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CRO and SEO: How to Combine Strategies for Your eCommerce Business

CRO and SEO: How to Combine Strategies for Your eCommerce Business

An industry that has experienced the biggest transformation in recent years, mainly because of the use of the Internet, is trade. Either numerous companies are switching entirely to eCommerce, or it makes up an enormous part of their business.

Two monitors facing each other. A hand reaching out from each. One hand holds a credit card, the other a shopping bag.

As we all know, eCommerce is a very competitive and challenging field. It’s getting harder to attract users to visit your website in the ocean of the
same or similar offers and to buy products from you rather than someone else. This means that website owners and digital marketers have to work assiduously and think of different strategies to achieve desired results, i.e., drive traffic to their eCommerce website (and ultimately sell their products or services).

There are two well known options: Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Which is more critical for your eCommerce business – traffic to your website or conversions? These two strategies shouldn’t be mutually exclusive; the best way to have a successful eCommerce business is to combine these. Before going deeper, let’s review some basics.

What Is eCommerce?

For anyone just getting started in this field, eCommerce refers to acts of buying and selling products online. Some advantages of this approach include: lower costs, less physical limitations (such as floor space for customers), and increased visibility. In fact, to be successful today, a business is almost required to have a website and eCommerce capabilities.

Shopping cart image on a laptop computer screen.

eCommerce Strategies

CRO and SEO are separate eCommerce marketing strategies, but they are closely connected and necessary for a successful eCommerce business. If you are just getting started (and located in the UK), you might want to investigate some of these providers.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the strategy to increase website visibility and, subsequently, traffic by posting engaging content. CRO – Conversion Rate Optimization — a system designed to increase the number of people who will not only visit the website, but become customers.
Neither of these two strategies, if used alone, is enough to get
the results that you want. You need SEO for eCommerce website to attract people and draw attention to your eCommerce business. CRO eCommerce is
necessary because, without it, you just have people who are looking at your
products but not buying them.

How They Overlap

Some people believe that SEO and CRO are like cheese (SEO) and a mouse trap (CRO). Both of these strategies focus on users and must provide quality
content. The work of web developers in building site architecture, and developing a framework for web content creation, affect both aspects equally. Here is how you can combine them to increase your sales and make your business stand out as a leader in this field.

  • Create an attractive design. Nothing makes a stronger first impression than website design. People often decide about purchasing your products based on what they learn from your content. However, an inaccessible messy design with poor navigation will turn them away. How does a customer feel while browsing through the pages of your eCommerce business. Important aspects to consider are brand awareness, impact on bounce rate, and website security.
  • Always provide interesting content. If you want to draw visitors (potential customers) to your website, you need to ensure to provide the best possible content. Here are some tips to remember. Use proper keywords associated with your products or services. Use a Call to Action where appropriate. Invite your readers to do something to get a product or get more information so they can decide to purchase what you are selling. Examples of such sentences are: Call Us Today to Have Your Product Delivered Tomorrow; Want to Know More About This Fantastic Appliance? Contact Us Now!
  • Create pages on social networks and integrate them into your website. It is well known that social media and eCommerce businesses work well together. The more you are advertising your product on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, the greater your chances of making a profit. There are many approaches you can choose to increase your visibility and sales using social media. Some of them are homepage social feeds, product pages, and hashtags.

Final Take

It is no secret that eCommerce is a rapidly expanding field with a lot of competitors. This also means that both SEO and CRO are getting more complicated. Successful business requires the use of both strategies. However, finding the right way how to implement them simultaneously isn’t always straightforward.

We would like to hear from you if you are using these strategies for your eCommerce business!  What are your experiences with SEO and CRO? We would also like to know your opinions, comments, or ideas if you are thinking about starting your own business. 

About the author. Thomas Glare is a marketing specialist and a communication manager of various eCommerce portals. You can often see Thomas at marketing conferences. He likes to spend his free time watching British crime mystery web series.

Should I use a VPN?

Did you know that while you browse your favorite sites across the internet, your internet provider secretly sits on the other end of your screen watching your every move? Scary? While just makes for a funny scary story, the reality isn’t much different from this scenario.

