Blog: google

Enhanced company store product filtering

storeBlox Company Store Price and Color FilteringSometimes your customer may be looking for something specific – not just a polo, but a blue polo. Or a polo that fits within a specific budget. They can now do all that and more with new color and price filtering enhancements to storeBlox CS.

Now your customers can narrow down their choices in any listing  by product color and/or specific budget. Hunting around for a Turquoise t-shirt and tired of clicking on every item in apparel to find it? Color filtering shows the colors available for the list of products currently being viewed. Now it’s crazy easyto find the item in the color you want.

Price filtering lets customers set their price ranges to the penny, and they can combine them with color filtering to find that special item that satisfies their Goldilocks needs!

Plus: Shopping Cart Conversion Tracking

If you use Google’s Adwords or other ad networks to drive customers to your company store, you can now track all the details of purchase conversion. This enables true ROI (return on investment) tracking of your advertising efforts, by transmitting the order amount back to the ad network:

storeBlox Company Store Adwords tracking code

The new feature includes a variable that can be inserted in any snippet of conversion tracking code, so this can be used with any ad network or analytics tool that tracks shopping cart conversions. It’s easy to put your ad network’s tracking code into the dashboard, but if you need help, just call us!

Under the Hood Improvements

Web sites aren’t perfect, and occasionally they produce errors. In an effort to make the company store experience more robust, we’ve introduced a new automated, detailed error reporting system into storeBlox CS for 2017 that will allow us to track down those pesky problems and squash them even faster than before.

All these features are in your store, right now! Need help or a tutorial? Give us a shout today!

Surviving the Mobilepocalypse

iPad explosion - mobilepocalypse

If you’re reading this, I can only assume that the world did not come to an end. Predictions of imminent doom have been circulating around as a result of Google’s algorithm change this spring, which has promised to upend search engine ranking as we know it. Hopefully you’ve escaped the destruction, but if your site is scattered amongst the ruins of the “mobilepocalypse”, I may have a rope to pull you out of the debris.

OK, I’m probably taking a few dramatic liberties here. If you’re not a nerd like me and don’t keep up with search engine news, the biggest story of 2015 has been the change that Google has made to its search engine ranking “signals” (basically, the various factors that are fed into their formula to determine ranking). That update is a simple one, but it’s unfortunately a change that many web site owners are unprepared for.

What is it? Essentially, Google has added “mobile-friendliness” as a substantial ranking signal to its search algorithm. At a very basic level, that means that if your site is “friendly” to mobile users, you may see a ranking boost; conversely, if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, you might see your ranking decline.

I use the terms “may” and “might” because Google doesn’t really explicitly state when and where the mobile-friendly assessment will directly impact ranking. Google has made it clear that mobile-friendliness should affect mobile rankings (in other words, a search from your phone or tablet), because they want to make sure that a mobile user gets to a page that is friendly. But Google has also made it clear that mobile-friendliness won’t trump good content – in the words of a Google spokesperson, “if a page with high-quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.”

What all that means is that you might see a ranking drop if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, and that you’re probably more likely to see a ranking drop for mobile searches, assuming your content isn’t otherwise more compelling than your competitors’. For any given business, it’s hard to tell whether this will have much impact, but you shouldn’t ignore it. It might even affect you more than you think it could.

Why? Because, whether you’re aware or not, a big chunk of searches for your site are likely coming from a mobile device. Worldwide, mobile web usage averages anywhere from 40–50 percent, depending on whom you ask. For our clients, mobile usage isn’t quite that high, but it’s getting there – 35–45 percent mobile traffic is not unusual for a promotional products web site.

That means that a third or more of your users are likely coming from mobile devices, and if those users are doing their searches on those devices, your ranking for 30–40 percent of your prospective customers could suffer as the result of this change. So while I recommend against a full-blown freakout, you should absolutely be aware of what’s happening, and assume that this will become even more important in the future.

What is Mobile-Friendly and How do I get it?

Of course, regular readers know that I’ve been pushing mobile-friendliness for quite a while. Just two columns ago, I noted “mobile-friendliness” as one of the four most important improvements to your website going forward, and that article includes a good primer on what you should consider for mobile-friendly design.

