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This is the first post of a blog series on how to improve SEO on your e-commerce site, so it makes sense to start with the basics: some main SEO terms and descriptions of various SEO disciplines. If SEO is what you do for a living, you’ll know these inside and out. But for those working in e-commerce with only partial SEO knowledge, this is a good place to start.SEO Terms You Should Know
Bot – also referred to as a spider or crawler, a bot is a piece of software used to crawl your site. Internet search engines use them to gain an understanding of your entire site and its individual pages. There are desktop-specific and mobile-specific bots. Well-behaved bots identify themselves with a unique “user agent” string that is logged as part of the page request in your web server’s access logs.
SEO – search engine optimization – the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in Internet search engines. (Rand Fishkin, “What Is SEO,” Moz).
SERP – search engine results page – the page on which Internet search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo!) show search results after a visitor submits a query.
Ranking Factors – there are many ranking factors that search engines consider to determine your SERP position, including basic document relevance (relevant terms, word count, proving words), number of backlinks, site speed, anchor texts in internal and external links, engagement signals (bounce rate, time on site, pages visited per session), support for mobile devices, domain authority, etc.
Index Size – the number of pages you have listed in Internet search engines. There are two index sizes – the number of pages an Internet search engine knows about and the number of pages it has actually crawled and can send its visitors to. The first number is significantly higher (in particular for e-commerce sites) than the second and can result in unfavorable “large index size” messages sent to your Webmaster Tools account.
Snippet/Rich Snippet – the listing shown on a search engine results page below the title is a snippet; other details added to the snippet (e.g. review stats, price, availability, etc.) make it a Rich Snippet. A Rich Snippet causes your listing to be larger and appear more predominant on the SERP. In addition, the larger your listing the further it pushes down your competitors’ listings and the more likely it is to catch the attention of a searcher.
Rich Snippet Markup (RSM) – code elements that are added to the HTML of the webpages showing product or other information. RSM allows the Internet web engine crawlers to better understand the information shown on the webpages. If the information on the page is well understood and the page itself is considered RSM-relevant, the search engine might honor this with a rich snippet on the SERP or it might improve the ranking of the page containing the RSM.
DA, or Domain Authority – this term was coined by Moz but is widely used in the SEO community. DA is the best prediction for how a website will perform in SEO rankings. It’s used to compare one site to another or to track the strength of your site over time. The collection of domain-level ranking factors determine a site’s domain authority.
PA, or Page Authority – this term was coined by Moz but is widely used in the SEO community. PA is a metric predicting how well a webpage will rank in Google’s search results for a particular search phrase. A collection of page-level ranking factors determine a site’s page authority. The same page will have different PAs depending on the search phrase for which the page ranks.
Penguin / Panda / Hummingbird / Pigeon – a series of major algorithm updates from Google focusing on different aspects of ranking webpages.
- Penguin focused on identifying and rewarding sites with a high number of legitimate inbound site links, while also identifying and penalizing sites with spammy “black hat” inbound links.
- Panda focused on interpreting which content is of high quality. It allows Google to reward pages that have highly relevant content and penalize those that use black hat practices such as content spinning or keyword-stuffing to try to give a higher SERP ranking to irrelevant content.
- Hummingbird focused on measuring the semantic relevance of webpage content in relationship to search queries. It focused on “intent” and not so much on exact keyword matching. It is less about what searchers are asking for and more about what they actually want.
- Pigeon focused on identifying localized content and giving higher rankings to localized content searched for from a corresponding region.
Meta Description Tag – an HTML attribute that describes a webpage’s content and is frequently used on SERPs. A well-written meta description is important for gaining high clickthrough rates, as it sums up the information on the webpage. The meta description tag should be unique for each page on your site to improve its efficiency (Moz).
Title Tag – an HTML attribute often used on SERPs to provide an accurate and concise description of a page’s content. One popular format is to include the following three elements, in this order:
- 1) primary targeted keyword 2) secondary targeted keyword 3) | your brand name
- Example: Fashion Jewelry | JewelsRUs
WMT, or Webmaster Tools – Google (Google Webmaster Tools – GWT) and Bing (Bing Webmaster Tools – BWT) provide tools that allow webmasters to check the performance of their sites, monitor any crawling and indexation issues, test certain aspects of their sites affecting indexation and apply configuration to the way the search engines treat site information. Understanding the information provided within WMT is crucial to understanding the performance of your site.Types of SEO Activities
There are various SEO disciplines or activities, each of which has a number of significant subdisciplines. Here’s a brief summary of each discipline and how it may be used to improve SEO on e-commerce sites. Not all activities need to be executed all the time, but it is a good idea to consider these items as a checklist when working toward optimizing your website.
