Improve your website rankings and your online image by fixing these common SEO mistakes.
Improve your website rankings and your online image by fixing these common SEO mistakes.
Imagine what you could do with $10,000 USD of in-kind advertising every month from AdWords, an online advertising solution from Google
That’s what Google says on their Google Grant for non-profits page. They suggest that you could hire more volunteers, attract more donations and share your cause with the world.
There are no doubts about how having a website can help non-profits organizations with their communications. Spreading the word, reaching potential partners and telling the story of those who are in need of help, whether it’s at home or abroad.
Over the course of the years, we’ve worked with several non-profits, all of which had a website and several communication channels like Social media — generally, twitter and Facebook, often Instagram. Very often these websites are informative, and even when they are well made, they could be improved in terms of SEO, online marketing, dashboards and automatization of processes. But this is where the cost explodes. Hiring an SEO team, developers to build complex applications to run events or manage volunteers, integrate with CRM, report data, advertise, adds up to amounts that are hard to allocate.
One of the ways to deal with these essential tools is to plan different development phases. The problem? Search Engine Marketing such as Adwords is generally at the last step.
Not with Google Grant for Nonprofits.
In 2014 TechSoup and Google brought the program to Canada. Thanks to them, now Canadian registered charities, Canadian federal nonprofits, and Canadian provincial nonprofits can apply to get a $10,000 Adwords grant to spend every month, plus free tools and premium features for Youtube.
Above all the excitement, this program has many advantages:
Remember that the Grant doesn’t allow you to do exactly what you want in your Adwords account, there are some limitations. (source Google)
On top of the Adwords grant, here is what you can get:
Google specifies that all the grantees must meet certain criteria to qualify and keep that qualification active. See if you’re eligible by visiting Google eligibility page.
Once you know, you’ll need a TechSoup account. TechSoup is a program from the Centre for Social Innovation, a non-profit coworking space dedicated to helping people who change the world.
Here is how to register to TechSoup. Note that it generally takes around 7 to 10 days to be registered.
When you’re done, it’s time to apply to Google Grant.
First, you’ll need to create or login to your Google account.
Then you need to certify that:
Once that’s done, enter your TechSoup token:
Once you’re done, select your organization and complete your profile to finish your application.
You’ve been approved, congrats! You now have to choose the right Ad Program. If you want to control all the aspect of the SEM campaign, choose AdWords. If not, pick AdWords Express.
Set up your account, start working on your campaigns and submit your account for review.
In case you need to learn how to use Google AdWords, here is what you need to know about online marketing:
Due to the nature of the Adwords account, you might have to set up things slightly differently.
In the last 10 years, I’ve heard many stories about the future of SEO. Now it is time to ask ourselves, isn’t it simply, honesty?
Some awesome teams like MOZ and Searchengineland try hard not to sacrifice content over sensationalism, and that’s what make them stay around. And somehow, these teams strategy is like SEO itself, focusing on relevancy, greatly organized content, education, and transparency.
I have a tendency to generally stay away from sensationalism. My greatest challenge these days is to filter my Twitter feed to remove all the “5 things you didn’t know about” and “what you’re about to read will change the way you see […] forever”.
I’ve always believed in honesty over tricks, long term over short term profits, and in a world where everyone has been put in competition with anyone, and even with themselves, it’s been pretty tough to stick with my principles.
The beautiful part of SEO nowadays: Honesty has become the best strategy.
Not because an ethical battle has been won, but simply because the search algorithm has evolved this way.
The Nostradamus part in all of us has a tendency to try and predict the future. After all, isn’t it what I’m doing with this article? But like with any predictions, it’s important to not blindly follow them. Here are predictions I heard in the last 10 years that were supposed to happen “next year”:
It’s important to understand that I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with these predictions, but none of them really happened the way they said they would. It’s never black and white, and predicitons should show tendencies, no more.
This one likes to stick around. Every Halloween the fear for the living dead SEO specialists is back.
Apart from being the same old clickbait, this prediction seems to have some believers. Every year some people predicted the death of SEO. What they should have said really was that a way of doing SEO was not recommended anymore.
You can read this great article about the many deaths of SEO over history.
But the truth is as long as there are Search Engines there will be SEO. Because the Search Engines are algorithms, we can optimize our websites to get better rankings, explore opportunities, make our brand look better, help users find our content…
Search Engines are not much different nowadays. They simply have fewer flaws.
Google has always tried to satisfy users, and the only way for the giant search engine to do so is to offer the best results. Think about it; millions of links for each query and Google has to pick 3 of them… not only to please the whole world but also to please you, personally.
What better way of doing that than by controlling how websites are optimized?
That’s what Google decided in 2009 when they shared their SEO recommendations with web developers. They gave up the key to their algorithm, with the risk of helping spammers and black hat SEO. But what happened is really the opposite, they helped website owners getting ranked for what they are worth.
It took years to become mainstream, but it looks like now it quite is. Education has paid off.
In SEO, the term old-school generally has a negative connotation. It brings back the time where cheap tricks had an impact on search results. People were not even known as SEO specialist, but more as that nerd guy that can help your website rank first for $10,000.
Some of their techniques were considered very bad (like writing keywords in the same color as the background), and some were considered fine, like paying to get a thousand backlinks.
You can read the awesome White Friday about the old school SEO practices that don’t work anymore by Rand to understand why these practices don’t work anymore.
In case you don’t have time to read his article now, here is what I retained:
The list goes on and shows what most SEOs used to do, not only black or gray hat SEO.
What it tells us is that we’re heading in a certain direction, and it’s pretty clear:
Honesty will lead you much further than any SEO technique you could think of.
Why do you need the services of a Community manager, you know Social Media right? Why do you need a copywriter? You can write your own story… You can hire an SEO expert to worry about everything Search Engines related so you can have more time to worry about your business. Plus there are
still finally so many things an SEO can help you with:
In a more poetic way:
An SEO expert can help your website finds its place in the digital world.
