• 40-Point Checklist for a successful HTTP to HTTPS

    Google recognized ‘HTTPS’  as an important ranking signal on August 6, 2014. Since then, many webmasters are shifting from HTTP to HTTPS version of their website; and this exodus seems to be heading in the right direction with Ecommerce websites leading from the front. As e-retailers cannot do without a secured encryption, HTTPS versions become the obvious option.

    After you have decided to make the switch; do read this checklist that enables you to proceed with the HTTPS upgrade cautiously. In this article, we have compiled a list of pointers that you can keep in mind while upgrading your website to the HTTPS version.

    Please note: Not all the points mentioned below are applicable to non-eCommerce websites but all points on HTTP to HTTPS update are relevant for Magento based eCommerce stores.

    HTTP to HTTPS Checklist - Infographic

    Want a PDF of this infographic? Download it from here

    1. Verify HTTPS version:

      Firstly, you need to verify the website’s Https version in Google and Bing Webmaster tools. Verify and confirm whether the version to be updated is www or non-www. The www version is, of course, the preferred one and the update will be made to this.

    2. 301 Redirect:

      Implement the SEO friendly “301 Redirect”. Always use permanent redirect on the non-preferred version and direct it to the verified HTTPS version. It is recommended that before the 301 redirects are applied, you have a list of all the areas where redirects are to be made and organize all the data which will have 301 redirects implemented. These may include a total number of links, index stats and sitemap stats, sitelinks and PPC landing pages.

    3. Update Links to HTTPS:

      Once the website is upgraded to the HTTPS version, you need to update all the main internal such as home page, CMS pages, PDFs, URLs in Videos and also links on all external online properties. Do not forget to update the URLs/ internal links in your newsletters. This will ensure that we are sending unique SEO page signals to search engines.

    4. Update Links on Social Media:

      The external links on social profiles, at least the main and popular ones, should have the HTTPS version of URLs.

    5. New Sitemap:

      Configure a new sitemap with the HTTPS URLs of the website and submit it in both Google and Bing webmasters.

    6. Robots.txt:

      Update the existing Robots.txt file of the website and update the new sitemap, configured for the  HTTPS version of the website.

    7. Check Robots.txt:

      Once the Robots.txt file is updated, you should double check it to ensure that it should not block any pages like CMS, Product page or any other. This needs to be done, especially, if you have introduced new pages or sections while upgrading from HTTP to the HTTPS version.

    8. Configure Canonical Tags:

      Configure canonical tags and make them point to the HTTPS version. The canonical tag should be implemented on the same pages but this time they should point to the HTTPS versions. Please note that Magento may do this on its own but webmasters will still need to ensure that the implementation was correctly executed.

    9. PPC/CSE:

      Update PPC / CSE landing pages with the HTTPS version URLs so that they should not affect the landing page score.

    10. Back-up:

      Take a backup of Google Webmaster HTTPS versions (snapshot and details).

    11. Re-Submit the Links:

      Re-submit the Links Disavow file in both the Webmaster tools. This ensures that spammy links will not affect the new verified version of the website. You need to update the Robots.txt file on both Google and Bing webmaster tools.

    12. Manage URL Parameters:

      Make sure that you manage URL parameters for the HTTPS version in both Google and Bing webmaster tools. For this, you can simply copy the URL parameters settings from the HTTP version and reflect them in the HTTPS version.

    13. Update Google Analytics:

      Update Google Analytics Admin settings. Please select “HTTPS ” version and save the settings. This ensures that all the reported data procured in  Google Analytics will now be for the HTTPS (new version).

    14. Update URL in Email Signatures:

      Update your email signatures with the new URL i.e. https://www.example.com

    15. Check CDN:

      Ensure that the existing CDN on the website does not cause any issue once the website is shifted from HTTP to HTTPS version. Coordinate with the CDN team and make the necessary changes. Make sure that your CDN can handle SSL. Also, ask your CDN company to share their concerns regarding the upgrade beforehand, so that the switch does not become counterproductive.

    16. Re-design the Newsletter:

      Re-design the newsletter templates – Auto-responder emails, Triggers, on site pop-ups and update all the links with HTTPS URLs. Also, update the internal links of Newsletter Welcome series emails that maybe be configured on Magento or any Newsletter Marketing software.

    17. Plan Your Newsletters:

      Do not send any newsletter or offers for at least 4-5 days before the planned upgrade is due.

    18. Code Check Up:

      Check images, CSS, javascript URLs and ensure that they work in the upgraded version. The code audit must be vigilantly executed.

    19. Timing:

      Consider upgrading the website at a time when the traffic on the website is at its lowest for that season. This is really crucial for eCommerce stores.

    20. Optimize Google Webmaster:

      Optimize Google Webmaster crawl time using ‘Crawl settings’. Please minimize the requests sent per second before the upgrade is due. This setting will take 48 hours to be effective, so make this change at least 2-3 days before the planned upgrade.

    21. Update Redirects:

      Update all the implemented 301 redirects to the HTTPS version. This can be done at the server level by your Server team. Basically, all the 301 redirects implemented on 404 pages should be updated to the HTTPS version.

    22. 3rd Party Tracking Codes:

      Keep a backup of the 3rd party tracking codes (Adwords, Bing, Conversion codes, Remarketing codes, and Analytics codes) and update them to the HTTPS version.

    23. Check Extensions:

      Check hosted Blog extension settings, plugins, etc. For example, WordPress Blog should work on HTTPS and so should the installed plugins like Yoast extension, social sharing and security plugins.

    24. Evaluate the Mobile Version:

      Evaluate the mobile version of the website and ensure that the HTTPS URLs are responsive or non-responsive. If not, configure the settings accordingly for a mobile-friendly HTTPS version of the website.

    25. Re-submit the Removal Request:

      Re-submit the removal request of URLs in Google and Bing webmaster tools. For example, The old HTML sitemap or any other page on the website that was submitted for removal needs to be re-submitted for the HTTPS version also.

    26. Update the Dev Version:

      The Dev version of the website should also be updated to HTTPS. This way potential changes which may be required on the live HTTPS site can be tested on the Dev site with the HTTPS encryption. So you can have something like https:www.dev.websitename.com

    27. Check 3rd Party Extensions:

      Check to ensure that the 3rd party extension like Website search is working fine in the upgraded version.

    28. Https Version Validation:

      Get the new HTTPS version validated by an online tool such as W3c. This will help you make your website cleaner after the switch. As Google grants more leverage to cleanly coded and glitch-free websites, getting your version checked and reported for errors or warnings is highly recommended.

    29. Compare Page Speed:

      Compare the website page speed for both the HTTP and HTTPS versions using the Google tool and implement the necessary changes.

    30. Check Social Sharing Extension:

      All the social sharing extensions (buttons on product page or blog) should work on the updated version.

    31. Configure Data Highlighter:

      Configure Data Highlighter in Google Webmaster tools and set it for HTTPS version. This enables the HTTPS URL to get picked up in the rich snippet results.

    32. Absolute and Relative URLs:

      If a website is using both ‘Absolute and Relative URLs’, on the website, then the Relative URLs will update to HTTPS automatically. Absolute URLs have to be updated manually. Please ensure that both URL types are duly updated.

    33. Update URLs on External Links:

      Update “301 redirects” on the external domains owned by you. For example, there can be a number of websites or blogs that might be 301 redirecting to the HTTP version. This needs to be updated so that the external links can redirect to the HTTPS version after the upgrade is pushed live.

    34. Update Blog Links:

      The internal links on the website’s images linked from the blog posts also need to be updated to their HTTPS URLs. Do update these in WordPress. This can be done under the “General Settings” section where you can mention the ‘WordPress Address (URL)’ as HTTPS.

    35. RSS Feed:

      Check if RSS subscription feed of the Blog or the website is working for the upgraded version.

    36. Get URLs Updated on 3rd Party:

      Contact the website owners/affiliates and ask them to update the website URL and use the new HTTPS.

    37. Use Updated URLs for Link Building:

      If you employ a link building strategy that involves leaving links in different forums and threads, then, continue with your link building efforts but now use the updated URLs of the website.

    38. Check Content:

      Ensure that the content on HTTP and HTTPS website is similar.

    39. Upgrade Your SSL Certificate:

      Upgrade your website SSL certificate to SHA2 to support website pages like Checkout, Category pages, and Product pages. Otherwise, it can trigger Server errors in the Webmaster tools. Moreover, Google prefers the SHA2 certification and considers it as a ranking parameter.

    40. Upgrade 3rd Party SEO Tools:

      If you are using any 3rd party SEO tool like Moz.com, please submit the HTTPS version to them to make sure it shows the  SEO score of HTTPS version.

    BONUS TIPS

    • Update css, javascript and ajax to https

      If you are using any custom CSS, Javascript or AJAX, it’s a good idea to double check and update them to reflect the HTTPS version of your domain.

    • Check Social media counters

      When you migrate to HTTPS the social counters often stop working and reflect the old numbers, or get reset to zero. Updating the plugins (on WordPress) often solves the problem.

    • Support and Enable HSTS

      The HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) helps protect websites against protocol downgrade attacks and cookie hijacking. Google says HSTS tells the browser to request HTTPS pages automatically, even if the user enters HTTP in the browser address bar. It also tells Google to serve secure URLs in the search results.

    • Enable OCSP stapling

      The process of OCSP (Online Certificate Status Protocol) checking slows down browsing as it requires real time checking of security certificate each time a URL is requested. OCSP Stapling allows rectifying this by issuing a signed time-stamped response. This reduces the need to cross-reference with a Certificate Authority (CA) thereby increasing speed.

    • Update Local Citations

      Do not forget to update your site’s address across all Local Citation sites.

    • Check Your Website For Mixed Content Warnings

      Mixed content warnings appear when you serve unnoticedly serve both HTTP and HTTPS assets/content. Serve all assets through HTTPS to avoid such warnings.

    • Check RSS Feed

      Make sure all the URLs served in RSS feed are HTTPS.

    The HTTPS upgrade, if not done properly, can result in reduced visibility in the search results; a fallout of lowered rankings. Also, there may be other severe long-term effects of not making the switch. These can include insecure connections, compromised referral data and now, a bad rap with Google.

    These 40 points must be implemented so that the transition from HTTP to HTTPS is event-less. We’d also like to hear about the cautions that you take or have heard of and can add to this list shared here.

    If you’d like to discuss migrating your site to HTTPS, get in touch with us.

    Wishing you a happy and a smooth switch!

  • 71 Google-Ordained SEO Guidelines You May Have Ove

    SEO guidelines from Google

    Google hasn’t been very open about its algorithmic changes lately. Except for major updates such as Mobile First Index (which is yet to be launched), Panda and some other unconfirmed alterations, there have been very few announcements by Google for SEO/Webmasters. However, evangelists like John Mueller (Twitter : @JohnMu) and Gary Illyes (Twitter : @methode ) have been instrumental in bridging this gap. Barry Schwartz (Twitter : @rustybrick), relentlessly publishes updates, notifications, questions by Webmasters and myriad chatters across the SEO community. Many of us owe big thanks to these mavens who have been selflessly sharing their knowledge with the whole fraternity.

    We at CueBlocks have made a similar effort! We have compiled a list of some important Google algorithm updates and official statements, straight from the horse’s mouth. Many of these points clarify the direction that Google wants SEOs to take. These will also serve as a primer for correct and ethical practices in our sphere.

    So, let’s get rollin’…

    1. Do not block CSS and JS files in your Website’s Robots.txt file

      Although Google hasn’t aced crawling Javascript, yet it is advised that the Googlebot should be able to access CSS and JS files on your site. You can validate this inside Search Console (fetch and render) feature.

    2. Google ignores special characters in the meta title tag of the website

      Many brands are confused about the inclusion of trademark symbols like ™ and © in their title tags. However, with the above statement, Google has put all the speculations to rest. Businesses can do well even without a trademark symbol in their Meta titles.

    3. W3C Code validation is not really a deciding factor for SERPs

      As per Google, the W3C validation of a page does not really influence website rankings. Still, we recommend adhering to the fundamentals.  

