links they point to. There’s a single membership level at $147 per month.

7. WhatRunsWhere helps you monitor competitors to figure out their advertising strategy and where they are placing ads. As a bonus, it can help with advertising research and split testing, finding new sources of traffic, and ad buying.
Keyword Monitoring Tools
Related to ad monitoring tools are those that help you check out the keywords your competitors are targeting in their search marketing campaigns. Do this, and you can improve your own ROI by figuring out what’s working for them. Here’s a selection:

8. iSpionage looks at how your competitors are advertising with Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo search marketing tools. You can view ads and track spending. It also includes SEO competitive research and a social monitoring tool for Twitter and Facebook.

9. KeywordSpy helps with competitive keyword discovery. You can find out how much your competitors are spending on AdWords and discover which combinations of keywords and advertising copy are working for them.

10. KeywordCompetitor helps you spy on organic and paid keywords, ads, and landing pages for your competitors, with daily updates in rankings. The site also has tools for monitoring competitors and working with affiliate marketing.

11. SEMrush lets you monitor competitors’ organic keyword positions, find relevant long tail keywords, see your competitors’ PPC ads, and more. It also includes SEO tools. There’s a wealth of data available from the free search bar on the homepage, though you will have to upgrade ($69.95 per month) for more queries and results.

12. SpyFu lets you see up to six years of data on your competitors’ keywords, ranking, and ads helping you with SEO and PPC advertising. There’s a limited free tool, though you have to subscribe for access to advanced competitive intelligence.

13. The Search Monitor looks at paid and organic search and even how you look against your competition in comparison-shopping engines. This multifunctional tool also monitors affiliates and trademarks as well as who’s discussing your brand. It starts at $299 per month.
Link Popularity and Backlink Tools
All of the tools you use to check who’s linking to your site can be used to research your competitors’ backlinks. All you have to do is plug in their URL. There are dozens of backlink checkers out there, but here are three excellent ones:

14. Ahrefs provides a wealth of information on external links, referring domains and IPs, top pages, main anchor text, linked domains, and more. There’s a limited free account covering 3 reports and 10 results, but for fuller data you’ll need to upgrade to the $79 per month package.

15. Majestic Site Explorer provides a detailed link profile for any site. In addition to working with current data, you also can check its historical index to see results over time. There is a limited free version.

16. Open Site Explorer describes itself as a search engine for links. It provides information on page and domain authority, linking domains, anchor text used, and more; you also can compare link profiles for up to five sites. It is free, though signing up for Moz Analytics gives you access to (much) more data.
Web Ranking Tools
How are people interacting with your competitors’ sites? The next set of tools provides website competitive analysis on consumer data to help companies improve their targeting in different segments.

A free search gets you data on unique visitors, rank, and competitive rank, but you’ll need to sign up for more in-depth tools.

17. Alexa has been tracking global web traffic for a couple of decades and using it to provide website ranking on a global and country basis. The traffic sources and other data can help with benchmarking your site against your competitors.

18. Compete describes itself as a “digital intelligence” tool which uses online consumer behavior.

19. SimilarWeb is a competitive analytics-monitoring tool that provides data on traffic sources, top content, social mentions, and more. There’s a lot of data available for free, including referral sites, search traffic, key topics and more. Pro packages start at $99 per month.
Monitoring and Mentions
Often recommended for monitoring mentions of your own brand, social media monitoring tools work equally well for seeing what people are saying about your competitors.

20. Google Alerts saves you the trouble of visiting the site to repeatedly perform the same search. Set up an alert and have the latest news about your competitors delivered to your inbox. It monitors news, blogs, video, discussions, and books, and it is free.

21. Mention combines media and social monitoring. It tracks content published on web pages, news sites, blogs, and forums in 42 languages. It provides real time social alerts and has an excellent mobile app. There’s a free plan, with the upgrade starting at $6.99 per month.

22. Social Mention provides real time search of brand mentions on blogs, microblogs, images, videos, questions, and bookmarking sites. This free web search tool also provides a broad brush sentiment analysis.

23. Talkwalker offers a service similar to Google Alerts, giving you the choice of monitoring news, blogs, discussions, or everything. You also can monitor content in different languages. It is free.

24. Topsy allows you to search tweets from 2006 forward, looking at links, photos, videos, influencers, and more. The free online search can provide a snapshot of a competitor’s Twitter presence, but you will need the pro version for real time results and alerts, reports, and identification of key influencers.

25. You also can use Twitter’s own search tool and save your searches, though the basic search doesn’t provide the depth that Topsy has.
Social Engagement and Social Sentiment Tools
This next batch of tools will help you to see how your competitors are building engagement and how their key audiences feel about them.

