Category: Ecommerce

Google Hates Your Poor Mobile Experience

Long have website owners and SEOs tried to figure out the inner workings of Google’s search algorithm. With over 200 factors that play into a site’s ranking that are not entirely clear and guidelines that seem to continually change, it can feel like you are aiming at a moving target. While so much of this is unclear, one thing is certain: Google hates a website that offers a poor mobile experience.

Though not a surprise, businesses small and large had mixed reactions as they heard Google’s most recent announcement — starting April 21, 2015 mobile-friendliness will play a much bigger role in mobile search. Those who are optimized for mobile are rejoicing that they might have a leg up on the competition. Those who are not are groaning in misery.

Responsive Web Design for Mobile Search

Why Would Google Do This?

While it is easy to get frustrated at Google if you are in a place where your site is not mobile optimized and is unlikely to be in the near future, there are clear reasons why they would make this switch.

I have have often said that many of Google’s decisions can be explained by looking at the impact on their dominance in search. There is a symbiotic relationship between Google and online searchers. Google offers the best results so a search can quickly find what they are looking for, and in turn searchers click on search ads to send revenue to Google and ensure they stay in business. If searchers are not pleased with the results that Google offers up, they will head to Bing or Yahoo or Duck Duck Go.

As 50% of search clicks now come from mobile devices, it is imperative that Google fulfill its end of this bargain by offering mobile searchers not just good results, but results that work for the device the searcher is on. While randomwebsite.com might have incredible content or yourstore.com might have the best products, sending a mobile user to their websites that offer a poor experience on mobile devices does not make sense. Moreover, it disappoints searchers to the point where eventually they will turn to another search engine. Google and their shareholders do not want this to happen.

How to Test and Know if Your Site is “Mobile Friendly”

While “mobile friendly” may seem quite subjective, Google Webmaster Tools actually offers a convenient mobile usability tool to review the basics of how your website is optimized for mobile. Check it out.

Mobile Usability Tools Report

Why Would a Site Not Choose to Upgrade?

The first question that comes to mind is: why would a website not simply make the necessary changes?

Usually it is not a matter of wanting to upgrade or not, but moreso a matter of the challenges associated with moving to a mobile friendly design. While a small WordPress site might just install a free, responsive theme in minutes, it is much more complicated for others.

Reasons websites are not made mobile friendly include:

  • They cannot afford the cost of the associated web development
  • The site is so large and the content so diverse that it is a massive project
  • They do not have the time to manage the transition
  • Their existing CMS or ecommerce platform that has much invested into it (including many costly third party integrations that are business critical) does not have the capability to truly be mobile friendly

What Are Your Options to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Google Mobile Friendly Search Results

Generally speaking, you have 3 options:

  1. Do nothing – stick with the desktop-only version
  2. Add a separate mobile site
  3. Redesign or convert your site responsive web design

These options are listed in order of worst to best. Doing nothing and sticking with a desktop only site is generally not a good option. A separate mobile site (whether on a subdomain or using the same URLs) is the next best option. Results here can vary significantly depending if things are set up properly or not. Finally, a responsive website — where a single set of code allows your site to adapt to the various devices, sizes, and resolutions of your visitors — is the best option. Google themselves have pushed for this particular solution.

I realize that while it is really easy to say a site should be mobile friendly, achieving it can be much harder. Some of the challenges mentioned above — finances, complexity, time, platform limitations — can significantly impact your ability to move forward. The reality, however, is that if your website is not mobile friendly, you need to do something if you want to get mobile visitors from organic search results.

With such a great percentage of search coming via mobile devices, the stakes are high. If you don’t attract visibility on mobile, you can bet your competitors will. Like it or not, the time to go mobile friendly is now — errrh, actually it was a couple years ago — but if you still have not done so, let this be the impetus for you to make the necessary changes. Even if you cannot update your website by April 21, make a plan and get started. Visitors are (usually) looking for what your site offers. You just have to package the best of who you are in a way that they can find it and engage with it.

So, yes, Google hates your poor mobile experience. But maybe you should too.