    4. Google has confirmed that one can use multiple H1 tags on a page

      Google has recently removed the instructions on usage of H1 tags. This gives us all an opportunity to target more keywords/phrases but in an ethical manner.

    5. Don’t use URL Fragments

      John Mueller from Google has recommended that using URL Fragments for content, in general, should be avoided.

    6. The Panda update is also about Discerning the Website Architecture

      Google informs that the Panda update also gauges a website’s quality on the basis of its structure. It emphasizes the importance of an optimum website structure. So empower your entire website with a rock solid architectural foundation.

    7. As of now AMP is not a ranking factor but it improves the overall website speed

      Google affirms that AMP is great to make your site more user-friendly on mobile but it is not a ranking factor. However, if the site’s canonical version is set to your AMP pages, then Google will consider its quality and assess your website accordingly.

    8. One should use rel-nofollow while linking to bad websites

      As per Google, if you have to link to bad sites so as to corroborate your point or to use the reference as an example, it is advised to use the rel=’nofollow’ attribute.

    9. It is not advisable to build backlinks from Google Docs/Excel sheets

      John Mueller advises not to build backlinks from google sheets or docs. It’s better to invest in quality content that helps your customers instead.

    10. Not Found URLs are not always due to a Webmaster’s mistake. Google Bots can sometimes find unwanted URLs

      Google acknowledges that 404 Errors may not always be the Webmaster’s fault. A Googlebot may sometimes traverse to unwanted sections of a site.

    11. Mobile First Index is still being tested and is not live yet.

      Google’s Mobile first index is still in its experimental stage and not fully live yet.

    12. There is no single method/formula for gaining top search engines positions

      Top Google positions are a result of several diverse factors that are dependent on the ranking capacity of a particular website which is further subject to Google’s algorithms. This means that there’s no single formula for a webmaster to depend on, in order to achieve better rankings.

    13. Nofollow tag may help manage the crawl budget of large websites

      Google has assured that you need not worry about crawl budget unless you have a site with an insanely large number of pages. Nevertheless, it is still a smart decision to use the nofollow attribute to manage your crawl budget if the site size is large.

    14. Google takes manual action against spamming the Rich Snippets

      Google has stated that if Google finds you violating the Rich Snippets Guidelines, your page could be subject to punitive action from its team, which is not a nice thing.

    15. A Website Penalty can be seen by a Webmaster only and not by any third party tools/software

      According to Google, only the webmaster or anyone who has access to a website’s Search Console can see if his/her site is penalized. Third party tools claiming so may not be trustworthy.

    16. There is no such thing as the Google Sandbox

      The existence of Google Sandbox has been debated since 2004. Google has repeatedly claimed that there’s no such thing or feature as Google Sandbox.

    17. Submit URLs you want to index in Sitemaps

      Add those URLs in the sitemap that you want indexed on Google so as to get maximum traffic on them. Google recommends avoiding submission of non-canonical and unwanted URLs in a sitemap to ensure that search engines are not presented with confusing information.

    18. A link will be considered as Paid if we are giving Charity or Donation for link exchange

      As per Google, a backlink earned by paying donation or charity will be considered as a Paid Link. Google’s latest algorithms are smart enough to discern authentic links from paid ones and may frown upon you for engaging in such activities.

    19. Changing URL Structures and Switching to HTTPs URLs are completely different

      Google informs that moving from HTTP to HTTPS is distinct from changing the URL structure (for e.g  going from numeric URLs to keyword based URLs). It is advised that one should not make both changes simultaneously.

    20. Google allows using different markup formats for structured data

      As per Google, different schema formats (microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD) can be used to markup content. You are free to choose any format type for schema markup tags or even mix it up as long as the resulting output remains the same.

    21. Google ignores HTML lang attribute completely

      There is no benefit of adding the Lang Attribute according to Google. Google has confirmed that they ignore it completely. However, there is no harm if you have already added it.

    22. Content within Tabs will be given full SEO weightage

      Several sites have content present in tabs or collapsible segments. For example – Ecommerce stores contains content in the form of reviews, descriptions, and other information that may appear in different Tabs. Google has stated that it gives full SEO weightage to content present under the tabs, regardless of their positioning or structure on the page.

    23. Fast Crawl Rate setting won’t help with SEO rankings

      Increasing the Crawl rate speed in the Search Console will not affect rankings as per Google.

    24. Webmasters can remove links from the Disavow file

      It is alright to remove domains from your disavow file if they are no longer unnatural, live, and have been processed. However, if you can still derive any value from the unnatural links to your site, it’s best to keep them in your disavow file.

    25. Domain Authority or Score is not a signal in Google’s algorithms

      Domain Authority is one of the most commonly referred metrics by SEOs to denote a site’s authority. But it is not to be considered as an actual metric or signal deployed by Google as the search engine confirms. It’s just a term coined by Moz.

    26. No big SEO advantage with HTTP/2

      As per Google, there is no big SEO advantage of using HTTP/2 as of now. The primary benefit of using HTTP/2 is that it improves a site’s page loading speed, which results in happier visitors.

    27. No need to have an XML sitemap for AMP pages

      According to Google, there is no need to submit an additional sitemap for AMP pages. Google employs the rel-amphtml attribute to understand them.

    28. International and Multilingual links are not considered as spam

      Google doesn’t consider international and multi language links as spam as long as they are of good quality and follow Webmaster Guidelines.

    29. Site Command will show rich snippets if Webmaster has implemented them correctly

      Google informs us that its site command i.e. site:https://www.cueblocks.com may show in the rich snippets result if it has been implemented correctly on the website. Otherwise, you can refer to the Google Search Console structured data report to check errors or warning messages.

    30. Google does not support rel-canonical tag for Images

      Google has confirmed that they do not support the rel=canonical attribute for images.

    31. Google considers singular and plural words as different keywords

      A keyword’s singular and plural variation can be treated as two different entities by Google. Use them wisely in your Content Marketing plans.

    32. No Penalty for linking out to external websites

      Google will not penalize content with links going out to external websites as it has confirmed. Linking out to useful information and relevant resources can, in fact, further benefit the readers and users. Also, note that linking to external websites is not a mandate and you will not incur any penalty if you choose not to.   

    33. Upload Disavow File on Canonical version of the website

      Make sure that you upload the Disavow file on the canonical/preferred version of the website. Google advises that the disavow file should be in the preferred version of your online property/website.

    34. Product Pricing is not a ranking factor as per Google

      E-commerce Stores are not ranked on the basis of offering/selling products at a low price. Product pricing is not a ranking factor in web search according to Google.

    35. Backlinks shown in Search Console are crawled in Google’s index

      Google informs that the links shown in Search Console are generally crawled by Google and are included in their index. In case a URL is missing, it may be due to the fact that it has the noindex tag, or could possibly be hacked and thus does not show up in the search results.

    36. Hreflang won’t improve search engine rankings of the website

      Hreflang tag simply serves the purpose of showing language based results in Google (geo based search). Google has confirmed that while it’s important to add a Hreflang tag in a multilingual website, it does not affect the rankings.

    37. Using Underscores or Dashes in the website URLs does not pose any SEO threats

      A webmaster can use dashes or underscores in a URL. No particular version is preferred or recommended for a good SEO score as per Google’s claim.

    38. No way you can redirect a penalized site safely. There is no escape from Google!

      There is no method to safely redirect a penalized website to another version according to Google. It can be considered as cloaking, which is against Google Webmaster’s guidelines.

    39. Different Google algorithms impact a website differently

      Google says that it may negatively impact a website on the basis of one algorithm, while positively marking it on another. For example, a quality link profile can be favored by Google Penguin or a link specific update, but shoddy content can prove harmful for the website and result in a negative assessment by Google Panda update.

    40. Mention Alt tags in the same language as that of the content

      Google advises that one should mention Alt tags on the page in the same language in which content is written. For example, if your content is in Spanish, add Alt tags in Spanish. It helps prevent any confusion for Google crawlers and is also useful for the user.

    41. Google does not provide any SEO Certifications to Webmasters

      Google has clarified that there are no SEO certifications that it issues. They do have Google Analytics and AdWords certification but not SEO certifications.

    42. There is a slight SEO advantage in having keywords in the URLs

      As per Google, back in 2008-10 Webmasters did focus on including keywords in the URL, but today it is not a considerable factor at all. Google Algorithm is smart enough to understand other elements on the page, such as the type of content, backlink signals, domain age, etc. So, keywords in the URL are not essential anymore.

    43. Outbound links are not considered as a ranking factor

      Google clarifies that adding links to Wikipedia or other official and high authority resources on the topic does not help in achieving higher ranks. It may provide information and add value for the user, but has little gain in terms of search engine rankings.

    44. Google does not index images as frequently as it does web pages

      According to Google, images don’t change very frequently as Google does not index them as often as other HTML pages. This could be the reason why the saturation of HTML pages and that of image URLs varies.

    45. Title Tags are not a critical SEO ranking factor for Google

      There has been a great emphasis on Title Tags of a page since the emergence of the SEO field. However, as per Google, Title Tags are not considered as a critical ranking factor. In fact, Google sometimes shows different Title Tags based on the query/keyword search performed. When it comes to search queries, it’s Google that leads the way and not the Webmasters.

    46. Using Special Characters and Decimal points in the URL is not a very SEO-friendly practice

      According to John Mueller, it is better to avoid special characters and decimal points in URLs. However, there are a few pages with such URLs that may still rank higher in Google on a specific set of queries.

    47. There is no SEO advantage of using capital letters in the URLs

      Google informs that there is no benefit of using capital letters in the URL. Capitalization does not affect rankings. So it’s better to avoid them and keep the URLs simple.

    48. Links Disavow file size has a limit of 2MB

      As confirmed by Google, the Links Disavow file has a size limit of 2MB and 100,000 URLs.

    49. There is no direct correlation between crawl frequency and higher rankings

      There is no direct relationship between crawl frequency and higher rankings and Google has confirmed the same. So basically, if a page gets crawled on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean that it will rank higher.

    50. No need to set preferred domain settings if redirects are correctly implemented and pointing to the preferred versions

      Google has clarified that there is no need of a preferred domain setting in the Search Console if all redirects are implemented correctly. This means that Webmaster should direct non-preferred URLs to the preferred ones correctly.

    51. A website can incur both types of penalties; Manual Action and Algorithmic

      Google has confirmed that it is possible for a website to be penalized both by Manual Action as well as algorithmic judgment. For example, a penalty may be imposed algorithmically by the Google Penguin update and also by a manual action for schema markup spam.

    52. Move Disavow file when migrating to HTTPS version. Reupload it to HTTPs preferred version

      Google recommends that the webmaster should move the disavow file from HTTP to HTTPS version once the website migration is complete. It is important to upload the disavow file on the HTTPS version.

    53. Google won’t disavow domains when you disavow IP Addresses

      Google informs that when disavowing domains, it is important to mention the domain name. Google will not process the disavowed domain if it is mentioned as an IP address. So avoid making this mistake. There are some good online tools available that you can use to validate the disavow domains.

    54. It is best to keep the 301 Redirects active for a time period of one year

      It is a good practice to keep the 301 redirects links active for a period of 1 year. John Mueller has confirmed that Google may take up to 1 year to fully understand the 301 Redirects destination.

    55. Social Signals do not influence page rankings

      Google has clarified several times that social signals do not impact Google rankings. Google may acknowledge links from social network websites and rank the content published on them but beyond that, there is no direct relation between social shares and better rankings.

    56. Google never indexes all the website pages

      Google made it clear that they never index all the website pages. Of course, it might not be true for websites with 5 or 6 pages as Google may index all of their pages. But for large scale websites, Google doesn’t index all the pages.

    57. User Engagement on a website is not a ranking factor

      Google has clarified that visitor engagement on the website is not a ranking factor. A user may view different pages, create an account and sign up on the website, but all these actions won’t affect ranking.

    58. According to Google, 404s do not attract Google Panda penalty

      You’ll not be penalized by Panda for 404 errors as per the information shared by Google. As stated on multiple counts by Google, 404s do not affect your site generally but a large number of 404 errors may deteriorate user experience.