Since you might be in panic mode, though, I’ll give you a quick rundown of how to achieve mobile-friendliness. You might want to attack this with a “quick-and-dirty” retrofit to your site, or you might want to upgrade to a platform that has mobile layouts built-in. Either way, here are some tips for getting back in the good mobile graces of Google’s search engine:

  1. Find a provider that includes mobile-friendly layout(s) in their package – Many web and e-commerce providers now include mobile-friendly design in their packages. Your provider might include this as well; make sure you ask. If they don’t, ask them when they’re going to have it. Nearly every web provider worth their salt will soon have a mobile-friendly option, because, well, that’s the way the world is heading. Yours should too.
  2. Retrofit your site – For a stopgap solution, you can probably find a web designer or developer that can “bolt on” a mobile version to your existing site. Sometimes this strategy can actually be a beneficial first step because it forces you to work with a designer or developer to define exactly what you want to show to mobile users. For example, you might want to just show product information and pricing on the mobile version of your site and disable or hide features that are unlikely to be used by someone on a smartphone.
  3. Start simple – Mobile-friendliness, as mentioned above, doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs to be right there for smartphone users. Remember, Google isn’t checking to see if you kept everything but the kitchen sink in your layout; it just wants to make sure that a mobile user can get around easily. Don’t hesitate to keep the mobile version simple.
  4. Cut out the fat – I also mentioned a couple months ago that speed is becoming more and more important in ranking. This is part of mobile-friendliness as well; often, smartphone users are on slower connections than a desktop computer or laptop on wifi. All of which points to the gradual slimming down of web sites – removing Flash, big images, animations and so on. It’s time to trim out those little darlings that you’ve held on to for so long.
  5. Think touch – Speaking of little darlings, many websites have menus and navigation that do certain things when a user “hovers” their mouse over links, image or menus. You know the feature – you move your mouse over an “Apparel” link and it expands to show you all the subcategories underneath apparel, without ever even clicking on the link. There’s only one problem with that – mobile devices don’t use a mouse, and a smartphone or tablet can’t tell when your finger is hovering over something. So, you’ll need to get rid of those hovering actions, along with any other animations or interactions that don’t work in a touch interface.
  6. Prepare for fat fingers – Fingers are unfortunately a much less precise pointing device than a mouse. Therefore, your tiny text links and buttons may be infuriatingly difficult to tap successfully on a smartphone or tablet. Make your buttons and links bigger overall, or at least increase the size and spacing between them when your site is on a mobile device.

Finally, don’t forget the most important piece of advice – Google will help you with this! That’s right – if your site is set up with Webmaster Tools (something I recommend everyone does), Google will actually let you know how you’re doing. For instance, if your buttons are too small, Google will send you an email letting you know that you need to make them bigger. Google ultimately wants a great mobile experience, because it sees that the world is heading rapidly in that direction. So, whether you retrofit your existing site or build an awesome new responsive one, make sure you take advantage of the tools Google offers to make sure that your mobile experience is as smooth as possible.

A version of this article also appeared in Identity Marketing magazine.

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Back to Basics

Building blocksRegular readers of this column know that I like to take “deep dives” into fairly technical subjects like pay-per-click advertising, landing pages and analytics. I firmly believe that none of this is too complex for the average business owner to handle, but the nuts and bolts of marketing and selling on the web aren’t for everyone. Many of you just want to know – at the most basic level – “what do I do with my website?”

It’s a good time to revisit the basics, because while general best practices for marketing and selling online don’t often change, the specifics sometimes do. And with the explosion of mobile access to web sites, it’s become critical to understand and adapt to the growing percentage of users that will be visiting your site on a tablet or smartphone.

These basic rules aren’t meant to dictate how you should approach every detail, but they represent an overview of where you should be now and what you should be aiming for in the coming years. Think of them as guiding principles for a modern website.

Rule #1: Keep it simple.

Websites were once showcases of the web builder’s art form, a place where you could show off the latest technology and gimmicks. Heck, some websites used to play music the moment you landed on their page (for the record, this was always a horrible idea). Over time, the web has evolved into a place to do serious business, rather than a venue to show off your web-building chops.

