The famous psychophysicist Dr. Howard Moskowitz once said:
“There is no perfect Pepsi; just different kinds of perfect Pepsi for different groups of people.”
His point is that every visitor that comes to your website is different –– bringing along with them various life experiences and points of view that alter the way your site and products look to them.
It is why it is so crucial for you to determine your buyer personas. You won’t just have one.
- What makes them tick?
- Why do they do what they do?
- What are their hidden or unconscious motivations?
Dr. Robert Cialdini laid out six psychological triggers that can be used to increase sales on your site – one of which being a “liking” factor.
People like to buy things from people they like – and most people like other people who remind them of themselves.
Want to increase your sales? Build out a website that reflects back to your buyers the personas they identify with.
That’s step number one. But it isn’t the only step. Once you get a site up and live, you must understand:
- How to drive traffic
- How to convert that traffic
- How to bring people back
- How to measure and report
- How to repeat that success
This post will teach you exactly how to do that, subsequently increasing sales, revenue and customer loyalty.
Here are a few things you’ll discover.
How to Drive Ecommerce Traffic and Convert Customers
- What 10x content is and why it is crucial for increasing your search rankings to drive traffic to your website.
- How to use industry influencers to grow sales through search engine optimization.
- Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” method for increasing followers and sales through social media.
- The importance of mobile and social optimization (89% of smartphone usage is spent on social media apps!) for sales.
- Why you should follow your competition’s most engaged users.
- What Phrase Match Keywords are–– and why you’ll get more bang for your buck with them than with Brand Match or Modified Broad Match keywords.
- Why segmenting your Google Shopping traffic can lead to significant uplift.
- The importance of reviewing your site search report once a month and querying your own site for at least the top 20 most common searches.
- How to use psychological triggers to increase and drive conversions.
- Why the internet is a lot like online dating [i.e. test, iterate, test again].
- The value of buyer personas and why you should break your analytics efforts down into multiple segments of visitors.
- What Google Analytic’s Model Comparison Tool is, and when [also why] to use it.
This is us leading you to the ecommerce waters – it’s now up to you to drink.
How to Drive Traffic to Your Online Store
In the online retail world, traffic is the foundation of your brand’s success.
If you can’t drive traffic to your site, conversion and analytics (the second and third tactics) won’t matter.
But, how exactly do you increase ecommerce traffic? A variety of ways. Today, we’ll be covering:
- Search Engine Optimization: The strategy to increase net new organic (non-paid) traffic over time.
- Social Media and Social Media Strategy: The strategy to engage with your audience on social media platforms to bring them and their friends back to your site.
- AdWords/PPC: The strategy of paid placement across the web to earn net new traffic and re-capture visitors who bounced.
- Google Shopping: The strategy of using Google Shopping to earn middle and bottom of funnel traffic (i.e. high-converting traffic).
Let’s dive in.
1. Search engine optimization.
In my mind, there have been three major phases in SEO.
- In the first phase, it was all about metadata, keyword density and basic structure. Search engines were simpler back then and easier to fool. It was possible for startups to compete with industry heavyweights.
- The second phase added a new emphasis on unique, quality content and inbound links. This phase gave birth to the ‘Content is King’ movement.
- The third phase, the current phase, is the most virtuous of all. To compete with big box chains as a small-to-mid-sized ecommerce retailer, you now have to create what experts call 10x content–– content so meaningful, unique, comprehensive and shareable that it’s ten times better than anything else someone could read on your chosen subject.
You also have to prove to search engines that you’re a contributing, relevant and respected player in your industry community.
Easy, right? Let’s walk through how to optimize your site to increase traffic.
There are 4 main ways.
- Architecture, links, general content
- 10x content
- Community influencer status
- Links (again, because it’s that important)
Architecture, Links, General Content
Everything from the first two phases is still important.
In fact, without solid site architecture, unique content and a paddock of quality inbound links, you can’t even get a seat at the table.
Think about those SEO basics as a qualifying competition you have to win to prove you deserve a chance at the Olympics –– or at even playing the game.
If you fail to perfect these basics, you likely will not qualify for further consideration in the minds of the search engines.
