Three ways to improve your conversion rate

Three Ways to Improve Conversion Rate

You’ve spent a lot of time and effort to attract visitors to your website. Your website is engaging, and it’s easy for your potential customers to navigate it. You’ve made sure that it’s mobile friendly, and you have judiciously used keywords and other SEO techniques to improve your search ranking. Now, all you have to do is wait for the conversions that you are sure will come.

However, what do you do if the conversions aren’t rolling in and your visitors are just spending a few minutes on your site and then leaving?  What you shouldn’t do is get discouraged. It takes a lot of trial and error to get websites to achieve high conversion rates, so you shouldn’t expect success overnight. However, there are three steps that you can take to keep you moving toward your goal without getting too far off track

  • Get your customers to make a small commitment first

It takes a while to build trust. Many visitors to a site are reluctant to make a purchase when they visit it for the first time. You can improve your conversion rate if you send your customers to an opt-in form to give them time to become familiar with what you have to offer them before they decide to make a purchase.

This technique is very effective because it is consistent with our human nature. Most of us like the opportunity to try something before we buy it, and providing your visitors with the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter or receive a product video helps make them more receptive to making a purchase.

  •  Be judicious in using calls to action (CTAs)

You know that CTAs are very instrumental in getting your customers to convert, as these messages tell your customers what action you want them to take. You might think that increasing the number of CTAs on each page of your website would make it more likely to get conversions, but that’s not the case.

Yes, you do want to have at least one CTA on each page, but having too many of them on a page can serve to confuse and overwhelm your customers. Also, too many CTAs on a single page can make you look too desperate and give your customers second thoughts about making a purchase. Your best bet is to keep it simple and limit yourself to one or two CTAs per page.

  •  Share customer reviews

Potential customers can be sceptical about trying something new, so convincing a visitor to make that first purchase can be difficult. You can help overcome that scepticism by pointing your customers to reviews from previous purchasers. Studies have repeatedly shown that over 60% of visitors to a site are more likely to make a purchase if that site has reviews of the products or services from previous customers.

Send a follow-up email to your customers after each sale and ask for feedback. Not everyone likes to write reviews, but over time, the number of reviews that you have will grow and help your conversion rate.

Online Ads Are Slowing web Page Loading Speed

Online Ads Are Slowing Web Page Loading Speed

Advertisers are constantly looking for ways to reach potential customers. As technology changed, so did the focus of advertising. Advertising burgeoned with the advent of radio and grew even more as television reached more and more homes. With the advent of the internet, advertising now appears to be a constant presence. Many organisations welcomed the opportunity to monetise their sites by accepting advertising, but some organisations now find that an over-reliance on advertising is hurting the performance of their websites by decreasing page loading times.

A study by the consulting firm Aberdeen Group found that a one-second delay in page loading time reduced page views by 11% and customer satisfaction by 17%. Also, a study by Google found that the average page loading time for mobile devices using the still-prevalent 3G network has slowed to 19 seconds. Google also found that a site that loaded in five seconds earned twice as much in advertising revenue as a site that loaded in 19 seconds, a finding that should concern you if you’re trying to monetise your site.

The online advertising consulting firm Ad Lightning conducted a study to determine the factors that were causing some online advertisements to degrade page loading speed. Ad Lightning noted that online advertising had caused a large increase in latency problems that significantly delay the loading time of ad-supported websites. Anyone who spends time on the internet knows how frustrating it can be when a website loads slowly, especially if it is the advertising that is causing the slowdown.

The report noted that a large part of the problem was the failure of some advertisers to follow the guidelines for online advertising developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a trade organisation that develops industry standards in the US and Europe. The study found that about 28% of the advertisements did not meet these guidelines and that there were five areas that contributed to slow page loading time.

