Brittney Sheffield / Digital Strategy / February 14th, 2014

IRCE Focus Orlando Show Highlights

This week, we’ve posted plenty of UX and marketing content geared for eCommerce sites to coincide with the IRCE Focus Conference in Orlando. A handful of 352 staff attended the conference, which primarily focused on Web Design and Mobile Commerce. If you missed the conference, don’t worry. We’ve got some highlights that we think you should keep in mind SEO, content creation and site usability now that we’re settled back into the office.

SEO and Content Creation 

It’s a company-wide effort.

Company EffortIn any given company there are as many experts as there are divisions, product lines or departments. When it comes to SEO, you’ll be most successful when people from different areas of your business contribute to the content that is posted on your site.

While we would recommend having a designated person or small team actually executing the on-site updates to your content, make an effort to regularly check in with the different experts within your company to determine what pages should be updated based on industry trends or seasonal changes. And we don’t just mean content on your page – update your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions too so you’re enticing users to visit your site when they come across your business in search engine results pages.

Get the right tools.

Many people don’t realize how many free or low-cost tools exist to simplify the process when it comes to SEO and digital marketing. Below is a list of a few tools that were covered at IRCE Focus and a few of 352’s favorites.

1. Followerwonk – This tool has a free 30-day trial and is relatively inexpensive. In a nutshell, it gives you stats on people and businesses using Twitter so you can better target your users and find influential tweeters.

2. PageSpeed Insights – This free tool allows you to test your website’s page load times. While  this may seem like a design function rather than SEO, Google pays attention to metrics like page load time because it’s something that matters to users. Ideally your pages should load in less than 4 seconds.

3. Google Analytics –This may be an obvious choice, but this free tool is essential for any website owner looking to diagnose the progress and pain points on a website. From monitoring successful web campaigns to analyzing goal funnels, Google Analytics is a tool our team utilizes constantly.

4. Open Site Explorer – OSE is a tool created by Moz. Our team uses a lot of  tools by Moz, and OSE is great for analyzing the backlink profile of a website. Quality links to your site means more authority in the eyes of Google and that means better search rankings for your business.

You can’t fudge link building.

We know that building a strong backlink profile isn’t a walk in the park, so we’ve put together some of the Do’s and Don’ts of link building.

  • Do create quality content that people will want to link to. The first step in getting links from other sites is having quality content on yours. It will be much easier to find websites that want to link to you if you’re creating relevant, engaging content that their users will also be interested in.
  • Don’t submit your site to directory listings. This has long been considered a black hat SEO tactic, but it’s worth reiterating. If Google finds your site in a listing of many URLs on a site with a high domain authority, but no real value to users, you will get penalized.
  • Do purge bad links. It takes some time and patience, but if you have spammy links directing to your site you’ll want to get rid of them. There are steps to recover from bad links that can help you get started.
  • Don’t guest post as your primary link-building strategy. Many people think the guest blog post is dead – I’d argue it’s not dead yet, but it certainly shouldn’t be a focus when it comes to link building. Come up with creative content – be it infographics or slide shares – that other site owners will be interested in sharing.

Check the pulse of your site’s marketing.

Your website should be reviewed several times a year to identify whether or not it is complying to best practices and performing as well as it should be. Website marketing audits can be lengthy endeavors, but they will help you reveal common problems occurring on your site and your business will come out ahead if it addresses issues in a timely manner.

Site Usability

Listen to your users
You users pay attention to you, so you should listen to them.

Listen to your users.

Studies have shown that surveying as few as five of your website users can give you a clear picture as to how the majority of your users feel about your site. We all can become numb to what we see every day, so don’t rely on your own team’s opinion of your website. Tools like usertesting.com allow you to give users within your target demographic tasks to complete so you can see first hand what steps are causing roadblocks.

From there you can make intelligent decisions about what areas of your site need to be improved and in what way.

A consistent experience is key.

With very few industry exceptions, we’re past the days of users finding it acceptable for a site to operate poorly on a tablet or mobile device. Today, users expect well-performing sites regardless of the platform they are using. Whether you provide users with a responsive design so your website adapts to their screen size or you have a mobile site or application to fulfill their needs on smaller devices it’s time that your site look as nice as nice on an iPhone as it does on your desktop.

In the session this week about Mobile Monetization, Mark Williamson, Senior Manager of Digital Vendor Marketing for Sam’s Club, mentioned that 13 percent of all retail revenue in 2013 came from tablets. It’s clear that your conversion rate depends on having a site optimized for smaller devices.

Checkout processes need to be streamlined.

Some of the biggest impediments we see when it comes to improving web conversions originate in the checkout process. It’s critical to make your checkout process as straightforward as possible for users in order to prevent drop offs. If you find you have people reaching the checkout page, but failing to complete a purchase you should set up and analyze goal funnels in Google Analytics, determine what about the process may be causing frustration or confusion and make incremental changes to determine what improvements work.

Personalization is where we’re headed.

Although many large retailers, including Sam’s Club, are not yet creating personalized content for users on an individualized basis, it is the way of the future. For companies like Sam’s Club who have two distinct audiences – business shoppers and home shoppers – it’s obvious how delivering custom content based on a person’s purchasing habits or interests could help improve their experience and ultimately lead to more conversions for the retailer.

Our prediction is that more and more retailers will be looking to strike a balance between creeping out their users by knowing too much and delivering a personalized digital experience that will make users fall even more in love with a brand.