3 new years resolutions for your ecommerce site in 2017
1. Make sure that your store is properly encrypted
Traditionally e-commerce sites only run HTTPS/SSL in the check out stage of the site to ensure private information like credit card numbers are encrypted. This how ever results in several risks:
- Personal information like passwords are sent unencrypted and can be stolen by an attacker
- An attacker can potentially redirect the user to a fake payment gateway
- Your ecommerce site can be “spoofed” by others without the user noticing
We recommend that you encrypt your whole store with HTTPS in 2017.
In addition to the risks mentioned above there are three other good reasons to use HTTPS:
The Chrome browser will during January 2017 start giving warnings to the user if the site asks for passwords over unecrypted HTTP. Over time these warnings will also be added to all content served from unecrypted pages.
The new HTTP standard HTTP/2 requires SSL to work, and can reduce load times by 20-30% if both web server and browser supports HTTP/2.
Google has since 2014 given a SEO ranking boost to pages that use HTTPS. Please note that Google consideres http://store.com to be a completly different domain than https://store.com, so make sure you set up proper SEO-friendly 301 redirects from http to https.
An SSL certificate has two functions:
- Encrypts the data sent back and forth between a site and the browser, so that sensitive information is not readable by a third party.
- Identifies what company owns the domain and the site, so the customer knows who they are buying from. E.g. not a «spoofed» or fake store.
There are numerous different SSL certificates and providers to choose from, with prices ranging from free to a thousand dollars a year. One provider I checked offered 27 different certificates from 4 different companies. All these variations can be divided into two major categories: Standard Validation SSL (SV) and Extended Validation SSL (EV) which is more expensive and takes longer to issue. The difference between these two are how carefully the provider checks what company really owns the domain. With an EV there is an extensive vetting process where the provider verifies the control of the domain and legitimacy of the company by validating the legal name, address, phone number and other business information. This might take up to 30 days. An SV certificate results in a green padlock being shown in the address bar of the browser, while and EV certificate shows the green padlock and the name of the company, giving the customer and added level of confidence.
2. Put your site on a diet
It is not only humans who tend to add weight over time if we are not careful. Research has shown a clear link between page load speed and conversion rates for ecommerce. One test showed that a one second increase in page load times gave a 7% decrease in conversion rates. Load times is also one of the signals Google uses to rank pages in their search results.
At the same time as the importance of speed increases, most ecommerce stores are getting slower. We continue to add more videos and high resolution product pictures, new personalization features and even more analytical tools and tracking systems. The traffic to ecommerce stores are also increasingly coming from mobile devices connected to the internet through cell phone networks with longer latency and limited bandwith.
In 2017 try completing an actual purchase on your smartphone connecting to 3G or 4G/LTE while timing it. Afterwards go through your front page, category page, search page and product page and look at their size and load time. An useful tool for this is the built in “Chrome Developer Tools” tool in the Chrome browser. You can open it with Ctrl + Shift + I on PC and Cmd + Opt + I in Mac.
There are three measurements that you should look at:
Load: The actual time it took from the user cliked until the page was displayed in the browser. Should be less than 3 seconds.
Requests: The browser can only download a certain number of files at a time. So even though each file might be small, it might take a long time to download them all. Should be less than 100, and even better if you can keep it below 50.
x.x MB transferred: This is the total size of all the files that are needed to display the page. Should be below 3MB.
3. SEO isn’t dead in 2017
SEO or «How to rank high on Google” is more important and more difficult than ever.
Google keeps adjusting their ranking algorithms, and the biggest change currently is that Google is working towards “mobile first” indexing. Previously the content shown to desktop computers of the ecommerce site has decided the ranking position, while now Google is testing out using the mobile content to rank the results.
SEO is not some magic dust that you sprinkle on top of an existing site. It requires working long term and doing continuous adjustments, and certain changes might takes months to take effect. That is why it is so important to get the basics in place as soon as possible:
- Use Google Analytics with Enhanced Ecommerce
- Find out what your most profitable keywords are
- Track your search engine ranking with Moz, SeoProfiler, SEMrush or another tool
- Make sure Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is set up and that you don’t have indexing errors.
Now it is time to hire a serious SEO-expert. Unfortunately there are a lot of unserious and unknowledgeable SEO “experts” out there, so make sure to ask someone you trust to find the right one for you.
We wish you the best of luck in the new e-commerce year!