26. Commun.it is best known as a free tool for building engagement on your own Twitter account. Why not plug in the URL of your top competitor to see how that company is performing online?

27. Fanpage Karma allows you to input the URL of any Facebook fan page and assess the number of fans, growth, and a range of other performance metrics. There’s a 14-day free trial of additional features, and the premium package includes Twitter monitoring, too.

28. Login with your Twitter account and you can analyze any profile’s followers for free with Followerwonk. There’s a wealth of detail available on the authority of followers, recent tweets, bios and locations, enabling you to build a comprehensive picture of your competitor’s Twitter presence.

29. Open Social Buzz provides real time search of Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plug in your competitor’s name and see how much social prominence they have.
A Mixed Bag
There are a few tools that don’t fit in any of the categories above, which can provide additional insight into what your competitors are doing.

30. BuiltWith investigates the technology behind your competitors’ sites, covering servers, content management, underlying technology, analytics, advertising, and much more.

31. Marketing Grader is a free HubSpot tool that assesses websites in terms of blogging, social media, SEO, lead generation, and mobile, giving an overall score. It’s a good way to see what your competitors are getting right, and wrong

32. Simply Measured rolls many of the tools on our list into one, including analysis of influencers, brands, trends, traffic, conversions, competitors, and more. It covers all the main social media channels with 35 different reports. The basic plans start at $500 per month, though there are free reports available for your own accounts.

33. The Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive lets you see how your competitors’ pages looked in the past. You never know, you might learn something about how website changes improved conversions.

34. Check out your competitors’ direct mail, email, and social campaigns withWho’s Mailing What. It’s a good way to keep track of trends, get ideas, and see what the competition is up to. This tool costs $747 per year.
Final Thoughts: Other Ways to Spy on the Competition
Don’t forget that there are three more ways you can find out what your competitors are doing, and they are all free.

35. Follow them on social media, add them to a list or interest group, and track what they are talking about.

36. Subscribe to their blogs so you can see what kind of content they are covering and check out announcements of forthcoming launches.

37. Sign up for their newsletter, which is hands-down the best way to see how they are targeting your ideal customers.

What other great tools have you discovered for tracking the competition?

Competition is inevitable. We’ve come to accept that since, ultimately, it provides greater benefit to consumers.

Now, digital competition enables e-stores to alter prices faster than a stationery store clerk can grab a pen. Products can be managed with elaborate content management systems, there are no “lines” for purchases, supply chain management catalyzes business operations, CPC ads are mini-billboards, and every smart device allows eCommerce to reach us, no matter where we are.

According to eMarketer, global B2C eCommerce sales topped $1 trillion in 2012, and growth is continuing to increase rapidly:

top 5 countries b2c ecommerce sales

Even though eCommerce accounts for only a tiny slice of the overall retail pie, there is no questioning the convenience and exponential future of eCommerce.

What’s more, eCommerce has created a world where product innovation transforms behavior, consumer experiences are virtually tailored, and brands decorate our social media.

But let’s get back to competition.

To stand a chance in the digital eCommerce arena, there are dozens of logistical operations, marketing tactics, and communication strategies that need to be utilized. Could you imagine wielding a tiny advertising-branded katana against a competitor’s massive inbound-marketing-infused gladiator axe?

The following are eight vital eCommerce “katas” – practices that will beef up eCommerce efforts and help fuel revenue.

#1 – Mobile ECommerce

As web users become increasingly familiar with mobile eCommerce, there are ripe opportunities for internet marketers and conversion optimizers to extend product reach.

smartphones are the starting place

(image source)

Currently one in every ten eCommerce dollars is purchased from a mobile device, and that number is rising. Mobile eCommerce is expected to reach the $25 billion mark this year, and many businesses are taking advantage of it with strategies such as:

Spicing up product descriptions with mobile-compatible video – Initial and rather obvious setbacks of a mobile eCommerce store are physical limitations (display size, audio, and readability). Fortunately, we can optimize our mobile content to offer the same media as our original site by practicing responsive web design. Using HTML5 standard tags to include videos increases the likelihood that a potential customer can view in comfort.

Taking advantage of mobile speed – Mobile eCommerce can inspire quick-decision shopping (such as Amazon’s one-click ordering), which can be either a positive or negative experience (if the buttons are broken or too small to tap). So, strategically plan and implement exclusive discounts and offers for mobile visitors, incentivizing them to commit to purchase or save the product for a later follow-up on their desktop.

sequential screening

(image source)

Optimizing for tablet and smart phone expectations – When a business is setting up eCommerce tracking, it is essential to establish campaigns for every medium and device being served. ComScore reports that, although tablets are responsible for more spending per device, smart phones rule the eCommerce realm due to their practicality in everyday life. Having separate themes and designs for tablet and smart phone users can provide a more refined and personalized experience, resulting in higher conversion rates.