On-page and off-page SEO: On-page SEO is any activity, on individual pages or the entire site, which is completed in an effort to boost ranking in Internet search engines (e.g. optimizing h1 tags). Off-site SEO is not related to the site but will cause ranking improvements indirectly (e.g. link acquisition, brand management, etc.).
Technical SEO: This encompasses any activity performed to ensure the site is technically sound so that bots can crawl it efficiently and effectively. Technical SEO is mostly on-page SEO and excludes content creation.
Local and international SEO: Local SEO focuses on ensuring high rankings for searches with local intent. International SEO focuses on sites with multiple geographic locations and possibly different languages. The aim is for the site to rank well in each target market and to avoid duplicate content issues.
Content creation and marketing: This discipline focuses on identifying relevant topics, creating highly engaging site content and ensuring this content is reaching target audiences. Content creators should keep in mind that great content doesn’t always yield immediate SEO results. As an example, it can take years of quality blogging to establish a new site’s domain authority. Content must be created and marketed to reach its audiences and provide an SEO benefit.
Site analysis/audits: This includes looking at specific metrics to identify why your site or competitors’ sites are ranking or not ranking well for particular phrases or topics. Site audits also typically focus on technical SEO and link profiles.
Competitive analysis: This includes the practice of understanding why competitors’ websites rank well for particular phrases or topics. This information is valuable for identifying how you can rank higher than your competition. It might also help you understand the level of effort required to outrank your competition on particular phrases or topics.
Brand management: This is the practice of ensuring your own brand is perceived well in all target markets or market segments. The higher the brand awareness for your business, the stronger your domain authority.Come Back for More
Return to this blog in the coming weeks to learn specific ways you can use SEO to increase your e-commerce revenue. Also listen to our recent Webinar: How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is just one practice out of many in your tool belt. Unless SEO is your full-time job, it’s nearly impossible for you to fully keep up with the details of constant algorithm updates that affect your site’s rankings, like the recent mobile-friendly updates from Google and Bing (a.k.a. “mobilegeddon”).
Plus, it can be difficult to know which SEO-related activities can drive more revenue without causing damage to your site’s rankings.
To help, I’d like to present our new SLI Systems white paper, How to Get the SEO-driven Revenue You’re Missing.
The easy-to-use 22-page guide will help you identify what’s possible with SEO and start on the path to improvement. Whether you have an in-house expert, use an outside agency or need to learn how to do basic SEO on your own, this paper will help you know where you want to go with SEO and outline the main steps to get there. Topics covered include:
- Why you need to pay attention to the changing SEO landscape
- A review of the basics: Top SEO principles
- Two SEO tools you need to set up correctly before doing anything else
- Six steps to improving the SEO of your e-commerce site
- Major SEO “no-no’s” that can damage your site’s reputation
- New streams of SEO-driven revenue most retailers miss out on
- How user-generated SEO increases traffic and conversions without negative SEO
At SLI Systems, our search and SEO experts continually monitor and improve the on-site search of more than 1,000 client sites in the e-commerce industry. With more than a dozen years in business, we have gained unique insight into SEO best practices and opportunities, and we’re happy to share them with you.
Enjoy our new white paper now, and stay tuned to this blog for more articles on the topic of SEO in e-commerce.
You found your niche in the lucrative (albeit lackluster) world of B2B e-commerce. It’s been great. Your clients don’t need anything fancy, you say. You can hum along with a website that walked right out of 2008 and it doesn’t matter. Because really, your customers aren’t here to shop (not in the traditional, show-me-something-pretty way). They just want to buy what they need and get back to work.
But here’s the thing: If you aren’t making it lightning fast and super simple for your customers to find and buy what they want, somebody else will. Somebody named Amazon. As Amazon launches “Amazon Business,” B2B sites would be wise to step up their game. Here’s how to get started:
- Start with search. Compared to non-searchers, searchers have an 11% higher average order value and a 2.7 times greater conversion rate, so it’s important and revenue-boosting to listen to what they say. Site search is key. If people quickly move from search to navigation or leave your site altogether, your site search isn’t doing its job. Good site search delivers relevant results fast.
- Showcase your expertise. You’ve created a virtual library of case studies, blogs, consumer guides and videos – all with the hope of educating and converting your prospects into customers. But can they find any of it? Andersen Windows is a good example of how to deliver search results with a wow factor. Type “French doors” in the search box, and you’ll get products along with support information, technical documents, photos and videos. Using SLI Learning SearchTM, Andersen Windows makes all of its non-product information incredibly easy to find.
