Tags Posts tagged with "Determine"


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What’s a page rank and how does it work?

PageRank is Google’s system to rank the relative popularity of a website. Developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, the PageRank system uses the Internet’s vast linking structure to measure an individual web page. A link from one site to another is interpreted as a “vote” for the destination site. Google also examines the pages themselves to determine the importance of each, meaning that a link or “vote” from a page within itself is a high PageRank (considered “important”) will weigh more heavily than a link from a less “important” page.

The PageRank scale is between 1 and 10, and is a logrhythmic scale, much like the Richter scale used to rate earthquakes. This means that the gap between a PageRank of 3 and 4 is tiny when compared to the gap between a PageRank of 7 and 8. Generally, a PageRank of 5 is considered average, whereas achieving a PageRank of 7 indicates a popular site.

You can check the PageRank for your site by going to Mypagerank.net. There are also PageRank predictors, such as PageRankPrediction.com, that claim to predict what your site’s future PageRank will be. While these are good indicators, they are not a guarantee of what your PageRank will be the next time Google updates.

How does an SSL certificate make transactions secure?

In order to conduct transactions on the Internet, sensitive information such as credit card data must be sent securely between the user’s web browser and the server hosting the website they are trying to purchase from. This is accomplished using an SSL (“Secure Sockets Layer”) certificate. When a web browser tries to access a secure web page, the server first sends what is called a “public key” to the browser along with the SSL certificate. Using this public key, the browser then generates a “private key”, or an encryption key, which is sent back to the server with the secure URL that the browser would like to access. The server then uses this encryption key to securely encrypt all data that is subsequently sent to the browser. Because this key is generated on the fly by the browser, the encryption method is unique between each browser and the server, ensuring that only one key can encrypt the data, and only one key can decrypt the data.

This ensures that all information that is sent to the server is secured, and your customers can rest easy knowing that their personal information is safe. Most SSL certificates use 128-bit encryption keys, although more recently 256-bit encryption has become available.

How does Alexa determine traffic ratings?

Many people use Alexa to determine their websites’ traffic rankings, the reach of the website, and other information about the popularity of their web presence. But how is this determined? It’s mainly delivered via the Alexa toolbar, a downloadable browser toolbar that has been built into Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer. The toolbar delivers information to Alexa about what websites people are visiting. Using this method, Alexa receives data from a defined sample population of Internet users. This data is then processed to deliver a Traffic Ranking and a Daily Reach coefficient. The Traffic Ranking measures how much traffic a site receives relative to all other websites, and is delivered as a 3-month average. The Daily Reach is determined by how many people in the Alexa sample population visit a site, and is normalized to a sample size of 1 million. In this way, a Daily Reach of 4,000 means that your site probably was viewed by 4,000 out of every 1 million Internet users.

The Alexa toolbar is only available for the Windows operating system using either Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers. The toolbar is currently not available for Firefox users, although Alexa provides the option of building your own toolbar. If your site is targeted specifically at Firefox users, or Mac users, or Linux users, odds are that the data about your site in Alexa is inaccurate, due to the fact that your visitor base is excluded from Alexa’s sample population.

How can I tell if a search engine is finding content within my site?

There are a couple of ways to determine if Google, as well as other search engines, can access the content in your site that you want it to find. The first is to find a string of text on your website that will be unique, or at least relatively rare. Copy this string of text into the search box of your favorite search engine, making sure to enclose the entire search string in quotation marks. This tells the search engine to find that specific string of text. Check the results that are returned and if your site appears, the search spiders are successfully indexing your content.

A much easier, and more informative, approach is to ask the search engine what content it has found for a particular domain. To do this, you simply enter “site:www.yourwebsite.com” into the search field of your favorite search engine. This will return every page that the search engine has indexed under that domain. This is a sure fire way of determining how effectively the spiders are getting through your website. If you don’t see content or web pages that you believe should be there, perhaps the search engine spiders are unable to access your site properly. Check with your web developer as there are a myriad of reasons why this could be the case.

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A new report from social commerce company Buddy Media offers insights on how businesses can use Twitter to heighten engagement and produce favorable results. It states that to more effectively leverage Twitter as a marketing channel, businesses need to know “when to Tweet, what to Tweet and how often to Tweet.”