    59. Bad HTML validation is not a threat to rankings but can impact structured data

      Invalid HTML does not impact your site’s ranking adversely as per the information shared by Google. There is a chance it may impede its crawling. One should also validate the structured markup implemented as well.

    60. Links within a PDF document will pass PageRank

      Google’s Gary Illyes has confirmed that the links within a PDF file are considered valuable. So, if you are linking to website pages from a PDF file, it is still counted as a link.

    61. Google treats Errors codes (429 and 503) in the same manner

      Google has confirmed that it treats error codes 429 (when a user has sent too many requests in a stipulated time period) and the 503 (when the server is currently unable to handle requests) identically.

    62. Put rel-nofollow link on Web Design by Links

      According to Google’s John Mueller, if any Webmaster has a doubt or fear about the un-natural backlink, it is better to put a rel-nofollow tag on the Footer Web Design/Development by links.

    63. Disavow file syntax in uppercase or lowercase doesn’t make a difference to Google

      Disavow domains with names in uppercase and lowercase are allowed by Google. As has been confirmed, you can use any format that you like. So basically, domains Example.com and example.com are equally good for Google.

    64. Add pagination on infinite scroll pages to get them indexed

      Google informs that for a giant page with an infinite scroll, it is better to add pagination to the pages. If the page keeps loading forever, Googlebot may stop crawling it further.

    65. Change of Address tool helps with Website Domain Migration

      Moving to a different domain? Google informs that webmasters can use the Change of Address tool to speed up the process a little by giving Google a loud and clear signal. However, it is not required when executing HTTP to HTTPS migration.

    66. Googlebot can follow up to 5 redirects at a time

      During website migrations, one may end up having multiple redirect chains. According to Google, they can follow up to 5 redirects at a time. Anything above this number is not good! To make it easier for Google and to be on a safer side, keep it simple which means Page A –> B.

    67. There is no guarantee of indexing from Sitemaps

      Even if the Webmaster has submitted a sitemap, there is no guarantee that Google will index those pages as per the statement shared by the search engine. The indexing of a page depends upon a number of other factors like content, backlinks, internal links etc. However, it is important to generate the XML sitemap and submit it, otherwise, it becomes difficult for Google to find the pages.

    68. Google keeps on updating and improving its algorithms

      Needless to say, Google keeps on making changes to its algorithm to provide a better experience to the searchers and it has shared these modifications time and again. We all know how Google has evolved in the last couple of years. Featured Snippets, Schema Markup, Instant Search (retired recently) etc. are some decent examples. Way to go Google!

    69. Google picks up title tags automatically and presents them in a better way

      When it comes to showing a Title Tag based on search query, Google is smart enough to customize them if it deems fit. So if you notice different Title Tags, do not be surprised!

    70. A Domain’s age is not a ranking signal

      A myth that’s been a part of the SEO industry for a long time has been busted by John Mueller who confirmed that domain age is not a parameter for Google. Neither is Domain registration length.

    71. Robots.txt file size should be smaller than 500KB

      John Mueller confirmed that the Robots.txt file size should not exceed 500 KB. The 500KB seems sufficiently large but it would be interesting to know what could happen if one’s robots.txt exceeds this limit.

    We hope that you found some useful information from our list. If there is any other update, query or statement you think deserves a place here, do share it in the comments section or contact us at info@cueblocks.com.

    Disclaimer: The information above has been compiled from trustworthy sources like SERoundtable, Google Webmaster Blog, and Official Google Spokesperson. However these are not to be taken as the final word of Google and if you have any questions or doubts, I would recommend following the Google Webmaster Guidelines. As an SEO, I suggest you tread with utmost caution and also research-based knowledge.

  • How to download 404 errors from Google Search Cons

    The Google Search Console is of great help to Webmasters with several useful features like sitemap submission, search analytics, links to your site, crawl errors report. With the GSC, the SEO specialists have a powerful tool at their fingertips to direct the course of their SEO requests.

    However, the Google Search Console also has several aspects which are somewhat frustrating. For eg; the “Links to your site” feature only show a maximum of 1000 domains. Now, Imagine how many domains link to a site like Moz or Buzzfeed! Do you think the Google Search Console serves them well?

    The sitemap tool shows how many URLs were indexed but does not distinguish between the non-indexed and indexed URLs. And well there are other similar annoyances. (Update: Google is testing a beta feature called Index Coverage report that will show indexed pages count and reasons why some pages could not be indexed. Read more on Google Webmaster Blog.)

    Another point that annoys Google Search Console (GSC) users is the Crawl Errors report. The Search Console shows us the crawl errors, the HTTP status code of the error (404, 503 etc), and also the source of the error. The bothersome part is you have to click on each URL to view where the error originates from.

    Search Console 404 Errors

     

    Another problem is the 1,000 errors limit. You’ll have to fix the existing ones to view newer ones.

    Solution: Download crawl errors with source using Google API Explorer

    The Google API explorer is a savvy tool to communicate with numerous Google APIs. But we need to concern ourselves only with the Search Console API.

    You’ll need Full Access to use the API and Search Console account, so make sure you have them beforehand.

    Once logged in, you’ll notice the Search Console API offers several Services, 13 services to be exact. But our focus here is the one labeled webmasters.urlcrawlerrorssamples.list. So, go ahead and click on it.

    The next screen will look like the image below. Beyond this point it’s a simple 3 step process:

    404 Crawl Errors List-Search Console Api Explorer

    1. Fill in the parameters and Execute the query

    The fields you notice on the next screen read as follows:

    • Site URL – Quite self-explanatory
    • Category – This field is for denoting the type of errors you’d like to filter it with. Luckily for us, it offers an easy to use drop down with possible fields. For 404 errors, choose notFound as the option.
    • Platform – This refers to the user agent or simply the type of device you wish to retrieve errors for. Again an easy drop down to help us out. We’ll be selecting web for now.
    • Fields – This specifies the data you want to retrieve along with crawl errors like source, error detected on date, last crawled date, error code etc.

    Use the fields editor to select required fields. The available ones are:

    • urlCrawlErrorSample Provides information about the sample URL and its crawl error
    • first_detected – Know the date when the error was first detected
    • last_crawled – Is the date when the URL was first crawled
    • pageUrl – The URL of crawl error
    • responseCode – duh
    • urlDetails To retrieve more details about error URL. Selecting it gives you two options:
      • containingSitemaps – Sitemap URLs pointing to the crawl error
      • linkedFromUrls – Source of the crawl error. The root of all the fuss!

    I prefer selecting all the data and filtering it down later. You are free to choose your path.

    Oh! Do turn on the Authorize requests using OAuth 2.0 button on top right (marked with an orange rectangle in the image)

    or

    Once all the fields are set, just click the Authorize and execute button.

    Authorize Button

    You’d be greeted with a popup before the report runs, like in the image below:

    OAuth 2.0 Confirmation - Search Console API

    Check both options and hit the Authorize and execute button.

    2. Convert the output JSON to a CSV

    If everything goes well, you should see a status 200 OK message with a JSON output similar to the image below

    Crawl Errors List - JSON Output

    Copy the output after the first curly bracket { till the last } curly bracket in the end.

    Now, head over to a JSON to CSV converter. I prefer https://konklone.io/json/ for the simple interface, a preview window, and the ability to download the CSV.

    Note: I tried another converter too but the report wasn’t 100% accurate. Test your converter before you finalize on a report.

    Paste the JSON output and convert it into a CSV.

    3. Download the CSV and Fix 404 errors

    This is pretty much self-explanatory! Download your CSV and start fixing those 404 errors.

    Word to the wise: Google Search Console may not list sources or linking domains for all errors. So don’t worry if some rows returned are empty.

    Conclusion:

    404 errors may not seem critical but fixing them helps saves crawl budget, improves user experience, and also helps retain link value.

    You may use the same process to find and fix other errors. The API includes 9 types of errors in the Google Search Console that you can fix. You don’t have to wreck your brain to search them out; we have listed all error types below.

    1. authPermissions
    2. flashContent
    3. manyToOneRedirect
    4. notFollowed
    5. notFound
    6. other
    7. roboted
    8. serverError
    9. Soft404

    I hope you find this useful! Now head to your laptop and start fixing those 404 errors.

  • Considering Migration to Magento 2.X? Here’s Wha

    Magento 2 Migration Plan

    The proliferation of e-Commerce platforms has provided marketers with numerous options for their online stores. However, it is Magento that truly stands out among the rest. It is one of the best open-source platforms trusted by the merchants thus far. With its ability to provide a highly secure ecosystem by leveraging SSL certificates, Magento has helped businesses outshine their competitors in the field of e-Commerce. And now, it has released an upgraded platform version called the Magento 2.x which has proved to be even more empowering for e-Commerce store owners. Let’s see how –

    With its flexible architecture and popular shipping methods, Magento 1.x has been the lifeblood of many e-Commerce businesses over the past few years. Therefore, after the release of Magento 2.0, some retailers are confused about migrating their e-Commerce website from Magento 1 along with the different features and functions that it offers. Magento 2 empowers businesses to deliver engaging omni-channeled shopping experiences to their customers in a quick and cost-effective way. It also includes various features that help in boosting conversion rates, business scalability and performance.

    Before jumping onto some of these vital features of Magento 2, let’s take a look at the reasons why you need to consider store migration:

    No new features in Magento 1.x: Since the entire action revolves around Magento 2.0, Magento 1.x versions haven’t received any updates or new features lately. Only bug fixes and security patches are being addressed. However, the support for Magento enterprise versions 1.13 and 1.14 is likely to continue till 2019 considering the 1.5 year window that Magento talked about for its customers. Read the announcement here.

    More focus on Magento 2: Since the developers working on third-party extensions are intensely focused on Magento 2, the Magento 1 extensions are expected to become obsolete over the next couple of years. This means you should start planning your Magento 2 upgrade soon.

    Magento 2 Key Benefits

    How would a merchant derive benefits out of Magento 2? This is something one needs to consider before investing in the Magento 2 migration process. Let’s understand some essential factors:

    Performance

    Being relatively faster than its older 1.x versions, Magento Enterprise Edition 2.0 supports a feature named, Split Database Solution which helps your administrator in setting up different databases for the checkout process, product catalog, and order management. With the absence of table locks, the chances of failure caused due to a database will decrease to a large extent. Magento has worked to achieve better efficiency and innovation at managing e-Commerce operations, read more about their improvements, here.

    Responsive Themes

    Responsive themes are one of the biggest benefits that Magento 2.0 provides as it makes your e-Commerce website a perfect fit over a phone or tablet. Unless you’ve been using Magento Enterprise Edition 1.14, Community Edition 1.9, or a custom third-party theme, your e-Commerce website cannot become responsive and that’s really shocking. With approximately 50 percent of e-Commerce traffic coming from mobile devices, it has become necessary for a store to allow its customers to navigate, shop, and order from a phone/tablet. You are going to miss out on potential sales if your website is not responsive.

    Faster Page Loading Time

    Magento 2.0 leverages an extension called Varnish Cache which helps to speed up the process of page loading in both the enterprise and the community editions. In today’s competitive e-Commerce environment, customers have many options and they will leave if your site’s page loading speed is not optimum; that is under 3 seconds. So, the addition of Varnish is considered as a crucial aspect in terms of delivering as per the shopper’s expectations. In fact, a slower page loading time can lead to both, lower Google rankings and conversion rates. Thus, a slower page load speed can make you risk potential revenue opportunities. You can know more about page load speed comparisons, here.

    Better security

    Magento 2.0 includes an installer that keeps all systems up-to-date. Also, it protects the store from various faulty codes, potential outside hacks or breaches and provides utmost security to the store.
    As per Magento, integration with payment gateways like PayPal, Braintree payments, and Authorize.net makes an e-Commerce site safe, secure, unbreachable, and pretty much PCI compliant. You can refer to the Magento 2 announcement for more clarity.

    Magento 2 Upgrade
    Magento 2 Migration Plan

    Confused about migrating to Magento 2? Looking for effective ways to upgrade your store? The infographic above will provide you an idea of the procedural flow for Magento 2 upgrade that we follow at CueBlocks.

