All websites are unique in their own way.
We’ve seen trends in ecommerce website design like animation, 360-degree product previews, advanced filtering, and dynamic product search.
However, trends don’t guarantee conversion rates or robust user experiences. There are certain elements that every ecommerce site should have to stay relevant and competitive.
Here is a list of 15 must-have features that attract online shoppers.
This comes from the old K.I.S.S. adage about keeping it simple.
Simplicity should be a goal in good design and you don’t have to sacrifice elegance to achieve it.
As a matter of fact, studies show that 76% of consumers say the most important characteristic of a website is ease of use.
The objective is to help shoppers get to what they want faster and without running into unnecessary complexity that can clog up the path to purchase.
Online sellers have minutes, if not seconds, to make a sale. Focus on the user experience by providing shopping categories, filters, and comparison capabilities.
To make your ecommerce site more user-friendly, consider the following:
- Improve search functionality with an autocomplete option like Under Armour:
- Create effective, visual navigation like Stanley:
- Pre-populate forms like Target:
Ecommerce sites should be a competitive advantage instead of a troublesome experience.
2. Mobile-Friendly Website
Mobile shopping accounts for 50% of online transactions.
With a responsive website, content intuitively adapts to whatever device is accessing it to provide the most user-friendly experience.
Walmart increased mobile sales by 98% after optimizing its mobile site.
And Intelligentsia created a better purchase experience on mobile that led to a 16% increase in mobile transactions.
It doesn’t matter if you have millions of product pages or five.
Creating a mobile-friendly experience for your shoppers will improve sales and potentially your rankings.
3. High-Resolution Photos & Video
Gone are the days of posting one photo with a few bullet points and a price tag.
Shoppers want to see multiple angles and people using the product in different environments. They want to be able to zoom in and get a feel for the product.
Technical considerations for images are crucial. Images that don’t load or take too long to load will see a consumer drop-off rate of 39%, according to Adobe.
And, we’re not talking about just professional photos. Vanity Planet found that adding Instagram photos to their product pages increased checkouts by 24%.
Images sell, not text.
Ecommerce websites should display multiple photos per product. The photos need to be high-resolution and optimized for page load.
4. User-Generated Reviews
Shoppers read reviews. About 95% of them, in fact.
And 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
You might think that having negative reviews is a sale killer. The opposite is actually true.
Having negative reviews can often be positive. It’s shown that products without negative reviews are seen as censored and, in turn, shoppers will assume the positive reviews are fake.
Depending on website functionality, ecommerce sites can use plugins from the most popular review platforms including Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook.
Forward-thinking ecommerce sites, like Paiwen paddleboards, are using reviews as user-generated content to drive social proof and build raving fans.
5. Special Offers
Most ecommerce sites are using special offers in their standard marketing practices via email, social, text, etc.
Next-level ecommerce sites take advantage of the prime real estate in the header section to promote special offers.
When shoppers realize they’re getting a special deal, it motivates them to buy more and spend more time searching the site.
If ecommerce sites are using ongoing promotions, providing a unique webpage that lists the offers will not only drive more sales but also improve SEO.
Consider the shopper searching [ZIP code + toyota special offers] and the value of that organic search result.
6. Wish Lists
Oh, how I love wish lists. One for fashion, one for books to read, one for holiday gift ideas.
Shop, save, and share!
Ecommerce sites that aren’t using wish lists are leaving revenue on the virtual desktop table.
What’s better than having customers bookmark items they want and will most likely buy in the future? That’s just gold in the pocket. And a remarketing campaign dream.
Just take a note from Amazon.
Retailers are creating these individualized options to drive engagement.
In this webinar by Brendan Witcher of Forrester, he shares how these can drive open rates as high as 80%, and 5x-10x higher return to purchase.
It’s also an opportunity to share a brand with new buyers. When shoppers share their wish lists with family and friends, it sends free traffic with built-in social proof to a website.
Not all ecommerce sites have brick-and-mortar stores. However, those that do must have a find-in-store feature.
Sometimes you don’t want to wait for an item to ship. You want instant gratification.
