Structuring your site is a crucial element of SEO. If you want to generate more traffic to your website, you should create a structure for your site that makes sense to Google and your site’s visitors. In this post, I’ll explain why site structure is such an important aspect of SEO.

Structure shows importance to Google

If your site is well-structured, the most important content will receive the most internal links. By linking to this content, you’re telling Google what the most significant content is. You’ll probably want exactly this content to pop up in the search engines. If your internal linking structure is of high quality, you’ll have a much higher chance that the most informational content on your website will rank well in the search engines. We also refer to this as cornerstone content.

Read more: ‘How to incorporate cornerstone content on your site’ »

No competing with your own content

If you aren’t structuring your site well, you could well be competing with your own content to appear high in Google. If you don’t tell Google which one of your six blogposts about, for instance, spaghetti is the most important, Google won’t know which to rank highest. It’s hard enough competing with other websites for those prime spots in the search results, you should definitely make sure not to compete with your own content!

Structure is important for UX

A decent site structure will help your site to rank high in Google. Besides that, site structure is also important for the User eXperience (UX). The structure of your website should be reflected in the navigation of your website. If this structure is clear, your audience will easily find their way on your site. A good UX will increase your chances for people to convert: buy your products; subscribe to your newsletter or return for another visit.

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Don’t let your site get cluttered

If you’re serious about your website, you’ll probably add and change things frequently on your website. Without even noticing it, your site could get cluttered rather quickly. Perhaps you’re posting a lot in one category and very little in other ones. Perhaps you’re deleting pages, without redirecting them. And perhaps you are forgetting to link to (and update!) those most important blogpost, because you only think of your most recent blogposts. While perfectly understandable, your website could well get cluttered.

Stay focused on the structure of your site

Site structure is an important aspect of your SEO strategy. And structuring your site is something that is an ongoing process. Yoast SEO premium can really help you to set up and improve the structure of your site. The redirects functionality will allow you to easily redirect pages you delete (so you’ll pass on the linking juice to another page). And our new related links functionality will make sure you are interlinking articles with similar topics. We’re already working on new features in order to help you improve the structure of your site even more.

On top of that, if you want to learn more about site structure, we’ll have a nice surprise for you next week. We’ll be launching a brand new Site structure training! Following this course will enable you to really get started in improving your own site structure. Can’t wait? Just start by reading our ultimate guide!

Keep reading: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Reviews or testimonials are mostly said to work on the basis of social proof. Social proof is a psychological process in which people copy the behavior of others, in an attempt to reflect correct behavior.

A testimonial tells you that someone you can identify with has bought a product and loved it. That must mean the product is just the right thing for you as well. However, ratings and reviews are not just valuable for your customers alone: Google uses them in various ways too, as I’ll explain in this post. Moreover, I’ll show how you can help Google show ratings and reviews in the search results, with the right Schema.org markup.

Ratings

Ratings for your website or online shop can be twofold:

  • For your entire business
  • For a specific product

Business ratings

Ratings for your brand or shop will most probably be given on a website like Resellerratings.com or Google My Business. Google will see these ratings and will even add Google My Business ratings to their Knowledge Graph information. The time that Google added stars to search result pages for any website that added these ratings in schema.org is over. Google was simply flooded with ratings, and it made less sense to add them to all the results anymore. That doesn’t mean they are entirely gone, as the opinion of your visitor or customer is still equally valuable to Google. So where it makes sense, like for hotels, Google will still show that rating. Google also tends to show shop ratings in their Google Shopping results, by the way:rating of shop in SERP

Product ratings

Product ratings are a bit of a different breed, although they work pretty much the same. Have people rate a product on your website, and add an Aggregate rating on a nice spot on your product page. Next to Google picking up on that rating and showing it in, for instance, the Google Shopping result, it increases trust in a product.

product rating in SERP

As you can see, product ratings have a different color in Google Shopping results.

Besides, in their Shopping results, you can also find product reviews from major websites in the search result pages, like this one from CNET:

cnet review

CNET is a trusted source for Google, so they feel comfortable showing that rating and link these reviews on page one in the search result pages.

Obviously, it’s key to monitor these ratings and act if a product is just getting negative reviews. Either contact the reseller and ask them to fix the issues or stop selling that specific product.

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Reviews

Most of the times the ratings we discussed earlier are just half of a package deal. Ratings are great, and great ratings even greater. But if that rating is accompanied by a detailed review as well, people will be able to relate to the experience another customer had even more. Regardless if that’s for a product or an entire website. These reviews influence the decision-making process of your visitor. If they come to your website and see only negative reviews, written by real people that speak from experience, they will think twice. If these reviews are all raving about the product, people will just need a split second to click the buy button.

Reviews influence local ranking

Especially for local rankings, or local products, reviews are important. They tell Google the public perception of a brand or website. Google can process these reviews and take them into account for rankings if needed. Websites like Yelp and Foursquare help people from all over the world to find the right coffee shop or bakery. Sites like Booking.com tell people where to stay and allow people to share their experiences afterward. If you have sufficient reviews, Google shows these ratings and allows you to pick right from their search result pages already. If you search for a specific hotel in Google, you’ll find even more reviews in the search result pages:

ratings and reviews hotel in serp

It’s up to you which source you trust more. But we think you can’t go wrong with this hotel, right?

