Posts about web design, site structure, coding, etc.

Make Cart Abandoners a Source of Revenue this Holiday Season & Beyond

A great way to pick up additional shoppers this holiday season is to understand why shoppers are abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.  Of course, in order to understand why people abandon their carts – you must first contact them.  Depending on what your cart abandonment rate is – even picking up a small percentage of these abandoned carts could do wonders for your bottom line.

The 7th Annual Merchant Survey released by the E-tailing group recently addressed this ever-growing concern of cart abandonment among E-tailers.  Commentary on the E-tailing Groups survey stated that in order “to save the sale, communicate with customers once abandonment has occurred.”  Sounds simple enough, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at this statistic), only 14% of websites studied sent an email to follow up with those shoppers who abandoned their carts.  The numbers dwindled even further to only 7% for those retailers that called the cart abandoner.  In order for your business to follow up with shoppers that abandon their shopping cart you will need to have a shopping cart that actually saves the information needed for following up.  This information is normally collected when consumers add items to their shopping carts and create a username/password.

Here at Leverage Marketing, we consider updating your website with the most up to date options that customers’ desire pretty high. (It’s also worth noting that customers rate the existence of perpetual shopping carts highly in terms of importance of shopping online for gifts this holiday season.)  We don’t offer shopping cart services, but we’ve worked with quite a few and look forward to being a trusted resource when your business is looking to update your websites’ shopping cart.

I think it’s fair to say that abandoned shopping carts are a goldmine when it comes to lead generation efforts – this is a person that went to your site and made a majority of the steps necessary to make a purchase.  Wouldn’t it be a great idea to ensure your shopping cart can keep track of shopping cart abandonment data so your business can get a sales/customer service person involved with following-up to find out why the sale wasn’t completed?

What is Your Return Policy?

Do you take a Nordstrom’s approach to your return policies? If you haven’t heard the legendary tale of a customer who successfully returned a tire to Nordstrom’s – you should read about it here.  As the tale goes – Nordstrom’s doesn’t sell tires, but keeping with the businesses customer is always right policy – the retailer returned the tire with no questions asked.  While I think it’s safe to assume that most online shoppers aren’t looking for your business to offer such a lenient return policy – consumers are increasingly expecting retailers to offer a return policy that is fair and in most cases free for them to return items.

Recently reported by Twice a study by Forrester Consulting found that “Returns policies are a bigger factor in consumers’ online buying decisions than most retailers realize. Businesses [that] make it easier and less expensive for customers to return their products derive an advantage over competitors — and are likely to, in the long term, see increases in sales, customer loyalty and incremental revenue.”

Consumers overwhelming expressed appreciation for online stores with more liberal return policies. 81% of those surveyed said they are more likely to buy from a retailer, if the online retailer makes it easier for them to return a product.  Today is a great day to look at your return policy and find ways to make it more appealing for Online Holiday Gift Shoppers.

  • Can your business offer free return shipping on returned items?
  • Can your business increase the time frame you give to shoppers to return items during the Holiday Season?

This Holiday Shopping Season will be unlike any other shopping season seen recently.  With many looming economic questions – comparison shopping will be put to good use by many bargain hunting shoppers. It is now a good time to review your returns policy and see what changes can be easily implemented to give your business a bump in sales.  Give your team at Leverage Marketing a call when you make changes to your businesses return policy – the change in policy could provide a great boost to your website’s online sales.

Is Your Pay Per Click Account Holiday-Ready?

{Editor’s Note: This is one of a set of articles on ways to approach and prepare for the traditional Holiday Shopping season. I’ve dubbed these articles as “The Marketer’s Perspective” and “The Analyst’s Perspective.” A smart online marketer will use both of these approaches. Here’s the Analyst’s Perspective — Michelle}

As the weather cools down, leaves change color and football takes over the television it is clear that Fall is here.This can only mean one thing to any Online storefront….the Holidays are near!!!Over the years I have experienced the Highs and Lows of proper planning for what can be the busiest time of year for any online business in retail.Are you Prepared?Will you see December come before you realize the missed opportunity?Not if you follow the 3 steps that have helped me to prepare my clients for the Holidays:

1.Know Your Trends

The biggest mistake that any business owner can make is not knowing the online trends for search volume.Tools such as Google Trends:http://www.google.com/trends can help you to prepare for the significant increase in traffic that comes with the Holidays.Knowing when the traffic picks up will allow you to make the following adjustments to your accounts:

  • Adjust Budget so that you don’t lose out on impression share
  • Keep an eye on the competition’s strategy for possible marketing advantages
  • Knowing which regions/cities to target for regional targeting strategy

Let’s use the term “video game” as our example for the holidays.Here is the results that I get when I use that term:

The immediate trends that you can see circled above are definite increase in traffic volume which starts in October for this term in the US.This traffic hits its peak throughout November and starts to fizzle out during December.If you wait until December to run more ad budget, you will have missed the boat. The top cities and states that search for this term are below which may help allow for a regional targeting test to focus on areas which have a bulk of traffic for testing. This would be especially helpful if you are working with a limited budget during the Holidays and want to maximize impression share.Now that we know the trend of our term, lets move on to the next step, preparing our account.

 

2.Prepare the Account

Now that we see our trending, we need to prepare the account for what’s to come.The first area that I would get started with is a Competitive Analysis to see if your competition is offering anything like FREE SHIPPING, SALES, MONEY BACK GUARANTEES which all may provide them with an advantage.Also look at their ad text and landing pages to see if they using any of these benefits to draw the visitor’s attention.

Once you have the Competitive Research done, look to prepare your Content and Search Campaigns. Start with the Content Network Campaign that targets people that are in the “researching” phase of their shopping. Remember to always “think out of the box” and not target keywords, but themes for the Content Network.Think about the type of traffic that would be interested in video games and where they would be likely to visit on the internet.I would recommend testing out the products with the term “review” as well as use the site/placement tool to find where your target, “parents” would be researching games that their kids are asking for.Early in the buying cycle is the “researching” phase where the Content Network can provide branding for your site, so use it to its full advantage and make it work with your Search Network.To prepare the Search Network, always review the following:

  • Keyword Refinement: Always look to see if keywords have changed to add new Negatives or Longtailed terms
  • Refine Ad Copy: Make your ads stand out based off what you found in the competitive analysis {this does not mean copy other people’s ads – make yours stand out — Michelle}
  • Landing Pages: Update landing pages with any sales or offerings that you are adding for the Holiday Season
  • Have Analytics implemented to collect the Interaction Metrics on your traffic

I would always recommend starting the Holiday rush with a big net and once you collect initial data, you are on to the next step… weeding out the unqualified traffic.

 

3.Weed Out the Unqualified Traffic

The holiday rush has started and you have the first7-10 days of data to review, it is now time to adjust quickly to the data.The first step is to run the following reports:

  • Ad/Keyword Reports
  • Placement Reports

Starting with the ad report, we are going to look to see which of our ad tests is performing best and run it with a new test based off the results.We don’t want to have an ad that is converting lower to be in rotation longer than necessary during the busiest time of year.Once you have made the adjustments to the ad text, look over you keywords to see which ones are performing well and which aren’t.Once you have that information, simply adjust by taking those that aren’t performing out of the mix and getting those that are performing more exposure.The placement report will show you all the sites that the are leading to conversions and those that are just costing you precious budget.The adjustments to this is quite simple as well; take out anything that isn’t performing and give the sites that are performing more exposure by creating an Enhanced Placement Targeted Campaign that focuses your spend on the sites that are converting well for the account.

The three steps above are just the ground work for being successful during the holiday season.Once the rush comes, the biggest factor will be the ability to adjust quickly to what is and isn’t working on your account using the tools available.

Christmas Time PPC for B2C

{Editor’s Note: This is one of a set of articles on ways to approach and prepare for the traditional Holiday Shopping season. I’ve dubbed these articles as “The Marketer’s Perspective” and “The Analyst’s Perspective.” A smart online marketer will use both of these approaches. Here’s the Marketer’s Perspective — Michelle}

In taking care of my nephew a few years ago I remember watching the movie, “The Lion King” and had one of my first Epiphanies in relation to PPC. The song “Be Prepared” is narrated by the evil Scar as a mantra for that which is to come. As non-intellectualized as this silly diddy may sound, it is the exact “Mantra” that should be used for PPC in relation to the Christmas Holiday Season as well as the other seasonal shopping cycles through out the year.