Good site architecture looks like this (and BigCommerce already does this for the brands using its platform):
What’s happening here is that you are showing Google the ideal route through your site, how pages are related, and what your general funnel looks like.
This is why it is so important to nestle your product pages as child pages under category pages which are parent pages.
Here’s what that looks like on the BigCommerce backend:
Now, Google reads sitemaps in order to crawl sites and rank them. This is what the structure above creates for Google:
You can find this for your own store using http://www.mydomain.com/xmlsitemap.php
And how does this look on the front-end? Well, that depends on your theme and design. You get to control that part. This part is the technical background to ensuring your site is read and recorded correctly.
These are the bones of your site –– and they need to be strong.
10x content can take the form of:
- User guides
- Definitive essays and/or explainers
The list goes on and on, and is added to every day by the most clever and the most hungry.
10x content needs to have a fresh angle, a wealth of expertise and style, and obviously, overwhelming value.
You’ve got to become one of those hard-charging expert innovators, and it’s not easy.
That’s why athletes need coaches and successful businesspeople need mentors. It takes a community to build this kind of content and expertise.
And, the hard truth is that if you can’t become this kind of an expert, then you probably don’t deserve to rank highly for your keywords.
Remember, the most successful brands do all of these. Let’s look at a few.
Freund Container is one such brand. Check out their resources center homepage, including link off to videos, user guides, deconstructions, essays on trending topics and more.
HVAC Parts Shop
HVAC Parts Shop also does a variety of these tactics. And they are currently seeing a 7% increase in organic traffic MoM as a result.
You’ll see their resources sections in the red box (added by me) on the right-hand side. This page is one of the service manual pages, where hundreds of manuals are included with product breakdown and visuals for each one.
Bright AgroTech provides novice and experienced farmers alike information, tutorials, guides and financial planning kits to help them turn their love for farming into a modern business.
Community Influencer Status
In the world of modern SEO, you’re not going to rank for the keywords that are important to you if you’re not a legitimate authority on the products and services you sell.
Every industry, and every ecommerce site, should have deep and meaningful connections to their relevant communities.
Find the most respected and popular forums, sites, journalists and aggregators in your industry and make yourself invaluable to them.
Write guest posts, answer questions, become an expert and then share your expertise. The links, trust, relevance and traffic will start to flow.
Want an easy way to start doing this?
Begin by connecting with influencers in your segment and then asking them questions about your vertical. Then, publish content highlighting their expertise.
BigCommerce does this for the ecommerce industry. Here are a few of what they call their “round up posts,” which get high visibility thanks to the sharing of content by the influencers included.
Keep in mind, BigCommerce is looking to rank for keywords related to ecommerce. You’ll need to edit your strategy and topics to best match the keywords your brand needs to rank for.
How can you easily set up a program like this?
Use Google Forms.
Create your questions and then send the link to the influencers you know.
Search engines use a variety of signals to rank your site (and the various pages of your site).
Google set themselves apart by introducing link value into their complex ranking algorithm, an algorithm that is still the industry gold standard.
But search engines, no matter how they decide their rankings, reserve pride of place for the quality, the quantity and the relevance of incoming links.
- Quantity: Search engines pay attention to the volume of your links. That means you need to be connecting with potential partners, writing guest blog posts, and creating lots of excellent, relevant, shareable content for people to link to.
- Quality: Quality links take several factors into account. Perhaps the most important is the trust given to certain domains. Search engines give more value to addresses that end in .edu and .gov than .com, and more value to .com than .xxx. Secondly, you want to get links from sites that have a lot of credibility with search engines; the more impressive the domain, the more impressive the link value.
- Relevance: Search engines prevent link-spamming by taking into account the relevance of the referring website. So if your retail website has a thousand inbound links from a bunch random unrelated sites, those links are worth much less.
The Winning Edge
Look for mentions of your brand using a service like Mention and focus on the instances where there is no link to your domain.
Focus your time finding the contact info for the person that can turn that plain text shout-out into a relevant inbound link.
You can get more backlinking advice in our Ecommerce SEO Guide.
2. Utilize social media.
Social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have worked their way into practically every aspect of modern life.
Ecommerce is, of course, no different.