Shoppers are going online just to research and then complete the purchase in person. This is especially true for millennials, as they tend to research online before purchasing in a store.
This makes it incredibly helpful to see which local stores have products in stock.
8. Related Items
Simply seeing the phrase, “you might like this” causes a serotonin release signaling curiosity and excitement.
A ‘Related Items’ feature on an ecommerce site creates the desirable stickiness effect that so many marketers strive to achieve.
It happens like this:
You saved the AeroPress coffee maker to your shopping cart.
A section emerges that says, “you might like this.”
Would you like some freshly roasted, fair trade whole coffee beans?
Maybe a digital scale to measure the exact amount of coffee grounds to achieve the perfect cup of coffee?
You get the picture.
When an online seller uses the related items feature to sell more, it’s actually signaling to the buyer that “they get me.”
Related items can also include similar product categories to comparison shop, “people who bought this item also searched for”, and so on.
9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Complex purchases require confidence with a seller and detailed information when buying products online versus face-to-face.
Fine Watch Bank (disclosure: they were a client) sells expertly crafted high-end watches.
The company’s buyers need confirmation of watch authenticity and detailed product information to feel comfortable when making a purchase.
An additional information section details frequently asked information, which establishes credibility and builds confidence with the buyer.
FAQ sections also provide a self-help area to address common customer problems. Buyers often ask about product support, returns, lost account passwords, etc.
10. Social Proof
Brands and online sellers that connect with their buyers on an emotional level create brand trust and advocacy.
Social connection is undeniable and the opportunity to bond with an audience is easier now than ever.
Linking social profiles and user-generated content with an ecommerce site are must-have features that will give online sellers brand character.
Shoppers are inundated with a constant flow of “buy now” and “get this”. It’s those brands that engage with customers socially that create customers for life. They are offering products that help others and that people care about.
Social media allows ecommerce brands to show authenticity and associate an emotional connection with their products.
- Look at Nike’s Pinterest account to see how incorporating products with motivational images makes a huge impact.
- See how Ikea uses user-generated content to share design ideas and inspiration for how to use its products.
- Check out how Lowe’s produces how-to videos that teach people how to use its products.
11. Security Features
Online transactions are an integral part of our lives.
As such, ecommerce websites can be a lucrative target for cybercriminals. It’s crucial that online sellers protect customer information and take steps to ensure privacy.
It all starts with a secure ecommerce platform.
With their sophisticated security features, it’s no wonder that Magento and WordPress paired with WooCommerce are the top two platforms for online sellers.
Other must-have ecommerce security features to consider are:
- SSL certificate: Establishes secure connectivity between a user and the website. Look for HTTPS and a green lock in the address bar before trusting an online store with your information. Select an SSL certificate vendor with name recognition. The enterprise ecommerce giants almost always use Symantec.
- Two-factor authentication: Adds an extra layer of security by requiring username/password and a system-generated code sent via email or text.
- Use a firewall: Provides a gateway or wall between two networks and permits authorized traffic and blocking malicious traffic.
12. Advanced Payment Options
In the world of Apple Pay and PayPal, advanced payment options are a must-have feature for an ecommerce site.
Just consider the ease of use associated with Amazon one-click shopping. Shoppers with registered accounts can literally buy with the click of a button.
There are many popular online payment options. The key is understanding who the buyer is and implementing the most effective solutions.
If your website is limiting payment options, make sure to explain why.
For example, an ecommerce site may not offer Bitcoin as a payment option after determining its value isn’t reliable.
If buyers are technology-savvy individuals who tend toward this payment method, it’s important to be transparent as to why it isn’t an option. This transparency establishes that the brand understands its buyers and builds trust.
13. Detailed Shipping Information
Alarmingly, unexpected shipping costs are the number one reason for shopping cart abandonment.
It’s critical that ecommerce websites include shipping information early in the checkout process, including a ZIP code calculator showing cost.
It’s also helpful to include delivery time and options for faster delivery. Sites should list countries that are outside normal shipping zones.
