English Español Deutsch Français Italiano Português (Brasil) Русский 中文 日本語

How to Optimize Your e-Commerce Store for the Holiday Traffic Surge




Paul Lovell: My name is Paul Lovell, I've got the great honor of hosting this SEMrush webinar. We have some great people like Erik, Peyton, Sam, and Jamie. We're going to be talking about how to optimize your eCommerce store for the holiday traffic surge. 

It's going to be really important for you to understand these little tips and tricks that the guys are going to be sharing and we're going to be talking about it a little bit more in-depth afterwards. 

Erik: Erik Christiansen with Justuno. We are an AI-driven visitor conversion platform based out of San Francisco and Austin, Texas. 

Peyton: Hey everyone, my name is Peyton Welker, I work at Tinuiti which is the largest independent digital marketing agency in North America. I specialize in SEO and I've been doing that for a couple of years now, specifically with helping eCommerce sites with their holiday season, including Fenty Beauty, Rihanna's makeup line, it's a pretty big eCommerce site. 

Sam: Sam Ruchlewicz, vice president at Warschawski. We are a national boutique digital communications agency. I oversee our digital strategy and analytics practices by working with clients in both B2B and B2C spaces, including a number of eCommerce stores. 

Jamie: Hey everyone, my name is Jamie Doerschuck. I'm the owner of the boutique marketing firm, The Doer Co. I've helped clients generate over $10 million since 2018, and I work with clients like Jay Shetty, Jake Paul, Morrison Publishing and Six Sisters to help them get their eCommerce strategies maximized. 

Paul Lovell: That's good. It's a pleasure to be hosting for all of you guys. So yeah, Erik I believe you've got a presentation for us, and you're going to teach everyone how to improve their eCommerce conversions. 

Five Tips to Improve CRO During Holiday Season

Erik: I'm going to introduce five tips to help improve your SEO using CRO this holiday season. With the 2019 holiday season, 56% of consumers are expected to shop online spending an estimated 730 billion, and that's in the US alone. Today we're going to look at how to leverage this increase in website traffic specifically to boost your SEO rankings. So improving your PageRank using CRO. What strategies are we looking at today? 

We're going to help introduce ways to reduce your bounce rate, reduce your exit rate, increase time on-site, increase pages per session and increase sales conversion. All of these factor into a healthy PageRank. 

Tip one; immediately engage your audience. 15% is the number we want to look at here. We're talking about reducing your bounce rate using pop-ups by 15%. This number comes from our 2018 conversion benchmark report. We analyze over 1 billion user sessions over 90 days. 

Example of what we're talking about here would be a full-screen Black Friday takeover, where you're presenting a large discount. This is going to help reduce your bounce rate and increase your average time on-site, which helps your PageRank. 

I have a quick challenge for everyone. I want you to log into your SEMrush dashboard and find the top five keywords you're ranking for that are driving a lot of traffic to your site, then create a separate personalized promotion on those ranking pages, and then on those pages also update the title tag and add descriptions to near the promotion. 

It's a very strategic, advanced dynamic way to engage with their visitors and tie your whole campaign together. It's going to increase your time on-site, reduce bounce rate. 

Product recommendations is tip number two. This a fantastic way to increase your time on-site, increase average pages per session and most importantly for the sales component, higher AOV. 

My pro tip for today is smart to upsell and cross-sell. Working with advanced brands that are willing to kind of push the limits with what they can do, a lot of these direct to consumer product-driven. Work with them to present the right product at the right time to the right customer, it's kind of our slogan with everyone. 

Tip three is be helpful and communicate. This is a very basic one, but just thinking about your own experience shopping, what we're talking about here is shipping thresholds. We're talking about educating the customer on shipping timelines, and in this example, it's exactly what we're doing. 

We're presenting to the visitor, "Hey, last day to get free FedEx two day shipping is December 22nd, but if you're not shopping today, FedEx overnight, the 23rd is going to be your last day." This is going to increase time on-site, increase average pages per session, and once again affecting your PageRank. 