To finish this article I want to talk to you about RankBrain, Google’s IA that helps the algorithm deliver better results. Basically, from what Google says and what we assume, it’s designed to understand what people are looking for exactly. After all, when we search for stuff, we don’t always type in the best query.
I could search for “pizza” but what I really mean is “I’m hungry, show me pizza around me”. And Google will show you a map with pizza around as well as articles like “the 10 best pizza place in Toronto”, and wait, just in case, the search engine will also show you a quick link to the pizza (dish) in case that’s what you actually meant. If you click on it, the page will adapt and show you images of pizza along with nutritional facts, and also suggest looking for burgers, or pizza dough… It knows what you need, and helps you get it faster.
You can read the awesome article from Searchengineland about Rankbrain to get more information and start freaking out at how smart Google is.
Thanks for reading!
Google Analytics has a special place in my heart because it has helped me recognize and fix my mistakes for many years. That’s why I make sure every website we launch is fully ready to collect data.
Unfortunately, not that many developers, web agencies, or website owners place Analytics set-up as their priority when launching a website. And it’s completely fair, after all, they have so many things to worry about. The only problem is, after a few months when someone on their team (SEO, CRO, Marketing, dev, business, and so on) want to check the data, they realize that all that time the website didn’t track goals, events, search… sometimes they don’t even have any Google Analytics at all.
Months of data lost.
So I thought that if we could make a simple step-by-step checklist detailed enough we could help web workers make sure that each and every website collects the data they need.
If you need more information on setting up the tracking code click here.
I hope you enjoyed that Google Analytics Checklist and that it will help you collect useful data to make your website even better!
If I missed anything don’t hesitate to contact me at Anthony(at)noblepixels.ca to let me know.
Interestingly enough, many web development companies don’t differentiate website redesign from building a new website from scratch.
Well, it is different, and for many business owners and managers, it’s one of the biggest decision they’ll make in years.
Depending on how long you’ve had your website for, it might be the right time to do a redesign.
Generally, these occur every 1 to 3 years. One year being the minimum for users and search engine not to get too confused with changing User Interface and Information Architecture. Three years being the limit for technology to still offer a valuable User Experience.
To know if it’s the right time you need to ask yourself this: “Can my website do everything I need?”
Be honest with your answers and you’ll know if you need a better solution.
If you ask a professional about whether you should keep your old system and put bandaids or get a new one, chances are you’ll get told: “It will cost you just a little bit more to get a whole new system, and it will last you much longer”.
Sometimes you could get away with a temporary solution but eventually, you’ll need a full redesign.
In fact getting a new system allows you to:
The best way to know is to ask a competent web development studio for advice.
Every system has its own rules, but here is the approach we commonly use.
First, list all the limitations of your current website.
You probably have already an idea of what’s wrong with your website but it’s always good to get external opinions as well.
The best way is to ask your clients for feedback since they are the users you care about. Try to offer them sales or perks to get more feedback.
You can also use anonymous opinions from online services like five seconds tests where users have five seconds to look at a design before they answer your questions.
Finally, ask your web development company to tell you what could be improved.
And remember to take every opinion with a grain of salt because ultimately, it’s your website.
Second, keep what works well!
The greatest fear of most website owners is to lose something during a website redesign. And it’s a fair concern. Does the web designer know about that little thing that your users love? Does the project manager know your conversion rate? do they understand your story? So many things to save from the redesign.
While you ask for feedback, make sure you also collect information about what makes your site successful, and what your visitors like particularly.
Visitors feedback + Years of Analytics = good planning
Don’t forget about your Analytics. You probably have them on your current website and there is probably someone within your web team dying to use them (I’m that guy).
If the Analytics expert is professional enough, they’ll extract valuable data from your Google Analytics account. For example what pages are visited the most compared against the time of the year, the traffic source, the device used, the demographic, etc…
They can also tell how your CTAs are doing, how your conversion funnels can be improved, and whether or not a landing page is doing well. If you have more analytics, like let’s say, rankings and social media, it’s even better.
First step, get a kick-ass UX and an awesome Information Architecture!
Once you’re done with the list of what you want to keep and what to get rid off, your web team will start working on two fronts:
Information Architecture: The idea is to design a map of your new website. Ideally, it should not be too different from the old one, just improved. If a popular page use to take three clicks to reach, make it accessible from the nav directly, and maybe even the homepage.
Keep what works, remove what’s useless, and simplify the access to popular items and users will thank you.
UX design: Now is time for your web team to show their web design skills. We personally love UX, and we know how important it is. Years ago, webmasters use to think “do I need to put a button here? No, it’s Ok, the visitor can scroll down to the other one”. This time is over.
Study your competition to see what they do and grab some ideas from them. Then talk to your web designer to see if these are good ideas, and if they are, how to implement them.
Be original, but keep some ground rules. UX is mostly about making sure visitors can navigate and do what they have to do on your website without thinking about it. Once that goal is achieved, a nice design, something stylish or a really great tool will add some personal taste and an overall better experience.
Second step, ask your web developer to design the right technical solution.
Web Developers generally try to balance two aspects of web development. Use a technology they and their clients are comfortable with, and think long term. The first aspect is easy to figure, the second require way more thinking. Here are some challenges to address:
Once all of these challenges are addressed, it’s time to code.
Step Three, the development.
When we develop we like to involve our clients so they get the exact picture of how things are going. On the other hand, since our project are well planned and our clients trust us, there’s no need to over share updates. We focus on the goals and communicate every time we get close to a milestone.
When a client has questions, we answer them in a way they can understand, and encourage them to continue the conversation.
All this seems obvious, but so many web development company don’t offer a service like that. So make sure you get a team that cares about your project.
Before you get to celebrate, there is an important task to achieve. Launching the new website.
