When Google Ads, SEO, Content Marketing, and Facebook Ads Are Worthless
Believe it or not, getting site traffic is easy. Click-bait sites have it down to a science. But click-bait sites get paid off of traffic itself. If you are in eCommerce, traffic alone will not get the job done. You need the “right” traffic, and getting the “right” traffic is hard.
If You’re Having Conversion Problems, Consider Website Traffic Quality
When we’re doing marketing and strategy consultations, THE #1 thing that Shopify merchants ask for – by far – is help getting more conversions. There are a lot of things that can impact conversions and overall competitiveness. Here’s just a partial list:
- Page Design
- Page Load Speed
- Risk Reversal
- Image Quality
- Shipping Options/Costs/Policies
- Payment Methods
- Return and Exchange Policies
- Pricing and Economics
There are a bunch of other things, but that list accounts for eight of the top nine reasons. When we’re doing our eCommerce Strategy Calls and Website Teardowns, we make sure to include those as a part of the conversation and report. Each one is important and needs to be looked at if you’re having conversion issues. But the thing that surprises a LOT of merchants we talk to is the ninth item – Traffic Quality. If we’re digging into analytics and see a higher than average bounce rate and/or an elevated page abandonment rate, we spend some time focusing on the quality of the page visitors.
Traffic Quality and Customer Personas
When you first decide to start an eCommerce business, you really don’t know who your customers are going to be. But it’s something that you need to figure out fast. That’s because as you begin marketing you are going to invest a LOT of time and money marketing and advertising. You are going to need to get a return on all of the time and money if your business is going to survive and grow.
The starting point for that is to create a “Customer Persona.” A Customer personal is a set of descriptions that describe who your target customer is. It should be as detailed as possible. But it also needs to be flexible so that you can make adjustments as you learn more about your real customers. To start, your Customer Persona should include:
- Age Range
- Education Level
- Household Income Range
- Basic Relevant Geographic Information
As you develop more experience and data from real customer purchases, you can add information about their interests, other products that they might buy from competing vendors, and complimentary products and services that they might purchase from non-competing vendors. As you populate your Customer Persona, you can start to target traffic that matches the description – high-quality traffic.
The Most Common Marketing Error Ever
A lot of eCommerce merchants make the mistake of assuming that their customers are exactly like them. Sometimes that’s true. But the VAST majority of the time your customers are – on average – very different kinds of people, even if you share one or two things in common.
Our marketing team consulted with a business that sold replacement tires and custom rims for high-performance All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATVs). This is the kind of equipment used in racing and in extreme sports. So the merchant assumed that their customers were young, adrenaline-junkies who were hooked on extreme sports … just like he was. So his website and marketing were filled with exciting images of people racing, jumping, and doing crazy tricks with their ATVs.
But the reality is that the average owner of the target ATV models was forty to forty-five years old, lived in a major metropolitan area, was married, and had an upper-middle-class income. This is the person who made the buying decisions even though his older teenage son might be the one doing the actual riding. The actual buying customer was nothing like the twenty-something entrepreneur who was selling online. The ATV was the only point of commonality he shared with the core market.
Do you see the difference here? The marketing and advertising had to satisfy both the rider and the owner to be successful. The images, messaging, and advertising needed to talk as much about safety and resale value as it did about performance. It had to be cool enough for the rider to want it, but also have meaning for the person who will make the purchase.
How To Use Customer Personas for eCommerce
Your Customer Persona(s) should drive everything you do to promote and market your eCommerce business. It should help you choose the images you use, the SEO optimization you implement, the product descriptions you write, and every ad that you create. These things should be created in the style and voice that speaks to this persona … as if you were speaking to a single individual.
Some businesses go so far as to name their personas – especially if they have more than one. For example, the women’s wear retail chain White House Black Market has developed a detailed persona named “Sydney.” They have detailed persona information and even describe her occupation. Employees are trained in customer service and sales techniques to talk to “Sydney” directly as if that particular person were standing right in front of them. Their online eCommerce team uses this description to design the website. Their advertising teams and consultants use it to create every ad. For them, the Customer Persona is mission-critical.
