Tag Archives: ecommerce

12 SEO tips for large ecommerce websites

Approaching SEO for large ecommerce sites can be overwhelming.

With more pages than you can even get your head around and issues like product variants, complex filtering systems and expired products, SEO for ecommerce sites requires a different kind of SEO strategy.

Let’s be clear: all of the same keyword research and onsite optimization practices apply to ecommerce sites as they would for your standard brochure site. That’s the first step in the process, and we won’t cover those points here.

However, for ecommerce sites, it’s necessary to take things a step (or ten) further. In this post, we share our SEO tips for large ecommerce sites. Optimization for ecommerce takes time, but we’ll also provide tips to help streamline the process without scrimping.

Here goes…

Ensure your site is on HTTPS

Safety first! Although this falls under general optimization for all sites, switching to HTTPS is particularly important for ecommerce sites. With exchanges of personal details and users trusting you with highly sensitive payment information, security is of the utmost importance.

As well as ensuring that your SSL certificate is correctly implemented, make sure to be transparent in communicating your security compliance to users.

Provide detailed information on the steps you have taken to offer utmost levels of security, and display any relevant logos to demonstrate that you comply with certain security standards.

Optimize category pages

Now that your website is more secure than Fort Knox, it’s time to focus on optimizing those all-important category pages. These are the pages on which to target those top-level keywords and should be high traffic generators.

Category pages often flop due to issues with thin content. Text is frequently left by the wayside in favor of showcasing the products. However, this approach is potentially catastrophic in terms of rankings. It always pays to have at least a solid paragraph of copy to describe the category.

To further bolster the ranking potential of your category pages, try to focus your link-building campaign on generating links to them. Since the category pages serve as gateways to your products, it is a good idea to prioritize these in your site optimization efforts.

Optimize product pages

Product pages can cause a real headache for optimization. The same issues often occur for the products pages as they do for the category pages – except there are tons more product pages to deal with. Think thin content, duplicate content, and non-existent metadata.

A good place to start is with the product descriptions. Get into the habit of writing unique descriptions for each product. It can be tempting to copy and paste the description from the manufacturer, but this means placing duplicate content on your site. And that’s SEO suicide.

SEO aside, don’t forget that these descriptions are fundamental in actually selling the product and increasing conversions. Try to tell a story with the description – make it interesting, enticing and in line with your brand personality. Speed up the process by devising a format for the product descriptions.

For example, one format could specify a title, short description, bullet point list of features, and a final note on the product. This will ensure consistency and also speed up the content creation process for your writers.

Consider including user-generated content on the product pages, including social media mentions and reviews. This will provide social signals, as well as helping to increase conversions and bring further unique content to the page.

Don’t forget to write unique title tags based on careful keyword research. Again, it’s worth creating a standard format for these titles, for ease and consistency. Enticing meta descriptions may not help you rank higher but they will increase click-throughs from the SERPs. Try to include popular, eye-catching words or phrases, such as ‘free delivery’, ‘buy now’ ‘sale’, ‘reduced’ or ‘new’.

If you have thousands of products then you’ll need to prioritize. You may be an SEO whizz, but you’re not Superman/Wonder Woman/insert superhero of choice. Adopt a top-down approach and start by optimizing the most popular products first.

Product variants

One of the questions we get asked a lot is what on earth to do about product variants. By this we mean different styles, sizes, colours and models of one product. If flicking between these different options generates a new URL for each variant, then you’ll be running into some serious duplicate content and keyword cannibalization issues.

So what’s the fix? The best approach is to display options where the user can change the color, size or model but without the URL changing in the process. The exception to this would be if different colors or other variables are crucial to the product and will rank separately in the SERPs.

Ultimately, though, you don’t want these pages to be competing with each other. If you do have different product variants, then be sure to canonicalize the main product version.

‘Purchase intent’ keywords

We’re not going to provide a complete guide to keyword research in this post. But what we will say is this: be sure to include plenty of purchase intent keywords, e.g. ‘Buy [insert product]’.

Users typing in such search terms are likely to be further down the sales funnel and therefore more likely to convert. Remember that SEO is not just about driving traffic; it’s about driving conversions, and therefore revenue.

Images

Let’s not forget the images: humans are visual animals at the end of the day. Deploy only the highest quality images to entice potential customers. Ensure product images are not too large or they could slow the page speed.

Plus, don’t forget the importance of image search – add appropriate alternative text to all images.

Be wary of filters

The vast majority of ecommerce sites have some form of filtering system to help users find the products most relevant to them. Although these are super handy for the user, the trouble is that some filtering systems generate unique URLs for every type of filter search.

What’s so bad about that? Well, it means that one site could have thousands and thousands of indexed pages, all with duplicate content issues. As a result, it can make your site look frighteningly like a content farm in the eyes of Google’s pet Panda.

Check Google Search Console to see how many pages have been indexed for your site. If the number is unfathomably high then the best solution is to add a meta robots tag with parameters noindex, follow to the filtered pages. It will lead to these pages being dropped from the index, and you’ll no longer have to lose sleep over them.

Expired or out of stock items

One of the key issues with ecommerce sites is that products come and go a lot. There’s no need to remove out of stock items from the site, as you could be missing out on valuable search traffic.

Instead, leave the product page live, but specify when the product is due back in stock and provide similar options in the meantime.

If a product expires and will no longer be sold then you’ll need to remove the page. However, do not forget to redirect the page! Set up a permanent 301 redirect for a newer version of the product, a similar product, or to the relevant category page.

Site architecture

Providing seamless internal navigation is essential not only for good user experience but also to help Google crawl and index your site. Ensure that categories are linked to from the homepage and that products are linked to from the category pages.

Provide links to products in blog content in order to continue the user journey and funnel them towards making a purchase. Try to link any new products from the homepage, as it will increase their chances of being indexed quicker by Google and getting found faster by users.

Breadcrumbs are also an important addition, as they ensure that every part of the user’s path is clickable. This helps users navigate back to parent categories as quickly and easily as possible. Plus, they also appear in Google’s search results, giving users an immediate overview of the site structure.

Pay attention to URLs

With large ecommerce sites, it’s all too easy for URLs to get overly complex. Keep them clean and ditch parameters to ensure they are devoid of jumbled, nonsensical characters.

Be neat and tidy by sticking to lower case letters, utilizing hyphens instead of underscores and keeping them short but sweet.

Schema for product pages

Adding schema markup to your product pages is absolutely crucial for improving the appearance of your site in the SERPs. Enhanced results means greater click-throughs.

There are two types of schema that you should add to your products: product schema and review schema.

Each product page should use the same template and therefore have a consistent layout. This means you can add schema markup to the template using microdata and the schema will be generated for each new product page.

Just make sure that you regularly test your schema using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool, and if you’re new to it all, then utilize Google’s Markup Helper.

Monitoring

As with any SEO strategy, you need to be continually monitoring and analyzing the results. This is even more important for ecommerce sites, due to the scale and constant changing of products.

Stay on top of identifying broken links and error pages. Analyse what’s working and what’s not, note popular keywords and pages, and address those not performing well for organic search. For the best results, it’s always worth engaging in some A/B testing – whether this is for keywords, product description formats or images.

There’s no doubt that SEO for large ecommerce sites is time-consuming. That’s why so many ecommerce sites don’t have the level of optimization they should, which presents a fantastic opportunity for those who are willing to put in the grind. Small, incremental changes can make a big difference.

The 5 SEO mistakes holding your ecommerce site back right now

Ecommerce sites are so different from other web platforms that SEO for them can almost be considered a separate branch of the industry.

While many fundamentals are the same, ecommerce, especially of the marketplace variety, introduces complications that could almost be ignored if they occurred on a smaller scale on a different type of website.

Let’s talk about five SEO mistakes that could be holding back your ecommerce site as we speak.

1. Duplicate content

Duplicate content is the bane of the ecommerce site’s existence, and I can almost guarantee you right now, if you have an ecommerce site that you haven’t audited for duplicate content, you have duplicate content. Especially if your site is on a marketplace model.