Tested and approved. You have access to the future website on a development server. Everything looks good. Has it been tested on all devices and browsers? Is the code clean and error-free? Is the new website optimized for Search Engines? Is Google Analytics properly tracking your CTAs and goals?
We’ve developed a complete checklist to help during launching. It covers the Search Engine aspect, the UX and the Google Analytics parts.
Take a look at our website launching checklist and make sure your website is ready to go live.
When your website is good to go, your web team will replace the old one with the new one in a quick and hopefully seamless process. Sometimes it takes a whole day or more to propagate and be ready, but in general, a few hours are enough.
Even if the difference between a full new website and a website redesign is quite significant, both should take pretty much the same amount of time.
For a website redesign, the risk of failing is even greater since there are many challenges to address, and only one chance to get it right. Your users will probably not forgive you if you replace your website with a less good one. Search Engines can penalize your new website if it doesn’t follow rules.
We recommend that every website redesign is done by a web team you trust.
Now in terms of cost, it’s similar to any investment, ask for a quote and make sure your ROI is worth it. Keep in mind that most web design companies charge between $80 and $150/hour.
In any case, make sure the website is made in-house, not outsourced to a careless company miles away. Even though outsourcing can save you some bucks, it’s not worth the risk.
During a website redesign, many pages are modified, added, or removed, it’s important to tell Search Engines what you’ve done with your content. That way, they can update the search results based on your new architecture.
Make sure your SEO team doesn’t make too many redirections since redirections only redirect 70 to 80% of the SEO juice in average. In short, if you can keep the old URLs, keep them.
You can read more about Website redesign SEO, website redesign from an entrepreneur point of view or Contact us to get a quote.
Good luck with your website redesign!
Recently I was answering a question about the limitations of hosted e-commerce platforms and though I would share it here as well.
Hosted platforms are generally great for two scenarios:
1. Start a new online business
2. Sell niche products (for example on Etsy)
For these two cases, Hosted platforms offer a (pretty much) ready to use online shop with no need of a web developer, designer, and online marketing specialist. This will save you a lot of money.
For option #2, you might never need to leave hosted e-commerce, since their rate on transactions are not too bad and you don’t have to worry about anything except selling.
For option #1, you can use them to try your business plan, meet your audience, perfect your seller skills and get your logistic going. It’s a risk-free investment since most of the time you pay close to nothing on set-up and then pay a rate on each sale.
The limitations you’ll meet are mostly in terms of customization. These platforms have a limited space for growth. You won’t be able to:
As a web developer and an SEO specialist at the same time I find myself conflicted many times between both hats. As a web developer I care about clean code and easy ways to create new content, and as an SEO guy, I’m obsessed with the way Google indexes my website, internal linking, breadcrumbs and alt texts.
When I’m wearing the SEO hat, I’m the annoying guy asking my fellow developers if they followed all the SEO rules I gave them.
And since I too am a developer, I know they’re going to lie when they answer “yes of course”.
10. Alt tags and Titles
When one codes, it’s very easy to not fill in Alt texts for images and Title texts for links. Because sometimes we simply don’t know what they are. Ideally, they should be filled by an SEO specialist or a Digital Marketing guru. But they don’t have access to the code, or limited access to these fields in a CMS. That’s why web devs should always spend a second to wonder what the image or the link is about and write it in the appropriate location.
9. Rich Snippets and Structured Data
Rich snippets and structured data, AKA schema.org and microdata were launched in 2009 by Google and then 2011 by most Search Engines to improve the quality of the web. The idea is to tell Search Engines what’s in the content. For example, if we’re talking about a blog post, we should add a bunch of blog related microdata tags to our code. Here is a pretty good introduction to snippets and structured data and here is a review microdata generator .
8. Link Anchors
Click here and read more are not the best in terms or User Experience, and they’re definitely not the best for SEO! The anchor text of links tells Google (and your visitors) what the destination page is about. So when your anchor says “click here” no one really knows what’s going to happen. Link Anchors have a real importance in SEO and you should fill them with what the page is about (like I did in the present article).
7. Missing Meta (social media, languages,etc..)
Metas are not just for jquery and CSS. they contain a lot of information for bots to understand the website. Yes, the site works without them, but it’s also true that not optimizing them is a good way to miss opportunities in terms of Social Media and Search Engine presence. What you can do if you don’t know where is to start is wonder about what bots you care about, and what do they need. Facebook? Google? they all have different recommendations.
In any case, make sure your description is focused on your keyword AND the content of the page. You might also need robots and canonical to avoid duplicate content, title for SEO, language for SEO and accessibility, etc…
6. Pagination and Pages Variations
Pagination and Variation pages are bad for SEO since they basically have the same URL and the same meta for different content. They all cannibalize the same keyword. There are mainly two ways of dealing with this problem.
First Option: Embrace the difference. Make sure every page has different names and meta, basically, make them unique.
Option Two: Tell Google it’s page two or variation three or whatever the difference is. Use <canonical> to indicate what’s the main page (the first one) and pagination markup like <rel=”prev”> and <rel=”next”>. You can also add a “nofollow” to the link pointing to the next page and a “noindex” to the actual page.
Here is a great article about Pagination and SEO.
5. Duplicate Content
It’s not always on purpose but sometimes we just copy past content from a page to another, or we create a PHP script that generates a bunch of pages using the sane variable. Well, that’s duplicate content, and it is to be avoided at all cost.
You can read our article about how to fix keyword cannibalism to help you fix all these common content issues.
4. Don’t care about URLs
There are many articles about how to construct URLs for SEO. Basically, they should be as simple as possible, and contain only words and dashes that tell users and bots what the page is about. I know URLs are convenient for passing an incredibly long list of variables and characters but if you can, please avoid it.