Social media is promotion, sales, links, shares and cultural relevance. It’s something that every ecommerce retailer has to take seriously and devote meaningful time and effort toward.
Social media can be the single most important part of an ecommerce traffic generation strategy.
Here are a few brands doing it right, with some tips and insight you can learn from.
The founder of BombTech Golf hired a virtual assistant (VA) to respond to every single social media comment his brand got –– good or bad. By doing this, he has built a community of golf lovers with brand loyalty who know that no matter what –– they will get a response.
You can hire VAs at UpWork or Fiverr.
He’s so dedicated to nurturing this community that he even set up a private group for super fans that he promotes on his blog.
Sully’s brand will surpass $12,000,000 in annual sales this year. He launched 3 years ago.
Spellbinders uses a gallery approach to give their crafting community a centralized hub of inspiration. Pulling from Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram tags, Spellbinders uses their gallery page to show off their community’s creations.
And in less than 1 year, this page alone has generated nearly 1,000,000 additional page views for the brand.
It has also launched their micro-influencer program, which has grown sales 167%.
Sharing then Promoting
Social media is first and foremost a place to share. Promotion comes second.
It’s better to offer several pieces of excellent, non-promotional content for your followers before you follow up with (non-aggressive) self-promotion.
Social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk calls this method “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.”
Successful social media strategies imbue your pages with personality, are responsive to input from users, are well-designed (for mobile as well as traditional screens), and seek to create genuinely shareable content.
That means it must be informative, attention-grabbing and fun (ideally a combination of all three).
Be careful that you’re not overwhelming people and turning them off with your self-promotion.
Make sure that the actions you perform on social media are helpful to the people you’re trying to attract. That doesn’t just mean providing excellent content (although that’s your first duty); it means seeking opportunities to actually help them.
Follow them, promote them and don’t ask them for favors constantly (Follow me! Click here! Buy now!). 15% of Twitter users unfollow brands within three weeks. Don’t let it happen to you.
Choose the Right Platform
Find out which social media platforms have the most influence and relevance in your industry.
- If you’re in B2B sales, LinkedIn might be the horse you want to ride.
- If you’re selling clothing, you might want to take advantage of the photography-centric Instagram.
Even Twitter has opportunities for brands, so think through your strategy and choose your channels wisely.
Remember that a huge percentage of all ecommerce shopping is now done on smartphones. 89% of the time people are using their phones, they’re using an app like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat.
Always think about how something you share on social media will play on mobile devices.
Know that videos often do better than still images. If you own a stand-up paddle board, don’t just put up a picture of a SUP board; put up a video of somebody actually using it!
And when you post a video, don’t be afraid to de-emphasize long captions and to use numbers and emojis; research shows that such posts get a massive bump in clicks.
Social Media Sales
Many social media sites, Facebook in particular, have gone beyond simple advertisements and links to functionality that allows customers to make purchases on the site.
Facebook Shopping was just the beginning of this trend. Instagram Shopping has now launched, and some brands like Natori are seeing a 1,416% increase in Instagram traffic using it.
80 INSTAGRAM SHOPPING EXAMPLES TO INSPIRE YOU NOW
Your free guide to what other brands across 4 ecommerce verticals are already doing so you can catch up FAST.
Social media isn’t something you can delegate to your intern for a few hours every month.
You have to have a genuine time and effort commitment to succeeding, even if the financial benefits aren’t immediately obvious to you.
Social media is the future, and increasingly the present, of online business. Act accordingly.
The Winning Edge
You can often find the highest quality followers by searching for the users that are engaging with your competitor’s content. Follow these people, engage with these people!
They are interested in your market, it’s free publicity and it’s the best way to let people know you exist.
3. Invest in Google AdWords and pay-per-click advertising.
The fastest way to drive traffic to your online store — and the kind that will drive conversions — is to pay for it.
But pay-per-click advertising is a subtle art, especially when you’re trying to compete on unequal terms with a big-box retailer.
How can you beat the big boys without outspending them?
If you’re a smaller retailer, AdWords and other pay-per-click services make it clear that you’re operating at a disadvantage. The market sets the bid price, and the price can be prohibitively high.
But there are a few things you can do to settle the score.