Additionally, tablet users expect to see the full-sized desktop version of your site, as opposed to the more concise mobile version.

Developing an app – A mobile-friendly HTML5 site can “technically” perform with functionalities matching that of an app. However, investing in app development will give your customers a more substantial and unique experience, with the added branding and credibility of App Store placement and coverage. An app further validates a business to consumers, but may not be the ideal choice if budgets are tight.

Strategically planning mobile advertising – Targeting a mobile market calls for a carefully planned advertising campaign. The popular method, or rather goal, is to develop mobile content (which is essentially a form of an advertisement – i.e.,Scarecrow) that people will feel compelled to share. It could be an exclusive discount, a game, a video – anything that can be “consumed” fairly quickly.

Here are two examples of excellent mobile eCommerce:

Skinny Ties

skinny ties

Skinny Ties is one of the most visually pleasing and functionally simple mobile eCommerce stores I could find:

  • Extremely simple navigation and display
  • Information is concise, images are consistent in size and quality
  • Product purchase fits everything on one screen: 3-item product descriptions, with the ability to save to a wish list and share on social media

Amazon Mobile

amazon

Best of the best – Amazon’s mobile eCommerce:

  • Not just an HTML5 site – complete App development
  • Complete integration of clean browsing, product descriptions, pictures, reviews, lightning deals
  • Complete account integration, such as wish lists, order tracking, 1-click orders, subscribe and save options, and history
  • Multi-language support
  • Additional features such as price comparisons, barcode scanning, and picture snaps

The nature of an eCommerce store calls for a responsive app manifestation. It seems that many eCommerce stores haven’t figured out potential customers are viewing their site in a smart phone browser. If that experience hasn’t been constructed, they’re losing business, plain and simple.

How do I implement mobile eCommerce?

Option 1) Have an app built in-house or outsource to a freelancer

Option 2) Utilize a site like Bigcommerce to essentially manage every facet; however, you’ll need to have a flexible budget for this option

Option 3) Learn HTML5 and code it yourself!

Bonus tactic – a recent emerging strategy -Amazon introduced their associate programs to Android and Kindle Fire about a month ago, which means eCommerce stores can form strategic partnerships/deals with relevant apps and smart-optimized websites.

Finally, try to avoid these common mistakes in smart phone sites.

#2 – SEO Organization

Have you ever heard of an inverted index? How about rich snippets?

These are just a few of the elements involved in proper eCommerce SEO organization.

Let’s say we’ve got an eCommerce site with hundreds of thousands of pages – that’s a lot of indexing! For starters we’ll want to:

  • Plan out content and product templates to help automate the on-page SEO process (titles, descriptions, alt tags, headers, etc.). It should make the manual process of entering the finite details easier. Invest in detailed keyword research and analysis, both internally and for competitors.
  • Plan out an analytics campaign with your preferred tools (Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, etc.) for all of your targeted keywords, being certain to set up conversion funnel paths and categorical goals.
  • Make sure there are absolutely no signs of duplication. Create completely unique product and page descriptions, with relevant and descriptive keywords every time. Duplicate content is one of the most prevalent problems large eCommerce sites face.
  • Plan out your site architecture in a very logical and practical fashion. Do not create dozens of multi-level folders. Make sure internal links reflect the results of keyword research.
  • Make sure your sitemap is on par with the level of depth of sites like Amazon and Newegg. In fact, create multiple sitemaps for each category which helps monitor proper indexing. Don’t forget the image sitemap.
  • Similar to Amazon’s product pages, incorporate videos, unique review and rating systems, and product examples to make your page stand out from competitor monotony.
  • Mark up everything with rich snippets.
  • Determine which pages should rank higher and utilize the rel=”canonical” tag to achieve this.
  • In the same vein, carefully plan your link structure to be concise, clear, and harmonious.
  • Do everything in your power to increase page load speed.
  • Create custom 404 pages.
  • Create a blog.
  • Create a forum.

search drives access

Image via

Don’t forget about mobile SEO organization; you know, the basics of:

  • Getting indexed
  • Increasing load time
  • Hosting on a mobile subdomain and using rel=”canonical” and pointing to the original desktop page
  • Creating an easy-to-share functionality
  • Redirecting properly
  • Alt-text for images

Most importantly, take advantage of the mobile experience. As Bryson Meuniersaid,

“But they can and do index and interpret the mobile web, and if you leverage the specific properties of mobile devices (e.g., scanner, camera, GPS, accelerometer, etc.) to help users do what they need to do faster, people will take notice and share. When that happens, Google takes notice, and ranks the content higher than more lackluster competitors.”