Here are nine findings from the report that ecommerce merchants can put to use to improve their Twitter marketing efforts.

1. Schedule Tweets for Weekends

According to the report, Twitter engagement rates for brands are 17 percent higher on weekends compared to weekdays. Yet, most companies almost completely ignore this trend preferring to post during the week, when engagement rates are lower.

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Twitter engagement rates for brands are 17 percent higher on weekends.

Twitter engagement rates for brands are 17 percent higher on weekends.

2. Tweet from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Buddy Media report refers to these as “busy hours” and encourages posting during those times, versus evening hours when people are less active on Twitter. The rationale is that Twitter posts are more short-lived than posts to other social networks — such as Facebook — and are less likely to be noticed during off-peak times.

Conversely, Facebook engagement goes up during nighttime hours, according to the report. So it may be helpful to separate Twitter and Facebook posting to coincide with optimal times for each channel.

I’ve previously described social media management tools that enable merchants to schedule posts to publish at times that are best suited to each platform, in the following articles.

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Tweet during daytime hours, as opposed to evenings.

Tweet during daytime hours, as opposed to evenings.

3. Determine When Tweets Perform Best

Management tools such as HootSuite and Sprout Social have built-in analytics components, which merchants can use to gain insights into the days and times when tweets receive the most engagement in the form of retweets and replies.

4. Don’t Over Tweet

Even when tweeting at optimal times, there is an inverse relationship between daily posting frequency and engagement. The more one tweets per day, the less engaging those tweets become, says the report.

While it’s useful to tweet multiple times per day, don’t fill up followers’ Twitter feeds with too many posts. You stand the chance of your tweets being ignored or, worse, becoming unfollowed.

5. Keep Tweets Below 100 Characters

Even though Twitter only allows 140 characters, it’s best to keep posts less than 100 characters in length. Those that fit this criteria receive 17 percent higher engagement than longer tweets, according to the report.

6. Include Links When Possible

Tweets that contain links receive as much as an 86 percent higher retweet rate than those that do not. When possible, include a link along with a short, enticing description. It could mean more traffic to your ecommerce site as a result. Be sure to test the link before posting.

7. Use Hashtags

Hashtags have become a staple among Twitter users and with good reason. They receive twice the engagement than tweets without hashtags. Even so, only 24 percent of tweets contain hashtags. However, do not overuse hashtags as that can be confusing to the reader. Keep it to one or two per tweet.

8. Use Images

Even though users can’t immediately see an image in a tweet, images increase engagement rates up to two times higher than tweets that lack them. Twitter clients such as TweetDeck, HootSuite and Twitter.com make it easy to add images.

9. Include Calls to Action

If a tweet contained interesting content, people would presumably retweet it to their followers. That is not necessarily the case. Therefore, it is useful to include calls to actions and encourage such activity. Phrases such as “please retweet” have been shown to increase retweet activity by as much as 12 times.


Though Twitter use by ecommerce merchants is commonplace, those who put these nine guidelines into practice may experience an uptick in engagement.

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How do you manage social media when you have little time or money? All too often that is the situation in which merchants find themselves. Faced with many demands, merchants oftentimes have little time or money to engage on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn.

This article provides a simple plan for engagement that economizes both the time and financial investment required. Before I outline the plan, remember two facts about social media.

  • Social media marketing is not a quick fix. It takes time to build a Facebook Fan base or Twitter following. Commit to a minimum of six months before determining whether or not social media works for you.
  • Social media requires ongoing interaction. You cannot set it and forget it. You must be willing to continually engage with Fans and followers — even daily.

Having said that, here are five guidelines to maximize your social media efforts.

1. Determine Where to Maintain a Presence

Many social networks exist today, but you should only establish a presence on those where your customers are actively engaged. You’ll likely find them on Facebook and Twitter, but Pinterest should not be overlooked, especially if your products appeal to women. If your products and services are used by other businesses — versus consumers — include LinkedIn in the mix.

2. Use a Social Media Management Application

To save time, use tools that enable you to manage all of your social media activities across a range of platforms within a single administrative dashboard. A number of management applications exist that are either free or available at a low cost. Here are three I recommend.