It doesn’t matter what platform you’re using or how informed you are about SEO – if you haven’t checked for it recently, it’s probably hurting your rankings.

Consider what Ben Davis at Econsultancy noticed happened to pages on three of Sports Direct’s websites. The parent company hosted the same product with identical product descriptions and similar layouts, on three different sub-brands: Cruise, Flannels, and Van Mildert.

What he found is that none of the pages had a consistent presence in the search results. The brand’s strong authority with search engines allowed the pages to rank with some semblance of consistency on the second page, but with a very important caveat: only one page would show up at a time.

Whenever one page did well, the others fell well below position 100 in the search results, effectively impossible to find.

This type of duplicate content is common for ecommerce sites, in particular marketplaces that sell products, which can be found elsewhere. Large marketplaces generally use generic product descriptions provided by the product seller, but in doing so they are creating duplicate content and, unless they are lucky, they almost certainly will not rank consistently on the front pages of the search results.

Custom product descriptions and design templates are highly recommended in order to combat this problem. Ecommerce sites with very large marketplaces can’t necessarily hope to ever do this for every product.

But following the Pareto principle – an economic principle which states that 20% of the invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained – updating your highest performing and most promising product pages with unique content is well worth the effort if you do so with a strong background in both SEO and writing copy for conversions.

However, this isn’t the only type of duplicate content that plagues ecommerce sites.

Another frequent issue is duplicates on your own site. The most common cause of this form of duplicate content is placing a filter in the URL parameter, such as a URL parameter for different colors of the same product, URL parameters to filter products on a category page, and so on.

While this form of duplication doesn’t typically lead to results as extreme as duplicates across different websites, it does dilute the search engine authority dedicated to any single version of the page, and if done en masse it can result in a downgrade in your site’s overall rankings because of Google Panda.

To deal with this type of duplicate content, you need to be sure to implement the rel=canonical tag in such a way that it consistently points to only one URL for any page with nearly identical variations.

2. Too many low-performing indexed content pages

The correlation between additional content on your site and additional search engine traffic is probably the most battle-tested strategy out there. A solid content marketing strategy is essentially guaranteed to increase your search engine traffic in the long haul, and we’ve seen it happen for literally every single client who stuck with it long enough to see the results.

Even so, there are circumstances in which a poorly optimized content strategy can actually backfire, produce too many irrelevant pages, and believe it or not, drag down your entire site in the search results. In fact, this happens a lot more often than many people realize.

Consider the case of Une Belle Vie. When they came to Inflow for help, they were seeing declines in search engine traffic.

After analyzing their site and performance in the search engines, Inflow concluded that the ratio of content to products was too high. This was diluting their authority with search engines and placing too much crawl budget and PageRank in the hands of low-performing blog posts.

After carefully identifying which pages to remove and which to keep, the site saw a steady increase in search traffic, a 30.04% jump in revenue, and a 5.25% bump in conversion rates.

So, does this mean you should shut down your blog?

No! I definitely wouldn’t recommend that, certainly not as a first resort at least.

The lesson here is more nuanced. Simply adding content to your site is a strategy that can do more harm than good by diluting your authority with search engines. If I had to guess, I don’t believe that Une Belle Vie’s traffic losses were the result of bad content, but of an unfocused content strategy without consideration given to search engines.

Your content efforts need to be focused, and it’s crucial that any authority built by your content strategy is channeled to your product landing pages.

As an important point, I would always first consider optimizing existing pages over removing them. Pages that perform relatively weakly often do so because they don’t send a message clear enough to the search engines, about their purpose.

It is also often the case that several thin pages of content should be combined into a single, comprehensive resource. Keyword research and knowledge of technical SEO are a big plus here.

Only after addressing opportunities for optimization should you start cutting pages. In the process, it’s important to ensure that the pages you remove:

  • Are not a source of existing search engine traffic
  • Are not capturing inbound links from external sources
  • Are redirected to related resources to capture any inbound authority they may have already had

3. User-generated content (not enough or too much)

User-generated content is a double-edged sword. It can work wonders. Wikipedia is entirely user-generated, and it wins the search results. It’s been central to Amazon’s success, with user reviews building more trust with buyers than any branding efforts ever could.

But the dark side of user-generated content is as ugly as its upside is beautiful. When Google first released Panda, eBay fell from #6 to #25 on Moz’s list of sites with the most top ten search result listings. The low quality content produced by seller/users on eBay was definitely a factor and likely central to those losses.

So, how should you deal with user generated content?

First, I want to stress that user-reviews are almost certainly a good move. Recent studies have shown that adding user reviews to your website improves organic search traffic by approximately 30%.

It’s difficult to estimate to what extent this is due to a subsequent reduction in portions of duplicate content, to rich snippets including star ratings in the search results, to Google ranking pages with user reviews higher directly, or to user behavior, sending more positive signals to Google after user reviews were added.

However, it is that these factors add up, the end result is clear. Adding user reviews to your site will almost certainly improve your search engine traffic.

If you’re afraid of user reviews trashing your reputation, that’s less of a concern than you might think. Believe it or not, products with diverse star ratings actually perform better than products with five-star only ratings. By including some authentication into the process, you can cut down on trashing from anonymous sources, and if you respond well to criticism, it can often improve performance better than never having been criticized in the first place.

Bear in mind that most people won’t leave a review unless you ask. Research by Trustpilot indicates that people are twice as likely to leave a review if you ask them (jumping from 14 to 29%).

So, what about the dark side of user-generated content? Consider the case of eBay versus Wikipedia. Both are user-generated content sites, but Wikipedia thrives under Panda while eBay suffered after its introduction.

The key is process. Wikipedia has processes in place to ensure quality. While those processes wouldn’t satisfy a college professor, they are sufficient to create a relatively trustworthy resource with the ability to consistently meet quality expectations.

Putting moderators and other processes in place to keep the quality level high are vital if you want user-generated content to work for your ecommerce platform. Giving users the ability to rate one another’s content also helps keep quality levels high. Take Amazon’s ability to sort reviews by “most helpful” as the gold standard here.

4. Not optimizing existing pages with better keywords

This is one change that every ecommerce site should make, preferably on some sort of repeated schedule.

Keyword research is one of those factors that’s so important for SEO that it’s taken as obvious, and for that reason it also paradoxically gets ignored more often than it should. This is especially true when it comes to optimizing your existing pages.

Here is a process that I recommend using that Darren DeMatas calls the “Double Jeopardy” technique, and he shares an example of using it to boost search traffic by an unparalleled 1780%.

Here is the gist of the process:

1. Go to Google’s Keyword Planner and add your product page URL to the tool. To narrow it down to informational keywords, you can add “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” as required terms. This is good for blog posts and similar content, but not a good fit for product landing pages.

2. Take the keywords to SEMrush or a similar tool in order to identify which keywords have competition you can beat. In addition to metrics provided by tools like this, you should also scope out the competition on the front page for those phrases in order to ensure that they have the quality levels you can beat.

3. Find your highest performing pages for the target keyword by performing a “site:domain ‘keyword’” search in Google. This will tell you which page on your site already performs best for the keyword.

4. Do an “inurl:forum” search for your keyword to see what information people have on the topic that you won’t necessarily find on the front page of search results. Forums are a great place to start the research, since they give you an idea of exactly what people want to know or are struggling with.

Whether you are using this to put together a blog post or a landing page that overcomes buyers’ objections, this research is incredibly useful. Other creative searches and sources of information are also encouraged.

5. Now update your content to ensure that it would be the most promising thing on the front page for that search phrase. That means your title should stand out and that the content on your page either solves users’ needs better than anything else on the front page, or that it overcomes buyer objections and understands their purchase intents better than any other landing page, on the front page.

We’ve developed similar processes internally and they almost never fail to increase search engine traffic, especially when applied as a strategy for your entire site, as opposed to an occasional tweak to a few pages on your site.

Using this process, you capitalize on your existing page data and authority, in order to rank for the kinds of terms that Google is already prepped to reward you for, as opposed to simply picking the highest traffic keywords off, of the list of suggestions that Google’s Keyword Planner gives you, after plugging in a generic and obvious keyword.

