Internet Shopping Carts and SEO – A Small Business Guide

Internet shopping carts can be user-friendly, enticing to the eye and abide by every standard for web accessibility and usability going. However, if its target audience is not seeing it, it may as well not exist. This article recommends guidelines you may follow when pursuing efforts to achieve higher rankings for your chosen keywords.

When ranking Internet shopping carts and web portals, the search engines take 3 factors into account: Onpage SEO factors, Accessibility SEO factors and most importantly Off-page SEO factors.

On-Page SEO factors

On-page SEO refers to what can be done on the page of a website to improve its performance in the SERPs for target keywords entered by a user.

By efficiently optimising a website for popular keywords related to the on-page content, a website has a better chance of ranking well for keywords relevant to the content of the site.

Before pursuing SEO strategies like those explained below, it is extremely important to get your keyword strategy right. When selecting the right key phrases to optimize each page on a website for it is necessary to start with what your targeted visitors would type in. While broad phrases such as ‘watches’ may bring more traffic to a shopping cart selling watches, than more specific keywords such as ‘Leather strap watches’ and ‘Rolex watches’, the traffic will not be as focused and will generally not convert.

More importantly, broad phrases are very competitive – They are extremely hard to rank effectively for. To get your keyword strategy right it is worth doing some research; there’s lots of information available across the web and there’s many tools available to help you with this task.

Once you have a selection of key terms you are happy with, I would recommend analysing the following components on your website with a view of optimising them for your target key terms, taking into account that they should each be relevant to the contents of that page:

1) Title Tags

2) META Tags

3) The anchor text of your internal link structure

4) Heading Tags ( to )

5) URLs

6) Content syndication

It is also very important to frequently add fresh content relevant to your industry to your website. By doing so, the more often your site content changes, the more frequently the search engine spiders will visit your shopping portal. In this case you may think about adding a web blog/ RSS feed to your website.

RSS feeds enable others to syndicate your content and can increase brand awareness. By adding closely themed news regularly to RSS feeds it means search engines are more likely to recognise the sites as being acutely themed.

Accessibility and SEO factors

The goal of accessibility in SEO is to make content accessible to search engines. This refers primarily to the technical ability of search engine spiders to move through your site.

Thankfully, if you design your shopping carts with accessability issues in mind from the start; making your site accessible to web users whom are blind, deaf and viewing your site using text only browsers, you will find you are already practicing effective SEO.

Amongst many, the following components are some of the most important accessibility issues that spring to mind. You may consider taking a look at the W3C guidelines (http://www.w3.org/WAI/), and identifying those that can affect search engine spiders crawling your site.

ALT Tags

By assigning ALT text the search engines will be able to understand your images and thus build up an understanding about the topic of your site.

Sitemaps

A site map provides search engines with access to every main page on your website, and allows them to instantly index your entire site. Sitemaps ‘Autodiscovery’, the new model recently launched by Google, Yahoo and Ask, enables you to submit your content to the search engines universally (http://www.viart.com/shoppingcartsoftware/2007/04/16/sitemaps-made-simple/).

CSS

Search engines favour CSS based sites, and are likely to score them higher in the SERPs because there is a greater ratio of content to code.

Off Page SEO factors

With so many websites and shopping carts interested in ranking well for particular search terms, the search engines have learned that they cannot always rely on a website’s on-page content.

The theory is that if hundreds or thousands of links are pointing to a website your site must be important. If those links are from very popular and trustworthy sites that have thousands of links pointing to them, then their value is multiplied. If a site is deemed popular and authoritative in this way, it has a greater probability of appearing highly in the SERPs for a given search term.

The following strategies outline ways you may generate inbound links from external websites to your shopping carts. While each approach concentrates on generating links for the sole purpose of getting a better search ranking, each technique can also help to drive targeted traffic to a site from other relevant sites.

Article Writing and Distribution

By writing articles and allowing them to be freely published in exchange for a back link, articles have the potential to be re-published multiple times; each time creating another back link to your website.

Press Release Writing and Distribution

By sending news about your company through various channels of distribution it is likely to receive recognition by related sites, and thus be re-published and generate back links.

