bounce back after covid header

Since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March, the ecommerce landscape has changed rapidly. All of a sudden, 'non-essential' brick and mortar stores were closed down and customers were forced to fulfil their shopping needs online. If you run an ecommerce store, this is music to your ears, right?

Well, with a massive surge in digital shoppers and increased pressure on supply chains, some ecommerce stores have struggled to keep up with demand while others, like luxury brands, are seeing a significant drop in sales as fewer people have excess cash to splash.

So, while some ecommerce stores are seeing a huge spike in orders, others are falling behind. Wherever your ecommerce business falls on the spectrum, we're sure you're starting to think about your post-lockdown strategy. Here are a few tips to help make sure that your business bounces back after COVID-19.

Think about the context of searches

The way that people search - and the context behind certain queries - has changed over the last few months. It's important that your ecommerce store responds to this shift in intent appropriately to ensure a steady flow of sales. But what do we mean by a change in context?

Let's take, for example, a popular beauty brand like Boots. This time last year, it's likely that Boots had a high volume of traffic from users searching for face masks.

Of course, in this context, people were mostly looking for face masks of the cosmetic variety. With hundreds of skincare brands on offer, Boots was well equipped to give these users what they wanted.

Now, of course, users searching for face masks are probably looking for something completely different: a face covering to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Although the keyword face masks is the same, the intent behind this search has changed.

So how have Boots responded to this? They've added a section to their website that focuses predominantly on face masks and face coverings. This category features prominently on their homepage and ranks highly for the term face mask (as shown below).

Boots search result for face masks

We recommend looking at the keywords and queries that are most valuable to your business in relation to COVID-19. Do these terms still hold the same meaning that they held 6 months ago? If not, it might be time to reconsider your product line and optimise your website accordingly.

Adapting your website to meet demand

As someone who runs an ecommerce business, you already know how important it is to make sure users can find what they're looking for quickly. With competition for certain products at an all-time high, optimising the user experience can make the difference between a sale and fail in the post-lockdown market.

Moz's Luke Carthy pointed out in a recent article that searching for coronavirus on Holland and Barrett's website previously showed no results, which is hard to believe when products like hand sanitisers, paracetamol and other medications that they offer were highly sought after.

Holland and Barrett website

Image taken from Moz.com

What went wrong here? It's possible that the health and wellbeing giant didn't look at their on-site search box to see how customers were searching at the time. Therefore, they didn't have a page set up to show relevant products when a search for coronavirus was made. Without a dedicated page for coronavirus-related products, it's likely that Holland and Barrett missed out on sales!

Learn from this and apply the same logic to your ecommerce website. Take a look at the things people are searching for on your site. Do you see many searches for coronavirus or other related terms? If so, what results are your users seeing? Make sure relevant products appear - it could boost conversions and win sales over competitor sites.

Improve filters

As well as adding new landing pages, sections, and products to fill gaps in the market, you should also consider making it easier for users to tell what you do and don't have in stock.

With online shopping booming and supply chains under immense pressure right now, your users might be looking for things that seem to be out of stock everywhere! Reduce hassle and keep your customers happy by:

  • Adding a filter to your site so users can quickly see what's in stock and what isn't
  • Creating a form that allows users to sign up for an email notification when a certain product is back in stock

The filter might help you secure a sale there and then, while the email notifications can help make sure customers return to your site rather than going with one of your competitors.

Offer alternative products

Even if you make all the changes that we've suggested so far, there may still be times when you just can't fulfil the exact needs of your customers. However, there are still things you can do to boost your post-COVID sales.

Let's say, for example, that you've seen a huge influx in orders for your bird feeders during lockdown because people are spending more time in their gardens. That's great, but you had no way of predicting this unusual spike in sales and now all of your bird feeders are out of stock!

What can you do to combat this? We recommend adding a section to the bottom of your product pages to show your customers other relevant items that are currently in stock (e.g. a bird bath or bird house). Although this isn't exactly what the user was looking for, it might capture their imagination enough for them to place an order.