Keep in mind that you can also put a competitor’s URL into the keyword planner to get suggestions.

Another common issue with keywords on ecommerce sites is their hyper-focus on branded keywords. Most product pages are built around the product name and the brand name.

By no means should you remove this information or take it out of the most prominent keyword locations (like the URL, title tag, and first paragraph). However, in addition to this branded information, you should also make an effort, to include keywords related to the product that aren’t about the brand or product model.

These may be referred to as “generic” keywords, although it’s still important to make an effort to use highly specific keywords matching very specific user needs. The point is that you should step up your keyword game and indicate what the page will do for people who aren’t searching for specific brands or product names.

5. Poor internal linking

Ecommerce sites often have an enormous number of products, and as a result it can be incredibly difficult to reach any given page using the links on the site. This doesn’t just mean it’s hard for a user to navigate to a page, it also means that PageRank flow through your site can become diluted, leading to important pages receiving less authority with the search engines than they ought to.

Victorious SEO was able to help Blomdahl USA earn 440% ROI, in large part by repairing poor link architecture.

Getting your link architecture under control is an absolute necessity if you want your ecommerce site to be optimized for search engines. Issues with link architecture generally come in four different forms:

Poor semantic structure

A link architecture with this issue doesn’t organize the site, hierarchically. Pure PageRank is only one factor the search engines consider, and the relevance of the links is also a crucial consideration.

Site navigation, folder structure, and interlinking should be systematic. Some organic contextual cross-linking between categories is of course fine, even preferred, but if there is no clear hierarchy in place at all, your interlinking does very little for you.

Excessive link depth

Something is very wrong if it takes more than a few clicks to get from the homepage to any product page. Consider the six degrees of separation rumored to connect any two individuals on the planet. If it takes 10 degrees of separation to get from your homepage to a product page, even the most obscure one, you do not have an optimized site.

Too many links from one point to the next means it’s difficult for search engines to crawl your site and discover pages. It also means that those deep pages receive almost no PageRank.

No prioritization

This is the opposite of excessive link depth. It’s what happens when there are so many links on every page that the most authoritative and important pages on your site receive virtually no attention from search engines. This is a case of diluting your authority by not prioritizing what matters.

Not enough links

Related to excessive link depth, sometimes it’s the case that a page may not be reachable at all from links elsewhere on the site. The most common cause of this is using two different platforms to create separate sections of the site, then failing to interlink them.

Conclusion

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an ecommerce site that wasn’t suffering from SEO issues of some kind.

There is essentially always room for improvement, and these five mistakes are the typical places I find myself starting. If you run an ecommerce site, I highly recommend starting with these issues.

Pricesearcher-Illustration-1024x205.png

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

“Hey Siri, what is the cost of an iPad near me?”

In today’s internet, a number of specialist search engines exist to help consumers search for and compare things within a specific niche.

As well as search engines like Google and Bing which crawl the entire web, we have powerful vertical-specific search engines like Skyscanner, Moneysupermarket and Indeed that specialize in surfacing flights, insurance quotes, jobs, and more.

Powerful though web search engines can be, they aren’t capable of delivering the same level of dedicated coverage within a particular industry that vertical search engines are. As a result, many vertical-specific search engines have become go-to destinations for finding a particular type of information – above and beyond even the all-powerful Google.

Yet until recently, one major market remained unsearchable: prices.

If you ask Siri to tell you the cost of an iPad near you, she won’t be able to provide you with an answer, because she doesn’t have the data. Until now, a complete view of prices on the internet has never existed.

Enter Pricesearcher, a search engine that has set out to solve this problem by indexing all of the world’s prices. Pricesearcher provides searchers with detailed information on products, prices, price histories, payment and delivery information, as well as reviews and buyers’ guides to aid in making a purchase decision.

Founder and CEO Samuel Dean calls Pricesearcher “The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of.” Search Engine Watch recently paid a visit to the Pricesearcher offices to find about the story behind the first search engine for prices, the technical challenge of indexing prices, and why the future of search is vertical.

Pricesearcher: The early days

A product specialist by background, Samuel Dean spent 16 years in the world of ecommerce. He previously held a senior role at eBay as Head of Distributed Ecommerce, and has carried out contract work for companies including Powa Technologies, Inviqa and the UK government department UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

He first began developing the idea for Pricesearcher in 2011, purchasing the domain Pricesearcher.com in the same year. However, it would be some years before Dean began work on Pricesearcher full-time. Instead, he spent the next few years taking advantage of his ecommerce connections to research the market and understand the challenges he might encounter with the project.

“My career in e-commerce was going great, so I spent my time talking to retailers, speaking with advisors – speaking to as many people as possible that I could access,” explains Dean. “I wanted to do this without pressure, so I gave myself the time to formulate the plan whilst juggling contracting and raising my kids.”

More than this, Dean wanted to make sure that he took the time to get Pricesearcher absolutely right. “We knew we had something that could be big,” he says. “And if you’re going to put your name on a vertical, you take responsibility for it.”

Dean describes himself as a “fan of directories”, relating how he used to pore over the Yellow Pages telephone directory as a child. His childhood also provided the inspiration for Pricesearcher in that his family had very little money while he was growing up, and so they needed to make absolutely sure they got the best price for everything.

Dean wanted to build Pricesearcher to be the tool that his family had needed – a way to know the exact cost of products at a glance, and easily find the cheapest option.

“The world of technology is so advanced – we have self-driving cars and rockets to Mars, yet the act of finding a single price for something across all locations is so laborious. Which I think is ridiculous,” he explains.

Despite how long it took to bring Pricesearcher to inception, Dean wasn’t worried that someone else would launch a competitor search engine before him.

“Technically, it’s a huge challenge,” he says – and one that very few people have been willing to tackle.

There is a significant lack of standardization in the ecommerce space, in the way that retailers list their products, the format that they present them in, and even the barcodes that they use. But rather than solve this by implementing strict formatting requirements for retailers to list their products, making them do the hard work of being present on Pricesearcher (as Google and Amazon do), Pricesearcher was more than willing to come to the retailers.

“Our technological goal was to make listing products on Pricesearcher as easy as uploading photos to Facebook,” says Dean.

As a result, most of the early days of Pricesearcher were devoted to solving these technical challenges for retailers, and standardizing everything as much as possible.

In 2014, Dean found his first collaborator to work with him on the project: Raja Akhtar, a PHP developer working on a range of ecommerce projects, who came on board as Pricesearcher’s Head of Web Development.

Dean found Akhtar through the freelance website People Per Hour, and the two began working on Pricesearcher together in their spare time, putting together the first lines of code in 2015. The beta version of Pricesearcher launched the following year.

For the first few years, Pricesearcher operated on a shoestring budget, funded entirely out of Dean’s own pocket. However, this didn’t mean that there was any compromise in quality.

“We had to build it like we had much more funding than we did,” says Dean.

They focused on making the user experience natural, and on building a tool that could process any retailer product feed regardless of format. Dean knew that Pricesearcher had to be the best product it could possibly be in order to be able to compete in the same industry as the likes of Google.

“Google has set the bar for search – you have to be at least as good, or be irrelevant,” he says.

PriceBot and price data

Pricesearcher initially built up its index by directly processing product feeds from retailers. Some early retail partners who joined the search engine in its first year included Amazon, Argos, IKEA, JD Sports, Currys and Mothercare. (As a UK-based search engine, Pricesearcher has primarily focused on indexing UK retailers, but plans to expand more internationally in the near future).

In the early days, indexing products with Pricesearcher was a fairly lengthy process, taking about 5 hours per product feed. Dean and Akhtar knew that they needed to scale things up dramatically, and in 2015 began working with a freelance dev ops engineer, Vlassios Rizopoulos, to do just that.

Rizopoulos’ work sped up the process of indexing a product feed from 5 hours to around half an hour, and then to under a minute. In 2017 Rizopoulos joined the company as its CTO, and in the same year launched Pricesearcher’s search crawler, PriceBot. This opened up a wealth of additional opportunities for Pricesearcher, as the bot was able to crawl any retailers who didn’t come to them directly, and from there, start a conversation.

