Gate Customer Newsletter Gate.com
Issue: December 2015

5 Reasons SEO Scares the Uninitiated

Search Engine Optimization: Three words that scare the pants off many online marketers and business owners. Why is SEO such a scary concept? Search Engine Optimization is daunting for many reasons. 

1) The Perfect SEO Plan Doesn’t Exist

There is no step-by-step list provided by any of the leading search engines that tells you how to implement perfect SEO. No guide guarantees to increase your website traffic, get your webpage(s) to the top of search engine results pages, or increase your ROI. When dealing with SEO, the person responsible for implementing change understands Search Engines and their intent. This understanding requires your SEO professional to grasp not only how white-hat SEO works, but also black-hat tactics – so they can recognize those tactics and how to approach and correct them.

2) Getting Results Requires Patience

Good SEO takes time and is a paced process. It is not an overnight fireworks show that provides you with more leads, more visitors and more customers. If you are not willing to put in the time and effort to get a great and lasting benefit, then you will not see the success that you aim to achieve. Due to the delay in optimal results, you are forced to put a lot of trust in the person providing your SEO services.

3) Bad SEO Exists – and Does Damage

The not-so-knowledgeable Search Engine Optimization so-called expert is to be feared. How do you spot a bad SEO person? There are a few consistent red flags – including the word “expert” itself. While an expert may know everything about something and have no more left to learn, both the web and Google's algorithm are constantly changing. Most reputable Search Engine Optimization professionals will use the title ”specialist” instead of expert. If you come across an SEO “expert,” turn and run –you don’t need that kind of expert.

4) Stop Digging Your SEO Grave

If your Search Engine Optimization tactics are deemed shady or unethical, or your website is seen as attempting to manipulate the Search Engines – tricking them into giving a higher ranking without providing value and substance to viewers – you may find yourself here today, gone tomorrow. My advice for anyone who has dug themselves into a SEO grave with Google: STOP DIGGING! Reach out for help if you truly have no idea what happened. Make sure to provide as much information to your SEO professional as possible. The more they know about what led to your disappearance from search results, the better the chances that they can fix your ranking and make things good with Google.

Bad SEO Advice is Everywhere

When dealing with Search Engine Optimization, there is so much a person needs to know to utilize best practices properly to boost a company’s online presence. There is an overwhelming amount of information available to absorb. Unfortunately, a large amount of that information isn’t worth absorbing. Bad tactics and horrible advice are everywhere, ready to cause far more harm than benefit.

It can feel impossible to differentiate legitimate advice from garbage when it comes to SEO, so here’s one last set of tips:

  • Provide readers, viewers, prospects and clients with something truly beneficial on your website and/or blog.
  • Make sure your load time is up to par and won’t keep viewers waiting due to your hosting service or features on your site.
  • Make sure each page on your website is easy to navigate through and visitors can find the information that they are looking for without issue.
  • Provide calls to action and an easy-to-find phone number or means of contact.

These very basic techniques will get you going and keep you in Google’s good graces.

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In This Issue
5 Reasons SEO Scares the Uninitiated
Optimize Your Online Store, and Gain a Competitive Edge
Make or Break Your Brand: How to Select the Best E-Commerce Platform
Connect with Us on Social Media
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Do-It-Yourself Web Presence

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5 Web Design Techniques to Make Your Website Search Engine Friendly

Optimize Your Online Store, and Gain a Competitive Edge

Once a retailer has established its online store, the job isn’t done. Continual work goes into ensuring this essential resource is doing the most that it can. Not only the venue where customers to purchase items, an e-commerce site represents the online face of a company. It’s critical to ensure that optimization on the site is an ongoing process.

So, how do you identify the weaknesses of a store’s website?

Load Time: First impressions are everything

One of the most important lessons a retailer can learn is the significance of a first impression. If a new customer has a bad experience with the brand or its online store, they are unlikely to become a loyal client. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure that shoppers can appreciate the site from their very first visit.

The design and user experience of the site deserve special attention. Crazy Egg contributor Sharon Hurley Hall noted that one essential aspect is page load time. One study showed that retailers only have two seconds to capture a user’s attention, and every second after this mark can result in a 10 percent loss of visitors.

“A slow loading site  equals lost revenue: It’s a simple equation,” Hall wrote.

When optimizing website speed, work with an expert hosting provider to ensure that the site has the proper backend support. It may be necessary to increase the company’s current resources to prevent performance issues.

Ensure easy navigation

When it comes to first impressions and overall UX, navigation is also key. Hall noted that customers can get frustrated when a site isn’t easy to navigate, potentially costing them opportunities for conversion.

“If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it,” noted Smashing Magazine contributor Christian Holst.

The website should have distinct categories shoppers can browse, as well as an accessible search bar for targeted queries.

Product catalog: Don’t remove out-of-stock items

It’s also imperative to showcase available inventory in a way that helps shoppers understand what they’ll be getting. Larger photos can really make a difference, as increasing image size can boost sales.

In addition, brands shouldn’t take items that are out of stock off the site. Shoppers may still be searching for these products in particular, and keeping them on the site can help capitalize on these searches, boosting the site’s ranking. Retailers can offer alternatives to these out-of-stock items, which can extend a visitor’s time on the site and prevent them from leaving empty-handed.

Hall pointed out that product descriptions can be enhanced as well. Copying and pasting generic product description information straight from the manufacturer won’t do anything for the site’s search rankings or visitor engagement.