3. Use the wrong HTML tag
If you want something bold for design purposes, use a class, not the <strong>. Strong means it’s important. Sometimes we use HTML tags instead of classes because it’s faster. But bots and search engines use these tags to understand what matters and what doesn’t. <Strong> and <em> are actually important for SEO, the same way paragraph, section, aside, and other tags are important. Try to make sense, it will pay off.
2. Use Headings for style
Have you ever done that? Use H1 for every sub-title on a page? After all, they are titles and they have the same CSS style.
Search Engines and bots use headings to understand the hierarchy of your content. If everything that you want big is a H1, then what do you have for h2 or h3? Even rankings don’t really use these anymore, it makes a lot of sense.
1. Robots and Sitemaps
Sometimes we forget. And Google indexes everything. And then when your SEO guy comes in and does “site:yoursite.com” in Google they find out that your development folder at the root of your website is nicely indexed with all of its content. Don’t laugh, it happens. And the problem is that it will take weeks, or months to fix it.
First, make sure you have a robots.txt file that excludes everything not public. Dev folders, sources, anything not public.
Then create a sitemap (if you’re on WordPress you can install Yoast SEO and it will do it for you). Once the sitemap is created, look at it! Make sure every page in there is useful and relevant.
Hint: the “hello world” post is not.
When you’re done, send it to Google and pray.
After a few years of working in various areas of web development, SEO and web design, there is one thing I’ve heard a lot:
Even though I’m sure people love to talk about ethnology; in most cases, I was listening to classic SEO language, whether it is to make one’s look brighter, or to actually do something about it.
Keyword cannibalism happens when your website has more than 1 page targeting the same keyword. While actually not leading to any penalty, it doesn’t help your rankings. In fact, fixing it could have a great impact on your rankings since you would help Search Engines understand your site better.
Example 1: Stuffing
Your website is trying to rank for the keyword “fur coats“.
So you’ve added it to every page, in the content, and also in the meta and the name of the pages.
The consequence: Search Engines don’t know which page does what since they are all sharing the same “focused keyword”.
Example 2: Conversion and SEO conflict
You’ve been careful not to stuff your meta Titles and tried to have different content on every page.
Your website has a service page named “eco friendly fur coats“.
It also has a blog post that explain how eco-friendly the coats are. Even though the content is different, the URLs and page names are very similar “fur coats are eco-friendly“.
Consequence: Even though you were careful, search engines are still confused and don’t know which page to rank for the keyword “eco-friendly fur coats” or the keyword “fur coats eco-friendly”. After all they are both very similar and any of the two pages could be relevant.
Here are all the advantages of fixing cannibalism:
Content quality: If you keep writing about the same topic over and over again, chances are you’re gonna repeat yourself. Even if you avoid having duplicate content, your content quality will not be at its best.
SEO Juice: When you have 10 sites linking to 5 pages, that’s 2 external links each. If you have only one page, it gets 10 links. Basic maths.
SEO Weight: If you manage to merge your competing pages into one long, interesting page, not only the UX will be better, but the SEO weight of your new page will be much greater.
Conversions: Choose the page with the best Conversion rate and improve that one. No need to send visitors to low conversion rate pages.
Know your web site exact Information Architecture. Use Google Search to find out what Google knows about your website. Go to Google and search for “site:yoursite.com keyword”. You should see something like this:
Now if you think that result #2 and result #3 are actually very similar, here is what you can do:
Option 1: Merge them into one strong page. Keep the strongest (the one that ranks the best for that keyword), and add the content from the weakest page. Once you’re done don’t forget to do a redirection 301 (permanent) to tell Google that your content has moved. Here is what it looks like in a .htaccess file, in case you’re wondering:
RedirectMatch 301 development http://www.noblepixels.com/web-development-services/
Option 2: Re-align the content of one of the pages. I recommend you pick the weakest (the lowest in term of page rank or traffic depending on your goals) and change the content so it’s clear what it does. In our case, I would focus more on the values and ethic of web development so there is no ambiguity. When you’re done, put a link on the modified page to the main page with the proper anchor. Like this:
Find out more about development.
Well done, you probably care a lot about fixing your website’s cannibalism situation. So I’m gonna give you a few more advice.
Map down your Information Architecture. You think you know your website like the back of your hand? Well, maybe you do. But are you 100% certain that your WordPress hasn’t generated tag pages or category pages? Worst, did you forget to remove the “hello World” article? Take a look at your sitemap to be sure.
100% Optimized. Have you heard about “long tail” or “niche”? They are perfect for fixing cannibalism. Instead of having 5 pages on your website competing for one keyword, make sure each page competes for a different keyword. You’ll have your main page “fur coats” and then 4 differents “smaller” keywords targeted like “duck fur coats”, “organic fur coats”, “synthetic fur coats”, “sustainable fur clothe line”. Make sure you use 100% of your content. You can use Moz Keyword Explorer to better find what keywords to target.
Get indexed in minutes! despite how scammy that title sounds like, you can actually get indexed in minutes. Connect to Google Search Console and click on your website (assuming you already added it). Then, in the left column, go to Crawl and click on “Fetch as Google“.
Then you simply add your modified pages or new pages one by one and request submit to index. If you’re submiting a page with a lot of links you can ask for this page and its direct links to be indexed as well.
Google will then index your content in minutes, which should motivate you to fix keyword cannibalism right now.
*Yes, Google is a lady.
CRO is the most efficient way to transform visitors into customers. It simply makes sure that your potential clients have the best possible experience on your website no matter who they are, and what technology they use.
Companies typically spend $92 to bring customers to their site, but only $1 to convert them. – (Source: Eisenberg Holdings)
The first step of a Conversion rate Optimization Service is to understand your goals. What do you sell? Is it a product, a service? Do you wish to engage more visitors? Get more donations? Our job is to translate your business needs into something tangible that can be digitally developed.