Interestingly, shoppers spend 30% more per order when free shipping is included. Be sure to present codes for free shipping on all pages of the site through the header navigation, if applicable.
14. Multi-Touchpoint Contact Page
When it comes to running an ecommerce site where most business takes place online, nothing builds trust more than an overly obvious and well-presented “contact us” feature. This is especially true when selling high-end merchandise or technical products.
Never make it hard for a buyer to get in touch or request support.
Consider the contact page a feature of the website. Include multiple ways to reach out, including phone, email, and an online form.
Some companies with brick-and-mortar stores offer online appointment setting via their contact page. Be sure to add customer service social links and Google maps for locations.
15. Return Policy
Return policies are an essential feature of any ecommerce website.
Your return policy should be clearly visible and well-written or illustrated.
This is another trust-building feature of online selling. It reassures buyers that if they are unhappy or just need a different size, the brand is there for them.
Start Creating Fantastic Shopping Experiences
These must-have ecommerce site features could be grouped into categories like Duh, DOH! and Ahhh. Marketers and web designers might say “duh” when it comes to incorporating ease of use, high-resolution photos, security features, and contact information. As they are best practices and trademarks of good design.
There are others who would say “DOH!” when considering elements like special offers, user-generated reviews, and social sharing. They know they should be using these features but just haven’t gotten around to implementing them. It’s never too late!
Finally, the “ahhh” moment when you get excited about planning for robust related items, shareable wish lists, and find-in-store features.
No matter what category you’re in, ecommerce sites have an incredible opportunity to use tried-and-true features blended with innovative new elements to create fantastic shopping experiences.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author
WordPress’ Parent Company Acquires Tumblr for Shockingly Low Sum
Automattic Inc., owner of WordPress.com, has acquired Tumblr for what is reported to be very low sum.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Tumblr was acquired for an “undisclosed sum,” however, it was soon revealed the sum was “well below” $10 million.
Dan Primack, business editor at Axios, broke the news about the acquisition price. He tweeted an update after publishing the story, saying the sum is actually below $3 million.
3/ Story updated: Price less than $3 million.
— Dan Primack (@danprimack) August 12, 2019
To put this in perspective, Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion in 2013. Yahoo later wrote down Tumblr’s value by $230 million in 2016 after it failed to generate significant revenue.
In 2017, Verizon gained ownership of Tumblr through its acquisition of Yahoo. Now, Verizon is reportedly selling Tumblr for a fraction of what it was valued at 5 years ago.
Despite what is considered to be a low sum, the acquisition of Tumblr is largest ever for Automattic in terms of price and head count.
As part of the acquisition, Automattic will take on Tumblr’s 200 staffers, so no one will be losing their job.
Another thing that will stay in place is Tumblr’s controversial porn ban. Matt Mullenweg, chief executive of Automattic, tells WSJ: “We’re not going to change any of that.”
Going forward, Mullenweg says that executives will look for ways to share services and functionality between WordPress.com and Tumblr.
In the meantime it sounds as though there will be no immediate changes to either service.
101 Easy (& Cheap) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website
In the modern-day landscape of saturated online content, it’s no longer enough to just build your site and wait for people to visit it.
You must be proactive at promoting your site and your brand online.
Admittedly, this is much easier said than done, especially because not everyone has the financial capability to throw into paid ad campaigns and corporate sponsorships.
The good news?
There are several things you can do to promote and drive traffic to your website, all without having to spend hundreds of dollars.
To help you do just that, here’s a list of 101 tactics you can try, grouped by strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Link Building
1. Find the core keywords that match your website’s goals, your industry, and offering.
2. Optimize your website and all of your on-page content for search engines.
3. Focus on Google, but add peripheral search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo, to your list.
4. Claim your Google My Business listing.
5. Submit your site to online directories like Yelp, Annie’s List, and TripAdvisor, among others
6. Scour Q&A sites like Quora and look for relevant questions you can create content about.
7. Optimize content with relevant keywords, particularly long-tail keywords signaling intent
8. Get news websites to cover your business and link to your site.
9. Invest time in blogger outreach to see which influencers and industry thought leaders you can reach out and link to your site.