The image shows that you shouldn’t rule out Facebook in this as well. Maintain an active page and allow for reviews. Again, monitor these. All this positive ‘word of mouth’ combined will contribute to Google liking and ranking your online shop even better.

Ratings, reviews, and Schema.org

Google uses structured data to include extra information in the search results. The markup for structured data is taken from a vocabulary called Schema.org. A combined effort of Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Yandex, this open data format’s goal is to offer structured data that search engines can consistently use to present rich results. This could be product information, ratings, and reviews, or information about your local business.

To implement structured data, you need to offer search engines the correct markup. There are a couple of ways of doing that: Microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD. According to Google, the latter is the easiest way of adding metadata to sites these days. JSON-LD is a lightweight data-format that’s easy to read for both humans and machines. You can test your code in Google’s Structured Data Test Tool.

Reviews and ratings

By adding certain Schema.org elements to your code, it’s possible for Google to add reviews and ratings to your search results. You need to tell which parts are about the review and what that element represents. In Schema.org a rating is the aggregate value a product gets. A review is a rating, with an explanation in text.

In the example below, you see a typical Schema.org review in JSON-LD format. A couple of highlights:

  • type: The schema.org type (a review)
    • itemReviewed: What you are reviewing
    • type: The schema.org thing (a thing)
  • reviewRating: Is it a review or a rating?
    • type: It’s a rating
    • ratingValue: The number of stars (1-5)
  • name: The title of the review
  • author: Who wrote it?
    • type: It’s a person, of course
    • name: Name of the author
  • reviewBody: Where was the review published
    • publisher: The actual publisher
    • type: Most of the time it’s an organization
    • name: Name of the organization
<script type=“application/ld+json”>
{
 “@context”: “http://schema.org/“,
 “@type”: “Review”,
  “itemReviewed”: {
  “@type”: “Thing”,
  “image”: “https://cdn-images.yoast.com/uploads/2010/10/Yoast_SEO_WP_plugin_FB.png”,
  “name”: “Yoast SEO”
 },
 “reviewRating”: {
  “@type”: “Rating”,
  “ratingValue”: “5”
 },
 “name”: “The best SEO plugin ever!”,
  “author”: {
  “@type”: “Person”,
  “name”: “Calvin Jones”
 },
 “reviewBody”: “I love working with it.”,
  “publisher”: {
  “@type”: “Organization”,
  “name”: “WordPress.org”
 }
}
</script>

Products

The same can be done for product listings. If you use the right markup, Google can pick up the data and show it in the results. You can add specifications, price, availability, reviews and ratings, and more to your listings. The code to use is comparable to the one above. In a future post, we’ll be elaborating on that a bit more.

Local businesses

Reviews are a godsend for local businesses. That’s why it’s rather important to add them to your listings. Using Schema.org and, for instance, JSON-LD, you give Google the opportunity to add your ratings to the search results. Potential customers will get a good idea of the quality of your business, right in the search engine.

Keep an eye on our site, because we will be diving deeper into Schema.org for products, ratings and reviews, and what it all means for local businesses.

Read more: ‘Use JSON-LD to add schema.org to your website’ »

Online shops rarely sell just a few products. If your shop has a few hundred or a thousand articles, it might help if you offered your customers a filtering option. You must do whatever you can to help your customer get to the desired product as soon as possible. Ecommerce filters can help you solve this problem.

Why should you use eCommerce filters?

Ecommerce filters help you to break down long lists of products into manageable results. If you implement them correctly, your clients will thank you with a higher conversion rate. But, only if you think these through. To achieve that, you must first make sure to tag your products properly and develop an accurate system of filters.

Think about how people search your shop; do they drill down into the specs or are they more like seasonal shoppers looking for a new coat for autumn? The kind of filters you choose, depend on the kind of shop you run and the products you sell. Electronics have lots of specifications that can be placed in a filter. A shop that sells handmade scarfs can use filters for the material used or maybe what kind of style it is (urban, chic, outdoor, to name a few).

Flawless UX and usability are very important for SEO. If you make your site function without fault, and your visitors can easily find what they want in your shop, you’ll get lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates. These are all signs for Google that your site works like it should and could result in higher rankings.

These kinds of filters do come with a warning, though. If developed and implemented incorrectly they could harm your SEO. You do not want your CMS to automatically generate new URLs for every search query. Tread carefully. We’ll dive deeper into this in a later post.

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How to use eCommerce filters

A well-thought out filter system can save the consumer an enormous amount of time and frustration. Most of the time, however, we see filters that haven’t been properly developed. Think about all the shops where they implemented a site-wide filter. Don’t do this. That might be ok if you have just a few products in similar categories, but not if you’re aiming to be Amazon. Think about that for a moment: how would you ever find anything on Amazon if it wasn’t for that excellent filter system?

So, you have to have category-specific filters. Place these front and center on your category pages. People shouldn’t miss this, because if they can’t find them, these filters don’t exist. In addition to that, if you only use site-wide eCommerce filters, some filter options won’t fit the category a customer is browsing. Filtering for a white, 18 megapixel, point-and-shoot camera doesn’t make sense when you’re on the DSLR category page and want to select the best DSLR cameras under $500.