  • Sprout Social. This application is the one I use for most of my engagement activities. Through it you can publish and schedule updates across social channels, monitor your brand and competition across social channels, engage with Fans and followers, and measure your success with reporting tools. Mobile versions of the application are available for iPhone and Android. Though not free to use, starting at $9.00 per month it fits in small business budgets.
  • Postling. With Postling, you can publish to any of the major social networks, schedule posts in advance, stay on top of comments, and monitor mentions of your brand across the web. It, too, is not free, but costs as little $5.00 per month. Postling also has an iPhone app.
  • TweetDeck. Though TweetDeck is for Twitter use, you can post to other social networks, as well. Like Sprout Social and Postling, you can schedule posts and manage comments. It lacks the analytics capabilities provided by the other two, however. The best part about using TweetDeck is that it is free. TweetDeck is available on nearly every mobile platform including iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry.

Social media management applications enable you to oversee the entire social media engagement process. They serve as a single source for content creation and scheduling, automate the process of content syndication, and make it easy to manage social media channels and engagement activities.

3. Create Engaging Content

Effective social media marketing is driven by content, which can include any of the following:

  • Facebook status updates;
  • Twitter tweets;
  • Videos;
  • Photos;
  • Blog posts.

Focus on creating content that stimulates engagement, whether that’s educational, entertaining or promotional in nature. One way to be certain if content meets that criteria is through comments, Likes, shares and retweets of your messages. If it resonates with Fans and followers, you’ll know it.

Here are four recommendations for creating content.

  • Keep it short. Facebook posts should be no longer than 250 characters. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters.
  • Use questions and fill in the blank posts. These stimulate engagement and encourage response.
  • Provide exclusive special offers, discounts and coupons. One of the main reasons people follow companies on social networks is to receive special targeted offers. “Fan-first,” “Fan only,” and “exclusive” are watchwords for marketing via the social web. A new type of Facebook ad called “Offers” — I addressed it here previously, at“Facebook Launches Offers for Facebook Pages” — is a no-cost way to implement such promotions
  • Use videos and photos. Consumers enjoy videos and photos. Facebook’s new Timeline interface is much more visual than previous versions, and Twitter has taken strides to make it easier to view videos and photos within its interface, as well. Of course, Pinterest is uniquely visual. This type of content stimulates more of the senses than just the written word. Use it whenever possible.
4. Determine Posting Frequency

How often you post depends on the social networks you use. For example, you can limit Facebook posts to two or three per week, but post to Twitter more frequency, as often as two or three times per day.

Many retailers find that posting between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. works best. Keep in mind that social media management tools like those mentioned above enable you to set aside time when it is available to schedule posts for weeks or even months in advance.

5. Spend 30 Minutes Daily Responding to Comments and Questions

If possible, spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon responding to comments and questions from Fans and followers. Using mobile versions of the social media management applications previously mentioned above enables social interaction from anywhere.

Wrapping Up

There is much more to social media marketing than I have just described. But this should be sufficient to get you started without a significant investment of time or money. If you are even more strapped for time than what this plan requires, start with one channel — I recommend Facebook or Twitter — and add others as time permits. Start small and build from there. You can’t go wrong with that.

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In a crowded online marketplace where smaller retailers are forced to vie against large ones, creating useful content is one way to garner consumer attention and trust. This is especially true when it comes to attracting prospects in social media.

At the recent Dreamforce 2012 conference, sponsored by Salesforce, Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford Motor Company, said, “Content is the currency of social.” What Monty was saying is that successful social media marketing involves creating content that engages consumers, stimulates dialogue, and evokes a response.

In this article I outline four steps to create an effective social media content marketing strategy.

  • Content Focus
  • Content Type
  • Posting Frequency
  • Content Calendar
1. Determine Content Focus

Content needs to have a focus in terms of the topics you plan to cover and the tone it will take. Here are some pointers for determining that focus.

  • Stimulate engagement. It could be educational, entertaining, inspirational, or promotional. Likely it should contain elements of all four.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and thought leadership. One way to garner trust is by establishing yourself or your company as an expert.
  • Consistent with the mission and culture of your business. You don’t want content that is out of step with your company’s character, image, and personality — it would come across as not authentic.