Adjusting your prices

As lockdown restrictions are eased, social distancing measures need to be implemented in all work environments.

As an ecommerce business, it's likely that you have a warehouse or depot where your products are kept. Just like pubs, hairdressers, and offices up and down the country, you'll need to put some new measures in place to keep the working environment safe and hygienic.

Whether you're providing sick pay for unwell employees, ordering PPE, or making physical modifications in the workplace, everything comes at a price. Your customers shouldn't be too surprised about a justifiable price increase to help cover these unavoidable costs, but be mindful of the way you go about it. After all, you don't want your customers to feel like they're being ripped off!

An incentive to buy

While you might need to increase the price of some items, there's nothing stopping you from giving people an extra reason to buy from your brand. As we move into the transitional post-lockdown period, people are returning to work and might be looking for a bit of a pick-me-up.

Whether you contact loyal customers and offer them an exclusive discount code, or you offer a multi-buy discount on your best sellers, people are more likely to make an order if they feel they're getting a good deal.

Hopefully, this gives you a good idea of how your ecommerce business can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for the months ahead. If you're interested in an ecommerce website makeover to make your brand stand out, you can get a free, no-obligation quote here.

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google updates

Google is always tweaking and updating its algorithm to provide the best possible search experience. These improvements are a constant, ongoing process, and business owners and webmasters should expect to see some gentle fluctuation in the ranking and performance of their websites from one day to the next. This is perfectly normal - no cause for alarm.

On occasion, though, you might notice a particularly pronounced change in your website's rankings - even though you haven't made any changes to the site itself. This may be a sign that Google has released a more significant algorithm update.

It's important to keep an eye out for big Google updates, understand what impact they can have, and monitor the performance of your websites for any significant shifts. In 2020 so far, Google has released two core algorithm updates and two stand-alone updates: one that prevents featured snippet URLs from appearing in the organic SERPs, and one that changes the way Googlebot views nofollow links.

In this blog, we're going to take a look at these recent updates and the impact they've had, so you know what to look out for on your own website. Let's dive right in!

Core Algorithm Updates

Of all Google's updates, core updates make the broadest changes and happen most frequently. They're designed to improve search results pages so that Google can deliver the most authoritative and relevant content to its users. This year, we've already seen Google roll out two core algorithm updates: one on the 13th of January, and one on the 4th of May.

It's common for Google's core updates to have a drastic impact on your website's keyword rankings. Some sites experience severe ranking drops, others will see an impressive ranking boost - it's hard to predict!

Why does this happen? Well, Google's Webmaster Central Blog gives us a great way of looking at the situation:

"One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It's going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realise they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren't bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them."

What should you do if you notice a drop?

If you notice that your website is ranking much higher than it did before the update, bravo! Google thinks your content is highly relevant for its users.

However, if you notice that a particular page, an old blog post, or your website as a whole has slipped down the rankings following a core update, then the first thing to remember is that it doesn't mean your content is 'bad'.

What it does mean is that, if you want to reclaim those top positions in the SERP, you might want to revisit the content on these pages and make them better.

  1. Start by looking at the pages that now rank above you. What do those pages have that might make them more authoritative/relevant for a user?

  2. Re-assess your own content through a critical lens.
  • Can you provide a more substantial description of the topic?
  • Can you add links to authoritative sources?
  • Could you re-write the content to make it clearer/more concise?
  • Can you provide a more suitable heading?

By building better and more relevant web pages, you should start to see your website moving steadily up the rankings following a core update. Get in touch with our SEO specialists if you have any further questions about recovering dropped rankings.

Featured Snippet Duplication Update

On January 22nd, Google implemented an update that changed the way featured snippets appeared in the search results pages. Prior to the update, URLs that appeared in the featured snippet could also appear high up in the rankings, essentially giving that website twice as much exposure.

Post-update, you won't see duplicate URLs in the SERPs. If your webpage claims the elusive 'position 0' and is featured in Google's snippet, then it won't appear anywhere else in the rankings.

What impact will this have on your website?