A Shopify Persona Case Study In Point
We were working with a Shopify website merchant that sells high-fashion bathing suits for women. They were running Facebook/Instagram ads, had the rest of their social running at full tilt, and had a good-looking website that loaded fast. The photography was professional, and the images were pretty-well optimized for speed and resolution. Product pricing was high-end, but competitive with similar sites. They were getting a good amount of traffic, had some sales, and made a little bit of profit. But conversions were in the basement – well below 0.5%.
Identifying the Customer Persona Problem
When digging into the analytics we saw lots of product page clicks. Importantly, we also saw that nearly all the traffic was coming from social – ads and posts – and almost none was coming via organic search. The retargeting ads were not delivering any return at all. So all that money spent on ads was barely paying for itself. For us, the picture was becoming clear.
At this point, our team asked them who their customer was, and they did not know how to answer that question. In their mind the answer was obvious – their customer was everyone. But in reality, that’s just not true. We got a screen capture of the demographics in their Facebook/Instagram ad manager. The ads were not targeted and they were not collecting info on current customers. Going back to the analytics, we found that their Shopify website was operating like click-bait. Their ads and social media posts – with high quality, professional images of young, beautiful models wearing swimwear – were capturing the attention of people who wanted to see all the pictures but were not likely to buy high-end women’s swimwear any time soon.
They say that all attention is good attention. And certainly, all those clicks and views didn’t hurt the business. But when you are paying for clicks, page views alone won’t help pay the bills unless you’re selling ads on your website. Paying for clicks and page views from people who will never buy your product hurts a LOT. And since all those initial clicks were non-customers, all those retargeting ads simply compounded the problem – making the merchant pay twice to market to non-purchasing “looky-loos”.
All ads you buy – social, Google, retargeting, and in all other media – and all page-views you generate online are wasted money and effort unless the person seeing or hearing those ads and viewing your pages is reasonably likely to purchase your product.
Fixing the Customer Persona Problem - Step 1
Based upon their product mix, price point, and preliminary research we recommended a starting point Customer Persona as follows:
- Female, aged 18 to 36 – any relationship status
- Male, aged 25 to 50 – in a relationship
- Education = some college + (they’re a higher-end product)
- Household Income - $36,000 per year +
- Countries where English is the primary or secondary language (they are set to ship internationally, but the website is in English only)
Special ads for targeting:
- States and Metropolitan areas near the ocean
- Sates and Metropolitan areas with warm weather (Phoenix, Las Vegas)
- Individuals visiting sites/following Cruise Lines, Luxury Resorts, Tropical Destinations
In order to test, we recommended that they start with the sample demographic and apply it to only half of their ads. If the results were positive, then apply the demo to additional ads. Very importantly, we recommended that they start collecting as much real demographic information about their customers as possible.
Fixing the Customer Persona Problem - Step 2
Next, we recommended that they tweak their SEO. Initially, all of their written content focused on specifications and descriptions. And their images had no SEO at all. All of those items needed to be updated to reflect real-world search terms that might be used by their target demographic. Again, that is as initially described above and should be subject to more updates as information is collected from real-world shoppers who buy their products.
We’ve written a lot about images, product descriptions, and getting started with Facebook/Instagram advertising, so there’s no need to repeat all of that. You can find those articles here:
- Prepping Images for eCommerce
- Implementing Image SEO
- Writing Great Product Descriptions
- Facebook Advertising Best Practices
- Pirate Marketing Using Title Tags and Page Descriptions for SEO
The Value of Knowing Your Market
As expected, traffic volume dropped with a lot fewer “lookie-loos” clicked in. But conversions jumped. Importantly, the results are going to be tested and adapted over time as this fledgling eCommerce business learns more about its real customers and discovers how to get more of the “right” traffic and less of the wrong.
If you want to schedule one of our eCommerce Strategy Calls or a complete Website Teardown Report, you can start a task and get them started.
Thanks for reading!