“We’re open about crawling websites with PriceBot,” says Dean. “Retailers can choose to block the bot if they want to, or submit a feed to us instead.”

For Pricesearcher, product feeds are preferable to crawl data, but PriceBot provides an option for retailers who don’t have the technical resources to submit a product feed, as well as opening up additional business opportunities. PriceBot crawls the web daily to get data, and many retailers have requested that PriceBot crawl them more frequently in order to get the most up-to-date prices.

Between the accelerated processing speed and the additional opportunities opened up by PriceBot, Pricesearcher’s index went from 4 million products in late 2016 to 500 million in August 2017, and now numbers more than 1.1 billion products. Pricesearcher is currently processing 2,500 UK retailers through PriceBot, and another 4,000 using product feeds.

All of this gives Pricesearcher access to more pricing data than has ever been accumulated in one place – Dean is proud to state that Pricesearcher has even more data at its disposal than eBay. The data set is unique, as no-one else has set out to accumulate this kind of data about pricing, and the possible insights and applications are endless.

At Brighton SEO in September 2017, Dean and Rizopoulos gave a presentation entitled, ‘What we have learnt from indexing over half a billion products’, presenting data insights from Pricesearcher’s initial 500 million product listings.

The insights are fascinating for both retailers and consumers: for example, Pricesearcher found that the average length of a product title was 48 characters (including spaces), with product descriptions averaging 522 characters, or 90 words.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

Less than half of the products indexed – 44.9% – included shipping costs as an additional field, and two-fifths of products (40.2%) did not provide dimensions such as size and color.

Between December 2016 and September 2017, Pricesearcher also recorded 4 billion price changes globally, with the UK ranking top as the country with the most price changes – one every six days.

It isn’t just Pricesearcher who have visibility over this data – users of the search engine can benefit from it, too. On February 2nd, Pricesearcher launched a new beta feed which displays a pricing history graph next to each product.

This allows consumers to see exactly what the price of a product has been throughout its history – every rise, every discount – and use this to make a judgement about when the best time is to buy.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

“The product history data levels the playing field for retailers,” explains Dean. “Retailers want their customers to know when they have a sale on. This way, any retailer who offers a good price can let consumers know about it – not just the big names.

“And again, no-one else has this kind of data.”

As well as giving visibility over pricing changes and history, Pricesearcher provides several other useful functions for shoppers, including the ability to filter by whether a seller accepts PayPal, delivery information and a returns link.

This is, of course, if retailers make this information available to be featured on Pricesearcher. The data from Pricesearcher’s initial 500 million products shed light on many areas where crucial information was missing from a product listing, which can negatively impact a retailer’s visibility on the search engine.

Like all search engines, Pricesearcher has ranking algorithms, and there are certain steps that retailers can take to optimize for Pricesearcher, and give themselves the best chance of a high ranking.

With that in mind, how does ‘Pricesearcher SEO’ work?

How to rank on Pricesearcher

At this stage in its development, Pricesearcher wants to remove the mystery around how retailers can rank well on its search engine. Pricesearcher’s Retail Webmaster and Head of Search, Paul Lovell, is currently focused on developing ranking factors for Pricesearcher, and conceptualizing an ideal product feed.

The team are also working with select SEO agencies to educate them on what a good product feed looks like, and educating retailers about how they can improve their product listings to aid their Pricesearcher ranking.

Retailers can choose to either go down the route of optimizing their product feed for Pricesearcher and submitting that, or optimizing their website for the crawler. In the latter case, only a website’s product pages are of interest to Pricesearcher, so optimizing for Pricesearcher translates into optimizing product pages to make sure all of the important information is present.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

At the most basic level, retailers need to have the following fields in order to rank on Pricesearcher: A brand, a detailed product title, and a product description. Category-level information (e.g. garden furniture) also needs to be present – Pricesearcher’s data from its initial 500 million products found that category-level information was not provided in 7.9% of cases.

If retailers submit location data as well, Pricesearcher can list results that are local to the user. Additional fields that can help retailers rank are product quantity, delivery charges, and time to deliver – in short, the more data, the better.

A lot of ‘regular’ search engine optimization tactics also work for Pricesearcher – for example, implementing schema.org markup is very beneficial in communicating to the crawler which fields are relevant to it.

It’s not only retailers who can rank on Pricesearcher; retail-relevant webpages like reviews and buying guides are also featured on the search engine. Pricesearcher’s goal is to provide people with as much information as possible to make a purchase decision, but that decision doesn’t need to be made on Pricesearcher – ultimately, converting a customer is seen as the retailer’s job.

Given Pricesearcher’s role as a facilitator of online purchases, an affiliate model where the search engine earns a commission for every customer it refers who ends up converting seems like a natural way to make money. Smaller search engines like DuckDuckGo have similar models in place to drive revenue.

However, Dean is adamant that this would undermine the neutrality of Pricesearcher, as there would then be an incentive for the search engine to promote results from retailers who had an affiliate model in place.

Instead, Pricesearcher is working on building a PPC model for launch in 2019. The search engine is planning to offer intent-based PPC to retailers, which would allow them to opt in to find out about returning customers, and serve an offer to customers who return and show interest in a product.

Other than PPC, what else is on the Pricesearcher roadmap for the next few years? In a word: lots.

The future of search is vertical

The first phase of Pricesearcher’s journey was all about data acquisition – partnering with retailers, indexing product feeds, and crawling websites. Now, the team are shifting their focus to data science, applying AI and machine learning to Pricesearcher’s vast dataset.

Head of Search Paul Lovell is an analytics expert, and the team are recruiting additional data scientists to work on Pricesearcher, creating training data that will teach machine learning algorithms how to process the dataset.

“It’s easy to deploy AI too soon,” says Dean, “but you need to make sure you develop a strong baseline first, so that’s what we’re doing.”

Pricesearcher will be out of beta by December of this year, by which time the team intend to have all of the prices in the UK (yes, all of them!) listed in Pricesearcher’s index. After the search engine is fully launched, the team will be able to learn from user search volume and use that to refine the search engine.

Pricesearcher: The biggest search engine you’ve never heard of

The Pricesearcher rocket ship – founder Samuel Dean built this by hand to represent the Pricesearcher mission. It references a comment made by Eric Shmidt to Sheryl Sandberg when she interviewed at Google. When she told him that the role didn’t meet any of her criteria and asked why should she work there, he replied: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”

At the moment, Pricesearcher is still a well-kept secret, although retailers are letting people know that they’re listed on Pricesearcher, and the search engine receives around 1 million organic searches on a monthly basis, with an average of 4.5 searches carried out per user.

Voice and visual search are both on the Pricesearcher roadmap; voice is likely to arrive first, as a lot of APIs for voice search are already in place that allow search engines to provide their data to the likes of Alexa, Siri and Cortana. However, Pricesearcher are also keen to hop on the visual search bandwagon as Google Lens and Pinterest Lens gain traction.

Going forward, Dean is extremely confident about the game-changing potential of Pricesearcher, and moreover, believes that the future of the industry lies in vertical search. He points out that in December 2016, Google’s parent company Alphabet specifically identified vertical search as one of the biggest threats to Google.

“We already carry out ‘specialist searches’ in our offline world, by talking to people who are experts in their particular field,” says Dean.

“We should live in a world of vertical search – and I think we’ll see many more specialist search engines in the future.”

The 2018 guide to B2B Sales, Part 1: Demand gen and demand capture

If you’ve ever made the switch from B2C or ecommerce to B2B marketing, you know there’s a world of difference.

B2B offerings are generally much more expensive, with a very long lead-to-close time, and marketing needs to be addressed in a different and strategic manner.

In B2B marketing, you must reach users at every point of the funnel – and keep educating them in stages along the way.

Through a series of blogs, I will discuss strategies for how to generate demand, drive qualified leads, master content delivery, and essentially close the sales loop via paid media. In part 1 of this series, we’ll talk about how to generate new demand and capitalize on the intent that already exists.