Examples of eCommerce filters

If you want to see how filtering ought to be done, you have to study Amazon. This eCommerce behemoth tries to help customers find what they want in as little time as possible. Let’s say you are looking for over-ear headphones, that have good reviews from buyers. To help you with that, Amazon has made a buying guide for headphones that you can reach directly from the headphones category page.

Amazon.com

On this page, you can select which type of headphone you are looking for, and Amazon instantly presents you with a list of suggestions. You can narrow it down further by filtering on price, features or wireless type. By doing this, Amazon has done a lot of hard work for the customer. In a couple of seconds, you have a manageable list of headphones to go through.

amazon buying guide headphones

In addition to the buying guide, you can reach the regular, more expansive filters by going directly to the over-ear headphones category. This shows you 9,915 results, but they can be easily narrowed down by a plethora of filters, like features, earcup style, color, featured brands, customer rating, et cetera. This gives you everything you need to find what you are looking for.

amazon headphones

Nike.com

Do you need new sportswear? Something to help you stay warm during your morning run, has a tight fit and is available in size M? You can find some tights using the thematic filter on Nike.com, see:

running tights nike

Nike.com lets you easily filter types of products based on actual questions customers have. Choose the product category, then the sports, what you want it to do (keep you warm, cool, visible, et cetera), then a fit, a color, and size. In the end, you’ll be presented with just a couple of products that match your specific filters.

Wayfair.com

Looking for a new couch can be one of the most frustrating experiences ever. It’s something you don’t buy every month, plus it will last quite awhile, so you have to be sure of your decision. It can take some time to find the perfect couch. Wayfair helps customers filter their enormous couch selection with an impressive filter system.

wayfair filtering options

Wayfair.com must the king of filtering since they use every filter type known to humanity, but still keep it manageable. In the couch section, you can filter on the popular options, but also handy ones like style, print, back style, application, frame finish, et cetera. It’s a massive array of filters that lets you narrow down the search results to specific products that match your specifications perfectly.

The flip side of offering all these filters is that you have to make sure they are usable. Don’t present a list that never ends. If you have loads of option in a filter section, please truncate these. Mayfair also uses a big + button to hide sections you don’t need. Another option is to make a list scrollable, although it’s probably better to truncate. Test whatever works for you.

wayfair pinboard

On a side note, Wayfair has another way of keeping customers sane. Check out this Pinterest-like board feature where customers can save their selected couches and compare them later on. This makes it so much easier for clients to patiently shop on the site, without having to think about what that one couch was they’d like so much.

BHPhotoVideo.com

Ever went shopping for a camera bag only to find out the one you bought doesn’t fit? Well, you’ve probably drowned in a sea of bags and picked the first one that could have fit based on the size specifications. I think we’ve all been there. If you want to help your customers, you should offer a compatibility filter.

bhphotovideo camera bags

On B&H you’ll find your camera bag in a jiffy. Select the dedicated camera bag category, find your brand, add some specs and away you go. You can even search the results if you want. How cool is that?

In conclusion

Filtering helps your customers find what they want and find it quickly. However, only if you’ve thought long and hard about how to present your filtering options. There are lots of ways to go about this, and you have to pick the ones that fit best your online shop.

Whatever you do, make sure the filters are visible and logical. Hidden filters stay hidden for visitors. Don’t miss this great opportunity to get them to their products fast. It’s a great service to your customers.

Do think about the technical implications, though. Incorrect use of the technology behind filters could make the CMS generate new URLs for every search and that’s something you absolutely do not want. The implications for your SEO could be great. We’ll elaborate on that in a later post.

Read more: ‘eCommerce usability: the ultimate guide’ »

Right after an online purchase by a customer, an important marketing opportunity arises. At that moment, someone chose to buy a product on your website. Seize that moment! In this article, we’ll go over a number of things you can do to turn these online customers into brand ambassadors.

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Promote us!

It’s so easy to leverage that new or returning customer right after his or her purchase. For instance, you could simply ask the customer, who obviously had an awesome experience shopping on your eCommerce site to promote your shop for you. Here’s how!

Social sharing

If you ask your customer to promote your shop online, make this as easy as possible. Social sharing can be done in two clicks: You’ve already created a great Thank You page, and all you have to do is create some social sharing buttons for your favorite social platforms. Ask your customer to ‘Spread the word’ or ‘Recommend us’. Clicking the tweet or share button will open a box with a predefined text about your shop, a link to your shop. Personalize it by adding the product name (“I just bought Product X on yourshop.com – it’s awesome!”). If the text is predefined, it’s literally two clicks that your future brand ambassador will be willing to make.

Ask for testimonials

Next to adding testimonials on your website, you should also ask your customer to leave a product review on larger review sites. Think along the lines of TripAdvisor (hotels and restaurants), GoodReads (books), Yelp (any local business). I have been camping in Denmark, and there were TripAdvisor signs everywhere telling me about the (obviously) good rating they had, and asking me to leave my own review. After a purchase, or in the confirmation email you send, I think it’s totally OK to ask a customer to leave his two cents. Not only will this help your brand in case of a positive review, it will also help you monitor things you can still improve upon.