Automate Your Ecommerce Business with “If This Then That”

Managing an ecommerce business comes with many challenges. As many online stores are SMBs (small to medium-sized business), it is hard to afford the level of sophistication that major retailers use to increase their efficiency. As a result, it is easy for things to fall behind or slip through the cracks.

The key to improving efficiency is automating wherever you can. How much better would your business be if you could notify the warehouse sooner to process orders faster, track social media mentions, manage customer service issues, and take action the moment your site goes down?

Domino Cause-Effect Automation for Ecommerce

Enter If This Then That (often referred to as IFTTT), a web-based platform that helps you integrate various channels (social media, Dropbox, SMS, and much more) with one another  based on a variety of “triggers” that kick off an action. This system can be used to automate much of your life or business. Each conditional activity you set up is called a recipe, which is made up of a trigger and an action.

Here are a few of the recipes I use on a personal level that may help you better understand how it works:

  • Every day at 5pm, turn on a WEMO-connected light switch at my house
  • When I arrive at the office (based on my phone’s GPS location), add an entry into a Google Drive spreadsheet so I can track my hours at the office
  • If it is going to rain tomorrow, send me a text message
  • If I post a photo on Instagram, upload it into a Dropbox folder
  • If I text “escape” to IFTTT, call me with a “fake” call so I can get out of an awkward situation (haven’t used that yet)

 

Triggers

The first thing you need to do to automate your business is to identify a series of triggers that will initiate your actions.

  • New order received
  • Certain time of day or day of the month
  • Website is down
  • New return (RMA) request
  • New lead comes in
  • Mention on social media
  • Competitor product price drops (w/TrackIf)
  • Inventory reaches a certain level

 

Actions

Once you have your triggers figured out, you need to set up an action that will be initiated. The following are some sample actions that you might consider automating:

  • Send a text message
  • Flash light or change light bulb color
  • Add a line to a spreadsheet
  • Send a phone or desktop notification
  • Save to Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Set a reminder
  • Send an email to a staff member
  • Send a Twitter Direct Message (DM) or tweet something
  • Adjust the thermostat

 

Rube Goldberg Self Operating Napkin

 

Top Recipes to Automate your Online Store

Here are some of our favorite ecommerce recipes to get you started. We have even created the recipes for you to quickly add them in.

 

Order placed, send notification to fulfillment crew

The ability to respond quickly is key to keeping your customers satisfied. Why not ensure that your fulfillment crew or warehouse staff get notified right away?

One way you can accomplish this is to trigger an email to up to 5 members of the team when an email arrives in Gmail with a subject that matches “New Order Received” (or equivalent). Here is a sample New Order Received Recipe we have created for you to use:

IFTTT Recipe: If New Ecommerce Store Order Received, Email Fulfillment Team connects gmail to gmail

 

Website went down, send SMS & push phone notification to remind you to turn off Adwords

Working in online marketing for ecommerce stores, I have many clients waste hundreds or even thousands of dollars because their website went down and no one bothered to turn off the paid search. Don’t waste precious dollars — automate and ensure you are alerted immediately.

One way to accomplish this is using a service such as Pingdom and Uptime Robot (free). When your site goes down, they will send you a notification via email or SMS that can be used as an IFTTT trigger. Create an action that sends a text message or push notification to your phone (or your online marketer’s phone) with a reminder to pause Adwords campaigns.

You can use our Website is Down, Pause Adwords Android Notification Recipe to accomplish this:

IFTTT Recipe: Website is Down (via Uptime Robot), Android Notification to Pause Adwords connects gmail to android-notifications

 

Customer mentions you on Twitter, add a line to a spreadsheet

Social media is an incredible tool that can be used for online marketing, branding, and customer service. However, as there are so many social media platforms and those in charge often wear many hats, it can be a real challenge to stay on top of it. What happens when a customer complains online and it falls through the cracks?

