When in doubt, Google it. Google has become the end-all-be-all of internet information. This means when we create our new e-commerce store, we need “The Google” to find us. We need a framework to begin with that makes Google finding us that much easier. We need an SEO friendly solution and a marketing plan for the first months after development.
In the world of online marketing, the main goal should be to convert visitors to customers. Traffic definitely bodes well, but conversions tell the tale. So let’s start with step one, building the site so they will come.
Choosing an E-Commerce Solution
An e-commerce solution wasn’t as readily available or trustworthy in 2000 when I first looked into them. The consumer opinion on buying online was just starting to change. Ebay was moving at great strides and consumers started to turn to the internet for shopping. Quite rapidly its become a global sensation, with many e-commerce solutions presenting themselves. One of the first, and my favorite project is the osCommerce solution. There are others, but I’ve mainly focused on the one, as it can be daunting to the learn the code behind each and every cart solution.
There are others out there. Joomla has various extensions you can use to facilitate a sale online. ZenCart is also a viable solution. SquirrelCart, digiShop, Interspire, among hundreds of others. Each one probably has its difficulties. While deciding on a cart to base your site, consider how well the solution does the following.
1. How easy is the template to use?
2. Does it have a healthy support forum?
3. Does it provide a solution for your merchant account?
4. Does it support SEO friendly URLs?
5. Does the community offer addons for the cart to do specialized things?
There’s a lot of planning to be done. Selling something online may mean tailoring the site to do specialized things, like calculating quantity via attributes, offering digital downloads, or adding fields for custom text imprints. The product dictates how the cart will function. Once you’ve found a cart that will work for the product you’re selling, then it’s time to develop the design.
Designing the e-Commerce Store
I use the osCommerce solution, so my first steps in designing a new store are to write out all the contributions the store will require. I make a list and prioritize them. If I have developed a similar store, recently (meaning with any updates, etc.) then I may copy over the base of the store and start at least a few hours into the coding. If not, then I get to work adding functionality like the STS template system, which makes designing the store so much easier. Then I add contributions that affect many pages, like the QTPro contribution, which makes it possible to calculate quantity by attribute. I also beef up the site’s SEO functionality, using various contributions.
At this point in the process, you may need help or you might do it yourself. Either way, you should be on your way to creating a store. In my experience, a store evolves over time. After creating the base, the design takes shape and you begin to hammer out details like payment modules, template tweaks, and filling pages with products.
We want to sell our products. It’s why we made a store. So we need to showcase those products in a very favorable light. This doesn’t mean we wax poetic about the product, but we do need to describe it in detail. This even goes for shampoo we might sell. Everything should have some sort of description, preferably between 100-200 words, depending on the product of course. If there’s not much to say about your product, like if it’s a beach towel, then you can create a bullet list describing its qualities.
- Measures 33×66″
- Two ply front
- Vibrant colors
You get the idea. Think about the qualities of your product, identify them in a unique way, and do it uniformly for each product. Your presentation means a lot to buyers. Having a mish-mash of descriptions, buttons, or functionality can lead to confusion and buyers retreating to other sites.
SEOizing Our Product Descriptions
Is SEO dead? I don’t think so, but I think for the most part a proper description of an item will net the best results. We could emphasize certain keywords, like beach towel over and over, but keyword density aside, it takes away from the user experience. We’re not selling to search engines, but to people.
The best thing to do would be to create bold informative titles on a product page, have healthy descriptions that do not stray from focusing on the product, and high quality photos of our product. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a good photo. I know I have seen some photos that make a good product look second-rate. The photos should also have the product information in alt tags. Who knows — your beach towel may be listed high in the Google Image Search.
If you’ve got this far on your e-commerce store, then you’re prepared for the grueling work of marketing said store. I’m still learning the ropes of marketing an e-commerce store, but I hope you’ll all join me in the journey. I’ll be writing the second parts of the Marketing an e-Commerce store story over the next month. Feel free to let me know what software you’ve used, how you describe your products, and of course how you market your e-commerce store. It’s a win-win, right? Unless you’re selling beach towels too. Then we’re in trouble.