Reviews on Google and Facebook

Next to specialized sites like the ones mentioned in the previous section, why not ask your customer to leave a review on your Facebook page or Google Business page as well? Google and Facebook are probably the starting points for any potential customer search. Regardless of whether a customer clicks to GoodReads anyway, your reviews are shown with your Google Business information like this:

google-review_1d6de66e-1

Value your customers

Even online, you must strive to be that nice neighborhood shop, where you know your customers by name. Perhaps not all of them in the case of thousands of customers, but at least f.i. the largest 10% of them. That means investing back in these customers. Sending them a birthday present, adding extra incentives or discounts, things like that. Show them you appreciate them as a customer.

Keep in touch

But that’s not all. Providing great after-sales services will lead your customers back to you. That could just be a flexible return policy. Or, if you own a guitar shop and you sell a cheap Spanish guitar, chances are that the buyer is a beginner. Surprise him with a short tutorial video for simple chords a week after purchase. Send an email six months after purchase with a discount for new guitar strings. It’s all so obvious, right? In this case, you just have to keep in mind that the obvious probably works.

When creating brand ambassadors

Make sure that your customers don’t forget you. Next to all the things mentioned earlier, it’s absolutely necessary that you need to do your best to deliver the best customer experience possible. Deliver on time, or communicate on time. Treat your customer as you’d like to be treated yourself. Make the customer feel welcome in your online shop’s family!

Read more: ‘Creating loyal customers’ »

If you’re starting with an (eCommerce) site you might have a lot of content that’s already available in PDF files: product brochures, datasheets, pricing information and so on. So some people might think: why not upload these PDF files and link to them? There are some disadvantages to showing PDF files on your site though. We’ll discuss some of them in this Ask Yoast, while answering a question from Stijn Vogels from Antwerp, Belgium. He asked:

“In my current mission I’m confronted with many links directing to PDF files instead of html pages. There are some clear disadvantages of PDF files, but I was also wondering if there are any risks. What risks do links to PDF files pose?”

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Risks of links to PDF files?

Read the transcript of the video here:

“There’s no real risk in terms of links to PDF files. But PDF files are generally just not as useful as web pages. They indeed have some disadvantages: you can’t have easy links on them, you can’t make them as interactive, you can’t track them and you don’t really know what the user is doing, when he is looking at a PDF file.

If you can turn that into a web page, you can see what users are doing, and you can guide them to other content on your site, or make them convert more easily (buy something, subscribe to your newsletter etc). That becomes a whole lot more useful, than just having a still bunch of PDF files on your site.

So my suggestion is, if you have the choice, to always use web pages instead of PDF files. Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we’ll take your SEO question! Do you have a pressing SEO question about your site? Let us help you out! You might get a personal answer on video!

Read more: ‘27 tips for a better shop’ »

Small business owners often struggle with their SEO. You have your business, your customers, and now your website demands attention as well. I frequently talk to business owners that just use their website as a reference for real life customers. To be honest, that is a bit narrow-minded. There is so much more you can do!

In this article, I’ll go over some improvements any small business owner can easily do by himself. It’s going to costs you time, not per se any money. Use this article as a checklist, and see how you are doing. Here we go!

Manage your expectations

Let’s start with the most important one: be realistic about what you can rank for and what not. Manage your expectations. If your competitors are giant companies with huge marketing budgets, you’ll probably not going to rank number one for your main keyword (f.i. car insurance). Aim for specific keywords instead, not the general, high-end keywords.

What’s your niche?

Take some time to find the keywords that describe your business best. If you are a local grocery store that also delivers to people’s homes, aim for ‘order groceries Springfield’ not ‘order groceries online’. See how you can differentiate yourself from the horde, and focus on that. This also includes focusing on longer tail keywords. That brings me to my next tip.

Use mid-tail keywords

Adding the city name

Do not keyword-stuff your website with your location’s name. If you really want to rank locally, try to include the city name in a way that makes sense. Add LocalBusiness schema, for instance via our local SEO plugin. And get some local links to your website. That will already help you a lot!

No need to go overboard in specifying your niche. ‘Sports gear for teams that is easy to wash in Vancouver’ will probably only give you one new visitor a day. Focus on mid-tail keywords like ‘team sports gear Vancouver’. You’ll see that for a small business, it usually pays off to add the city name to some optimized pages as well. More on keywords in our article on the long tail.

Utilize online platforms

If there is one thing I can tell you from my experience in this, it is that local small businesses communicate a lot via social media. Use that Twitter account actively, set up your Facebook page and maintain it. Add your business to Google Business and make sure your opening hours are filled out if you have any. Every Google search for your company or closely related searches might show these immediately, before any organic search results. The same goes for sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor. They have their marketers working 24/7. In the end, it doesn’t matter if people find your business through websites like Yelp or Google, right?

Utilize offline platforms

New website? Contact your local newspaper. New products? Contact your local newspaper. New business? You get the drift. Do not underestimate the reach these local news companies have. People read these publications. If you have anything newsworthy, please contact these publishers and see if they can help you to promote your business offline. If you participate in a local event, by all means, add a blog post to your website as well. Just be sure it is relevant.

Make sure your customers find your shop! Optimize your site with our Local SEO plugin and show you opening hours, locations, map and much more!

