e-Commerce web design is a lot more than just putting your company brochure on the net or adding an internet shopping cart to your existing product catalog. There are some fundamental differences between doing business online and doing business the traditional way. Before you design your business website, you must know what specific goals you desire to achieve with your business website, determine how best to meet your goals based on your budget, and then determine what software and services you will use to design your e-commerce website.
Marketing and Selling through a Website
Website Business Objectives
Among the ways your website can support your marketing effort include:
- Generating Leads. Pre-sell your business services and products to generate telephone, e-mail, or online form leads from customers.
- Generating Sales Quotes. Solicit or generate automated quotes that in turn generate a customer sale or lead.
- Providing a Store Front. Host an online catalog that fully automates the customer purchase and communications process.
Web Site Performance Objectives
An effective web site:
- Downloads quickly and performs smoothly
- Is updated frequently
- Has a clear and consistent navigation system
- Has a catalog that sells and is attractive
- Provides for a simple and secure system of purchasing, shows all costs related to the order, and gives an opportunity to confirm the order before entering
- Clearly advises the customer on product warranties and policy on returns
- Delivers what it promises
- Makes company information easy to find (location, phone and fax numbers)
- Has viewer interaction (viewer can send e-mail, fill out forms, etc.)
eCommerce Web Site Design Fundamentals
A web site can improve on the process of selling through a traditional “bricks and mortar” store. To do this, your eCommerce site design must address these issues:
Your web site design must be customer friendly; that is, it must present a professional image, offer customer convenience, have good sales copy, and it must be easy for the customer to make the desired response (obtain information, choose items, purchase).
The site must also be search engine friendly; that is, it must do well in the search engines that can generate much of your traffic. This is accomplished by a process known as search engine optimization (SEO).
Web Site Automation Tools
An automated web site includes tools such as shopping carts and payment processors. Management and marketing of such a site may include content management systems, traffic analyzers, and advertising management tools. Some of these tools are cheap, and some are expensive. If these are outside your expertise you may wish to entrust this aspect of your site to a specialist.
Web Site Development Options
eCommerce web site design options can range from doing it yourself with web design software, or outsourcing the entire web site development to a web design company. For a business, a free site with a free web site builder is generally not the answer; resultant sites do not appear professional and are seldom customer friendly.
References on eCommerce
There are only three fundamental ways to draw clients:
- DIRECT - Type URL into browser
- REFERRING AND OTHER SITES – By selecting a live web link
- SEARCH ENGINE – Use of any search engine
ALL marketing techniques derive from these!
Type the link into the browser after seeing it in:
Off-line media including: brochures, magazines, newspapers, business cards, advertisements, presentations
2. Referring and Other Sites
Select a live link after having seen it on-line, but not as a result of a search
Example – selecting live links in Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, links on other web pages, etc.
Google Analytics now classifies Twitter and RSS Feeds as “OTHER” and not Referring.
3. Search Engine
Search on some related topic:
Select an Organic Search link or select a Pay-per-Click [PPC] link.
Modifying your web pages to improve the Organic Search result is commonly called “search engine optimization” or SEO.
An organic result is one that is chosen by the search engine. PPC is a paid ad.
See following figure for a graphic to demonstrate the choices, and an additional graphic to show the components of a PPC ad. The last page is a table of the advantages and disadvantages of the various options.
Way 3- Search Engine - Organic Search and PPC
Way 3 - Search Engine - PPC Components
Summary of 3 Ways: Advantages and Disadvantages:
|How Effective||Technology Required||When get results||% Effective||Done By||Cost $0 - $5,000|
|Direct||1.1 - Off-Line Marketing||Low - medium||Low||2 - 6 weeks||10%||Owner 100%||Low - medium|
|Referring sites||2.1 - Referring Sites||Low - medium||Medium||2 - 6 weeks||10%||Owner 100%||Low|
|3.1 - PPC||Medium - high||Medium||Immediate||10%||Owner - with training||Low|
|3.2 - Organic Search - SEO||High||Very High||3 - 6 months||70%||Professional
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) provides a means to reach target audiences through improved web site positioning in search engines. The following tips are some basic best practices to consider in optimizing your site for improved search engine performance.
Identifying Target Search Terms
The first step is to identify the search terms (generally referred to as keywords) for which you want your site pages to be found in search engines – i.e., words that a prospective visitor might type into a search engine to find relevant web sites. Target terms should be at least two words in length and relevant to the content of your site pages. Your intuition and team brainstorming are good places to start with key term selection.
However, there are tools designed to assist you in validating your choices and researching search term possibilities you may have never even considered. An example of such a tool is WordStream (www.wordstream.com). WordStream assists in strategically selecting terms that are popular enough to bring you visibility with target audiences, yet not so general that a prominent ranking will be difficult.
Once you have selected the search terms you want to target, the next step is to integrate the terms into your site pages to make them relevant. Of course, it’s no use having a good search engine ranking for terms for which no one is looking.
Inserting Target Terms throughout Page Copy
While there are a number of variables search engines use to produce the results they deliver, the visible text content of your pages is a primary factor that search engines utilize to find, index and deliver your pages to prospective site visitors.
Once you have identified the terms you want to target, you’ll need to incorporate them into your site pages so that a search engine can identify the page as being relevant for the search terms you are targeting and produce it among the results it displays.
Make sure that your target search term appears at least once in your introductory paragraph and page header so that search engines—and visitors—can immediately recognize the term in the content above all your other page copy and give context to the content of your page.
An excellent resource for SEO copywriting is offered by Jill Whalen of HighRankings.com
Keyword Density: How Much is too Much?
Opinions vary on how many times you need to repeat your key terms to get results, but in general, you want to have your key terms appear anywhere between 2-10 times per every 100 words of text – this ratio is known as “keyword density.” A useful tool to measure your keyword density on a given page for a given term is SEOBook http://tools.seobook.com/general/keyword-density/
Linking Structure and Strategy
One tool that you can use to “see what the search engines see” is to use a search engine simulator, such as SEOBOOK Spider Test (http://tools.seobook.com/general/spider-test/). This information is useful in “tuning up” your site to improve the text that the search engine sees.
One of the primary ways that search engines find site pages is by following the links from your home page to other inside pages. One of the best methods to accomplish this is by providing a road map for search engines to follow and index site pages. This is called a Site Map, and contains simple text links to all of the pages on your site.
Link Popularity: The Importance of Inbound Links
Another way that search engines find your site pages is by following links to your site from other external sites. Having such links to your site not only provides search engines with additional opportunity to find your pages, but also provides increased visibility for your site by putting it in front of visitors on another site.
This is known as “link popularity”. One way to think about link popularity is that each external link to your site counts as a “vote” for your site.
Because search engines also know how to count the link popularity of the sites linking to yours, a single link from a popular site will weigh more heavily than many links from obscure and/or unpopular sites. When it comes to getting links, quality over quantity is what matters.
If you want to research pages that currently link to your site, go to google.com and type in your URL proceeded by “link:” (without the quotes – e.g. link:www.your-url.com) the results will give you a list of all pages listed within Google that link to your site.
Before you begin optimizing your pages, note the rank of the pages you are optimizing for your target terms. By far the most important search engine is Google, and you can find out your Google page rank by adding the page rank button to the Google toolbar. For instructions see https://support.google.com/toolbar/answer/79837?hl=en&ctx=options&ver=T7.5&tbbrand. If you know the rank of a given page before you begin SEO, you can then use that rank as a baseline to compare against your post-SEO rankings once Google has re-indexed your pages.
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