By using some of the most efficient tools to analyze your website a CRO specialist is able to understand what could be improved. Working closely with you and your creative team, they’ll run large scale tests to make sure you only implement what works. Collect, Think, Act.
When your Return on Investment is good, nothing can stop you from exploring new markets, new audience, new opportunities. You can always count on your CRO expert for helping you and your new projects.
Welcome, and thank you for reading this guide on how to start an e-commerce website. How many of us have thought about starting our own online shop? How awesome would it be to work from home every day? How helpful would this e-commerce website be to our local shop? Imagine the money coming in 24/7, all year long, from anywhere on the planet… Well, it’s not that simple.
What? Thanks for ruining it Anthony!
Don’t worry, this guide will help you achieve your goals so if you’re ready, let’s start!
Amazon launched their e-commerce website in 1995. Compared to actual bookstores, they had no limitations and could literally sell any book in the world. Because of their initial success, they started to grow and sell pretty much anything. I can’t recall how many times clients asked me to build a kinda Amazon website. Not easy…
In 1998 Google and Paypal definitely made it easier to sell online. One would generate traffic, the other allow you to process transactions.
In 2004, the PCI security standards started regulating this wild ecosystem, reassuring buyers all around the world.
That’s when e-commerce websites exploded. I started making them in 2009, and at that time there was still some room even though some industries were starting to be crowded.
No it’s not a new viral challenge ( I wonder what that would look like), it’s a way to visualize the e-commerce online shopping market. Imagine a bucket that was empty at first and was filled over the years.
Between 1995 and 2004, the market was mostly filled with big companies and a few start-ups. The reason why is fairly simple: e-commerce websites were very expensive to make, not really mainstream, and definitely not in most entrepreneurs preoccupations.
Between 2004 and 2010 the public started to learn more about e-commerce and some entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to start a business. Most of the big companies that haven’t adopted it before finally joined the herd.
The bucket starts to be filled, but it starts to change a lot. Some big companies failed to succeed online and some small businesses became huge.
After 2010, everyone joined the party. Making an e-commerce website became much easier, with an array of solutions for every need.
Not only this, but artists can now sell on specialized platforms like Etsy, anyone can sell on Ebay, Market Places like Amazon are huge, people sell on Social Media, on Blogs, everywhere…
The good news is that the bucket gets bigger every day. In 2000 the value of e-commerce was about $27 billion, $143 billion in 2009 and $630 billion in 2014. Between 2000 and 2014 the bucket got 23 times bigger , and no one knows when it’s going to stop.
Like any business, you must evaluate what’s the market like in your industry, find a niche, and study your competition. The good news is that it’s not too hard to do online.
By now you should have a pretty good idea of who’s leading the industry, and who’s investing in what. I’m sure you will see the same companies over and over again. And you’ll realize that there might be a spot for you.
I recommend you get some help for these long nights of research:
For SEO: You must know the keywords since you’ve googled them. If you don’t have all of them, it’s ok, you can use MOZ Keyword Explorer, a great tool that will give you Search Results and more importantly suggested keywords with useful data associated to it.
For knowing how many visits a competitor gets and who’s linking to them, what keywords they rank for, etc… I use SEM RUSH. Even though it’s not perfect, it’s one of the best tools to get competition’s data.
For anything Social I use Social mention, You enter a keyword and the system tells you who’s talking about it across all social media and blogs.
For Adds, I recommend you use every platform add-generator to get to know how much is an add. You can do so on Google Keyword Planner and any Social Media that has an add system. That will give you a lot of insightful data and help you plan your future Advertisement budget and strategy.
Are you still there? Really? Wow, you must be really motivated. Good.
E-commerce has a bunch of rules, and you kinda have to follow them. Creativity is great, but don’t change everything. Why, you ask? Because user (buyers) know how to online shop and anything new, while potentially great, is also scary and confusing. Keep what works, and have fun with the rest.
In general, make sure that users can find the products easily, the navigation must be so awesome that anyone, even your 70 years old grandpa, can find the product they are looking for.
The search should also be awesome. Don’t make your visitors use a basic search that only looks for the exact keyword. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but users assume that every search bar works like Google now.
Search result for “mintoun bind”: Do you mean MOUNTAIN BIKE? Yes, we have some, they are right there.
Anything that helps the user is great. You should spend time on building your catalog, make it logical and self-explanatory. The Information architecture and the UX must be well-thoughts, for any type of users.
Don’t assume every customer is like you.
Don’t forget that customers shop on any type of device.
Write UNIQUE product description. You want to know the difference between you and your competition? The product description. Most of the Online store owners will simply copy the brand description, yes, the one you’ve seen everywhere and you thought you could use too. Sorry but that’s a bad idea. First of all, your creating duplicate content, that means your page will rank badly. Then, what do you feel when, as a customer, you finally find a product page that has a lot of professional information, useful tips, and great pictures or videos? You’re much more enticed to buy.
Your price is not the most important criteria for customers. If you offer great service, good quality products, great choice, good advice, free shipping, reward programs, money-back policy, customers will not care about a few dollars difference.
Treat your customer right!
Now that you know what website you want, let’s start the technical conversation.
I suggest you talk to a Web Team (like us) to define what technical solution will fit your needs. Most of the times quotations are free and very helpful.
If you want even better advice, offer to pay for the proposal, you’ll get the Web team more involved and everyone will benefit from it.
Here, at Noble Pixels we’ve prepared a small questionnaire that helps gather information in order to design the proper solution. You can get the full e-commerce client’s questionnaire here, but here are some questions to start the conversation with:
There are dozens of e-commerce platform out there, and most of them are great.
You can choose yourself the best platform for your project, or ask advice from a Web Team. If you want to know more about what is available you can Google “best e-commerce platform” and you will find a lot of answers. For example, this comparative test between the most popular e-commerce platforms in North America (weirdly missing Magento?!).