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Word of mouth

Create buzz around your shop, for instance by asking people to leave a review on Google Business or Yelp. Do sweepstakes or giveaways for your online visitors. 500 likes on Facebook? Give number 500 a coupon for your shop, online or offline. Have a sale for a specific brand? You could consider promoting it online only. Sponsoring a local event? Be sure to set up an event specific landing page and ask them to link that one. These are all little things that might trigger people to talk about your website, next to your shop.

Add evergreen content

If you want to rank, just adding blog posts or opening times won’t be enough. You should add pages with so-called evergreen content. These pages have content that won’t expire anytime soon. Evergreen content can be at the top of your keyword research pyramid, so a bit less long tail than the rest of your keyword focus. This content can be the solid base of your websites. Expand this base per product, service or business value so that you can focus on all the dynamic content you’ll write on a daily or weekly basis.

Small business blogging

The easiest way to keep your customers (and others) in the loop about your products and offerings, is by adding a blog to your website. That blog will fuel your social media and newsletter, so it’s a much more extensive tool than ‘just an addition’ to your site.

Please keep in mind that ‘no inspiration’ is a sad excuse for not adding that blog. Marieke just did an article with a load of tips that will give you that inspiration. Just start, and see where it goes. You’ll find your way in this for sure.

Get local links

To emphasize the local character of your shop, it will pay off to see what related business there are in your local area. By reaching out to these companies or websites you will a) expand your local network and b) create an opportunity to get valuable backlinks. Just because of these local backlinks, Google will understand your geographical reach/positioning.

Contact details everywhere

For most small business websites, the main goal is to get in touch with your potential customers. The simplest way to make this crystal clear is by adding your contact details to every page. It doesn’t matter if that is in the footer or sidebar by the way. Add your phone number or an email form so that people can reach you in the easiest way possible.

Realize your website is your online shop window

Putting in all that effort might seem like a hassle, as you are already putting so much time in local networking, redecorating your shop’s windows and more. You have to keep in mind that for someone that finds your shop online first, it matters what that shop looks like. Your website is the online replacement for window shopping. If your actual shop is decorated for the season, I would also suggest taking a closer look at how you can translate that to your website.

Make sure people feel welcome, and are enticed to buy your products or services online. Or at least feel the urge to come by your local business to see what you can do for them.

Read more: ‘What is Local SEO?’ »

Product images can make or break your online shop’s success. You can hire the best designer in the world to create a killer design, but when images are bad, sales will be bad. It’s the first thing a customer will look at.

Even studies show that people that shop online value product images. The most important features of a product page when shopping online are:

  1. Quality of the product images
  2. View products in all available colors
  3. Alternate views of the selected item
  4. Ability to zoom into the details of the product
  5. Product guides

(Source: E-tailing Group via Pixelz.com)

That’s four out of five features that involve product images! In this post, we’ll go over a number of things you need to consider when adding product images to your online shop.

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Product images set a mood

While I was (re)writing the article on the internal search for your online shop, I once again realized how big a role product images play in an online store. I was reviewing a site of a friend of mine and found that the images on his homepage just didn’t do justice to the products he sells. The images of his featured products simply didn’t ‘pop’. To demonstrate this, I replaced them with bright colored pictures and the website told a whole other story.

One of the things we tell our customers is to use photos of people using the product. Or the product in use. It doesn’t matter if you sell coffee machines or dresses. If you add people, your product will look friendlier and people will see themselves using your products.

Product image with the product in use - ikea bed frame

See the difference? That Ikea bed is much more appealing. Ikea does a awesome job in this, both in their magazines, on their website and in their stores. Product images like this are becoming more and more common, so be sure you’re not the last one to do this!

Using product images with the products in use works best, because people will be able to see themselves using that product. It’s as close as you can get to an in-store experience. People want to buy the product online, but an image will never replace picking a product up, looking at it from all angles or trying it on. We need to try to give our customers that same experience. For the same reason testimonials work so well, by the way.

Quality of your product images

It seems so obvious to use high quality images. But we have been telling you to reduce the file size for years, right. First of all, that doesn’t mean you have to use a crappy, blurred image of just a few kBs. The tools mentioned in our image SEO article don’t reduce the quality of an image, for instance. They remove meta / Exif data and things like that, but your image will still look awesome.

Secondly, internet connections are getting faster. We’re a lucky country, as in the Netherlands broadband internet is everywhere. There are just a few so-called white spots (locations with no internet at all), with a total size of a couple of baseball fields. That also means we’ll have less difficulties downloading your larger product image files. You’ll need larger images anyway, as that leads us to another necessary feature of online shops: ability to zoom product images.

Ability to zoom

Have you ever picked up a backpack or daypack to inspect the lining? Is it waterproof, does it protect your stuff well? You want to be able to take a closer look at details. That’s what zooming product images is for. My personal pet peeve when it comes to this, is when the zoomed image is exactly the same size (or even smaller) than the product image that was already shown. This still happens frequently! A lot of online shops simply import product images from manufacturers (or even download them from other shops that sell the same product) without testing the image first. This ruins user experience in my book.

If there is no proper product image available, create one. Even your iPhone’s camera can provide you with a decent, large image that can serve as a zoomable product image.

