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Do You Wear the White Hat or the Black Hat?

December 4th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a necessity that no website can afford to escape if they wish to see good traffic to their website. It is impossible to imagine a top ranking website on Google without a lot of SEO strategizing and hard work. But as with any other activity to make your business a success, there are good and bad ways of doing things with resulting consequences that could severely damage your brand value.

Search engines such as Google have a set of guidelines that websites are expected to follow when conducting their SEO activities, and non-compliance can get a website penalized by being banned completely from the search engine’s search results. In such cases the company would have to work hard to earn back the search engine’s confidence and redo all its SEO activities ethically.

In this article, we will look at the different types of doing SEO and what you should avoid if you are looking to build your brand online and get your website to rank higher for a long time.

White Hat, Grey Hat, and Black Hat – What Do They Mean?

The various SEO activities can be broadly categorized as White Hat, Grey Hat, and Black Hat activities.

As the name suggests, Black Hat activities are those that are frowned upon by search engines, are against the search engine’s terms of service, and can land your website in serious trouble. The Grey Hat activities belong to that grey area between Black Hat and White Hat practices that tread the fine line and about which the jury is still out. Whereas White Hat activities are strategies that search engines fully approve of, and which focus on a human audience as against simply winning the ranking race.

Guidelines for White Hat Activities

When undertaking SEO activities, the following checklist can help you determine if your activities belong to the White Hat category.

  1. Is your content original? Did professional SEO content writers or guest writers write the content specifically for your website such that it is relevant and adds value for the users visiting your site?
  2. Does your content infringe upon anybody’s intellectual property rights? If it does, then you should immediately take action to remove such content from your webpages, or ensure that the right sources are given credit and linked.
  3. Is your content of high quality with impeccable use of the rules of language?
  4. Do your images and videos include Alt tags and appropriate descriptions?
  5. Are your keywords relevant to your subject matter? Is the keyword density on your web pages unnaturally high such that it makes coherent reading impossible?
  6. Have you used the correct HTML markups for your heading tags etc.?
  7. Does your website have a good sitemap?
  8. Are the links coming or going from your webpages relevant and naturally appearing, or have they been purchased/exchanged with the sole purpose of increasing links and ranking, without regard for relevance?
  9. Are you aware of the search engines’ terms of use and do your activities adhere to their norms and practices?
  10. Does your client (in case of an external SEO strategist) know all about the SEO activities you have undertaken and any risks associated with it?

Avoiding Black Hat Activities

While you follow White Hat activities, it is equally important to be aware of what activities constitute as Black Hat activities. The following are some Black Hat activities that you should strictly avoid when planning your SEO strategy.

  1. Stuffing web pages with keywords: The importance of keywords in search engine ranking is well known. However, simply stuffing your web pages with irrelevant keywords make for a poor user experience and harm your web page’s ranking. A particularly damaging tactic is to use keywords such that they are hidden from users and visible only to the search engine.
  2. Cloaking: A guaranteed way to get penalized if caught, cloaking is the practice of showing different content (keywords, descriptions, titles, etc.) to search engines and users. This is usually done by identifying visitors by IP address and displaying content accordingly.
  3. Gateway Pages: Using this method, a different page is shown to search engines, and when the user clicks on it he is redirected to a different page altogether. These gateway pages are usually stuffed with keywords to fool the search engine into ranking them higher.
  4. Purchasing old domains: It is possible to purchase old unused domains that are lying around dormant with the purpose of creating a lot of backlinks to your web pages and increase ranking. While such back linking might yield results initially, search engines would eventually catch up with you.
  5. Content Spinning: The freshness and uniqueness of your content plays an important role in getting your webpages to rank higher. However, it is not easy to create rich content on a regular basis and SEO strategists tend to resort to article spinning whereby they simply play around with the words on a page and present it as a new page. Such content spinning damages the quality of content. It is possible for search engines to catch on to such content spinning, not to mention the damage it does to your credibility due to low quality, grammatically poor content.
  6. Link buying: A lot of websites engage in rampant link buying with other websites to increase the page ranking. However, such link buying is not supported by search engines and can be severely penalized. At the same time, you can exchange links with relevant websites for things such as sponsorship of events, etc. Search engines usually maintain a list of such approved websites where links can be exchanged. 