    So, it’s high time to plan for your Magento 2.0 upgrade and if you still have any questions, then reach out to us at CueBlocks for consultation on performing your Magento 2.0 upgrade, the way it should be done!

  • AdWords Cost per Conversion is not always Cost/Con

    If your AdWords account contains multiple campaigns which also includes mobile targeted campaigns, then you might notice that your reported cost per conversion is different from the expected cost per conversion.

    Rest assured, this is not a discrepancy or a mathematical error by Google. There is, in fact, a very simple explanation for this, as given below.

    SS
    In the above screenshot, we can see the following stats:

    Cost: $86,464.81
    Conversions (1-per-click): 432
    Cost per conversion: $188.31

    On calculating the cost per conversion as per the usual formula i.e.
    cost per conversion = cost/conversion = $86,464.81/432 = $200.15

    Now, our cost per conversion ($200.15) doesn’t match the reported cost per conversion ($188.31). On contacting our AdWords representative, we came to know about some new information which is explained below.

    Cost per conversion does not always translate into cost divided by conversion. Calculating cost per conversion is slightly more than simple division because not all clicks and their associated click cost are eligible for conversion tracking reporting. As a result, the numbers you see in the interface might be varied than the ones that you would get by dividing the cost column by the conversion column.

    A situation in which the cost/conversion is deviating from what you expected could happen in the case where the campaign(s) in question are targeting mobile devices as well. There are many low end mobile devices that do not accept cookies. Which means that the clicks and the associated click cost will not be included in the conversion rate and the cost per conversion metrics. This happens because in the devices that do not support cookies, the JavaScript that tracks your conversions (for example on the thank you page) does not load, hence these conversions can’t be tracked and are not included in the calculation of these metrics.

    So let’s look at the all time numbers with this in mind again

    Reported Total Cost: $86,464.81
    Reported 1-Per-Click Conversions: 432
    Reported Cost/Conversion: $188.31
    Expected Cost/Conversion: $200.15

    Ineligible clicks (from many mobile devices – not counted in the conversions – doesn’t mean that they are invalid or malicious) are not included in the cost for this calculation. So as per the reported statistics

    $188.31 * 432 = $81,349.92

    This means that $81,349.92 came from eligible clicks for this account that are counted in the conversions and the remaining $5114.89 came from ineligible clicks, most likely from conversions performed on mobile devices.

    Since the cost per conversion is a very important aspect of every ad campaign, it is important to ensure that one is not missing anything. Also, it is advisable to keep some room for possible (and unavoidable) errors. Since there is no immediate solution, it is best to have a margin for such situations.

    Can you think of a solution to this? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

    Happy Advertising!

  • How To Write Title Tags for e-commerce Stores in 2

    2016 is already over and 2017 is here if speak in terms of Internet years. And if there’s anything certain, as far as the  SEO industry is concerned, it is the principle of uncertainty that will continue to remain whether it’s 2016 or 2017. Thus, as web masters, the key for us, lies in keeping ourselves updated with what’s new or what’s trending among SEO practices and adapt to the ever-changing algorithms of the various search engines.

    In this write-up, we take a look at the role of a persistently crucial aspect of SEO – page title tags or the HTML title element. Let’s begin by asking two important questions in relation to the title tags:

    1. Is the role of a title tag restricted to the snippets shown by Google?
    2. Does an accurate title tag play an important role in ranking ?

    Now, let’s attempt to answer these with the assumption set by Google itself. The search engine giant is frequently changing the snippets displayed on the SERPs (search engine result pages), in order to improve the quality of results it shows. While doing so, Google either truncates the length of the title tag or chooses to display the result that best answers a relevant search query.

    Remember, the search engine’s crawlers consider the whole title tag for page ranking. But, when it comes to SERPs, it awards priority to the results based on a specific user query. So, for Google, WHAT YOUR TITLE SAYS ABOUT YOUR BRAND is less relevant, & HOW YOUR TITLE MAY GIVE AN URGENT, INFORMATIVE & RELEVANT ANSWER TO A USER’S SEARCH QUERY is what really Google wants. Thus, it’s about getting a pertinent result intuitively. Yes, It’s that quick. It’s that precise. It’s that simple.

    With the above context in the background, here are few tips on how you can write title tags for an e-commerce store in 2016/ 2017:

    • The ideal Length of title tag

      Specialists agree on a 55-60 character limit for title tags. But what happens if you need to write a longer title? Today, the significance of the title tag is no longer limited to a technicality like title length. In 2017, you take a step ahead, and an ideal title tag answers one fundamental question – how precisely have you answered a user’s search query? Despite this,  Industry specialists emphasize on one the precision of the title tag  and hence you should  be able to convey maximum meaning in the first 55 characters.

    • Create separate landing pages and title tags on deals/discounts 

      As the culture of holiday deals & discount offers continue to be indispensable to the marketing campaign of e-stores, web developers must create separate landing pages and insert “today’s deals”, “discount offers” in the title tags whenever  relevant. Take a cue from Walmart’s web page which makes use of “free shipping” in its title tag.

    Title Tags

    • Location-based title tags

      Location-based title tags are yet another unexplored practice in the SEO world. It’s been observed that many online stores who have an offline store falter at location-specific optimization of their website. A separate landing page and insertion of location in the middle of the title tag can go a long way for website optimization efforts this year.

    • Jump on to the bandwagon of mobilegeddon

      2015 was a watershed moment in the age of mobile commerce and in 2016 mobile is  an equally important platform that must not be ignored. The launch of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” update gives ‘responsive’ a whole new meaning. A web store owner needs to familiarize herself with the behavior trends of customer buying from their cell phones and optimized their mobile stores accordingly.

    • A call-to-action never hurts a title tag

      But, relevance is the key here. A “discover how to tie a scarf” or “read more on how to write title tags for e-commerce stores in 2016”  is both relevant and informative, and can be easily shown in SERPs whenever the relevant query is asked. Generally, it is not too tricky to come out with genuine search keywords on “how to” guides and then use them in the page URL.

    Title Tags

    • Where to place the brand name in the title tag

      There’s no stringent rule for the placement of brand name in a title tag. For instance, Amazon’s home page places the name of the brand followed by keywords. However, if you think that your brand isn’t yet popular enough to be directly searched, you can take the brand name towards the end part of the title tag and place the search-worthy or the most related keywords in the beginning.

    The SEO industry is so dynamic that what may be relevant today may become detrimental tomorrow but there are some things that will always remain foremost for all search engines and that is – serving the user with quality results. Thus, with Google’s repeated emphasis on quality,  Aligning the title tags with the searcher’s intent is probably the right path to the future. While the title tag may be a minor factor compared to a whole range of other factors of which, CRO forms a huge majority, yet its correct usage assures a higher rank.

    And who knows when it’s the humble Title Tags that may become the be-all and end-all of all search queries?

     

  • Magento XML Sitemap Generator & Splitter Exten

    Still thinking on how to generate an XML sitemap on your magento store?

    Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter extension is a brilliant stand alone magento extension that allows you to automatically generate XML sitemaps on your Magento based store. XML Sitemap Generator & Splitter is a complete XML Sitemap tool that generates and organizes your XML Sitemaps. The magento extension works in compliance with the latest XML sitemaps protocol (followed by Search Engines including Google, Bing & Yahoo). This one is a specialist extension for generation & splitting of your XML Sitemaps, which Magento currently does not offer.

    The magento extension, XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter is a functional extension for both larger (50,000 & more URLs) and smaller (less than 50,000 URLs) stores. It helps better organize sitemaps to review what is being sent to the search engines.

    Features of Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter Extension are:

    • Generate XML sitemap(s) for your Magento store.
    • Automatically split your XML sitemap to smaller/sub XML Sitemaps, if the number of pages on your store are more than 50,000 or if the size is more than 50 MB.
    • Automatically create a Sitemap ‘Index’ file which has all the multiple sitemap files listed in it.
    • Include or exclude specific ‘types’ of pages that are generated by Magento on your store (eg. product, category, CMS, Images, Review or Tags)
    • Include or exclude ‘Out of Stock’ Product Pages from your XML Sitemap.
    • Exclude specific CMS pages (for example, Privacy, Contact etc) from the XML Sitemap.
    • Generate separate Sitemaps for different Types of Magento controlled pages on your store (even if your total number of pages on the store is less than 50,000). Eg. Separate XML Sitemaps for product pages, category pages, CMS pages, Tag pages, review pages, Out of Stock pages etc.
    • Control and automate the process of XML sitemap generation and updating.
    • Get Sitemaps summary (number of specific pages & total pages on your store) in your inbox automatically each time the XML sitemap(s) is updated.
    • Exclude canonical version of product pages. This extension enables you to only include one product page in your XML Sitemap even if it is in more than one category.
    • Include the product page images on the product page, in Google’s specified Product XML Sitemap format.
    • Ping and notify all major search engines each time Sitemap is generated or updated.
    • Compress your XML Sitemaps to reduce your bandwidth consumption.

    Magento extensions developed by CueBlocks.com can be downloaded at magentoconnect.com and at store.cueblocks.com. The Magento XML Sitemap Generator and Splitter extension is priced at $119.00 with an added $45 in case you need installation as well.

  • Admin Payments Extension for Magento 2...

    Admin Payments

     

    The Admin Payments Extension for Magento 2 is an extension that gives the admin user the option of having a separate payment method in the backend to keep a record of offline payments. Note that the payment method created will stay in the backend only.

    As of now, the Magento 2 backend does not have an option to activate a payment method for admin use only. This extension is your solution to that problem. The Admin Payments Extension comes with the following features:

    • Visible only in the backend, this extension is solely for admin use.
    • Allows eCommerce store owners to have offline payments’ information made in the backend by the admin.
    • This method is similar to other payment methods in the backend, and is easy to use.

    After this extension is installed, its payment method is solely for creating orders from the admin for those users who paid via offline methods. This payment method will not be visible on the frontend checkout page. This extension comes in handy when customers place orders via phone or email and then pay either in person or transfer the money directly, without using any of the existing payment methods. In these cases, the admin payments extension allows the admin to have a separate payment option to keep track of such orders, without disturbing anything in the frontend.

    You can get the Admin Payments Extension at the Magento 2 marketplace and also at our own online store, Cue Store. Get this extension and keep a track of your offline orders!

    Find out more about the extension here and get in touch with us at support@cueblocks.com for any query or information regarding the extension.

  • Ecommerce Conversion Optimization – A 91 poi

    Ecommerce Conversion Optimization is a widely discussed topic and yet it is often least understood. Invest in building filthy rich user experience, consistently and throughout your store. That is what stores with deeper pockets (like ASOS, Zappos & JCPenney) do to achieve better conversion rate than your store.

    This article will take you away from usual Search Engine Optimization stuff to where the real money lies – Conversion Rate Optimization. What you do with the visitors you bring to your website?

    1. OVERVIEW

    Whether you’re selling pajamas, concert tickets, shoes or shaving blades; e-commerce today has evolved and humanized beyond just convenience shopping. It is therefore imperative that you stop seeing people who land on your store as ‘traffic’, but as real human visitors. People come to your store and engage at various levels (let’s call these levels ‘touch points’). With each word that visitors read and with each media pixel they view at these touch points, they form a picture of your business in their minds. And based on whether or not they like the final picture, they make a decision about buying from your store or your competitor’s.