  • Oversized advertisements. The industry standard for banner ads is 200KB or less, and the standard for display advertisements is a maximum of 300KB. The study found that 41% of the advertisements exceeded the maximum limit.
  • Over-requested ads and excessive tracking scripts. The IAB suggests a maximum of 15 network calls for an individual advertisement, while the study found that the average number of network requests and tracking scripts was 56.
  • Processor-intensive advertisements. The IAB suggests that advertisements should not take more than 300 milliseconds of CPU time to render properly, while the study found that about 32% exceeded that time, with some taking as long as three seconds to render.
  • SSL non-compliance. The IAB recommends that online advertisers adopt HTTP/2 encryption, while the study found that 51% of the advertisements did not comply.
  • Intrusive and unsupported advertisement formats. Page loading time and user dissatisfaction both increase if an advertiser uses a format that a browser does not support, yet 4% of the advertisements analysed in this study were delivered in Flash, a format that Google Chrome does not support.

Ultimately, the slowdown in page loading time has resulted in a reduction in visitor engagement that reduces the revenue that a site receives from the advertising on the site. Therefore, if you are trying to monetise your website, you need to carefully balance your need for revenue with the quality of your visitor’s experience.

E-Commerce Trends for 2017 - A Half Year Review

5 Ways to Improve Online Sales

Over the past ten years, shopping online has changed from being merely a convenient alternative to being the norm. Before the advent of the internet, shoppers had to leave home, fight their way through traffic and battle the elements on the high street to get what they wanted. Online shopping has changed all that – now, you don’t even need to get out of bed to buy what you want.

Today, consumers can find almost any item online, and can compare quality and prices quickly and easily. With there being so much competition online, it can be difficult to get your products and services noticed, but there are several steps you can take to increase sales.

  • Define your target market

One of the most important factors in achieving success in online business is to clearly define your target market. Different generations prefer to receive information in different ways, and tailoring your online content to your target market is key to converting visitors into customers.

For example, millennials tend to prefer visual content when shopping online, while older generations usually prefer more detailed, text-based information. Consider the demographics of your target market, research their habits when shopping online and content that matches their preferences.

  • Keep your buying process simple

Creating a positive customer experience is essential if you wish to be successful selling online. Making it easy for customers to browse gives them a positive experience that will keep them coming back. However, a long, complicated checkout process gives them more time to reconsider making a purchase, and can cause them to turn to competitors.

Give customers the option to save their payment details, as this will save them time when they return, increasing the chances of them buying again.

  • Provide customers with the opportunity to review you

Being able to read reviews is one of the biggest advantages of the online shopping experience for the consumer. Online shoppers have become accustomed to using reviews to determine whether to make purchases; enabling your customers to review the products and services you offer is a simple way of both generating content that motivates prospective new customers to buy, and enhances your reputation.

  • Provide excellent customer service

With there being so much competition online, excellent customer service is essential.

Of course, while you do your best to ensure customers are happy with their purchases, occasionally you will get an unsatisfied customer. An excellent way of dealing with this is to offer a money-back guarantee for customers that are dissatisfied for any reason.

You should also aim to make it easy for customers to return orders and get a refund, and you should ask for feedback when they do so – this will help you improve your operations and leave customers with the sense that you’ve done your utmost to look after them, which could keep them coming back.

  • Follow up after sales

Following up with customers is an excellent way to both get feedback on their experience and let them know about new products, services and promotions. Doing this helps establish credibility with customers and shows that you value them.

Always remember – happy customers are the key to long-term success.

Revising Your Website For Better User Experience

Revising Your Website For Better User Experience

Have you spent much time lately thinking about your website’s user experience (UX)? There are so many demands on your time that you may not have put revamping your website on your to-do list, but you risk losing potential and current customers if you don’t. There are very few businesses that don’t have competitors and your competition is only a few mouse-clicks away.

UX is one of the keys to your success. If your customers become dissatisfied with your website and you don’t take corrective action, you are gambling with your company’s future. According to computer software company Adobe Systems, about two-thirds of online shoppers prefer a well-designed website over a plain one, and about 39% of shoppers will abandon a site if pages take too long to load. Here are a few thinks to think about when revamping your website.

