How To Create A Successful Ecommerce Website

For many, setting up an ecommerce store can be a daunting process…but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our ecommerce guide will point you in the right direction and you will be able to build a successful online store that has a passionate following of loyal customers that believe in your brand.

Here’s what you will learn:
• Content strategy
• Category and product page structure
• On-page optimisation
• Conversion optimization
• Tracking & Analytics

Build an e-commerce store that shares the belief of your audience.

Ok so you may call me crazy when I say that a successful ecommerce store heavily relies on an effective content marketing strategy, but hey, if you take a look at some of the ecommerce stores you have purchased products from, think about how you relate to them, and what exactly made you purchase from them.

Was is the low price, low shipping or best discount?

I think not.

I am more inclined to say they were the brand that you felt engaged with or shared the same beliefs.

Now there will be some exceptions to this, obviously there are some markets that are dominated by a small number of online stores and the options are limited.

However, as humans we love to be included, have our say, and a sense of belonging to part of something, somehow.

So, unless you have the marketing budget of Ikea, Amazon and other department stores with e-commerce, you will need to tell your story and share your beliefs to captivate an audience.

Brands offering helpful, exciting and educational content will pull in an interested audience and turn them into the informed.

The reward for all this? Loyal customers and a trusted brand.

Content strategy that engages your audience and turns them into loyal customers

Gone are the days where we would make uninformed purchasing decisions. Our time and money is all to precious, and now it is all too easy to research a product or service online.

Research shows that 81% of purchases involved extensive research online.

Most e-commerce stores follow a straight forward system or layout, which is create category pages and add products that link to these category pages and nothing else.

Well let me tell you, for this type of e-commerce store, you are going to need a fairly hefty marketing budget to build an audience. Because no search engine (lets face it Google) today will show your product pages in their search results if you follow that method

Today, Google wants content!

And by content I mean helpful, engaging, informative, educational content that’s relevant to the products and services you provide.

This applies to your Home page, category & sub category pages, product pages and more importantly your blog.
A blog!! But this is suppose to be about e-commerce stores? I hear you say.

Well yes, but leveraging content marketing will engage an audience and drive them to your store.

So by crafting blog posts that draw in your audience and applying effective SEO, this content will show up in the organic search results, resulting in an audience that believes in what you sell and transforms them into loyal and referring customers.

Don’t forget a good content strategy always needs a well planned promotion strategy. So share your content on all of your social networks, and link back to your category and/or sub category pages.

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Category and Product Page Structure

As with any website, it is vitally important to get your site architecture right.

This serves two main purposes:
• On page search engine optimisation (SEO); and
• Ease of navigation for your visitors.

So, first you will want to find the balance between optimising your site for SEO purposes and creating an attractive, easy to navigate site.

Lets face, if you structure your site whilst only considering the SEO benefits, then your visitors will land on your page, they wont know what to do or where to go next…Then they will leave.

Right, so lets look at how you can structure your category and product pages to take advantage of both benefits above. In most cases it is very similar to a normal website silo structure.
For this example, I will use an apparel ecommerce store structure with a brand name Third Wave. You start with your home page.

Then you branch out with your main category pages.

Then you will branch out again with subcategories.

Each of these represent a page within the category structure hierarchy.

The preceding category will be set as the parent page for the underlying subcategory.

For example, the clothing silo will look like:
www.thirdwave.com/clothing/mens/shirts or www.thirdwave.com/clothing/womans/pants

Notice how I have only used the word men’s and women’s in the URL structure. This is to stay away from being over optimised with your keywords.

Again by creating your ecommerce store on WordPress, you can edit the URL structure to follow this.
Then your product pages will all link back to their own respective sub category page.

So how to create product pages and actually sell something?

I find the easiest way is to install the woo-commerce plugin that integrates a shopping cart directly into your WordPress website.

Using the woo-commerce plugin enables you to easily create product pages that can be linked to your category pages.

Implementing a site structure in this fashion will allow Google to crawl your site and determine exactly what products you are selling.
Your site visitors will be able to navigate around finding related products or other products of interest.

On-page Optimisation

Ranking your category and product pages in the search results, primarily depends upon your ability to build highly authoritative and relevant links, i.e. link building, however on-page optimisation includes all of the actions you take within your own pages to help with your rankings.

On-page optimisation are factors that you can control.

Follow these methods for effective on page optimisation
• Meta Data
• Internal Linking
• Site Usability
• Mobile Responsiveness
• Customer Reviews
• Social Media Engagement

1. Meta Data

Meta/Page Title and Meta Description are both used to decipher your content and you can get the added benefit of using the Meta Description as a call to action.