    Here are the areas of e-commerce touch point optimization that we’re going to cover in this article:

    Know your Customers

    1. Use Qualaroo to Survey Visitors
    2. Enable Olark for Direct Chat Interactions
    3. Survey your Existing Customers

    Home Page Optimization

    1. Show your Top-Selling Products on your Home Page
    2. Offer More Ways to Order from your Store
    3. Show videos on your home page (below the fold)
    4. Localize your store to specific countries

    Navigation Optimization

    1. Avoid vague category structures
    2. Sort category structure by popularity
    3. Use CrazyEgg to create focused category navigation
    4. Create categories based on what people are searching
    5. Use a Compelling Business Tagline
    6. Avoid writing vague ‘Unique Selling Points’

    Product Search Optimization

    1. Test your search for accuracy
    2. Implement an Intelligent search to cover singular, plurals, mis-spellings etc.
    3. Implement Auto-Suggestions to help user search for relevant keywords
    4. Enable Category Search
    5. Let the user know what they searched

    Product Page Optimization

    1. Get high quality product images
    2. Pay attention to your product’s description
    3. Show Product Videos (for your top selling products at least)
    4. Don’t let Price be a Surprise
    5. Empower visitors with creative calculators
    6. Show the Product’s delivery time clearly
    7. Allow them to select delivery date
    8. Enable Out Of Stock Notification
    9. Encourage users to leave reviews

    Checkout Optimization

    1. Offer Persistent Shopping Cart
    2. Don’t make users enter the same information twice
    3. Pre-fill information where ever you can
    4. Preserve Information on a validation error
    5. Mark the fields as optional or mandatory clearly
    6. Give input example against each field
    7. Offer a unified single ‘Name’ field
    8. Automatically pre-fill city & state field as soon as user enters a zip code
    9. Keep the form field labels visible at all times
    10. Keep the form linear
    11. Form field length should match the expected length of the input
    12. Use FaceBook Connect
    13. Be specific with your button’s text
    14. Display validation errors in close proximity to the input field
    15. Display validation checks against each field
    16. Make ‘Account Registration’ an Optional Step of Checkout Process
    17. Don’t complicate Password Selection
    18. Make the ‘Guest Checkout’ option more prominent than Registration
    19. Make your primary button most prominent among rest all call to actions
    20. Avoid unnecessary buttons on the checkout page
    21. Primary button placement
    22. Limit the navigation and exit points on the checkout page
    23. Use Intelligent defaults
    24. Let users force-proceed on potentially wrong validation
    25. Process steps should function as navigational links for the checkout process
    26. Don’t surprise users by adding extra cost abruptly
    27. During registration, make the Newsletter sign-up an opt-in by default, not opt-out.
    28. Offer Brave Guarantees

    Touch Point Optimization

    1. Write crisp & enticing Meta Tags
    2. Enable Open graphs
    3. Check your Auto-responder Emails
    4. Registration Emails
    5. Pay attention to your password Reset Emails
    6. Get your Order Confirmation Emails right
    7. Enable Order Shipped Emails
    8. Optimize the thank you messages on your store
    9. Make user-friendly 404 Error Page
    10. No Results Found (Product / Page)
    11. Validation Error Messages
    12. Offer them multiple payment options: It’s a no-brainer but this checklist will look incomplete without it.
    13. Show Social Media Proofs
    14. Sign-up with Google Customer Reviews program

    Information Touch Points

    1. Show product close-up videos
    2. Educate the visitors and enable them to make an informed decision
    3. Create an impressive about page
    4. Support/Contact Page
    5. Get a thorough usability testing done

    Load Speed Optimization

    1. Leverage browser caching
    2. Defer parsing of JavaScript
    3. Optimize images
    4. Serve scaled images
    5. Combine images into CSS sprites
    6. Minimize redirects
    7. Enable compression
    8. Minify JavaScript
    9. Minimize request size

    Shipping and Returns

    1. Get your Shipping Policies right
    2. Offer Free Shipping
    3. Display the Free Shipping Threshold Order Value Prominently
    4. Offer a good returns policy

    Customer Re-Targeting

    1. Use Ad-Roll
    2. Use Adwords Remarketing
    3. Clean your Email Subscribers’ List from time to time
    4. Offer Cashbacks

    Before diving into the technical aspects of conversion optimization, we feel it makes sense that we talk a little bit about user experience first. However, there’s already enough written about ‘user experience’, so here let’s first define it and talk about one of the very often overlooked but biggest roadblock in the way of improving a store’s user experience (or perhaps any website).

    2. USER EXPERIENCE

    Defined simply, user experience is the sum of all the experiences that a user is offered on your store. It includes everything from visual, audio, aesthetic, usability, commercial and also the experience a user carries with her or him post the purchase. It is an extensively inclusive phenomenon and determines the way a user will ‘feel’, ‘think’ and ‘act’ on your store. Optimizing user experience is not an exact science but a mix between science and art. No one cookie-cutter formula works for all sites and it’s quite dependent on your niche industry and the target marketing you are aiming at.

    There are many obvious challenges that every store owner has to face in creating a meaningful user experience on their store. It requires attention to the finest details.

    To understand what picture your store has built and is projecting, you need to first break the entire user experience into unique experiences delivered at several of the touch points on your websites, for example:

    • What is the immediate impression that a user gets when he or she lands on your store?
    • What do users see when they type something in the product search?
    • What do users get in their mail box when they register, reset the password, subscribe or place an order?
    • How are the users thanked when they perform an action, like new registrations, purchases, subscriptions etc?
    • What happens if a user lands on an ‘out of stock’ product page?
    • What happens if a user searches for a product that doesn’t exist?
    • What does a user see if he enters an invalid email address during registration?
    • How much information is required to be filled in order to complete the purchase?
    • How does your store inspire trust in the heart of the visitors?
    • How does your store reflect that you will promptly ship the purchased product(s) to his country on time?

    There can be thousands of such instances that can make or break your store’s impression. Taking care of these touch points is one of the fastest and surest ways of growing your e-commerce business.

    Ecommerce Conversion Optimization - 91 Point Checklist

    Most e-commerce stores (especially small to medium size enterprises) are built foremost for technology, aesthetics and average usability with Conversion Optimization usually being left for a later stage.

    Being an e-commerce specialized agency, we come across stores that are built upon high-quality code and backed by high-end IT infrastructure but failing to deliver a meaningful or a memorable user experience. This leads to users visiting these stores and leaving them without blinking an eye, let alone, making a purchase. With all memory erased of a damp store, they even forget that they ever visited such a store in the first place.

    Just like these stores, you too have a chance to make an impression but if you fail there is no doubt that the user will leave within 15 seconds of landing on the website. Such instant abandoning will, of course, lead to allow ROI on the money invested in the development and marketing of the store.

    The reason why this happens is simple. More often than not, most of the attention during store development goes into building the store, where designers design, programmers code the functionalities, testers remove the bugs, copywriters write content’ but nearly every job role is unable to give single-minded focus and attention to creating an optimum user experience. Of course, any website that is created or built from scratch will take into account the user’s requirement but somehow a conscious investment into building an unmatchable user experience is still lacking in the initial phases of design, development and marketing processes.

    So, the Agenda of this white paper is fairly clear – To give you a starting point to improve your Store’s Conversion Rate by identifying and working on the touch points which you might have skipped during the development phase of your store. We have classified the work to be done on these touch points into easily readable and comprehensible ways so that as a store owner you face no difficulty in recognizing the problem or implementing the solution to it!

    Here we go:

    3. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

    Empathy is good but it doesn’t go well with conversion optimization. You can’t introduce changes in your store, simply by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and hoping that visitors would love them and eventually start buying more. It’s far too much dependence on empathizing. If you want to improve conversions, you need fresh eyes and a different perspective than your own. You need to know your customers with the help of direct interactions and not just by empathetic assumptions.

    Spend time and resources in knowing your business, your customers, and your competitors before you create a single test. Many business owners and conversion rate experts create tests and winning strategies before even knowing the rules of the game (and how to win it). It doesn’t work that way until you’re 100% sure about what your customers want.

    You can use the following tools to study your customer behavior:

    1. Use Qualaroo to Survey Visitors:

    This online survey tool (formerly called KissInsights.com) provides the quickest way of adding a short survey (usually just one or two questions) to important pages of your store.

    Using Qualaroo, You can ask questions like:

    • Why did you decide to buy from us?
    • Would you recommend us to your friends or colleagues? Why?
    • How was your experience shopping with us?
    • How would you describe us to your friends?
    • What would make you shop more often on our store?

    2. Enable Olark for Direct Chat Interactions

    This tool enables you to chat with visitors on your store and gives you intelligence about your business. This is very useful in identifying what issues people face while buying from your store in a live scenario while they are actually executing a purchase. This highly crucial insight can help you discover common patterns, frequent problems which can be shared with your development and marketing team for further improving user experience and usability on your web store.

    3. Survey your Customers

    If you have been in the industry for some time and have a formidable customer base, then the starting point of your store conversion optimization process should be reaching out to your customers and getting their perspective about your store & business. You can use SurveyMonkey to email slightly longer surveys (4 to 5 questions) to users and seek their feedback in return for sweepstakes. This is the quickest way to reveal hidden conversion rate issues if you have a good email subscription base.

    4. HOME PAGE OPTIMIZATION

    4) Show your Top-Selling Products on your Home Page

    Use analytical tools like Google Analytics and administrator reports to determine which products & categories are performing. Once these are identified, you should focus your marketing efforts in promoting your top selling products in banner sliders and recommended products.

    Home Page Optimization

    5) Offer More Ways to Order from your Store

    Clearly, show all the different ways in which a customer can place an order on your store including the ‘by phone and by fax’ options. Nothing is too obsolete or inappropriate when it comes to establishing a connection with your user; present to them all available contact points. ). Some customers prefer to order in a certain way, so clearly stating these options will help increase your conversion rate.

    6) Show videos on your home page

    What is the best way to persuade the visitors on your store about the quality of your product? Videos! Show the work that went into creating the product that you’re selling. A professionally shot video can add serious credibility to your claims. This is like making the features of your product apparent to your customers. Keep in mind that abstract terms such as ‘Art’ or ‘Quality’ may not help the user in drawing a concrete conclusion about your product. But supported by actual evidence such as: showing an artist carving an artifact and of course by audio-visual media, it makes customers believe that what you are selling is really art. Plus a video can command both attention and the desired connection with the customer.

    This is exactly how Apple manages to create demand for their products and also sell them at a premium. The following video shows the work that went into creating the body of Apple’s new MacBook Pro laptop:
    Apple’s Marketing Strategy

    7) Localize your store to specific countries

    If you’re in the US and selling internationally, a good number of visitors and conversions on your ecommerce store may be coming from countries outside your own. If these people know that it’s going to be an international shipment, they will need reassurance from you that you can ship to their country in time.

    For this, you can enable a functionality that identifies a user’s country (from their IP) and shows a notification on the top header, like ‘Yes, we ship to Australia’. This can give the user a lot of confidence when he orders from a store that’s outside his country. See how Threadless localizes its store internationally:

    Threadless - Conversion Optimization

    Along with it, see if you can change the currency of the entire store to currency of the user’s country (if you ship to it). This advanced level of localization can be achieved by putting in more thought and coding resources.

    5. NAVIGATION OPTIMIZATION

    Most of the visitors landing on your store are in a hurry. If they sail through your navigation and come up dry, they might be put off from using the search functionality again.

    The objective of a navigation menu (top, side or footer menu) is to make your most or frequently searched content easily accessible to these hurried visitors. You have two options – either clutter your menu by putting everything you have inside the menu, or intelligently show only those links that are important to visitors. Showing what’s important to you in the navigation may not help your ecommerce store’s conversion rate. Leaving the visitor guessing might not help either.

    8) Avoid vague category structure

    The size of your inventory should correspond with the number of categories on your website. Don’t create too many categories on your store just for the sake of having them. Only include the links (to information) that users are actively searching for on the store and not the links that you think are most important.

    9) Sort category structure by popularity

    The category links in the navigation should be in the ascending order of their popularity wherein the most clicked links are at the top and the least clicked category links are pushed down to the bottom of the navigation. If not by popularity, you can also put all the links alphabetically because it’s one of the ways that users anticipate the standard navigation to be.

    10) Use Crazy Egg to create a focused category navigation

    Google Analytics site overlay is not very efficient in giving you intelligence about what people are clicking within your navigation. You might consider using Crazy Egg for this. Crazyegg is a tool that helps you see heatmaps and also helps in implementing the info you gain from them about your website. Even Crazyegg can’t generate heatmaps for links inside Javascript menus and pop-ups (under ‘not visible’ tab), however, it can give you a list of links inside the menu along with the number of clicks.