Tip four; create FOMO. We love countdown timers. 22.67% is the sales conversion rate of visitors who engage with a promotion.  I love relating things back to your own life experiences. Think about when you're buying concert tickets. You know that concert is going to sell out, and when you add that ticket to your cart, they give you that countdown timer. It's like, "this ticket is saved for 10 minutes. 

That psychology works across the board. In this case, 17% is the average conversion rate of a visitor who will engage with a promotion but we're adding a good 5% to that just with a countdown timer. Create urgency...urgency in your copy. This is a special offer, so make sure it's a good one. Time left to act, we like to keep it within 24 hours so it seems realistic to the user. Of course, your CTA is always going to be important. 

Tip number five; engaging the exiting visitor. This is like a sitewide standard strategy. It's going to help decrease your bounce rate and decrease your exit rate affecting your PageRank. What I'd like to jump into is not just running a site-wide discount, but let’s personalize these exit offers.

Bonus tip for everyone. Best practices for mobile, we're seeing unbelievable mobile numbers, upwards of 70% for online shopping. This is where we want to make the UX the highest priority. We want to think about these customers in a different way than your desktop customers. We're using more tabs and banners, copies such as tap here versus click here. 

We like to use time delays or scroll percentage triggers to show whatever promotion we have. A trigger on the second page view is actually we found one of the most strategic ways to go about it. And a reminder, with GDPR, opt-in should cover less than 20% of the screen when factoring in GDPR. 

Those are quick five tips hopefully with some advanced use cases you may or may not have thought of. I'm looking forward to hearing some questions and talking with the panel to kind of continue sharing insights for what you can implement during this specific holiday season, it's not too late. 

Best Practices for Effective Pop-Ups

Paul Lovell: That was really insightful, and I'm sure we're going to have lots to talk about. I think one of the things that you went over a lot was pop-ups, so I'll put that out to the other experts that are here to see if anyone else has got any insights into pop-ups and how that can help reduce bounce rate and increase on-site for the users, and obviously conversion as well because that's what's it's all about. 

Jamie: I have a few tips about pop-ups. One thing that I would like to say is that you want to think about customer logic versus marketing logic. When you're writing your pop-ups, try to avoid writing something like, "Sign up now for our newsletter." That's what you want, but I would try to flip flop that and think about what does the customer want. So instead of, "Sign up now for our newsletter," you would want to frame it in the beginning as, "Get discounts and sales by signing up for our newsletter." 

I would look at the button call to action because if it's just saying submit, you're missing some opportunities there. You might want to experiment with using first-person pronouns. Instead of saying, "Get your discount," say, "Get my discount or get my reward." 

Finally, you might want to experiment with a couple of different styles of pop-ups. So we have the traditional call to action photo, like your email kind of thing but there are some other styles where you could click to spin, there are some great plug-ins that will do that for you. This being the winter holiday season, you might even want to try something like an advent calendar. Those are just a few quick tips about pop-ups that I have from a CRO perspective. 

I see a question from John about, "Are these pop-ups only available for Shopify? Are there any plug-ins for WordPress?" There are tons of plug-ins for WordPress. If you wanted to look at the spinning style, you could look at OptinMonster, is a very popular one. Wheelio, Spin-a-Sale, WP Optin Wheel, that's one that's specifically for WordPress OptinSpin. There are plenty more other great ones out there as well. 

Peyton: One thing that I noticed that just really keeps in mind is making sure that these comply with SEO best practices. Making sure that users can easily close out of the pop-ups and it doesn't disrupt user experience. We definitely want to make sure that, yeah, we're improving CRO while also not penalizing ourselves in Google's eyes. 

Jamie: What do you think Peyton about exit-intent pop-ups versus on landing pop-ups? Is one better than the other or what are your thoughts on that? 

Peyton: From an SEO perspective really, we just got to make sure that it doesn't disrupt user experience and that they can easily get out of it.

