SEO is a dominating concern among store owners. So much so that for many site operators it is almost the ONLY thing they focus on. In her article SEO – Is It All You Need? Michelle Symonds challenges this flawed assumption, and offers a number of other issues which should be considered or addressed by store owners. Those include Social Media, Website Design, Traffic Analysis, EMail marketing, and Quality Data Capture.
Ms Symonds issues a call to action here, suggesting that store owners embrace Facebook, Twitter, blogging and social bookmarking. Unfortunately, she fails to justify this based on any useful metric, then calls for the use of ghost writers or ‘social media marketers’ . This is hardly ethical given the fundamental premise that social media is based on relationships between people. Still – Social Media marketing offers a viable alternative to search engine marketing.
Look-and-feel, usability and functionality are indeed key factors which can make or break a web store. Ms. Symonds point about including a call to action is certainly important. I would go further. Make sure your account creation and checkout routines function smoothly and efficiently, maintaining data accuracy throughout the process. Test them multiple times, checking that required data elements are actually required by the site software, and that mistakes in data entry are handled gracefully – with the user being able to correct those mistakes and still complete the process. Bottom line – it does not matter how effective your call to action is, or even whether one exists, if the cart can’t perform its tasks accurately and completely.
Take care that usability does not compromise security. Effectively layered security often requires a few extra clicks in each process. They’re well worth it. Trust, or the lack thereof, is a huge factor in sales resistance. If cutting clicks leaves your site more vulnerable to penetration (and if often does!) its not worth it. Nobody trusts a site that spouts malware, and disclosure of personal information by crackers can cost you far more than you’ll gain by cutting one or two clicks per page.
Ms. Symonds makes some very good points about using Traffic Analysis to drive marketing activities. But traffic analysis can also be used to monitor the security environment. This requires that you know your software, and be aware of what is normal in the URL’s used to access it. Traffic Analysis tools such as Google Analytics can also be used to CONTINOUSLY monitor your site for flaws in critical processes such as the checkout and account creation funnels. Why wait until your cashflow is completely gone to realize your cart has technical issues? Traffic analysis is about much more than marketing, and it is time the eCommerce industry realized that.
Ms Symonds makes the case for Email Marketing as a means to retain existing customers, reaching potential new customers and establishing brand recognition. All well and good, and I’ve seen many store owners do quite well with this. But, don’t neglect the opportunities to establish trust by using safe email practices such as using client certificates to verify the originating address, ssl certificates to secure account URL’s and un-obscured cart native urls to route clients to the information you want to share with them.
SEO is important stuff indeed – but site operations optimization reigns supreme.