    CrazyEgg Javascript errors

    Create categories based on what people are searching: Use Google Analytics to find out what visitors are searching in your store’s product search box. You can view the search terms by following this path in Google Analytics:

    11) Create categories based on what people are searching

     Use Google Analytics to find out what visitors are searching in your product search box. Google Analytics > Account > Reporting > Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.

    Analytics Search Terms for Conversion Optimization

    The keywords with top ‘total unique searches’ are the ones that people are searching for. You will find the top searched product and brand names here. These are obvious contenders to be placed at prominent places inside your navigation menu. A navigation based on users’ preferences and popularity of products rather than on conventional categorization can have a positive impact on the conversion rate.

    12) Use a Compelling Business Tagline

    Visitors on your store pay more attention to your business tag-line (small text, just under your logo) than you think. In many ways, your business tagline gets equal attention as your logo does. Putting a little more effort and creativity while creating a business tagline that summarizes the experience you’re offering to the user on your store can get further drive the customers to make a purchase on your store. A great tagline can form immediate connections with the visitors by positioning your business at the spot where they would want to see it.

    13) Avoid writing vague ‘Unique Selling Points’

    You don’t need an MBA degree to know that you must tell your visitors clearly and exactly what your Unique Selling Points (USPs) are. Why should they buy from your store? Strategically presented USP in your store can help you counter the mental barriers in the visitors’ mind that might be stopping them to buy from your ecommerce store.

    Bedding.com is a good example of vague USPs, for example: Easy Returns, Free Shipping, Price Guarantee, Risk Free Shopping:

    Thus, avoid writing vague ‘unique selling points’ on your store, for example: Satisfaction Guaranteed, Fast Shipping, Best Deals etc. Be specific, such as: Free Shipping on orders above $50, $10 Flat Shipping, 100% Organic Products, 60 Days Return Policy etc

    6. PRODUCT SEARCH OPTIMIZATION

    If your store is like many others, then the off your market visitors enter your store from the home page. If they know what they want, they would straight away search the product name in the store’s product search box. An inaccurate or dysfunctional product search can hurt your business in the form of lost sales, especially when the size of your inventory exceeds the scale at which it can be manually browsed.

    Sometimes, users are not able to locate the product search. You can use Google Analytics (Content > Site Search > Usage) to know whether or not users are actively using product search.

    Product Search Optimization

    You will notice that the conversion rate of visitors using product search is higher than visitors who are not using product search.

    Product Search Optimization - 2

    One of the possible reasons of low usage of product search is the placement and presentation of the product search functionality. You must highlight the presence of product search functionality by using both better placement and aesthetics. This will ensure that search box doesn’t get lost with the other elements on the page.

    You should have an effective search feature on your store, which is:

    • Easy to use: Gives clear instructions on what and how a user can search.
    • Fast & Accurate: If your inventory size is huge, you can use 3rd party engines like Celbros or SOLR to return search results faster.
    • Friendly: Think of what users will see if there is no product match in the inventory.

    14) Test your search for accuracy

    Test your search for accuracy by searching keywords (singular & plural). For example, if you’re running a sporting goods store, a search for ‘basketball’ & ‘basketballs’ should return the same results associated with basketball(s).

    15) Implement an intelligent search to cover singular, plurals, misspellings etc.

    Your store search should be intelligent enough to return results as per the intent of the searcher. For example, the top listings of a search should return ‘basketballs’ and not ‘basketball jerseys’. If the user wanted a ‘basketball jersey’, he would have searched this term. Test your search with similar key phrase combinations and see how accurate it is.

    16) Implement Auto-Suggestions to help user search for relevant keywords

    It’s a commonly used search functionality wherein you show keyword recommendations, as the user types his search query in the search box. This feature helps users to search the right keyword and makes it easier for them to find the desired product more quickly. If this feature functions properly it can push users to purchase from your store.

    17) Enable Category Search

    Implementation of most product search engines (like SOLR & Celebros) requires a considerable investment of time and money. If you can’t afford to invest in search but still need to manage a huge inventory search, you should at least have a category level search so that users are able to search in a particular category.

    18) Let the user know what they searched

    While displaying results for a search, always let the user know what ‘keyword’ they searched. Don’t test their memory and help them search the product right keywords.

    For example, searching for a keyword like ‘Sandals’ at NineWest.com returns no results (it’s not that they don’t have sandals, it’s just that their search functionality isn’t that great). It also doesn’t show what keywords exactly did the user search. Imagine, if a user misspelled a keyword, she would abandon the store with an impression that the store doesn’t have what she is looking for. She won’t realize that she actually misspelled the product name in the search box.

    Site Search Optimization

    7. PRODUCT PAGE OPTIMIZATION

    19) Get high quality product images

    People no longer want to browse a website – they want to experience it. An image is ALWAYS the first thing that a visitor will notice as soon as he lands on your store’s product page. Good product images can add life to your store and help your store convert better – there are no two ways about it.

    Images are more sense-oriented and may not evoke an emotional response:

    • Pay special attention to the default image of the product description page. It should be really high quality.
    • Avoid using generic stock photos. Take actual pictures of real persons using your products. A real product picture (taken from an average camera) will convert better than a cheesy stock picture.
    • Don’t just show a single image, show as many as you can – from different angles.

    Product Image Optimization

    20) Pay attention to your product’s description

    After the product image, the other element that plays an important role in improving the conversion rate of your store is the product’s description.

    Internet is full of “killer” copywriting words, winning sales layouts, etc. Let us tell you from our experience that these tricks won’t take you very far. In fact, they will take you nowhere. A mile long sales page won’t convert if you don’t understand exactly ‘what’ will persuade visitors to buy. This is what we suggest that can make your product descriptions more compelling:

    • Keep the most important features of the product at the beginning of paragraphs and bullets.
    • Don’t try to pester, persuade or build a hype about the product – users will know if your claims aren’t genuine.
    • Offer two versions of the product description – summary and detailed. Product summary will be read by the visitors who are in a hurry and the detailed version will be read by visitors who are willing to spend more time knowing about the product and getting more confident about their buying decision.
    • Use bulleted points to make the information easier for the visitors to consume.
    • Link out to privacy pages, shipping, return policy & FAQs.

    Users have apprehensions about privacy, shipping details, FAQ and returns policy. Keep these pages within easy reach of the product pages & checkout screen.

    (see how Zappos links to important information from its product page).

    21) Show Product Videos (for your top selling products at least)

    Because your images can’t talk. With the technology getting cheaper and more accessible, more and more stores are embracing videos to show their products. If you haven’t given it a shot yet, do it now. Show videos along with product pictures and see if the addition impacts the sale of the product.

    22) Don’t let price be a surprise

    When visitors don’t buy, one of the biggest reason is that the user finds the price either too high or the product description too vague to back up the claims.

    Price must stand out on the page. Use large font size, bold formatting, and a different color. Full price or estimated full price – should be shown to the user as early as possible. Shipping and handling prices if listed too late in the checkout process can also be one of the reasons for a higher cart abandonment rate. Design the checkout process in a way that there are no surprises for the user. It’s not just the product price, the visitors might also find your shipment and handling charges too high. If there are any taxes to be included, show the total amount on the product page before the user checks-out.

    23) Empower visitors with creative calculators

    There are many types of calculation tools that you might want to offer to enable them to shop the exact product specifications they want from your store and in the quantity and quality they prefer. For example – shipping calculator, size calculator etc.

    Product page optimization

    24) Clearly show the product’s delivery time

    Buyers want to be in control of the transaction when buying from your store. On the product page, let users know when they can expect to receive the product if they order.

    25) Allow them to select delivery date

    If the product’s expected delivery date doesn’t suit the user, you can give user the facility to delay the delivery or predate it. So, if a user is going on a holiday for 4-5 days and which also happens to be the expected delivery date, you must enable the customer to select a delivery date and leave a comment as well.

    Product Delivery Optimization

    26) Enable Out Of Stock Notification

    We recommend adding an “email me when item is restocked” feature wherein you prompt users to submit their email address so that they can be notified as soon as the product returns back ‘in stock’. This is an automated process but there are ways of giving this ‘auto responder email’ a more personal touch.

    27) Encourage users to leave reviews

    Collecting product reviews has to be made part of the sales process itself. Using auto-responder emails, prominent call to action buttons etc. can further help in enhancing sales and generating better response from the users.

    After the Panda & Penguin update, it’s critical for store owners to keep their website updated with fresh content all the time. It may not always be feasible to create unique copies of each and every page on the website or adding content to different pages at a regular basis. This is where user generated content comes in handy. Thus, content like user reviews can have a direct impact on traffic, conversion rate and average order value of your store.

    Not only do good product reviews add a lot of content on a product page but stand as credible testimony to the high quality of the product. Positive customer reviews make your store more shop worthy and thus can have a direct impact on the store’s conversion rate.

    Along with offering a provision for product reviews on the product page itself, you can also send an autoresponder to all your customers after a specific number of days (depending on the nature of the product that you’re selling). Send a link in the email where they can share or post about their experience of using the product.

    8. CHECKOUT OPTIMIZATION

    Users are most vulnerable to abandonment during the checkout process. An effective use of text, icons and symbols is necessary to overcome all user apprehensions & objections that users might experience without overwhelming them. Here is what your checkout page should reflect:

    • Security: Let users know that your website is secure and that their privacy will never be compromised.
    • Transparency: Be transparent and include accurate shipping & tax details.
    • Payment Methods: Clearly show all the payment methods users can use to make the payment (PayPal, Credit Cards, Google Checkout etc.).
    • FAQs: If you think there are additional FAQs, you can cover them in a checkout related FAQs section.

    28) Offer Persistent Shopping Cart

    A lot of users add a product to cart, thinking they will complete the purchase or checkout later. Offering them a persistent shopping cart will be very useful for both the users as well as the store. This is because, if on their return they see the cart empty, they might not start again. They will prefer to abandon the cart instead of going through the process again.

    A good solution to the problem is enabling persistent shopping cart on your store so that user finds the products in the cart until he removes them. If you’re wondering for how long should the product stay in the cart? The longer the better.

    29) Don’t make the user enter same information twice

    As much as you might think that users want to spend time on your store, the truth is that users want the buying process to be over as soon as possible. Start by removing the extra or avoidable fields on your website. A user, in any case, would never like to fill in the same information twice. It’s not a good idea to make them enter the same information twice. For example, during checkout process, don’t make a user enter his shipping address and then enter the same information in the billing information fields again. This doesn’t make sense especially when only a small fraction of customers want to give a billing address that’s different from their shipping address. There are many ways how you can get rid of this unnecessary step, for example: you can enable a checkbox (or something similar) that enables the user to choose whether or not user wants to give a different billing address.

    30) Pre-fill information where ever you can

    Like we just said, you’re not making your customers happy if you’re making them enter the same information twice. If a customer has already provided some information in step 1, don’t ask for it again in step 3. If you have to, automatically pre-fill the fields so that user doesn’t have to enter it again.

    31) Preserve information on a validation error

    This is an extension of previous two points. Don’t make your customers enter the same information twice. If and when there is an error somewhere in the form, all entered information should be preserved. There is nothing more annoying for a user if he loses all the entered information because of a tiny validation error in one of the 15 fields on the form page. It can really drive a user nuts.

    32) Clearly mark the fields as optional or mandatory

    Make sure that you use asterisk (*) to clearly mark optional fields. It can confuse a user if he is not able to proceed because he is missing out filling some information which has not been marked as a mandatory field.

    33) Give input example against each field

    To minimize the chances of the user hitting validation errors, you can show correct input examples next to each form field so that the user can know the correct way to enter the required information.

    34) Offer a unified single ‘Name’ field

    Offering extra field or two to make user enter middle or last name is unnecessary. It makes more sense to offer a single unified name field to the user.

    35) Automatically pre-fill city & state field as soon as user enters a zip code

    You can make the user’s life easier by implementing an intelligent data input system. Auto-detect and pre-fill city & state field as soon as the user enters his ZIP code.

    36) Keep the form field labels visible at all times

    Many stores show the input labels inside the input field to keep the form clean. Although this design approach makes the form look less cluttered, if the user is in a rush, he might click on the label before reading it. In such a situation, he would be confused about the required information he is supposed to enter in the field.