- Be open to possibilities. At Spectrum Chemical, the search box invites users to input “Product Name, Catalog Number, Manufacturer, CAS #” – a confidence-boosting move that makes users feel they can’t go wrong. Smart search will allow you to create appropriate synonyms and tune your results so that visitors find what they are looking for, even if they type it in slightly different ways. Technical specifications and measurements are a great example. For instance, if someone typed 2.5, 2 ½ or 2-1/2, you’d want them to get the right results. In addition, features like SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM help people know they are on the right track by showing results as soon as they begin typing.
Remember, your search box is where your customers tell you exactly what they want in their own words. Advanced site search will give you the ability to easily pull reports and spot trends, like your site’s top search phrases and those ending in “no results.” Use this data to tailor your merchandising efforts and make it easier for visitors to find what they want to buy. Because being B2B is no longer an excuse for not delivering the very best to your customers.
Guest blog by Gian Genovesi, e-commerce account manager for Briteskies, an SLI partner
Many people think of interactive marketing as a priority for B2C e-commerce organizations, but not as relevant for B2B. This is not the case. The essentials of interactive marketing are just as applicable to B2B e-commerce as B2C, and in fact, the interactive marketing strategy should not differ between the two markets.
Just as in B2C, there is a tendency for B2B e-commerce companies to focus on solely SEO and SEM, which our e-commerce delivery lead, Gian Genovesi, equates to a sports team focusing exclusively on scoring as many points as possible. Increasing the points your team scores, similarly to the traffic your site obtains, is a factor of success, but in no way the end-all-be-all in e-commerce success. After all, of the top ten scoring offenses in NFL history, only one has won the Super Bowl.
While SEO and SEM are effective ways to drive traffic, traffic is only one variable in the e-commerce equation and should not be the sole focus. There are four aspects to consider when creating tactics for increasing the revenue of your e-commerce site, and paying attention to all of them together is far more impactful than honing in on just one.
In its most basic sense, traffic is simply visitors to or hits on your website. However, it is important to consider where this traffic is and should be coming from just as much as its volume. Are you attracting the right kind of traffic? You want visitors coming to your site from related or otherwise beneficial sites, which helps turn visits into conversions.
Some B2B-specific tactics to ensure that you are getting views from the right places include:
- Organic SEO
- Pay-Per-Click Advertising
- Content and Inbound Marketing
- Online Display Advertising
- Social Media Advertising and Networking
- External Link Building
- Off-Line Advertising
2. Conversion Rate
This is, of course, is the number of people becoming customers or clients out of the number of people visiting your site. The industry standard is 1%-3% of visitors becoming customers, but it is also important to consider who is converting and what is incenting them to convert, not just the percentage alone.
User experience is always the first factor in the conversion rate of a site. The employees purchasing for their company during the workday are the same people who go home and shop online for themselves in the evening, and they deserve a consistent and user-friendly experience no matter which context they are in. Important factors to keep in mind are:
- Pertinent Search Results
- Relevant Layered Navigation
- Ratings and Reviews
- Automated Email Reminders
- Online Chat and Immediate Customer Service
3. Average Order Value (AOV)
Now that you have your site visitors becoming customers, how do you entice them to buy more? In B2B, there is often more involved in someone increasing his or her order value than just adding another item to the cart. Business purchase decisions often require more time and input from more people than the typical B2C purchase, so it is important to keep B2B-specific tactics in mind, including:
- Personalized Marketing based on Customer Segmentation
- Cross-Sells and Up-Sells
- Pricing and Promotions
- Search Results and Weighting
- Product Subscriptions and Bundling
4. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
If a customer has trusted you enough to purchase from your e-commerce site once, how do you get them to convert again? They chose your product or service and gave you their payment information, so how do you entice them to keep coming back?
The best way to increase CLV is to reward customer loyalty. When attempting to re-engage with a previously converted customer, you want to be memorable, but not annoying. Some resources to use to increase CLV in B2B are:
- Favorites Lists
- Reward Points
- Special Offers and Private Sales
- Social Media Broadcasting
- Frequent Buyer Programs
- Recurring Orders
Focusing on these four pillars of interactive marketing, instead of developing a singular focus on one, will significantly improve the chances of your B2B e-commerce site seeing success in the online marketplace.
About the Author: Gian Genovesi is the e-commerce Account Manager for Briteskies. He has a fiery passion for serving and aiding clients in fully leveraging the value, features, and functions of their e-commerce systems. With a myriad of experience in leveraging e-commerce systems and their wide array of supporting systems and strategies, Gian constantly strives to put his clients in an optimal position for success in the online channel.