Christmas for most B2C retailers is by far their busiest time of year. Consumer impulse spending behavior, while it may slightly vary year to year, is generally highest for the Christmas Holidays. Because of this, intelligently designed PPC Strategies should take full advantage of the “shortened buying cycle” for consumers during this time. Not only is the buying cycle significantly shortened, but there is also a dramatic increase in online sales. In fact Christmas is the time that even “Grandma Janice,” who still doesn’t even understand what this whole “World Wide Web” thing is, will make online purchases for her grandkids! With this in mind, here are some suggestions for implementing seasonal PPC strategies:

1. Create your online campaigns early!

In measuring the effectiveness of PPC campaigns you need to be able to test, test, and re-test. Start formulating your Christmas Campaigns in September (seriously!) so that you have time to test out a couple of variables and hit them hard by mid-November. As the old saying goes, “The Early Bird Gets the Worm.” The same is true for PPC. Don’t let your competitors get a jump on you for the holiday season. Find out what works before they do so that you can capitalize and see the best ROAS!

2. Try out the Content Network

Many retailers, for whatever reason, run as fast as they can away from the Content Network. Sometimes this is due to poor experiences in ROAS and sometimes it’s just due to inexperience with the network itself. Realize that during Christmas EVERYONE is looking to buy something! This means that there will be a lot of shopper traffic that could be HUGELY beneficial to you. If you are wary of testing out the entire network, start with a very limited budget, find out which sites convert versus which ones do not, and go from there. Placement Targeted Campaigns can also show great results during this season as well.

3. Launch Image Ad Campaigns EARLY

Image ad campaigns are campaigns geared towards the Content Network in which you actually upload an image that will appear as an advertisement. Quite a bit of the time these are used for branding purposes. While I feel very strongly that PPC should not be used for branding itself, getting your name out there for the holiday season is EXTREMELY important. In fact investing a little in September, October on banner ads to get yourself recognized in your industry could definitely pay dividends at Christmas Time. You MUST be patient with this though. More than likely you are not going to see the return on your original investment until the Christmas season comes along. This strategy will not necessarliy work for everyone so really examine what type of market share and brand recognition your product enjoys currently.

4. Test New Strategies Early

Ever tested out dynamic text insertion? Try it out with a product list. Regional targeting? Try it out on a new campaign. Actually trying a few strategies you normally do not use could be VERY beneficial for you. The important aspect of this would be to test them early (once again) but give your test enough time to see statistically relevant data. You shouldn’t arbitrarily run a test for 48 hours and decide that you have relevant data. Realistic results can take weeks to realize depending on the share of the search volume you can gain during your test. Also, note that if you see a SLIGHT increase in conversion rate in October it could mean 500X in December

In conclusion, don’t let this holiday season sneak up on you. Get ready now by testing new strategies and get your Holiday Retail in order. Better yet, pull your statistical data from the last 5 years if you have it available.

At Risk of Being Redundant; Google On Duplicate Content

Part of the job for the PPC or SEO analyst, consists of debunking… a large part of our job revolves around explaining rumors and misreads. For years, we’ve had to explain a particular twist of semantics that somehow has convinced people that if you have duplicate content on a web site, Google takes out a pen and puts a black mark by your name.

No, Virginia, there is no duplicate content penalty – at least not the way people think.

When faced with multiple pages that look too much alike, Google has to decide what’s what – why it’s seeing double, or whether there’s any malicious intent with what it’s finding. For the most part, the average website doesn’t practice malicious copying, nor do they usually scrape content from other sites. What happens is they end up with catalogs and parts listings that contain 80% plus duplicate wording, or end up with 16 different possible ways to land on the “same page” because there are that many different search options in their web catalog that will land you on the same exact item. This can cause confusion.

Google’s basic, and hopefully final, word on the subject is simple – when we find a bunch of pages that look really similar, we group them into a “cluster,” then we pick a single URL to represent all pages in that cluster. But then they do something else that the average webmaster probably never even notices.

“We then consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.”

