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  • 5 Facts About Featured Snippets, Plus 5 Strategies to Rank for Them

    Monday, January 15, 2018 by
    How do you get featured snippets for your website

    How Do You Get Featured Snippets for Your Website?

    If you’ve had your website for a while, then you know there was a time when everyone doing SEO was concerned with aiming for those top few spots in Google. If you could be one of the top two or three links in the Google listing for a popular search, it was just about a guarantee of clicks and visitors. Now for a lot of searches, the top spot isn’t really at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) anymore. We’ve moved into a new era of SEO - the age of the featured snippet. Creating a blog

    What Are Featured Snippets?

    Even if you weren’t familiar with the term, you’ve seen featured snippets. In the old days, whenever you performed a search in Google, you would typically see a list of blue links with some ads above them. Now, you'll often see a box up top with text in it that provides an answer based on the term you’ve searched. example of list featured snippet for how to choose a career Sometimes it will show up below ads, but much of the time it’s the very first thing on the page, drawing your attention away from the list of links that shows up below. These results go by a number of names. SEO professionals sometimes call this “rank 0” since it goes above the #1 ranking spot. Others call them answer boxes or instant answers or, as we’re doing here, featured snippets. Whatever you call them, they’ve disrupted SEO.  

    A Few Facts About Featured Snippets

    Before you try to get a featured snippet, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how they work.   1. Featured snippets don’t show up on every search. Google doesn’t always assume you want a quick answer based on your search term, so this is a feature that’s most common for searches that either directly ask a question or for any terms Google interprets as looking for the same type of information as a question search.   2. The information is often pulled from a website. There are some types of rich results that Google creates by pulling information from a number of sources, like their medical information snippets or the boxes of information you see about famous people.
    google knowledge box for author ann patchettexample of Google Knowledge Box medical information for seasonal allergies
    But for many of the featured snippets you see (and the ones most relevant to this article), the text is pulled from a specific website. And the website the text comes from is linked right below the answer (and therefore above the other results). That means that, at least for some searches, it’s possible for your website to target that rank zero spot and show up above your other competitors.   3. Featured snippets aren’t always from the top result on the page. This is an important one. About 70% of featured snippets come from websites ranked lower than the #1 spot. If a company works really hard on their SEO to land that top spot in Google, but doesn’t also optimize their content for the featured snippets, another company that does can hopscotch right over them into that zero spot. You could potentially show up above the #1 ranked results without achieving the #1 rank – which is kind of a big deal!   4. There are three main forms of featured snippets. SEO professionals have identified three different types of featured snippets that commonly show up in searches: Paragraph snippets – This is the most common type you’ll see. It includes a little bit of text that provides the answer, sometimes with an image included alongside it. example of paragraph featured snippet for what is a featured snippet List snippets – These pull text from bulleted or numbered lists in the text and show at least part of the list in the snippet. They’re less common than paragraph snippets, but still show up for a good number of relevant search terms. example of bulleted list featured snippet for how to create a business plan Table snippets – These are the least common, but show up for the types of searches that benefit from having results display in a structured format, like movie times or menu prices. example of table featured snippet for infant sleep chart 5. Their influence on click-through-rates (CTR) varies. It’s hard to properly test out whether or not getting the featured snippets improves your CTR versus showing up in the top search, but researchers have tried to get a handle on the effect it has. Recent research found that when featured snippets are included in the search results, people are less likely to click through to any result. That's not surprising, since they often provide the full answer a person is looking for – although the difference isn’t huge (around 4%). That same research study found that the first Google result still got more clicks than the featured snippet result, but that the presence of a featured snippet did mean some of the clicks that would otherwise go to the top result do get split off to the website featured in the snippet. Anecdotally, some companies have seen big gains in traffic due to getting the featured snippet for a search. Search Engine Land reported one case study where a page getting the featured snippet for a high-value keyword led to a 516% increase in traffic. And Stone Temple shared a few specific cases where traffic increased when a website got the rich snippet and dropped quickly when it was lost. In any case, if the search is going to show a featured snippet, it sure doesn’t hurt for your website to be the one featured – and that’s especially the case if someone else has the top spot.  