Why not see all social media mentions in a Google spreadsheet where you can not only track them, but ensure that someone has responded. Include a couple of additional columns in your spreadsheet to track if a mention has been responded to, who did it, and when. To accomplish this, we use a simple IFTTT recipe that adds a new row to your spreadsheet upon each mention:

IFTTT Recipe: If Customer Mentions You on Twitter, Add a Row to Google Drive Spreadsheet connects twitter to google-drive

 

Send an email reminder to run Google Analytics reports at the end of the month

As many SMB owners and managers have so much on their plates, it can be easy to forget to stop and analyze what is happening. At least in a brick and mortar business, you have anecdotal evidence based on what you see happening. With an ecommerce store, some owners go months without reviewing what visitors are doing. This can be a critical mistake, as you might not only be missing anomalies that could cause you to lose visitors at a drastic rate, but missing opportunities to fix those anomalies and improve your business.

Ensure that you are staying on top of your store’s activity by sending yourself a monthly reminder to review your site analytics. The following recipe will send you a text message on a particular day of the month to remind you to review your Google Analytics performance:

IFTTT Recipe: Monthly reminder to review ecommerce store analytics connects date-time to sms

 

Create a task for your Sales Manager to review pricing when a competitor’s product price drops

With the global competition your online business faces, product pricing is more more complicated. While it only takes minutes for a customer to do comparison shopping, it can be a real challenge to stay on top of pricing for your product catalog.

If you have even a decent volume of products, it can be very difficult to monitor pricing across multiple competitors. Trackif simplifies this process by monitoring product pricing on a URL for you. Go one step further with the recipe below and create a to-do for your sales manager on Todoist to ensure he/she follows through:

IFTTT Recipe: If Compeitor Product Price Drops Create Todoist Task to Review connects trackif to todoist

 

More Ecommerce Recipes to Consider

This is just a sampling, a starting point really, and that’s the true beauty of If This Then That. It opens the door for almost endless possibilities to automate and improve your business. Here are a few more ideas to get the creative juices flowing:

  • Send a reminder when inventory gets low
  • Send promo code to each new social media follower
  • Pause Adwords when site goes down (this will be a little more complicated)
  • Upload customer Instagram photos you are tagged in to Dropbox for later use
  • Save articles for the whole team to read
  • Flash the lights or change the LED light color when new sales come in
  • Adjust the thermostat to make the room colder when sales are low 😉

 

We hope that this post helps you to find new efficiencies as you manage your ecommerce store. The potential to automate is incredible and limited only by your imagination and channels available on IFTTT. Please be sure to share your innovative ecommerce recipes with the rest of us in the comments section below.

3 Lessons from The Natural Grip’s Shark Tank Experience

Recently The Natural Grip was featured on Shark Tank, ABC’s investment television show. The Natural Grip is a one year old company that sells reusable tape hand grips that protect your hands during CrossFit training. They do business primarily through distributors but also have an online store, hosted on Bigcommerce’s ecommerce platform.

The company has seen great growth in its first year and shows a lot of promise. So much promise, in fact, that it generated a heated bidding war between investors Robert Herjavec and Daymond John. Eventually Herjavec won and invested $125,000 for a 25% stake in the company.  The exposure they have received from their TV appearance, along with Mr Herjavec’s expertise, seems to guarantee that The Natural Grip will see continued growth and expansion.  Here are a few takeaways from the show and our experience visiting their website.

The Natural Grip on Shark Tank

Ashley Drake on ABC’s Shark Tank

 

Lesson #1: Focus on Your Goal

As an entrepreneur, you wear many hats and are pulled in numerous directions. Furthermore, with all the challenges you face, it can be easy to be blown by the wind and chase after every possible revenue opportunity.

From The Natural Grip’s experience on Shark Tank, we learned that they are extremely focused.

Mark Cuban: “I don’t think you want to expand outside of CrossFit. That’s not the opportunity. The opportunity is adding additional products that leverage your credibility and the trust you’ve developed.”

Ashley Drake: “Right now though, let’s deal with this… what we have going on.”

Without losing sight of future opportunities, she maintained her focus on her existing product in the untapped market before her. That’s not an easy thing to do when talking to a billionaire with a lofty vision for your company.