Check your use of keywords

Keywords are identifying how your customers view your company and the products or services you provide. Therefore, you need to determine which phrase you would use to describe your business in simple and clear language. Once you have accomplished that task, you need to integrate that phrase into the content on your website.

There was a time when a common SEO practice was to use that phrase excessively in content to try to increase your search engine rank. If you haven’t revised your website in a while, you may have some pages written in that manner That practice is called keyword stuffing, and it causes more harm than good. Search engines now penalise you for doing it and keyword stuffing makes your content sound stilted, giving your customers a poor UX. When you revise your website, use keywords naturally and in reasonable numbers.

Make your website design attractive

If you want to improve for UX, you need to learn as much as you can about a customer and design a website that appeals to them. Keep in mind that many potential customers will click away immediately if they consider a website unattractive and that most online shoppers have a limited attention span when they are browsing. Online shoppers tend to scan a site quickly and won’t stay for very long if they are unable to find what they want easily, so you have a limited time to grab their attention with your website design. You need to have a website that has a professional look but also makes it easy for your visitors to scan.

Prominently display your unique selling proposition (USP)

Once customers find your site, they want to know what your company does. According to Adobe Systems, 52% of them expect to find that information immediately on your homepage. You shouldn’t expect your customers to spend time searching your site to figure out why they should do business with you. Your USP should be prominently displayed on your homepage so customers know why they should choose you to do business with rather than one of your competitors.

Revising your website gives you the opportunity to be your own critic and make changes in your website’s content that will improve UX and increase your sales.

Slow Loading Time & Lack of Guest Checkout Costs UK Retailers Billions

Slow Loading Time & Lack of Guest Checkout Costs UK Retailers Billions

Most of the major retailers in the UK have websites that are mobile-friendly, but slow website loading time and the lack of a guest checkout feature are costing them billions in lost revenue.

A study by online retail specialist Summit looked at the UK’s 50 top retailers to show how they could improve their mobile and online activities. Included in the study were John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Tesco, Morrisons and Screwfix.

The study found that the average loading time across all 50 retailers was about seven seconds, which is twice the recommended minimum time. Summit stated that each second above the recommended minimum time cost the retailers 7% in converted sales, which translates into about £1 billion in lost revenue each year.

With regard to guest checkout, the study found that only 38% of the companies surveyed provided that function. With an estimated 25% of online customers leaving an ecommerce website that required registration, Summit estimated that the lack of a guest checkout feature cost the retailers an additional £1 billion in lost revenue each year.

A similar study of 100 online retailers conducted by Bronto Software found that 33% of the companies surveyed did not provide a guest checkout function. This study found that the lack of a guest checkout option required customers to fill out forms on around five pages, with some sites requiring customers to provide information on up to nine pages.

Commenting on the Summit report, TCC Global Global Insights Director Bryan Roberts said: “Even pure play retailers, often held up as being the best-of-the-best when it comes to ecommerce, offer plenty of room for improvement from end-to-end, which is surprising. Shoppers wouldn’t put up with slow service in-store, and the same applies online. Slow site speeds and complex checkout functions can all result in an abandoned basket, just as a long queue can force shoppers into leaving a store.”

In addition to looking at page loading speed and guest checkout options, Summit also looked at the logistics and delivery options offered by the retailers. While 87% offered a click-and-collect feature, most companies surveyed did not offer flexible delivery options. Only 46% offered customers the ability to select the day that they wanted delivery, and only 24% provided the ability to select both the day and time of delivery.

Summit Co-Founder and CEO Hedley Aylott said: “The Summit Scorecard provides us with an understanding of what the top 50 UK retailers are really like to shop with online. While retailers have made huge strides, with most now getting mobile right, many are still struggling to offer delivery options that meet shoppers’ needs. While this will not be an easy fix, no-one in retail needs further convincing or evidence of the importance of the online experience on overall profitability. These results are confirmation that there is still a lot of room for improvement, highlighting the real opportunity for retailers to fix some of the basics.”