“Avoid generic descriptions; instead, make sure the description identifies the problem the product solves for the reader,” Hall advised.

Improve the shopping cart

For many customers, the shopping cart is the point in the transaction when stumbling blocks can creep up. Information from Radware shows that a staggering 70 percent of carts are abandoned before checkout, and a mere 2 second delay in the process can boost abandonment rates by as much as 87 percent, Hall reported.

“People abandon shopping carts because they run out of time, because they don’t want to create an account or because the process is too complex,” Hall wrote. “Sometimes they leave because they get a nasty surprise about shipping costs or they can’t pay with their preferred payment provider or method.”

Besides using industry-leading shopping cart software, there are other ways to improve the website’s cart. Hall suggested providing a step-by-step map for customers so they better understand where they currently are in the transaction process. This can include simple cues like, “Shipping information,” “Payment details” and “Confirm and submit order.”

It can also be helpful to allow shoppers to checkout as guests as opposed to forcing them to register an account.

Finally, brands should ensure payment is simple. Displaying the total cost of the purchase – including any tax and shipping costs – can help prevent sticker shock. The company should also provide support for a range of different payment methods, including debit and credit cards as well as digital wallets.

Optimization efforts are never done

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that optimization is not a one-and-done project – it should be an ongoing process of continuously improving the site. New technologies and e-commerce strategies are emerging all the time, and this only scratches the surface of available optimization techniques.

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Make or Break Your Brand: How to Select the Best E-Commerce Platform

Choosing the software you’ll use to support your brand is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your online business. The right e-commerce platform can set your company up for success for many years to come.

Selecting the best merchant software is no easy task. There are plenty of options available, each with its own unique capabilities, features and benefits. So how can you choose the optimal fit for your business both now and well into the future?

There are a few questions to answer along the way:

1) Does it have the capabilities your business needs?

Examine the features and tools included with each software. Depending upon the type of online business you are running, you may have unique functionality needs. Make a list of the capabilities you will need and compare this to each platform’s features.

“Not only do you need features to help you drive conversion – stuff like suggested products, behavioral discounts and more – you need ease of use from a back-end management perspective,” SparkPay pointed out.

Many merchants will offer trial periods so you have the opportunity to ensure that the platform has the tools your brand needs. Such a test drive can be the best way to pick a product.

2) Does it offer a beneficial end-user experience?

It’s also critical to examine the solution from the point of view of the end user. Not only does the platform need to have specific tools for the business owner, but it must address the needs and pain points of the end user as well. An enjoyable end-user experience can not only help attract and retain customers, but it can also set your brand apart in the marketplace.

“If your store requires [customers] to jump through hoops to complete their purchase. odds are they’ll head for the hills without spending a penny,” SparkPay noted. “Your customers are the ones who’ll use your shop, so make sure their experience is paramount.”

3) What are the top platforms being used today?

It can also be helpful to see which platforms have the most users. For example, according to Datanyze, Magento has the most users among the Alexa top 1 million websites, with a 26 percent market share. WooCommerce, PrestaShop and Shopify are also leading solutions, each powering more than 2,000 of today’s top sites.

4) What security protections does the platform offer?

In the current environment, security is more important than ever. With threats ever increasing, it is paramount to ensure that your customers’ sensitive information will be continually protected. Therefore, it is essential to examine the protections that come along with the e-commerce platform.

SparkPay advised ensuring that security measures align with PCI guidelines for full industry compliance. This standard requires that brands have specific safeguards in place. Any breach can severely damage a brand’s reputation. It is critical to have the right security in place.

5) Can the platform integrate with other solutions?

Administrators often focus on the initial rollout of the solution without examining how the platform might connect with their other systems. Practical Ecommerce contributor Armando Roggio pointed out that today’s companies will need to unify their solutions to ensure they have the full breadth of capabilities they need. For example, the brand may want to integrate an email marketing solution within their website to better connect with its customers.
“Look for app stores, extensions and integrations for the e-commerce platforms you’re considering,” Roggio recommended.

6) What will it cost?

It’s also important to factor cost into your considerations. This includes not only the price of the initial deployment, but the costs incurred throughout the company’s lifecycle.

Roggio pointed out that there are free platforms available, as well as those that come with high price tags. Often, the price of the platform is equivalent with its capabilities – a more expensive solution will likely have more to offer. However, you must select the one that suits your needs as well as your budget.

7) How will the platform be hosted?

You must also decide what hosting environment is right for your brand. Roggio pointed out that a hosted solution – where the vendor takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of the platform – can be particularly beneficial for organizations that have limited technical resources.

In addition, having the proper support can also make a big difference when it comes to scalability and speed. Merchants often have to expand their hosting environment as their business grows or to account for seasonal spikes in traffic. A robust hosting provider can provide this flexibility.

With the proper computing resources in place, pages load faster. KISSmetrics noted that a speedy website can support increased conversions. Half of today’s users expect a page to load in two seconds or less, and they will likely abandon the site in favor of a competitor if content doesn’t load in under three seconds. The majority of shoppers – 79 percent – won’t return to a site if they’ve had performance problems with it in the past.

For these reasons and more, it is essential to not only select a top e-commerce platform, but to also choose a hosting partner that can provide the support your brand needs. The best hosting vendors can provide the flexibility, scalability and customer support to ensure the success of your company throughout its lifecycle.

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