Although there’s no one looking out for the sites you visit, there are people who can do so if they wish. Also, some internet companies record user browsing data and internet behavior to bag revenue from advertisement companies.

What’s more? In 2017, some members of the U.S. Senate voted in favor of selling internet browsing data recording from millions of people like yourself. If you are uncomfortable with this, you may want to do something. The solution? Get a VPN for yourself!

What Is a VPN?

VPN is an abbreviation for Virtual Private Network. As the name suggests, it’s a private network that overrides your original internet connection and directs you towards, safe, protected servers.

This means the VPNs route your data through encrypted servers that work to hide your online browsing details. Consequently, the private network saves you from all kinds of dangers lurking online such as hackers, identity theft, and commercial data selling. 

We know what you’re thinking, you don’t really care who knows what you’re up to right? Here’s a secret, VPN can help you get into content and restricted web searches that you can’t access through your local network. 

How? Well, you must’ve noticed how your local internet provider directly takes you to the regional page of websites like Amazon and eBay. Meaning, they know where you’re logging in from. Your VPN gives you a whole new identity online, which means you can access online material that’s not available in your regions, such as movies and educational resources as well.  

Nowadays, VPNs are being used everywhere from corporate offices to top-secret government agencies. They are essential to organizations that need remote access to their networks on a regular basis. Also, it’s a valuable solution for people who value their privacy and get the protection they need from virtual threats.

Why Do You Need a VPN?

To make the reason as clear as possible, a VPN simply creates a direct, secure passage connecting one computer to another. If you’re not convinced yet and need specific reasons to use get a VPN for yourself, here are some situations where a VPN can mean a lot to you.

Be Safe On Public WiFi

It’s commonplace for us to inquire about the free WiFi services before choosing a restaurant to dine in. Believe it or not, connecting your device to one of these WiFi connections without a VPN can be the biggest risk to take. That’s because, these networks are open to anyone, and can provide a straight passage for malware from other devices to invade yours.

Similarly, the WiFi can also be a trap to get you into phishing scams raging through the internet these days. A VPN connection helps ensure you don’t fall prey to any of these situations.

Get Through Streaming Restrictions

Are you tired of Netflix blocking certain content because of your geographical location? The same dilemmas can get you on BBCi and even YouTube and Instagram. While browser proxies can get you through these restrictions, they slow down the streaming speed making for an unpleasant viewing experience. To get through these restrictions, a VPN is the best option.

Avoid Censorship Regulations

Some oppressive governments impose restrictions on their citizens regarding what they view and visit. These regulations are also virtually reinforced to combat any intrusion, so if you try to get into any prohibited online pages, they’ll know. 

That’s where a VPN comes in. As mentioned before, it encrypts your data and conceals your identity completely. This way, you can get through the oppressive regulations and censors without exposing yourself in any way.

Encrypt Your Online Data

When you’re using a VPN, the network creates a secure passage for you to send your data through. So any activity you conduct with the VPN app running will be private and encrypted. Every VPN connection offers an app that you can use to activate and deactivate the connection on your device according to your needs.

How To Choose Your VPN?

Convinced? Then you’ve probably started conducting your search for the perfect VPN for yourself. Attributing to the high consumer demand, there are a plethora of companies providing VPN services. If you choose the wrong one, you’ll end up exposing your data to yet another unreliable third party, which can be hazardous to your privacy. Here’s how to choose an ideal VPN network.

Price And Security

Most of the time, the level of security you’ll get with a VPN is directly proportional to the price. For normal users, mainstream VPN providers costing under $5 will work well. To choose the best one, you should go through the user reviews to get a clear evaluation of the service you’re about to purchase. Also, go with well-known and reputable companies to avoid getting into a scam.

User Data Logs

If security is your main concern when getting a VPN connection as compared to unlimited access to content, you should check whether or not the company keeps logs of their user data. These logs can be used to track you or your online activity. For extra security, you should choose one that doesn’t save your online browsing details.