Additionally, we must always consider local search ranking factors.

asos

Something as simple as listing correct store locations, product categories, and avoiding keyword stuffing are vital factors that ultimately impact business revenue. From small to large eCommerce, local SERPs have much more potential for maximization, at least for now.

Now, let’s discuss onsite search behavior and offsite SEO:

Onsite Search Behavior

search terms

Image via

SEO organization can be thought of as housekeeping. Your room should definitively not be used as a benchmark… There are a few core search paths visitors follow in their journey:

Initial location – Visitors arrive with a predetermined motive; they know the product they want and they go headlong searching for it. Organization problems arise when a search is broader, say, for something like “shirts.” Well, what kind of shirts? Red shirts, blue shirts, V-necks, t-shirts? All of the available options should be displayed, and they should be based on relevancy results from previous data. Think about it: if 30% of users who searched for “shirts” refined their search to “t-shirts,” then t-shirts must be in your eCommerce SERPs for “shirts” and a sitelink for normal SERPs.

Validation seeking – This is the phase when information seekers are at their prime. They’ve almost found the product they’re looking for, but there a few uncertainties they’d love to put to rest, such as customer reviews, ratings, pertinent details (such as batteries not included), hidden costs, real-life size, quality, and expectations. All of these details need to be present and well organized.

Price – Price is one of the most decisive customer purchase factors. Making sure prices are always competitive, clear, and concise (not filled with hidden fees) is imperative today, especially with search and compare aggregate sites.

Also, be aware of the 10 most common shopping personality profiles. This will help you craft tailored page elements and messages to your most typical shopper, which simultaneously creates a pleasant search experience.

Offsite SEO

Ranking for brand names and product keywords is a continuous effort that directly impacts revenue. The most successful eCommerce methods for offsite SEO are a clever combination of inbound marketing and technical SEO.

Social link building – Use awesome content, such as a fun video series like Will it Blend? Focus on creating content that lives on a subdomain blog or brand new domain with your brand as part of the title. I’m not going to preach “quality content” here because that horse is long dead. The reality is that your content is determined by your in-house marketing team or out-of-house agency.

The trend I’ve seen recently in terms of wildly successful inbound marketing is to create a risky, almost outrageous, video with an equally outrageous website. Examples include the Dollar Shave Club and more recently, Poo~Pourri. And when I say outrageous, I mean outrageously awesome.

Standard link building – Anything from product reviews and customer testimonial videos to press releases and strategic partnerships is, well, standard for any eCommerce site looking to raise visibility in SERPs.

There are hundreds of expert opinions that weigh in on determining the most influential search ranking factors. Allocating time and resources to compete for those ranking factors can only help your business (if done smartly) avoid risks and consequences associated with black-hat SEO.

The reality of SEO for eCommerce – There are many intricate details and processes involved. For a concrete, in-depth guide, check out Chris Kilbourn’s Ultimate Guide to SEO for E-Commerce Websites.

#3 – Increasing Page Speed

In our tech-savvy society, we expect everything to happen almost instantaneously.

We expect videos to buffer, images to send, and purchases to confirm, all in a matter of seconds. So when people have such strict expectations, the difference between a 2-second load time and a 1.8-second load time is huge, especially for eCommerce.

Louis C.K. understands what’s really going on, though, and exclaims in one of his routines about how we expect too much from our phones:

“Give it a second! Could you give it a second? It’s going to space. Could you give it a second to get back from space? Is the speed of light too slow for you?”

As much as I agree with his sentiment, the strange reality is that, yes, the speed of light can be too slow for people, and it’s a common concern.

The ideal loading time users prefer is less than 3 seconds.

Yet hundreds of eCommerce sites, small and large, fall short of meeting the majority expectation. While the janitorial code work might seem daunting, especially for shaving fractions of seconds, it’s the continued and collective maintenance that ultimately pays off.

