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20 Must Have Checklist for Every New eCommerce Website

India suddenly has woken up to selling online. The popularity and success of many e-commerce portals has stirred everyone from their slumber. Now traders want an e-Commerce website of their own, and that too in no time. However, it is easier said than done.

Every ecommerce website has some dos and don’ts, some ethics, some rules, some limitations which everyone should understand and follow. Because just getting a website up and running is not the end, albeit it is just the beginning of a new inning. To simplify your tasks we have compiled a wholesome list which will not only guide you into the basics but also make your life easier by defining some terms in simple English and explain too.

  1. Page URLs

seo friendly URLOh the URL. It’s something we say all the time, but did you know it stands for “Uniform Resource Locator?” Consider it this way, the URL of your page is yet another way for the search engines to index the content of your page. In consideration of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it is important to make sure your URLs are structured in a way that makes them search engine friendly, and even the visitor should be able to understand what it could be all about!

Checklist:

  • Each word in your URL should be separated by a dashdash (remember spaces are not allowed)
  • Your URLs should be structured in a logical and consistent way. In other words, avoid the random scramble of numbers and letters by structuring your website with different categories and filters. Learn more here.
  1. WWW & None WWW Redirection

Typically, there can be two URLs to a page on a website – one that is prefaced with a ‘www’ and one that is not prefaced with a ‘www’. For example, www.example.com and example.com would point to the same page. However, search engine crawlers do not assume so and treat them as separate pages. This again leads to search engines considering this as duplicate content which could trigger a penalty thus affecting rankings and traffic on a website. Ideally, all ‘non www’ versions of a website’s URL should be 301 redirected to the ‘www’ version.

Ideally it makes no difference to a visitor, but means a lot for the search engines and we need to adhere to their guidelines. After all they call the shots for SEO rankings

How can you redirect non-www to www version?

You can include one of the following codes into your .htaccess file to establish a 301 Redirect to your preferred version.

WWW to Non-WWW

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*)$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

Non-WWW. to WWW

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

  1. Bread Crumb Navigation

breadcrumbs navigation

Breadcrumbs help your visitors to navigate on your site. Built as html links they refer to your hierarchical site depth by showing assigned categories/tags/parent pages. They could either use the symbols →, i.e. categories→tags→parent pages or some other popular marking.

Checklist:

  • Use breadcrumbs to improve usability.
  • Are the breadcrumbs shown on EVERY page?
  • Does it start with a link to your homepage?
  • Use CSS to give it a custom style
  • They are expected to be placed horizontally below your main navigation on the left, above your main content
  • Are you using microdata format and does it validate?
  • Does the hierarchical structure makes sense helping your visitors?
  1. Alt Attribute for Images

Alt Attribute for Images

Search engines use crawlers to understand what the page is all about. The images, if any, are invisible and the crawlers can see a blank area, nothing else. To inform about the images, the ALT tag/attribute is used. Google or other search engines can now get the hint, some description, and use it to display in their search results.

Many newcomers either forget or are too lazy scribbling some descriptive text for images. The result is obvious, despite efforts their site just does not rank on top

  1. Page Heading Optimizations

page heading

Ideally, every family has only one Head. On the same lines, all web pages should have only one Top Header Tag (or H1 / Header 1).

“Font size/colour does not matter. But only one item can have that attribute H1”

Checklist:

  • Ensure you are using one, and only one, H1 tag on your pages. H1 (header 1) tags often used as the main headline for a page and they usually contain the page’s main keywords.
  • Ensure H1 tags are used before other header tags (H2, H3, H4).Your header tags should be used in a hierarchal order. For example, H1 tag text above H2 tag text and H2 tag text above H3 tag text, and so on.
  • Consider H2, H3 as Sub-headings to H1. In simple terms, H2 gets the sub level heading, H3 the sub-sub level heading and so on.
  1. Website Errors

seo google webmaster tools

Google and other search engines look unfavorably upon websites with errors because of the impact they have on user experience. This includes broken links, 404 pages, outdated statistics, and more.

Consider this as Negative Marking, a Penalty, used in written examinations for untidy work

Checklist:

  • Sign up for Webmaster tools and check it regularly for any page errors.
  • Set up and submit a sitemap.
  • Set up necessary redirects for pages that no longer exist.

In short, search engines penalize you for untidy or non-maintained websites. Always ensure your links take visitors to the desired destination. If a page you created earlier does not exist, say so, give a reason and then redirect them to a related or the homepage. This tells everyone, you are a responsible webmaster.

Tip

If you have removed many pages or links, it is better to submit a fresh sitemap. This will put the ball in the search engine’s side, and you escape any liabilities. J

  1. Social Media Integration

social media integration

Search engines constantly monitor visitor behavior on your site. How they arrived on your site, whether the stay longer, interact, share before leaving etc. When users peruse your online store, it should be very easy for them to share your content with their social media connections.

