40 Ways to Improve Online Sales

Welcome to 2011 firstly, a new year and a new will to improve things across your websites (i do hope) If not maybe you should think about it... wait you already are you're reading a post about improving your site ... maybe you should point a few people to this blog if you think they may not have the will power. Anyway, with enough caffeine in my system for 25 people I've compiled the list below of 50 easy ways to improve your internet sales.

Now you may be asking (as many have) why I am talking this year about improving the existing rather than redesigning as I did last year. The answer is simple, this year I believe the recession will really hit home, businesses of all sizes need to be more savvy about how they spend their marketing budget and one savvy way is to improve the existing and not "star from scratch" as many SEO firms may advise. Everything can be improved with a little will power and skill.

Analytics

<h4>Set up your site to use an analytics program, if you haven't already. There are several free services such as <a title="Google Analytics" href="http://www.google.com/analytics/" target="_blank">Google Analytics</a> which can offer some great insight into your visitors. (note: if the program uses javascript put it as the final item before the &lt;/body&gt; tag in your code and not at the top)</h4>
<h4>Set up goals, targets and conversion methods. If you use Google Analytics this can be done via the package else you may have to do some math to find out if you've met targets.</h4>
<h4>Use your analytics package to find out what keywords and phrases people search for when they find you, change your pages to see what effect this will have on visits. Manipulating keywords on a page is one of the best ways to increase visitor numbers.</h4>
<h4>Make sure that users are landing on product pages firstly, other pages including your home page are secondary to this. A person is looking for a product generally before a website, so make the products more visible. If the analytics show product pages aren't working ask why not, play around and use the tips below to improve the conversion rate.</h4>
<h4>Use the analytics to check what people are searching for internally within your website, this will give you a better insight into what people are looking for on your website and will help you to find trends within your visitor base.</h4>

Techie Stuff (you may need a developer for this)

<h4>Compress and Resize your images using an image editor, or imagemagik if available on your server. In doing this you will reduce load time of your website and also the file will have a smaller footprint on your server (it will save you space and so eventually money).</h4>
<h4>Ensure you have nice friendly urls, no body wants to remember a link which is example.com/12334dfd.html?dfd make it easier for people and search engines something like example.com/category/product-name if your are a shop</h4>
<h4>Ensure that you are consistant in use of www. or non-www swapping between the two can cause user confusion and makes it harder for people to link to you. Using htaccess you can ensure one will forward to another.</h4>
<h4>Check for broken links, nothing says "confused customer" like a link broken</h4>
<h4>Check for missing images, this is just a silly mistake and looks unprofessional</h4>
<h4>Ensure your checkout pages use SSL and have a valid certificate.</h4>
<h4>If you are using a database driven website (none static file) then ensure you allow websites to be cached for a period of time, this will lower the requirements of your server as the page is loaded once in that period and not potentially millions.</h4>

Usability & Products

<h4>Remove any non-critical animation from your pages, this means no moving banners, no bouncing balls ... nothing to distract the customer.</h4>
<h4>Ensure a continuous style through the website, have the navigation and sidebars the same style throughout. Don't have half your products in one layout and half in another. Moving and changing things leads to confusion.</h4>
<h4>Don't use jargon anywhere on your website, especially not in your terms, delivery or returns pages.</h4>
<h4>Have a clear call to action on each and every page (and yes it can be as simple as clicking into a category or product)</h4>
<h4>Ensure your price, product options and "buy now" button are located together - this makes things clearer and much easier to find.</h4>
<h4>Ensure that at the top of each and every product page you have the product title, it is surprising just how many people don't - and whilst you're at it ensure that the page title (that thing at the top of the browser) also includes the product name.</h4>
<h4>Use the best product images you can, normally manufacturers are happy for you to use their images, but do ask first. If you are selling your own photos have the full image there with zoomy stuff, you can still protect it from people getting the file. If its <a title="manchester web design services" href="http://andykinsey.co.uk" target="_blank">web design</a> work then you may want to have a screen shot as a sample and link to the real thing!</h4>
<h4>Ensure your links are different to other text when in a paragraph, on this site for instance they are underlined and blue, you can just underline or make bold. Whatever you do don't make them blink though! Also on hover of the link change it some how, make it bold or change the colour show that this is where they will be clicking.</h4>
<h4>If you don't have an ability to search on your site, get one. Ok I break this rule with this website but all e-commerce websites MUST have one of these and it must show clear results. If you don't have a mechanism to search the site try <a title="CSE" href="http://www.google.co.uk/cse/" target="_blank">google customer search engine</a>.</h4>
<h4>No body wants to really know about you if your website looks professional that is enough, put your about link in the footer of your page not the top navigation. The same goes for sitemap, this does NOT belong in your top navigation.</h4>
<h4>Put your contact details in plain view, don't hide them - put your phone number in the header with a clear link to your contact page. Never under-estimate how much confidence this will give potential customers. Also on your contact page (and in your footer if possible) show your real address, nothing says "you wont get your product" like no address anywhere on the website.</h4>
<h4>On category pages ensure it is clear they should click through to the product, and where possible have a buy now link on your category page also.</h4>