10. Join relevant online discussions on sites like Quora and Reddit.
11. Monitor Google Trends for keyword ideas and trending topics you can write about.
12. Write killer headlines that grab people’s attention and encourage them to click on your article links.
13. Link internally so other pages in your site get attention and a bump in traffic.
14. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile to increase your mobile search rankings.
15. Optimize your site for local search, that means including your city or state in your target keywords.
16. Consider using remarketing on Google Ads for brief periods to drive traffic and sales on your site.
17. Use HARO to look for opportunities to appear on roundups, similar to the one below.
18. Optimize images on your website with alt tags to improve their discoverability on Google Images.
19. Optimize your meta descriptions and title tags so they’re easy to read and aren’t truncated in the search engine results pages.
20. Add your local address to the footer of every page on your site to make sure local searchers find you.
21. Improve your website’s page speeds by following Google’s guidelines and recommendations.
22. Use rich snippets to make your entry on the search engine results pages more clickable.
23. Start a blog if you haven’t already.
24. Create content that’s useful, valuable, and shareable.
25. Create free and paid resources such as case studies, reports, survey findings, etc.
26. Look for guest posting opportunities to get high-authority blogs to link to your site.
27. Create infographics that feature a roundup of industry statistics to increase their likelihood of going viral.
28. Start a regular content series, such as “Did You Know?” or a “Tip of the Day” that your audience can look forward to.
29. Update your blog regularly to get a boost in rankings and traffic.
30. Interview industry leaders and feature the conversation on your blog or YouTube channel.
31. Host a webinar or podcast about topics you’re passionate about and align with your business.
32. Create e-brochures that your audience can share, with links to your site and blog.
33. Invest in video content and upload your videos to YouTube.
34. Write an online/offline column for your local paper, magazine, or community website.
35. Create a press kit you can share with influencers, bloggers, and even other businesses.
36. Comment on other blogs relevant to your industry.
37. Launch a free ebook to generate interest in your brand. Offer it as a free download for users who sign up for your newsletter.
38. Start a blog on Tumblr. This is a great content platform, especially if you have a young audience.
39. Have a healthy mix of evergreen content and trending content to increase your website’s discoverability, particularly on search engines.
40. Promote your content on social media channels.
41. Obviously, you want to go big on Facebook. Create a page there if you haven’t already.
42. Join discussions on Facebook Groups to generate visibility.
43. Leverage social media contests on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to drive traffic to your website.
44. If it’s relevant to your audience, create an online presence on Snapchat and Pinterest.
45. Use Pinterest to upload high-quality images of your products.
46. Use relevant trending hashtags on Twitter to drive users to your site.
47. Try promoted tweets to fast-track traffic to your site.
48. Start an Instagram account and make sure your bio is filled features your website URL.
49. Use Facebook and Instagram Stories to engage your audience and raise brand awareness.
50. Let your employees control your Stories for a day. This will encourage them to share your social media account (and website) with their personal network.
51. Start an official YouTube channel. Use it to share videos of your brand, your products, and services.
52. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ads at short bursts to boost traffic to your site.
53. Leave comments on other social media pages.
54. Link your official social media channels with one another. Make sure all pages/profiles have a URL to your website.
55. Take advantage of Facebook and Instagram’s live streaming platforms. This will give you a chance to show your brand’s personality and encourage website visits.
56. If you serve a B2B market, double down on LinkedIn. According to a report, 63% of marketers rated LinkedIn as the most effective B2B social media platform.
57. Use SlideShare to create your own high-quality slideshows. Optimize your slideshow for keywords and add your website URL to the final or beginning slide.