Network Servers

What could be worse than paying for a VPN service that slows down your device and makes streaming almost impossible? To avoid this situation, you should do your research about the number of servers a VPN network has. This way, you won’t put yourself at risk of overcrowded servers and slow connections.

Multiple Device Compatibility And Clear User Interface

Many VPN networks allow you to sign in with your account on multiple devices. If you can get this service at an affordable price range, you should definitely go for it as it keeps you from getting restricted to one device. 

Most importantly, check the interface of the app you’re purchasing. The most clutter-free and clear the interface is, the easier it’ll be to use.

Conclusion

We hope you found this guide for VPNs useful. It’s a great personalized tool for people in favor of internet freedom and browsing privacy. Select the ideal VPN service for yourself today and go incognito for all your online operations.

Benefits of eCommerce Websites Today

Benefits of eCommerce Websites Today

[Editor’s note – we thought it might be helpful to review some of the basics of eCommerce sites via this guest article. Let us know if your find these review articles helpful (via the comments section).]

The modern world of technology has many great opportunities for businesses to attract customers and gain successful brands. Imagine this; your business is everywhere you go. Great, isn’t it?

With the high growth and demand of the online industry, the majority of marketers try to make a step forward. If you also try to create your own store where you can offer your products or services, then, congrats! You are in the right way of getting a range of benefits.

How e-commerce websites differ from other sites

While ordinary websites are generally designed for sharing information, eCommerce websites are online platforms that give the possibility for offering products and services by means of the data and fund transfers. Through a number of SEO services and other marketing tactics, the site gains visibility and loyalty. SERP’s (Search Engine Result Pages) target many visitors who surf the Internet for a desired product or service.

Why it this important?

Any web professional of an experienced digital marketing agency (such as the one I work for) values the role and importance of having an eCommerce website. Why?

The reason for this is its huge role in digital marketing. Regardless of the size, type, product, service or budget, any company can take advantages of building an eCommerce website. They not only integrate SEO services for increased visibility but also bring together different marketing strategies; like SMM (Social Media Marketing), PPC (Pay Per Click), Content Marketing, Email Marketing, and more, to facilitate the process of online sales.

Are websites are still relevant in this “mobile” world?

Although new technologies continue to emerge in our digital world (such as AR, Augmented Reality) and people tend to search mostly on mobile devices, mobile apps have not replaced websites; instead, websites become inseparable parts of mobile as well. While designing a website many digital marketing agencies choose the mobile-first approach, others make your website mobile-friendly. Websites are and will remain relevant for several reasons:

  • They include a variety of features .
  • They help strengthen your brand .
  • They provide the opportunity to include back-links.
  • 93% of people start the product or service search in search engines (and your website can broaden your reach beyond just an app) .
  • They can be more cost-effective .

Let’s see some key benefits of eCommerce websites in today’s market.

Sell your Products Worldwide

56% of people in the world use the Internet; each of them can become your buyer. Digitization promises that this percentage will grow day by day. Among search engines, only Google has 3.5 billion searches every day. Hence, these numbers show the potential and possibility of gaining quality traffic with the help of well-optimized website for search engines.

It is open 24/7

While a real store can be open 24/7, not all people will go to it in late hours for shopping. However, many people tend to make a fast buying decision and websites allow getting what they want when they want it. Having online support or including chat-bots can be a solution if people have additional questions.

Good Advertising

Your website can become a great tool for gaining brand awareness. However,this only works when people find you. This made easier due to a number of marketing tactics, like SEO, PPC, SMM, and similar approaches.

It Informs

You can use social media platforms for your business, however, a website is more informative. Everything goes around your business. The quality and relevant content that you include, videos, images, navigation bar; every simple element can give your customer much information about your business.

It Builds Trust

People are more likely to trust your business if you show them your brand “image”. A good design and the contact information which you include give your brand added value.

Targeted Audience

Websites promise targeted and quality traffic, especially if they are organic. People who search and visit your website are more likely to purchase, than if they meet your business accidentally. Keywords and content that your website includes will meet the customer’s needs, if you create them taking into consideration searcher intent.