Now, what Cuban says makes sense in a lot of contexts. However, for a young company that has yet to fully find their identity and take advantage of what lies before them, it’s not the  best idea. Too many people jump at every opportunity – never finishing what they started.

With finite bandwidth, you cannot do everything. Excel at one thing first.

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For your business or online store, you might find yourself in similar scenarios, but don’t get distracted. Focus and achieve your goals, then move on.

 

Lesson #2: Go All In

Like many entrepreneurs, founder Ashley Drake and her family are fully committed to the business. Although she is an active duty Captain in the Army Corp of Engineers, she finds time to dedicate to the business by sleeping less than four hours per night. On top of that, her husband has left his day job to commit full time to the business.

Rarely do entrepreneurs survive, let alone succeed, without this type of dedication. Of course, timing and preparation are key. Long gone are the days when you could merely open an online store and easily get sales. Commit to the journey.

Sacrifice and commitment are critical to your success.

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It is critical to understand the vision and see the endgame. However, don’t expect that you will get to the finish line without putting in hard work first.

 

Lesson #3: Optimize Your Website

While The Natural Grip shared on Shark Tank that they have built the business through distributors, they have focused some of their effort online as well. They have an online store — hosted on Bigcommerce’s ecommerce platform — on a subdomain, as well as a basic site with a fancy parallax splash page featuring their Shark Tank experience and their products.

While Bigcommerce was a great choice for their ecommerce platform, the website is poorly optimized for online visibility.   Hopefully they become aware of this while the company is still young, because it can impact their presence and sales significantly.  Not once is CrossFit included in a page title, URL, or H1 tag! Only one product has a product review, and none of them are marked up with Schema.org structured data.

The results of all this? See for yourself — Google “crossfit grips” and see what happens. They are nowhere to be found (though their Facebook page shows up at the bottom of page one of the search results).

There are also a few critical user experience issues such as not having their own SSL certificate, and forcing users to check out on an unbranded URL (https://store-n49vz.mybigcommerce.com) instead of their own domain. As a result of the splash page, root domain site, store site, and unbranded checkout, there are multiple different experiences that potential customers have to navigate through to buy the product. These types of user experience challenges can seriously hurt a store’s conversion rate.

Don’t get so caught up in the business that you forget to do your due diligence on this critical marketing channel. Even if the focus is not on online sales, potential retailers and distributors are going to have a hard time finding The Natural Grip over their competitors.

Don’t forget about your users.  Make it easy for them to find you.

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It is critical that you optimize your website for both online search and user experience. If you don’t know how, start by filling in the standard fields with descriptive text as if talking to a customer. From there you can learn more about online search or hire an ecommerce SEO agency to help you out. Be sure to have a friend (or a stranger) go through your website for the first time – with no background – and share their experiences.

 

There are always lessons to be learned from observing others’ experiences.  We wish The Natural Grip continued success in their growing business, both wholesale and online.

How to Add a WordPress Blog to your Bigcommerce Store

Despite the addition of an integrated blogging feature in Bigcommerce earlier this year, many store owners still want the power and flexibility of a WordPress blog for their website. While you cannot install WordPress onto Bigcommerce’ servers to fully integrate the code into the Bigcommerce system, it is possible to have it function together well with your online store.

Integrate WordPress into your Bigcommerce Store

How it Works

Effectively you have to set the blog up on a subdomain (ie blog.yourbigcommercestore.com) that is hosted elsewhere. By doing so, you can control the environment to be able to install WordPress onto the server and modify as desired. In doing so, there will be 2 sites (store & blog) running on 2 platforms (Bigcommerce & WordPress) hosted on 2 servers (Bigcommerce server & other) all creating 1 unified experience.

This allows you to take advantage of the flexibility of WordPress for your blog while retaining the power of Bigcommerce for your online store.

The image below demonstrate what this looks like.

WordPress Blog on a Subdomain

How to Integrate WordPress & your Bigcommerce Store

Step 1: Set up your Hosting

The first step is to set up a hosting account (unless you already have one you can use) with a website hosting company. Typically people use GoDaddy, Bluehost or a similar hosting service. We highly recommend Bluehost for use with this.