    How to Create Content That Gets Into Featured Snippets

    Now that you know why to care about getting into featured snippets, here are a few strategies to help you get there. Keep in mind, as with all SEO, there are no guarantees that this process will earn you featured snippets for the search terms you target, but it will increase the likelihood of you claiming that zero spot above the other search results.   1. Brainstorm question and informational queries to target. Featured snippets only show up in some types of searches, so you shouldn’t be trying to target the snippet for every single search term you aim for in your SEO efforts. The main ones to think about here are question searches and searches that are looking for the same kind of information as question searches, without using question language. For example, someone searching for “healthy eating tips” is essentially looking for the answer to the question “how can I eat healthier?” So both terms would fall into this category. That gives you a general idea of the types of search terms to brainstorm in this section, but the best way to really figure out what you’re looking for is to start doing searches. Start Googling them to see which search terms have snippets in the results. This will accomplish two things:
    • You’ll start to get a better feel for the types of search terms that regularly feature snippets.
    • Each search will help you come up with new ideas for other keywords to include on your list by looking at the “searches related to” section at the bottom of the page and, where relevant, the “People also ask” section.
    example of related search terms section in Google for how to keep orchids aliveexample of People also ask box in Google
    Your goal here is to create a really long list of possibilities – the more you have to start, the better.   2. Assign search terms priority levels. When your list is good and long, then you can go through and figure out which terms you should start targeting. A good place to start is with terms you already rank decently well for. The vast majority of featured snippets are pulled from results on the first page. Any queries or topics that you’re already on page one or two for should take priority, since you have the best chance of success with these. Some other good targets are any searches where the information in the featured snippets isn’t that good. If you feel confident that you can create a better answer than Google has pulled in, that’s a good search to prioritize as well. Then there are search terms that may be worth keeping on your list, but should be given lower priority. Questions with simple answers are less likely to get a click whether you’re featured or not, since people get the answer they need on the SERP.  And any search that has big-shot sites like Wikipedia or the BBC featured in the snippets will also be a long shot since you’ll have a hard time competing with websites like that in Google’s eyes. These terms may still be worth including in your overall strategy, but they’re not the best place to put your initial efforts.   3. Create content that answers those questions. Now that you have a long list of target queries with priority questions identified, use it to guide your content strategy. Start scheduling blog posts that answer the questions on your list. As with any other content you create, make sure these pieces are accurate and high quality or they won’t be competitive.   4. Make sure your content is optimized for SEO (like usual). Just like you do for the rest of your content, make sure these pieces are optimized for search engines. That means using your title and heading tags strategically, optimizing your images, and filling in your meta tags. Getting onto the first page for a search term vastly increases your chances of getting a featured snippet, and all the old rules still apply for getting onto page one.   5. Be strategic in your formatting and language. During your research stage, you probably spent a lot of time looking at the snippets that show up in search. For paragraph snippets, you’ll notice the language of the question (probably in the title or heading on the page) is quickly followed by an answer. You want to replicate that: a question, quickly followed by an acceptable answer that only takes a few lines (aim for 50 words or less).   You can expand on this initial answer further into your blog post, but you want something that works as a simple answer showing up close to your target search term so Google can easily pull out that section for their snippet. For list snippets, this part is simple: Put your answer in a list. Google knows how to recognize bulleted and numbered lists on a page. Google’s snippet will only display up to eight list items, so to increase the chances of someone clicking through, make sure your post has more than eight items on the list. Searchers will see “More items” below the list in the snippet and above your link, making them more likely to click to see the rest. example of table featured snippet with more rows for todays mortgage rates For table snippets, include tables in your content where appropriate. It won’t make sense for every piece of content you make, but if you write a comparison post between different products, you can create a table that puts the features and benefits side by side, for example. Google will recognize that there’s a table on the page to pull from, if the algorithm sees the search as benefitting from an answer in table form. With SEO, the moment you think you have it all figured out things inevitably change. Tomorrow, there may be new SEO strategies to add to your list as well as these, but for today, these are smart steps you can take to increase your visibility for relevant searches.
  • Understanding Google Rich Results, From Snippets to Schema

    Monday, January 15, 2018 by
    introduction to Google Rich Results

    What Are Google Rich Results and How Do They Affect SEO?