Press release and article distribution can also help to brand your business as an expert in your field.

Social Media Optimisation

Social media optimisation is quite a complexed subject and does not involve one process like article and press release distribution. In short it refers to optimising your website so it is more interlaced with online communities.

Methods of SMO include syndicating your online content through RSS feeds and enabling means of social interaction, such as bookmarking capabilities. Social bookmarking sites work in a very similar way to your browser favourites functionality. The list of most visited or bookmarked pages appear in the first page of most of the bookmarking web sites. This would give your web site very good exposure.

SMO may also include getting involved in communities that gather on popular website like Flickr and YouTube. If you are able to build up a network of contacts and bloggers, links, traffic and conversions are sure to follow.

In conclusion, there is ample free advice out there in this field that will help you to achieve your shopping cart goals, however there’s no avoiding the fact that SEO is time consuming. As a first step, it is important that you start building your shopping cart using software that supports search engine features.

Internet Shopping – The Buyers and Sellers

The rapid growth of the availability to shop on the Internet is a success story in itself; one that has pushed the UK Internet market to now be worth over £21 billion. Many of us are turning to shopping on the Internet due to its convenience and the increase of choice in products and services that are being offered.

The Internet shopping market in the UK is currently used by over 20 million of us with over a third of this 20 million spending more than £1,000; bringing huge benefits to both customers and businesses.

The Internet has a lot more choice when it comes to the products and services that are on offer. It allows people to shop in places that otherwise they would never get to. It opens the shopping market up and then rips it wide open allowing people to not only purchase goods from anywhere in the UK without even leaving the house; it brings the shopping market of the entire world right to your doorstep meaning you have the opportunity to find some great deals, with an average of between £150 million and £240 million being saved by residents in the UK every year. This is provided that customers use the Internet to its full advantage and shop around for the best deals. If you merely buy from the first website that you visit then the chance of you picking up a bargain is limited. Customers need to use search engines and price comparison sites to their full advantage. They can help you as a customer to make informed choices and save money.

The main barrier that has been found through various studies of Internet shopping is people not having enough trust within the Internet market. Confidence and trust are highly important to the success of this; however due to ‘scare’ stories that people have heard in the media and from word of mouth, many people are avoiding using the Internet as a way of shopping.

More trust needs to be restored in Internet shopping in order for it to continue its success. More needs to be done to protect shoppers and cancellation rights as well as return procedures need to be made more clear and available to customers as many do not even realise that in most cases they have the right to cancel their order.

On many sites the cancellation rights and returns procedures are not always explained in a clear manner and research has shown that even some traders do not clearly understand the legal aspects of how cancellations and returns should be handled.

When it comes to protecting yourself whilst it should be made aware to you that traders can sell from any location in the UK as well as abroad and they can quickly set up or close down their operations due to the rapid pace of technological change, meaning that you should only trade with a business website that is established and preferable you have heard of before.

Internet shopping is however extremely safe and most of us have already experienced the ease and convenience that comes with it.

Internet Shopping Guide!

When shopping on the Internet there are many things to consider, following are some guidelines to keep your experiences a positive one.

Shop online, or brick and mortar!

Many people shop at brick and mortar stores because they feel shipping charges only raise their total cost, however, unless you live in a high density populous like a major city, most often shipping charges cost less than the gasoline required to travel to and back from a brick and mortar store, especially when looking for bargains, which would probably require a stop off at more than two stores for price comparison, and even then when you find the best price, (even if you researched your favorite stores online) you run the risk of a fuel expense only to find your item not in stock, so by the time you actually come home with your item, your fuel expense was probably greater than most fast shipping costs would be. There is also the consideration of time, I live in a rural area where the nearest grocery store is about 12 miles away, and the discount big box retail stores, over 15 miles away, with an average speed limit of 50 mph, it would take approximately 20-25 minutes travel in each direction, around 20 more minutes to identify and locate the specific item(s) in the store, then there is the line at the check out area, depending what time of day/evening you go, it could be as little as 5 minutes and up to 30, as I have waited in check out lines at big box retail stores, so online shopping is not only green, ecologically, but you get more than an hour and a half of your life freed up to do other more desirable activities!