Let’s jump in.

Use both search and social to get in front of the right audiences

You’ve got more than a few powerful levers to pull to get in front of qualified buyers. I recommend you start with your two biggest: paid social and paid search.

Paid social allows you to get in front of relevant audiences and let them know you and your product/service exist. This is a demand generation play – reach highly targeted audiences who would likely purchase your product/service, educate them on your brand/product/service, and ideally drive them to your site to push them into the funnel.

Paid search capitalizes on the intent that already exists. People are searching for what you have to offer, so leverage paid search to ensure you are capturing that interest.

Paid social strategy

For paid social, I would recommend the following channels and strategies:

Facebook

  • Make use of lookalike targeting! Take your customer list and, rather than uploading the entire list, segment your top (highest-LTV) customers and create lookalikes based on that group.
  • Use Facebook’s native targeting capabilities to segment and address audiences based on different titles, companies they are employed with, etc.
  • Use 3rd-party data companies (e.g. Axciom and Datalogix), which allow you to target businesses of different sizes, specific roles, decision makers, etc.

LinkedIn

With LinkedIn, you are able to truly hone in on your target audience by leveraging a mix of the right industries, functions within those industries, seniority type, and company size. LinkedIn’s CPCs are considerably higher than those of other channels, so you must be willing to pay a premium price for the first click to bring the user onto your site – this way you can introduce them to your brand and educate them on your offerings.

After the leads are in your funnel, you can market to them through other channels, significantly cheaper channels to push them through the funnel (which we’ll address in another post).

Twitter

Twitter is another great social platform to find relevant audiences. Although volume is not as large as that of the other platforms, you can still leverage some of their targeting capabilities to get in front of the right eyes.

  • Lookalikes: very similar to the strategy used on Facebook
  • Targeting by followers:
    • Build out conquesting campaigns to target users following your competitors
    • Target followers of industry thought leaders and publications

Paid search strategy

Paid search is expensive – but extremely effective. Users looking for your brand, product, or service are already exhibiting intent that positions them closer to sale, so these are users you must target.

Our paid search strategy at 3Q has two main components. The first is to implement the Alpha Beta campaign structure, based on single-keyword ad groups and a mixture of negative, exact, and broad match that allows you to capture and control your top keywords while testing new keywords. If you need a refresher on how the Alpha Beta campaign structure works, a quick Google search should help fill you in.

The second is to develop competitor conquesting campaigns that capitalize on the intent that our competitors have built. Note: if your competitors are bidding effectively on their own brand terms, you’ll likely pay a pretty penny to compete, but it can be a very effective shortcut.

Use landing pages strategically

For both paid search and paid social, it is crucial to segment the audiences and keywords appropriately to be able to send these different audiences and appropriate keywords to the most relevant landing page/piece of content.

For prospecting campaigns, you need to get a sense of what each audience is looking for and serve them content that not only gives them an overview of what your business is at a high level, but also offers them value and true insight into your business – this may be a whitepaper, a demo, etc.

Think about the keyword or the type of audience you are targeting. For example, if you’re targeting audiences from specific industries (e.g. finance, retail, food and restaurant, etc.), send them to landing pages specific to that industry if available.

If you’re targeting more senior-level executives, think about the right content to deliver to them, something more high-level discussing key impacts to the business, value props, etc., that your service or offering would bring. If you’re targeting those whose job this would directly impact, highlight the more technical specifics.

The goal is to truly cater content towards the individuals you are targeting; this will make the clicks you’re driving much more effective.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, in which I’ll discuss building audiences, smart segmentation, and leveraging the right content for mid-funnel remarketing and your overall nurture.

How to get the best visibility for your PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday

In the run-up to Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, retailers are competing like crazy to attract the eyeballs of as many paying consumers as possible through paid search advertising.

But how well is it paying off? To find out, search intelligence platform Adthena has analyzed the paid search landscape in the run-up to Black Friday 2017, indexing more than 15,000 ads and 214 million impressions across 161 sellers of consumer electronics.

The study, shared exclusively with Search Engine Watch, was conducted between November 1st and 13th 2017, and sheds some light on the kinds of PPC ad subjects and messaging that are getting the best response from consumers ahead of the holidays.

iPhone dominates mobile… on mobile

In a not-so-surprising discovery, product ads containing the term “iPhone” out-performed other types of consumer goods – particularly on mobile. Paid search ads with “iPhone” pulled in 8.88% of all impressions on desktop, and gained a hefty 14.89% of all impressions on mobile.

“Phone” was the second-best-performing product ad keyword, with 4.61% of impressions on desktop and 11.55% on mobile, followed by “TV”, which pulled in 3.54% of desktop impressions and 4.22% of mobile impressions.

When it came to the messaging that performed best in Black Friday PPC ads, deal-related ad copy featuring the word “save” was the clear winner, driving close to a fifth (18.79%) of impressions on desktop, and more than a quarter (27.47%) on mobile.

“% off” was the next-best-performing deal messaging on desktop, with 10.03% of impressions, while on mobile, “discount” came in second place at 9.03%. “Sale” took 5.6% of impressions on desktop, while “% off” won third place on mobile with 3.91%.

Ashley Fletcher, Director of Product Marketing at Adthena, says that these differences in the data prove just how vital the language used in ad copy is to the overall success of a paid search ad.

“We can see in the analyzed data that phrase ‘Save’ delivered huge impression share on both desktop and mobile, in comparison to ‘Discount’ or ‘% off’,” he said. “Making this single change in an advertiser’s ad text copy can make all the difference in having a winning search strategy for this fiercely competitive time of year.

“The devil is in the detail, and marginal gains mean success.”

If you’re wondering what kind of discount is the most effective at attracting consumer attention, well, surprise surprise, it’s a big one. Offers for “70% off” gathered the most impressions PPC ad on both desktop (6.89%) and mobile (1.31%).

“30% off” was the next-most-popular discount, though it attracted less than 1% of overall impressions on both desktop (0.84%) and mobile (0.35%). In third place was “40% off”, with 0.58% of impressions on desktop, and 0.23% on mobile.

Black Friday outpaces Cyber Monday, Amazon pushes Amazon

In spite of the juggernaut rise of online shopping, Black Friday still carries more weight than its newer, online-focused sibling, Cyber Monday – even in the electronics industry. According to the data from Adthena, “Black Friday” pulled in 2.99% of all PPC ad impressions on desktop (with 2.41% on mobile), while “Cyber Monday” managed only a paltry 0.12% of all impressions on desktop (0.09% on mobile).

Meanwhile, Amazon is taking advantage of one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year to push its Prime memberships. Across 71,414 Amazon ads with a total of 78,097,823 impressions, the top two-performing phrases by an overwhelming margin were “Amazon”, which took 98.32% of impressions on desktop and 99.79% on mobile, and “Prime”, which attracted 84.71% of impressions on desktop and 97.64% on mobile.

This was bad news for ads with more generic terms like “Shop” or “Low prices”, which attracted just 10.27% of impressions on desktop and 1.79% on mobile (“Shop”) and 8.37% of impressions on desktop and 0.44% on mobile (“Low prices”), respectively.

What do the figures from the study tell us about the types of product searches and purchases that people are carrying out on desktop versus on mobile?

Although there is some variation in the messaging that seems to resonate with users on desktop compared to mobile – mobile users are keen to “Save” but evidently don’t want to “Shop” for “Low prices” – the same leaders tend to emerge across devices, which Fletcher believes demonstrates that shopper behavior is generally device-agnostic, with consumers carrying out their product searches across multiple channels.

“In many instances, mobile is driving higher impression share than desktop, such as with the top performing product ads,” he says. “This tells us that many shoppers are doing their gift browsing on mobile, but desktop still perhaps remains a key part of the path to conversion.”

What can marketers take away from these findings that will help them get the best possible visibility for their PPC ads in the run-up to Black Friday? Fletcher says that actionable insights from data are the key to success in a rapidly shifting landscape.

“Marketers must understand how campaigns are performing and adjust accordingly as quickly as possible,” he says. “Being able to monitor what their competition is doing and changing on a daily basis will have a great impact on their PPC campaigns.