58. Participate in events and talk about the event experience in your blog.
59. Collaborate with local academic institutions to get your brand’s name out in the world of academia.
60. Look for public speaking engagements in your industry.
61. Add QR codes to your print collateral (e.g., posters, post cards, flyers) to drive people to your site.
62. Design beautiful business cards and add a QR code directing people to your site, lead form, or social platforms.
63. Support local organizations to ensure your community knows your brand and site.
64. Place stickers and/or decals on your personal or company cars to promote your website.
65. If you have the budget, pay for local ad placements in your newspaper, benches, sporting events.
66. Organize events such as concerts, poetry nights, garage sales, flea markets, and workshops.
67. Make sure your website URL is visible on company merchandise.
68. Send direct mail and place your URL on letters.
69. Include your website URL on company uniforms
70. Look for free press release opportunities on magazines and newspapers
71. Add your website URL to office signs.
72. Join networking events in your city or out of state.
73. Take advantage of classified ads in your local paper.
74. Support a local charity by sponsoring a fun run or donating part of your proceeds to a cause.
75. Contact your local news station to submit yourself as an expert in your field or industry resource.
76. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other business groups.
77. Appear on a local radio program as a resource guest, which will let you promote your site as well.
78. Entice customers with an exclusive deal that can be redeemed on your store. According to one study, 57% of shoppers are motivated by coupons to make first-time purchases.
79. Offer free gifts to in-store customers and add material to promote your site.
80. Start a loyalty program requiring users to fill out a form on your website.
81. Offer freebies that can be redeemed on your site after shoppers make in-store purchases.
82. Start a referral network and encourage users to refer your website to their friends in exchange for discounts/deals.
83. Send thank you cards or emails to your in-store customers, placing a URL to your site.
84. Take advantage of seasonal offers (e.g., Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween) to increase your likelihood of being found during these occasions.
85. Remember to market your website across all online channels you own — social media, newsletter, blog.
86. Create an official email signature with your website in it (and most recent blog post if applicable).
87. Don’t neglect email marketing. Start a newsletter and incentivize signups with offers and discounts.
88. Encourage customers to leave reviews on your social media pages and website.
89. Take advantage of user-generated content through contests or competitions. Have users submit entries to your website.
90. If your website has been around for a while, consider a redesign to drum up interest when relaunching it.
91. Add social buttons to your blog content and landing pages to make sharing easy.
92. When looking for influencers, look for those who are relevant to your brand and have an engaged audience. The number of followers isn’t a reliable metric for an influencer’s influence.
93. Educate your audience instead of selling to them.
94. Talk and listen to your customers about what they want from your brand. Use this information to improve products and/or create content.
95. Sell yourself and your site wherever you go. You are your greatest ambassador.
96. Use strong calls-to-action in your social media posts and blog content to drive audiences to your website.
97. Look for opportunities to appear on other people’s podcasts or webinars.
98. Make sure your website looks great on all devices to maximize its discoverability.
99. Make sure your internal stakeholders are encouraged to spread the word about your brand and website.
100. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing on their website and do something they aren’t so you stand out.
101. Want visits? Ask for them online and offline from the people you meet every day.
Over to You
This list of tactics only scratches the surface of what you can do to promote your website.
Nevertheless, these tricks should get you off to a good start.
Screenshots taken by author, August 2019
In-post Image #1: HubSpot
In-post Image #2: Content Marketing Institute
10 Best Readability Tools to Check Your SEO Content
Content strategy is a science and every detail matters.
Those details include:
- The reading level of the content.
- Word count (especially in relation to top-ranking content).
- Format and correct use of subheaders.
- Keyword distribution.
- Use of phrases related to the keyword.
- Sentence structure.
In fact, details like these can mean the difference between a No. 1 ranking (or answer box!) vs. content that doesn’t even make it on Page 1 of the search results.
Competitive content writers will use every tool at their disposal as they create content.
That’s why we’ve rounded up the 10 best content writing tools for SEO that specifically help you improve readability.
Add your keyword phrase (and related keywords if you like), and the SEO Writing Assistant will give you an aggregate score based on factors including:
- Number of hard-to-read sentences
- Long words
- Word count and reading time (compared to top-ranking content)
- Tone of voice
Notably, with the SEO Writing Assistant is the one tool on this list where you can set the preferred readability level you’d like your content to have.
You can customize the tone of voice you’d like your content to have, ranging from casual to formal, and check whether any content in the document is plagiarized.