Quick Disclaimer: we are a Bluehost affiliate and do get a minor commission if you click on that link but most hosting companies offer similar programs and we choose Bluehost because we have had great experiences using them ourselves for over 8 years.

The hosting account is where website files are stored and the server-side code is run (WordPress is built on PHP which is processed by the server). You will want to host on a Linux server as IIS is more complicated to set WordPress up on and is not recommended.

Step 2: Install & Configure WordPress

Most hosting companies now have easy “single click” installations of WordPress. This means that the hosting company has an automated process to help you with this installation.

When adding WordPress onto a subdomain you will want to set that up prior to beginning this installation process.

Be sure to install WordPress onto the subdomain you have set up for your store (and not onto some other location). This process is quite simple with the only other key to success really being that you need to remember the username and password you set up.

Step 3: Change your DNS Settings

Once ready, you need to make the necessary changes to point the subdomain at your WordPress hosting. If you are not familiar with DNS, this process effectively maps the location of your website’s subdomain to the server where your blog resides.

Most of you will have pointed your domain’s nameservers at Bigcommerce. In that case, you will likely want to set up an A record to point at the IP address of your self-hosted WordPress blog. If you don’t know how to find that, just call or chat with your hosting company’s support team.

To set up the DNS records on Bigcommerce:

  1. Login to your Bigcommerce store dashboard as an Administrator
  2. Go to Setup & Tools > DNS Records
  3. Add an A Record where your “Fully Qualified Host” is your new blog subdomain (ie blog.yourbigcommercestore.com) and your “Value” is the IP Address you tracked down for the hosting server

Bigcommerce DNS Settings

DNS setups can be very complicated and vary widely. We highly recommend you ensure you know what you are doing (and take note of current settings) prior to making any changes.

Note: propagation (the process of these changes pushing to servers around the world) can take up to 72 hours but typically you will see this change within a couple hours.

 

That’s it! It’s time to implement all those blogging and content marketing plans.

Still Sound Complicated?

Stop Struggling. Hire Us to Do It For You.

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Why Would You Want to Use WordPress with your Bigcommerce Store?

There are many great reasons to use WordPress to host you blog (or other content). Here are some of the top ones:

  • Flexibility – you have access to all the source code to make it do whatever you want
  • Ubiquity – while there are some 55,000 stores on Bigcommerce, WordPress is the platform that runs over 13 million websites around the world. Support & developers are easy to find
  • Plugins – you can choose from thousands of plugins to help with site layout, functionality, SEO optimization and much more

What if I Want a Seamless Experience?

Some of you will be content with a blog that does not match your Bigcommerce theme. Other will be looking for a much more unified experience. Your blog experience can range from totally different from your Bigcommerce store to a truly seamless experience where the user does not realize they are moving back and forth unless looking at the URL. We have worked on every range and while it takes a whole lot of work to offer a seamless integration, it can provide a really great user experience to complement your online store.

What Are the Alternatives?

There are not too many alternatives to this setup. The top contender is Bigcommerce’ built-in blogging. While it will never be as powerful as WordPress, it is a decent option. Other alternatives would be to do this exact same thing just with some other blogging platform other than WordPress.

Step by Step Guide

Google Authorship Destroyed!

Like many of you, I had drunk the Google Authorship Kool Aid. I was fully invested. I double and triple checked my profiles. I told clients it was imperative they set it up. I believed this was a critical part of the future of search.

And then yesterday’s announcement heard around the world torpedoed those hopes and dreams like the Death Star destroying Alderaan in a single blow.

Google Authorship Destroyed - A Disturbance in the Force

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars A New Hope

I’m still coming to grips with all this. I understand that if it wasn’t quite helpful for users, then it needed work. However, this seemed so connected to the direction the Galactic Empire Google was headed.

But that is all a thing of the past…. for now.

I have a sense that while author snippets may be removed from the search results pages at this point that authorship has not breathed it’s last breath. I for one am not removing the rel=author code at this point.

What do you think? Have we seen the absolute last of Google authorship?