E-commerce success is rapidly becoming the gold rush of the 21st century – it is also the undeniable future of retail, and represents the best opportunity of reaching an audience far wider than a bricks-and-mortar shop – particularly relevant for start-ups or specialist products. As a result, it’s an increasingly crowded market that requires smart policies for any new entrant to stand out and be noticed. It is, of course, possible to drive traffic to even the most recent addition to the site. Here are some simple strategies can ensure your e-commerce policy can pay off.
1. Search Engine Optimization
The silver bullet of web strategies, search engine optimization is regarded with some validity as the only guarantee of countless hits – and with good reason. Online searches are, after all, the best possible indication of a potential customer’s intent, and being able to be among the first results can mean huge traffic. SEO is the means of ensuring that key search terms – “book” if you’re an Amazon rival, “flights” for the next Expedia – places your company at the head of the list, and has practically become a science in its own right.
Professional consultants are an idea for larger commercial sites, but the main tricks include using key words and phrases in every URL, HTML title, tags and, if you enter text in a content management system, headlines and sub-headlines. This can also include site taglines and content sections. The trick, of course, is repetition – even if it means slightly ungainly sentences in which “book” is used slightly more than absolutely necessary.
2. Piggy back on other retail sites
EBay and Craig’s List are two of the most powerful e-commerce sites, both are entirely user-driven and both command enormous global audiences. By creating a profile on each and selling your products – for a fixed price in the case of eBay – you can not only generate revenues on an hourly basis, but also promote your brand and attract visitors who might like what they see. Clever use of your seller’s profile and “more of the same here” tags can be extremely effective, even if URL links are prohibited on eBay.
Of course, one downside is instant comparison with similar products from sellers whose scale might enable them to offer much lower prices, but this can be overcome with an excellent customer service, good shipping rates and an approachable website.
3. Social media
Another must-do in the world of online communication, but it is easy to be lulled into thinking that simply having a Facebook page or Twitter account will get you customers. These are social sites, where people talk about their friends and interests, not business directories; how you use these channels needs careful thought, or your target audience will be lost forever in a blizzard of hard-sell spam.
Twitter channels in particular need to be organized on the basis of distributing information that your audience will like, and not endless offers or self-promotion. Who, would realistically follow such a stream? A better idea for, say, a clothing line would be to share links about celebrities, sports stars, bands or films that share the same brand ethos. A business that promotes its environmental credentials should share tips of on easy green solutions everyone can adopt.
4. Swap links
It’s an obvious equation: the more often your URL appears on other sites, the more likely someone will click on it. But it’s more important than click-through rates. Search engines work by “spidering” across the web to search for names, terms and URLs, which then return the results based on frequency. You can begin by submitting your sites to certain directories and other high traffic websites. (Read our specific tips to maximize links on the right)
It’s perhaps the simplest way to market any business is to pay your friendly search engine Google money to return your site as a sponsored link when certain key words are entered into a search field. It’s not rocket science, and lacks acertain sophistication, but it certainly works – and can be used instantly. Converting visitors to customers might take more effort, but it’s less labour intensive than social media sites and link swapping.
Watch this excellent video on search engine optimization by WebBizIdeas.
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