    If you use Google much (and most of us do), you’ve probably started to notice a real change in the search results. Where once there was a list of links (some of the ones up top paid for), there’s now a mix of links, images, text boxes, maps... lots of types of information in different forms, all taking up space on the main search results page. If you care about your website’s SEO, then you should care about how the search engine results pages (SERPs) look – being one of those links on the first page used to be the end-all be-all goal of SEO. But it means less if your link is pushed down below several other types of content and information, instead of just other links. Everyone with a website should therefore be paying attention to what these changes mean for your site’s visibility. Here’s a basic rundown of the main things you need to know about all those special search results dominating the SERPs. HostGator Website Builder

    5 Types of Special Google Results

    These special results can take a lot of different forms. Some of the main ones that website owners should be aware of are:  

    1. Featured snippets

    When you search a simple question in Google, you’ll now often see a box above the other search results that includes the text that answers your question – right there on the results page, so you don’t have to navigate away to get the information you need. example of featured snippet result in Google These are featured snippets, sometimes called instant answers. This information is pulled from the text of a webpage, which is linked right below the answer. That means that you can be number one in the list of links below, without being the first link people see on the page. These show up in a few different formats. Commonly it’s a little bit of text and an image pulled from the webpage with the link below. Sometimes, the information that’s pulled shows up in a bulleted or numbered list. And sometimes, you’ll see a number of “People Also Ask” options, which open up their own featured snippets.
    example of featured snippets and people also ask resultsbullet list featured snippet example

    2. Map snippets

    The map snippet comes up anytime a search term suggests to Google that you’re looking for something you’d be likely to go to a physical location for. Sometimes the map cluster shows up below other ads and results, and sometimes it’s at the top of the results page. example of local map 3-pack snippet rich result in google In either case, you see a map that has several locations marked with red pins, with three locations listed below below it.  The results below the map usually include an address, ratings information, photos, contact information, and business hours (if relevant). Note that these listings don’t provide links directly to the website of the business or other location listed. When you click, you go to an expanded result for the location you clicked on, with a larger map of other relevant results. There you can find the link to the website. Local 3-pack map results  

    3. Rich ads

    While ads have always been a part of Google’s search results, many searches now include ads that provide visuals and the same kind of rich information that increasingly shows up in natural results. These rich ads sometimes show up above the other results and sometimes to the side. They include images, pricing information, ratings information and the name of the business. Sometimes they even include additional helpful information like that a product comes with “free shipping” or is for “in-store pickup.” Obviously, these aren’t spots you can capture with SEO, but you can pay for them with Google AdWords if you want an easy way to stand out in the SERPs.
    Google rich ad results for mini fridgeGoogle rich ad results for curtains

    4. Video results

    Videos don’t show up as featured snippets that often, but for some searches they do. In these cases, you can click to watch the video on the search results page without navigating elsewhere. example of video rich result from YouTube for how to change a bike tire More often, you see video thumbnails alongside links in the search results. When you click on these, they open the page where the video is hosted for you to watch (usually on YouTube) example of video rich results  

    5. Rich snippets

    In addition to the flashy snippets and visuals on the top of and alongside the page, for some searches, you’ll also see rich results in the list of links. What kind of information you’ll see with these can vary a lot, but it can include thumbnail images, ratings information, number of reviews, and things like calorie counts for recipes. examples of rich snippet results for chocolate pie recipes

    What These Special Results Mean for SEO

    These types of special results aren’t either all good or all bad. In some cases, they’re likely to distract away from the main search results, as with rich advertisements that draw the eye before a person starts to scroll down, or featured snippets that answer simple questions on the SERP so that people are unlikely to click through to any other results. On the other hand, featured snippets that provide a partial answer to more complicated questions (often the case with bulleted snippets) are more likely to get people to click through to the link. And rich search results can draw attention to particular search results with more information and visuals, making them potentially more competitive than others that rank higher. On the whole, it’s a mixed bag for marketers. But there are some things you can do to make your webpages more competitive in the world of special search results.  

