Friday, June 25, 2010

Google Changes Search-Results Page, How Merchants Can Benefit

A great article from Practical eCommerce on Google search changes - even if it is already a month old!

May 25, 2010 · by Bill Hartzer

Google has made some major changes to its search results recently, adding more options for searchers. These are not changes to search algorithms, which determine the websites that show up, and where. Rather, the new changes give searchers options that allow them to tailor the type of search results that they see. To help you navigate through these changes and what it really means for your ecommerce business, let's look at sample search results and focus on what your site can do to appear in them. For example, let's focus on one keyword, "toys."

If you look at the search results for the keyword "toys," you will see three columns. On the left side, under the Google logo, there are several different types of search results, such as "Everything," "Maps," "Images," "Shopping," "More," and then "All results." The center column shows the organic search results, and the right side shows Google's AdWords. If you sell toys, then it would be pretty difficult to compete with the large retailers, such as,, and However, here is where it gets interesting: It's these other "categories" or "types" of search results where a smaller business that sells toys could compete.

Local Search

In the search results for "toys," Google has decided that I am in the Killeen, Texas area, so it is showing a Google Map that points-out the local businesses that sell toys in the area. Let's look at the Google Maps results.

If you click on the "Maps" link in the middle of the page you will see a map of your current location (Killeen, Texas in my case), and you should also see local search results for your location.

So, how do you show up in this search result? There are quite a few "tips" to doing local search-engine optimization, but some include making sure you claim your listing in Google Places and including your keyword in your business name. Also, keep in mind that some of the local search algorithms might include mentions of your business name and address. So building more mentions of both of those on other websites (similar to link building, but not actually "linking") will help, as well.

Image Search

When it comes to the image search results as shown above, it is still pretty competitive for a lot of high-traffic search phrases such as "toys." However, there is a good opportunity to focus on appearing in the search results for product names with "long tail" keyword phrases that include two, three, or more keywords. The key to ranking well in the image search results is still like the organic search results: links to the actual image files tend to help out a lot. I have been successful in the past by allowing other websites to "hotlink" to certain images. If you allow this, then I would make sure that your watermark or web address is added on the photo.

Google Shopping

For the shopping search results, make sure that you are feeding your products to Google Shopping. There is an "information for merchants" area there, where you can start a data feed. If your website does not currently automatically generate a shopping feed of your products, this can be done manually. You can create this feed of all of your products, product descriptions, links, and prices in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, save it, and manually upload the file. If you have an ecommerce website and have not taken advantage of Google Shopping then you are definitely missing out on more sales.

Google has specific categories of data that must be included in every shopping feed, so you'll need to read the FAQ or help section. Otherwise, frequent updates to the feed (daily, if possible) and links to your specific products from other websites will help. (For more on Google Shopping, see "Google Product Search: Creating a Data Feed," one of my previous articles here on PEC.)

"Latest" Search Results

Another search option that Google has added recently is the option to see the "latest" search results. This is where all of us have a good chance to compete with even the large retailers for keyword phrases such as "toys." Look at the example on the left.

These "latest" search results, for many keyword phrases, will scroll in "real time." If you mention a keyword on a social media website, for example, then most likely it will show up at some point very quickly in search results. This will give you a chance to "rank well" for that keyword phrase, at least for a few seconds or even a few minutes, depending on how many other people are mentioning that keyword phrase. On the right side, you'll notice the "top links" for that keyword phrase. This is a good opportunity to do some "link building" for your website, to get some additional mentions of your business and a link to your website. You may end up with some immediate traffic and sales, and, in the long run, you'll end up with some more "on topic" links to your website.

With the addition of the latest search results, Google has given all of an opportunity to rank well, at least for some period of time. If your message is right and you combine some social media accounts along with some blog posts on your website and even updates on your Facebook account on a regular basis, then this is a terrific opportunity to begin to drive traffic and sales to your website.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ProductCart Tips and Tricks: Issue 1

Red Leaf Development wants to help your business increase sales, reach new customers and drive more traffic to your site. We are constantly trying to keep you up-to-date with changes to the eCommerce landscape. That is no easy task lately! Here are some industry trends that we have been following this year.

ProductCart already has some of these features built in while some of the additions require a minor customization; and still some require more advanced development. As always, contact Red Leaf to determine which will be easy, moderate or difficult to add to your site.

