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Search Optimization is Key to eCommerce Success this Holiday Season

Although one third of consumers are expected to spend less this holiday season, the news is not all bad for eCommerce retailers. Nielsen predicts that online sales will grow 9 percent over the 2007 season.

In line with Nielsen’s projections, many retailers will be relying on their eCommerce divisions to stay in the green this year. ECommerce businesses should expect increased competition in the online shopping space as retailers fight for consumers. Retailers will also be competing with manufactures since users can order directly from them online. This is especially true for electronics.

 To succeed this year businesses will need to drive traffic to their sites and increase conversion rates. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 49 percent of people search online everyday. Search is now second only to checking email as an online activity. Even consumers that choose to shop in person are doing more research online before they hit the stores. In fact, Google and OTX report that shoppers have begun researching holiday purchasing options earlier this year. Researching peaked around Halloween. In the same Google study, consumers reported that the Internet is the most useful source of information for potential purchases.

This means that consumers will likely use search engines to find the products they want to purchase. Ranking well in search engines will be important to eCommerce success. Website designers will need to optimize for specific products since users will likely search using the names of the products they are interested in. For example, a user who is looking to purchase a digital camera might enter “digital camera” into the search bar. In Google, a few paid search listings for Sony, Olympus, and Best Buy will appear along with natural search results. Of course, optimizing a page for specific product keywords is an on-going process that requires year-round attention.

For businesses that have not focused on natural search optimization all year, another option is to launch a seasonal paid search campaign. Paid search results can be effective even for shorter periods of time. Paid search campaigns can be modified easily so they are ideal for seasonal advertising.   

The push to shop online will raise expectations for everyone online. ECommerce sites can use this as an opportunity to perfect their sites. Sites can be reviewed for graphic design, promotions, copy, and functionality. Testing each of these features can help a site perform to its maximum capacity. There are many tools that let site designers test various elements of their site to determine the most effective combination. One such tool is Google Website Optimizer. This is a free tool that will test only the elements that the user chooses to test. With the increased competition of this holiday season, the true winners will be sites that optimize to drive traffic and convert that traffic into sales. This requires testing to precisely determine the best combination of elements to maximize conversion rates.

Successful eCommerce sites will need to drive traffic and convert that traffic into sales this holiday season. There are real opportunities for growth in this space, but businesses will have to push through the eCommerce clutter to end up on top.

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