    Using Schema Markup

    Any of the rich search results you see that have things like thumbnail images, ratings, or review information showing up alongside the link didn’t just get there with luck. The website owners figured out how to provide Google’s algorithm that information in just the right way for it to show up in the results. The way to do that is with schema markup. You use shema markup to tell the search engines which pieces of information on your website fall into the types of data categories they’ve decided merit a special sort of display on the platform. Because Google thinks users will benefit from knowing how long a recipe takes to make or how many calories are in it, if you provide that information to them using schema markup, they’ll display it on the results page. Luckily, schema markup was specifically developed to be pretty user friendly. You can visit to learn about the different types of Schema markup there are and the different categories you’ll want to include in your code for each type. To make updating your own site easy, you can use Google’s schema markup generator. Just put in the URL you want to generate markup for, select the type of content it is, and then you can highlight the different parts of the page that should be added into the different fields provided. As an example, you’d highlight the headline of your article and select “Name” in the dropdown menu that shows up to mark it as the article’s title. how to use google schema markup generator When you’re done selecting the text on the page for each category, click on “create HTML” to find the code that you need to add to your page for schema markup. You can copy and paste the whole code they provide to your page, or go look for the specific spots where something’s highlighted in yellow and just paste in those parts. markup selected text on website using google schema generator

    Optimizing for Featured Snippets

    Featured snippets are sometimes referred to as “Position 0” amongst SEO professionals, since they get you above even that top spot. While in some cases, your content showing up in a featured snippet could just mean that people get the answer they need without clicking through, for many searches it’s still a worthy goal to aim for since it puts your answer and link far above everybody else on the page and in a way that draws attention. The best way to optimize for featured snippets is to create the kind of content most likely to show up in them. The types of queries you should focus on are those where people are looking to answer a question – but one that’s a bit too big to get a full answer to within the text box at the top of the page. Spend some time brainstorming questions relevant to your website and industry. Then go do some Googling to see what results show up for them now. What you’re looking for here are queries where there is a featured snippet, but the answer’s not great. These provide an opportunity to create something better, while knowing that Google already sees this query as one that should generate a snippet. Also pay attention to which questions bring up answers from Wikipedia – these aren’t a good place to put your time, since Google’s unlikely to decide your website is more authoritative than Wikipedia. You’ll also want to be very particular in the language you use. Moz recommends making your keywords and phrases very literal. So drop whatever clever heading you had in mind and use the phrase a person’s most likely to be searching.  

    For Local SEO: Optimizing for the Map Snippet

    If your business has a physical location and reaching local residents is a priority, then the map snippet – popularly called the map 3-pack by local SEO professionals –  is the most important of all special results for you to focus on. Part of getting into the map cluster has to do with how close you are geographically to the person searching, so you don’t have much control over that. But you can implement a few local SEO best practices to increase your chances of showing up there more often:
    • Claim your Google listing. Hopefully you’ve already done this, but if not do it now.
    • Add your website to relevant directories. Get listed in as many as possible and make sure your name, address, and phone number looks the same in all of them. So if you write out Acme Road in one, don’t shorten it to Rd in another.
    • Encourage reviews. This is a big one and one of the hardest to pull off, since it depends on getting the cooperation of your customers. But you can be proactive in asking for reviews or pointing your customers toward where they can leave you a review on Google.
    • Do content marketing and link building with a local focus. Create content focused on local issues. Work with other local businesses to launch events, host charity drives, create joint initiatives – anything that might earn you local press and links to other sites in your community. If it strengthens your local authority, it will improve your SEO in general, which increases your chances of showing up in the cluster.
    Most of doing SEO well is the same as it was before special results started taking over more of the SERPs, but you can make your SEO strategy stronger by paying attention to the types of results showing up for the topics you target and crafting a strategy that optimizes for being one of those special results for relevant search terms.
  • How To Optimize Your Images For SEO In 3 Simple Steps

    Thursday, January 4, 2018 by
    Optimize images for SEO

    Your 3-Step Checklist for Image SEO

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to bring your website more relevant traffic and closer to the number one slot on major search engines. Without SEO your company website is likely to drown at the bottom of a million other websites selling similar products and services. When people hear "SEO," they often think of links, content, and traffic - forgetting the critical role images play in SEO. Properly marking up your images helps Google better understand what your website is all about, so it can rank your website in Image Search results and bring you more site traffic. Example of Google Image Search results for polar bear  

    What Are The SEO Basics?

