Laying the Groundwork for eCommerce
Why it pays to look ahead when planning out a new eCommerce website launch.
As a well-seasoned online marketer, I’ve probably seen every possible scenario when being asked to promote a website, however it always surprises me when clients are totally on-board with the advice that I give and it really makes my day when it happens.
Recently I was asked to promote a new eCommerce business. That’s fine, it’s something that I have done many times, but this particular eCommerce business is so new that it doesn’t exist yet, as the new eCommerce website which will be powering the business is perhaps 3 months away from completion and isn’t even at the design flat-file stage!
So how exactly do you promote a business that is unable to trade and doesn’t have any visible online presence? The answer is, you can’t! However that isn’t the full story…
Why Community Matters
There’s a very good reason why old, established online retailers have stable incomes and that is the fact these websites generally have lots of repeat business. Getting repeat business relies on lots of happy, communicative customers who are willing to share knowledge of your business online. This is great for established businesses, but if you have no eCommerce trading history and are starting a brand-new online venture, how can you get the ball rolling when your new eCommerce website is nowhere near ready for launch? The answer is show people what they can expect and then build community.
Teaser Campaigns and Blogging
If you don’t have the ability to launch your eCommerce website with all of its associated revenue generating product content straight away, do what you can to start building a community and getting people interested in what you will be offering. The way to do this is to create a content-rich holding page for your website and a good quality blog with regularly updated content.
If you already have your domain for your new eCommerce website registered then get some hosting set up and create an informative, well written holding page telling people what they can expect when your new eCommerce website arrives.
You’ll also need a blog – I recommend WordPress as its easily the market leader in terms of functionality and user base, being open source and with a vast array of community produced plugins and themes to use.
Your blog should be installed in a sub-folder of your main domain (site.com/blog/ for instance) which means any content you add to your blog will be adding to the overall search engine effectiveness of your website as a whole.
After your blog is set up and you’ve installed a simple design then get blogging! The sooner you add content to your blog the better as this will start to build up history with search engines and make it more likely that the content you write will appear in search results for related keyphrases.
Of course, as you have planned ahead, you have already grabbed your social media accounts for your new business and that’s good because you’ll need these next when it comes to promoting all of the content you have created on your blog and holding page!
Get all of your social accounts associated with your holding page and when you’re ready, tell the World about the amazing products you will be offering.
You may not think that it’s important to track results at this stage, however I’d urge you to get a statistics package installed at the outset. This helps to build up a clearer picture from day one of what people are looking for, so you don’t have to guess. I’d suggest using Google’s own Analytics package (google.co.uk/analytics) and Search Console (google.co.uk/webmasters) which will give you all the data you need and more. Using Google search console will also mean you can submit sitemaps for both your holding page and blog, which will speed up indexing of your new pages and mean you get results even quicker.
You’re a Blogger, get those links!
Links from one website to another are used by Google to gauge the popularity of any website. If your website has lots of high-quality links from respected websites then it is going to rank well.
Believe it or not, now is the time to get some of the best, most valuable links your new eCommerce business will ever have! Because you are running a blog at this point, not an eCommerce website, people are more likely to give you links as you are not directly trying to sell anything, so write some great, informative, useful content then get out there and ask for some links! Approach other website owners and ask for links from their related content to yours, this will do your new business the World of good later on…
Moving Forward with eCommerce
Of course, there will be a point when your brand, spanking new eCommerce website is ready for launch. You’ve put in all the hard work writing product descriptions and category content and your designers have done a fantastic job of presenting all this information with some great imagery. What now? Well I would suggest that you keep blogging and posting on social media. All that community you have built up will still be wanting your content and Google will be loving your dedication to the cause, plus I guarantee you will be thanking your foresight and planning when the revenue starts pouring in!
Head of eCommerce
David has been involved with Search Engine Optimisation and web development since 1999 and has spoken at many different retail and SEO conferences including Spring Fair and SES London