Erik: What you're talking about is different user flows for essentially a conversion flow. Mapping that journey through their experiences with different promotions throughout the whole process, whether it's a new visitor, paid traffic, organic and really building that workflow. 

Most likely there'll be hit by multiple promotions throughout their user experience, whether it's their first visits, same visit, second visit, item in cart. The journey of that visitor has become quite complex these days where we don't just have simple pop-ups anymore. 2020 is going to be a fun year of mapping that visitor journey. 

Jamie: Would you guys say that from an SEO perspective, you want to avoid things like having five different pop-ups come up at once?

Peyton: Yeah, absolutely.

Jamie: I think they slap you for that now though, don't they?

Peyton: They do, yeah. 

Jamie: There's such a thing as too many pop-ups. 

Peyton: Absolutely; too many pop-ups. All of this definitely applies to mobile. Especially now that Google's got mobile-first index thing rolled out, we want to make sure that pops up aren't disrupting user experience from a mobile perspective and that they can easily click out of it as needed. 

Exit Offers and Coupon Pages

Jamie: Something interesting that I saw the other day actually was that an eCommerce brand had created specifically for their website a coupons page. If you think people are searching your brand discount, your brand online coupons, your brand free shipping, you might want to make your own page on your website. 

Erik: I encourage every single digital marketer to Google your domain name and I guarantee you immediately the search auto results are going to be coupon code or coupon, a variation. Understand what is ranking for those pages and do whatever you can to rank your website up to beat all the affiliate driven sites. 

But going back to exit offers, why an exit offer? Everyone coupon-hunts, it's what we do. People coupon hunt and that's where an exit offer comes in. Someone's exiting, hit them with an offer, throw him a bone so they don't have to go coupon hunt. 

Can Chatbots Improve Holiday eCommerce Results?

Jamie: I see a question here about chatbots, do we have any feedback on that? I have some thoughts but I didn't know if anyone else wants to jump in first. 

Sam: I think chatbots are interesting depending on how well yours works. If you have a good chatbot and you can use it kind of as a re-engagement tool or with exit intent or answering questions, if somebody's going through reviews, there's certain behaviors, it's an interesting application. 

Erik: What I love about chat and chatbots, my entire company hears this from me as well, is that if someone's on your website and you have an opportunity to engage them, do it. 

I highly recommend engaging with customers. As we get into marketing automation, chat can get tricky and you have to be careful. Automation and marketing automation, conversion marketing automation...we're still in the infancy of what we're building. The reality is chatbots and chat tools are going to be a phenomenal thing in the future. 

Sam: The one thing I do think is interesting about chats is a lot of times people will ask you the questions they don't find on the website. If you see a consistent pattern in terms of questions on chat, that's usually an indication that people aren't getting those answers, which is an indication that you're failing somewhere else where there's an opportunity for you to improve. That's both a holiday opportunity, but afterwards as well. 

Jamie: I would say as far as chat is concerned, I don't know about you guys, but I'm usually a fan of having my clients utilize the Facebook Messenger platform. The reason being is that you're able to capitalize on people who have asked you a question by not necessarily remarketing to them, but you at least have access to them later to do broadcast messages, which I would say may or may not be available depending on what other types of chat platform you wanted to compare it to. 

Otherwise, with chat, I would just say that's a consideration for what type of industry your eCommerce store is in and how big your brand is exactly. Because let's say that you don't get hundreds, or like if you don't get thousands and thousands of visitors every single day, it might be practical to just start the live chat right away. But like if you're Rihanna selling her makeup, that's not going to be very practical. For larger brands it's not going to be practical to kick it over to live support immediately after the first question. 

I would say that the two big distinguishing categories would be whether you're an information entrepreneur or if you're like a straight consumer product eCommerce business that would affect how you might want to build out your chatbot flows. I can advise from an infopreneur type of perspective that a good way to capture leads in your chatbot is that you might want to create unique chatbot content. 