Is it safe to shop online?

Many people still hold on to the idea that online shopping is very risky, however with the implementation of a number of encryption techniques, your personal, and credit card information, is quite secure, but should you still feel a measure of insecurity inputting your credit card information at a website, there are additional steps you can take to insure zero liability on your part. Most credit cards offer a zero liability rider on their cards for any fraudulent charges if you pay a small monthly fee, usually after a 30 – 90 day free trial, in which case any charges that show up on your statement that are not your authorized purchases, will be unconditionally credited back to your card, and an investigation will most likely ensue to try to prevent a recurrence.

Once you get past the apprehension of credit card fraud, there are a number of practices that will ensure a positive experience.

Is the lowest price the best deal?

When price comparing different e-commerce stores there are some things to consider, is the item brand new, refurbished, re-packed, a factory second, or even the name brand that is stated, these are all important factors to consider when comparing prices, and many sites will state what grade of merchandise they carry if it is good for business, for instance, I have seen prices for a specific digital camera range from $99.95 to $279.95 for the exact same camera and the msrp was $229.00, so I ask myself, why so high, or so low, if I choose the lowest price am I getting what I would get if I paid the high price? Well obviously the highest price is not one’s first choice, but here are some answers, the higher prices might be due to a poor choice of wholesaler or distributor, or a lack of buying power due to low volume sales, or a high overhead that needs to be considered by the merchant, or maybe they are also brick and mortar store and do not want to severely undercut the prices in the actual store with their online prices. Now when evaluating low prices consider buying American made, because there are a number of foreign manufacturers that produce cheap knock offs of the original, which are available at much lower prices than their American counterparts, also check the item listing for very small,(fine print) or similar colored text (almost invisible), stating that it is either refurbished or a factory second, and when buying branded items make sure the item picture reflects the advertised brand name, and is not an inferior knock off, this happens most when shopping for accessories like picture cards, removable mass storage devices, and other types of digital media, and similar accessories.

Something else to look out for is the price of shipping, and the geographical location of merchant, for instance, compare the shipping charges for the same item on a few sites, that are located in the same area, if one price is much higher, they might be advertising a low price but make it up in the way of a handling charge added to the shipping charge, also if you narrowed down your choice of sites to just a few, then buy from the one geographically close, which will minimize the shipping charge, an example would be if you live in California, and your narrowed down sites are located in New York, Dallas, and Seattle, the lowest shipping charges would likely be from Seattle, now if there is a site also in California, you might still consider the Seattle site to save on sales tax, provided the company does not also have a physical store in California as well, because then they will also be required to charge sales tax, on the positive side, some merchants might show extremely low prices on items that have been discontinued by the manufacturer, and the merchants want to move excess inventory before they lose their profit margin all together, so checking with the manufacturer, if the item is current, will explain such a low price, or they might be a “wholesale to the public” type merchant with tremendous buying power, and warehouse space in which case the savings are passed to you, another explanation for low prices can be the use of drop shippers, and warehouse co-ops, which reduces the overhead for online merchants because they do not need to tie up thousands of dollars in inventory to make minimums, and the expense to house that inventory, all of which can contribute to lower prices, along with being in a very competitive retail venue.

Feedback and ratings!

There are many opportunities to give feedback or rate your experience with a site. What do you choose, a highly rated store with higher prices, or a store with little or no rating with lower prices, well I for one have many times, passed on offering a rating, by not responding to the email sent, just because of the lack of time, so these should be considered on the lighter side, for instance, a high number of ratings may not all be positive, or they might have lost sight of a customers value because business is so good they no longer feel the need to go the extra mile to make or keep a satisfied customer, on the other hand, no ratings at all might only mean it is a reasonably new store and has not received the customer count of the big guys, but my thought is this, give the little guy a shot, in their pursuit of sales they are more likely to go the extra mile to win over a customer, and possibly offer an incentive to return to them for future purchases.

How to search for your purchase!