Links

Website content allows including back-links which increases your chance of becoming more visible to your target market. Search engines, especially Google, can provide value to quality back-links which help find your business. Often, trust and relevance increase over those sites that do not include such links.

Increase your Brand Reputation

Since people can find everything connected to your business, they become more confident in your products or services which in turn helps to build loyalty. The better your website is (including accessibility), the higher it will be viewed and perceived by potential buyers.

Conclusion

Building a website is not risky and does not demand much money, however, it is a good investment for building a professional brand. When you optimize the website to meet the needs of users and search engines, you will get a chance to get high ROI. Optimizing your websites for search engines with the help of different SEO services you will manage to increase your website credibility, grow your target audience and increase your revenue.

Author

Photo of Tigran Mirzoyan

Tigran Mirzoyan is a marketing and creative content specialist at Smarketa.com with a primary focus on SEO, PPC and customer satisfaction for eCommerce businesses. He draws inspiration from the simple things in everyday life.

4 Strategies to Convert Visitors into Buyers with Video

4 Strategies to Convert Visitors into Buyers with Video

Online buyers have many choices when it comes to products or services. If you’re an internet retailer, then you want every advantage to gain more sales. In that regard, video can be crucial to converting online traffic to revenue.

In their recent, annual video marketing survey, Wyzowl surveyed 570 professional marketers and online consumers. Of this group, 76% reported that website videos generated more sales.

A Liveclicker survey of retailers noted a significant increase in average order value (AOV) on product pages that contained videos. As well, 57 % of retailers who used video witnessed a sales increase of 50 percent on their products.

This marketing trend is valuable intel to businesses and will continue to be strong in 2019. Whether the video is animated, featured in a header, or used for a sales campaign, the results from marketing with video have been shown to attract more revenue.

Here’s how video converts online visitors into paying customers.

1.    The Video Hook

One of the most valuable steps to a video campaign that is going to generate online sales happens in those first few seconds. Folks are just not going to stick around without having their interest piqued. Like a well-written article, a video needs a solid hook.

One of the most famous marketing video series begins with the zinger, “Will it blend? That is the question.”

The blender company, BlendTec, offers a unique hook that makes customers curious about their remarkable, sturdy kitchen blenders.

Following the hook, founder Tom Dickson proceeds to blend anything imaginable, including cameras, marbles, and even an iPhone playing the series’ intro. This innovative marketing strategy has resulted in viral videos, with millions of views and the lion’s share of the kitchen blender market.

2. Video Length: The Short and Long Game

Online shoppers make quick decisions. For them, there is great value in a short video that highlights the product in a simple and clear fashion. However, some shoppers may bite on a longer video when contemplating how their lifestyle fits with the company’s mission, brand, and products.

Short for Sales

Short, short, short. For sales, it’s often best for the video to come in under two minutes.

The longer the video, the less engagement happens

Video software company Wistia reports that two minutes is often what companies need to shoot for. Videos that sneak past the two-minute mark show a significant drop-in engagement.

For short videos, a good strategy is to be concise. Be clear on message. Don’t try to do too much. Though the business or retailer wants a sale, the mission is just as important to feature as the product. Even in a short video, the customer is buying into the company as much as the product itself.

Long for Brand

While short is often essential to sales, that is not always the case for engaging customers with your brand, which is why long-form videos have their merits.

Businesses interested in showcasing their brand or a particular message may not be able to do that visually in 120 seconds. It may be necessary to craft a longer narrative. In that case, you want careful planning and a proper budget.

Longer videos can result in more shares and views, which is the result of a 2017 study by Wochit, a leader in video platform. More shares and more views can ultimately lead to more revenue. Paul’s Boots and Patagonia are great examples of using the long-form video to attract consumers and reinforce their brand.

In their “Worn Wear” video, Patagonia takes the viewer and/or potential customer on a journey of experience and aspiration. With breathtaking outdoor scenes and rich stories about rugged individuals who care about the earth, their video is targeted directly at these interested consumers, and even new ones, who want the same journey, lifestyle (and that awesome outdoor wear!). You may be surprised at how quickly the twenty-eight minutes passes.