    37) Keep the form linear

    User starts from the top and work their way from top to the bottom. If your form has a trigger field, keep it right below the field that triggers it. For example, a state field should always come after the country field. On the shipping information page, if by default you show US states before the country selection field, user might get an impression that you don’t deliver to their country because triggered field is above the field that the user is working at.

    38) Form field length should match the expected length of the input

    Most of the users closely relate the length of an input box with the input they are supposed to enter in the field. For example, if you’re asking for a CVV number, don’t make the length of the input box same as the credit card field just for the sake of design symmetry. Similarly, don’t allow more than 12 digits in the credit card field:

    This can make some of your visitors less certain about whether or not they’re entering the correct information.

    39) Use Facebook Connect

    With the help of Facebook connect, you can encourage more visitors to buy from your store by allowing them to log in and complete their purchase using their Facebook username & password. This is better than forcing them manually register to complete their purchase. It saves their time and thus they are more likely purchase from your store.

    40) Be specific with your button’s text

    Avoid using generic button text for example – ‘continue’ because a button named ‘Continue’ if used in a shopping cart could mean two actions to the user:

    • Continue ‘shopping’ – continue adding more products to the cart.
    • Continue to ‘checkout’ – continue to checkout and pay.

    This can make the user less certain while shopping on your online store. Thus, it makes more sense to make the buttons more descriptive with text like ‘continue shopping, ‘continue to checkout’ etc.

    41) Display validation errors in close proximity to the input field

    This is one of the most common usability issues found in many e-commerce websites. The validation error is displayed at the top of the form and in most cases, it remains hidden due to scroll.

    42) Display validation checks against each field

    The best practice is to show the validation error right next to the field and show a ‘check’ mark the moment user enters correct input. This gives confidence to the user that he is heading in the right direction.

    43) Make ‘Account Registration’ an Optional Step of Checkout Process

    Do you know that a recent Econsultancy / Toluna study found that 25.6% of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first?

    Forcing a user to register in order to complete purchase can make your customers feel that they’re not in control while buying from your store. This increases the chances of cart abandonment by the user.

    Here is an example where account registration is a mandatory step of the buying process:

    Optimized Account Registration

    Thus, if you’re also forcing your visitors to register to complete the purchase, providing a guest functionality clearly is the easiest way for you to improve your store’s conversion rate.

    Apple does a good job clearly defining that use can either login or checkout as guest.

    User registration optimization

    44) Don’t complicate Password Selection

    Avoid applying complicated validations to the password field. Let users easily select a convenient password and don’t force them to create something so difficult that they can’t easily memorize.

    Checkoput Optimization

    (Selfridges.com not only forces a user to sign-up in order to complete check-out process but also select password in a specific format)

    45) Make ‘Guest Checkout’ a more prominent option

    If you make ‘register as new user’ a more prominent option, users might perceive that they are being forced to register on the website to complete their purchase. Thus, with the help of design elements and typography, you should make Guest Checkout a more prominent option than ‘register as new user’ option.

    46) Make your primary button most prominent among rest all call to actions

    While surfing, our eyes act on buttons based on their prominence (size and color) instead of what they read. On a typical checkout page, there can be various buttons like ‘save’, ‘redeem’, ‘apply’, ‘ok’, ‘calculate’, ‘cancel’ etc. Make sure that the primary buttons of your checkout page are ‘Buy’, ‘Next step’, ‘Continue checkout’, etc. Make these visually the most dominant buttons or else a lot of users who are in a rush will end-up clicking on a wrong button.

    47) Avoid unnecessary buttons on the checkout page

    Show only the primary buttons on the checkout page and avoid unnecessary ‘apply’ buttons. Use AJAX to auto-submit the information as soon as it’s entered in the field. The changes should be applied immediately without reloading, and in close proximity with the input field.

    48) Primary button placement

    Inconsistent prominence and placement of primary buttons can confuse the user about whether or not a button will result in the execution of the primary function of the page. Most users expect a primary button to be placed on the lower right or left corner of the visual frame. Also, make sure that the primary button is placed consistently throughout the entire checkout process.

    49) Limit the navigation and exit points on the checkout page

    You have done all the hard work to help a user find products they want and add to cart. They have made the payment for their purchase and have entered the shipping address. Get rid of everything from the checkout page that might distract users away from the checkout page. Get rid of header navigation (or trim it), search and only show things that encourage users to complete the purchase for example – Guarantee, Return Policy, Support Information etc.

    Flipkart.com has a very clean and focused checkout process with almost no navigation.

    Checkout Optimization - Flipkart Example

    50) Use Intelligent defaults

    Use intelligent defaults in the most commonly selected values that users select so that customers can proceed with little friction. For example, you can help users make a decision by pre-selecting the most popular shipping option. If you don’t want to give a pre-selected option, help them in making the choice by labeling the most popular option as ‘recommended’.

    51) Let users force-proceed on potentially wrong validation

    Many forms are designed in a way that users are forced to correct the validations of the unimportant or optional fields. You should allow your customers to force-proceed through potentially wrong validation errors; for example – it might not make sense to stop a user on the ‘shipping information’ screen of the checkout process and force him to remove special characters.

    52) Process steps should be presented as navigational links during the checkout process

    Many checkout processes make the checkout page look like a chronological process by breaking the entire process into steps, for example:

    • Step 1: Register
    • Step 2: Shipping Information
    • Step 3: Billing Information
    • Step 4: Select Payment Method
    • Step 5: Pay

    Most store owners make these steps clickable allowing users to go forward to the next step. But very few stores allow users to go back to verify the selected product or information entered by clicking on the previous step. Allow users to maneuver both ways (forward and back) by clicking on the checkout steps.

    53) Don’t surprise users by adding extra costs abruptly

    If users suddenly see an increased cost when they checkout (i.e. when they’re least expecting it), they will feel that they’re being tricked. Let users know about any extra costs (for example – shipping & handling charges or taxes) in advance on the product page itself. It should be clearly shown when extra cost is being added to the order during the purchase process.

    54) During registration, make the Newsletter sign-up an opt-in by default, not opt-out.

    When users are registering you don’t want them to feel tricked into signing-up for your newsletters. Let it be more of a permission than a trick. Not only will it make your business look more legitimate but will also help your email marketing campaigns in the longer run.

    55) Offer Brave Guarantees

    Most buyers expect some form of guarantee when they purchase from your store. Try giving different guarantees. Test bigger and bolder ones for different shopping seasons. Check if your site is prominently displaying these guarantees on important pages of the store (e.g. Product description, cart and checkout).

    9. TOUCH POINT OPTIMIZATION

    56) Write crisp & enticing meta tags

    Although, this is essentially a part of Search Engine Optimization, Meta tags are the first level of contact with potential customers who are searching for keywords relevant to your business on various search engines. Thus, title and description tags are not only important touch points but also the doorway to your store from Search Engines. Thus, make sure that your meta tags read well.

    You can use Google Webmaster Tools (Traffic > Search Queries) to check the Click Through Rate of the keywords that your store is ranking for and make necessary changes in the meta tags to achieve better CTR. If the Avg. position of a keyword is good (within top 10) but the CTR of the keyword is low, it’s an indication that the meta tags of that page might need rework.

    Meta Tags Optimization

    57) Enable Open graphs

    Lots of visitors on your store might land from social media websites such as Facebook. Similar to how meta tags help you show how your store listings look on Search Engine Result Pages, Open graphs will help you control how the pages on your store look when shared on Facebook. Since many users might discover your store on Facebook, these open graph settings become important touch points for your store.

    (see how, MrPorter.com has enabled open graphs on their store to make it more share friendly). You can use Facebook debugger to see how your page looks when shared on Facebook.

    58) Check your Auto-responder Emails

    Auto-responders are the email notifications that your system automatically sends to users at various instances like: new registration, password reset, order confirmation etc. These emails are important because these are your first personal communication with your customers. Reflect that you do business sincerely and can be trusted for fast order fulfillment too.

    59) Registration Emails

    This is the automatic email that goes out to users when they register on your store. The format of these emails varies from business to business. But there are a few things that remain standard to most businesses, for example:

    It’s a good idea to include your company name in the sender field, the subject line or both. If the customer wants to spot your email among the rest, this would help them find it faster. Make sure that you use words like ‘welcome’ & ‘thank you’ in your first auto-responder. Include customer support information and encourage users to join you on your social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

    60) Pay attention to your password Reset Emails

    You can safely assume that many of your users will register and forget their user name or password when they visit your store again (check the visits on your forgot password page from your Google Analytics account if you need proof). This is a very standard functionality that almost all online stores have in which a user enters his email address and receives his password or password reset link in his email. Now, since it’s so standard, store owners tend to ignore the language and presentation of the following touch points:

    • Password Reset page, where user enters his email address
    • Confirmation page where user gets the confirmation on the user’s password request
    • Password reset email that goes to the user

    Password Reset Mesage - JCPenny

    (This is how JcPenny acknowledges their users to the password reset request)

    Password Reminder Email - Asos Example

    (ASOS sends a plain text message to users as password reset email)

    61) Get your Order Confirmation Emails right

    These are the automatic emails that go out to users when they make a purchase on your store. And since these emails have very high open rates, it’s important that you pay attention to what users see in them. While these emails are effective instruments to drive return visits to your store, it is important that your customers also perceive it as a great service.

    Order confirmation emails are a great opportunity for you to offer deals that entice the user to buy more. Other than this, you can also introduce the buyer to other products he might like. If you engage with y

    our customers in your order confirmation email, they’ll probably be more receptive to your future emails.

    As part of your store’s touch point optimization, scrutinize your confirmation e-mail messages to ensure that your email reinforces why your customer bought from your store at first place and then cross-sell other products.

    62) Enable Order Shipped Emails

    This is also an automatic email that goes out to the buyer when the product is dispatched from your warehouse. It’s triggered by your system when the product is marked as dispatched by your warehouse manager. This email is also very important because from the time they place the order till the time they receive the delivery, users are most receptive to your messages. So apart from giving the order tracking link and user login link in your e-mail, you can also ask the users to check the action happening on your social media pages.

    63) Optimize the thank you messages on your store

    Your store has thank you pages created by your development team that triggers at various instances when the user takes the desired action. These can be actions like:

    • When user places an order
    • When user subscribes to your store
    • When user registers to your store
    • When user chooses to be notified when an order is back in stock

    Pay attention to these pages because these are reached only by the users who were receptive and decided to trust you. Thus, they are likely to take more actions if you give them enough reasons to.

    The actions you can ask them to take on these thank you pages are:

    • Sign-up for your Newsletters: Once a user has completed the purchase, you can insert an opt-in box in the Thank You page and then encourage the user to subscribe to your store’s newsletter.
    • Encourage Social Media sharing: You can embed social media sharing buttons neatly with benefits of joining. For example, you can tell the user that you’re giving away free gifts, discount coupons etc. to your Facebook fans.
    • Ask for feedback: After a user completes the purchase, you can give him a survey and ask him to share his experience on your store. Since he just been on your store or has completed a transaction, he will be more likely give you a candid feedback.
    • Offer Support: Show a customer support number or email contact option in case they have any concerns regarding order fulfillment or they want to buy anything else.

    Error Messages

    There will be many instances when users do something unexpected on the store. Your system will trigger various error messages for these unexpected actions. More often than not, these error notifications are written by programmers and are lacking in about human touch. There are different types of error notifications that a user can encounter on your store:

    64) Make user friendly 404 Error Page

    This error occurs when a user requests for a page that doesn’t exist on the store. There are potentially many ways, how a user might request server for a page that doesn’t exist, for example: URL changing during store migration, Admin deleting page(s), Incorrect hyper linking etc. As there is no web page at the location requested by the user, the server sends a page that simply says “404 Error – Page not found”. As a best case practice, your store should have any or all the following elements:

    • Friendly Error Message
    • Search box
    • Customer Support Information
    • Direct links to the most important pages

    404 page Optimization

    65) No Results Found (Product / Page)

    This error is displayed to the user when your system fails to find a result matching the query user has entered into the product or page search box. Programmers usually display errors like “No match found”. Since there are many instances in a day when visitors might see this error notification, it’s an opportunity for you to leave an impression.