The beginning of your page titles carry more weight for SEO purposes. So be sure to keep your keyword or product name at the beginning of your title tags

Generally the way a title should read is Product Name|Brand Name|Call To Action

For example a TV Title tag may look like: 32inch LCD TV Samsung Buy Now

Meta Description has minimal effect on rankings, however it does show your keywords and call to actions under the Title Tag when viewed on the search engine results.

Each product should have its own unique Meta description with a call to action and Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Use this to optimise for higher click through rate.

For example below Samsung uses the Meta description to detail the TV’s qualities then they use an USP.

The call to action looks like it is partly cut off, though this is how you should aim to create your own Meta descriptions for each product page.

2. Internal Linking

The process of internal linking is an additional step after creating the site category & sub-category page structure.

Internal linking has three main purposes:
• Helps to move your audience around your site through relevant links;
• Lets the Google bots crawl your pages to determine their relevance; and
• Spreads page authority throughout your site, improving its overall ranking power.

Since internal linking is a strategy for maximising on-page optimisation, we will concentrate on how internal linking spreads authority throughout your website.

The basics behind internal linking

Best practices and the process of internal linking can become overwhelming and complex for some…only because they let it be that way.

The simple fact is choosing a piece of text as an anchor and linking to another post/page that is highly relevant to the anchor text.

For example, referring back to the previous clothing store, we would link our men’s shirts sub category page to the men’s jumpers sub category page.

As your site builds page authority, this is then passed around your site, helping to increase its overall authority.

Use proper anchor text

The process of creating an internal link is very simple. You simply choose a piece of text that is not keyword optimised. Just use natural looking fragments of text from sentences, highlight it and link it to a relevant page or post.

An example is this following sentence.

If you’re looking for a further discussion on link building, then check out this complete guide on strategic anchor texts.

Whilst anchor text penalties are more common for inbound links (Links from other websites), it is best to remain on the safe side and keep your internal liking natural also. Don’t fall victim to an over optimised anchor text penalty

3. Site Usability

The ecommerce world is very competitive. Your competitor is just one back click away.

Should your audience not like your site they will most likely move along to the next.

Making sure your ecommerce store is highly useable and customer friendly will allow the buying process to be as quick and pain free as possible.

Our busy lives depend on being able to achieve a result with as little fuss as possible.

Tips to create a highly useable ecommerce website that will maximise conversions.

•Breadcrumb Navigation
It is highly likely that your audience will land on a category page, and they will want to know where they are immediately. It provides a snapshot of what step they are up to in the purchasing process, and reduces shopping cart abandonment rates.
Furthermore, it allows them to go back to a previous page or step without them having to figure out where they were.

•Search Function
The purpose of a search function allows a user to find exactly what they are looking for, making their shopping process quick and easy. This is vitally important if you have a lot of various type products under a specific category. Instead of scrolling down looking for the product, they can simply type into a search box the product description.

•Purchasing without customer signup
Allowing customers to purchase product’s as a guest will improve customer retention, reduce checkout abandonment rates and provide a unique selling point separate to your competitors.
The trick here though is to ask for them to register or signup after the checkout process.
By utilising customer account features, your customer will more than likely signup after their purchase (should they not beforehand) to track the delivery status of there order for instance.

•Product Images
It’s true that a photo speaks a thousand words. Make sure to provide high quality images that allow the user to make a definite judgment on the product they are about to purchase. Include as many orientations, close-up views as possible. The closer a person can get to your products, the higher chance they will purchase.
Also try to set your product in an environment that it would normally be used, not just with a white background.

4. Mobile Responsiveness

According to AMTA mobile shopping is set to explode and grow to $119 billion in 2015, representing around 8% of the total e-commerce market.

The driving force behind mobile online shopping is the sharp spike in smartphone adoption and the corresponding excitement for mobile Internet.

Mobile Internet use allows users to manage their time better, allowing potential customers to view and purchase products on the go.

So put simply, most of your customers will soon be purchasing products from either a mobile phone or tablet device.
So how do you make sure users can navigate your site on mobile devices?

Well, the emergence of responsive web design has allowed websites to conform to the individual size or requirements of the device the user is viewing your site on.

Utilising a responsive web design allows for a more streamline purchasing process and is visually appealing.

You can embrace a responsive web design by uploading a responsive Word Press theme during your website creation phase.
Have a look at these responsive WordPress themes perfect for ecommerce stores.

5. Customer Reviews

Customer reviews for an ecommerce are a fantastic tool for increasing your conversion rates. Statistics show 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decisions.