Even if you're a consumer product, gosh, it would really depend on what exactly you're selling, but you could try to create information-based messaging around the problem that your product solves and implement something like that into a chatbot flow as well. 

Erik: Talking about SEO, why chatbots? It's a great way to engage visitors, keep them on the site. The point of why are people chatting, understanding those reasons. If it's people just being lazy and not wanting to search the website and asking you product questions, maybe it's having a better product recommendation tool to get those products in front of them. 

Improving Website Authority Over the Holiday Season

Paul Lovell: We have got another question coming. I don't know if anyone wants to address this one, it's quite a broad question. It's a pretty much a general SEO on how to improve your domain authority or page authority, whatever metric is your preferred version as that's just the metric from one of the SEO tools for your eCommerce website.

Sam: For holiday traffic specifically...we've had a lot of success if we're going to tease a holiday campaign or holiday promotion, putting that on social, trying to secure links, partnering with key affiliates. There's also all of these on-site optimizations we've been talking about, which will, hopefully in the long term, improve some of those SEO recommendations. 

Jamie: You could consider submitting your product to Product Hunt. You could Google your, I would say, magazines around your industry and see if they're putting together gift guides. You can see what types of articles they've been featured in, in past years and reach out directly to authors of those types of gift guides and stuff like that and reach out to them, give a quick pitch, don't say too much and link out to your store. Those would be some great ways to get backlinks. 

Otherwise I would say probably going back to what we discussed before for improving DA and PA is just like looking at your top-ranking words, trying to incorporate that better into your page headers and your descriptions and stuff like that. 

Erik: Covering the basics of your SEO strategy, right? Links coming back in eCommerce, specifically with the question, your checkout is a HTTPS. Carry that HTTPS all the way through your entire domain, that will help as well I believe. 

Sam: I think for some of our smaller clients, like the Google Business pages is a great opportunity to revisit that to make sure your hours are updated, to make sure that all of your business images, videos, holiday product feed, if you have it, all of those things are updated as well.

Jamie: Jumping off of that, this is the good time to send out some quick email campaigns to, if you're a local business or a local SEO would be a consideration of yours, shoot out some email campaigns asking for reviews because when you can get your Google Business is a good one, Facebook reviews also rank really high. 

This being November would be a great time to space out some campaigns asking your customers to write reviews on these platforms because Google and other search engines like to see the recency in these reviews.

Peyton: Another opportunity there is to go ahead and look at the backlinks that you do have and see if there's spammy sites linking to your site as well, and then there might be an opportunity to disavow those in Google Search Console to basically tell Google not to look at the backlink from the spammy site. It should improve your domain authority as well so that Google's not seeing a relationship between spammy sites and your site. 

Jamie: If you want to get some more backlinks, a really quick way to get some, it's a bit weird I guess, but you could just join your local chamber of commerce and almost all of them have some type of directory that you get to be added into. 

How to Handle Out of Stock Items During Holiday Season

Paul Lovell: Obviously we're talking about people increasing their sales during the holiday seasons and we've got a few key moments coming up for eCommerce sites. Like I said, Black Friday, Christmas and the After Christmas sale. How would you guys advise the viewers here how to handle items when they go out of stock? Ultimately every eCommerce store wants to go out of stock. How would you guys handle that in a dynamic way using pop-ups or whatever?

Jamie: I would say that this is definitely an opportunity to, if you expect to go out of stock in any items, to be sure that you have it set up on your backend, that when a product goes out of stock, you add a, "Would you like to get notifications when this is back in stock?" in a small email capture form. If you don't have that setup yet, this would be a great time to get ahead of the surge and holiday traffic and get that set up. 

Instead of email, you could also utilize a chatbot depending on how involved with the setup of that kind of a flow you want to get. But yeah, I mean, great opportunity for a chatbot or email lead capture with an alert when it's back in stock and an opportunity to recommend similar products that you have. 

Sam: I was actually doing some holiday shopping and they were out and I got a text notification that was back in, which was kind of cool. I actually thought it so that was good.