About Briteskies: Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Briteskies is a full-service solution for e-commerce, enterprise software, iSeries, and the integration of these business-critical systems. We assist our customers in bringing their brands, products and services to the online marketplace. We’re a Magento Silver Solution Partner, Premier IBM Business Partner and a JD Edwards Gold Partner with iSeries Application Specialists and an in-house JD Edwards practice.
Mobile commerce is exploding! The majority of traffic to e-commerce stores is coming from mobile devices (Shopify 2014) and mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!
Well aware of the growing mobile masses, on April 21st Google expanded its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to reward mobile-friendly sites with higher search rankings and demote those that fail its test. (a.k.a. “mobilegeddon,”). While the full results are still to be seen, action by many online retailers is still needed. To guide developers, the search giant also provided them with the top things to know when building a site for mobile devices. Here’s how e-commerce site search fits in and can help contribute to your mobile success.
Google’s #1 recommendation for building a mobile-friendly site is: Make It Easy For Customers. Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal is whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can easily complete the tasks they want to accomplish by solely using the mobile site. For instance, when visitors using smartphones search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will now help Sports Authority fare better in Google smartphone rankings.
Mobile-optimized site search helps retailers connect shoppers with the products they’re seeking, making it easy for mobile visitors to find, research and/or complete a purchase (their main objective). Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rates, bounce rates, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which affects its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.
Helping site visitors easily complete their objectives now has a direct impact on mobile search rankings, making good site search more important than ever before.
#2: Measure Effectiveness
Google’s second recommendation for building a mobile-friendly site is: Measure The Effectiveness Of Your Site. Optimized site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site – often increasing conversion rates and average order values, and lowering bounce rates. Leading e-commerce companies, including international cosmetics brand e.l.f. Cosmetics and specialty retailer WebUndies.com, have experienced impressive measured results with mobile-optimized site search.
Lesley Klein, director of e-commerce at e.l.f. Cosmetics, reported: “Conversion for mobile visitors using site search is four times the rate vs. mobile users who don’t use search. With 30% of our online traffic coming from mobile devices, we’re providing a seamless shopping experience no matter how or where people come to e.l.f.”
Terri Hunsinger, co-owner at WebUndies.com, found: “Mobile site search has been very effective in bringing 2,500 products to the forefront for customers who are trying to search on small devices where it can be difficult to see our broad product selection. People are spending more time and more money and are more engaged because of the accurate search results they are seeing.”
As with sites like e.l.f. and WebUndies.com, optimized mobile sites make it easy for customers to shop. Whether Mobilegeddon ends up significantly impacting SEO or not, your optimized mobile search will strongly contribute to better online shopping experiences and conversions.
SLI Receives Magento’s Highest Partner Honor
Last week at Magento Imagine, SLI received the “2015 Magento Technology Partner Spirit of Excellence Award for North America.” The annual award recognizes partners who have delivered exemplary service to Magento clients. Evaluations are made across a number of critical elements such as commitment to quality deployments, merchant satisfaction, growth, penetration in emerging markets, innovation and strategic planning.
Magento is the provider of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce platform. We are thrilled to partner with them in providing SLI Learning Search Connect™ as an easily downloadable Magento extension.
Also in 2015, SLI has received other distinctions stemming from the company’s dedication to achieving high ROI for its customers and its commitment to exemplary service for its partners. This follows a record year of awards for SLI, which received a total of 10 awards in 2014 for technology, customer-use scenarios, and customer support. We are proud to acknowledge these accolades for 2015 (and it’s only April!).
SLI Customer Wine Enthusiast Receives Retail TouchPoints 2015 Retail Innovator Award
Wine Enthusiast’s CMO Glenn Edelman was named a winner of Retail TouchPoints 2015 Retail Innovator Award. Wine Enthusiast uses SLI Dynamic Product Banners™, which automatically displays banners with items related to a visitor’s original web search on product pages. Edelman will be recognized at the Retail Innovation Conference, June 16-17 in New York City.
“With SLI Dynamic Product Banners, visitors are more prone to stay and buy from our site rather than clicking back to Google where they could end up on a competitor’s site,” said Edelman. “In fact, when visitors interact with the banners, we see a 48% increase in revenue-per-click and a 14% increase in conversion rates. The banners also have a real impact on lowering bounce rate from the site’s landing pages.”
Read more about their success in our Wine Enthusiast case study.
SLI Customer Lakeshore Learning Recognized by eTail West for Search Excellence’
Lakeshore Learning, supplier of school supplies for preschools and elementary classrooms, was named a 2015 finalist in eTail West’s Best-in-Class Awards for ‘Search’ innovation and excellence. By implementing a rich set of features and refinements by SLI, Lakeshore Learning has been able to improve its site’s customer experience and offer personalized products relevant to shoppers.