3. Videos Can Be Fun (and “Quality” is Negotiable)

Screen capture of will it blend video example

BlendTec’s “Will it blend?” series were not high-quality at the onset, and they didn’t need to be. For videos showcased on social media sites, small businesses in particular can get away with off-the-cuff, down-to-earth feel of a low-rez video. And this is what BlendTec did in the mid-2000s.

Many SMEs can have a lot of success like BlendTec by crafting fun videos that don’t require a large budget. Small businesses can shoot on cell phones without expensive light kits or a boom mic and DAT recorder taking in the sound.

An often overlooked part of the video equation is the value of knowing which web hosts can handle large amounts of traffic. Whether you end up with a flashy, high-dollar mini-movie or a low budget infomercial, you need a host and plan with the computing resources available to push it out to viewers quickly and without fuss.

Even low quality videos are an enormous bandwidth drain. If yours don’t load fast enough, thanks to a below-average host, expect potential viewers to click away as fast as they arrived, leaving all your video efforts to amount to squat. The bottom line is that all hosts are not created equal so exert some effort to find a good one.

4. Video Creation and Editing

Given the video capabilities of phones (the 2015 feature film Tangerine was shot on an iPhone), marketing videos can be created in-house with a decent look.

Also, with the ease of some basic video-editing software like Lightwork or DSVC, these videos can be edited with ease.

A small business does not necessarily have to hire a media company to shoot video though it is recommended if there is a budget for it.

Most iterations of the iPhone produce extraordinary video quality. As well, Apple offers their iMovie software, where you can edit on phone or Mac.

Offering free and paid versions, Magisto is another type of software that allows for shooting with a phone and editing within its interface. Magisto specifically targets users wanting to upload social media videos.

[Update Nov. 18, 2019] Resources like this one (How to make a promotional video for your company: 7 steps) may also help.

The Bottom Line

With a solid marketing strategy, video creation allows businesses, small and large, to grow revenue and gain more online sales. For large firms, this can be more high-quality videos or storied films about their brand and products. But even small business can get in on the game with video by grabbing more average order value (AOV) simply by posting product videos with heart and humor.

Privacy matters

As we begin 2019, we think this is a good time to focus again on the issue of privacy (especially as it relates to web applications). In a nutshell, one can think of privacy as the ability to control information about an individual or a group. This includes how the information is collected, shared, and used.

Last year, the European Union began enforcing GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) on May 25. This legislation is designed to “Reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.” (Quote from https://eugdpr.org/). This represented a major improvement (in our opinion).

Organizations such as noyb (none of your business) are researching enforcement options. You may recall their director, Max Schrems, was interviewed by the CBS News show 60 minutes in November, 2018. For example, they filed 4 complaints over “forced consent” on May 25, 2018 (against Google, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp).

We can think of many instances where details are collected (often without full consent) and shared with others. If you have been paying attention to the news in the past few years, you already know this is an issue.

As a professional organization, we encourage adherence to privacy principles which include:

  • Never collecting more information than is necessary to complete a given task.
  • Keeping collected information confidential (and not sharing with other organizations without your specific permission).

We published our views on privacy on June 1, 2018. We ask that web professionals (and those who aspire to our profession and craft) take time to evaluate their role in protecting privacy as we begin 2019. We contend the U.S. lags significantly in the area of privacy protection (at least protection “with teeth”).

We are interested in what our readers and members think about this issue and look forward to your comments.

Best always,
Mark DuBois
Executive Director and Lead Community Evangelist

Are Affiliate Cookie Hijackers Stealing Your Commissions?

Are Affiliate Cookie Hijackers Stealing Your Commissions?

If you earn a living – or even just spending money – selling stuff online as an affiliate, you should be concerned about cookies.

Digital cookies are the behind-the-scenes gizmo that credits you with a sale generated by a web page visitor. What you may not realize is that it is entirely possible for a clever hacker to hijack those cookies and end up with a sale that should have been credited to your account.

We’re talking big money. Shawn Hogan drew the attention of the FBI when he redirected around $28 million from rightful affiliates to his own account over the course of a few years.

The process in question is known as cookie hijacking or session hijacking.

