Google Launches Instant Search

September 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Breaking News, Search Marketing

Today Google unveiled what they call Google Instant. It provides you with search results as you type (no need to click the ‘search’ button.)

It’s pretty slick and if you haven’t seen it already jump on over to Google and give it a go.

To learn more about what it’s all about you can go to the Google Instant page.

Here’s a quick look at it:

Start at the home page as normal
Google Instant Search Start Screen

Start typing and get dynamic results on the fly
Google Instant. Real time search results while you type.

5 Strategies to Turn Shoppers Into Buyers

September 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Conversion

Many online store owners have the impression that all they have to do is attract more traffic and the sales rise. Stores with this mentality often increase marketing spend in an effort to drive more traffic yet they soon find out that the effort did indeed generate more traffic, but resulted in no more sales and thus wasted dollars.

They can’t help but ask the question “what’s missing?”

Well as I’ve mentioned before, turning visitors (shoppers) into sales (buyers) isn’t always about the traffic. It is a combination of the right traffic mixed with the proper on-site alterations which actually generates the sales.

Here are 5 strategies to help you turn those visitors into buyers.

1. The Foundation is the Key.
The remaining points will mean nothing if you don’t have a solid foundation. This is the most overlooked aspect of the sites I run across yet involves some of the most basic and necessary elements.

Foundation is built upon knowing your customer and designing your site accordingly. Easy-to-follow navigation, easy-to-use checkout process, readily available customer service links, quality content, etc… These all build a foundation that enables your customer to do their job and buy your product. A weak foundation won’t hold the weight of a successful site and before long the cracks in that foundation will expand and the site will crumble.

Before you do anything else, step back and ensure your foundation is built to address your ideal customer needs. Doing so will ensure future efforts get rewarded.

2. Let Website Analytics Guide You.
I’m big on analytics. You cannot build a lasting business without knowing exactly how it is performing. Analytics gives you the data needed to make informed decisions, without it you’re a canoe floating upstream without a paddle.

Just having analytics in place though is not enough. You must gather data you can then take action upon and implement into the site to improve its performance. I see too many store owners with a desire to make changes to their site based on what I call blind faith. They have no real reason for suggesting the changes, just a hunch that making them will hopefully alter the current course of their business – preferably for the better.

You can’t keep analytics a secret from your customers. What do I mean by this? In short, if you learn something from your analytics about what can be improved on your site, what good is it if you don’t make the improvement? Taking what you learned and then implementing that on the site is revealing your analytics to your visitors.

Here is an example of an analytic metric that you can learn from and that should not stay hidden from your customers.

a) Best Selling Items. Many store owners just let this run over time. The best selling item often becomes the item that has been on the site the longest (newer items that might be really hot sellers get out weighed by older items which have more sales based upon duration of time on site.) Consider adding a limit to your best sellers based on a date range. For example, best sellers over the past 3 or 6 months. This will provide more relevant results to your customers and help boost sales.

b) Top On-Site and Off-Site Search Terms. If you have an onsite search option within your site it’s easy to track the data gathered from that single portion of your site. Turn on Google Analytics Site Search and viola. Instant reporting on everything that is being searched upon on your site. For off site search you have the ability built into analytics to find out what keywords visitors used to arrive at your site.

With each of these you have the ability to drill down even further to determine the sales generated from each.

What can you do to bring these results forward to your site? You can alter your categories and navigation to include some of these search terms in an effort to help your visitors find what they are looking for faster. An example would be to find the most searched upon terms and develop navigational elements that revolve around them. If you sell shoes and “tennis shoes” is a very popular search term on your site, consider adding a very prominent link to your “tennis shoes” category (using that term) rather than making your visitors drill down to that category from a top level category of “shoes”.

3. Provide Optimized Landing Pages.
I’m not talking about search engine optimized pages here. I’m talking about optimizing them in such a way that the traffic which arrives at them is more able to take action. That action can be adding an item to their cart, starting the checkout process, reading the information they need about the product to determine if it will suit their needs, and more.

One example of this is to watch your page titles. I see this most often neglected on advanced search results pages. A customer performs a search for ‘tennis shoes’ and they arrive at a page which is titled ‘search results’. Yes, the results listed are (hopefully) shoes that can be used for playing tennis; however, we can further optimize this page in an effort to increase conversion. One way to begin optimizing this page would be to change the title dynamically to ‘Tennis Shoes’ (rather than the bland ‘search results’.) Doing this increases relevancy in the visitors eyes, and relevancy is a key to them taking action.

Landing page optimization is critical, but plays even a bigger part when running any pay per click campaigns. You’ll increase conversion and quality scores with more relevant landing pages. Higher conversion at a lower cost. It can be accomplished but only with optimized landing pages.

Imagine paying for search traffic that is on the keyword “tennis shoes” and then sending that traffic to the home page, or some other page on your site (like an advanced search results page) without an optimized title. The instant relevancy connection needed for the visitor to stay engaged is lost when optimization is not present and the conversion results are typically ugly as well.

4. Engage Visitors With Decision Making Content.
Any cart can deliver a product page and any store owner can provide a product description. But how many can provide a product page that contains the necessary content to persuade the visitor to make a purchase? There is a big difference.

An engaging product page (for the example here) offers information to the visitor that helps them make an informed decision. A mere product description listing the specs of a product won’t cut it. You need more and visitors want more. Here are some ideas to help your product pages deliver decision making content.

a) Ensure all product descriptions offer customer benefits (bullet point fashion often works well for this.) A benefit is different from a specification. A benefit tells the customer how using the product can help them fill the void they seek in looking for this product in the first place. A specification simply lists physical characteristics of the product itself.

For our tennis shoe example a specification would be “Size 9”. A benefit would be “Air cushioned form fitting sole providing long lasting comfort during strenuous matches, on all surfaces.”

b) Get current customers involved. Include current customer reviews of the product and even consider letting customers add video of them using the product. Customers who provide ways they are using the product and how it has benefited them will go a long way toward the decision making process for new visitors. A lot of stores neglect this important aspect.

One way of generating more reviews is to solicit them via email. Plan a follow-up system for contacting current customers and asking them to review the product. A great approach to this is to ask them how they are enjoying the product and if there are any questions you can answer for them. Then come out and ask them to review it (provide a link back to your site) so that other potential shoppers can learn from it.

5. Refine search through drill down based on customer search habits.
I mentioned the importance of on-site search and landing page relevancy early on. Another aspect of search that shouldn’t be overlooked would be giving your visitors the ability to further refine (or start) their search based on the way they buy your product.

Back to the tennis shoe example. Letting visitors search by ‘type of shoe’ is one obvious form. You offer athletic shoes for all types of activity. Basketball, softball, soccer, etc… so it’s natural for your visitors to need the ability to search or refine based on type.

However, type is not always enough. The ability to further understand your customer habits could help you evolve your search to include options like ‘search by size’, ‘search by color’, ‘search by material’ (leather vs. canvas), ‘search by brand’, and more. Understanding how your customers use the product can further enhance this. Knowing how the product is used might lead to a ‘search by court surface’ (in the case of tennis shoes.)

The thing to remember here is that understanding your customers and segmenting accordingly will further help when you look for ways to boost your conversion.

These 5 strategies are just a small sampling of the large number of options you need to consider for turning shoppers into buyers. Because all markets and businesses are different, ideally you should develop a priority list of which aspects need the most attention and fit within your overall objective.

Results will vary based on any number of outside factors and what works with one store may not work in another. Gather your benchmarks for comparison purposes and don’t be afraid to test anything that comes to mind. Just be ready to take action based on the results you find – no matter what that action may be.