There are a few reasons why eCommerce sites have not decreased their load time:

  • 75% of all eCommerce websites do not use content delivery network (CDN)
  • 13% of all eCommerce websites do not enable keep-alive
  • 22% of all eCommerce websites do not use text compression

Now, here are 7 tips for increasing load time:

  1. Optimize images – Images over 30K in size cripple loading times, especially if there’re in abundance. Attempt to get the size below 30K without compromising the image quality. The rule of thumb seems to be: large high quality images(60K – 100K) and smaller images (30k max).
  2. Set an Expiration Date for Cache  Caching can make loading times slower. Attempt to set an expiry date to utilize the local network opposed to the main network.
  3. Enable Keep-Alive – Ensure your host domain can enable keep-alive for the maximum number of resources allotted.
  4. Remove unnecessary coding script – Be sure to remove all “dead” coding. These coding types easily slow down loading times significantly. This is a standard clean-up task.
  5. Minimize HTTP Requests – Consolidate as many images and files with processes such as pipelining and CSS spriting. Use a CDN to load all of your “sprited” images. This increases speed because CDN servers are faster and HTTP requests are split between the CDN subdomain and your site domain.
  6. Remove Duplicate Scripts – At times, a website might accidentally produce duplicate scripts. Although it might not show on the webpage, it will appear in loading times. Be sure to analyze scripts to mitigate any chances of this happening.
  7. Toss Outdated Pages – Utilizing Webmaster Tools, routinely check for 404 errors. If you’re doing section revamp, make sure internal links don’t break if anything gets renamed or disconnected.

One of the common page speed discussions is the scale of compression andprogressive rendering. Basically, Google’s Page Speed Insights suggest minifying all HTML, CSS, JavaScript, with the goal of having an entire page load all contents quickly enough to appear seamless to the end user. Ultimately, factors such as browser preferences, file sizes, and where on the page you load scripts affects the efficiency.

Again, don’t forget about mobile. Bryan McQuade (Google’s Page Speed team lead) has an excellent guide for making mobile pages render super-fast.

#4 – Conversion Analysis with PPC, Heatmaps, and Customer Validation

In this section, I will present an eCommerce conversion analysis case study that is a result of a consultation I sought with one of my Internet Marketing Managers, Scott Redgate. The eCommerce site we’ll be covering is the mustang parts company, CJ Pony Parts.

PPC

While PPC ads are standard for primary keyword visibility, they can be strategically tailored after analyzing user interactions. In this case, CJ Pony Parts’ customers were seeing a prominent coupon code option during the buying process, resulting in visitors leaving in search of a code before returning to the checkout.

To remedy this, the following PPC ad was created:

ppc ads

This PPC ad helped fuel a return on investment that was 176 times greater than the cost.

Heatmaps

Identifying the value of page elements, such as CTA buttons, images, and search bars, is vital for making site changes to enhance usability and happiness, and to meet customer interactions.

A heatmap report on the old CJ Pony Parts homepage showed the following:

heat map

The search bar was hiding in the upper left corner and was relatively small compared to surrounding page elements. This finding was the basis for the creation of a fresh design, optimized for a better user experience:

pony parts

Customer Validation

A few customer barriers noted were a lack of trusted, third party logos, such as:

banner

These were added to the homepage, reinforcing customer validation. To support security in the checkout page, the following logo stream was added:

credit cards

Along with:

norton secured

On top of the enforced validation, one usability barrier was identified during the checkout phase:

proceed to paypal

There was too much whitespace leading to the Proceed to PayPal button. A simple realignment of payment information fixed this:

left side right

By redesigning the checkout page and organizing the process into payment information on the left and a finalized CTA on the right, usability was maximized.

Scott also suggests we pay attention to the following eCommerce page elements:

  • Reduce the clutter of passive sidebar product filters to on-hover display
  • Reduce product quantity display if heatmaps show visitors are not scrollingall the way through
  • Identify the most attractive page elements and make them stand out better than items that offer no visitor value
  • Make checkout buttons, icons, and associated information (such as item quantity) very minimal
  • Reposition action buttons that receive little traction
  • Optimize blank searches (when a user hits the search button without a query) to display products, not just a “please refine your search” message
  • Consider adding a progress indicator to checkout pages
  • Recite customer testimonials during the checkout phase, underneath the cart list, to give that extra bit of reinforcement
  • Since 91% of the top retailers fall between the 21-28 input field range, make sure you aren’t overwhelming potential customers with overflowing input fields

The collective internet marketing strategy provided the following results:

pony parts improvements

#5 – Data Testing with Abandoned Carts and How to Reduce Rates

Every moment leading up to customers pressing that “confirm purchase” button, there’s a chance they’ll leave the transaction entirely. Maybe they never intended to make a purchase in the first place or maybe they weren’t expecting remarkably high shipping fees. At any rate, shopping cart abandonment stands to be aprimary concern for all eCommerce platforms.

According to the Baymard Institute67.35% of fully stocked shopping carts are abandoned by customers on average.

That’s about two out of every three carts.