As discussed in our Lakeshore Learning case study, the company used SLI Learning Search™ and SLI Site Champion™ to make even more of its content easy to find.
“Multi-faceted search allows customers to quickly narrow down hundreds of products and still maintain a clean and robust search experience,” said Sam Sarullo, VP of E-commerce at Lakeshore Learning. “Personalizing the site to draw people into areas most helpful for them has been a big improvement. Since implementing Learning Search™ we have seen double-digit online revenue growth, while average order values went up 30 percent and conversion rates rose nearly 19 percent.”
Site Champion™ dynamically creates SEO landing pages based on actual user searches that are indexed by Google and other Internet search engines. Lakeshore Learning has seen a return of $127 for every $1 spent on SLI Site Champion.
It’s big news that the U.S. leapfrogged to the number one spot in the A.T. Kearney 2015 Global E-commerce Index this week. But don’t miss the fact that the Americas as a whole took seven of the top 30 spots with Mexico making the list for the first time.
The Global E-commerce Index ranks the top 30 countries for market opportunity in online retail. Rankings are based on nine variables including macroeconomic factors, consumer adoption of technology and shopping behavior.
According to the A.T. Kearney report, global online sales from mobile and desktop will reach $995 billion this year and $1.1 trillion next year. That’s good news for all retailers in the e-commerce space. But some significant opportunities are being uncovered in the Americas.
Making the list from the Americas:Country Ranking United States 1 Canada 11 Mexico 17 Chile 19 Brazil 21 Venezuela 24 Argentina 29
An improved economy and continued growth helped the U.S. go from third to first and trump China as the global e-commerce leader. E-commerce sales worldwide rose to $840 billion in 2014 with the U.S. accounting for more than a fourth of that number at $238 billion.
Mexico, which has never been ranked before, debuted at spot 17 on the Global E-commerce Index. The A.T. Kearney report credits a young and connected population for Mexico’s much-higher-than-average 32% year-over-year growth in online sales. Mexico’s total online sales hit $6.6 billion in 2014. And the news continues to get better with similar growth expected over the next five years.
Even though Brazil slipped to 21st place on the index, the country grew about 18% year-over-year and e-commerce sales were a strong $13 billion in 2014. “Online retailers still find Brazil to be a growing e-commerce market that is impossible to ignore,” the A.T. Kearney report states.
The Nielson Global Survey of E-commerce, released in August 2014, also put a spotlight on Latin America, noting that the emerging region has the highest online browsing rates.
“Latin Americans are enthusiastic online shoppers, but the online retail infrastructure has not yet caught up with offering conversion opportunities,” said John Burbank, president of strategic initiatives for Nielson.
Latin American shoppers are most often browsing online for electronic equipment, mobile phones, clothes, cars and motorcycles, and tour and hotel reservations, according the Nielson report. The highest buying category in Latin America is airline tickets and reservations, which historically is a starting point as consumers gain confidence in the online shopping experience.
Worldwide, e-commerce grew more than 20 percent in 2014, according to the A.T. Kearney report. But online sales overall remain less than 10 percent of total retail sales—so no matter what corner of the globe you’re in, your e-commerce market has room to grow.
Our inaugural SLI Connect AU is a wrap! I would like to thank all of our engaging speakers and thoughtful attendees for making our first SLI Connect in Australia a great success. Speakers included SLI customers Bras N Things and Appliances Online along with industry leaders from Testivate, ChannelAdvisor, SKUVantage, Harris Farm and ShopBot. We brought together Australia’s leading online retailers to discuss and learn about the top e-commerce challenges and opportunities for the coming year, and we came away with some powerful insights.
The Aussie E-Commerce Boom
According to SLI Connect speaker Mark Gray, managing director at ChannelAdvisor, the Australian e-commerce market is growing at a breakneck rate. Mark said: “Australians spent $16.4 billon on online retail in 2014! This level is equivalent to 6.8% of spending at traditional brick and mortar retailers” (source: NAB Feb, 2015).
Moreover, Testivate Founder and Principal Analyst Steven Noble, who also presented his findings at SLI Connect, reported that Australian retailers are adopting global e-commerce best practices and meeting U.S. and EU competition head on.
Aussie Retailers’ Biggest Worry
Even with business booming, we learned via an SLI survey at the show that half of these leading Australian retail brands worried about losing business to international competitors in the past year. SLI Systems Regional VP Mark Brixton said: “The results show local retailers are concerned by the increased willingness of Australian shoppers to interact with international retailers.”