On a positive note, the Summit report noted that 92% of the retailers surveyed had a website that was mobile-friendly, an important consideration given the growing trend for consumers to use mobile devices to make purchases online.

Four Ways to Make Your WordPress Business Website Load Faster

Four Steps to Make Your WordPress Business Website Load Faster

WordPress is now the platform of choice for millions of business websites. WordPress has become a favourite of business owners due to the many themes and plug-ins available that simplify managing a website. However, over time, WordPress can become bogged down and reduce the loading speed of your website, and a reduced loading speed can adversely impact your search engine ranking and your ability to retain and convert visitors to your site. It is important for you to monitor your website so that you’ll know promptly if the loading speed declines. Here are four steps that you can take to keep your WordPress site loading quickly. 

  • Save fewer revisions to your posts and content

Every time that you make a revision to your posts or other content on your website, WordPress automatically saves the original, as one of the features of the platform is the ability for you to retrieve, review and restore previous versions of your content. While this feature can be useful, it adds to the tables in your MySQL database and can slow down your site. When you make four revisions to one of your posts, you add three copies to your database, taking up space as well as degrading the site performance. You can keep your site loading quickly by manually reviewing and deleting obsolete revisions or by installing a plug-in, such as WP-Optimize, that will clean your database automatically according to your pre-determined schedule and parameters

  • Optimise the size of your images

Images split up long blocks of text and make sites more attractive and more likely to sustain a visitor’s attention. However, images on your website can also be a cause of slow page loading times by taking up more storage space. Therefore, it’s extremely important to optimise your images before you upload them to your website. Many photo editing applications, such as Photoshop, have a function that you can select to optimise images for inclusion on your website. In addition, WordPress compression plug-ins, such as WP Smush, allow you to resize and compress your JPEG images and convert GIF pictures to faster-loading PNG images.

  • Choose your advertisements cautiously

Be careful of the types of advertisements that you choose to include on your website. From a website optimisation standpoint, the best way to place an advertisement on your site is to link to it via an image that has already been optimised for the internet. When you place an advertisement on your site from a third-party advertising network, you may cause your page loading time to increase, as this type of advertisement will access an outside server to load it to your site. Therefore, be sure to determine if an advertisement has any impact on how quickly your site loads by testing load times before and after you add an advertisement.

  • Use text links to connect with social media

For many businesses, social media is an important source of traffic. However, official social media widgets can add up to 500KB of data to your website pages and significantly impact the loading time. Therefore, using text links rather than social media sharing buttons can be beneficial.

These suggestions can ensure that your WordPress website loads faster and is more user-friendly.

Preparing for Black Friday 2017 - Month by Month Preparation

Getting Ready for Black Friday – Month-by-Month Preparation

Black Friday will be here before you know it, ushering in four of the busiest days for online retailers. Most consumers view the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday as an ideal opportunity to score some bargains, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. Online shopping during this four-day shopping window has become especially popular, with traffic increasing by 20% to 25% each year for the past few years.

There is every reason to believe that this trend will continue this year, and it’s not too early to begin planning for this year’s onslaught. Last year, the websites of many online retailers experienced slow loading times during this period, and some even crashed for several hours. Here are a few steps that you can take to get ready to help you avoid becoming a casualty during this key shopping period.

One of the first things that you should do is look at your website’s infrastructure. May and June represent an excellent opportunity for you to evaluate how your website is performing and to carry out any routine maintenance required to ensure that your site is ready for the expected increase in traffic. Evaluate your infrastructure with the goal of avoiding any downtime for maintenance during the peak selling season. These two months are also an excellent time to install any new services.

July is the perfect time to test your website’s performance to look for any issues that might affect the loading time. Look at your historical traffic data for this four-day period, and evaluate your ability to handle Black Friday’s increased traffic loads, assuming that traffic will increase over last year. Also, see whether you have any applications that are particularly sensitive to increases in traffic. If you find any areas that present a challenge, this is the time to install the technology that will mitigate the problem.