Not only does this improve your marketing strategy, but it also sends information to search engines about your site’s performance, which is obviously a very important aspect of SEO. Although social signals are not technically a ranking signal (although that may be changing), your authority and popularity are (especially for e-commerce). Earning social shares can help you earn backlinks and mentions across the web, which will help position you as an authority and further your SEO success.

Checklist:

  • Make sure you have social sharing buttons on all the appropriate pages of your website. This is especially the case for any product or service that you would like visitors to be able to share. Some companies don’t see the need to put a sharing button on a product page, which is fine in many cases, but try testing it to see if that’s the right move. You also may want to include sharing buttons on a “Thank You” page like Amazon does in case people want to share what they just purchased with their friends.
  • If using pics for linking entities like Facebook or Twitter, make sure you use the Alternate Tags as described above.
  • Links to your social media accounts should be clearly displayed on your website homepage or in a footer or header. This will assist not only in your SEO, but getting followers and developing your social audience.
  • All social media accounts links should be no follow.
  1. XML & HTML Sitemap

html xml sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a document that helps Google and other major search engines to better understand our website while crawling.

HTML sitemaps are designed for the users to help them to find content on the page, and don’t need to include each and every subpage.

This helps visitors and search engine bots find pages on the site.

  1. Robots Txt File to Block unnecessary pages from being crawled

robots.txt

If your site has pages which make no sense to visitors can be blocked. For example:

  • Checkout pages,
  • Thank You pages,
  • Wish Lists,
  • Archives
  • Draft or Obsolete Content pages

You can tell the search engines not to crawl and index these pages by using a Robots.txt file. Add “disallow” directives to the Robots.txt file to indicate that these pages should not be crawled, and then upload that file to your server.

  1. Canonical Tags for filtered page views

Most ecommerce sites allow you to filter product category pages or search results by size, price, rating, color, availability or other attributes. When a user filters results, a new page is often loaded with a parameter appended to the end of the URL (e.g., http://www.muscledose.com/store/proteins/whey-proteins.html?dir=asc&order=price&vegetariannonvegetarian=77).

To avoid duplicate content issues, you want to add canonical tags to these pages. All filtered views should reference the main category page as the “canonical” page. In the example above, http://www.muscledose.com/store/proteins/whey-proteins.html is the canoncial page.

canonical tag

Note

Here, <link rel=”canonical”> is very important and should appear automatically.

  1. Responsive/Adaptive Design

Google has always recommended responsive web design (RWD) and is actually due to roll out a big update on the 21st April which will work to rank mobile-friendly sites higher.

Adaptive design, on the other hand, uses static layouts based on breakpoints which don’t respond once they’re initially loaded. Adaptive works to detect the screen size and load the appropriate layout for it – generally you would design an adaptive site for six common screen widths:

  1. 320
  2. 480
  3. 760
  4. 960
  5. 1200
  6. 1600.

On the surface, it appears that adaptive requires more work as you have to design layouts for a minimum of six widths. However, responsive can be more complex as improper use of media queries (or indeed not using them at all) can make for display and performance issues.

Custom Mobile Experience

Allow for a custom mobile experience. Adaptive design approach utilizes a separate website from the full desktop website, which offers the most flexibility in design.

  1. Your Customer Checkout, Shopping Cart and Wish List

checkout

This is the bread and butter of your ecommerce site, so use the shopping cart and customer checkout area to really shine by pushing products and walking customers through the process quickly.

Note

For enhancing your image in visitor’s eyes, you can use “HTTPS” (“S” is for Secure). However, it is not compulsory. You can skip it initially if you cannot afford. But consider it later as it helps boost your rankings.

Checklist:

  • Don’t make the person create an account until after placing order
  • Accept all payment methods
  • Offer low shipping costs
  • Make the checkout visual with fun images
  • Add checkout buttons on the top and bottom of your pages
  • Make sure the security and payment seals are most prominent during checkout
  • Ask people to continue shopping after making a purchase
  • Allow people to save their cart to a Wish List for later
  • Suggest Wish List items to upsell during checkout
  • Refrain from asking for a survey response after checkout (save this for email)
  • Try free shipping when they spend a certain amount
  • Offer multiple shipping methods
  • Include an area to punch in promo codes
  • Show people how much they saved during checkout
  • Show the approximate shipping date and time
  • If selling digital downloads, explain how they receive the product
  • Be open about what you use their personal information for
  • If you sell high priced items, offer financing options like payment installments
  • Test the checkout process to see if it works
  1. Following Up With Customers

shipment

Once someone buys from you there is a chance to offer support and additional deals with emails after their purchase. Here’s what to include in your emails.