    For starters, here’s a bunch of free stuff you can do to improve your website’s visibility:
    • Keyword research: Discover the words people use to try to find your website and your services. Then use these words throughout your site’s content.
    • Domain name: Choose a domain name that’s relevant to your business, so that you’re easier to find.
    • Page URL names: Avoid the often default number system, and rename your page URLs with keywords.
    • Social media marketing: Use social media to expand your website’s reach to a much larger audience on various networks.
    • Local listings: Get your business contact info set up at and Google My Business. (We've got a list of online local listings directories here).
    • Reviews & testimonials: Positive feedback on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List will keep reeling ‘em in!
    • External links or backlinks: Share your content with influencers or on places like Quora and Reddit. These backlinks (links that point back to your website) score super high in the world of SEO.
    Recommended WordPress Hosting

    What About My Website Images?

    As you can see, just about everything you post on your website can be optimized for search, but you’re not limited only to words and links. Images are a tremendous part of SEO, and one that's often forgotten, so if you can get your pics up to SEO speed, you’ll be ahead of the curve. Here’s how...  

    1. Name your images using target keywords.

    Use readily identifying info to name your pics as you upload them to your website. If you’re targeting a specific geo-location, include that city name in your title. Same goes for specific products and services. For example, a local bike shop might label a photo of their storefront something like Mike's Bikes - Bike Shop in Austin TX  

    2. Use alternative text.

    Alternative, or alt text, shows up in certain browsers when site visitors hover their mouse over an image. Alt text also makes it clear to visually impaired users what your image represents. Long tail keywords (i.e. keywords that are super specific) are best. For example: Interior design for Charleston model homes Nashville nail salon features bridal party sale Here’s what the HTML looks like: <img src="InteriorDesignCharleston.jpg" alt="Interior design for Charleston model homes">  

    3. Take a look behind the curtain.

    • Find a website you admire (or visit one of your competitor’s sites).
    • Right-click your mouse anywhere on the page and select "View Page Source."
    • A new window will open with all the html code for the page.
    • Hit Control + F simultaneously on your keyboard and then type “img” in the search box.
    • This will bring up all image-related code.
    • Most sites will have a bunch of images, so you can see how the developer or marketer decided to set up their alt text.
    • Learn from the best!
    Here’s an example of what this looks like from our own cloud hosting page on HostGator. HostGator Cloud Hosting Each of these icons has a related file name and alt tag based on the keyword. View alt tags in page source   Please don’t let the code freak you out. It looks daunting, but it really is super easy to adjust once you get the hang of it. Plus most WordPress plugins and content management systems make this even more user-friendly than it looks. As long as you know that you can adjust title and alt tags to make your images work SEO for you, you’re good to go!
  • What’s the Future of Email Marketing in 2018?

    Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by
    Future Email Marketing Trends Predictions

    What Does the Future of (Your) Email Marketing Look Like?

    How's your 2018 email marketing plan looking? If you don't have one yet, now's the time to start planning so that you're ready to run more effective campaigns as soon as the holiday season ends. We've rounded up some of the most promising trends and practical suggestions for email marketing for the year ahead, based on recent research. But what we're most interested in here is the future of your email marketing, and how you can improve it to raise your conversion rates. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    New year, new approach to your list?

    Most email list advice focuses on growing your list, but writer and publisher Linda Formichelli recently took a contrarian approach and booted 5,800 subscribers from her company's list of 7,000. She and her business partner ended up saving money by no longer hosting those subscribers who weren't buying anything, and they were able to boost sales, in part by better targeting offers to the loyal customers who remained. As she explained, “Having a load of subscribers who aren’t really interested in your content and offerings skews your analyses. When you survey your subscribers, the replies are not necessarily from people interested in ever buying from you.” What could this mean for your business? If you're not happy with your email marketing program's open and conversion rates, it may be time to audit your list and reduce the number of subscribers to focus on quality rather than quantity—especially if you're basing product development or marketing decisions on surveys of your list members.  