In August, freeze the implementation of any updates to your website’s infrastructure. Then, look at your analytical data again to uncover any potential weaknesses remaining. Conduct load tests of your site to be sure that any changes that you made in July are performing as expected. Testing high loads in August gives you adequate time to make any changes before Black Friday arrives.

In September and October, evaluate any natural increase in traffic loads. You should start to see a natural increase in traffic loads by October, and analysing real traffic data rather than the artificial traffic that you used for load testing can often uncover some surprises. Check your site daily to ensure that it is handling increased traffic loads efficiently. At this point, your preparations for Black Friday should be complete.

In November, continue your daily traffic analysis. If you’ve been checking your analytics during the past six months, you should only need to make minor adjustments as your traffic increases. Expect exceptionally large traffic loads on Black Friday, with spikes of up to 15 times the average traffic for a typical day during the rest of the year being possible.

Come December, evaluate how your site performed, and use the results of that analysis to help you plan for the peak shopping season in 2018.

Tips to Make Your Small Business Website More Effective

Five Tips to Make Your Small Business Website More Effective

When you run a small business, your website serves the same function as a calling card – it provides essential information about your business. It also could be the first point of contact for potential new customers, so it is important you keep your site up to date and that it gives new visitors a good impression. Here are five important tips that you should keep in mind to ensure that you put your best foot forward.

Make it easy for visitors to find your contact information

When potential new customers visit your website, they want to be able to find essential information quickly. If your site loads slowly, they’re not likely to stay very long and will look elsewhere for the goods or services they want. Even if your site loads quickly, visitors will expect a well-organized site that makes it easy to find key information about your company. Therefore, be sure to include your contact information on your homepage. If you operate a brick-and-mortar store, include your street address and operating hours as well. Everyone is in a hurry these days, and most visitors won’t take the time to search through multiple pages to find it.

Use high-quality photographs

You’re trying to make a good impression, so you should use attractive photos of your products to entice customers. Don’t use generic stock photos. If your customer purchases an item that does not match the photo when it arrives, you’ll have a very unhappy customer who probably won’t ever make a purchase from you again. If you are providing professional services, include photos of key staff members to help start building a relationship.

Make your site mobile-friendly

The trend to use mobile devices continues to grow, so you should assume that many, if not most of your customers will at some point access your site on a mobile device. Customers now expect to have the same experience viewing a website on a mobile device as they do on a desktop computer, and you will lose credibility if your site does not meet that expectation. Not only will you provide your customers with a better user experience, but search engines will also reward you with a higher search rank.

Make judicious use of content

If you’re selling products, keep your product descriptions concise and informative. Customers want information that can help them make a purchasing decision and not a lot of fluff that wastes their time. The same advice holds true for any “about us” web pages and staff biographies if you are a professional services firm.

Provide a clear call to action at key decision points

When customers visit your website, what do you want them to do? Do you want then to make an online purchase? Do you want them to visit your brick-and-mortar store? Do you want then to sign up for a newsletter? Do you want them to call or email you to set up an appointment? Whatever you want them to do, be sure you have a clear call to action at the appropriate places on your website that encourages them to do it.

It may be a cliché, but it’s true – you only have one chance to make a good first impression.  But more of all, make sure that if you’re sending visitors to your website make sure that not only is your website up, but that it loads quickly before they click away and go to your competitor instead.

Lessons Learned from Amazon's S3 Outage

Lessons Learned From Amazon’s S3 Outage

Over 150,000 businesses rely on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) for backend cloud-based services for their websites. In March of this year many of those businesses found out how dependent they were on the cloud when Amazon S3 experienced an outage for almost four hours. Many websites slowed to a crawl and some were unable to load at all.

The outage occurred when Amazon was attempting to fix a problem with a payment and billing system and executed a command that was supposed to remove a few servers from one of S3’s subsystems. However, an incorrect command resulted in removing many support servers and disrupted the websites of many S3 users. Restoring those support servers took much longer than expected.

