Practical Ecommerce

Whatever I’m doing, I’m not doing it right

One of the best things about Practical eCommerce is that you can learn from the wonderful articles and from the advice that online retailers give.

However, sometimes a little knowledge is worse than none at all. I’m doing something, but whatever it is isn’t right…

More unique visitors

In the first 16 days of August, I increased my unique visitors by 75% over what they were for the first 16 days of July, and I’m already at 90% of all unique visitors for July.

More total visits

In the same period to date in August, I increased my total visits by 84% over 1-16 July, and I’m at 89% already of July’s total visits.

Copy changes

I followed suggestions I’ve read in the past about breaking up copy with subheadings so people can skim-read the copy quickly. I’ve also made use of bulleted copy so again, people can read it better.

Form simplification

We simplified the layout and design of the form fields which require the birth dates, times and locations to be confirmed to produce the reports.

Drop-down city, state and country menus

In response to one too many customers making spelling errors which meant the atlas could not locate their place of birth, we created drop-down menus.

New photography

I had new photography done with attractive, real-life couple models and their daughter to make the products look more appealing and to show them being used/held.

Bigger array of hero banners

I had my designer create an expanded range of hero banners to showcase the different gift occasions as well as reflect the updated photography.

New products added

A new range of DIY Kits was created to allow customers to create their own astrology reports (or to give them as gifts) at a lower price point, plus the number of gift baskets featured was tripled. New e-gift certificates will be rolled out within the next week.

Checkout simplification

We simplified checkout as much as possible, making it much easier for customers to progress easily through to Paypal to make payment.

Geolocation pop-ups

We created pop-ups to tell visitors in particular geographical areas of the delivery options available to them.

Multiple products

Incredibly, until this year, customers were unable to buy more than one product in a shopping session and had to return to the home page to start the process again to buy a second product. They can now shop to their heart’s content.

Duplicate products

We created the ability for people to order copies of the same report to be sent to relatives in Australia or overseas for a small additional fee.

Blog improvements

After pulling my daily gift news blog across from a separate website last year, we had failed to reinstate the RSS feed so people could sign up to receive daily or weekly updates.

We also reinstated the monthly Archives list, the tag cloud, the social media links and the original comments. We also added links for visitors to read their monthly horoscope forecast at the bottom of each blog to increase stickiness.

Email marketing

I segmented my database by purchase type, frequency and location and have written many email promotions attempting to target them better.

Newsletter sign-up

We had a mild uptick in subscribers when we placed the monthly newsletter sign-up box at the top of the home page. This week, we have also placed the box also adjacent to the highly trafficked Horoscopes page so I am waiting to see if this makes much difference.

Page simplification

For our most recent change, when visitors click from the home page through to any of the categories, products or information pages, we have eliminated distracting elements above the main navigation bar, and the vertical menu which lets them see far more of the page above its original scroll line than before.

Google Adwords

I have been spending a modest daily sum on Google Adwords over the last month but am not doing this well, either, with hundreds of impressions, minimal clicks, and no sales.

Poor conversions

Despite all this, and more visitors each month (50% more in 1-16 August 2012 than all of January 2012), my conversion rates are sinking.

And I don’t know what to do to fix it.


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  1. Natalie August 16, 2012 Reply

    It’s very refreshing to see someone so honest about their website. It would look like you are doing everything by the book however the points you make are quite vague. You mention that you have simplified the checkout process but this is a very broad topic. How did you do this? Do you use email login? Have you used address capture software? Do you use Captcha codes? Would be interested to know more.

  2. Richard Stubbings August 16, 2012 Reply

    One of the biggest dangers is doing too much at once. Doing ALL the above means you do not know which bits increased traffic, which decreased traffic, which increased traffic that converts, and which increased traffic that bounces. For all you know some of these steps INCREASED conversion rates but were offset by others that bring in the wrong visitors and others that reduced visitors. All you are seeing is the cumulative effect and you have no idea of the individual effect of each change.

    Web sites are there for the long term. Do changes one at a time to see the effect. Build on changes that increase the bottom line, reverse changes that decrease the bottom line.

  3. Brett Carneiro August 16, 2012 Reply

    Agree with all the above, but throw out another idea for your to consider: Examine WHO is visiting your website and WHERE they coming from. More visits, even new visits, aren’t necessarily always a good thing. What you want to do is make sure that these visits are not coming from some kind of passive affiliate program – sometimes called a "referrer spammer" which essentially pays people to visit websites. They are ad revenue sites which allows users to view and rate websites and somehow get paid for it. I’ve seen this spring up with a couple of client sites and at first your initial reaction is to think "hey, this is great, more visitors!" but these visits are mostly bogus, worth nothing to you, and more importantly… throw off your site’s stats.