Google has advised that the featured snippet position (or position zero) and position 1 are usually considered as the same position in most rank tracking tools, so you shouldn't see any dramatic drops in ranking.

In terms of your click-through rate, there are a few theories. Our own research suggests that holding the featured snippet is valuable for your website because it's the first port of call if a user wants to find out more information on a certain topic. Even on occasions when a user doesn't click through to your website, they're still being exposed to your brand and your featured content - so it's a win-win situation!

Sceptics argue that some users might choose to skip past all the on-page features like knowledge panels, featured snippets etc and head straight to the organic results. If this is the case, then this featured snippet update could be detrimental, but we're yet to see such an impact on our clients' websites.

Our advice? Keep an eye on your rankings and your inbound traffic. While it's unlikely that you'll see a drop as a result of this update, you can always re-work your content to gain a more beneficial ranking if you see that certain pages have been affected.

Nofollow Update

We've known that Google was changing the way it treats nofollow links since the end of 2019, but it wasn't until the 1st of March this year that the update actually went live.

Following this update, nofollow links will be treated as a 'hint' when Google is crawling and indexing your site, and might even affect your ranking.

Previously, nofollow links could be used to tell Google to disregard a certain outbound link. Essentially, you could tell Google "Hey, I don't want to endorse this website even though this link is relevant to my users". That's no longer the case.

When announcing this update, Google said, "Links contain valuable information that helps us improve search, such as how the words within links describe the content they point at. Looking at every link we encounter can help us understand unnatural linking patterns".

Generally, nofollow links will be treated as they were before, so the impact on your website should be minimal. As far as actions you should take, Google recommends using one of two new link attributes to identify the purpose of your nofollow links. For example:

  • rel="sponsored" to identify links that have been paid for, e.g. adverts and sponsored articles.
  • rel="UGC" to identify links in user-generated content, e.g. blog comments.

Google has said that they might still use these "sponsored" and "UGC" links as 'hints' when crawling your website, but using the correct identifications increases the likelihood that Google will understand why you've used a nofollow link, and they will assess the link accordingly.

Google updates happen all the time - it's part of an ongoing effort to perfect their search engine experience. On the whole, Google updates are nothing to be worried about, but having an awareness of them can help you identify the cause of traffic and ranking fluctuations. Contact us for more information about our search engine optimisation services.

Website design psychology

Did you know that every detail on your website, from the colours to the typeface, has a psychological impact on your users? Website designers can influence the way someone feels when they visit your site by choosing design features that have a desirable psychological impact.

You're probably thinking: "Surely if my website looks nice, that should be enough?" Well, not necessarily. You can have a website that looks great, but if it doesn't appeal to the mindset of your target audience or reflect your brand positively, it probably won't convert as well as you'd hoped for.

Don't worry - you don't need a degree in psychology to understand the impact of different web design features. We've put together this helpful guide to introduce you to the psychology of web design. It's worth keeping these things in mind if you're thinking about a new website, but of course, our specialist website designers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Structure and Layout

The structure of your website is fundamental to its success. Why? Because you want your users to find the things that they're looking for quickly, but you also need to add clean spaces for their minds to rest.

Websites that are over-cluttered and messy can be incredibly difficult to digest, so even if your page features all the photos, videos, and information that you deem necessary, you might be overloading users and driving them away.

We always recommend a website design that orders things in a logical way and features clean spaces between page elements and in margins. Keeping the features of the page relevant and concise will also help users to decide whether or not your website is a good fit for their query in a matter of seconds.

A clean, well-organised website is bound to make a good first impression and will psychologically reassure users that you aren't going to waste their time.

Colours

You've probably heard of the link between colour and emotion before, but in web design, this takes a more sophisticated form. Thinking beyond the typical 'red equals danger, blue equals sadness' conventions that we learn in school, colours can convey a lot of information about your business, so it's important to choose your colour palette carefully.

You've probably noticed that websites tend to have a neutral colour like white, grey, or mauve as the dominant colour throughout. This is because neutral shades are a great base for more interesting pops of colour, and they aren't too overwhelming for the user.