A commonly accepted practice is to use the 70/20/10 rule.

  • 70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interests and needs. This can be accomplished through how-to tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to helpful resources. Ask yourself, “Would I find this content helpful?” If the answer is yes, then it’s probable others will too.
  • 20 percent of content should be “OPC” — other people’s content. That mandates a willingness to allow user-generated content on social channels you manage, such as a Facebook page. This gives your customers a sense of ownership in the conversation and serves to foster trust.
  • 10 percent of content should be promotional. If you are willing to focus 90 percent of your content on others, then, hopefully, no one will complain when 1/10th of it calls attention to your products and services.
2. Determine Content Type

Depending on the channel, social media content can take many forms: blog posts, tweets, status updates, contests, quizzes, poll questions, infographics, videos, and photos.

Due Pinterest and Instagram, social media has become increasingly visual. So the use of video and photo images should be a major consideration. Not only does it appeal to different learning styles, but photos and video make it easier for customers and prospects to get a feel for who you are and what you do.

3. Determine Posting Frequency

After you have decided on the content’s focus and type, determine how often you can post updates. Here are a couple of tips.

  • Post at the optimal time. By this I mean post on the days and times when you are most likely to receive responses in the form of Likes, comments and shares. Many retailers find that posting between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. works best. Edge Rank Checker is a tool that can help you determine the best times to post on Facebook. Also, use Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to determine optimum posting times.
  • Put important points first. Express your core message within the first 90 characters, as longer messages might be truncated.
4. Create a Content Calendar

Once you know the focus and types of content you want to produce, and determine the posting frequency, the next step is to develop a calendar to schedule your posts. Calendars can be created on a weekly or monthly basis.

Content calendars can be developed using a spreadsheet. But I prefer a social media management application, for three reasons.

  • Such applications serve as the single source for content creation and scheduling.
  • They automate the process of content distribution and syndication to social networks.
  • They make it easier to administer and manage social media channels and engagement activities, such as responding to comments, identifying new fans and followers, and monitoring conversations about your business and its products.

I recommend the following social media management applications.

Content is Still King

Engaging content can serve your business in a variety of ways. It can:

  • Set you apart from your competition;
  • Help establish you as an expert, and a thought leader;
  • Keep your business top of mind with consumers;
  • Provide the leverage needed to keep your customers coming back time after time.

Think of yourself not only as an ecommerce merchant, but a “media mogul,” as well. Make content the focus of your social media marketing activity. It will likely translate into increased profits.

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Many people think that once they register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office that their trademark is valid. However, this is an assumption that can end up creating a false sense of security. Registering your trademark is only half the battle; there are steps that you must take prior to registering your trademark and after your trademark is registered to make sure it remains valid. In this two-part series, I will address ways that your trademark can be invalidated even after it is registered due to issues that arose pre-registration and steps to protect your trademark from invalidation post-registration.

Prior to registration, there are three due diligence steps that must be taken to ensure that you can claim trademark rights in a name. If you have not taken these steps, even if you receive a trademark through the USPTO, it may be invalidated after receiving registration. While these steps cannot 100 percent guarantee that a trademark will not be invalidated after registration for pre-registration issues, following these rules will help reduce the risk.

What Is a Trademark?

Trademarks are words, images, and slogans that are used to market a product or service. When you register a trademark, you registered the proposed mark for a category or categories of products and services. For instance, the Coca-Cola Company has registered the mark “Coke” in multiple categories — for everything from beverages (which is what it is known for) to Christmas ornaments, candy dishes, kitchen timers and lamps. However, there are some companies that have only registered trademarks in one category. For these companies, those that have narrowly tailored their trademark to protect only products and services in one or two categories, other companies could use the same name in other categories as long as the use wasn’t similarly confusing. For example, there is a company that has a trademark on the word “Lyft” for office furniture since 2006. Because office furniture and powder mixes drinks would be hard to confuse, another company was able to get a trademark for “Lyft” for powder drink mixes. In addition, the car-sharing service Lyft also has a trademark registration pending which is neither confusing with office furniture or powder drink mixes, showing how even three companies can claim trademark rights in the same word, but in different categories.