Unbounce notes:

  • 57% of shoppers that weren’t ready to purchase were there to estimate shipping costs
  • 56% of shoppers aren’t ready to purchase but want to save their selection for later

With these statistics in mind, what are some ways we can reduce shopping cart abandonment?

A Cure for Shopping Cart Abandonment, Part 1 – Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment

Be transparent about shipping costs  Don’t leave customers guessing about shipping costs until the final transaction page. Instead, automatically update cart totals with standard shipping costs, additionally allowing users to select and save alternate shipping options without committing to anything. Alternatively, one popular strategy is to set a threshold, such as $50, so that when anyone spends over that amount, shipping becomes free.

Be cool, registration is overrated – Don’t require customers to login in order to make a purchase. Imagine being forced to sign up for a membership every time you bought something in a physical store. That wouldn’t fly. Registration is just a roadblock on the path to checking out. You’re getting the email anyway during checkout, so bring up registration later down the road, not on the first date.

Allow social integration – Customer reviews, seller ratings, videos, product-content samples/previews, and social sharing buttons can be factors that drive or deter a purchase. Integrating these features is necessary, though, as we’ve come to expect and generally rely on peer influencers, as opposed to company descriptions – it’s a natural shopping process.

Put us at ease  Don’t be afraid to guarantee anything. We want to know our payments are secure, that prices are cheap, that we will be satisfied. Don’t make us go through seven pages of learning details just to check out. And if you can’t guarantee something, such as running out of stock, let us know!

holy crap

Be unique and flexible  Hopefully, your emails are responsive and optimized for mobile. With the unrelenting rise of mobile marketing, shopping cart abandonment notifications can be mobile tailored, allowing eCommerce to reach potential customers on the go.

Be human – Simply asking potential customers why they’ve decided to abandon their cart can provide actionable information. Give them incentive to answer, such as a discount on the product(s) in their cart.

Create a perfect checkout page – Competition forces us to constantly improve. Meeting the standards of a great checkout page is necessary for eCommerce. The goal should to be a perfect checkout page. Here’s the breakdown of a perfect checkout page via Monetate:

perfect checkout page

#6 – Purchase Funnel Testing

A Cure for Shopping Cart Abandonment, Part 2 – Testing

We’ve covered the popular strategies, but there’s one thing we’re forgetting…

Testing.

Are discount notifications more effective as an exit script that pop up or as acategorically tailored email?

Are potential customers following up to purchase items they’ve saved? Maybe we should send them a friendly, personalized reminder about their wish lists, but which is more effective: weekly or monthly email reminders?

Maybe it’s something as simple as testing Live Chat copy:

“Hi [name]! Can I help you with anything?” vs. “Hey [name], here’s an exclusive discount for [product in their cart]”

To plan and execute effective tests, we’ll need to equip ourselves with a toolset.

  • Google Analytics and Content Experiments – Our goal is to create custom reports by assigning event tracking and creating goals for user action items. Content experiments allow us to redirect entry pages to our new test page and track the variation conversion data.
  • Crazy Egg – Heatmaps, sectional value of pages, and link value collectively help identify shopping cart abandonment problems.
  • Olark – Live chat integration can only help reduce shopping cart abandonment and solidify the legitimacy of an eCommerce business.
  • Hellobar – For the small to medium eCommerce sites without the code chops or time, Hellobar is an awesome way to test copy, discount, and product value, even uniquely per page.
  • KISSmetrics – Essential for dozens of test variables, such as product abandonment rates, discount/promo rates, and order cancelation derivatives.

In-house design tests – Intuition is often frowned upon – given the plethora of data tracking and analysis tools available – however, benchmarking a competitor or consultant could provide the perfect test.

From eye tracking software to deep analytics tracking, having a dedicated data and design team is essential to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.

Below are purchase funnel testing tips and strategies:

aida funnel

Image via

Identifying pain points

Now equipped with a toolset, we can examine our data for pain points. These are the pages and actions where visitors leave the site / abandon the cart.

Pain points are sometimes as clear as day, especially if your live chat or contact form is readily available. Potential customers often leave feedback when they’re especially upset with a functionality, site issue, or missing expectation.

An additional and recommended way to identify pain points quickly is pay for user tests and focus groups. With user test groups, we can run A/B and multivariate tests based on previous results.

Testing tailored content as solutions to pain points

In the Liftopia case study revenue was increased by 24% by adding cross-sell options (such as “Similar Products”) to the landing page where visitors were already in the “desire” stage. Liftopia was using SEM ads to acquire potential customers, but wanted to see more ROI because of the high quality traffic – the pain point. The cross-sell options were tailored to the expectations of the visitors, thus resulting in higher conversions because their desires were met.