The outage had a major impact on large e-commerce retailers. Of the top 100 online retailers, 54 suffered a reduction in loading time of 20% or more. Of the affected sites, loading speed decreased on average by 29.7 seconds, with sites taking an average of 42.7 seconds to load. In the world of e-commerce, when page loading speed declines, so does revenue. If a site fails to load, it’s the equivalent of closing the doors of a high street retailer.

The main lesson from this incident is not to put all your eggs into one basket. You at least need to have a contingency plan for how to handle an outage at a third-party provider, such as storing backup data and images on local servers that you can use if needed.

It may cost more, but using more than one source for cloud services and connecting them with automatic failovers can keep your site running smoothly. If you take that approach, using two sources, you should not utilise more than 40% of the capacity of each site to ensure you have enough capacity if once source should experience an outage.

Netflix is a good example of the effectiveness of using multiple sources for cloud services. In 2012, an electrical storm caused a power outage at Amazon and Netflix went down for about three hours, costing the company an estimated $600,000 (£480,000) in revenue. After that incident, Netflix decided to implement a strategy to have its cloud services based in 12 locations worldwide that were designed to roll over automatically should one our more locations fail. That proved to be a wise decision, as Netflix did not experience any performance degradation during the recent Amazon S3 outage.

No third-party service can or will guarantee 100% uptime. Most offer 99.99% uptime, but you do need to worry about that 0.01% possibility of downtime. As Murphy’s Law states, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Be prepared for the worst, and build redundancy into your operations, backup your data and test for vulnerabilities.

One last lesson you should take away from this incident applies to any critical operation you undertake, not just to potential cloud problems – always double-check before you implement a major action. Had Amazon followed that advice, this incident would not have happened – a typo in the command instruction caused the outage.

Negative Impact of Downtime

Negative Impact of Website Downtime

There are many reasons why websites go down. Your server may become overloaded, or you could have an equipment malfunction. You might experience data centre problems, or you might have forgotten to renew your domain name registration. Sometimes your site goes down because of issues connected to scheduled maintenance, or you could be the victim of a hacker. Regardless of the cause, you need to resolve the problem quickly, as downtime can have a negative impact on your business. Here are several of them.

You will receive a lower search engine rank

If your site is inaccessible, search engines will notice. If this is only an occasional occurrence, the consequences aren’t very severe. However, if downtime happens frequently, you will receive a lower ranking in search engine results.

User experience (UX) will suffer

It doesn’t matter how well designed your site is, how riveting your content is or how attractive your promotions are. If your site is down often or loads very slowly, all the effort you have spent developing an exceptional website will have been for nought. Visitors will not wait for a slow site to load or return to try to access your site if they find that it is down repeatedly. They will turn to your competitors, and you may have lost that customer for good.

Your brand will lose credibility

Visitors will associate a poorly performing website with poor performance in delivering your goods or services, and your brand will suffer. You could lose your credibility and get a poor reputation.

A recent survey conducted by Wirehive confirmed this point. Wirehive surveyed 1,000 UK consumers in January 2017. Of those surveyed, 68% said that would have a negative impression of a brand if its site were down when they tried to access it, and 57% said they would not buy from a brand that experienced excessive downtime. In addition, 45% of the respondents stated that they were unable to access a site from which they wished to make a purchase within the past week, and 55% of those surveyed said they were unable to access a site to check out a product or service during the past week.

Robert Belgrave, CEO at Wirehive, added: “It’s easy to assume that enjoying an online browsing session or checking out at an e-commerce platform will be plain sailing. This report has highlighted how a broken online journey can ruin your brand’s reputation and, worse still, dent your sales … get it right and your customers will have a satisfying experience.”

You will lose profits

Keep in mind that your website is the way you communicate with your customers, and every minute of downtime translates into a lost opportunity to make a good impression and make a sale. The impact of even a small amount of downtime can be significant. Market research firm Statista estimates that e-commerce revenues in the UK will total £440,772bn over the next five years. Even a downtime of only 0.1% would result in a revenue loss of £440bn over that period.

Downtime can be costly, so consider using a website monitoring service to notify you if your site goes down so you can take prompt corrective action.