    If you discover this is part of the problem, you can block visits from those sites (once you identify them) and that way when you look at your stats you are seeing only true qualified visits.

  4. Elizabeth Ball August 16, 2012 Reply

    Hi Natalie,

    Thanks – being honest will help me identify the problems!

    In answer to your questions, we got rid of the login/password requirement of the previous website last year so no-one needs to be a member etc to buy anything (although they must opt in to get the monthly newsletter).
    When a customer buys a LoveStars report, they must confirm each set of birth details for the couple. Originally they had to click the single Confirm button twice at the bottom right to progress to the next page, now we have a Confirm button under both columns, which is a little more intuitive.
    We don’t have address capture but did install a menu which is automatically connected to a geolocation atlas of postcodes/Zip codes etc to find the right place.

    Re the checkout simplification, until recently they had to click on a link back from the Paypal page to completely confirm their order so we’ve fixed that too as many customers paid, but did not see the link (despite copy on the checkout page) so the system did not get confirmed to produce their orders – eeek! So this has been fixed.

    The only Captcha code we use is in the Contact Us page, but that doesn’t stop the "we can get you on page 1 of Google" SEO people from India.

  5. Elizabeth Ball August 16, 2012 Reply

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks, you’re quite right that we’ve done a lot. Everything I mention above has been done since December 2011 and all to increase conversions. I guess I don’t know how long is the optimum time to introduce a new improvement/change and see what effect it makes – 2 weeks? One month? Clearly it has to be promoted too.

    I know that my daily gift news blog is responsible for drawing a lot of traffic, but unfortunately it seems they just want the info but aren’t hanging around to check out what gifts I sell.

  6. Elizabeth Ball August 16, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Brett, I’m getting a lot more traffic from the US but they don’t seem to be from an affiliate program type of site – I don’t think. As I mentioned to Richard, many of my individual blog posts (which I’ve been writing since March 2009) get ranked very high on Google and I get many of my visits from those, plus of course, people checking out their forecasts.

  7. Mukunda Yuyutsu August 20, 2012 Reply

    I had a look at your site linked to in your profile.

    **Your domain name**

    Maybe you should have a .au domain name if you are focused on Australia. Google may rank you higher for local customers as it prefers giving local sites for local searches.

    Your domain name isn’t ideally suited to SEO. I would expect the seach term "astrology report" to be your main keywords. But neither of these words appear in the domain name.


    If you are trying to sell to the whole world, then a .com address makes sense. But then pricing all your products in AUD doesn’t make sense. Many people in the USA will only purchase items in USD.

    In fact it isn’t stated what currency the pricing is in. So it is hard to know before ordering.

    If you don’t want to have multiple domains per country you could switch pricing into difference currencies on the fly via scripting.

    **Order process**

    The form isn’t handling UTF-8 characters well on the order form. I am guessing you don’t get many orders from non English speaking countries.

    There is a bit of double entry in the order process. Need to enter in name twice. But is a minor issue.

    The browser back button doesn’t work in the order process & breaks the order process.

    Only paypal seems to be supported as a payment method. This will put people off (how many people in your target market even know what Paypal is). Should be trival to support at least some other methods (e.g. check or bank transfer).

    Once items are added to the shopping cart & you browse to another product, the cart disappears. There appears to be no obvious way to get back to the shopping cart. You need a link or a ‘Cart’ icon. This lack of navigation no doubt leaves people wondering how they can pay for their order.

    You are asking people to fill out personal details on a non encrypted web form. The card details are handled by Paypal, but still it wouldn’t hurt to have the form encrypted on your site.

    **Site speed**

    Serveral sites seem to offer similar astrology service for free (even if you had to print the report yourself).

    Hope this helps.

  8. Elizabeth Ball August 21, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Mukunda, I do have as well as couple of other country domains. I plan to separate them out into different country zones and would do the currency thing then.

    I hadn’t thought about the fact that the AUD currency wasn’t shown – will address. Correct, I don’t get many orders from non-English speaking countries. I will look into adding more than just Paypal in the future and will check the shopping cart area again. Thank you very much for your suggestions.