Some e-commerce platforms are free, some aren’t, some are hosted, some require their own hosting, some platforms are ideal for small catalogs, some for big catalogs, etc…
Below are four of the most popular e-commerce platforms. I will only talk about these since I’ve worked with them.
Magento. Huge and powerful. Magento offers three different options as I know off, and a bunch of different versions for each.
There is Magento Go, a simple, hosted system, ver limited but ideal for small projects and no development skills.
Magento Community, the main Magento, incredibly powerful but hard to handle since any customization must be done by a Magento web developer, and these guys are expensive.
Magento Entreprise, supposed to be the finest of all, is incredibly expensive and requires specific hosting and specialized developers (both being very expensive and quite mysterious…). If one day I suggest you use Magento Entreprise, well it will be because your Wallmart and I don’t know what else to do.
Woocommerce. Well, this one is much simpler. It is often used on existing WordPress website that suddenly start selling a few products. You know like a blog that start sellings shirts. It’s customizable if you have a PHP developer, our friend Changyong created a complete plugin for a client that needed different levels of admins, different POS management and a lot of custom things.
Apart from that, Woocommerce is cheap and plugins are quite cheap. But it’s limited.
Shopify. We’ve used that one for a big organization that was transiting from POS to Online shopping. For us developers, it was not super easy to do what we wanted to since Shopify is not really meant to be customized by devs. But it has a lot of features, is easy to administrate and pretty cheap. You also don’t have to worry about hosting and development since it’s hosted on their platform.
It’s great to start an online business but if you want to move to bigger, more customizable you’ll have to start fresh on another platform.
Prestahop. Do you even know about that guy? Probably not. But I guarantee you it’s huge in Europe. It’s an open source system, easy to customize and full of plugins. These are generally cheaper than Magento which is good. Prestashop allows you to expand and grow your site as your business grows. It’s also pretty good with SEO.The main reason why store owners don’t pick it over Magento is because Magento looks stronger and beneficiate from a bigger community.
The main reason why store owners don’t pick it over Magento is because Magento looks stronger and beneficiate from a bigger community.
Alternate method: the Proprietary Solution. You can get a tailored e-commerce website made by a talented Web Team from scratch. It’s doable and even though less and less common, it stills offer great advantages:
But it has some downsides:
A good thing to keep in mind is that your system will need new features that weren’t planned initially. Make sure that the platform you choose allows that new feature, offers it, and how much it will cost.
Now that you have a great e-commerce platform, you’re ready to hear that chin-chin sound of money coming in. After all, you just spent $50,000 for your website and $100,000 for your products.
And that’s when it hurts. Sometimes money doesn’t come in. Your online store is perfect, but empty. It needs customers! Normally if you’ve worked with a good web development company you know exactly what your SEO strategy is doing, and you should get some customers. Not a lot at first, because SEO takes time: a few months at least. Sometimes the competition is so hard that SEO is simply too time-consuming, or simply unadapted.
Example: you sell handmade products that no one knows. Therefore no one is looking for your products.
Advertising. Remember the time you spent on Adwords and advertising at the beginning of your project? Well, now it’s paying off. At least you have an idea of what to do and how much it will cost you. You can read online a lot about how to conduct an Adwords campaign, or hire someone to do your SEM for you. You can also invest in Social Media paid campaigns or blogs affiliation.
What matters at the end is that your campaign doesn’t cost you more than a certain percentage of your sales. That percentage must be known since the beginning of your project. It’s generally around 15%. That’s the percentage you can invest without losing money or working for nothing. This percentage depends on your Conversion Rate. You must know it, for each source, every hour of the day, each audience type, etc… It will help you to optimize the money you invest and the ROI you get from each channel.
For that purpose, you need Google Analytics. And you need to set up e-commerce goals as well as tracking events, conversion funnels, and other awesome Analytics.
The ultimate goal is to optimize your conversion rate.
Online shopping is not like brick and mortar commerce. You might realize that you sell a product that you never sell in your shop. It’s a weird color, a giant size, a specific model… well, guess what? If customers can’t find it in their local shop, they will search online.
Each industry has its own rules, but none of your competition will be the king or the queen forever. If you bring something fresh, something great to the equation, customers might turn to you. Sometimes it’s a great UI, sometimes it’s aggressive prices, sometimes it’s a great catalog.
Be imaginative for your promotions, sales and reward programs. I remember working with a store owner that kept asking me custom sales features. It was hard to develop and I was always amazed at what new promotion he would think off.
After all the advice I just gave you must have a pretty good idea of how to start an e-commerce website. Although I think it’s great to start with, keep reading about e-commerce all the time, keep researching, and challenge everything you hear. There is a lot of misinformation out there.
My last advice would be to listen to people that have succeeded.
Since I started making websites back in 2005 I’ve always cared in Information Architecture. Only at that time I didn’t know it was called Information Architecture.
To me it was a way to deliver content in a better way. I knew that my websites were small and not perfect, I didn’t know much about SEO but I knew I would offer the best User Experience possible!
At that time, websites were not responsive, well coded or well designed. They were not optimized for Search Engines, or social media. Nothing was made easy and networks were still very slow. One click away was sometimes a click too far.
In 2009 I started building E-commerce websites. The way I was working back then surprises me a lot today since I didn’t really use data to back up my wireframes, I didn’t do user flow (at least on paper) and almost ignored Google Analytics. My main focus was SEO. Because at that time in France E-commerce was booming and it was only a matter of time before the market would be crowded and impenetrable.
For years a few of these websites were growing fast and we called it “success“.
Because SEO was so important we based the whole architecture on it. For a few years, it was one keyword per page, and location searches were not based on user history or geolocation. That means most websites had a page for each service, per location, one page per product, two if we had different variations, etc… that participated, in my opinion, in the origin of the mega menu era. You remember these giants navs with hundreds of items? Same with the footers?
We SEO specialists realized that the more pages, the more links, the best ranking.