In response to this pressure, the vast majority of Aussie retailers have taken action to ensure they remain relevant in a increasingly competitive market by implementing advanced e-commerce solutions, including sophisticated site search (80%) and mobile and tablet optimization (67%).
SLI customer and presenter Duncan Brett, general manager of e-commerce at Bras N Things, shared how learning-based site search, navigation and recommendations solutions from SLI are helping Bras N Things tailor product searches for customers and increase sales from top search terms over time.
The Omnichannel Future
Similar to our experience at SLI Connect UK, retailers discussed moving toward omnichannel retailing as fast as possible. Neil Thomas, general manager at ShopBot, wisely suggested in his presentation that “it is time to think about dropping the ‘e’ from ‘e-commerce platform’ and calling it what it is really becoming – a commerce platform.”
Duncan of Bras N Things further emphasized that the brick and mortar store and e-commerce store should be “a joint force and not another source of competition.”
As the buying journey becomes more complex, so too does the competition. It’s inspiring to see so many retailers in Australia and across the globe using learning site search as a competitive advantage to drive conversion rates and sales worldwide.
The next SLI Connect event is planned for September 17, 2015 in New York City! Save the date and stay tuned – registration will open soon.
Now that more than half of all time spent shopping online is done via mobile devices, mobile commerce is growing three times faster than overall e-commerce. In its “Spotlight on Modern Retail 2015,” NRF found that during the first three quarters of 2014, retailers reported their mobile sales grew a whopping 87 percent!
To meet these quickly changing usage patterns, Google is again adapting its algorithms to help users discover more mobile-friendly content. On April 21, Google will expand its mobile-friendliness ranking signal to make it even easier for users to find ‘mobile-friendly’ websites in search results.
According to Google, “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” And if anyone wants to test mobile web pages, Google provides a handy tool: The Mobile Friendly Test.
Mobile-Optimized Site Search Boosts SEO
Heavily contributing to the ‘mobile-friendly’ signal will be whether or not visitors, after landing on a mobile page, can complete the tasks they wanted to accomplish by solely using the mobile site.
For instance, when visitors using tablets search for new running shoes on Sports Authority, the company’s mobile-friendly site helps them easily find and buy the shoes they want, which in turn will help Sports Authority fare better in Google rankings after the April 21 algorithm change.
Mobile site search is a vital part of delivering a satisfying shopping experience to mobile users as it helps visitors quickly and easily engage with the site. Given mobile’s space and speed challenges, the search box is the best gateway to finding products and content on mobile sites. That in turn has a big impact on engagement metrics such as conversion rate, bounce rate, average time on site, average pages requested per session and more, which has a direct domain-wide impact on its ‘mobile-friendly’ signal and mobile search ranking.
For a complete guide to providing mobile shoppers with a great user experience, download the new white paper Site Search and the Mobile User Experience.
Mobile 101 – New Webinar!
Join us on Tuesday, March 24 at 10:00 a.m. PDT for a new SLI Webinar, Mobile 101 – Best Practices, to learn more about how to convert mobile shoppers with an engaging mobile user experience (and in turn, boost your mobile search ranking!). Registration is open until 8 a.m. PDT on March 24, plus an on-demand version of the webinar will be available soon.
SLI Connect is sparking exciting e-commerce discussions on both sides of the globe this month.
Earlier in March, we had our most successful SLI Connect UK yet. With an unprecedented 200 attendees from 150+ leading retailers such as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Tesco, Jigsaw London, Warehouse, Chemist Direct and Paul Smith, we could not have asked for a better or more expert turnout. I want to thank all who attended and presented for your invaluable participation at the show.
At the end of the month, we will hold our next SLI Connect in Australia – SLI Connect AU.
Through discussions with customers and colleagues at SLI Connect UK, it was clear that the future of e-commerce is flush with opportunity. We’ve all heard the buzzword ‘omnichannel,’ but the reality comes down to this: true ‘omnichannel’ means the channel becomes totally invisible to the customer. To make the omnichannel experience seamless and successful, the retailer must subtly meet shoppers at all points in their user journeys in a personalized manner. Here are two real-world examples I was fortunate to learn about at SLI Connect.
Fashion Retailers Move Toward Omnichannel
Top clothing retailer Jigsaw is positively moving toward omnichannel retailing. Jigsaw’s Head of E-commerce Kate Holt presented at SLI Connect, where she revealed that Jigsaw was experiencing a massive rise in smartphone traffic. She informed us that 55% of traffic and 44% of sales came from mobile devices! Jigsaw uses SLI Mobile to ensure its mobile shoppers are quickly finding the items they want to buy. Kate reported that the results to date have been staggering, with revenue up 47% and conversion rate up 30%.