Personalize your site
Each shopper is unique, and several of the Internet Retailer Hot 100 e-Retailers tailor their sites to the individual. Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Add cross-selling. Red Leaf has developed an "Automated" cross selling add on that links the product a customer is viewing to other products that customers have purchased. This functions exactly like the "Customers who bought this product also bought…" feature on Amazon.
  • Add recommendations. Add a spot on your site where a group of recommended products can be displayed that is based on a customer's browsing history.
  • Send targeted emails. When done well these campaigns are perceived as good service; customers accept and value these approaches. When delivered through email, recommendations, suggestions and relevant content gets very high open rates, and low unsubscribe rates. Add a coupon code to encourage a click-through and measure your results.

Facilitate buzz
More than eight in ten people say that their personal networks are among the two to three best sources for new information. "Social networking is ingrained in our corporate culture because it is ingrained in the lives of our customers," says Eric McCoy, founder and CEO of shoe e-Retailer The goal is to connect with your customer and get them to like and trust you. Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Setup a Facebook page for your company (be sure to link to it from your website).
  • Enable product ratings and reviews and be sure to feature a best seller list on your site.
  • Add the "Share This!" or the Facebook "Like" button to your product pages.
  • A blog allows you to engage your customers and listen to their feedback. It also will help boost your natural search engine rankings.

Convert and remarket
Let's face it - you can't call a site visitor a customer until they purchase from your site. Step back and look at your site, ask yourself "What would compel someone to buy from you?" The goal is to convert your visitors into customers and follow up with excellent customer service, every time. Ideally your customers will come back again and again to buy from you! Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Offer a simple email sign up on your homepage.
  • Feature a 1-800 number prominently on your homepage.
  • Offer more than one payment option - enable PayPal for example.
  • Use the emails you have collected whenever possible - send targeted email based on browsing behavior or prior purchase information, for example, "As someone who has shown interest in you might also like..."
  • Keep it simple and favor your existing customers by making it exceptionally easy for a returning customer to make purchases.
  • Use tools to track drop-offs, conversions and ROI.

For a free consultation and quote, please contact our Sales Department today at 1-603-319-1922 x103 or at For more information about our Social Commerce offerings, visit us online at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Excerpt of an April 2009 Article about ProductCart

Here we profile ProductCart, by Early Impact, Inc. Based in Mission Viejo, Calif., the company offers the licensed cart for a starting price of $695 with optional add-ons. We interviewed co-owner Massimo Arrigoni about the cart.

PeC: Please provide some general background on the cart.

Arrigoni: “ProductCart is a licensed shopping cart. We started in 2001, and we’re currently shipping version 3.51. Several thousand licenses have been sold.”

PeC: What are the cart's biggest strengths?

Arrigoni: “Eight years of development based on a constant stream of customer feedback, which translates into a feature depth that is hard to find in other shopping carts. It also means that we have had the opportunity to implement approved integrations with FedEx, UPS, eBay, QuickBooks, Google Website Optimizer, Google Checkout and dozens of other systems.”

“For companies that sell custom-made or configurable products and services, our ‘Build To Order’ version with conflict management can provide solutions to problems that are hard to solve. A quick example: Being able to provide online quotes for catered events where some of the prices change dynamically based on the number of guests, and some don’t, such as a fixed price for the jazz band, but variable food costs."

PeC: What are some of its weaknesses?

Arrigoni: “Multi-lingual support. The feature set is so broad that to make everything from custom search fields to gift wrapping options available in multiple languages would require substantial changes to the system architecture. So it’s an area where we simply say, ‘Sorry, it doesn’t do it.’”

PeC: What plans do you have for future cart development?

Arrigoni: “We asked our users what they were missing. It’s incredible the amount of smart features they came up with. We haven’t made final decisions on everything that will make it into the next release, but we can say that ProductCart v4 (coming in September 2009), will have a slick, AJAX-powered one-page checkout, more sales and coupon management features, stronger content management tools and lots more features.”

PeC: How specifically would switching to ProductCart improve a merchant's business?

Arrigoni: “I’d say three areas: It can solve business problems other shopping carts can’t solve, such as the Build To Order system mentioned above. It contains a lot of time-saving administration tools that can really make the difference on a day-to-day basis, such as automatic synchronization with QuickBooks. And it provides storefront features that can improve the customer experience, such as AJAX-enhanced search that makes for quicker, friendlier searches in the store catalog.”