Shopify‘s guide on product images states:

Your product images can be any size up to 2048px by 2048px, or 4.2 megapixels. […] Higher resolution photos will look more polished and professional to your customers, and we typically suggest 1024px by 1024px as a guideline for square product images.

Woocommerce states that the minimum dimensions should be 800×800 pixels. That seems to make sense, as it will perfectly fit most tablets as well without any problem. Smaller will lead to distortion, and we have established you want quality images, right?

By the way, Pixelz has a nice guide for DIY images for your shop. Find that guide here.

Any color you want as long as it is black

Henry Ford wrote in his autobiography “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. Times have changed. We at Yoast recently replaced all plastic water cups (at our water coolers) with personal Doppers and ordered these in green and purple for obvious reasons:

Yoast doppers

We switched some tops and bottoms, by the way.

Bottom line: if you want to buy a blue sweater, you want to be able to see that sweater in that color. I like the way blue-tomato.com does this, by not just showing colored squares, but a thumbnail of the product in another color:

Product image variations: not just colored squares

Especially for products that consist of one main and a few other colors, this works really well.

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Alternate views or products

You want to be able to look at a product from all angles. Let’s look at that blue-tomato.com example again. It shows that sweater being used, from the back and front, plus some details. You can really check the sweater from multiple angles.

If you are looking for furniture online, you want to check that chair from multiple angles as well. You want alternate views for the kitchen appliances, even though you’ll hide the dish washer behind a cabinet panel. And let’s take a closer look at the fabric of those drapes, or the back cover of that book. Again, it’s all about replacing the in-store experience.

Zappos does all that and adds a video of (in this case) an employee telling you more about the product itself:

Product video can add just that bit of extra to product images

The way that shoe is bent and rotated makes that you really ‘feel’ what kind of shoe that All Star is, so to say. I like that!

To wrap things up

If you have an online business selling actual products, you need to make sure to optimize your product images. Your customer will most definitely appreciate that. Make sure to:

  1. use high quality images;
  2. add an option for zoom;
  3. make sure to show the product in all available colors;
  4. provide alternate views of the product.

These are the main things to take into account when optimizing your shop’s images. I trust this article will make you rethink your own product images, or make you realize you are actually doing a pretty nice job!

Read more: ‘Optimizing images for SEO’ »

It’s a vastly overrated notion that a homepage should include all sections of your website and serve all kind of visitors. It needs one clear call to action. That call to action needs to be the main thing you want your visitor to do on that page, like buy your products or subscribe to your newsletter.

Make sure that a call to action stands out from the rest of your design, by using a contrasting button color, an actionable link or button text and reducing most (if not all) clutter.

Clutter:
To make disorderly or hard to use by filling or covering with objects

The need to put everything on one homepage

Employment websites do it. “Employers subscribe here”, “Companies list here”, “Latest jobs”, “Build your resume”. Real estate agents do it. “Buy these new homes”, “Sell your home with us”, “Latest sales”, “Upcoming events”. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

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UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective

It seems that most homepages are designed with one thing in mind: “How do I make everything on my website accessible from this one single page.” Well, you can’t. Not in a way that your visitor will understand your company, product or really anything at all.

One clear call to action

To guide your visitor into or through your website, you should give him directions. Pretty similar to how a road needs road signs actually. Yes, you can put up multiple signs, but you should make the most important ones the biggest. Make it as big as possible. Make it stand out. Here’s our own product page for the Gold website review:

Gold review product page

It’s pretty clear what we want you to do there, right? Not all websites add calls to action like that, though. Everybody has visited that one great looking website in 50 shades of grey that had an orange RSS button that drew all attention. That’s really bad design in my opinion. Of course, the thing that stands out should just be your call to action: that’s what you want visitors to click on.

A different approach to a call to action

There are many ways to use and implement this call to action. Obviously, one is using the big bold button, preferably in a color that is not used in the design of the website (the orange RSS button mentioned above). You might also use whitespace to emphasize a specific part of the homepage, making it stand out that way.

We recently had a client for a website review who has this (quite common) idea of starting his website with a choice: three options for three variations of a product. Of course, that would imply three calls to action…

No problem, if you combine the two ways mentioned above. So make a block that really stands out (use sufficient whitespace around it) and add three similar calls to action, with (very important) a descriptive title for that block, like “Make your choice”. That way, the entire block becomes your call to action. It’s a bit like we do on our current homepage:

Yoast.com call to action

Now let’s illustrate the simplicity of call to actions by looking at some example websites (none of them are clients):

Jobsite.co.uk

In the first version of this article, one of the examples I used was Jobsite.co.uk. It was terrible, in terms of calls to action.

Jobsite is a leading UK online recruitment site, dedicated to helping you find your next job.”

I actually got lost on the homepage already. Yes, I understand you want me to search for my next job on your page, or do you really want me to register first? One very distracting issue this homepage has, is that the Vision2learn banner has the largest call to action of the page…

jobsite.co.uk screenshot

How things have changed over the last years! The 2016 Jobsite website has a very nice call to action that focuses on just that: finding a job.

Clear call to action on the 2016 Jobsite.co.uk

All things considered, the homepage is very much improved. My next suggestion would be to test the button color (make it stand out more) and the button text (make it more inviting and descriptive, like ‘Find your dream job’).