Notice the absence of any pens, or black marks, or slaps, or shackles or any other form of “punishment.” They just group all “duplicated” pages and consolidate the info under one indexed URL. For the average e-commerce site, this is not a problem.

But let’s say you are one of these folks who has 854,000 items in a dynamic, database-driven catalog and all items are shown on a “shell” page that gets populated by the shopper’s query when they’re looking for their item, but because of the way your catalog is built, the ONLY thing that changes on the pages is the image file name, the price, the part number, and the name of the item. Sounds like you probably have 845,000 duplicate pages that will not be indexed individually. If you’re looking for some massive number of “pages indexed” (for whatever reason), you are quite liable to be disappointed. Until there is enough variance between items, like a longer description, or some individualized stats which also populate those pages, you stand very little chance of seeing more pages indexed – you are more than likely seeing fewer pages indexed as Google compiles it’s clusters.

In fact, catalogs that work this way violate Google’s best practices as outlined in their Webmaster Guidelines. Google doesn’t publish all this info for fun – they are trying to help us help ourselves. They say very plainly:

“Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

If you feel like your site is suffering from this “clustering” of pages that seem to be duplicated, work with your webmaster to rectify the situation and then use Google’s Webmaster Central tools to request a re-evaluation of your domain.

If you just have 16 different search options that all lead back to the same item, don’t worry about it – one of those URLs will be indexed, and that’s all you need. You’ll want to monitor your SERPs so you can see which pages make the cut so you know how Google “sees you, and keep your site map up to date, but other than that, most of us have very little to fear from the Duplicate Content Penalty…

The Importance of Fully Integrated Analytics and Google Conversion Code

 

The longer I manage PPC accounts the more I fully realize the importance of Google Analytics. It is of the utmost importance in truly finding the ROI and ROAS that one is looking. This is true regardless if the site is E-Commerce or Lead-Gen. Many of my clients have the base Google Analytics Code installed for the site. While this is helpful in viewing traffic patterns and entry/exit points, having the Analytics fully integrated allows us to ACTUALLY find real ROAS for each of our clients. Let me use the following example to explain what I mean.

Client X came aboard as an e-commerce site selling Vet Supplies all over the world.  They had no Conversion Code, no Analytics, and no other real way to track conversions. When they came on we convinced our client to install Google Conversion Code, as they were not tracking individual conversion types thru the Adwords Account, simply sales overall. This is a but much more common fallacy than many people realize. Once the conversion code was place it became clear that the client was spending a quite a bit of money without seeing the result that he was looking for. In fact his ROAS was definitely in the negative.

Correct use of conversion code not only counted total conversions, but also separated conversion types and recorded transaction numbers. The “Transaction Count” in Google Analytics actually is a measure of how many specific conversion types occur over a month. The nice thing about “Transaction Count” versus “Conversion Count” is TC will actually measure multiple conversions for a single user. Case in point, Client X had a “E-commerce” variable as well as an “Email Sign Up.” The “Transaction Count” will consider each of these values separately, if both are applied. Google would normally only measure these 2 actions as 1 conversion. In fully integrating the Google Conversion Code to it’s highest potential we can also give each “Conversion Type” a numerical dollar value, which we did in this scenario. For our client we knew that every 15 “Email Conversions” tended to equal 1 sale. Thus we assigned a dollar amount value to each conversion. We also assigned a dollar amount value to a normal sale.

Google Adwords will also now allow you to assign several different conversion variables as well as several conversion variable dollar amounts. This is all essential information in determining the return on your ad dollar. That being said, Google Analytics lets us to go a step further. Getting the Analytics Code fully implemented will allow us to put a numerical dollar value for each sale online. In essence, if we are selling dental products we will know how much revenue we make if we sell a Mechanical Tooth Brush as well as a Tooth Pick. For Client X this information was of utmost importance, since he was selling items that ranged from $1.25 to well over $800.00.

Getting Google Analytics Integrated fully will also allow us to see information about bounce rates, not only of your regular pages but also on the Cart. We are able see how many people do not want to pay for the “Shipping Fee” as well as how many people are not able to pay with specific payment types. For Client X we were able to see that his “shipping fee” page was the cause of88% of his exits from his cart. Once we found this out we actually lowered the shipping cost and found an almost immediate up-swing in conversions.