Leading clothing retailer Warehouse is also working toward omnichannel retailing by executing a robust personalization strategy, according to SLI Connect presenter and Warehouse Digital Trading Manager Liam Price. Through Warehouse’s popular blog ‘Tales of the City’; various payment, delivery and returns options; product recommendations (via SLI Learning Recommendations); and advanced site search (via SLI Learning Search), the retailer’s e-commerce site is experiencing a 7% increase in visitors and 3.4% increase in conversions.
In fact, a test run by Warehouse found that when SLI Learning Recommendations were removed from the product page, total revenue fell by 2%!
Multichannel, Omnichannel – It’s Just Retail!
E-commerce industry analyst Linda Bustos says it best, “Whether you refer to it as multichannel or omnichannel, the ways in which your consumers are researching, purchasing, and interacting have evolved, effectively backing most brands into a largely-reactive corner…organizations must realign with experience-driven systems to build relationships with, and sell to, the modern consumer.”
The two savvy retailers mentioned above are personalizing the e-commerce experience, making the ‘channel’ virtually unseen, to meet the needs of their modern shoppers and drive e-commerce sales. SLI Connect attendee Jon Woodall from Space48 summed it up nicely: “Forget omnichannel, it’s retail!”
SLI Connect Australia – Less than Two Weeks Away!
There’s still time to register for SLI Connect Australia, which is coming to Sydney on 31 March 2015 at the Quay West. More retailers and e-commerce professionals will gather there to discuss and explore the future of e-commerce, with speakers from ChannelAdvisor, Shopbot, Bras N Things, Appliances Online and more. We hope you can be part of this powerful event!
50+ years ago, futurists predicted that advances in technology would provide a life of ease. Instead, we use today’s technology to do more, faster – even with shopping. As an increasing number of online shoppers want to find, buy and get on with life as quickly as possible, here are five must-have features for e-commerce sites that want to meet the needs of these “speed shoppers.”
1. Learning-based Site Search
Speed shoppers are likely to go straight to the search box and expect relevant results within the first few items displayed. To deliver such on-target results, a site search provider needs to offer technology that learns from multiple aspects of user activity and continually re-ranks items that are most relevant. The smarter the technology, the better the accuracy and speed for shoppers.
2. Autocomplete with Graphics
A critical feature for speed in site search is the ability to auto-populate product results and images from the first letter a searcher types, as offered by SLI Rich Auto CompleteTM. If I want to quickly find polo shirts and I start typing “polo,” I appreciate a retailer who shows me “polo” shirts after just typing “po.”
In this example, the retailer also uses SLI Learning SearchTM technology, which intelligently infers that by typing “po” I was most likely looking for a polo shirt and not a “pocket tee” or “popover hoodie.” Smart – and fast.
3. Social Content and Reviews Integrated Into Search
Keep in mind that not all speed shoppers know exactly what they want when they search. A last-minute gift-buyer, for instance, may search for “makeup set” at e.l.f. cosmetics, but before clicking “buy” the giver wants to make sure it’s a quality product. Since e.l.f. incorporates a special “As Seen In” feature into its search, the gift shopper can see that this item has been featured in magazines like O and Woman’s Day. And if that doesn’t instill enough confidence to click “buy,” the shopper can see that it’s a 4-star product with more than 61 reviews. This quick-reference information, placed on the product page, can make a speed shopper giddy about the efficiency of it all.
4. Easy Payment Options
Online shoppers are quickly getting fed up with multiple-step checkouts that require them to provide personal and financial information. As more consumers experience the convenience of PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or similar payment options, paying with credit cards could soon become a relic. Be sure you offer the payment experience your customers prefer, or they’ll find other sites that do.
5. Optimized Mobile Experience
Speed and ease are especially critical for mobile shoppers. The smaller the screen size, the smaller the amount of patience a customer has before giving up. As John Tomich stated in a recent article for Multichannel Merchant, “A successful mobile interaction with your customer is one in which everything is obvious, easy and fast.” He cites that shoppers overwhelmingly prefer social logins for ease of use. Express checkout and easy payment options are as critical here as with any shopping site. Other critical features are those that will improve findability, like learning-based search and navigation.
The investment in meeting the needs of speed shoppers will undoubtedly pay off. Speed shoppers are usually searchers, which are 2-3x more likely to convert than non-searchers. And when you meet speed shoppers’ needs for efficiency, they’ll quickly become some of your most loyal repeat customers.
There’s no question. Site search isn’t sexy, but it doesn’t have to be, because the revenue it drives speaks for itself. Internet Retailer Senior Editor Thad Reuter said it best in his February article, Reading Shoppers’ Minds:
“Site search receives little in the way of celebrity-level attention in e-commerce… But with retailers typically reporting two or three times the amount of conversions for site search users, the stakes are obvious: Better site search can translate into more profits.” Period.