- Quality Score: Ad Rank in AdWords is a result of your Quality Score and your bid. You probably can’t outbid big boxes, but you can beat their Quality Scores with smart, focused effort. Ad Extensions are just one way to improve your Ad Rank.
- Bid Modifiers
- Day Parting: It may be to your advantage to only serve ads during certain times of the day. If you depend on customer service, you might only serve ads during work hours so your staff is available. If you’re selling overseas, you may want to peg your campaigns to their timezones.
- Geo-Targeting: You can get more specific by targeting certain areas. If you’re selling a specifically urban product, don’t serve ads to Lubbock, TX. If you’re selling horse saddles, don’t serve ads to New York City.
- Mobile: Some businesses depend on phone calls to close their sales; if you’re one of them, consider an aggressive bid modifier to reach people already using their mobile phones.
- Match Types: You’re probably already trying to find long-tail opportunities, but are your match types holding you back? Broad Match and Modified Broad Match leave a lot to Google’s interpretation, while carefully placed Phrase Match keywords can help keep costs in check and give you the exposure you need.
- Re-marketing Overspend: Make sure to segment successful conversions out of your re-marketing audience. Don’t waste money trying to catch fish you already caught.
- Beyond Google: If you’re on a limited budget, you can sometimes get lower conversion costs by using other search engines. Don’t limit yourself to just Google. See if you can take advantage of other search engines where the competition is less intense.
The Winning Edge
Are the most expensive and broad keywords out of reach for your PPC budget? Use Google’s RLSAs to bid on the most competitive, broad keywords in your space for a fraction of the cost.
4. Use Google Shopping.
Google Shopping is the new frontier of paid search and an awesome way to improve your ecommerce traffic generation .
Different from AdWords, Google Shopping allows users to see pictures of the product they’re looking for, instantly compare prices between ecommerce retailers, filter their results, and even set acceptable price points.
Google Shopping is paid, just like AdWords, but the interfaces and the rules are all different. A modern ecommerce retailer must become an expert at winning these comparison shoppers.
Optimizing The Feed
Google Shopping is all about the feed. Your data quality is foundational for results.
Many ignore this due to technical constraints, but doing so handicaps your shopping efforts.
Here are some ways to optimize the feed:
- Product Titles: Many believe Google weighs the keywords in order. Thus, title descriptors should read from left to right, most important to least important. For example, you might go in this order: “Brand, Gender, Product, Color, Size.”
- Product Descriptions: Organize these in the same “most important to least important” way that you organized your product titles. Don’t waste words; people are searching with keywords, so keep those in mind. Short, to the point, and keyword targeted is the way to go. Stay under 1000 characters.
Here are a couple additional tips:
- Last Click Conversion: Google Shopping customers are at the bottom of the funnel. They often have done their research already. So don’t be bashful with your bids! These folks are often ready to buy.
- Budget: Google Shopping is growing. Killing the sidebar ads only made PLAs (Product Listing Ads) more prominent. That means it should be a growing portion of your budget.
The Winning Edge
RLSAs now enable advertisers to customize bids on Google Shopping for cart-abandoners, loyal customers, nearby shoppers and others.
Use your re-marketing lists from Google Analytics in Shopping campaigns to either target and bid (or bid only) on users from those lists.
How to Start Driving Conversions
Maximizing conversions is about efficiency — specifically, optimizing your website to convert the visitors you drove to your site.
It’s about knowing your users, your competition and your industry, and using that knowledge to take advantage where and when you can.
Landing Page Optimization
Landing pages are the pages on your site that drive traffic; from paid search, from inbound links, and from your SEO efforts.
To fully optimize them for conversion, you need to make sure you’re running full speed on several fronts:
- Speed: Your website needs to load instantly, respond to clicks instantly and never ever frustrate a user (or make them doubt your legitimacy) by slowing down.
- Cleanliness is next to Godliness: Your website should be clean, easy to read, navigate and operate. Clean design increases buy-in, trust and sales.
- It must be relevant (it must match) to the traffic source: For instance, if your AdWords ad for Converse All-Star Sneakers lands people on your home page, you’ve failed. You’re confusing them and creating a large barrier to entry (they’re going to have to search your site for the shoes they want, rather than being instantly directed to them).