And then SEO evolved to become more natural, mobile started limiting UI and changing UX, competition skyrocketed… it was time to start doing real Information Architecture.
Information Architecture is the art of arranging content in a website, ideally to make it easy to access to its visitors. Being an Information Architect is like being Rupert Giles in Buffy but less cool (cause he’s really cool). The reason I make this parallel is because the Information Architect’s role is similar to a librarian role. You have tons and tons of content and you need to figure a system so users can find what they’re looking for.
Following other’s rule used to be good enough. Nowadays, we know that the User Experience is one of the key elements in the success of a website. And even though I thought I was really good at it, I had to learn a bunch of tricks.
Personally, I work on website’s Information Architecture when the client asks for a redesign of an existing website. That means data, lots of data! You might have access to years of users data thanks to Google Analytics. And even though Demographics was probably not enabled, you still have landing pages, pages visited, bounce rate, sources, etc…
Draw the map of the most visited pages and I try to detect patterns. Sometimes it depends on the season, sometimes on the source of traffic, but make sure to determine these patterns, they will influence the future IA.
For example, when I worked on MusicFest Information Architecture I quickly realized that there were three different seasons: Before the festival, during the festival, and after the festival. During these periods users would visit some pages repeatedly and in great numbers, and ignore other content. I created a website architecture that would adapt to each season by offering quick access to these important seasonal pages. On the example below the festival just ended:
In the example above, you can see that information is separated in 5 sections:
It is also made to serve different types of users, with completely different needs but sharing the same screen.
If you take a look at the previous site, you can see that it was doing a similar approach but the same information could be in many different places making it hard to actually know where we are at any point during the visit.
I remember in a previous job hearing a UX consultant showing the new wireframes of the new website. It was a giant arrow going from homepage to product page, from general to specific.
I asked him what happens when users land on another page. People looked at me as if this was a detail without importance that we can deal with later… but our website Analytics said that the homepage was a landing page only 40% of the time. Not even majority.
The morale of this story is that any content should be accessible from anywhere (not necessarily in one click). It should be clear on every page where the user is, what’s above and what’s below in the website’s hierarchy. That way a user can jump from one section to another without losing itself.
Breadcrumbs, for example, are a very simple way to achieve that.
If you are a web developer or a web designer trying to know how to integrate Information Architecture in your day to day life designing or coding, my only advice would be to challenge everything.
Treat everything as an object: a link, a button, an image, a video, a paragraph, a page, a border-top, a title, etc…
Why would you do that you ask? Because if it’s an object you can see it differently and start challenging the necessity of its existence. What does it do? Does it bring anything to the user? Could we improve that object? Change its location? Its action?
At the end, you should have a custom Architecture that will lead to a custom UX built for your users. It’s the best solution you could offer your visitors, and they will thank you for it.
I recommend to every web designer, web developer and anyone interested in Information Architecture for websites to read the articles below.
If you ask most of the web development companies out there if they are the best in what they do, they will probably say yes. After all, how could you trust a company that doesn’t believe they are the best?
What does it mean to us to be the best web development company?
We try our best every day to deliver the best website or web service possible.
Here at Noble Pixels, the developers have seen hundreds of projects over the years. With time it is easy to see which project succeeded and which one didn’t. That doesn’t mean that what worked in the past will work in the future, but it helps us advise our clients choosing the best solution.
Often when you Google Web Development Company you’ll find agencies that pretend they offer great Web Design and Web Development. Often it’s true. But if you also need the best SEO, the best Social Media Strategy, the best IA, the best Copy, the best pictures, then it gets really hard to find one company capable of delivering all this.
The reason? Because it’s incredibly difficult to concentrate such skilled talent in one place. It costs money and it’s not always the best solution. Here at Noble Pixels we don’t pretend we’re the best at everything, we are web developers. We’ve picked awesome talents, freelancers and companies to do what they’re good at. That’s our way to offer the best in everything.
For all of our big Design Projects, we trust our partner LOOP. We believe they are some of the finest web designers in Toronto and perhaps in North America.
To make a good dish you need good ingredients. We try to work with the best web development frameworks, tools, and practices, always. Not only it helps us being more productive, but it guarantees your product longevity.
First of all, because a lot of developers will be comfortable with it.
Then because you won’t need to revamp your system next time you want to make a big change. You’ll just customize your existing system.
At the end, that’s our goal: keep delivering the best product for your budget and your time. Adding all the elements you need to make it a success, working with your team, your partners and your rules. Never over promising, always keep the conversion open, and most importantly believe in your project as if it were our own.
That’s what we mean by “best“.
Wikipedia says that: “In internet marketing, conversion optimization, or conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a system for increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that convert into customers or more generally, take any desired action on a webpage.”
You don’t necessarily have to. For example, if your website is purely informative you should worry about
User Experience (UX), Information Architecture (IA), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Accessibility (no abbreviation for this one!), and any other strategy that ensures your website delivers it’s message.
Let’s say your website offers great content and you want users to donate to your charity, contact you about their project, or buy your product. Yeah, those are goals. Maybe you want visitors to like you on facebook? You got it…
All these are goals and they have a Conversion Rate you can optimize.
Not really. Conversion Rate Optimization got popular in the late 2000’s when the online competition became too strong.
Everyone wanted a piece of the internet cake and it lead to a high level of competition where improving a website’s marketing became the difference between failure and success.
It’s not new. CRO is based on Direct Response Marketing, a marketing method invented a century ago. Like Direct Response Marketing, CRO follows the path: Track, Test, Improve. Direct Response Marketing also used A/B testing, response tracking and audience testing.
Great! Let’s move forward.
The first step of Conversion Rate Optimization is to define your goals.
If you are working with an ecommerce site your goal should be to sell more products.
If you have a great blog, you probably want visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or like your Facebook page.
If you are a professional baker you probably want people to book your services for their birthday party next month… Examples are endless.