Different colours can be used to hint at the nature of your business. We tend to see cooler tones like blues and greens on more professional or 'serious' websites (our own site is just one example). Meanwhile, warmer tones like pink and orange might indicate a more creative or 'fun' business - take our clients Sweets in the City, for example. You can learn more about the relationship between colour and web design in our in-depth blog on this topic.

Typefaces

In the same way that the colours of your website can impact the way a user feels, so too can your chosen typeface. There are some typefaces that we subconsciously associate with traditional/professional businesses. These tend to fall under the category of serif fonts (fonts with feet). Some examples are Times New Roman, Georgia and Palatino.

In contrast, sans-serif fonts (without feet) have a more contemporary feel and are often used by tech companies to suggest modernity. Some examples of sans-serif typefaces include Helvetica, Arial, and Tahoma.

That being said, there are hundreds of different typefaces to choose from, so don't feel limited to the examples listed here. As a rule of thumb, choose a typeface that complements your brand while still being easy to read across all devices.

Price Order

We've already discussed why the visual layout of your site is important, but did you know the order in which you list your products and services has a profound psychological effect too?

One psychological phenomenon that online shoppers are subject to is anchoring bias. This meant that the user's perception of your products rests on the very first products they see (and become anchored to).

For example, if you list your most expensive products first, everything that the user sees afterwards will appear cheaper. Conversely, if you put your budget items first, you risk making your main line of products look overpriced.

Psychological studies have shown that anchoring bias is almost impossible to avoid; however, people who are more familiar with your products and pricing are less susceptible to it. With that in mind, it's important that you anchor products to the top of the page that are reasonably priced and a good reflection of your product portfolio.

When users land on your category page, you want them to see products that are cheap enough to be a good deal, but not so cheap that they're compromising on quality. Here are some more tips to help you make your category pages convert.

Trust and Confidence

The final thing to consider is whether or not your website design establishes trust and confidence. Whether you're providing legal advice or selling clothes, you need your users to trust you if you want them to convert.

We live in an age where digital scams and computer viruses are an everyday threat. At a brick-and-mortar store, customers can see the people behind the brand, ask questions, and even base their buying decisions on how friendly/helpful the staff are.

Online, you rely entirely on your website to provide the same great experience and make customers feel secure enough to part with their cash. There are a number of web design techniques you can utilise to help with this.

For example, you should refrain from asking for personal details like email addresses right off the bat. An immediate invasion of privacy before someone has had time to become familiar with your brand might be enough to send them elsewhere. Similarly, avoid adding multiple pop-ups and overlays, as these can appear spammy and make it difficult to browse the site smoothly.

Make a good first impression with a clean and logical structure, make it clear what you expect from your users at an appropriate time, and put security measures in place to put users at ease. Use a secure, well-recognised payment system like Sage Pay or PayPal, let users create password-protected customer accounts to store their personal details, and make sure your website is protected with an SSL.

Get all of these web design features right and you can create a website that's psychologically pleasing to your customers. If you're looking for web designers who can help create the best possible website for your business, get in touch with Designer Websites today!

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Improve website conversion rate

The nature of your website and the specific goals of your business will dictate what a conversion looks like for you. If you have a high conversion rate, congratulations! This is an indicator that your marketing strategies are succeeding, your website works well, and your users are satisfied.

However, if you've noticed that your conversion rate is lower than you'd like, there are a few things you can do to improve it.

What is a 'conversion'?

Every time a user completes a desirable action, we count it as a conversion - but conversions look different on different websites. For example, if you're a blogger, you might consider each subscription to your blog as a conversion; if you have a brochure site that tells people about your services, you might consider enquiries as conversions; and if you have an ecommerce website, you'll count every successful sale as a conversion.

You might track multiple conversions to make sure that all aspects of your business are growing and working in unison. For example, with an ecommerce site, you might consider sales as your most important conversion while still keeping a close eye on the number of newsletter sign-ups, social media interactions and enquiries too. Together, these conversions will help to give you a more detailed picture of your site's overall performance.