That means one thing: Don’t get in your customers’ way. If something seems even slightly extraneous or unnecessary, it probably is. Anything that doesn’t directly contribute to an easy, transparent process of shopping and purchasing should be jettisoned. Don’t even give it a second thought; just get rid of it.

Keep your layouts simple and straightforward. Got a ton of content? Vertical scrolling is preferable to more complex methods of getting around, like tabs, drawers or expanding/collapsing sections of content. If it’s a pain for visitor to get to your content, they’ll likely never see it. Keep it out in the open, well-organized and clean. Think Apple Store, not K-Mart.

Rule #2: Get ready for mobile

Your web site doesn’t have to be perfectly mobile-ready the moment you roll out of bed on Monday morning, but you need to get the process rolling, if you haven’t already. Mobile web access via smartphones and tablets is growing every day, and it won’t be long before a third or more of your visitors come in from some kind of mobile device.

And that number will continue to increase, likely for many more years. While you don’t necessarily need to have a mobile-optimized e-commerce experience, you need to make sure that you present at least a mobile-friendly one. What’s the difference? A mobile-optimized distributor site or company store often presents a different experience solely for smaller devices, with less menu choices, simplified layouts and big tap targets (a tap target is a fancy term for a button or link that you tap on with your finger; since your big fingertip isn’t as precise of a pointing device as a mouse, mobile-optimized sites often make the buttons bigger relative to the other content).

A mobile-friendly site, on the other hand, might not change radically for a smartphone or tablet, but it doesn’t present any unusual barriers to those users. What does that mean? Well, there are things you can do on a desktop computer – say, “hovering” your mouse over an item to get some kind of information about it without actually clicking on it – that are impossible in a touch interface (a touch interface is any device where you use your fingers to navigate and press buttons).

These types of features don’t work on touch devices like smartphones and tablets because these devices don’t know that your finger is hovering over something – they only know when you actually touch the screen (this may change as technology improves, but for now, very few touch devices can detect the proximity of your finger and use it in this way). That doesn’t mean you can’t use things like hovers and complex flyout menus, but they won’t be available for mobile users, and they might even get in the way of a good mobile experience.

Mobile-friendly also means not overloading your site with so many images, graphics and other visual assets that a mobile user gives up before a page even downloads. This is a common problem when web site builders don’t test their sites over a cellular connection. If a visitor can’t get a page from your site to load in a few seconds, they will often just give up and go somewhere else.

Rule #3: Build for speed.

Another aspect of mobile-friendliness is speed. Getting your site to load quickly for every kind of visitor is incredibly important, and not just for the reasons above. Sure, no one wants to have visitors bail out on their site because they couldn’t get a page to load in a reasonable amount of time. But, did you know that speed is now an important ranking factor for search engines?

That’s right – if your site is slow, Google may lower your ranking in their search engine results. Google tests mobile-friendliness (they even check the size of your tap targets!) and focuses in particular on page speed – how quickly your pages load. For mobile users of Google’s search engine (millions and millions of them), Google may actually alter the search results shown based on which sites will load quickly over a mobile connection. Speed isn’t everything to Google, but it’s becoming more and important, and if your site is slow, expect to suffer in ranking over time.

Rule #4: Be unique.

I’ve spent many columns evangelizing the importance of unique content, and this continues to hold true. The uniqueness of the content on your site – whether it be product info, specials, your about us page, or any number of custom landing pages you might create for your marketing and advertising campaigns – is the primary ranking factor that you control completely.

This is still the case, and it’s actually become even more important with recent changes to Google’s ranking algorithms. Your site should be an island of cool, unique stuff, as different from your competitor’s as you can reasonably make it. That doesn’t mean you need to rewrite every product description and take all your own pictures. But it does mean that you need to do the best you can to make it unique.

Uniqueness isn’t easy to come by when you’re selling the same products as a lot of other people, but as a business owner, you should be able to communicate what makes your business different from everyone else. Talk about you, your products, your employees, your special services – whatever you can think of. Make it part of your story.

Simplicity, mobile-friendliness, speed, uniqueness – these are the hallmarks of a site that performs well in search engines, is inviting to visitors, and turns visitors into purchasing customers. If you can master these, you’ll be successful online in no time.

A version of this article also appeared in Identity Marketing magazine.

 

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