Trademarks are words, images, and slogans that are used to market a product or service. When you register a trademark, you registered the proposed mark for a category or categories of products and services.

When you initially file your trademark, you must have exclusive use of the proposed mark for the categories you file it in and for similar categories. For example, if you are considering registering the name “Apple Computers” to sell computers, you must make sure that no one else is using the name for electronics and similar services prior to registering the trademark. While almost everyone should recognize that Apple is already being used to sell computers, hopefully the name you pick for your trademark will be less obviously in use already.

Determine Availability of Trademark

To ensure that you have exclusive use of your proposed trademark, the first place to start is a search with the USPTO. Through the site’s search, you can type in the name you want to use and see if anyone has already registered it. If someone has registered a similar mark for selling similar items to what you want to sell, you should probably consider getting a new name. If no one is selling similar products with a registered trademark under that name, the second step would be a search online through Google or a similar company to see where the name is being used. Again, if a website comes up where someone is selling items similar to what you want to sell using the name you want, you should probably consider getting a new name.

Search at USPTO.gov to determine availability of a trademark.

Second, after doing the trademark searches, you need to make sure that the name is something that can be trademarked. As the recent case with the Washington Redskins demonstrated, you can lose your trademark, even after it is registered, if your name is disparaging, scandalous, or illegal. To determine if a trademark is disparaging, you have to look at what the meaning of the mark is in relation to the goods and services identified in the registration. For instance, trademarks that are shown to be disparaging to a group of people, such as the word “Redskin,” have been questioned by the USPTO. However, you must look at both the word and the classification of trademark. For instance, the Nittany Corporation holds a trademark on the word “redskin” for canned beans which was never questioned as possibly being disparaging, presumably because the beans in question actually have a red skin and no references to Native Americans were made by the company.

Is It ‘Scandalous’?

To determine if a trademark is scandalous, you must determine if the words or images used in the mark are “shocking to the sense of truth, decency or propriety; disgraceful; offensive; disreputable.” However, like with disparaging trademarks, the USPTO looks at both the word being used and the way in which it is being used. For example, the mark “Fag” was denied for use in conjunction with a literary magazine because it was found to be a “‘derogatory,’ ‘offensive’ or ‘derisive’ word referring to a male homosexual.” Nevertheless, the USPTO allowed the use of the same mark by a separate company for the registration of mechanical products because the derogatory meaning of the word was typically not present in that category and the word was actually derived from the initials of the previous German company that sold the products.

Lastly, you cannot register a trademark that involves something illegal under federal law. With ecommerce, this is most frequently coming into play in the states of Colorado and Washington, as they have legalized marijuana. If you have a website that sells items that are associated with illegal drugs, then typically you are unable to get a trademark on the marks used on that site. Additionally, this can come up with companies that have Internet gambling sites and companies that merely provide services to medical and retail marijuana stores.

There is a fine line between providing illegal services and simply providing information, though. For instance, there is a trademark on “High Times” as it only provides information through multiple platforms about marijuana and marijuana culture. However, sites that specifically promote the sale of items to consume marijuana or that use names implying that marijuana is included in the ingredients often come under scrutiny and typically are denied.

If you have determined from your searches that there is no prior use and that your proposed mark and goods that your mark is going to be used for is not disparaging, scandalous, or illegal, then the next step is to talk to a trademark attorney. Your trademark attorney can have a more thorough search performed to ensure that you are the only one using the name and give guidance on if there are any issues that may come up after applying for registration. Stay tuned for next month’s article on how to protect your trademark after you receive it.

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Do you think you know how consumers search for your brand and products in Google? If you haven’t done your keyword research, you’re probably wrong. This is the third installment of my “SEO 101″ series, following Part 1: What Is SEO? and “Part 2: Benefits of SEO.”

Keyword research is the process of discovering how consumers search for the products you sell. The words they use are keywords that search marketers can use to drive new and repeat customers to a site.

How Do Consumers Describe your Products?

Using prospective customers’ language in the content on your site gives you the opportunity to market to them. The contextual match between what they want and what search engines think you have helps determine if search engines rank your site, or your competitors’.

