If growing your ecommerce site was simple then everyone would be setting up a Shopfront powered ecommerce site, sitting back, and watching the sales flood in. Growing any business takes time and effort, with a degree of trial and error.
Our Shopfront customers are well aware of the benefits of ecommerce, but are they promoting their Shopfront website so that it can achieve its maximum potential? They will have a highly functional website, but are new customers able to find the site easily within search engines?
How do new customers find the site? The obvious answer is by searching for its products, but the site won’t appear towards the top of the results unless it is perceived from the search engine’s perspective, to be relevant. The question that really needs to be answered is “how is my site relevant?” and the answer to that is more complex.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one important strand. There are no shortage of SEO companies, but businesses should tread carefully. If a company promises to get onto page one within a month, then that is simply not possible! Google, and other search engine companies, do not partner SEO companies, nor share their propriety search ranking algorithms. If you’re only paying £50 per month what are you going to be getting for that money? Probably not a lot!
There many important factors that make a site relevant. Lets say a business sells widgets; but where do customers looking for widgets go? They will search for widgets on Google, or one of the other search engines, and will certainly be presented with a variety of suppliers, manufacturers and retailers, with unique content relating to the search. They will also be presented with press articles, discussion forums, review sites, voucher or discount sites, Twitter and Facebook discussions, and maybe even fan sites! A business that engages with all of these will be the one that will start to become relevant.
One final point alluded to earlier is reputation. This can be word of mouth or written comments. There are several sites such as Trustpilot where customers can write reviews about a product or service. This is another place where potential customers can read first hand experience of real customers.
Some businesses may wish to take a “black hat” (underhand; baddie) approach. These include buying links, followers or likes. Search engines are aware of these methods to try to get sites higher up the rankings, and actively take steps to penalise this type of approach. If customers find that the other 5000 likes or followers a business has are “fake” then this will at best smack of desperation and at worst give the perception that the site is itself a fake. In this case the customer will click on the next company and never return. Companies pretending to be customers on forums is one sure way for everyone on that forum to get a bad impression of the company. I’ve seen it done before, and the company will be forever tarred with a bad reputation amongst the very people who are also authorities on the subject. This will not only lose them as potential customers, but everyone they speak to. Businesses caught reviewing their own products can get banned and this will also be seen as desperation by potential customers. These underhand methods all may help in the short term, but can kill your business dead later.
So what can business do to grow their ecommerce site?
- Provide unique content on their website
- Provide a good customer experience (deliver on time)
- Advertising (online and offline)
- Blog (regular posts)
- Press releases (or joint press releases with important clients)
- News coverage (do something news-worthy)
- Forums (check you are allowed to post and ensure you identify yourself as working for the business)
- Twitter (regular tweets)
- Facebook (regular posts)
- Partner with a Review site
- Promote discount promotions through voucher sites
In the internet age, there is no substitute for good, old fashioned, hard work and perseverance.