“Today’s marketer wants daily insights into an auction that’s changing rapidly. If a marketer sees that a competitor is pushing 70% discounts and garnering a majority of market share, they can quickly adjust their own strategy in order to continue to remain competitive and capture the audience.”

HTTPS.png

Should I move my WordPress website to HTTPS?

Whether you’re a website owner or a website visitor, everyone wants a fast loading website which can carry out sensitive exchanges of information securely.

In 2014, Google announced that it was beginning to use HTTPS as a ranking signal, signalling an increased emphasis on secure connections from the world’s biggest search engine.

Then, last month, the news came that Google’s Chrome browser will begin displaying a “Not Secure” warning message for unencrypted webpages. This message will be displayed in the address bar of websites not running the HTTPS protocol. Imagine a situation where your visitors withdraw from your website after seeing this warning message.

Google does check whether your site uses HTTP or HTTPS protocol. It might not be a crucial factor if you are not very serious about your website. However, if you are an online business, this is not something to overlook – website visitors demand secure connections to the websites they are interacting with.

If you aren’t too familiar with the technicalities of SEO, working with HTTPS might seem a bit intimidating. However, it isn’t as complex as it seems to be. Also, the good thing is that you do not have to understand the behind-the-scenes work when it comes to implementing HTTPS.

So, is HTTPS important?

Yes, HTTPS is undoubtedly essential, and many websites have already made the shift.

At the time that HTTPS was announced as a ranking signal, it was only a “light” one and affected less than 1% of global searches. But Google warned that this could strengthen over time, and we have already seen with Mobilegeddon how Google can shake things up once it decides to put emphasis on a particular element of the web.

For a website that have a HTTPS protocol, the search bar in the browser will display a lock symbol, and on Google Chrome, the word “secure”. However, if it isn’t on HTTPS, you won’t see the symbol and users may consequently be more wary about what data they enter – especially if soon, they start to receive a warning about the site’s security.

Exhibit A: Search Engine Watch

Benefits of shifting to HTTPS

Makes your site secure

This is the most obvious benefit of shifting to HTTPS. When you are enforcing HTTPS on your site, you are guaranteeing that the information passed between the client and the server can neither be stolen nor intercepted. It is basically a kind of proof that the client’s data wouldn’t be messed with in any form.

This is great for sites that need the customers to log in and accept payments through credit or debit cards.

Encryption

Okay, so if someone even does manage to intercept it, the data would be completely worthless to them. In case you are wondering why, it is because they obviously wouldn’t have the key to decrypt it. As website owners, you would have the key to do so.

Authentication

You must have heard of middleman attacks. However, with HTTPS, it is close to impossible for anyone to trick your customers and make them think that they are providing their personal information to you, when in reality they are providing this to a scammer. This is where an SSL certificate comes into light.

Good for your site’s SEO

You definitely want your site to rank higher in the search engine results and HTTPS would contribute todoing that. With your site ranking higher, you would have more customers, an increased traffic and an improvement in your overall revenue. It’s not just us saying that – Google said so itself!

Now that you know all of its benefits, let’s look into the steps that you need to follow.

Getting an SSL certificate

SSL is the protocol that HTTPS uses and is something that you need to install. The SSL certificate would have your company name, domain name, address, country, state and your city. Several details including the expiry date of the certificate would also be mentioned here. Now, there are three different kinds of certificates that you can choose from.

Organization Validation and Domain Validation are the kind of certificates that you can get if you have an e-commerce site or a site that collects personal information from users. The third type, Extended Validation Certificates, are for testifying the legal terms of a HTTPS website.

You can purchase these certificates from a lot of websites. The prices differ, so compare them and then make a purchase. Once you have purchased one, get it installed.

Create your site’s URL map and redirect

The ‘S’ in HTTPS makes a huge difference in the URL. HTTP or HTTPS before your domain name are entirely different URLs. This implies that you would have to create copies of each and every page on your site and then redirect them. This redirection would be from your old HTTP page to the new HTTPS page.

It might all sound pretty complicated, but it isn’t in reality. Your URL map can just be a simple spreadsheet. When shifting from WordPress, all of the 301 (permanent) redirects can simply be added to the .htaccess file.

Work on getting at least one page working on the front end

You also have to work on getting your front end on HTTPS. If you’re not confident with the technical side of things, this can seem a little complicated. Therefore it is best to begin with just one page.

If you are an ecommerce site, you can begin with the page that accepts payments. This is the page where customers are sharing their personal banking details and therefore it has to be secure. There are several plugins available that can help you with this, such as WP Force SSL. With such plugins, you can easily force pages to be SSL.

Update internal links, images and other links

There will be several internal links throughout your site and these might redirect to your old HTTP page. If you have been using relative links, you have been lucky. However, if not, you would have to find each of the links and then correct it with the new URL. You would also need to correct links to other resources like stylesheets, images and scripts.

Also, if you use a content delivery network (CDN), you would need to make sure that the CDN supports HTTPS too. These days most CDNs support HTTPS, but not all of them. So, make sure that you check that too.

Re-add your site to Google Search Console

After you have made all the necessary changes, get Google crawling on it as soon as possible. If you don’t do it, your traffic would be affected negatively. But why is re-adding required? Well, it’s because a HTTPS site is considered a completely different and new site.

After that, submit your new sitemap in your new listing and above that, re-submit the old sitemap as Google will notice the 301 redirects and make the necessary updates.

Once you have carried out all of the steps, you may or may not notice a slight positive change in the search rankings. Whatever you do, make sure that the first step of installing an SSL certificate has been done correctly. Alternatively, you can also use plugins like Really Simple SSL, Easy HTTPS Redirection etc. to accomplish the task.

At the end of the day, the decision of switching to HTTPS is solely yours. If you just have a blog with an email newsletter that people can subscribe to, you might not need to make the switch. However, if you are an online business, switching to HTTPS would be a wise decision.

If you see some issues, keep researching and fixing them. Even if you’re not a technical person, it’s easier than you think.

Magento-Admin-Panel.png

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

An estimated 240,000 ecommerce stores use Magento for their online operations, which accounts for nearly 30% of the ecommerce platform market.

Unfortunately, this not only makes clear that Magento is a worthwhile program, it makes clear something else: It’s a focus area for cyber criminals across the globe. Add to this the fact that it’s an ecommerce platform, and it’s clear how critical security for any Magento e-store would be.

Magento keeps on releasing security patches to keep client websites secure; however, the responsibility of doing everything possible to secure your Magento store also rests with you, the customer.

There are several customizations, security settings, and additional best practices that you need to be aware of in order to make your Magento based e-store secure. This piece will run through 10 tips that can help you make your ecommerce store more secure than before.

From very technical suggestions to secure your admin access, to general security practices that will keep your store secure, below covers it all.

The obvious: Make sure you have a strong password policy in place

The biggest sin that most Magento e-store administrators and owners are guilty of is having a routine, weak, and easy to crack password. It’s expected, though, considering your entire focus is on getting things off the ground when you set Magento up initially. However, in the absence of any automated password policies via Magento, you need to implement your own. Below are best practices to remember:

  • Your password must be 10 or more characters long
  • The password must include at least one symbol, one number, and one capital alphabet
  • Don’t include your company name, or any dictionary word in your password
  • Change the password every 90 days, or sooner

This can also be improved with secure two-step authentication. This helps you cover your bases if you ever give your password to another employee who may need administrator privileges at one point in time.

The not-so obvious: Modify the admin path

Chances are you have never bothered with the admin/default path. However the default path, unfortunately, makes it a lot easier for cyber criminals to crack your login credentials using brute force techniques. By changing the default admin path, you add another layer of protection to keep your store’s login credential secure. Here are ways you can change the default admin path.

1. Go to admin backend. Here, go to System, and then Config. In the options, click on Admin, and then Admin Base URL. Select the option to ‘Use Custom Admin Path’, and click on Yes.

2. The other method involves manipulating some code in your Magento store’s local.xml file. You can access the local.xml file by going to the following path: app/etc/local.xml.

