Okay, so you have created your online shop, all of your products are up and waiting to be sold, your virtual shopping cart is sat waiting to start making you money.
Many years ago when the internet was first picking up the saying "build it and they will come" was more or less true and anyone could create a website and with little work you could have a site getting several visitors per day if not hundreds.
Building your online shop is easy with eCommerce software like EKM and anyone could do it. Getting visitors and more importantly, customers to your online shop is much more difficult.
Getting people to visit my online shop
There are many ways to get people to visit your online shop; some are obvious others aren't so obvious.
- Add your website and email address to all written materials (business cards, letterhead, brochures, literature, publications, products, etc).
- Always put your website address in any media advertisements such as Magazines, Newspapers, TV and Radio.
- Tell all your friends and customers about your website, word of mouth is very powerful.
- Contributing to relevant newsgroups and website forums, ensuring that your website address is always in all postings. Remember not to spam the forums and newsgroups with blatant advertising as that will do more damage than good, just be helpful and post answers to questions along with your websites address in your signature.
- Put your website address in your outgoing email signature.
- Advertising on related websites, such as banner advertising or more specialised recommendations, for example a website about clothes could recommend your online shop that sells t-shirts.
- Targeted email lists, these should be opt-in lists of targeted businesses and customers that would benefit from your products. Do not spam people, only send to those who have requested information either from your own website or a list purchased from another site.
- Search Engines, (covered next).
If you're looking for the latest news about your favourite pop star, or wanting to find out about a recent news story where do you go? The search engines of course, everyone does and with Google indexing well over 3 billion webpage's there's a good chance the information your after will be in there.
Its exactly the same with ecommerce, people search for what they want. For example if your looking for the latest Britney Spears CD many people will just type into Google (or another search engine) 'Britney Spears CD' and hey presto up comes around just under 1 million pages (try it!). If your online shop sells music CD's there is a good chance you also sell Britney's new album and so you want to appear in the search engine results so people will visit your site and hopefully buy the CD from you.
So how do you get in the listings?
Submitting Your Ecommerce Website to the Search Engines
Search engines use Robots to index webpage's and include them in the search engine database, a Robot is a software system that surfs the internet all day everyday following links in the same way you would do if you were browsing a website, this is called trawling.
You can submit your online shop's address to the search engines which will stick it in a big list of site to trawl and eventually your store will be visited by the Robot and providing there is enough content on your store it will be added to the search engines database, this is known as being indexed.
As the robot visits each page it adds them into the search engines database and tries to classify the webpage based on its content, for example a page which contains the words 'Border Collie' and has various collections of text refereeing to dogs and Border Collies its safe to assume that it's a webpage about Border Collies and so the Robot will index the page under the term 'Border Collie'.
If this same webpage has links from this page to others about dogs and all these pages are on the same website address, for example, www.dogs.com/bordercollie.htm, www.dogs.com/lurcher.htm then it's also safe to assume this entire website is all about dogs.
This same website will probably have links to external sites such as a dog food website. If many websites that are about dogs are all linking to the same dog food website then its also safe to assume that this dog food website must be pretty good as why else would all these dog related sites link to it. This is called site popularity.
The search engines look at all this data and use it to generate the search results. Based on our past examples, if we searched for 'dog food' then the website with the highest site popularity would be ranked highest and therefore shown first as it's assumed to be the most relevant while the lowest popularity site will be ranked and shown last.
Therefore, it's important to have other related websites linking to your online shop if you want to get good site popularity in the search engines and appear on that first page of results.
Although site popularity plays a part in getting your site up in the search engine rankings it's not the only factor. For example, if your website was about something really obscure and happened to be the only one in the world about a topic then you would still appear in the listings because you would have no competition for your search terms. However, this is pretty rare and in the case of eCommerce it's very, very rare.
You don't actually have to submit your website to the search engines as providing at least one other website is linking to yours then there is a very good chance a Robot of some search engine will come along and index your page, and once your in one search engine it's just matter of time before your in them all.
As explained previously your website is indexed and ranked in the search engines based on its content and also your site popularity. The keywords in a webpage or website are the terms that sum up what the page or site is about. In our example earlier the website was about dogs, and if this site existed you would probably find the word 'dog' all over the site.
If you wanted to sell music CD's it has to be clear both to visitors and search engines what is it your website is about. You would put headlines explaining that you sell all the latest pop music CD's for example. It would then be clear to visitors that the website is about music CD's and of course our most important visitors the search engine Robots would know what our site was about and would index us accordingly.