PeC: Any other thoughts for our readers?

Arrigoni: Your needs may change over time. Go with an ecommerce system that can change (i.e., be customized) as your needs change. Choose robust, proven software like ProductCart that’s been successfully put to the test for years.

Read the Full Article in Practical eCommerce - Cart of the Week: ProductCart

Monday, May 24, 2010

Necessity breeds innovation

E-retailers responded to the recession with a burst of creativity. Here are 10 ways this year’s Hot 100 online merchants kept sales flowing during the downturn.

Read the article in Internet Retailer

Monday, November 23, 2009

The 4 Steps to Achieve Top Search Engine Rankings

The success of your online business requires that potential customers can easily find you. One way to increase your online presence is through a well thought out website marketing strategy. The 4 steps below detail specific areas of focus that would be part of a typical web marketing strategy.

1. Website Optimization - This involves maximizing your website content so that it targets your specific business niche. Meta tags and particularly meta titles should reflect the keywords that best describe your site content. Pages should be organized hierarchically with a clearly defined and organized site map. Also consider linking to your best content (that content that is most important or defines your business, product or service offered) directly from the home page.

2. Link Building - The more inbound links to your website, the better it is for you. Every inbound link is like a "vote" for your site. A link building campaign seeks to not only increase the number of inbound links but also to ensure that these links are relevant and accurate. This is one case where quality is just as important as quantity. For example, the inbound link anchor text (the wording that you click on when you select the link) should be descriptive of the page that it links to. Achieve relevance by focusing your link building efforts on sites within your topical niche. Focus your marketing efforts on the biggest, most authoritative sites within that niche.

3. Website Marketing - This is the ongoing process of creating relevant and interesting content for your site and then getting that content indexed in the places that you've identified above. The information must be topical and you should use the search keywords and phrases you're targeting throughout your page or article as they apply. For an e-commerce site this might include adding specific keywords to a product description or title. Another great way to achieve this is to create a press release for the content you would like to feature.

4. Measurements: Analytics and ROI - Once a customer visits your site each action they take can be tracked and recorded. These cumulative records become the measurements that are translated into useful information to give you the results you need. For example, where does a user come from when they access your site? How long on average do they stay and what pages are most visited? What is your conversion rate, in other words how many visits turn into actual sales? Obviously, these are questions that any business owner is interested in the answer to.

Your online business can benefit in numerous ways from a web marketing strategy that employs the steps listed above. Once you apply these changes and implement the tools needed to track and measure your site visitors you will see the results.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Convert a Visitor Into a Customer, and Get Them to Return Again

Your website may represent a major source of revenue for your business. Or, maybe it represents a very small source of revenue. Regardless of what that percentage is converting the people that visit your site into customers, and ideally into repeat customers, is important to the success of your online business.

Did you know that you can actually measure how your website is doing in regards to converting new visitors into customers? It's called a conversion rate. Here are a couple of pointers to get you started on thinking about ways to improve your conversion rate on your e-commerce website.

1. Price your product competitively: This goes without saying. You must know who your direct competitors are and price your product competitively.

2. Offer discounts and coupons: This is a wonderful way to encourage someone who might be on the fence about making a purchase. Offering free shipping can help convince a customer to purchase from you instead of from a local competitor that may have a physical storefront.

3. Make sure that your products are easy to find: Setup and use categories on your site so that your customers can find the product they are looking for easily. Many sites today have a search-like filter feature that allows customers to filter the results returned by options like price, size, or brand.

4. Make customer reviews available on your site: A great price is important to customers but a great product is just as important. Reading what other customers think of your products and service helps potential customers make that final decision about their purchase. Sometimes a customer will even suggest another product that may compliment their purchase!

5. Provide fast, excellent customer service: Another one that goes without saying. Once a customer places an order keep them up-to-date on their order status through email updates. Clearly post your return, shipping and privacy policies on your site.

6. Provide an incentive for them to return: Once a week send your customers an e-newsletter including a discount or offer. Also, designate a section of your site and e-newsletter to include links (and images) to new products.

Follow up by implementing tracking tools to report on visits and conversions so that you can measure the success of your efforts. Happy selling!