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

Open the file, and look for the following code.

<admin>

<routers>

<adminhtml>

<args>

<frontName><![CDTA[admin] ]</frontName>

</args>

</routers>

</admin>

Here, you need to replace [admin] with the new path. Once done, save the file, and refresh the cache and you’re done!

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

Keep a strong watch and control on admin users

For all admin users who have admin privilege roles assigned to their IDs, you need to devise a mechanism to view their activity logs, and must remove their privileges if you detect anything unusual. This can be done within Magento from this path:

System > Permission > User and Roles

Make sure that you only provide admin privileges to a user only when absolutely necessary, and only for a necessary period of time.

Encrypt critical pages

You just can’t afford to send any sensitive information, such as your credentials, over unencrypted connections considering how common it has become for hackers to steal information over unsecure connections. The solution to this grave problem – secure URLs. Magento provides you a setting to help here.

Go to System, then Configuration, and Web. Here, select the Secure tab, and specify a Yes for the options to ‘Use Secure URLs in Frontend’ and ‘Use Secure URLs in Admin’.

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

Finally, remember that it’s mandatory to have secure URLs for processing financial transactions. Magento lets you add SSL for your web store, so make sure you make use of it.

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

Ask yourself: Am I using the most secure, upgraded, and patched Magento version?

Remember, it’s your responsibility as well as requirement to deliver 100% secure shopping experiences on your e-store. The kind of brand tarnishing that a customer data leakage brings can break your business’ back. To make sure you don’t leave any security gaps, it’s important that you always upgrade to the latest Magento version whenever such upgrades are rolled out. In addition, between version upgrades, Magento keeps on pushing out security patches when needed. It’s critical that you install these security upgrades as soon as they’re available because they’re precisely offered to combat the latest security threats.

Path: System -> Magento Connect -> Magento Connect Manager

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

10 tips to make your Magento online store more secure

Of course, you will get notifications when there is a critical security patch on offer, or when there’s a version upgrade. You can also check on Magento’s website for word on any planned upgrades and security patches.

Ensuring security of server environment

Secure server environment is critical for the wholesome security of your Magento website. However, it’s one of the often ignored aspects of security for Magento websites. For starters, talk to your web hosting provider and understand the kind of security protocols in place. No unnecessary software should be running on the server. Then, make sure that only secure protocols are in use for communications (protocols such as HTTPS, SFTP, and SSH).

The ports in the server must not be opened all at once because of the high attack surface it creates. Magento comes with .htaccess files that help in system file protection when Apache web server is in use. However, if you’re using a web server such as Nginx, ensure that directories and files are protected.

Here’s an experiment – try to access this address: https://www.yourMagentowebsite/app/atc/local.xml.

If it’s accessible, your site is at risk and you need to change the server settings. Access to cron.php file should be very restricted; remember to use the system cron scheduler to execute the command, always.

Use a reliable mechanism of running scans for your Magento website

Imagine a situation where a 3rd party plugin causes a security risk in your Magento website, and the server scanner is not even able to detect it! To avoid such problems, it’s important to run routine scans on your Magento website. Online scanning services such as MageReport and ForeGenix scan your Magento website completely and send a list of the potential issues, apart from the scan report, to your email id. Below is a screenshot of how a typical MageReport scan report looks like:

Use reliable security extensions for Magento

There are just too many security risks for all kinds of websites, let along Magento e-stores. Thankfully, Magento offers some time tested and proven effective extensions that can take care of all kind of security issues. Explore the most highly rated extensions for functions such as blocking security threats, scanning for vulnerabilities, blocking malicious codes, log activities, enforce strong password policies, and implement firewalls. Some of the reliable Magento security extensions worth checking are:

  • ET IP Security: Offers IP based access limitations for website access.
  • MegaSecure: Scans your Magento store for vulnerabilities
  • Spam Killer: Integrated with Akismet to deliver world class spam comment removal
  • Mega Firewall: Blacklist security violators, implement NinjaFirewall’s security rules, and block all kind of web attacks.

Note: Always run every extension through antivirus checks. Magento extensions could easily infect malware into your website, especially if you’re not sure of the source or the reliability of the developers. To avoid such as mess, make sure that you run each extension through your operating system antivirus before installing it.

More importantly, always choose an extension after reading its reviews, and making a smart judgment based on the reputation and previous record of the developing agency. Make sure you choose extensions made by developers who seem committed to their work, because a few years down the line, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with an important extension that is not supported or upgraded anymore.

Prepare backup

To make sure that your website remains up even when a security breach happens, take regular backups and store them on the cloud, as well as in the form of an offline copy, so that you can quickly take your website back to a known good state from the very recent past whenever needed. You can easily find reliable Magento extensions for this.

The takeaway

Your Magento store deserves all your attention, not only from a business development and management perspective, but also a security perspective. In the highly volatile and uncertain cyber security environment of today, the responsibility of your Magento website’s security rests completely on your shoulders. Trust these 10 practices discussed above to secure the most critical aspects of your e-store.

Is there anything you would add to the list? Have you had a personal experience with your Magento store? Let us know your thoughts and your story in the comment section below.

 

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for NoRiskSEO, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda on Twitter and LinkedIn, or check out her services at amandadisilvestro.com.

bigcommerce.png

5 SEO features to make sure your ecommerce platform supports

When choosing an ecommerce platform to power your online store, it’s important to consider search engine optimization (SEO) features in your decision-making process.

No matter how experienced you are with SEO, when you put the power into a platform’s hands, you may or may not end up with ability to control elements of your site that are essential to your ranking success.

Let’s take a look at five core features that your ecommerce platform needs to have, along with examples of platforms that offer each feature. Hopefully this guide will make it easier for you select a home for your merchandise that is capable of dominating search.

Editable robots.txt files

The Robots.txt file allows you to tell search bots which pages and directories to ignore when crawling your site to index it for the search engines. I bet you’re thinking it’s not a big deal if you can’t control this file, but let me show you why it matters.

When a customer makes a purchase from you, let’s say you send them to a thank you page, offering them a chance to subscribe to your exclusive newsletter where they can stay up to date with the most current sales and promotions before the general public finds out. When someone visits this page, it’s an indication that they’ve successfully completed a purchase, a signal that you can use to track, analyze and optimize buyer journeys.

That’s definitely a page you wouldn’t want indexed in the search engines – and unless you block access to it with the robots.txt file, it’ll become discoverable by the general public. Basically, any page you don’t want users to see without completing a certain action needs to be blocked from crawlers.

While many ecommerce platforms don’t allow their users to directly access this file, BigCommerce does.

BigCommerce also allows you to easily integrate your store with Google Shopping, Facebook, and eBay, as well as a range of other shopping comparison sites, so you can get additional SEO boosts automatically, without having to manually submit your product listings to various engines.

Independent page titles and URLs

To avoid issues with duplicate content, and to ensure you have the best chance at ranking for certain keywords and phrases, it’s best to make sure you can control these metadata elements at the page level. Some ecommerce platforms don’t allow you to have this control, meaning you have a generic title in every single page on your shop.

The URLs may be different for each page, but may end up produced like /randomcharacters989j.htm rather than something like /pink-t-shirts.

Chances are you’ll want to use specific keywords for each page on top of the ones you use site-wide. You’ll definitely have long tail keywords to use on each product category page as well. Unless you have the ability to control the titles and URLs at the page level, you’re stuck essentially targeting the same keywords on every single page in your store.

Magento is a robust ecommerce platform that allows users to control the page titles and URLs so they can make the most of their SEO efforts with keywords.

Magento is, of course, not the only platform that does this, but it is a key feature to look for. That said, Magento isn’t the most intuitively user-friendly option available, and unless you’re already an experienced developer, you may find yourself hiring one to make it work for you.

An integrated blogging platform

Because it’s the best way to publish rich, dynamic, link-worthy content on your domain, blogging is an integral part of ecommerce marketing today. Businesses that blog 11 or more times per month receive two to three times the traffic compared to those who blog less often or not at all.