Using your company’s internal marketing jargon and internal view of your products and brands means that the majority of people who see your site in search results will be internal — i.e., associated with your company.

Using your company’s internal marketing jargon and internal view of your products and brands means that the majority of people who see your site in search results will be internal — i.e., associated with your company.

Your future customers want something when they enter a search query into Google’s or Bing’s search box. Sometimes consumers are extremely specific and use product keywords like “parker pen refill 12757-2,” and other times they’re incredibly vague and search for concepts like “fine writing instruments.”

Marketers presume that because they spend their entire day focused on concepts like “fine writing” that searchers use those words as well. They don’t. At least not in the massive volume that they search for product types like “fountain pen.”

Here’s a case in point. According to the Google Keyword Planner, the phrase “fountain pen” is searched in Google 22,200 times a month on average. “Fine writing” draws 70 searches on average.

If you’re focused on “fine writing” and your site uses primarily “fine writing” keywords for search engine optimization, you may completely miss the opportunity to meet and market to 22,000 potential new customers in organic search results who search for “fountain pens.”

How to Start Keyword Research

The first step to optimizing your site’s content and architecture for the SEO keywords your prospects use is keyword research. This sounds easy because all you have to do is paste some words into a keyword tool, press a button, and keywords come out the other side.

The old adage that developers use applies to keyword research as well: “Garbage in, garbage out.” Methodical planning and preparation of the data that you enter into the keyword research tool will yield superior results in the output. The keyword data will be more complete and will contain more suggestions for keywords that you hadn’t even thought of.

Start by collecting SEO keyword seeds, single words that make up potential SEO keywords. For example, if you think people search for “fountain pen,” you’d break that SEO keyword into two seeds: “fountain” and “pen.” In the next step, we’ll combine these seeds together in different ways to feed into the keyword tool.

Your site’s navigation is a good place to start collecting seeds. Copy and paste the words in your navigation into an Excel spreadsheet. Then go through and separate the phrases so that each cell contains a single word. The nouns and verbs will typically be useful seeds. Adjectives and adverbs will usually be useful as modifying seeds, and everything else is probably extraneous.

For example, if your phrase is “black and blue ink,” “ink” is your main seed – there will be many ink-related SEO keywords. “Black” and “blue” are modifying seeds as we’re only interested in colors as relate to pens. If you use “blue” as a primary seed you’ll get irrelevant keywords back like “blue jeans.” The word “and” is extraneous and can be deleted from the seed list.

Determine Important Keywords

After combing through your own site’s navigation, check the navigation on your competitors’ sites. Check their title tags — they’re probably using the keywords they want to rank for there. Do a couple of Google searches to see which keywords the sites that rank well use. All of these phrases can be broken down into seeds and modifying seeds.

Sort all of your seeds and modifying seeds into two separate lists. You’ll merge the lists together in different ways to generate potential keyword phrases to feed into the keyword research tool.

Why not just feed the original phrases into the tool without bothering to break them down into seeds and recombine them? Because keyword tools are precise. The keyword tool is likely to give you only what you ask for and very close synonyms. If you only feed in the phrases you already use, you’ll get back more of the same phrases you already use. You’ll miss an opportunity to discover new and potentially more valuable phrases that real customers use to find your products.

There are a couple of ways to combine the seeds into new phrases. The keyword tools have a simple combination feature – we’ll cover that in next week’s primer on how to use keyword tools. Merge Words is another option. It’s a site whose only purpose is to accept up to three lists of seeds and output every possible combination of those seeds.

Or you can use Excel’s concatenate formula. I prefer concatenation (i.e., the process of linking words) because it gives me the most flexibility to combine words however I want: A B, B A, A and B, B and A, where to buy B, where to buy A, where to buy A and B, and so on.

For the next installment of this “SEO 101″ series, see “Part 4: Keyword Research Tool Tips.”

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If you’re thinking users of smartphones and tablets do not represent a material part of your ecommerce audience, consider these data points.

  • 29 percent of all U.S. adults own a tablet or e-reader, up from 2 percent three years ago, according to Pew Research.
  • Sales from tablets and smartphones were 8 percent of U.S. ecommerce in early 2012 according to comScore. Later in the year, on Cyber Monday 2012, sales from those devices were nearly 13 percent.
  • Traffic from tablets and smartphones reached 10 percent of the total in 2012, versus 2 percent just three years ago.