    No Results found example

    (see how Zappos engages with visitors when they search for a product name that doesn’t exists)

    66) Validation Error Messages

    These types of messages are displayed by your system when the user enters a value in ‘input forms’ that is not supported by your store. For example, when a user enters a phone number in an input box where he should be entering his email address.

    The top places where a user might encounter these validation error messages are:

    • Registration form
    • Login form
    • Email Sign-up forms
    • Pre-Order forms
    • Contact forms etc.

    Again, since these validation errors are designed by a programmer who won’t bother about the tone of the message, at times these validation messages may sound either rude, confusing or unnecessary.

    Trust points

    There is always a psychological barrier & objection in the mind of users when they’re engaging with your store. The objective of optimizing the touch points below is to find all the objections that a user might have in his or her mind, and suggest changes to build and inspire trust & confidence in them.

    Do everything to earn as many accreditations for your business as you can, like: BBB, Bizrate, Verisign etc. Show these badges on your store to give the user an impression that they are doing business with a genuine, secure & ethical company.

    Trust Points and Trust Seals

    67) Offer them multiple payment options: It’s a no-brainer but this checklist would look incomplete without the mention.

    Accept multiple payment types – Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout etc. People always have a preferred method and showing them logo of that payment processor can encourage them to buy from your store.

    68) Show Social Media Proof

    The easiest way to make people trust your store is by showing them your followers on social media. If you have a considerable presence on Facebook, show the numbers to visitors using a Facebook Like Box widget.

    69) Sign-up with Google Customer Reviews (earlier Google Trusted Stores)

    Google recently shut down their Trusted Stores program and have rebranded it as Google Customer Reviews. The new program collects reviews from customers on behalf of advertisers once the customers have purchased and received a product. Like its predecessor, Google Trusted Store will be managed through the Merchant Center.
    Undeniably, being part of the Google Customer Reviews program will be as indispensable as the Google Trusted store badge. Google will use customer reviews to catapult the credibility score of a store; a smart move that ensures that the store not only delivers on the promise of quality service but does it consistently.

     

    10. INFORMATION TOUCH POINTS

    There are other information touch points on your store that most of your users will engage with while they make a buying decision. Since these are not critical touch points, they are often ignored. However, these information touch points are important as they give a human face to your store.

    70) Show product close-up videos

    These videos can be with or without human models. The idea here is to show the HD quality video of the product under professional lights wherein the whole focus of the video is product visuals. There is no sound or human voice required and such videos can be shot pretty quickly. Again, MrPorter.com has done a great job shooting really high quality small product videos.

    Product Page Optimization

    Reference

    71) Educate the visitors and enable them to make an informed decision

    Such videos are an interactive way to give users all the information they need to make a buying decision. These videos are unbiased and done by a professional to educate buyers. You can post them to your blog or create a dedicated buying guide section.

    Product Videos

    SportsAuthority.com (now DicksSportings.com) has smartly chosen topics like ‘Choosing the Right Treadmill’ to help visitors buy the right treadmill (this video ranks 6 for this key phrase).

    Video is also a branding tool wherein you can create professional videos with people who have engaged with your store. A nicely shot video like this featured on your home page can dramatically enhance the image of your store as a trustworthy brand. With more visitor trust, you can expect more people buying from your store instead of Amazon as they would think that they are buying from a specialized group. Again, MrPorter.com has done a great job in presenting customer stories.

    72) Create an impressive about page

    Check the Google Analytics of your store and you will be surprised to know how many people actually go to your About page before they make a purchase from your store, especially if they are visiting your store for the first time.

    • Share the Whole Story
    • Highlight Your People
    • Sprinkle in Some Hard Facts
    • Write in Your Company’s Natural Voice
    • Let it be More Than Just Text
    • Be Authentic

    73) Support/Contact Page

    Display a land-line phone number (toll free would be great) and a street address. Make sure that there is a way to contact you that’s not electronic. Your customers must know that real people are available to help if they’re lost or confused.

    Give them options: If you give them multiple options to contact you (like Live chat, email or a toll free number); they will think that you value your customers.

    74) Get a thorough usability testing done

    You can use tools like Usertesting.com to hire remote usability testers (@ $39 per tester in your target demographics). You can give them pre-defined test cases. The output of their testing comes to you in the form of video recording of their actual user experience on your store, along with written notes of their finding.

    11. LOAD SPEED OPTIMIZATION

    People use the Internet because it’s convenient. If your store takes more time than the user anticipates to load in a user’s browser, you’re actually taking that advantage away from the user. It’s rather inconvenient and annoying to buy from such a store. Google provides some fantastic information on ways to increase the load speed of your store. We have copied some of the important ones below; you can check their knowledge base
    here.

    75) Leverage browser caching

    Caching is a double win: you reduce the round-trip time by eliminating numerous HTTP requests for the required resources, and you substantially reduce the total payload size of the responses. Besides leading to a dramatic reduction in page load time for subsequent user visits, enabling caching can also significantly reduce the bandwidth and hosting costs for your site.

    76) Defer parsing of JavaScript

    In order to load a page, the browser must parse the contents of all <script> tags, which adds additional time to the page load. By minimizing the amount of JavaScript needed to render the page, and deferring parsing of unneeded JavaScript until it needs to be executed, you can reduce the initial load time of your page.

    77) Optimize images

    When you optimize every line of code for your website, don’t forget about your static content – including images. Simple improvements can drastically decrease your download size, without compromising on the site’s quality.

    78) Serve scaled images

    Sometimes you may want to display the same image in various sizes, so you will serve a single image resource and use HTML or CSS in the containing page to scale it. For example, you may have a 10 x 10 thumbnail version of a larger 250 x 250 image, and rather than forcing the user to download two separate files, you can use markup to resize the thumbnail version.

    79) Combine images into CSS sprites

    Combining images into as few files as possible using CSS sprites. This reduces the number of round-trips and delays in downloading other resources, reduces request overhead, and can reduce the total number of bytes downloaded by a web page. Similar to JavaScript and CSS, downloading multiple images incurs additional round trips. A site that contains many images can combine them into fewer output files to reduce latency.

    80) Minimize redirects

    Minimizing HTTP redirects from one URL to another cuts out additional RTTs and wait time for users.

    81) Enable compression

    Compressing resources with gzip or deflate can reduce the number of bytes sent over the network. Most modern browsers support data compression for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. This allows content to be sent over the network in more compact form and can drastically reduce the download time.

    82) Minify JavaScript

    The ‘Minify JavaScript’ filter removes unnecessary bytes on the wire. While it’s great to put comments, tabs and whitespace in code to improve readability and maintenance, these are bytes that take up space on the wire and that a browser’s JavaScript parser has to parse unnecessarily.

    83) Minimize request size

    Keeping cookies and request headers as small as possible ensures that an HTTP request can fit into a single packet.

    12. SHIPPING AND RETURNS

    84) Get your Shipping Policies right

    The way you handle the shipping of your products plays a critical role in deciding the conversion rate of your store. It plays a direct role in the cart abandonment rate of your store. This is what a recent research paper from UPS concluded, after studying the impact of shipment handling on conversion rate of online stores:

    • While free and discounted shipping is a big benefit, there is more to online shopping and customer experience. In fact, many shoppers are willing to pay a nominal fee to receive the product faster if given an option.
    • Shipping and delivery timing is important during check-out – it’s all about communication! To reduce shopping cart abandonment, retailers should show the shipping costs, inform them how much more should be ordered to get free shipping, and give consumers the option of shipping time frames.
    • Customers are willing to wait for their packages, but need to know what is happening – they want estimated delivery time clearly stated and they want e-mail or text alerts about their delivery.
    • Also important to the customer is the feeling of control. Options such as “special delivery instructions,” the ability to schedule a late delivery, or having a delivery window gives the consumers the control they need to improve their shipping experience.
    • Finally, good experiences with returning items lead to repeat customers and recommendations for the retailer. Good experiences are those that ensure ease for the consumer, while the bad experiences are the ones that highlight hassles and the extra cost.

    85) Offer Free Shipping

    Irrespective of the business and cost implications, if you talk to your customers, they will tell you that they want free shipping.

    “For whatever reason, a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10.”

    If you still have to charge for shipping, make sure that you always mention the shipping costs up front. If you can afford to offer a flat fee, it will work best because it makes the buying decision much easier for the buyer.

    86) Display the Free Shipping Threshold Order Value Prominently

    Showing ‘Free Shipping’ prominently on your store and not drawing user’s attention to the ‘thresh-hold’ order value can work against your store. If a user notices the threshold order value late during the checkout process, he or she might feel tricked and abandon the cart. Display the Free shipping threshold Amount Prominently on all the pages (home, category & description pages).

    Leatherup.com is an example of how your most sincere intention to give attractive offers to visitors can actually look like a deceptive selling tactic. Leatherup.com shows a ‘free shipping banner’ on the home page without mentioning the threshold order value of $89 in the banner. They also don’t show the flat rate $7.95 ground shipping charges that applies to order below the thresh-hold order amount. The rule of thumb here, is to be as clear as you can with any message that you give to your customers.

    87) Offer a good return policy

    Will it fit me? What if the delivered product is not same as what I order? To counter such common scenarios and doubts, offer an attractive returns policy. If your store’s returns policy isn’t clear, visitors might get apprehensive when buying from your store. Make your returns policy visible, clear and buyer-friendly so that people feel safe while shopping with you.

     

    13. CUSTOMER RE-TARGETING

    88) Use Ad-Roll

    You can use traffic re-targeting tools like AdRoll to improve the conversion rate of your online store. With AdRoll, you can show banners to users who abandon your store without buying and motivate them to come back and complete their purchase. You can create dynamic ads with interactive and personalized banners.

    Customer retargeting Example

    What makes AdRoll so useful is that it enables you to segment your potential customers based on the products they’ve viewed, how far into the purchase funnel they’ve gotten, or any other action that you may find valuable.

    89) Use Adwords Re-marketing

    With AdWords Re-marketing, you can target people who have already visited your store and show them customized ads when they surf other websites that are part of Google’s Display Network. These Re-marketing Ads can help you bring these users back to the website and convert them by giving them custom offers on customized landing pages.

    90) Clean your Email Subscriber List from time to time

    For most online stores, Email Marketing is a big tool to generate more traffic on the store. Ensuring optimum conversion rate of traffic coming from these emails requires investment of time & efforts. Not paying attention to your email list can have a negative effect on the conversion figures of your store. You should only send emails to people who are ‘open’ and willing to engage with your brand.

    Figure-out different levels of dis-engagement and inactivity within your subscriber list from Email Service Provider dashboard (and Google Analytics). From there, find people who have been on the list for some time but are not opening your emails. Trimming the clog from your list will not only lower the chances of you being tagged as spammer but also give you a better view into the engagement level of your active subscribers.

    Stay-or-go Email Campaign

    Set-up a re-engagement email series (two emails) for people who have stopped engaging with your emails (have either stopped opening your emails or clicking on the links within your emails). Let them know that they are missed and offer them incentives to open your emails and re-subscribe. If the first message is ignored, send one last email notifying the subscriber that they will be removed from your list if they do not take an action.

    91) Offer Cashbacks

    This is a really powerful technique that many e-commerce store owners use to encourage their customers to come back for more. You can offer your customers cash back in the form of gift cards / vouchers, for example – a “Free $15 voucher on your next purchase when you spend $40 or above”. This can not only increase the returning visitors in your store but also improve your store’s conversion rate with repeat orders.

    Implement it!

    You see, knowing all this won’t matter if you don’t go ahead and implement these recommendations to your store. And when you do, we would, of course, love to hear about it.

  • Google 411 – Directory Enquiry for free!...

    It’s fast, easy and hip – its Google.

    Google, who gave “search” a new synonym, launched Google 411, a free directory enquiry service today.

    All you need to do is, dial 1-800-GOOG-411, speak out the location and the name of the business and Google gives you a list of businesses ready to be dialed!

    Here’s the YouTube video:

    (Source: vnunet.com)