    4 email marketing best practices for 2018

    Once you've identified your key subscribers, it's on you to keep up your end of the email relationship. This means knowing the best frequency of emails, what to include in every email, how your subscribers will view your emails, and how to keep their trust. All of the suggestions below are based on an October 2017 report by Nikki Baird and Steve Rowen at Retail Systems Research. They analyzed marketing emails sent by 138 companies in the Internet Retailer Top 500 to see what really works—and what really doesn't. Although they studied major retailers, their findings can apply generally to ecommerce businesses of any size. First, the good-and-bad news: Even most large retailers aren't as good as they could be at email marketing. The report's authors created a 100-point scale to rank email effectiveness and found that most of the companies on the list just flat-out failed to earn a passing grade. On the one hand, this is sad news for those retailers. On the other, it gives smaller businesses--maybe including yours--an opening to outshine larger competitors in your customers' inboxes.  

    1. Use detailed subject lines

    Let's start with findings about email subject lines. These little headlines matter a lot—they're what recipients use to decide whether or not they'll even open your message. But the RSR study found that more than half of the emails they looked at had subject lines so generic they didn't let recipients know what the email was about. That means fewer opens and fewer conversions. You don't have to write a novel in the subject line box, but every subject line should clue readers in to what's in the email. There's one area where retailers are sometimes a little too specific in their subject lines, according to the RSR report: sales-y, promotional subject lines. Some high-end retailers didn't use them at all, but 6 percent used promos in 75 to 100 percent of their marketing emails. The danger here is “training customers to simply wait for prices to fall.” If you're counting on discounts in the subject line to get subscribers to open your emails, you risk teaching them never to pay your full prices. Emails-Subject-Lines

    2. Optimize your emails for mobile viewing

    Once you get your subscribers to open your emails, based on your content-specific but not-too-promotional subject lines, there's another trend to take into account. About three-quarters of internet use is now mobile, and that means it's very likely that your subscribers are reading your emails on their smartphones. Can they read them easily? Is the font too tiny, the copy too long, or the call to action button hard to see on a mobile screen? Not if you're using mobile-optimized templates for your messaging. optimizing emails for mobileOptimization is not hard to implement—Constant Contact and other email service providers offer mobile-friendly templates—but surprisingly few of the major retailers in the RSR study optimize their marketing emails for mobile reading. Sixty percent of the 138 retailers didn't optimize their emails at all, ever. Only 4% mobile-optimized each and every email. The rest, weirdly, optimized some emails and not others. If you want your subscribers to read and act on your emails, optimize those emails for mobile reading.  

    3. Add menus to marketing emails

    So let's say a customer opened your email and is reading it on her phone, but the message doesn't quite match what she's looking for. Does she delete your email and go on with her day or does she click through to something else in your shop that interests her? Smart retailers include a menu at the top of each marketing email so customers can shop for what they really want directly from the message. You've already got the customer's attention. Keep it by giving her an easy way to shop.  

    4. Re-evaluate the frequency of your emails

    With these changes implemented, how often should you email your clients? That will depend on your business, your industry, and how often your competitors email their lists. (You are signed up for your competitors' emails, right?) Among major retailers, RSR found that one email a day is the sweet spot for reach subscribers. Send emails more often, and retailers look spammy compared to the competition, less often, and retailers “risk getting their message lost.” Again, though, that's the ideal frequency for major retailers. You may need to spend some time researching your competition's marketing campaigns, surveying your best customers to find out what they prefer, and tracking unsubscribe rates as you adjust your email frequency.  


    Now's the time to begin revamping your email marketing to focus on your best customers. Make it easy for them to know what you're sending them, read it on their phones, and shop directly from your messages to improve your open and conversion rates in the year ahead.
  • What’s the Future of E-Commerce?