It will also show related questions you should consider posing/answering within the content.
Personally, my favorite aspect of the SEO Writing Assistant is the recommended keywords – the tool will automatically show about 20 phrases that are present in the top-ranking comment.
Yoast is a free WordPress plugin that many digital marketers use to check the basic SEO of their content, but it can also give you a content readability score.
Within the content readability score, you’ll find a report that breaks down:
- Flesch reading ease
- Use of passive voice vs. active voice
- Subheading distribution
- Variety of sentence structure
- Paragraph length
- Sentence length
- Use of transition words
Like most of the tools on this list, the Content Experience provides scores pertaining to your content’s word count, sentence structure, keyword coverage, phrase repetition, etc. based on your keyword target.
This is one of the more robust content marketing tools on this list, and provides insights into user intent, keyword selection, and even the best time of year to publish a piece of content.
As the name suggests, the Readability Tool focuses primarily on the readability of your content.
You can input content you’re working on directly into the tool, or you can use a URL for content that already exits (yours or your competitors).
The report will give not one but six readability scores, including:
- Flesch reading ease.
- Flesch-Kincaid grade level.
- Gunning Fog Score.
- SMOG Index.
- Coleman-Liau Index score.
- The Automated Readability Index score.
It will also show you:
- The number of sentences
- Number of words
- Number of complex words
- Percent of complex words
- Average words per sentence
- Average syllables per word
With the Text Optimizer, you can pop in a webpage and this content readability tool will check the health of your content.
If you’re new to SEO or content strategy, this is a good tool to start with, given that no technical knowledge is required to wield this tool and create great content.
In addition to assessing your content’s word count, sentence length and verb use, this tool will give you suggestions of words to add to your content and words to remove from your content to increase your potential to rank.
According to Text Optimizer, 70% of their users achieve better SEO rankings within five weeks after using the tool.
This content readability tool focuses solely on reading level and gives your content a readability score based on
Not only will it give your entire content a score, but it will also score your content’s individual content.
If writing is not your strong suit, Grammarly is a game-changer.
This tool focuses on the mechanics of writing rather than the science of SEO content – nonetheless, it’s incredibly valuable and belongs on this list.
Poorly written content equates to poor user experience (and high-quality content should be written with the search engines and the user in mind).
Grammarly will address issues in grammar and spelling, but also in tone and structure.
It will flag overly complex sentences and keep an eye out for clarity and conciseness.
You can also set a goal for the content your writing so Grammarly can tailor its recommendations to your project.
Goals are aligned by the type of your content.
You can choose from academic, business, technical, creative, and casual. For most web content, you’ll probably want to choose business.
When working on a piece of business content, Grammarly will flag any use of the passive voice and misuse of pronouns, but allow for some use of informality.
Not only can you use Grammarly for blog posts, site content, and articles, but you can also use it for emails, messages, and social media posts.
Similarly, the free Hemingway app helps you improve the mechanics of your writing.
Copy your content into Hemingway’s desktop app and it will show:
- The readability of your content by grade level
- Opportunities to use more concise language
- Overuse of adverbs
- Use of passive voice
- Sentences that are hard to read
- Places where a simpler phrase could be used
- Word count and character count
- The average length of time to read the content
Sometimes content readability isn’t an issue of keyword distribution or poor grammar.
Sometimes, you just may have wild, out-of-hand formatting that needs to be dealt with.
As the name suggests, Bulk SEO Tools will help you take care of formatting issues (that impact readability) in bulk.
Let’s say, for example, your entire text or large portions of your text are in all uppercase.
You can input that text into Bulk SEO Tool’s case converter and switch the case to sentence case, capitalized case, lower case, title case, etc.
Bulk SEO Tools also has text tools to quickly remove any duplicate lines, add or remove line breaks, and even add prefixes or suffixes if you’re working with a list.
You know what else can hurt readability (at least from a user perspective)?
No one likes a cliché – they’ll make your writing seem contrived and contrite.
This free tool will highlight any clichés in your text in red so you can swap that out for a sentence that’s more meaningful.
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