I would recommend getting as much information about a product or products from the original manufacturer’s website, they usually offer the most comprehensive information about their products and usually a suggested retail price, but generally do not sell direct, but instead provide a list of sites you can purchase from, with that said, consider this, after visiting the manufacturer’s site you probably made the decision as to which product model you want to purchase, when doing a search engine search, include the make and model in your search query, rather then a general search term like “fish finder” or “digital camera” this will accomplish a few things, first it will reduce the number of results, and make the results you do get the most relevant, then search engines usually, under these circumstances, will provide a “price compare” link, for instance Google will provide Froogle results, or a Yahoo! Search might provide a Yahoo! Shopping link to a price compared list of possible merchants, and then there are the links like Shopzilla, Price grabber, Next tag, or shop.com, to name a few, these links all provide easy access to price comparing, but be advised that many of these results are “sponsored” which means merchants paid to show up in that search result, and may not be the only relevant sites to choose from!

Where do I go to shop for many items?

Many e-commerce sites are pretty specialized, in as much as they offer a comprehensive selection of the type of merchandise they specialize in, a metal detector store for metal detectors and accessories, or a camera store for digital cameras, picture cards, and batteries, etcetera. Although these stores often have the most competitive prices they might not be your best choice when shopping for many different items, that’s where your Internet department stores might be a better choice, and I will tell you why, if you were to buy a metal detector for your Nephew, and a digital camera for your Mom, and a GPS fish finder for your Dad, and a paintball gun for your Brother, and some jewelry for your Niece, buying these items each from a different store will not be as cost efficient as taking some time to find a department type store that has all these different items for offer, even if their prices are a little bit higher, because all the shipping will be calculated by the total weight of the order, not rounding up each item to the next whole pound as when purchased from separate stores.

May all your Internet shopping experiences be positive ones!

Internet Shopping is So Much More Relaxing

Just pour yourself an iced tea and slip into your bunny slippers and start clicking!

Online shopping gives you the luxury of browsing hundreds of stores from your living room, while saving on time and frustration. It provides you the chance to compare prices to your heart’s delight on a near limitless selection of brands and models.

Internet shopping is having hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options at fingertips where comparison shopping is at its finest. No more driving from one mall to another, no more endless hours looking for just the right “thing” to wear, or walking circles in the mall. And online shopping is growing in popularity at increased speeds. With the ease of wireless connections, consumers are finding that logging on and spending hours browsing and price comparing is easier than it once was.

Consumers are attracted to malls because of the presence of well-known anchors-department stores with recognized names. Anchors generate mall traffic that indirectly increases the sales of lesser-known mall stores.

With respect to product perceptions, consumers were impressed by the breadth of stores on the World Wide Web. The shopping experience was reported to be generally enjoyable. Consumers also reported that they could perceive the potential for time savings and reduced effort compared with traditional forms of shopping.

Discount shopping is the latest tool and the consumer is the real winner in it all. It is easy if you know where to look. For example, one of the most popular places for shopping specials is an online discount shopping mall. Discount shopping is buying things below normal retail price and means buying things at or below wholesale price.

The online discount shopping mall features many discount stores, find bargains from gifts to makeup and save on books, printer ink cartridges, cosmetics and fine jewelry. Shop for airline tickets, hotels and travel deals.

The discount shopping mall provide a valuable buy for your family and friends, a unique gift store below retail prices. The mall brings consumers and retailers together to benefit from each other. Individual consumers are joined together to form a vast buyer’s cooperative, thereby gaining tremendous consolidated buying power so that the members of the mall may purchase products and services at the lowest possible cost

The discount shopping mall offers a larger number of merchants coupled with the ability to shop and redeem cash back. It allows consumers to earn money for college, retirement, travel or shopping, and provides participating businesses with a loyal supportive clientele. The discount shopping mall will develop a private branded web mall to use in conjunction with its rewards cards. The new mall will offer members an opportunity to shop online at over 5000 international merchants, earning rebates, discounts and cash value rewards for themselves. In keeping with discount shopping malls’ mission, the program will allow for all cardholders to participate in making money activities through their everyday purchases. The program provides an additional vehicle for continuity, customer loyalty, cash back opportunities to the discount shopping malls’ existing member base as well as a value-added benefit to potential new cardholders.

Save on time, money and frustration: just pour yourself an iced tea and slip into your bunny slippers and start clicking!