In this guest post, Lisa Forde, who runs a wedding stationery ecommerce business, tells us how Google’s Penguin and Panda updates affected her business and how they have managed to recover. As Lisa started her business around the same time as I began The Wedding Crafter, it’s fascinating to hear her tale.
Over to Lisa:
I began The Card Gallery in 2004, and looking back I realise now that I had no idea what I was letting myself in for! I knew working for myself would be hard work, would involve lots of late nights and early mornings and that I would have to become a jack-of-all-trades, but little did I realise that Google’s fluffy animals would be the most difficult hurdle to overcome.
In February 2012 we were hit by Google’s Penguin update; we thought our dire traffic levels would improve with more time, work and money, but no, in 2013 we were hit again by a further update. Our SEO strategy had always been about gaining as much traffic as possible, partly my fault for outsourcing this area and believing that the agencies I had employed would be going about this in the right way.
I’d noticed during 2012 that our ecommerce rates had been dropping, but it was all about getting more traffic, right? Despite the Penguin update, we still had good traffic levels, our rankings were down and our sales had dropped….but we really weren’t making the most of the traffic levels that we’d still got.
The improvements to our site began
We studied our ecommerce rates on Google Analytics to see where some of the problems could lie. The data was segmented to find out the conversion rates for paid orders, and for non-paid orders such as samples. We were running at around just 2% for paid orders, 50% below industry norms.
Initially we looked at the site ourselves. So often we were busy adding more products, that we rarely had an in depth look at the website and saw it as if we were a customer. We were shocked by the number of obstacles we’d put in our customers’ path over the years – it was amazing that we managed any sales at all!
We made the changes one or two at a time, and carefully monitored the success (or not) of these. Gone were the days of dashing to add or change things, we had to be more mindful of our audience. We concentrated first on the pages where changes would have the biggest impact, the basket, checkout, home page, and were pleasantly surprised by the difference we could make to our business.
A year down the line and our conversion rates are now well over 3% for paid orders. Our battle with Google’s fluffy animals still continues, but our business has survived.
The lessons we’ve learnt
I’m proud of the e-commerce business we have built, but there are many lessons we have learnt along the way. My 5 top tips would be:-
- Use a number of distribution channels, don’t rely on all your sales coming from one area
- Look at your website as if you are a customer, remove any hurdles that could prevent a sale being made
- Remember it’s the quality of the traffic you gain, not the number of visitors.
- Outsourcing areas where you don’t have the time or skill can be a good use of your money, but keep an eye on all work being done, after all, you’re paying their wages.
- The sales you gained today, may well be from relationships/repeat business/links you built yesterday, last month or even last year, there’s not an instant fix.