    Tuesday, January 2, 2018 by
    FutureEcommerce Predictions Trends

    5 Predictions for the Future of (Your) E-Commerce

    What will 2018 look like for your online business? Now's the time to think about your goals for the year ahead and to plan for new challenges your business will face. What will your customers expect, and how can you stay competitive? Take a look at these e-commerce trends for 2018 to get a sense of what's coming and how to get ready. HostGator Dedicated Server Hosting

    1. Think mobile, mobile, mobile

    The share of US e-commerce purchases made on mobile devices will nearly double over the next twelve months, rising from 19% to 27%, according to one study. Another estimate projects that mobile purchases will account for half of all e-commerce revenue by year's end. Why the growth? In part, it's because people no longer sit down to their desks to make online purchases. They shop at the bus stop, on the train, in waiting rooms, and in bed just before they go to sleep. For most of us, it simply makes more sense to buy something on our phones when we need it (or when we remember that we need it) instead of setting aside a specific time and place to shop online. As more retailers adopt a mobile-first strategy, smaller sellers have to make mobile shopping easier, too, or risk being abandoned by customers who want convenience. How can you do this? First, make sure your online shop is optimized for use on smartphones. This goes beyond having a responsive site template and a readable display. Your shop must include fast page-load times—even on pages filled with product photos—as well as easy-to-navigate menus and the simplest possible secure payment options. (No one wants to key in a credit card number on their phone, especially in public.) Learn more about mobile e-commerce best practices.  

    2. Provide personalized shopping experiences

    One of the most helpful shopping trends to evolve from the combination of data analytics and automation is the personalized shopping experience. Every time Amazon suggests products you may like or Sephora shows you a menu of products that go with the items you've added to your basket, that's personalization in action. Increasingly, consumers expect merchants to provide that unique experience. Besides keeping shoppers on your site, personalization can boost your bottom line. According to Bart Mroz at Multichannel Merchant, “retailers that implement personalization strategies see sales gains of 6%-10%, a rate two to three times larger than other retailers, according to Boston Consulting Group research.” But less than 10% of retailers serve up personalized product suggestions. That means there's plenty of room for your store to gain an advantage, and the technology required to offer personalization isn't restricted to major retailers. E-commerce platform extensions, like Nosto and Softcube for Magento, integrate personalization into your store with just a few clicks. Learn more about e-commerce personalization here.  

    3. Learn to love luxury

    Remember 2012, when Millennials were going to destroy the economy with their thrifty ways? It turns out that being careful with money when you're young frees you up to really treat yourself as you get older. Not only are Millennials the fastest-growing group of homebuyers (oftentimes leapfrogging over the “starter home” entirely in favor of a mini-mansion), they're also leading a projected doubling of spending on luxury goods in the year to come. What does this mean for your store? If most of your customers are between the ages of 20 and 36 and you've been tailoring your offerings to price-conscious shoppers, now's the time to take a closer look at how your customers' spending habits may have evolved over the past couple of years. Based on the demographics for your particular customers, it might be time to add some higher end products to your store, to test the waters and to keep luxury-seekers from going elsewhere for what they want. Because margins are typically higher on luxury items than on mass-market products, even a small uptick in high-end product sales can boost your store's bottom line. Learn more about pricing your products and expanding your product offerings.  

    4. Package your products properly

    How does packaging relate to e-commerce? Customers expect their purchases to arrive undamaged, and more than half say they won't shop with an online retailer again, or would buy from a competitor instead, if their stuff is damaged in transit. But adding enough packing material is only part of the picture for ecommerce sellers. Packaging Digest says that consumers increasingly expect “frustration-free packaging” of items they buy online. (If you've ever cut yourself opening a plastic clamshell package to get at your $5 gadget inside, you know why consumers want things to be easier.) Using packaging that makes for a more appealing unboxing experience, and using recycled materials, also add to your products' customer appeal.  

    5. Set up more shipping options

    Another trend that's been brewing for a while is consumers' high expectations for shipping choices. Recent data shows that not only do shoppers want fast delivery, even on nights and weekends, but they also don't want to pay a whole lot for it, and virtually ever shopper wants to know when their packages will arrive. To meet customer expectations, now's the time to review your delivery options, features, and pricing. High shipping costs, no free shipping option, and slow delivery times are all key reasons why shoppers abandon their online shopping carts. Most retailers do better with a menu of shipping options that customers can choose from depending on whether they prefer speed or savings. Every option you offer should include tracking, and not only because customers expect to be able to follow their purchases from warehouse to mailbox. Tracking and delivery verification can also cut down on instances of fraud by proving that your items were delivered to the right address. Ready to take your store to the next level in 2018? Check out our tips for marketing your site.