Erik: That's awesome, right? So SMS is hugely popular right now. This just gets back into thinking about how you're engaging with your visitors and through whatever scenario and having the right tools in place to capture whatever it is you need. 

Fixing Page Speed Issues

Paul Lovell: We're talking about pop-ups, we're talking about bounce rate, we're talking about time on-site. Now all of those metrics all start before the user even lands on your page, so what's your insights on slow loading pages? Then obviously you've then got to take into account of how long the pop-up or your page takeover takes the load as well to engage that user. 

Have you guys had to do with anything like that? I mean, any way of helping sort of like speed up that product page or category page before the pop-up even loads. Then how do we get a pop-up to load quickly as well, because we want to keep those users engaged because we know if there's a slow page they're going to bounce?

Erik: Page speed is critical to SEO. We look at SEO too with our own company and even looking, they're separating out mobile and desktop page speeds. I'm curious if anyone's seeing that their clients where mobile is just ... Mobile scores are so low for across the board with everyone, have you noticed this? 

Sam: Yeah. It's been something I've been dealing with. Like, the last two weeks of my life have been consumed by clients. I think the shameless plug for SEMrush is that their page speed tools and their site crawler... that's been a really fantastic help in terms of giving up some actionable recommendations along with Google's list of things to do in terms of just testing page speeds, making sure that you go over now, resizing images, getting rid of excess code then making the site as mobile-friendly as you can. 

I like the new Page Speed Insights tool from Google to go through and see how our search engine seem in a mobile experience, what's that looking like? Are there issues that I don't know about? 

Erik: There's two things I can share is; one, choosing the right partner. That goes two ways, one; for our own company, we just did a major shift over to Pantheon. We invested a lot of money in this because we believe so much in page speed. Choosing the right partner to host your website is going to be one of the most critical components there. 

Second, in terms of partners, we have a whole development team focused with that in mind of page speed and making sure the technology and platform where you provide for the pop-ups and displays and banners and everything are optimized to the nth degree. The most basic thing you want to look at is, does it allow the rest of the site to load before it shows or displays anything? 

Jamie: I feel like some of the problem is that sometimes we set up our eCommerce store, it looks great on computer, and our thought pretty much stops at, well this is a dynamic theme so it'll just do the thing on mobile. Not really taking that extra step after you get everything all tip-top on desktop to actually dive in and examine what's happening with your mobile and making specific decisions for your mobile website. 

Otherwise, I would say that we should really be looking also at compressing images. E-commerce websites are extremely image-heavy, and usually this is like, I would say with my clients, a low hanging fruit of something that if they're not doing it, we can do it right away and see almost an instantaneous improvement in results. 

But yeah, picking the right partners to host your website is extremely important. I am also a big fan of DreamHost.

Should You Suspend Daily Promotions During Holiday Promotions?

Paul Lovell: Well then, so we have another question coming...and that is, should other daily promotions be suspended whilst the holiday promotions are active to keep the number of pop-ups from being overwhelming or obnoxious? 

Jamie: I can look at it from a whole marketing systems perspective. I definitely agree with what the user posited in their question that, yes, if you have existing pop-ups on your website and you're implementing holiday-specific pop-ups and you feel like you're going to get into popup-ception, then you should definitely pause your irrelevant pop-ups if you're wanting to replace them and implement holiday-specific pop-ups. 

Thinking about it from the back end as far as what exactly is going on with your email sequences or any other type of marketing automation you have, I would say that you should probably look at it on a case by case basis, whether or not you feel like an existing automation flow that you have might present conflicting messages to users who are joining your list during the holiday season. 

Even if you pause your existing welcome sequence and you're going to have an automation flow specific to the holidays, look at your top-performing emails from your existing welcome sequence, drop them in and try to make sure that you're engaging that person once a day for not just right when they subscribed, but two days, three days, five days, a whole week after they sign up to your list. That will just give you the best chances of that person continuing to stay engaged with you on the backend even after the holiday season. 