There really are many other reasons to implement Google Adwords Conversion Code as well as the Analytics Code fully on your website if you are using PPC. Many of these will be highlighted in the future via very specific blogs concerning each issue in depth. That being said, the predominant reason to implement both is because it is the best way available to really track and increase the return on your investment without using 3rd party subscription-based platforms or tools. Analytics paired with Adwords Conversion Code are more robust together than a lot of software out there. The difference is that it is free! It is not possible to figure the exact increase in return that Client X found by getting all of the code in place, simply because they were not tracking sales effectively before the code was implemented. A rather conservative estimate was that he increased overall ROAS by 60%! Knowing this, do you think that you can afford not to get the code in place? We would venture to say no.

Below are some helpful links for people to teach them how to get the code in place, as well as how to define e-commerce variables. Many people think it’s a lot more complicated than it really is.

https://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55528&hl=en_US
This link will help you learn how to implement code to track e-commerce transactions.

https://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55532
While this link will teach you how to install code on your cart so you can see traffic patterns

Why Does Your Coding Platform Matter?

Because our team consists of a mixture of marketers, analysts and programmers, we debate almost daily about the merits and drawbacks of one type of web platform over another and whether or not really good PPC or off-page SEO can make up for poor development and design. Then we ran across this case-study:

… I have been recently working with a search marketer in the travel industry who has been trying to expand the focus of their site from one particular destination to a global travel portal. The regional site does well, generating between 60-100 clicks per day at an average CPC of only $.12 and a margin of about 30%.

This particular marketer realized if he could duplicate the same success on a global scale, he stands to generate huge revenues (and profits). His company created a brand-new design focused on a global market. Realizing that this could quickly become an enterprise app, they chose to rearchitect the site using .NET technologies and AJAX.

The new site is amazingly informative and far more usable than the old PHP site they were running on. Test users agreed that it was a big improvement over the old site.

However, Google didn’t.

We’d be really kidding ourselves if we said “so what” at this point… the fact with regard to any search engine marketing is if Google ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Time and again, we’re presented with web designs or redesigns that developers claim are “designed for maximum conversions” yet all the text that pertains to their search terms is totally invisible to a spider unless you actively click on a page element – spiders do not click anything. At least in this case, they took advantage of the redesign opportunity to test their product.

The company ran three test campaigns, including an exact duplicate of their previous PPC campaign. The average CPC rose to $.30 and traffic declined to less than 10 clicks per day (across three cities, not just one). The new site is a complete bust. Regardless of the fact that it provides a great user experience, it doesn’t comply with Google’s ideas of what makes a great site, and so it doesn’t get the traffic.

The gory details are even better… what many people seem to totally forget is that you have one shot with a bot. Either a spider can crawl your site or it can’t – it can’t enable Javascript and try it again. It can’t crank down the security and try again. It won’t wait patiently for all your code to load up – if it takes too long and moves on, you’ve missed your opportunity. Here’s a look at the initial damages that the new design racked up simply by trying to migrate to a more technically advanced platform:

  • The average page size increased from 47k to 375k, an eight-fold increase.
  • There is now a massive reliance on javascript to render the page correctly. Googlebots do not process javascript, so to test the effect of this on page rendering, we turned off javascript and rendered both the old and new sites. The old site rendered correctly, but some of the advanced search functionality no longer worked. This would obviously present no problem for a Googlebot. Not so for the new site … it no longer rendered most of the text. The area and hotel descriptions were still in the page source, but could not be viewed in the browser. This probably appears to a Googlebot to look like cloaking, a very bad SEO practice.
  • Because of the use of .NET, the new pages now contain nearly 85k of hidden binary code. This not only slows the page rendering down, but also dilutes the ratio of spider food the Googlebots are finding.

The latest and greatest in web technology isn’t always the best choice, especially if you rely on search engines for your traffic. At the end of the day, the job of any search engine is to provide relevant, useful results to searchers. Anything you do to your web site that makes it “harder” to use for the bots, will adversely affect your SEO and PPC efforts.

Page 6 of 6«...23456