HubSpot recommends taking advantage of inbound marketing strategies to fuel and improve eCommerce purchase funnels. For example, by analyzing search query data, we can create content that better meets the needs of potential customers who are simply “interested” as opposed to “desiring.”

Testing the journey with user preferences

Purchase funnel testing is similar to books and comics where readers have the choice of how the plot turns out (i.e., turn to page 5 for “this” or turn to page 23 for “that”). Over the past five years, social listening has become a fundamental role in the operations of business and media. For example:

cbs

How does this relate to eCommerce?

Products can be tested with user preferences. All you have to do is ask and make it easy to answer.

Implement a feature that helps your site get smarter by simply asking users if the landing page product or pain point feature is what they expected or useful.

The goal is to create a situation where users mold the purchase funnel to their liking.

And yep, don’t forget about mobile! Here are some great tips in an EyeForTravel interview about optimizing mobile purchase funnels, such as testing what mobile UX designers thought were cool but turn out to be confusing for end users.

#7 – Assigning Values to Everything

When we determine the value of something virtual, such as a button, a style, or call-to-action words, we must rely on designers and marketers to bring about the change needed to amplify those values.

There are two essential forces that influence how we assign value in eCommerce:

  1. Our industry (i.e., luxury, sports, games, etc.)
  2. Our visitors

Our industry dictates experiential values.

makr

Consider the following luxury clothing eCommerce sites:

  • Gucci – high-resolution product images, beautiful homepage media, and all interactions are performed within a product slider (eliminating the need to scroll down)
  • Makr – incredibly minimalist UX, strategically “clean” use of whitespace, and simple product categorization display
  • Hermes – imaginative design, great use of whitespace, unique design style, and an exemplary sitemap

These websites transport us into the lifestyles their products cater to. Of course our brand must dictate a unique experience as well, but it must still connect with the lifestyle of our industry because that’s exactly what potential customers expect.

Visitor interactions dictate virtual values.

Think about all of the information users can interact with:

  • Product previews, descriptions, photos, videos
  • Customer reviews, ratings, feedback videos
  • Category breakdowns
  • Action items such as Add to Cart, Save for Later, Add to Wishlist, Email to a Friend, Share on Facebook
  • Product filters (“Customers who viewed this also viewed…”; “Related to Items You’ve Viewed”; “Inspired by Your Browsing History”)

Essentially, all of this information is educating the user in some way. Education is a form of influence. Determining which items are the most and least effective influencers allows us to assign value.

This is why we also must assign value to abandoned carts. Users obviously had an interest in the product and they now have it sitting in their cart. That has value.

While session values are segmented and indicative of many process improvements, it’s ultimately lifetime value that helps power higher-level goals.

One way to organize the value of these items is to simply set up custom reports. Assign values to goals created for educational clicks and abandoned carts. While this report won’t be indicative of anything concrete, it provides instrumental data about potential worth. Make this report more of a sandbox where you can test and organize potential values.

Seasons are an additional, essential force.

While niche product eCommerce sites may not see value in maximizing seasons, the imparity is obvious. A virtual holiday was even created:

cyber monday

From Thanksgiving and Halloween to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, holiday seasons are the most optimal period to boost sales.

Some people want to avoid the physical in-store rush and traffic. Others simply enjoy the convenience of purchasing bulk online.

Credit cards are out and your site must be ready for the hug of death (basically, a traffic boost that overloads your servers).

holiday gifts

(those humps = hugs of death)

Also, this particular upcoming holiday season apparently started already on September 30th and has six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So how do we prepare for holiday seasons?

  • Allocate budget to compete for increased ad bids
  • Utilize holiday keywords and advertising copy, making sure to multivariate test
  • Take advantage of “holiday rush” by creating very limited time discounts, making use of a countdown timer
  • This year is “Thanksgivukkah” (Thanksgiving and Chanukah fall on the same day) which leaves room for creative advertising
  • Create holiday sitelinks for SERPs
  • Offer a variety of gift wrap and card choices to accompany purchases
  • Strategically plan out holiday discounts (such as site-wide) and selective product deals (make use of your data to determine which products will be in highest demand)
  • Increase page load time and optimize servers (see above)
  • Set up tests to run during holiday sales, altering prices and discounts based on popularity
  • Create special product filters based on the actual holiday. If your products are completely unrelated to holidays (such as “designer pens”) it’s worth having a chat with your product devs, marketers, and designers.
  • Don’t be afraid to guarantee on-time holiday shipping
  • Create an after-purchase widget that allows customers to share to social media, something along the lines “Just got my [holiday] gift from [eCommerce site]”
  • Tailor all promotions, such as social media campaigns, email marketing, mobile ads, etc.

