How to Set Up Your Online Store for Success

by Sarah Craig

This is a guest post from our friends at PickFU, a split-testing, optimization and market feedback platform.

When it comes to optimizing an e-commerce store, you’ll find pages of results full of keyword software, data on search trends, and consultants making a pitch. But what all of these resources often leave out is that there is are two audiences you need to tailor and optimize your online store for: algorithms and real people. 

Of course, Google, Amazon, and the rest are crucially important to how you rank. But don’t make the mistake of over-optimizing for the bots and crawlers without considering what actual shoppers will be drawn to.

Remember that the signals from people and search engines reinforce each other. If a marketplace features your listing prominently, more people will look at it. That’s how most software approaches the issue. But if those people look at your listing and then go away, search engines will lower your ranking. Conversely, if lots of people look at and go on to buy your product, the search engines take notice and will rank your listing higher. It works both ways, hence the need to appeal to both audiences. 

Here are a few ways to set up and optimize your online store to be successful with search engines and real people.

Create memorable brand names for your products and store

Page titles are the perfect example of why it’s important to target two different audiences. 

Search engines think in keywords and straightforward descriptors of what a product is or does. But people are drawn to brand names that are short, catchy, and distinct. If you’re lucky enough to have customers talk about you or recommend your store or product to a friend, this brand name is how they’re going to do it. 

That’s why when you look at successful stores and online product listings, the page title usually combines both a product name and relevant search keywords. 

The keywords are the easy part. But how do you know if your brand name is strong? 

Naming your store and its products is not an exercise you want to tackle alone. As you ideate possible names, it’s important to get outside perspectives. People who aren’t as close to your project often uncover unintended associations you didn’t see or anticipate. By asking 50 or 100 people what they think about your product or store name, you’ll get a sense of whether you’re headed in the right direction, or whether it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Getting those 50 or 100 reactions is easy with instant polling software like PickFu. With PickFu, you can create a survey question in less than a minute, choose the kind of people you want to poll, and the service brings respondents in minutes. 

Optimize your product photos

Product photography is the closest an online customer can come to experience your product before buying it. For this reason, your product photography may very well be the most important element of your listings. Photos must not only convey the physical aspects of your product like materials, color, and size, they should also create desire and emotional appeal that moves the customer from consideration to purchase.

When a shopper performs a search on a marketplace like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon, your product’s main photo may significantly alter its clickthrough rate. Choosing this featured image, therefore, should not be left to chance. 

When the online store Bumblebee Linens tested two product photos, 50 female poll respondents showed a resounding preference for a new photo over the old one. Once the new photo was in place, sales of the item jumped 209%

There are ways to optimize your photos for the search engines, too. File size, naming conventions, and meta information such as alt tags will all help the search engines understand what’s contained in your photos. Learn these 10 image optimization tips and implement them across your site. 

Write original product descriptions

Manufacturer’s product descriptions are duplicated on many sites on the internet, making it almost impossible to rank. Therefore, take the time to create original descriptions that form a cohesive brand voice across multiple products. 

Emphasize an important quality about the product such as craftsmanship, or cultivate a feeling that the product will instill, such as confidence. Answer the most common questions about the product. Study your competitors and include any details you feel their descriptions leave out. Try to overcome customers’ common objections. Don’t simply list product features, but illustrate scenarios where those features will be useful. And, as you’re doing all this, incorporate valuable search keywords throughout each description.

Polling can also be valuable to understand what tone of voice to use. You can hire more than one copywriter to craft descriptions and test them against one another, or you can test your description against a competitor’s. From these tests, you’ll understand what words and phrases are most meaningful to your audience, and if there is any language you should avoid.

Take this example, where a seller of a spherical ice tray asked 50 Amazon Prime members which product description they liked better. Each description was similar in length and discussed the same features. The second option, however, used all-caps to introduce each bullet point, such as “KEEPS DRINKS COLDER FOR LONGER” and “PERFECT FOR THE WHISKEY DRINKER.” Respondents found this description easier to skim and therefore more attention-grabbing. The winning description may now be seen on Amazon, where the product has won the highly-coveted “Amazon’s Choice” status. 

Conclusion: Know your audiences

Whether you’re a new seller or enterprise-level store, remember that search engines don’t buy your products. People do. 

Keyword-stuffed, robotic-sounding, and duplicate content won’t get you far in this eCommerce climate. Search engine optimization is almost the price of entry; people optimization is what creates sales. In order to appeal to people’s desires, make sure you’re getting feedback from them on your brand names, photos, and descriptions. Are they seeing what you intended, or something else entirely? Do they believe you and trust you? Are you doing better at connecting with them than your competitors? The insights that real people provide will guide you in how to set your online store up for success. 

About the Author

Kim Kohatsu is the Director of Marketing at PickFu, an instant polling service that eCommerce sellers use to optimize product listings. With PickFu, online stores can quickly test product photos, description copy, and UI layouts with shoppers who reflect their target demographic, including Amazon Prime members, those within a certain income bracket, or people based on traits such as homeownership, marital status, or exercise habits.

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