We have created this piece to help you to evaluate the areas in which 2016 was not as successful or profitable for your business as you originally hoped. Looking at your website performance as the sole catalyst.

For your eCommerce store, there are a particular set of skills and areas that must work seamlessly in order to create the perfect experience for your visitors. We go into detail for the 10 most common issues holding website performance back, if you are concerned that you could be privy to any of these issues then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Mobile Responsiveness

We have said it before and we will say it again!

It used to be that all design and functionality revolved around desktop users. Now the statistics clearly show more shoppers are browsing and buying from websites using a mobile device. If your site is not mobile responsive you could be missing out on potential sales. There are two things to consider here:

Can people convert when using their mobiles – can they see the images and text, scroll through pages easily, find the “buy now” button, go through the checkout process seamlessly, touch their screens to navigate without catching the wrong buttons, get past pop-ups, reach your products easily, and go back to the homepage or category pages without any hassle?
Can your site be found when people put in searches on their devices? Google dilutes the rankings of sites that are not mobile responsive because those sites are not satisfying user intent. They cannot be sure you can give the customer what they want so Google simply does not prioritise you at the search stage.
To check if your website is mobile responsive you could use these tools to check:

https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly

https://www.bing.com/webmaster/tools/mobile-friendliness

Since Google’s algorithm change last February and May, it is now a necessity that your site is mobile responsive!

Visibility For Searchers

We see this problem a lot, if you enter the exact URL into a search engine you will discover your website, however, it does not show up for the key terms related to your business. This could be because you have done no SEO in a competitive arena or you have a technical issue with your site. There are lots of reasons why your site might not be ranking but these are the five most common:

Have you unticked the box stopping Google from indexing your site? This is more common that you might think. If you are not telling the robots to search your site they won’t. (WordPress)
Have you done thorough keyword research and checked what terms are hard to rank for and where you could position your site? Volumes tell you how hard those keywords will be to rank your site for. Anything under 100 will be far easier than words above that number.More successful sites can look at keywords over 1,000 but for all other sites, you should aim below a 500 volume. Assigning a separate keyword to each page and continuing that for the category, subcategory and product pages. It’s a delicate science.
Is there duplicate copy on your site? Using manufacturer’s descriptions, copying content from competitor sites or having the same copy over multiple pages will damage your rankings.
Have you built backlinks and talked about your website/brand in other places on the web? Your off-page strategy is just as important as your on-page strategy so make sure you are earning links to your site in the right places.
Is your website sending strong signals to Google across the board to increase your search rankings? Meaning, do you have a healthy bounce rate, conversion rate, are people spending plenty of time on your site and going to lots of pages because it is easy to navigate? If you have positive stats in these areas then Google will know that your website is answering user intent and that customers will be satisfied by finding it in the search results they deliver.
Appealing To Your Audience

This is a tricky area because how do you know what will appeal to an individual? We can design and structure our websites based on personas that we have created from research and a detailed understanding of our sector but the best metrics come from how well it performs. If you have a high bounce rate, low pages per session, low average session duration, or low conversions then your user experience is likely poor.

If you are happy with the aesthetics of your site but it simply is not converting then something may not be working. You need to look at your website performance entirely from your audience’s perspective.

The key to appealing to your audience is also satisfying search enquiries. It is common for business owners to use industry terminology to steer the language they use. A more conversational tone and extensive keyword research will help tailor your copy to the expectations of your audience. You must answer their queries as they will then invest in what you have to say. Local SEO is key to this if you have a store location or a location-specific offering like Lincolnshire sausages you should engage with local blogs, directories and encourage word of mouth online with Google reviews. Google My Business page should have up to date information, your exact number, address and postcode, link to your website and your YouTube account.

The imagery on your My Business Page gives you the opportunity to showcase your store and encourage online sales alongside local footfall.

Website’s Ease Of Use

Ease of use is something we do not notice when the developer has got it right. It is when we find sites clunky, hard to navigate on mobile or just entirely different to the standard shopping experience. Your audience favours enticing design and eye-catching graphics and they gel better with familiar, standard navigation practices. Be sure that you follow these steps:

A menu that has your top landing pages on it – easy to find that way
Calls to action on the right-hand side of the page – basket buttons
Cart and shopping basket in the top right-hand corner
Related products, reviews and also “recently bought” on product pages to inform customer journey
Clear navigation from categories to subcategories to sub-sub-categories to product pages
Search bar top of the page that stands out
These are the core areas to satisfy and there are also small tweaks that can considerably change the usability of your site: easily enlargeable product images, bullet point product descriptions, breadcrumb navigation, front and centre special offers, logical internal linking system, and image-driven design (but don’t forget about the copy for SEO purposes).

