Monday, January 4, 2010

Guidelines for Effective eCommerce Solutions

by Richard Kacerek

Anyone who wants to set up an online business should be familiar with terms such as online shopping carts and e-commerce websites. There are a large number of solutions to choose from to boost your online business. We will provide you with guidelines that will help you in selecting the most effective e-commerce solution.

Table-less XHTML and CSS design

XHTML coding along with CSS shrinks the webpage code by up to 60%. This is a huge advantage as your client does not have to waste valuable time, waiting for each webpage to load. Average statistics prove that people do not wait for a site to load for more than 3-4 seconds. This coding standard also makes your site ready for new browser versions, ensuring flawless usage across various platforms.

W3C valid coding

Whether valid coding influences the search result on a searched for site is a point which is still under debate. Based on our practice and experience, we believe it does. After purchasing a fresh new domain, a valid W3C coding helped in attaining top search result positions and increased web traffic over Google. This was achieved after just 2 weeks! There are many sites we built using W3C coding and all the sites always performed better.

Product pages and category views

Category views or listing pages are important for both the visitor and the search engine. Quick and comprehensive navigation through the site is crucial. The description of categories should be simple and preferably of few words. This enables the visitor to view the site with ease.

Automatic head tags changes

Each product should have its own descriptive page. Avoid the implementation of pop-up Java scripted windows with HTML code as well as images as they cannot be read by search engines. Moreover, visitors find them annoying especially if they do not have options of installing special plug-ins or even if they simply choose not to install.

Each product page should have distinct head tags with automatic change script. Title and description tags are the most important parts of a well optimised site which is embedded with keywords.

Search engine friendly URL addresses

Many web sites have URL addresses like:

../product.php?product_id=1645&dsny_ctgy_type=newCat

  Though it is a valid URL, it is not search engine friendly. Preference should be given to include a category or product name. This feature is usually easy to set up using mod-rewrite (modification on Apache server).

It can look like:

../computer-hardware/keyboards/microsoft-natural-keyboard-elite.html

Including descriptive words in the URL will definitely generate better results. Accessibility (Non JavaScript, Navigations, Art)

Meeting accessibility rules can be a very difficult task in e-commerce sites. Search engines cannot read java scripted menus, image pop-ups and other flash images that people use to jazz up their site. Simplicity makes your products sell, not the amount of features incorporated in the site.

Web statistics and analyses

Probably the second most important part of SEO is analyzing your web traffic and monitoring your site. There are many free web statistic software packages available. You can increase your sales by responding in time. You can display links of the products that are doing well in the market on your pages. 

Unnecessary features

Avoid embedding your site with a ray of features that have practically little or no use. Always judge which features are useful and profitable to you and which are not. A handy feature would be notification via email, for example.

Flawless order process without registration

  There is nothing more frustrating than to shop on an e-commerce site, add products to the cart and then discover that there is a registration needed to purchase them, and when you actually get registered, all the items from the cart are gone. Registration of a visitor is not obligatory. Make registration an optional choice and also give priority to quick checkout. This will definitely boost sales.

SSL and IP address

SSL certification is a secure way for your client to communicate with your site. An average user cannot make out the difference in the browsers. But everybody keeps an eye out for the "little lock" symbol. To add even more security assurance, you should place a SSL certification on every site. This logo should be clearly visible too.

IP address is an identification number. There can be numerous sites using one IP address (shared hosting). But if you possess a SSL, a dedicated unique IP is a must. It is also believed to be beneficial for search results. Site Search

An excellent e-commerce website always has a search facility. You need to give your clients the option to find what they are looking for in the fewest possible clicks. It is very frustrating to locate products on a website. If you are offering a certain product; you may not wish to lose a client simply because he couldn't locate that product on your site. If visitors need a product, you provide it to them.

Finally, always remember to mention delivery details. Create an info page where clients can have a clear idea about how much the total order will amount to. Also mention terms and conditions of sales and a telephone number or email address where clients can verify their queries. Look at your store and ask yourself - would you buy anything from your store? You may also get your friends to browse the store, make a few sample orders, and give you some feedback.

About the Author

Richard Kacerek, CEO Empire Elements, Ltd.

http://www.empire-elements.co.uk/services/