It can be complex to set your shop up on one platform and your blog on another, and then figure out the best way to link the two together – not just for user experience, but also for SEO purposes.

You could have your shop on the main domain, and install WordPress in the /blog directory. That works, but can be a bit of hassle in terms of unified design as well as ongoing management workflow. You’ll have to login to your ecommerce platform to handle products, orders, and general store management. Then, you’ll have to login to your WordPress or other blogging platform to add, edit, and manage your blog content. As you grow, it can be harder to handle that at scale.

Shopify makes it easy by including a blog in the ecommerce platform. This way you can keep everything streamlined. Shopify’s SEO features are solid overall, and the platform also allows for independent page titles and URLs.

5 SEO features to make sure your ecommerce platform supports

Canonical URLs

Canonical URLs allow your content to be syndicated in various places online, while telling Google to pay attention to only one URL. It helps Google to determine the page you want rank, with syndicates using the tag to convey to search bots that you deserve all the SEO juice. This solution is also useful in cases where you want to use multiple URLs for the same product category.

For instance, if you want people to see a list of all the yellow dresses in your store, the URL could be:

http://www.domain.com/store/dresses/yellow/yellowdresses instead of something like: http://www.domain.com/store/dresses/formal?gclid=98675.

Canonical URLs allow you to tell the search engines that similar URLs are the same – allowing you to have products that are accessible under multiple URLs. For instance, that yellow dress can be found at /yellowdresses, /formaldresses, and of course on its individual product page. It may also be found on other pages depending on the other filters you make available to your customers.

When you choose your canonical URL, pick the page that you believe is the most important. Then add a rel=canonical tag when linking from the non-canonical one to the canonical one. Essentially, this redirects the search engines to the important one, so it is more likely to rank – without directing the users away from any of the pages. If you’re having to do this manually, it can become a painstakingly time-consuming task.

WooCommerce is an ecommerce platform that allows you to convert your WordPress installation into a full-fledged shopping experience. It’s available for free, but the premium version comes with additional features and themes. The support for canonical URLs is built-in to WooCommerce, regardless of which version you choose to use.

Automatic redirect management

If your business uses multiple domains, then you’re going to have to spend some time setting up canonical URLs or 301 redirects to forward users and search engines to the right place. If you don’t, you’ll detract from the user experience and risk losing ranking with the search engines because you’re sending traffic to broken links.

If figuring out your 301 redirects and canonical URLs is driving you crazy, then a platform that use automatic redirects could be a priority for you.

SquareSpace is a hosted ecommerce platform like BigCommerce and Shopify. It will automatically redirect users and search engines to your primary domain and use canonical URLs to help you. It’s the automatic redirect that allows you to use a custom domain without your built-in Squarespace domain showing up in the search engine results.

Which one is the best?

Honestly, what works best for you will depend on what your budget is, and what your ecommerce products are.

The bottom line is that regardless of what you choose, you need a platform that is helpful for SEO. If it’s not set up for SEO-friendly URLs, then there’s not much point in using it, because if you can’t get it ranking to bring in organic traffic, you’ll spend a great deal more on customer acquisition.

6527445.gif

5 Ways to Improve Your E-Commerce SEO Without Building a Single Link by @BrockbankJames

If you’re looking for e-commerce SEO quick wins, here are five improvements you can make – no link building required.

The post 5 Ways to Improve Your E-Commerce SEO Without Building a Single Link by @BrockbankJames appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

ecommerce-platform-comparison-1024x408.png

7 things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform

Ecommerce has been growing steadily in popularity for the last 10 years. Online sales jumped up nearly 15% last year across the board, and they’re predicted to only increase in the future. If you’re starting a business and selling products and/or services, an ecommerce site is crucial in order to capitalize on this explosive online sales growth.

While you could hire a web developer to get your business started, those costs can inhibit your ability to grow rapidly. Opting for an already-developed ecommerce platform saves you time as well as money.

The double-edged sword, however, is that there are tons of options available to you—how do you know you’re choosing the right one? This article outlines some things you’ll need to consider when you’re looking for the best ecommerce platform for your business.

1. Pricing and Payment

The first thing you should consider when searching for an ecommerce platform is the price. Whether you’re a small business just getting started or an already established brick & mortar business moving online, you need to know exactly what you’ll be paying.

Almost all platforms will have a monthly fee. Depending on the type of platform you get (self-hosted vs. hosted) the costs may vary. You should also consider the processing fees that will be associated with the platform. Don’t sacrifice the things you’ll definitely need for a cheaper price. Try to weigh the pros and cons of each to get the best for your budget. Below is a great chart of just a few of the top platforms from Ecommerce-Platforms:

You should also consider how your customers will be paying. Some platforms don’t offer the ability to pay via third party vendors (such as PayPal). This could end up being a huge inconvenience for your customers – a  frustration which can lead to shopping cart abandonment. Don’t take this risk; decide which forms of payment you’ll accept first and remember this when you’re looking at the different software.

2. Integrations

Another factor you should consider when looking at ecommerce platforms is their integrations and plugins. Most platforms, such as Shopify, will have plenty of tools for you to run your business. Your business needs will be a determining factor when deciding on the plugins that will work best for you. When looking at the different platforms, think of what tools you’ll need or already use for your business.  Here are some of the most popular types of plugins that you should look out for:

  • Accounting plugins to help with sales, taxes, revenues, and profits
  • Email marketing tools to help you keep in contact with your customers
  • A platform that helps you reward your customers for using your products
  • Apps to help with shipping your products

3. SEO Friendliness

Ecommerce businesses are not exempt from working on their SEO. In fact, it can be highly beneficial to have your store rank high in search results. You want your customers to find you when they’re searching for products like yours.

Some of the most important factors when looking for an SEO friendly platform include:

  • The ability to add a blog to your website
  • The ability to use your own domain name
  • The ability for customers to leave reviews

You can learn more about SEO for an ecommerce website here.

4. Mobile Friendliness

Did you know nearly 60% of searches are done from mobile devices? Often those searches continue on to a purchase from a mobile device. This means its important to look for platforms that allow customers to easily access your website as well as make a purchase on their mobile device. Below is a great example from Shopify:

7 things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform

5. Customer Service

A key aspect of any business is its customer service. As the experience provided by traditional brick-and-mortar businesses is based in a physical store, they typically have more control over how smoothly their business runs.

Ecommerce is a whole different ballgame; software outages and server downtimes are often out of your control, and will prevent any of your customers from accessing your business. Odds are that at one point your servers will crash at the worst possible moment. This can affect both your revenue and your brand image.

Having someone to call at any time to help you get things up and running again is a huge factor when you’re looking at ecommerce platforms. Take a look at each platform’s customer service—are they available 24/7? How are you able to reach them? How many levels of support are offered, and what does each cost? Think about these questions and make sure you ask them before you decide on your platform.

6. Security

No one want to enter their credit card information on a sketchy website, which is why security is becoming one of the biggest concerns among consumers. While most software today will have robust security as standard, always check to make sure your platform supports HTTPS/SSL for a safe and secure checkout for your customers.

Also, make sure that any platform you choose is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant. BigCommerce explains more here, and below is a screenshot that gives you a taste of what it takes to become compliant:

7 things to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform

7. Scalability

All business owners hope their business will grow in the future, but you may not know to what extent. Nonetheless, it’s important to look for a platform that will scale along with your business.

You don’t want to pay for features and storage that you’re not using when you first start out. You also want to keep up with higher demands as your business takes off. Choose a platform that you can scale to your business size and that won’t charge you outrageous fees for doing so.

The Takeaway

Starting any new business is challenging, but moving away from the traditional store front to an online version can be a little daunting—especially with so many options for you to start with—which is why choosing an ecommerce platform is so difficult for many business owners. Figuring out what your store will need as you grow and keeping up with trends is a challenge, but it is well worth it in the end to create processes that work and will scale with your business. Knowing what to look for ahead of time makes choosing a platform an easier process and can help you find success!

What features do you look for in ecommerce software? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer for HigherVisibility, a full service SEO agency, and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Amanda at AmandaDiSilvestro.com.