- It must have a clear call to action: When people click on a link, an ad or a Google listing, they have moved into the conversion pipeline; they are interested in what you’ve got to sell, and they’re interested in getting it from you. That’s why you cannot fail to have a large, clear, effective call to action on the landing page.
Product pages are often used as landing pages, but make no mistake, they’re a horse of a different color.
They are the most important part of your conversion funnel.
This is where buyers are making a decision; this is where the proverbial iron is hot.
Google Shopping traffic will always land on a product page, and some of your AdWords and paid search traffic will too. An efficient product page is the hallmark of a successful ecommerce retailer; at PriceWaiter, we’re obsessed with them.
There are five important elements to consider when optimizing your product pages.
While you’ve hopefully developed a strong base of repeat customers, first time visitors won’t really know much about you. That’s why it’s so important to quickly build trust.
Trust badges, seals and icons are de rigeur for shopping carts, but you need to introduce an element of trust up front on your product pages and with your product descriptions. Don’t give your customers any reason to doubt your credibility.
A key element to getting someone to actually make the leap and check out is creating a sense of urgency. When people feel that they have to make a decision sooner rather than later, they are more likely to pull the trigger on a purchase.
There a lot of smart ways to do this: setting time limits on sales, letting people see that the number of products in stock is low; timers that let them know how quickly they need to order something for it to arrive at a certain date. Think about clever ways you can make your customers’ buying decisions more urgent.
The “Buy” button (which shouldn’t necessarily say “Buy”) is the most important call to action on your product page.
And as befits a feature of such importance, you need to test many different versions before settling on one.
- What should the button say?“Add to Cart,”“Buy Now,”“Get Started!,” etc. When selecting your button language it’s important to both know your audience and test different versions.
- Where should it be located? When designing your mobile product page, you want the button to be right under the user’s thumb; the easier to buy from you with! On a standard page, buy buttons are traditionally in the bottom right quadrant of the screen, where the reader’s eye will naturally stop.
- What color should it be? The answer is different for every industry and every site. Some people say never use a red button; but studies have been done showing a red button is sometimes the best color. Others swear by the color orange. In the end, creating a consistent contrast between your buttons and the dominant colors of the site and/or product page is most important. But remember: test and measure!
Make sure your product pages are sticky. You aren’t going to convert every visitor to your product pages (or even 10% of them), but there are a lot of ways to get your site to stick in their mind, to engage with them so they’re more likely to come back, or even to extend the sales window.
Recommended Apps To Increase Engagement
Here are a couple examples of winning product pages that essentially act as landing pages (i.e. high converting!).
My Magic Mud
The Winning Edge
Segment your Google Shopping traffic (AKA comparison shoppers) and dynamically change important product page elements just for them.
Getting aggressive on this paid segment can lead to significant uplift.
5. A/B & User Testing
Everything on a product page needs to be tested.
The internet is unique in giving retailers the ability to test big decisions efficiently and scientifically; a lot like online dating.
Ecommerce retailers are often too close to their product pages to see them clearly. User testing allows you to watch people interact with your site in real time as they narrate their impressions, frustrations and pleasures.
These sessions can be tremendously eye-opening and fill your A/B testing pipeline with new ideas.
Here are 2 of the industry’s best tools to use:
The Winning Edge
Don’t just user test your own site. Have the testers perform the same tasks on your site and a few competitors –– without them knowing which site is paying them for the test. Use this unbiased feedback to help you come up with new A/B tests.
Users using your site search are more engaged than the typical shopper and are offering to literally type in their purchase intentions.
Retailers often forget about site search once the initial implementation of a new search appliance is a few months old.
Be sure to review your site search report once a month and query your own site for at least the top 20 most common searches.
You can do this in your BigCommerce Analytics. Check it out:
Better yet, have unbiased users perform the same searches and provide quality feedback you can use to better merchandise your SERPs.
How to Segment with Analytics and Data
Your analytics are what give you insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your site, what works and what doesn’t, and what you need to do to keep running, keep growing and keep winning.
It’s a long-game play here, and there are no overnight successes.