Yahoo’s advertising section has a nice toolkit for holiday search.

Also, don’t forget about birthdays. Create an exclusive birthday discount for customers who’ve signed up for an account. Alternatively, you can inform new visitors of the birthday discount as incentive to sign up.

Some additional thoughts on eCommerce site values

In a recent Catalyst interview with Liz James (Agency Account Executive at Google), some very illuminating points were brought up. Liz stated that approximately 92%-94% of the retail market is still done offline.

She explained: “True retail success is not as much about the transactions online – it’s more about education throughout the purchase process and thus connecting to the users where they are every day.”

However, it’s important to note that many eCommerce business models don’t have a walk-in store. This is why assigning monetary value is a fundamental starting process on the road to improvement.

After assigning values, we ultimately want to boost them, which equates to aflexible marketing budget that many eCommerce sites may not have. Remedy this by ordering values and their required budget (the amount needed to amplify, change, test, etc.) by level of severity and ROI.

Finally, user acquisition costs and average retention rates will always fluctuate during these revamps. This isn’t a reason to stop measuring them, though; in fact, it’s even more important because you’ll be able to see direct impact.

8) CTA and Goal Testing

attract convert close delight

Image via

Calls-to-action are everywhere. They are completely unavoidable, both online and offline, and manifest in forms you may not even be aware of. They are, quite simply, buttons that turn visitors into leads, and leads into customers.

Here’s one we’re all familiar with:

google

We have only two options, and they’re both CTAs. Fortunately, for Google, all they want from us is our time and clicks. Yep, time and clicks, that’s Google’s life-force…

All right, let’s look at an actual eCommerce site:

crossfit

ECommerce sites are generally split into standard CTAs and special CTAs.

Standard CTAs include:

  • Categories and product filters (i.e., Men, Women, Kids, Sports, Classic)
  • Gift cards, Login / Signup
  • See cart
  • Phone number / Contact us, About

Special CTAs include:

  • Shop [niche product item]
  • Design/Customize your own
  • Unique features such as Amazon’s 1-click purchase
  • Unique memberships such as Amazon’s Prime

Standard CTAs are necessary for basic user navigation, while special CTAs help increase conversions and separate one eCommerce site from a competitor.

We can capitalize on both types of CTAs with various types of testing.

I found a very cool discussion about fake button testing on Quora.

Jackie Bavaro, Product Manager at Asana, explains how her team built a fake “Sign up with Google” button that brought up the message “This feature is coming soon, thank you for your interest” to test if, indeed, their potential customers would want single sign on.

They ran the experiment for only one day, which provided plentiful data.

After deciding to build the single sign on feature, two findings proved this test to be effective, yet slightly ambiguous.

  1. Cannibalization (differentiating which users weren’t signing up the standard way) made the results murky.
  2. Standard sign ups had a higher rate of adoption. Even though single sign on got more people to sign up, those who used single sign on had a lesser rate of adoption.

While fake button testing is a great way to gauge engagement and interest, some other test strategies include:

Multivariate testing – This allows us to craft different CTA messages based on who is seeing it, which we can determine with the values we’ve previously assigned. Examples include:

  • User Type = Customer, CTA message = “Consult Us”
  • User Type = Lead, CTA message = “Try the free demo”
  • User Type = First-time visitor, CTA message = “Watch intro video”

Session CTA testing – A first-time visitor decides to download a free resource, and now they are logged as a lead. But since that resource has already been downloaded, it would be redundant to keep showing it, so instead, we’d alter the CTA message to something further along the purchase funnel, such as a trial.

Another good example of session CTA testing is when a returning customer hits the browser. Simply thank them for coming back and show them a product that relates to their browsing history.

Human testing  We often think of visitors as just that – visitors – nothing more. Fiverr is a great example of using human-CTA-messages:

latest super seller

Look, it’s another human! And he’s a super seller, that’s pretty cool, how’d that happen?

This is how we focus on humans and not visitors.

Some additional CTA goals and strategies to consider

  • Clearly explain the benefit of downloading something in less than 20 words.
  • Get in users’ bookmarks! Create a CTA button for that.
  • Utilize the KickStarter incentive program with pledging amounts. Up-sell potential customers by offering greater benefits for greater spending.
  • Don’t overwhelm users with more than two primary CTAs.
  • Recommend personalized products to users. Create CTAs that give users the option to have personalized product suggestions.

Also, HubSpot has an excellent guide on creating effective CTAs.

Final thoughts

These practices collectively fuel what has become commonly regarded as the “eCommerce experience.” Essentially, it’s about working on the inbound experience, the search experience, and the shopping experience.