However, one question still remains: Which site search approach best connects shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy, making shopping easier and retailers more profitable? Do online shoppers use natural language search, which interprets subjective terms to serve up search results? Or do the most relevant search results come from learning site search, which “learns” what specific search terms resonate most with consumers and – with SLI Learning SearchTM technology – reranks the order of search results based on the latest activity of users?
In e-commerce, there is some uncertainty around the demand for natural language search. North Face e-commerce manager, Charles Caison, told Internet Retailer, “At North Face, for instance, most shoppers search using terms that describe the product, not ambiguous phrases that require natural language processing to decode. It may be that we have been trained by Internet search engines for keyword searches rather than natural language searches.”
A new SLI study also supports Caison’s insight. To demonstrate site search user behavior today, SLI evaluated natural language terms, focusing on subjective search terms including “cheap,” “nice” and “cute” for a Fortune 100 retailer. As you can see in the chart below, out of 67,000 searches, the word “quality” was only used 3 times while “cheap” and “nice” had similar results. The findings reveal that subjective search terms are not yet commonly used among online shoppers.Total searches performed ~67k Searches containing “cheap” 11 Searches containing “quality” (high-quality) 3 Searches containing “nice” 0 Searches containing “cute” 42
Lakeshore Learning, an IR Top 500 company, also finds less use of natural language search from its shoppers. Lakeshore Vice President of E-commerce Sam Sarullo told Internet Retailer, “an analysis of the retailer’s top 1,000 searches revealed that consumers use an average of 1.8 words to search – a signal that consumers remain wedded to keyword search, and that natural language-type searches may not yet be intuitive. That said, I see return customers who are more familiar with our products using these natural language or long-tail searches.”
The beauty of Learning SearchTM is that if it detects shoppers’ use of longer search terms, it will “learn” and tweak its results to reflect that behavior. Learning Search continuously analyzes the terms and phrases that prove most popular and lead conversions.
Perhaps the best argument for the value of Learning Search is to let e-commerce companies’ results speak for themselves. Here are some of the results leading retailers have experienced using Learning Search:
- Lakeshore Learning, an education supplies manufacturer: 30% increase in online sales
- Boden, a British clothing retailer: 1.8x higher conversion rate using search
- e.l.f. Cosmetics, an international cosmetics brand: 21% higher per-visit value using search
- Marine Depot, world’s #1 supplier of aquarium supplies: 11% increase in revenue
- SurfStitch, Australia’s #1 surf retailer: 30% improvement in page position for organic search
Some say “sex sells,” but in e-commerce, Learning Search sells more.
Does your retail operation manage both online and brick and mortar shopping experiences? If so, you understand the importance of showing shoppers a wide variety of products online, while also giving them the option to find their desired product locally where they can see it, try it in person and perhaps pick it up the same day.
A popular way to provide these options to shoppers is to use geospatial information to localize the online shopping experience. By allowing geospatial queries, retailers can offer location-based searching and navigation so that shoppers can:
Filter and Order Search Results by Distance
Retailers can allow customers to see the availability of products within a geographic range, narrowing results by the distance they’re willing to travel for the item. Additionally, retailers can order results by distance so that products located closer to the specified area are listed first in search results.
Shop by Store Location
This feature lets customers view results for products that are available at a particular store location. This can come in handy if customers are more interested in seeing products at the location closest to them. Some retailers carry different inventory in various stores or have a wider inventory online. Allowing shoppers to search by store location provides a specific, localized and convenient online shopping experience.
Andersen Windows, the largest manufacturer of windows and doors in the U.S., uses a store locator map on their site to show the closest stores where their products are sold.
Show Search Results in Map View
The easiest way to convey information about location is through a map. Showing shoppers where product inventory is located and giving them the ability to see more or less based on geographic perimeters provides a richer and very intuitive search experience.
Show Available Inventory on Product Detail Pages
When shoppers view a product detail page, retailers can provide additional information about the closest local stores where the inventory is located. This is especially helpful for shoppers who want to examine the item in person before a purchase or for those that need it quickly. It can also be helpful for products that are difficult to ship due to size or weight.
Giving shoppers a localized shopping experience streamlines their ability to find and buy products in a way that is most convenient for their needs. It’s an easy way to add tremendous value to shoppers by showing information that is directly relevant to them – it also improves the chance for a sale.
SLI supports geospatial queries in the ways listed above to help retailers create a stronger omnichannel connection between their physical and online stores.