Convert Visitors

You have created a website that you love but you need to know if it works. There are two ways to do that:

Google Analytics
Search Console
You have to measure what works well and what doesn’t. The key metrics you need to be looking at are:

Conversion rate
Number of conversions
Organic Traffic
Bounce rate
Pages/Session
Average session duration
Devices
These are the minimum points of reference but will help with the top level return of your website. You can then drill into the content looking at landing pages, exit rates and the channels they came via (eg. social media > organic > direct > conversion). This is known as attribution information and is very valuable when it comes to optimising the right pages.

Pricey Products

This is a simple yet crucial point as a large section of the customer journey involves research. Visitors tends to copy the product name, dropping it into Google and to see if they can find it cheaper. Are your products too expensive? That will hold you back if you have the scope to be more competitive. It’s as simple as that.

Attractiveness

It is important that a website looks good as well as having all the essential functionality. A lot of web developers and business owners get hung up on looks, looks are not everything. Firstly, aesthetics should never take priority over functionality and secondly, design is subjective, you must know what your audience expects and wants to see when you are making decisions on design. It is essential that fonts, colours and themes are consistent across your site. This means that your visitors are able to flow through your site without getting confused or leaving the site.

Correct Information

It is important to have the correct information on your website for a variety of reasons. Not only to tell the users what you do but also encourage them to convert with useful and persuasive content. Users and search engines should both be taken into account when writing copy for your website, do not make the mistake of thinking your product speaks for itself, ensure every page has the correct amount of relevant copy on it, to avoid a penalty. The language used across your website needs to be simple and understandable to everyone, you work in your industry every day so understand the technical jargon but your customers might not.

Your product descriptions need to be enticing and original; unique descriptions make your products stand out to users but also to search engines, creating great SEO benefits. Accuracy and making sure they are different to the generic manufacturer’s descriptions everyone uses is tough but essential. The correct delivery and returns information needs to be given otherwise this can look unreliable and can potentially lose you a sale. Informational pieces that answer common questions from your audience can bring in traffic to your site, this can be captured in a range of content types such as blogs, downloadable PDFs, and flipbooks.

Site Speed

Another element that we have spoken about before and will speak about again, site speed.

You can test your site speed using a range of tools but the one we recommend is G T Metrix. Site speed is so important these days because we are impatient when we browse websites and shop. Loading time is a major factor when it comes to page abandonment.

“A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions” (source)

You can often address certain elements of site speed without having to contact your web developer. A little knowledge on plugins, particularly if using WordPress, can go a long way. You should:

Optimise images by installing a plugin that will resize the images for you – always use plugins that are reviewed favourably and are compatible with your theme/platform.
Install a caching plugin which will load pages quicker for those returning to your site and again is relatively simple to install.
Choose a suitable server to host your website on. Do not go for a budget shared server if you can afford better. The server is responsible for a large element of your speed issues and can often cure the issue on its own.
There are more areas that you can tweak but for those you definitely need a web developer. G T Metrix will list out exactly what you need to address and will give you meticulous specifics. Refer to those when discussing with your web developer and make sure nobody does anything they are not entirely comfortable with because once you start playing around with code anything can happen.

Is your site penalised?

It doesn’t matter how much of the above you implement if your website has been penalised by Google. Google hands out penalties and can reduce your search presence for two key infringements. Those two areas are; excessive spammy backlinks and thin or duplicate content. You may have heard of these algorithms, Penguin and Panda. There is also a local SEO algorithm, called Pidgeon, that can dilute your local rankings if you do not have enough local directory listings (relative to national), and have meta and copy that contains local keywords.

The two you need to be aware of and potentially worry about, are Penguin and Panda. Penguin penalises sites that have a large quantity of links coming from irrelevant or spammy sites. Panda penalises sites that have identical content, copied content from other sites or not enough copy. Here is what you need to do if you suspect you have a problem or would simply like to avoid getting one.

If you have Google Analytics (GA) linked to your site then you can use Panguin – a tool that drops your GA data against all of the algorithm updates. You will be able to see if your site’s traffic dropped directly after a Penguin or Panda update, or perhaps a mobile friendly algorithm tweak.
Make sure you have more than 200 words on each page – between 200-300 is a good benchmark and yes, that is on every page.
Make sure you earn your backlinks and do not buy links or fill out an unnatural amount of directories in one day. Have a backlink strategy and add to them regularly and continually.
Always write original content for your website so that Google sees it as fresh and informative and not just a regurgitation of what is there.
Earn backlinks from high domain authority sites as best practice and if you are a local business look for local directories as this gives a boost to your local SEO.
You must also keep an eye on your Search Console data as this will tell you if you have picked up as Google refers to them, a manual penalty. You can also get partial penalties. If you implement what we have recommended above then you will protect yourself against Google’s more sinister side.

Conclusion

We recommend that you check your site for these most common issues when it comes to the functionality of your website, as these are the most likely to be holding your site back from it’s potential. Of course, these are only the tip of the iceberg and there are many different ways in which your website could not be performing as well as it should and if you have any concerns we advise you rule out these 10 areas and if you want to go into more depth look into the possibility of an audit across your website.