User Experience Optimization: E-Commerce SEO for the Holidays

ecommerce-holiday-marketing Ah September! Time for football, sweaters, and apple picking. But if you’re an online retailer, you’re thinking it’s crunch time! You know you’ve got to act now if you want to create and implement an effective holiday SEO strategy that increases your online sales this season! In Part 2 of this holiday SEO series, I will give you tips for improving the user experience of your website to boost sales.

Holiday SEO Tip #2:  Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes


Once you’ve identified the products you want to focus on selling this season, it’s time to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You need to ensure that when consumers arrive at your website, they can quickly find exactly what they are looking for and easily purchase it.

Sure, you know where specific products are on your site, but how easy is it for consumers to find them? Or for someone who’s never been on your site before?  Would a first-time visitor have an easier time finding and buying an item elsewhere?  If the answer is “yes,” you’ve got some work to do to improve the user experience on your site!

Capitalizing On an Unlikely Source of Data

In order to improve the user experience on your website for this holiday season, you’ve got to identify its weaknesses and opportunities. Naturally, your analytics can tell you a lot. In fact, indicators such as bounce rate will pinpoint some problem areas. However, there’s another highly valuable – though unlikely — source of information you should tap into to discover opportunities and improve the user experience: it’s your competition!


What Your Competitors Can Teach You

Carefully examining your competitors’ efforts can provide you with great insights that you can use to boost the effectiveness of your own site. For starters, it can teach you about your competitive set. Even if you think you know who your competitors are, perform a few searches for your products and gift sets on the major search engines. The exercise might help you discover new online competitors you weren’t aware of!  Be sure to use branded terms like, “ProfessionalCare Smart Series 5000 gift set” as well as unbranded terms like, “electric toothbrush gift set” - and see what competitor websites show up in the results.

Scouting the competition can also provide you with clues on how they are achieving their results. Be sure to take note — and screen shots — of the meta titles and descriptions used by competitors’ websites that appear on the first page of the search results.  Are there any common themes you can identify?  What about the URLs?  How does the meta data and URL structure of your product pages compare to the ones you are finding in the top results?

Your research efforts will also help you understand where your competitors are showing up. Given that, be sure to search for your products from smart phones and tablets. You might be surprised by the results as different competitors may appear, or you’ll find that some of your competitors have mobile sites.  Also, be sure to examine what your website looks like from a mobile device, and how easy it is to use on one as online holiday sales made from smartphones and tablets are rapidly increasing. In fact, according to Marin Software, there was a 181 percent increase in searches performed on mobile devices for Q4 2010 online sales vs. Q4 2011.


Competitive Research Tips to Improve User Experience and Boost Holiday Sales

When you do your competitive research, keep the below tips in mind:

1.  How many clicks does it take to arrive on the holiday product pages from the home page?

To increase the likelihood of visitors finding your special holiday offers, try to feature them prominently on your home page with an impressive photo and engaging text or special offer.

2.  How easy is it to locate holiday product pages using the site’s menus and navigation?

Generally, pages should be no more than 3-5 directories (or 3-5 clicks) deep from the root of the site (the home page), and directories should be used to organize content into a hierarchy.

For example:

The organization of the file directories within the URL tells visitors and search engines that the “ProCare Smart Series 5000” is an electric toothbrush product.

Whereas this next example lacks context:

3.  Is the search bar located in a prominent spot on the site, such as in the header or sidebar? 

  1. Try entering a few variations of product names or descriptions into the website search box.
  2. Do the products you’re looking for show up in the site search results?
  3. If not, what does the results page show? (Suggested other items? A simplified menu of options? Nothing?)

If you have a site search box, it’s important to make sure it’s functioning properly and showing your holiday gift items when visitors enter keywords related to the items into your site search.  If shoppers can’t find the item they seek on your website, they will bounce and find it somewhere else.

4.  Can the visitor make a purchase directly on the website? 

•   Is the website secure? •   Is there a clear return policy posted somewhere on the site? •   Is there contact information for visitors to get help with their purchase?

Visitors will be more likely to purchase from your site if they see that the site is secure, and that you are a legitimate business they can trust.  Online shoppers also like other symbols of trust, such as a Better Business Bureau seal.

Adding a phone number to your website headers will also help you build trust, and optimize your site for smart phone visitors.  Text-based phone numbers (not image files) automatically turn into hyperlinks that smart phone users can click-on to call you if they are having trouble navigating your site from their smaller screen.

5.  At what point in the sales funnel are customers required to enter their email address?

•   Begin to make a purchase, but abandon your cart before completion. •   Does the company follow up with an email if you abandon your shopping cart? •   If so, how long after you leave the site do you receive the email? •   Do you get more than one email, and do any of them include a discount offer?

Capturing a visitor’s email address early in the purchasing process and promptly following up with an automated email will increase your chances of connecting with a potential customer and saving the sale.  In fact, according to SeeWhy research, which analyzed data from over 60,000 abandoned shopping carts, 54% of all carts that were successfully recovered were recovered within the first few hours after abandonment.  Within 48 hours another 10% were recovered, and within one week, almost 82% of abandoned carts were recovered using automated emails.

That’s a HUGE opportunity for more sales worth exploring.  The use of email campaigns to attempt to recover abandoned shopping carts should be popular this holiday season.

Holiday SEO Homework:

Holiday SEO Blog Series - Read Pt. 1

Your homework for this phase is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Visit Google and Bing and type in the keyphrases you created during your first homework assignment in Part 1.  Browse the top results for these keyphrases and take note of what you find.

Compare these sites to your own. Using my tips in this blog post as a guide, talk to your web developer about implementing the changes you feel will improve the likelihood of converting visitors into customers this holiday season.

Stay Tuned…What’s Up Next

In upcoming posts for this holiday SEO series, I’ll give you tips for product page optimization, holiday linking strategies, and more! Be sure to watch for Part 3, along with the handy Ecommerce SEO Checklist for the holidays at the end of this blog series, and get started on your holiday SEO strategy ASAP!

Did you learn any great SEO tactics from an online competitor that you plan to act on before this holiday sales season starts to get busy?   Share your holiday SEO tips, stories, or questions in the comments below!


This content originally appeared on the blog. This was the second post of a six part blog series I wrote for the company about eCommerce SEO for the Holidays.