Scuolaleonardo.com

The second website I mentioned back in 2012 was Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. Since we do website reviews for websites from all over the world, I decided to look up an Italian School in Italy. At first, in the Italian language. After looking at their website, I decided to stick to Google Translate… as I couldn’t find where to apply for a course. As it turned out, the question “Where do you want me to click???” was impossible to answer for this website. The total lack of a call to action, combined with the overall clutter, makes a visitor head back to Google in the blink of an eye.

scuolaleonardo.com screenshot

Just like Jobsite.co.uk, this website has developed over the years, but just not as much. The first view of the 2016 website is this:

Scuola Leonardo's call to action (lack of)

We have the modern large image in the first view, with a nice block of text that could have easily been the call to action. But it isn’t, as the entire image holds no link. A missed opportunity. A bit more down that page, we do find some call to action buttons:

More Scuola Leonardo

Why not start with these? They make perfect top tasks for that website and deserve some more TLC in my book. Change the button color to make them stand out more from the rest of the design altogether.

Walmart.com

After the initial publication of this post, I received quite some comments on my quick review of Walmart’s calls to action. You’d expect that company to monitor and improve their website all the time, right? This is what I wrote in 2012:

“Help me out here, Walmart. Why do you want me to click my empty cart? Don’t get me wrong, for shopping sites, emphasizing the cart is always a good thing. But I think what Walmart wants me to click is something else, like the free shipping offer or perhaps a product I could buy. Now that should be the orange button on that homepage! Also, the banner “Shop Top Brands” is just a list of products and prices. The call to action on that banner should also be clear (“Shop NOW” or something like that).”

It seems we all learned quite a lot about UX and conversion optimization, as the 2016 Wallmart.com website really has improved a lot. In fact, it might be the best improvement of the three examples in this article:

Walmart 2016 screenshot

The header is clickable, the cart has been toned down, the search option is nice and prominent and the banner is for their own products. Is it all good? Well, there is always room for improvement. In an ideal world, there would be an actionable button-like element in that header. Just so we won’t mistake the banner below the header for that.
Furthermore, the lady might be looking at that button, instead of the package. On the other hand, we feel the sheer joy she feels when receiving her Walmart package, right? These really are things a website should test.

Get to work!

A lot of things mentioned in this article go for your homepage and landing pages. For product pages, there are a lot more things to consider. Find these in my article Calling to the next action.

With the issues described above, you can easily check your own homepage. Is there a clear main call to action? Is there too much clutter?Go and make things clear for your visitor. You’ll have a better website after it!

Read more: ‘Focus on clarity first’ »

More than half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices (fact). So if you are ignoring your mobile site, you might be missing out on half your audience. In this post, I’ll go over the way we check mobile sites in our website reviews. After this post, you’ll be able to check your mobile website yourself on key elements.

Use your phone to check your mobile site

Open your phone’s browser and go to your website. See how it looks. You didn’t see that advice coming, right..? I know of business owners that have never done this. They paid a shipload of money to create a mobile site but haven’t looked at it after their designer presented the design. Like Nike said: just do it. See what you are missing.

Things that you need to check on your mobile site:

  1. Top tasks. Make sure visitors can find your main pages in a heartbeat.
  2. Address and phone number. People use mobile websites of shops to set their navigation, for instance. If you want customers to find your store, list your address. If you want people to call you, this is the main call-to-action on your mobile site. Make it clickable.
  3. A working menu and a search option. It’s nice to add a hamburger menu as it saves space, but please make sure it folds out. Add a search option as a backup for your menu.
  4. Mobile design and UX. Make sure your mobile site is not just your entire website squeezed in that little screen. Toning it down colorwise also helps.
  5. Buttons and links. Make sure these are easy to spot and large enough to click.

Please find more information on this in our mobile UX article.

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Note that different phones will differ in how they present your website. For that very reason, we recommend checking the mobile version of  website in other ways as well to find flaws in your mobile site.

Google’s Mobile-friendly test

Test your mobile site: Mobile-Friendly-Test screenshotMobile-friendliness is a ranking factor. Google created a test tool, which makes it easy to see how Google sees your website. It comes with a nice scoring system, that tells you what to improve.

The Google Mobile-friendly test also shows a rendering of your mobile page. If that page looks like the one on the right, my guess is there is still work to do. Even if Google tells you your website is mobile-friendly. Remember that it’s an automated check. In our reviews, we check all the things in this article manually, just to make sure we’re not missing things. If you want to do these checks yourself, please do so as well. Sometimes common sense is much more valuable than what Google tells you :)

Let me elaborate on that:

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Web developer toolbar

You can also test your mobile site straight from your browser. In your Chrome browser, simply visit your own website and right-click somewhere on the browser screen. Click ‘Inspect’. After that, click the second icon in the inspector’s menu bar:

Test your mobile website: browser inspector mobile

This will open the website like in the screenshot above. It will allow you to see if your website is fit for multiple screens sizes. Firefox has a similar feature called responsive design mode.