Over time, you will start to see which things convert well on your website and which things don't. It's normal for things to fluctuate a bit, but if something is performing particularly badly, try the following tips.

1. Make sure your website is user-friendly.

Put yourself in the shoes of the user and test your website from their point of view. Does it work well across different devices? Do you notice any areas that could be improved? Did everything work properly? Think about it: if someone visits your website and struggles to figure out where something is or comes across a technical issue, then your conversion rate is likely to be much lower than it should be.

Improving the user experience is a great place to start if you want to improve your website's conversion rate. Here's how you can do it:

  • Tweak the menus so they are easier to navigate
  • Ensure your site works across all devices
  • Check the functionality of buttons/forms across the site

2. Drive more relevant traffic to your site.

If you notice that your conversion rate is low in comparison to the number of visitors arriving on your site from day to day, then you might be driving the wrong kind of people to your site. Investing in a range of marketing strategies like Google Ads, social media and email marketing can help boost relevant traffic to your website.

Why? Because you can use these tools to target audiences who are likely to convert. For example, people who have visited your site before or people who are already interested in your industry.

Here are a few things to consider when you're trying to boost relevant traffic to your site:

  • Include a call to action in your marketing material so users what you want them to do
  • Invest more money in the marketing strategies that convert well
  • Refine your target audiences
  • Produce content that will appeal to them

3. Make sure your web pages are easy to digest.

Users don't interact with websites in the same way they'd interact with a book or newspaper. In fact, unnecessary long-form text can actually do more harm to your site than good. If users don't find what they're looking for quickly, it's likely that they'll lose interest and move on to a different website, at which point, you've lost all chances of conversion.

What can you do to combat this? Start by taking time to craft your copy so that it's easy to digest, engaging and highly relevant to your site. Embolden anything that you think needs extra emphasis and break longer points up using paragraphs or bullet points.

Revise the layout and copy on your website so that your main selling points and call to actions are more prominent. Drawing the user's attention to these things will make it easier for them to decide whether to convert or not.

4. Keep your graphics relevant and minimal.

Images are a necessity, especially on ecommerce websites where customers need to see the products they want to buy. They can show off your products or promote a spectacular deal, but all too often they are overused.

Having too many graphics on a page can distract people from their objective and reduce your chances of a conversion, so finding a good balance is key.

There are plenty of platforms that you can use to share photos and graphics related to your business. Instagram and Pinterest are two of the most popular, but there are plenty of others to choose from. Perhaps you would be better saving those 'behind the scenes' shots for your social media rather than sharing them all over your website.

By reducing the visual clutter on your website, you make the journey on your site more streamlined and improve your page loading speed. Faster pages and an overall better experience on your website feed back into better usability, thus encouraging more conversions!

Note: Improving your conversion rate is not something that will happen overnight. We'd recommend trying one of these tips at a time and leaving your site alone for a few weeks to accurately assess the effects. If you make multiple changes at once, you'll never know what worked and what didn't.

If you'd like to talk to our experienced team of developers and SEO specialists about improving your website, don't hesitate to give us a call on 01446 339 050.

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Improve your category pages

When you're trying to design a category page that will help drive sales, it's crucial to keep the customer's experience at the forefront of your mind. By navigating through your category pages, users should be able to easily find the products they're looking for and place their order.

At Designer Websites, we've been designing category pages for years, so we have a great understanding of what really works for our clients. We spoke to our lead designer, Jenna, and asked her what makes the perfect category page:

"We would always recommend that you use good images that are relevant and high quality, an interesting H1 heading that includes your page's keywords, and text that's short and relevant. Try to put your best-selling / most popular products towards the top of the page, and change them frequently so the pages look slightly different for returning customers."

Let's look at some of these different elements in more detail. You might find that some of these features are missing from your category pages, in which case, this might be a great opportunity to make some improvements.

1. Optimising Your Text

You want the text on your category pages to be concise, relevant and properly optimised for search engines. To achieve this, you should make sure that your category pages include a keyword-rich H1 heading and relevant information about your products.

