Featured Internet Marketing

5 Things You're Forgetting on Your E-commerce Site

So, you’re working hard on SEO. You want that higher ranking. Rankings rankings! Nothing else matters!
Then, suddenly, your organic traffic is going up, but your sales aren’t.
You could fire your SEO firm. Clearly your search engine optimization efforts are a flop. I mean, all they did was generate more traffic, right?
Or, you could consider other possibilities and address them:

1: Conversions Are Lousy

You’re getting more traffic but not more sales. That means your site sucks.
Sorry, but it’s true. Unless your SEO pro is a total moron, they picked the right keywords. Your site’s failing to generate sales because people don’t like what they see when they get there.
Check your referring keywords report. If the keywords are relevant but they’re not generating sales, something is turning people away.
Time to dig deeper.

2: The Cart

Ideally, put goal funnel tracking in place in your cart so you can see if people are abandoning you during checkout. Nail down the problem and address it.
If you can’t, though, follow this checklist for your cart:

  • If your cart requires a login before checkout, fix it! I don’t care if you have a ‘check out as guest’ option. If you show any kind of form requiring a password on the first checkout page, you’re losing customers. Remove the form! You’ll sell more stuff.
  • Make sure your cart shows shipping costs right on the shipping page. When someone clicks that little ‘UPS’ box, they should immediately know what it’s going to cost them to ship. That way they can change it right then and there. Show ’em the shipping costs on the order confirmation page and chances are they’ll leave in a huff.
  • Be sure customers can edit any part of their order – billing information, shipping, etc. – directly from the order confirmation page.
  • Can customers check ‘Shipping address is same as billing address’ and save themselves some typing? If not, it’s time to add that feature.
  • Remove every unnecessary action you’re currently forcing customers to take. Don’t need their phone number? Don’t ask for it. Don’t need their full ZIP+4 code? Don’t ask for it! Are 99% of your customers in the USA? Have that pre-selected in the billing and shipping form.
  • Show customers where they are. If your cart is a 4-step checkout process, then show what step they’re at, and make sure they know it’s only 4 steps.
  • Make sure your cart is speedy. Long delays between steps will drive people away like bug spray in a bee hive.
  • If your cart doesn’t validate for address, credit card, phone, etc., slice off your left pinky. Then fix it.


Oh no you did NOT just ask me to login to buy stuff!

If your developer says they can’t make these changes, or even tries to bill you for it after swearing they could build a great site for you, slap them. When they fall down, kick them. When they stop crying, tell them to fix the damned site. Anyone who tells you they’re an internet marketer or site designer should know better. None of this stuff is rocket science. If they don’t, it’s time they learned.

3: The Product Page

If someone’s coming to your site from a search engine, there’s a good chance they’re landing on a product page. Make sure your product page is eassssssy to read:

The momAgenda product page.
  • First, have a price. On the page. Where people can see it.
  • Put that price in close proximity to a quantity and check out button.
  • Put all of that in close proximity to a quality photograph of your product. I don’t care if you sell rubber washers. Photography still matters.
  • Make sure the product page loads fast. If I click your ad for bike tires, I’d better see bike tires in 10 seconds or less. Otherwise, I’m gone.
  • Show product options in a simple, easy interface. Don’t get all complicated. No one likes complicated. Half the country has a hard time spelling complicated.
  • Put your product benefits in a clear, bulleted list. This isn’t literature. It’s marketing.
  • Have the product name at the top of the page. Sigh. I can’t believe I still have to write this stuff….

4: General Stuff

Does your home page make it clear you’re an online store, with products and prices and stuff? Seriously, does it? If it doesn’t, and I land there after a search for ‘Radio Flyer Wagons’, I’m probably gonna leave.
Do you have decent quality description tags for each page on your site? Does each page have a clear, descriptive title tag? If not, a lot of people may be coming to your site under incorrect assumptions. Remember, those tags show up in your search listing.
Does your site have a decent quality onsite search tool? How else am I going to find stuff?
Do you have analytics in place, so you know where folks come from, when they buy, and when they leave? You need that data if you’re going to improve.

5: The Painful Truth

At some point, you may have to face the painful truth: Your site isn’t getting it done. If so, you can rebuild. That costs money, like a lot of businesses.
You can make changes, which costs money, like a lot of businesses.
Or you can hang onto what you first built, ignore your customers and just hope that 100,000 visitors will fix what 1,000 couldn’t.
It’s your choice.

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CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. Just a small point that I might have missed. Organic was going up fantastically and it was from quality terms I assume?
    Reminds me of a movie where the main actor says, “You see that glow in the corner of your eye. It’s your career dissipation light and it’s going into overdrive.” I’ve been waiting to use that one for awhile. Guess the movie?

  2. Great analysis. Too many businesses fire their online marketing team or web developer blaming them for a lack of business. Here’s the bottom line, if you’re getting lots of traffic, the online marketer is doing their job. All they can do is get the people to you, your business has to close the deal. All a website developer can do is build you a professional, SEO website, again, if you aren’t making sales, you need to look at yourself. That being said, there are ways to fix the problem, and I think you hit on a lot of good ones here. Thanks for the info.

  3. nice list guys.. I wouldn’t wait for the organic traffic to work this out though.. using ppc in the early stages can often highlight areas that need work..

  4. Ian:
    You gave away more practical and useful information on the subject more than anything I have ever read in reference to e-commerce and conversion tips.
    This is the line where most just keep it close to the chest and hope their competition does not figure it out. Particularly the part about pre-registration to shop which is the mother of all bounce rates.
    Consider this post stumbled and thanks for the tips.

  5. @Ian I can’t quite place the movie but I can picture it. 🙂
    That’s why I put “Check your referring keywords” in as one of the tips. You MUST make sure you’re driving the right traffic. I’ve seen that make the difference many, many times.

  6. @Steve absolutely. And what I wrote in here could easily apply to ANY traffic growth, whether it’s PPC, SEO or direct-driven.

  7. Excellent advice.
    Another rule: When you allow comments be sure you tell the users which fields are required. I just typed a comment for nothing because I got an error page saying email address is required. You only show “Comments” are required. You say say if the email address will be public or private. As a web dev. I always try it myself before I ask users too.
    Now I forgot my original comments. 🙂

  8. I love the hard hitting facts.
    Too many clients think seo and traffic equal million dollar sales and money falling from the heavens.
    Until they realise they convert at 1%
    Imagine if physical shopfronts converted at that rate – more clients need to imagine that their website is a department store. Put their traffic stats into perspective.

  9. Excellent, Excellent list. In addition to the “don’t make a customer register to buy something”, I especially like the PRICE on the product page. The web really reinforces the adage, “help the customer, don’t make them endure the sales process.” It’s fine to list upselling items, but never, ever force the customer to wade through them.
    I would also add, NEVER make the customer put in information a second time if there’s nothing wrong with it, even if you had to retry because something else was in error.
    Also LOVE the commandment to not ask for information you don’t really need. I think this is usually driven by advertising goals. If you want this information, make it worthwhile for the customer. Offer them a little discount or free gift for doing it, but never ever force them to do it.

  10. Great info! I have a client who is seeing tremendous success in traffic from PPC efforts, and hardly any conversions. It is nice to see someone else out there openly talking about these issues and publicizing them, as it helps to support the development of successful ecommerce projects.
    Thanks for the great tips.

  11. I couldn’t agree more with your post the only way more traffic = more money is if the site is optimized & tested to take advantage of that traffic.
    Testing various layouts will reduce the bounce rate then it comes down to the sales pitch & checkout process.

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