Websites that render in their native form on a tablet and smartphone are likely losing sales due to navigation and usability requirements of those devices.

This article addresses steps to ensure your ecommerce site works well for tablet and smartphone users.

Improving Navigation and Usability

Most ecommerce sites use category links and drop down menus to identify products. On a desktop or laptop computer, these paths work well. But on a smartphone or tablet, they can be a headache because click activity is driven from a finger, not a mouse.

Users experience frustration in zooming in to view your path options and by clicking unintended category or utility-type links. Incorrect taps are common as buttons and links are too close to click effectively.

Because mobile users enter your site mainly at the home page, it is best to provide a more path-centric layout that avoids drop menus or detailed category links. Leading retailers such as Amazon take the single column approach for this, as it provides the most simplistic method to the category of products that they seek.

Amazon uses single column navigation for its smartphone-optimized site to make navigation easier for its users.

Amazon uses single column navigation for its smartphone-optimized site to make navigation easier for its users.

Leveraging Responsive Design

As retailers embrace mobile commerce, they need to choose a delivery platform for mobile devices.

The native version of a website will not optimally perform, for the reasons outlined above. An alternative approach is to create a mobile subdomain, such as “m.yoursite.com.” This is more effective for converting mobile sessions as the experience can be tailored for specific devices.

Newegg uses an "m" subdomain for its mobile site.

Newegg uses an “m” subdomain for its mobile site.

However, mobile subdomains require multiple templates — one for the primary desktop site and one for the mobile version. This creates additional development work for site refreshes, category level promotions, and other activities.

An alternative is constructing a responsive design, whereby your ecommerce site — using a single domain — alters its appearance based on the user’s device.

Overstock uses a responsive web design for mobile devices.

Overstock uses a responsive web design for mobile devices.

For a primer, read “Getting Started with Responsive Web Design.” Responsive designs use cascading style sheets with proportion-based grids that adapt the visual layout of an ecommerce store to the specifics of the user’s device. Responsive design is based on three primary components: Dynamic grids, flexible images, and media queries in CSS that detect the size of a user’s screen.

  • Dynamic grids. Allow the viewing panes of your website to maintain proportions and usability within the different viewing areas of smartphones and tablets.
  • Flexible images. Can scale down based on predefined parameters, such as maximum width elements that ensure images render appropriately and do not cause page distortion.
  • Media queries. A CSS command that automatically detects a user’s screen size. Using width, height, and device-to-pixel ratios, CSS media query rules create an optimal mobile experience without having to assemble multiple templates.
Determine the Purpose

Before embarking on your mobile commerce initiative, think strategically. The goals of a user vary greatly by device. Carefully consider what the user is looking to achieve.

For example, consider two different users that may come to your website. One is riding a train with the goal of conducting product research. The other is on a tablet, watching television, contemplating a purchase on that device. These are two significantly different sessions, with different goals. Your website needs to cater to both, both visually and functionally, across all devices and operating systems.

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There are four key ecommerce metrics that determine success. They are:

  1. Understanding lifetime value of a customer;
  2. Monitoring customer satisfaction;
  3. Measuring your sales funnel;
  4. Determining marketing ROI.

The most successful ecommerce brands incorporate these elements whether they realize it or not. If you’re an online retailer just starting or are trying to grow your business, implementing these four metrics will help your business thrive.

1. Understand the Lifetime Value of a Customer

Many companies calculate their return on investment on a single sale. Instead, the ROI should be focused on the lifetime value of the customer. It’s the most accurate measurement of a customer’s economic worth for the company.

To determine a customer’s lifetime value — CLV, or CLTV — consider the following formula.

A customer's lifetime value is calculated using all interactions a customer has with your business.

A customer’s lifetime value is calculated using all interactions a customer has with your business.

To accurately determine the “profit” in the equation, it’s crucial that you measure your inventory and sales margins accurately. Without accurate measurements, it will be impossible to determine CLV, which allows you to determine your actual return on invested capital. To find the average acquisition cost, simply divide your acquisition spending by the number of customers acquired from your marketing campaign. When you plug these values into the CLV formula, you should have a fairly accurate assessment of a customer’s economic value to your company.