Think of your category pages as a means for customers to get an overview of your products before making a purchase. You should try to describe the products or services on a category page using a few concise, easy-to-digest sentences, so users can quickly determine if they've chosen the right category.

In terms of SEO, you should try to include a range of keywords that are relevant to your category to increase the likelihood of your page ranking highly in the search results.

For example, if you own a cake business and you want to optimise the text on the category page for 'chocolate cakes' you might target keywords like, 'best chocolate cakes', 'chocolate sponge cakes' and 'chocolate birthday cakes'. You might find it beneficial to keep the text under the H1 (that users will see first) short but include more keyword-rich text towards the bottom of the page to improve your chance of ranking.

If your site is optimised effectively, someone searching for a 'chocolate birthday cake' should be taken to your category page where they can view all the chocolate cakes you offer. Someone searching more specifically for a 'vegan chocolate cake' might be taken straight to a product page instead, where they can read a detailed description of the vegan chocolate cake you supply and place their order.

2. High-Quality Images

When your business operates through an ecommerce website, customers are deprived of that real-life touch, feel and browse experience. It's important to use relevant, high-quality images on your category and product pages to really bring your products to life!

One thing that online shopping allows for is a comparison between brands. Your customers might be considering products from several different competitor sites as well as yours, so you want to provide the best possible experience you can and secure the sale.

Going back to our cake business example, imagine a scenario where a customer is looking for a great chocolate birthday cake. They're considering three or four local cake suppliers, including you. If your chocolate cake category page is filled with high-quality photos of truly tempting chocolate cakes, and your competitors have a few low-resolution images to compare to, you'll (probably) win the sale every time!

3. Featured Products

Highlighting products on your category page is a great way to boost sales. Moving products towards the top of the category page and adding a bold border or an eye-catching sticker is a great way to draw the user's attention towards the products you want them to buy. It also provides users with a sense that they are getting the best option or deal available.

Even if users only spend a few minutes on your category page before moving elsewhere on your site, the emboldened products are likely to stick in their minds. They might even decide to come back for a second look if they feel they've missed out on a good deal.

With that in mind, you should use the featured products section of your category page to focus on best-selling products, products included in special offers, and products that you want to shift quickly.

Keep your category pages fresh and engaging by rotating your featured products regularly. That way, returning visitors won't be greeted with the same products over and over again.

4. Filters

If your business boasts an extensive portfolio of products, you might want to consider adding filters to your category page so users can quickly find the items they need. Filters are a popular feature of most ecommerce websites because they break down categories into smaller, niche groups of products that more relevant to the user.

Let's say you own a shoe store and a customer visits your site hoping to buy a new pair of black high heels in a size six. They're going to a party at the weekend and (as usual) they've left it until the last minute to organise their outfit. When they land on your site, they see hundreds of different types of shoes organised into categories by style.

Luckily, your 'high heels' category page allows them to filter the shoes by size and colour. This instantly refines their search so they can browse all the pairs of shoes that fit their criteria. They spot a fabulous pair and place their order - success! That's one more happy customer who might recommend your shoe store to a friend or leave a positive review.

5. Search Box

No matter how well structured your site navigation is, there will always be some users who prefer to head directly to specific products. That's where the search box comes in handy.

It's important that your database is organised so that the right products show up for the right queries - you wouldn't want a user searching for 'black heels in size six' to be faced with an array of blue trainers, would you?

Data from the search box can also provide you with insights into the products that are most frequently searched for by your customers. Perhaps they're struggling to find the products they're looking for; in which case you could tweak your site navigation so frequently-searched products are easier to find.

Alternatively, frequent searches could indicate that a certain product is very popular with your customers. In this case, you might decide to run a special offer or add it to your 'featured products' section to boost sales. Either way, having a search box on your category page will benefit you and your customers.

If your ecommerce website needs an overhaul, Designer Websites can help. Our experienced team of designers, developers and SEO specialists understand what websites need to succeed - contact us now to discuss your requirements!

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