However, once your get everything set up, you’ll be able to track, measure and then double down where things are working to quickly grow sales.
It’s rarely valuable to only monitor your site’s overall conversion rate or bounce rate.
The reason is that the data is too muddled; there are too many variables that could be affecting the outcome.
It’s far better to break your analytics efforts down into multiple segments of visitors. That way you can begin to isolate, understand and control for variables.
There will be a big difference in how different classes of visitors interact with your site. You want to know:
- how new visitors behave
- how return visitors behave
- people who’ve added to cart
- mobile vs. non-mobile
- the list goes on…
As the famous psychophysicist Dr. Howard Moskowitz has taught us:
“There is no perfect Pepsi; just different kinds of perfect Pepsi for different groups of people.”
Google Analytics is the industry’s #1 source of truth for digital metrics as outlined above. Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce Analytics take that source of truth one step further for ecommerce brands, giving you absolutely everything you need to know from homepage to checkout.
BigCommerce Analytics and Insights can be helpful here too.
In the Customer report, you’ll get a top line view of customers, new customers and % new v. returning.
You also get an individual customer level view, showing you AOV, average price point for the customer, any discounts used and channels that brought them in.
In Insights, you can get a view of your:
- Best customers
- Lowest AOV customers
- Customer lifetime value by channel
- Customer lifetime value by product
The Big Questions to Ask Your Data
- Who are your visitors? Are they coming from mobile or desktop? Are they from California or Tennessee?
- Where did they come from? Facebook? Twitter? Paid Search? A link from another site? Google search?
- What did they do? How long did they stay on your site? Did they leave and come back? Did they abandon the cart? How many pages did they visit? How many products did they look at?
When you’ve done the work above, you can create very powerful re-marketing lists based on what you know about the people who have visited your site.
One of the best tactics for B2C brands here is to download the Best Customers report, and then use those emails to find lookalikes on Facebook.
What Gets Measured Gets Attention
Your marketing team can only work well with good, measurable data. What gets measured gets optimized.
Now there are some retailers who go overboard with reporting minutiae, which can ultimately lead to institutional paralysis. Finding the right balance is important.
The Winning Edge
Create an Advanced Segment in Google Analytics for your branded traffic. Toggling your reports or favorite GA views to exclude this loyal, familiar segment can radically change the perceived results and conversion rate for a given campaign.
It’s crucial to correctly attribute the sources of your conversions. If someone clicks on a paid search ad and then checks out, you might think that sale belongs to paid search.
But what if they first time they clicked on your ads was through Facebook? Now it’s more complicated.
Attribution has always been a complex topic, and with modern sales channels, it’s much more sophisticated.
Early on it was simply first-click versus last-click, as described above. But now you have to consider channels, devices, non-direct interactions and more.
What’s important is that you are aware of the model used in your conversion reports, and how that model works.
While Google Analytics defaults to last-click (with the exception of direct traffic), you can use the Model Comparison Tool to see how other models would affect a given data set.
The Winning Edge
If you’re using AdWords, Google is soon going to let you pick between six attribution models that would flow throughout your AdWords account.
Ecommerce retailers need to keep track of all the important (and disparate) information about their site on optimized dashboards.
There are many companies offering robust dashboarding solutions.
These may be overwhelming and lead to inaction, so try starting small with Google Analytics’dashboard offering. A solid ecommerce dashboard in GA could include:
- Total Site Traffic with key trends (Bounce Rate, Avg. Session Duration, Pages/Visit)
- Organic Site Traffic Trend with top 7-10 landing pages
- Ecommerce Data with trendline of revenue & transactions
- AdWords Spend
- Traffic Sources Pie Chart
The Winning Edge
Use a real-time widget on your Google Analytics dashboard to monitor how traffic spikes and which pages spike most when you get significant press mentions or send a massive email campaign.
In the end, it’s not the fastest, the most efficient, or the strongest retail site that wins — it’s the one that combines all three tactics.
Successful ecommerce sites have to drive traffic in droves, convert those visitors efficiently, and keep diligent track of their data in order to properly iterate.
Just as a two-legged table cannot stand, an ecommerce site that’s only good at one or two things cannot reach its full potential.