To protect your cookies, it’s time to get serious about cybersecurity. It’s time to learn what cookies are, how they get hijacked, and what you can do minimize the risk.

Understanding Cookies

A cookie is a small packet of data that a web server transfers to a browser when someone visits a web page. Think of it as a message that originates with the server and is received by the visitor. Unless the visitor has blocked cookies, that data downloads onto the system and makes it easier for the page to load the next time the visitor returns.

That’s the main purpose of cookies: to make visiting a page simpler by ensuring it loads a little faster. It also helps the owner of the page have a better idea of how many visitors the page generates, if there are return visitors, and in general keep up with traffic patterns.

As it relates to affiliates, those cookies also make it easier for you to get credit when a consumer purchases something via your page.

How Can They Be Hijacked?

Cookies are dead simple, which may be why they are often overlooked as a means of committing a crime. All it really takes is for a hacker to seize the cookie and make a minor alteration.

http cookie hijacking flow diagram between hacker and computer

The next time a visitor lands on your page the cookie ensures that the hacker’s content loads. In most cases, it will be an almost perfect mirror of the original page. What’s different is the packet of information downloaded for the session is not original. It’s been altered. That sets the stage for the hacker to control what happens next.

What Does this Mean For Affiliates?

Why would cookie hijacking matter to an affiliate? After all, doesn’t the visitor use the URL to get to the right place and make a sale? What does the cookie have to do with it anyway?

The thing to remember is that the cookies make loading the order page easier. If you alter the data in the cookie so that the affiliate ID is no longer the same, the credit for that order is redirected to another source. That’s because the cookie is often stored in the raw URL for the session. Alter the cookie by changing the affiliate ID and the end user doesn’t really notice anything.

In other words, it appears that the consumer is placing the order with you, but it’s actually being placed with someone different. You never get credit for the sale and certainly don’t receive a commission. That makes this little malfeasance a form of affiliate fraud.

How Do You Know If Your Affiliate Cookies are Hijacked?

Cookie hijacking is difficult to spot. In fact, it would be almost impossible to detect when it happens during a live session. Whether the session hijacking is active or passive, you only have a chance of identifying the damage once it’s done.

One sign that something is not right has to do with the performance of the web page. If it begins to function erratically for no apparent reason, that could mean something has been altered. Alternatively, the page shutting down can be an indication something has been changed. At this juncture, you may want to check the cookies related to the page closely and see if the affiliate ID or even some other aspect of the cookie code is not as it should be.

If your affiliate partner emails or texts you when individual sales occur, compare that information to the commission report. If they don’t match, and there’s no evidence of returns or canceled orders, someone else is ending up with your commissions.

Are There Ways to Prevent Hijacks?

Preventing a hijack is actually simpler on the visitor side. If the page visitor has up to date malware and antivirus software, the protections in those programs will likely spot that something was changed during a session. This gives the individual the opportunity to end the session before completing a transaction. The problem is the high rate of old malware and antivirus software in use.

Your affiliate can provide some support in terms of preventing cookie-jacking. Depending on how the servers download cookies and what sort of security is used for your customized affiliate page, it may be possible to prevent hacking software from modifying the cookies and the session ID that’s generated.

Create Your Own Encrypted Internet Connection

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The concept of a virtual private network or VPN is coming into its own and likely will become an indispensable component of internet connections before too much more time has passed.

A VPN works in conjunction with your ISP. It is a separate service that encrypts the data that flows between your device and the internet. You don’t have to be a cryptographer to realize that encryption makes it harder for a hacker to complete his task. The extra ten or so bucks a month is money well-spent.

how does https work and differ from http - simple diagram

Make sure your affiliate pages use HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) rather than HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Doing so adds another layer of protection by scrambling the code that’s shared between the originating server and the recipient

The Bottom Line

You don’t devote time and energy to building a business only to have someone else steal sales as certainly as if they reached over and grabbed twenty bucks from your wallet. Make it a point to educate yourself about online security. Subscribe to a blog or two. You don’t have to be a techie to stay updated on the latest threats and keep solid malware protection in place.