Your main goal is called the Macro Goal, but it’s not the only one. Your website probably also has a lot of smaller goals that are very important to you. For example, let’s say that you invested time and money in an awesome new video you put on the website then you probably want to know how many people are watching it. We are going to track it.
If your video helps your visitors it is possible that it will lead to a more conversions of your macro goal and that’s good for you.
You’ve heard about Google Analytics haven’t you?
You know that it’s great to track a lot of data and apparently everyone uses it. Good news, it is great! Bad news, everyone uses it.
Google Analytics will help you track your goals, see where your customers drop-off, and fix it.
Hey there! It’s exciting but let’s take some time to think and test. Your ideas are probably awesome, but nothing proves that they will lead to more conversions.
Even a brand new design doesn’t guarantee a better conversion rate. Maybe your users loved your old design.
When we do CRO for our clients we analyse every channel, we do user profiling, we build hypotheses on how to simplify the conversion funnel, we connect it with our clients’ Social media campaigns, SEO and SEM…
We understand the data first.
And we test them.
We have great tools to test these ideas. If they work and actually help your conversion volume, we implement them on your website.
It’s simple right?
Well it’s rarely that simple, but every hypothesis and every test helps your business a lot and ultimately leads to your success.
What we realized here is that very often our clients need better SEO and CRO, so we created a way to interlink them into a more global strategy named CVO. Conversion Volume Optimization.
At the end of the day, whether you have an ecommerce or a corporate site, what matters is your conversion volume.
We are CRO specialists based in Toronto and we can help you improve your conversions.
Contact us to learn more about what CRO can do for your business.
If you have a website, you’ve probably heard about Search Engine Optimization or SEO. It is in broad terms, the art of making a website rank higher in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). If you wonder whether or not your website needs SEO, don’t. Every site needs it. The questions to ask yourself is why, how and what?
Let’s start with the basics. When you get a website, you put content online. That content has a certain value for visitors: it is relevant to some topics, or in other terms, keywords.
That relevant content is somewhere in the gigantic internet, and without any other website linking to it, its value is lost.
Good news! Search engines and yourself have the same goal: offer great content to anyone looking for it.
Put yourself in Google shoes for a second here (that sentence makes my coworkers laugh really hard). If you can’t offer the most relevant content for any given search, your loyal users might be frustrated and start using another search engine.
The reason behind any SEO approach is to help search engines understand your website and link to it. We call that “indexing” a website.
Ok, so putting content out there for users is great, but you have a business to run and you probably want to attract customers. Lots of customers.
Well, you’re not the only one. Your competitors are already out there, and they are not excited about having more competition. They might even be watching you to make sure they stay ahead.
The first quality of any SEO expert is to be realistic. If someone tells you that they can get your website to rank first on 100 highly competitive keywords in less than two months for only a thousand dollars, run from them. They either lie or do voodoo.
Keep in mind that you will only ever rank on keywords that you have content for.
Take this page for example. It is targeting the keyword “SEO Ontario“. I’m not hoping to get this page first on Google for the keywords “Search Engine Optimization” or “SEO Toronto”. I’m only focusing on the keyword “SEO Ontario“, and even for that one, I know this page won’t rank first. If it gets #5 I’ll be satisfied. It’s my goal for that keyword.
If your goal is actually to be first on a highly competitive keyword get ready to invest a lot of energy in it. It’s almost like landing your dream job, it will happen if you’re committed, hardworking and going in the right direction.
By now I’m sure that you have a great sense of what SEO is. Let’s then dig deeper in the three major areas of it: on-site SEO, off-site SEO, and local SEO.
So the first one we are going to talk about is on-site SEO. It is the most important part of the work and it is actually quite simple to understand.
Remember when we talked about what search engines want? Well, you’re gonna give it to them.
A lot of developers don’t really follow search engines recommendations and that’s a shame because it’s quite simple and doesn’t take that much time:
If your SEO expert has done his or her job perfectly, you will already get good results. However, you might not reach your objectives.
The reason being that search engines now understand what your content is, but they still don’t know if they can trust it. After all, when linking to you they put their reputation on the line and nothing guarantees your content is actually relevant.
That is why you need other experts in your field to endorse your content. How? by linking to it. It’s named link building and it’s probably the hardest and longest aspect of SEO.
Local SEO is not per se a different area of work, but it is so specific that I want to talk about it in a separate section.
Local SEO is about ranking for an array of services or products in a geographically limited area: Bucher Toronto, hairdresser GTA, sushi Queen st, web development studio Toronto, SEO Ontario…
How is it different from regular SEO you will ask? Well, the logic of it is the same. Tell Google what you do exactly, where to find you, how to reach you and at what time.
There is more, you can get ratings on Google map, get listed in yelp, have some special content for your local pages on your website, etc…
Remember: be clear and honest with search engines, don’t be greedy with keywords and show everyone the great quality of your products.
Here at Noble Pixels, we have a great experience with e-commerce and SEO. We know that without great qualified traffic you will always depend on paid per click and advertising to make sales.
Althought E-commerce websites are huge and contain great content it is hard to get them to rank well. Many reasons for this:
You will need to invest a lot of energy and resources to overcome all these difficulties. The outcome is definitely worth it, since you’ll have tons of potential customers for free.
You might be thinking that anyone can do SEO, your web team maybe? Well yes and no. Yes, because it’s mostly a matter of making search engines life easier and no, for a lot of other reasons:
And remaining first.
Also requires work. You’ll need to keep up with the great content, and get detailed reports about how you and your competitors are doing.
If you’re still reading, congrats! you’ve done it! You now understand what to do with your SEO needs.
Keep in mind that getting more traffic is great, but at the end of the day, converting visitors into customers is your main goal. You can read (if you still can) our article about conversion rate optimization (CRO).
Contact us to learn more about how to get to the top.