Why customer reviews are so important?

For many years now powerhouse ecommerce stores like eBay and Amazon have been using product reviews, and now a days customers have become to expect and appreciate the ability to research & evaluate products based upon other peoples opinions before purchasing.

So how can customer reviews increase conversion rates?

• Reviews boost credibility for your products
The first thing customers will do when they land on your site, is to check the credibility of your business and/or brand. Customer reviews are perfect for establishing credibility and they are a good indicator that other people have bought products from your site end have found the shopping experience enjoyable.

• Feedback on your products
Researching what products suit your market can be difficult and time consuming. Customer reviews can be beneficial to you as well. A large amount of positive reviews can assure your products are meeting your market expectations. Products receiving quality, positive reviews can be showcased on feature pages of your site for maximum exposure.

• An improvement in SEO
A major problem faced with ecommerce stores is being able to sustain rankings for static product pages.

Allowing customer reviews means that your products pages are being updated with fresh content turning them into a dynamic state.

An increase in rankings and organic traffic can be a direct result of customer reviews. This is because your individual product pages are building their own page authority whilst receiving better, more relevant traffic from users that are more likely to convert.

• Reviews are like referrals.
It’s a well-known fact that we will listen to and behave in a manner that is inline with the people who influence us. We also like to be referred to someone or something from people we feel we can trust.

So it is only natural that a site user would look at the reviews from other previous customers and be influenced into making a buying decision, based upon the reviews they have written.

• Customer reviews provide piece of mind.
Product information is easy to find. Customers now a days are looking for product reviews as part of there purchasing process. By providing relevant product details followed by customer reviews, you are providing the peace of mind for the shopper to make a buying decision.

Allowing product reviews can lead to higher conversion rates. However relying on customers to leave reviews without being prompted wont suffices. Always ask your customers to leave a review after the checkout process.

6. Social Media Engagement.

How to effectively get your customers to like and share your products on social media?

Case studies have shown that placing social sharing buttons on your product pages can have negative effects on your conversion rates.

So, to combat this, and to utilise social media as leverage for marketing and brand awareness, you should only apply social sharing buttons on your payment confirmation and/or thankyou pages.

This takes away any distractions from your product pages, but still gives your customers an opportunity to like and/or share your products on social media.

Conversion Optimisation

Having an ecommerce store ranking high in the SERPS for your high value keywords means nothing if it fails to convert your audience (traffic) to customers.

First lets take a look at some stats and an infographic detailing some secrets of online shoppers.

In 2012 social media played a huge role in driving traffic to ecommerce websites.

Here are some points to highlight:
• Facebook delivers almost two-thirds of all social media traffic to ecommerce sites,
• Pinterest referral traffic grew from a measly 1% to more than 26% in one year, however
• Conversion rates from social media traffic are considerably lower when compared with conversions from organic search results.

So what does this mean?

Social media will continue to drive traffic to your site, however you will have to consider the customer experience for visitors on smartphones and tablets.

Test to make sure your site holds a high level of customer experience when viewed on mobile devices.

The following infographic depicts how shoppers are moving towards a mobile orientated shopping experience.

So now you have a site that your traffic can view and navigate whether on a desktop or tablet, we can move onto getting these people to purchase products and not get to the checkout, then leave.

In other words, reducing shopping cart abandonment rates.

According to a study, shopping cart abandonment rates are between 50% and 70%.

Wow, that means for every 100 people landing on your site, between 50 and 70 are leaving without making a purchase.

That’s a big chunk of conversion dollars left on the table right there.

So, how can you reduce these figures?

Here’s a list of the top five reasons shoppers abandoned their carts:
•Just window- shopping or not ready to purchase
•Lack of definitive delivery time
•Shipping costs were too much
•Items or total amount did not qualify for specified free shipping
•Additional shipping or handling costs

So, as we can see shoppers have indicated that shipping related options have a huge impact on whether they are prepared to commit to the purchaser not.

The infographic below shows what shoppers want to see at the checkout, and tips for increasing conversions

Tracking and Analytics

This is perhaps the most vital aspect of running an ecommerce site. To survive and grow your online business, you will need to know & understand the metrics for making better decisions.

Google Analytics can be integrated into your WordPress site, allowing you to capture all of your sales data and view that against your actual sessions overview. This allows you to track what marketing channels are bringing in the most sales, what demographics are buying your products & a whole lot more.

For a complete guide on installing ecommerce Google Analytics, then check out this resource page over at Analytics Talk. These guys go into a ridiculous amount of detail.