When you select for instance any iPhone in that drop down, and it shows your entire website scaled down to fit the screen, you know your mobile site isn’t mobile-friendly. I tested this local Dutch website and found exactly that:

Test your mobile site: not mobile friendly example

Both tools give a clear advice to optimize that mobile website :)

Conclusion

If you want to check if your mobile site works at all, use the Inspect tool in your browser and Google’s mobile-friendly test. Check for a number of specifics if your website is fit for mobile devices, like top tasks and the size of your buttons. If you would like some more guidance in breaking up your design to fit multiple screens, please read this article on our development blog.

The checks mentioned above are also done in our website reviews. If you want pointers on how to optimize your entire website, including possible recommendations for your mobile site, buy your website review here.

The key to converting a visitor into a client is the creation of trust. Your product can be the greatest thing on earth or the dullest office supply ever, both can be sold online when your visitor knows you are the best supplier for that product or service.

We often advise on how to gain trust in our website reviews, and I’ve compiled a list of some of the advice we’ve given over time. Of course, trust can be earned in more ways than this, but we’ll give you these seven tips to create trust to start with.

1. Use clear and normal language

Not using a clear and normal language is an often overseen issue that causes a lot of grief with your visitors. Please speak their language. Don’t drown them in a sea of technical specs you don’t even understand yourself. Use a clear and direct style of writing. Keep your audience in mind. Do not focus on telling them what you want to tell them, focus on providing as many arguments as possible why their quality of life improves after buying that specific product. This will create trust as it comforts your visitor.

2. Testimonials create trust

Do not brag about your products yourself. If your products or services are really that good, I’m sure you’ll find someone else that can do the bragging for you. Make sure your visitor understand that the testimonial is written by an actual customer, by listing at least name and company and if the customer agrees, even a picture of him. Video seems to be the next big thing in testimonials, by the way. In my opinion, that video testimonial should be accompanied by a written excerpt. It will allow the visitor to read the testimonial in case they can’t turn on the sound:

Video testimonials at Silverpop.com

Video testimonials at Silverpop.com

A lot of websites have testimonials these days. That doesn’t mean they’re all leveraging these testimonials the right way. Testimonials are great to create trust. But if they’re only on the testimonial page and nowhere else, odds are not a lot of people will find them. So you need to put them on pages where people will find them. Your landing pages and near call-to-actions, even below your shopping cart would probably be good spots. Please test for yourself and see what works best for your audience!

3. Security seals

Google has made a clear case for secure websites in the past years. Everyone can create a security seal, so don’t let security seals fool you. But when the seals are from well-known companies, they really do add value to a webshop:

Security seal examples

By investing in the guidelines of the right verification companies, the webshop shows that it has been keeping the customer in mind when setting up the website.
Usually, the security seal comes with a link to a certificate. That certificate should be on the website of the company that verified the website’s security. Now I guess not many people will click that link, but if you add these seals, please do it right and add that link.

Sites that list these security seals also come with that nice green bar in the address bar of your browser. Most of the times I just check that address bar and don’t bother scrolling down to check the footer for security seals (as that is one of the most common locations for them). That green bar says it all for me. Did you know you can actually click that green bar for more information on the site’s security? It’s pretty similar per browser, but here’s what f.i. Firefox could tell you:

SLL certificate information at yoast.com

4. Pictures

If you recognize the woman in this picture, please call the following toll-free number…:

Sofie: probably one of the most used stockphoto models

Fun fact: this article from 2014 highlights The 5 Most Popular Stock Photo Personalities. I’d avoid these :)

You can do better than that stock photo. Anne Sofie (the model in the image) is probably a very nice woman, but listing actual pictures of yourself and/or your employees creates trust and pushes conversion due to recognition and identification.
If you are using something like live chat on your website, this experience will definitely be enhanced by using an actual employer’s photo at that chat.

5. List your physical address

People want to know there is a place to go to in case of problems (if any). Having an actual store next to your eCommerce shop works even better, especially if a lot of your customers are relatively local.

In the Netherlands, digitalstreet.nl made this concept into a huge success. Even though they’re located in the southwest of the Netherlands (near to where we are), people come from all over the land to their store to pick up purchases. There are more stories like that. Even if you don’t want people visiting your store or storage for that matter, I’d list your address. On checkout pages, this will increase trust a lot.

6. What happens after checkout?

There’s this hesitation in almost all buying decisions: right before you click the Pay Now button. What will happen next? Will I be charged for taxes, import, anything else? Can I select a wrapping paper? Explain what happens after clicking that button. That way the customer is included in your ordering process and there are absolutely no surprises. This can be done with just a few short lines of text: “This order is 100% guaranteed. There will be no additional charges upon delivery.” Add a message like that right below your checkout button, and it will comfort a lot of your customers. Conscious or unconsciously, it’ll be easier to complete the order for your customer.

7. Show you care about more than making money

The most important thing is that your website has to reflect your belief in the product or service you provide. Just a list of products is not enough. Also, tell your customer about your company, your main values or mission statement. I really love initiatives like 1% for the Planet.

At Yoast, we emphasize our enthusiasm for Open Source and WordPress by actively engaging in the community and for instance sponsoring WordCamps and WP Meetups. Next to showing that you are involved, things like this create a huge sympathy and trust factor.

On to you

If you sell products or services on your website, you must have thought about this subject. Some things to consider: What did you do on your website to increase trust? And what are you going to do after reading this article? Good luck!

Read more: ‘Testimonials: increase your visitor’s trust’ »