Erik: Bring it back to brick and mortar. When you go into a mall or go to a car dealership, every holiday, they swap out the banners, swap out the promotions because it works. We want you to think the same way with your online store. Run promotions based off the holidays. It'll make sense to your user and I'll make sense with your marketing team, and think of your website as a dynamic storefront that you really need to nurture and sell from. 

Actionable Takeaways for Optimizing e-Commerce Websites During Holiday Season

Paul Lovell: We've got like just under five minutes now. Just two tips to give to the audience that they're going to be able to sort of take away and actually do something actionable with. 

Sam: I think the first one I would say is, if you are a local business, use this as an opportunity for you to reevaluate your local SEO in addition to your whole website SEO. A lot of people that are going on mobile are doing it with local intent. So just use it as an opportunity to make sure everything's updated, your holiday hours are updated, holiday phones, questions, reviews, et cetera. 

The second tip I'd have is, find ways to use your holiday data year round. Using cohorts in analytics is a fantastic way to understand what the difference is between your holiday traffic versus your regular traffic. Looking at the products view during the holiday versus regular might give you some insight. Looking at questions, asking chatbots. Using what happens during the holiday to make your whole year better, I think is a much better use of your holiday traffic than just trying to sell for the holiday. 

Peyton: First one, I really want to comment on that whole FOMO feeling. I think that's a great thing that you called out in your presentation, I wish we could have talked more about it. But really enticing that FOMO feeling on your website and then off of your website in the search results. Including your unique selling position and the metadata, including call to actions in your meta description.

To add to that as well, making sure that people, when they come to your eCommerce site, even before they get there, they know what they're getting too, so having structured data that's really clear from the search results so you're calling out your reviews and stuff like that. I think that's a really great opportunity, especially for the holiday season to increase conversions. 

Jamie: My first tip involving the holiday season would be to plan for success. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, that means plan your sales now, decide what type of discount you're going to give. Decide is it going to be across your entire store or only on specific products? Decide are you going to create any type of bundles or anything like that? 

This extends past Black Friday and Cyber Monday as well. If you're going to create any unique bundles of products, plan for that in advance. Then...create your retail calendar. Have the exact dates that you're going to be running, your promotions. 

I would also think about additional opportunities because there's other winter holidays besides Christmas. Depending on what your industry is, you might want to introduce Hanukkah Sales, you might want to do something with Kwanzaa and New Year's and New Year's Eve. Especially if you're someone with like a fitness need or language learning, whatever, think about popular New Year's resolutions, this can be a great opportunity for you to kind of jump in on people who are looking to make a change going into the new year. 

My second tip is about maximizing your full sales funnel conversion. Something really important in your conversion rate optimization considerations is something I like to call messaging congruency. So that means that when people see your ad and click through it to your website, they should not be confused. You want to use similar brand colors, you want to make sure that this is what I'm expecting to see. 

The biggest disservice that you could do to yourself as an eCommerce business is to just have like totally disjointed messaging. You want to look at the types of even coloration that you're using on your ads to be sure that nobody is going to wonder if they wound up in the right place after they clicked through your ad. 

When it comes to PPC strategy, I would say that overall, the worst thing that you can do with ads is drop people directly onto your homepage. You'll get a much better sales conversion if you make product-specific ads. You might want to look into carousel too.

Erik: One, I would say be bold during these holidays. It's scary running when you're dealing with the actual live website, it can be really scary. What you do will affect your website, and it can affect it positively or negatively, but unless you take that risk, nothing's going to change. 

Second would be visit Justuno. We have a holiday strategy eBook that is phenomenal. It covers a lot of the stuff we talked about today. And even into January we you have access to inventory, ways to flush all that info that didn't sell. 

Paul Lovell: That's it. That's super. It's been a great pleasure hosting this for you guys.

Sam: Perfect. 

Erik: All right. Well, good luck everyone.

All levels