  • A Thank You and Welcome to join their growing list of satisfied customers
  • A receipt with the price
  • A picture of the item
  • Include links to the product, site, support and related product suggestions.
  • Send a one to two week follow up to see how the product is
  • Ask for a review
  • Offer a discount code if they haven’t ordered again after a few months
  • Ask them to join a loyalty program
  • Ask for reviews in exchange for specials and discounts
  • Ask if they want future notification alerts for specials and products
  • Sell gift cards in your emails
  • Send a promotion for abandoned carts
  • Show where the product was sent to
  • Have an option to cancel the order
  • Links to share on social media
  • A link to track shipping
  • The order number and a link to return instructions
  • Include a survey link
  1. Support Pages for Your Ecommerce Site

The support links were covered earlier, but it’s nice to see what support pages need to be included on your ecommerce site. There are also a few support tips below.

Checklist:

  • Social media pages
  • Listed emails and contact forms
  • Listed phone numbers
  • A Live Chat area
  • Forums
  • FAQs
  • Shipping details
  • Sharing buttons
  • Offer 24/7 customer support
  • Provide an extensive return period
  1. Your Home Page

Here, either the visitor has arrived looking for particular products or a category. This is the showcase or show window and he gets to know all you have to offer.

  • Use large appealing imagery that clearly displays products, offers and other promotions.
  • Include ‘Top Selling’, ‘Featured Products’ and ‘Recommended for you’ sections.
  1. Landing Pages

  • Use landing pages for specific promotion campaigns (e.g. Summer Sale or PPC campaigns).
  • Dedicated landing pages convert much better than using the homepage.
  • Set a headline, intro text, banner image and a selection of products that are consistent with what the landing page is being used for. For example, if you have a PPC ad that’s referring to Valentine’s day, the title of the landing page should mention valentine’s gifts and the selection of products should be relevant.
  • Include testimonials, badges, other social proof to reduce customer anxiety.
  • There should be a clear call to action to ‘add to cart’ or begin shopping. Some landing pages go as far as removing all other navigation to focus user’s attention on purchasing.
  1. Individual Product Pages

  • This page should be clear and easy to take in within 3 seconds.
  • Ensure ‘Buy’ buttons are clear and stand out from the page, making them brightly colored and relatively large usually does the trick.
  • A wish list or ‘save for later’ button should be present but not as prominent.
  • In your photographs, show a variety of angles and some with the product in context
  • Include a product zoom feature so the customers can see the detail.
  • If you can, include an option to embed video. Consumers are increasingly expecting this. They are also more likely to be shared if they are interesting.
  • If there are lots of product details, make sure they are tabbed to keep the page tidy and ensure the visitor can find what they need to know quickly. I
  • If you are a re-seller, you could include product reviews from the media to further boost social proof.
  • If options are out of stock, do not show them, or make it obvious they are out of stock. If possible, allow the user to enter their email address so they are notified when the item is back in stock.
  • Clearly show the amount saved for items in sale.
  • Clearly display your returns policy.
  • Use social networking links to allow visitors to quickly ‘like’ or ‘share’ products.
  • Trust seals, supplier logos and payment methods should be visible even at this stage, perhaps in the footer, so the customer knows they can checkout securely.
  • When a customer clicks your ‘buy’ or ‘add to cart’ button, show a pop up or some other feedback.
  • In the background, your pages should be generating automatic rich snippetsto encourage click through from Google.
  • Ensure your titles have relevant keywords included – be as descriptive as possible.
  • Below a certain threshold, show an “x remaining in stock” label to instill a sense of urgency in the purchase.
  • If you can, show estimated delivery times and prices at this stage
  1. Customer Reviews

customer reviews

Customer reviews are strong pieces of social proof that validate a purchase in your customers’ minds. When photos are included, it helps them see how the product looks in other’s people’s lives and gives them a realistic (non-professional) view of the product in use. Plus, customer reviews build trust, as they’re real, un-influenced thoughts from fellow shoppers. Here’s an example from fashion retailer:

  1. Page Load Times

This is increasingly important in terms of mobile optimization and overall user satisfaction. Poor load time results in a negative user experience, and for e-commerce businesses, this means losing customers just because no one likes to wait.

Even Google prefers fast loading websites. Your site will rank higher on just this point.

Checklist:

  • All of your pages should load in less than three seconds.
  • Your images should be a size that means they don’t take too long to load. You want to focus on resolution and pixel sizes
  • Use the correct types of images: .gif, .jpg or .png are your best options.
  • Check that you don’t have too many plugins installed that are slowing your site down
  • Turn off pingbacks and trackbacks to speed up your load time
  • Use the Google PageSpeed Insightstool to help you identify how to improve
  1. Blog Integration

  • A blog is a great way to inform visitors about your brand and increase traffic.
  • Use Facebook for comments and use social networking links to allow visitors to quickly ‘like’ or ‘share’ posts and products.

That’s all we have at this moment. However with changing technological scenarios, some items can be replaced with newer ones. Please visit this page again for updates.