Typography / Styling

<h4>Ensure that line spacing in any given paragraph is of 1.2 to 1.45 em. This will make the text much easier to read regardless of the font you are using. It is a suggestion of the RNIB also.</h4>
<h4>Ensure headings are close and clearly related to any given paragraph. If you don't think it will help add a huge space between your heading and text you will soon see how hard and confusing it can be.</h4>
<h4>Don't (ever) have more than 12-15 words on a single line, studies in the US have shown that users have a hard time reading more than this on a screen.</h4>
<h4>If you are in doubt about your font-size always go for the larger font, it is better to be safe than sorry.</h4>
<h4>Use "house fonts" these are the fonts which can be found on every computer across the globe (generally) ... fonts like Helvetica, Arail, Times, Courier and Verdana. These are safe fonts to use on any website.</h4>

Your Copy

<h4>Short Sentences with small words. Users are not stupid but they are in a hurry!</h4>
<h4>Have paragraphs of a few sentences only, and ensure that you can scan read them quickly.</h4>
<h4>Spell check everything you publish. The number of complaints I have had for mis-spellings on this website is scary - so either spell check or don't but be prepared if you don't.</h4>
<h4>Get someone to proof read your copy before you publish it, and then read it yourself again just to double check.</h4>
<h4>Never outsource your copy to india, by this I mean anyone who doesn't have a clue what they are talking about. A good SEO / CopyWriter will tell you they need to study your business and industry before writing anything down, if they just jump in - either they know everything already (lucky you) or you're going to end up with some baddddddddd copy!</h4>
<h4>Never on an e-commerce website simply copy and paste a description from one website to another, even if the manufacturer said to do so. It just doesn't work! Your website has its own style and copy voice / tone, changing this will unsettle some users.</h4>

Using Organic Internet Marketing Strategies

<h4>Title Tags - ensure you have the product name and brand name in the title. No matter how many times I tell people this they always think they should include your shops name... don't do this! unless you are well known like Argos or Millets just don't do it.</h4>
<h4>Description tag - this will default to your first one or two sentences if you're not careful ...but this does mean you have to be good to at selling in these sentences where most aren't. Use this tag with care to describe and sell (yes it's a sales pitch) your product on your website - look professional.</h4>
<h4>Canonicalisation tag - a little known tag that tells search engines this is where this content originates, this means if you have duplicate items with different url's search engines know where the original is and not to give you a penalty for duplicate content.</h4>
<h4>Canonicalise your urls - ensure you either user www. or non-www. throughout otherwise you will cause lots of confusion and loose some link juice if some point to it and some without! use .htaccess to ensure you use one or the other.</h4>
<h4>Ensure you link correctly, if you link to .com/index.html once do it all the time if you just link to .com once do that all the time - they are not interchangeable.</h4>
<h4>Sign up for <a href="http://google.com/webmasters" target="_blank">Google webmaster tools</a>, <a href="http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmasters/" target="_blank">Bing webmaster tools</a> and Yahoo site explorer - each have the same kind of tools as the next but based around that search engine meaning you can really fine tune some stuff.</h4>
<h4>Go semantic - ensure you've no errors or bugs in your code and that it meets the requirements of the bulk of users (you won't fulfil all needs but you should always try to do so). If you need help with this ask your developer</h4>

Yes i know there are 42 shush ;)