The more times you repeat a keyword on a webpage the more relevant it should be, for example a page that mentions Britney Spears just once might just be commenting on her and might not be a page all about her, in the same way we have mentioned her here a few times. However a webpage and website which has the words Britney Spears hundreds of times is more than likely a site all about her. However you can't just keep repeating the same words as if you over do it you will be classed as spamming the search engines and your site will be banned.
Basically the key is to get content on your website that is good quality content that is actually about the subject matter. If you were selling a toaster you could have the words toaster on your product category, the products name (e.g. 'Phillips toaster') and of course in the description you could have 'This is a Phillips toaster which can toast all sorts of bread', which would be much better than just 'this can toast all sorts of bread' as your getting the keyword 'Phillips toaster' in.
Search Engine Optimisation Companies
There are many companies out there who claim to be able to get you number one rankings for given search terms, however common sense tells you that there is no way a company can get you to number one for a keyword for a set price. For example the same company will call 100 gift shops and tell them all that they can be number one in the search engines, how can 100 different shops all be number one with the same keywords?
The answer? They can't. What they can do however is to select an obscure search term such as 'big lion cardboard gift' and with a lot of work get you to number one. There is no way to guarantee search engine positions so avoid any company that claims to be able to do so for a one off fee.
However not all Search Engine Optimisation companies are a waste of time, they can help you setup your online shop so that it is full of relevant keywords and specially optimised for the search engines, which is very important. You can do this yourself of course but it can be hard work and sometimes requires lots of work every day.
Most of the content covered in this article will be performed by a Search Engine Optimisation company on your behalf and so it can save you a lot of time and effort to outsource this. Ekm Systems can offer such services and so it's worth contacting us to see exactly what we can do for you.
Being optimised for the search engine is one of the most important things for all websites and its worth taking time getting it right. However there is another way to ensure that number one position in the search engines
Pay Per Click Advertising
This is a new kind of advertising model that has been around now for just a couple of years and is gaining more and more advertisers everyday and is quickly becoming the only way to appear on the first page of many search engines.
You will have seen these kinds of search engine listings; they appear in 99.9% of all search engines. For example here is a screen shot from Google...
Here we have searched for 'dog food' and as you can see the search engine display has a list of websites along the left-hand side. These are all websites that have been indexed in Google and have both relevancy for the term 'dog food' and also have good site popularity, the number one result is www.iams.com which is a worldwide brand.
What you also get on all Google result pages are the Pay Per Click adverts which are shown along the right-hand side in coloured boxes, they can also appear in two coloured boxes along the top of the screen. These adverts (as you can see) are also for dog food however Google hasn't decided who comes up first, the advertisers have.
The way Pay Per Click advertising works is pretty simple, you select a search term such as 'dog food' and then say how much you are willing to pay for every visitor that clicks on your advert and comes to your website, this could be anything from 0.10 right up to 20.00 or even more.
If you decide to pay 0.50 for every click but someone else is offering to pay 1.00 per click then they go above you in the list, as obviously they are willing to pay more. However they don't pay a 1.00 per click, instead they just pay a penny above what the person below them is paying, so in our case they would pay 0.51.
For example a typical list of 5 adverts, the costs and positions might work out like...
|Position||Company||Max Bid||Actual Cost|
|1||It's a dogs life||1.50||1.01|
|2||Your best friend||1.00||0.36|
|3||Sams Dog Food||0.35||0.12|
|5||The Big Dog Shop||0.10||0.10|
Now what this also shows is that the company in position 2 'Your best friend' is getting a much better deal as although they are not in number one, second place is still pretty good and they are paying 0.36 per click whereas number one 'It's a dogs life' are paying a hefty 1.01 per click.
This demonstrates why you should check your Pay Per Click listing everyday to ensure your getting the best deal.
Pay Per Click advertising is great because you only pay for results. With a traditional media advert like TV you pay a set figure per advertisement shown and you have no guarantee about the number of potential customers it's going to bring in. With Pay Per Click your getting targeted visitors who are interested in your products and your not paying for those who aren't.
It's also worth trying to avoid the most popular keywords if your on a tight budget. For example, the search term 'toaster' will be more expensive than the term 'Phillips toaster' and the second term is more relevant and is more likely to bring in even more highly targeted visitors as they are actually looking for a Phillips toaster not just a general toaster. Another example of this would be our music store, the term 'music CD' is just too generalised and would cost a fortune, where as 'Britney Spears In the Zone' would be much more specific and bring visitors that are looking for that specific album.
Do all the obvious things like getting your website address displayed in as many places as possible, and don't be scared by the Pay Per Click systems, we can always help you through it and its all pretty simple once you get your head around the different systems.
This has only been a quick look into the various ways of promoting your eCommerce website. Feel free to email us for more information, we are always happy to help our customers and potential customers to get their Ccommerce online store performing as well as it can.