Customer lifetime value is significant because it’s more cost effective to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one.

To assess and predict your level of customer retention, consider adding an accurate customer experience metric such as a net promoter score — NPS. With this method, you can determine which consumers are “promoters,” “passives,” and “detractors.” Higher customer satisfaction will usually result in promoters, though many satisfied customers are also “passive.” It’s important to remember that NPS is more than just about the numbers and rankings; it’s an opportunity for your brand to listen and respond to authentic customer feedback. When you understand the satisfaction of your customers, you will be better equipped to determine CLV and thus your return on invested capital.

2. Monitor Customer Satisfaction

Ecommerce offers many tools to understand customers. Whether it’s Google Analytics or your site’s internal software, you can track the demographics, psychographics, purchase history, and drivers behind your visitors. Furthermore, use this information and compare it to your target audience. Are these statistics lining up? How can you change strategy to improve performance?

Many ecommerce businesses that falter have outsourced customer service. It’s best to perform customer service in house. After all, you know more about your business and products than anyone else. Doing it in house shows that you truly care about the customer experience, which is what drives repeat business.

When listening to customers, you can learn:

  • What the experience is actually like from their perspective;
  • Whether customer needs or desires are being met by your current offering;
  • The truth behind the numbers.

Actually listening to a customer’s voice reveals more about the experience than numbers ever can. For instance, a customer might walk into your store, browse your shelves, and then purchase several items. From a numbers perspective, the purchase and transaction was a success.

However, communicating with the customer about the experience might have shown you that he walked into your store to purchase a brand new computer. Since he wasn’t able to find it, he purchased a few small items to prevent a wasted trip, and then went to one of your competitors to get what he needed. From this vantage point, the transaction was a failure. This is why knowing your customer is more important than simply knowing the numbers. The principles in this brick-and-mortar example also apply to ecommerce.

Now that you’ve gathered user information and have established a relationship with customers, it’s time to implement satisfaction metrics. Feedback requests and surveys are good ways to hear firsthand from the customer. Again, using the net promoter score system is a valuable tool to grow your brand. Since NPS measures customers’ satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend your brand, you have a better barometer of measuring word of mouth sales. Use the information to improve performance.

3. Measure the Funnel

Online tools can track customer information. But they can also measure the sales funnel. Use Advanced Segments on Google Analytics to measure:

  • Landing pages;
  • Conversion rates;
  • Types of visitors.

To ensure that your landing page is successful, make sure that the bulk of your important information is “above the fold.” The call-to-action and purpose should be apparent to the visitor without the need to navigate anywhere. By keeping navigation simple, your visitors are focused and will journey through the conversion path that you’ve created.

Practice A/B testing to determine helpful improvements. Perhaps resizing an image or repurposing a button is all that’s separating a dead page from incredible conversion rates. In short, clarity, headlines, large “red” buttons, and calls-to-action are all elements that will greatly enhance the effectiveness of your landing page.

Determining how people stumbled into your site in the first place can tell you a lot about your marketing efforts. Are you successful with search engine optimization? What keywords are people searching to find you? Are they “searchers,” “comparers,” “researchers,” or “advice-seekers”?

4. Determine the Marketing ROI

Ecommerce sites typically rely on search engine marketing, affiliate marketing, and more to gain visibility and traffic. Calculate the margin per order and the customer’s lifetime value. Again, the mistake most ecommerce companies make is to calculate return on investment on one purchase instead of lifetime value. For repeat business, base the calculations using CLV for a more accurate prediction. Determining marketing ROI will let you know the status of your marketing efforts as well as how you can improve.

To calculate this, use the following formula.

Determining ROI helps you improve marketing efforts.

Determining ROI helps you improve marketing efforts.

Dividing “Acquisition Spending” by the “Number of Customers Acquired” will give you your acquisition cost. By comparing this with the customer lifetime value, you can check whether your CLV is lower, the same as, or higher than your average acquisition cost. Once you know your marketing ROI, continue tweaking it for the results you desire.


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