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How to build trust for an ecommerce site in both search engines and users

November 27th, 2013 | | Posted in category Search Engine Optimization SEO Tools Social Media Website Usability

Build trusted sites

After a number of Google Updates, it looks pretty challenging to focus on certain SEO factors – meta tags have become less important and backlink anchor texts must be treated with utmost care, but fortunately there’s one huge and critically important factor you can start working on today – TRUST!

Let’s review the ways of making your ecommerce site more trustworthy for search engines and users.

Help search engines trust your website

If you want to tell search engines your site can be trusted, basically, make sure that it’s always

  • accessible
  •  malware-free
  • updated with unique content

I know, you’ve heard it many times, but these 3 points are actually the core of the trust you can get from search engines, so please find some time and check your site using the following steps:

1. Check if all important pages are open for indexing

It may occur that some landing pages are not visible to search engines, as they are closed from indexing in the robots.txt file or by the robots meta tag. If you find such pages, remove the tags and resubmit them to the search engines (e.g., in Google Webmaster Tools).

2. Get a solid XML sitemap for your site

If you have a large ecommerce catalog, with dozens of new product pages added on a daily basis, think about using the dynamic sitemap that gets updated automatically.

3. Fix broken links and correct critical HTML issues

Search engine bots don’t like to be misleaded by incorrectly working URLs, so check your site’s pages for broken links and HTML code errors. It all takes time, but it sure pays off in the longer run.

Luckily, there are some SEO tools to help us out, such as this Page Audit module in WebMeUp:

Page Audit
The tool performs a scan of most important technical factors, gives recommendations on how to fix errors, and grabs competitors’ stats for you to analyze.

4. Check your site for malware

Sites get hacked for different reasons – some for unauthorized link placement, others – out of sheer curiosity and for “fun.” Whatever the reason, a hacked website (especially an ecommerce one!) may be flagged by the search engines in the search results and even removed from index as insecure.

search result example

How to prevent this?

a. Use specialized software or plugins to check site regularly for malware and to receive attack notifications. Take a look at these security extensions and plugins for Joomla and WordPress.

b. Keep the software up-to-date. Whatever the platform you are using, make sure it gets updated regularly.

c. Carefully manage your account passwords and change them every 6 months.

What to do if your site has been hacked?

It’s very probable you’ll get a special alert in Google Webmaster Tools Account – don’t panic and follow the standard guidelines:

a. Take your site down, contact the web hoster and change the passwords.

b. Estimate the damage. Use the tools to scan your site for malware (some may be provided by web hosters) and detect the infected pages. Use the URL Removal tool in Webmaster Tools to request removal of hacked pages or URLs. This will prevent the hacked pages from being served to users.

c. If you have backups of your content, consider deleting your content entirely and replacing it with your last known good backup.

d. After your site gets cleaned up, go back to GWT and ask Google to review your site again.

And look through this more detailed advice from Google on how to manage malware and spam issues.

Help visitors trust your website

Now, when you’ve tackled site’s technical issues, it’s high time to make the site more trustworthy for users.

1. Put the logos of the security software used by your ecommerce site.

According to the stats from Actual Insights report, the most recognized trustmarks are

  • McAfee (79%)
  • Verisign (76%)
  • Paypal (72%)
  • BBB (37%)
  • TRUSTe (28%)

Security marks study

So, if your site works with PayPal and gets scanned by McAfee, make sure your site visitors will see the related icons on site's pages.

2. Make your site looks professional and well-designed

Put as many trust marks as you wish, but if your site’s design resembles student’s master thesis from the 1990s, the chances are high users will leave your ecommerce site with no purchases. That’s why you’d better consult a Web designer and get your site a professional look. Besides, a UX expert can show you why visitors leave your site, what they may dislike (the checkout process, long registration form, or confusing navigation) and how to effectively fix these usability issues.

3. Add clear contact details

We all got used now to “Jessica B” or “John A” support reps, but even if you don’t want to disclose the names of your staff, make sure that your contact details and company name are crystal clear and visible.

4. Inspire users to write reviews

Nothing works better in sales than someone’s recommendation – we love to hear what other people liked and disliked about certain products before we decide to buy them, so:

  • Add the ability to comment/review products
  • Inspire users to post more reviews, offering them some rewards (special points, discounts, etc.)

5. Promote your ecommerce site in social media

40.7% of the respondents (from the above-mentioned ActualInsights report) said they would trust a website if a friend, colleague or family member has used this site. And the easiest way to achieve this is through social media:

  • Use BuzzBundle to find social media posts and discussions related to your site and company. Join the conversation (both positive and negative), thank users for the opinions, share the news, etc.
  • Create pages in most popular social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and share valuable content with followers.
  • Check your Google Analytics traffic stats to see which social network sends most traffic to your site – maybe you need to spend more time there?

And that’s it! I intentionally haven’t created a “50 right things to do” guide, as the owners of ecommerce sites are usually so pressed for time, they get frightened and lose patience quickly in the optimization process. Start with optimizing the core things and see how trust increases – in rankings, traffic and conversions!

***

We'd love to hear any feedback from ecommerce site owners on this issue – can these things make a big difference to your conversion rates? Which are the most effective ones to use?



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