While some of the above Black Hat activities when done in moderation could be considered Grey Hat activities, it is difficult to pinpoint specific activities that are definitely Grey Hat. One tactic that is definitely grey because it is not yet in Google’s blacklist as yet is social media automation and purchasing followers on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Various tools are available that automatically follow thousands of social media users for a small fee. This helps increase your website’s social media footprint, which is seen to be of consequence to its overall ranking.

Search engine optimization is a great tool to create long-term value for your brand and increasing loyalty and retention. But such long-term relationship with search engines cannot be achieved by cheating them into ranking your web pages higher. While Black Hat activities might bring you instant gratifying results, they are not sustainable in the long run and can severely damage not just your page ranking but your brand value as well. Following the simple White Hat guidelines provided here will help you generate favorable results, while ensuring a good night’s sleep.

If you have any questions about how to boost search engine optimization for more online business, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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SEO/SMO Tips to Get Your Web Store Ready for the Holiday Season

December 2nd, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

In a previous post we discussed how Ignify eCommerce provides various customer-friendly features to help you make the most of the holiday season. Along with setting up those features, you would also be sprucing up your product catalog and bring out the discounts in preparation of the holiday season. We bring you some search engine optimization and social media optimization tips that will complement your efforts and help you stay on top of your game, and ring in higher footfall and revenues.

As elaborated in earlier posts, optimizing your web store for search engines is a long term activity and your SEO/SMO strategies have to be well drawn out to bring great results. But there are some focused activities that can be implemented to capitalize on the holiday traffic.

1. Identify top pages/products: No matter how big or small your catalog, there are certain items which you would like to particularly highlight during the holidays. Identify such important pages that display not only the products you want to sell at that time, but also those that have traditionally been the crowd pullers. Your SEO/SMO efforts should be concentrated on pushing out those pages even further.

2. Create holiday themed pages: In addition to your regular pages, create temporary holiday themed pages and promote them through your SEO activities. These pages should be optimized using holiday-specific keywords and rich content. You can use these pages to link to your PPC/Google ads, Facebook ads, etc.

holiday themed pages

Optimizing holiday themed pages with holiday-specific keywords and content is a helpful way to pull in holiday-focused traffic.

3. Check if your title tags, meta descriptions and keywords are optimized: Revisit your pages, particularly the top pages you have already identified and ensure that they have been optimized as per SEO best practices. Ensure that these pages have unique title tags that are informative and include the relevant keywords. The meta descriptions should be checked for their keyword density and compelling copywriting to ensure higher click through rates when they show up in the search results. Also, revisit your keywords to see that they are competitive and best describe your page.

4. Add images and Alt Tags: Images not only add to the aesthetic value of your page, they also help elaborate upon the product’s features in a captivating manner. Search engines such as Google tend to rank pages with images higher. So it can be beneficial to add a few colorful images to your important pages complete with Alt Tags. Check if existing images on your important pages have Alt Tags and add them if absent. Alt Tags should crisply describe the image and add to the keywords on your page.

5. Get creative with social media campaigns: The importance of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest cannot be overlooked during the holiday season. Facebook and Pinterest particularly lend themselves to creative and colorful holiday campaigns that get the shopper into the festive mood, choosing you over the competition and increasing the click through rate. It is a great opportunity to engage with your customers through contests and giveaways.

social media campaigns

Social media campaigns

Social media campaigns are important for creatively engaging with customers and persuading them to choose your business over the competition.

6. Use PPC ads aggressively: Holiday time is targeted marketing time, and nothing reaches your target audience faster than pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, Facebook, etc. Create a themed and targeted copy for your PPC ads, and ensure that the keywords in the advertisement and your landing page align. PPC ads are a great way to bring customers to your important pages and drive sales there. Given that you would be making a bulk of your revenues during the holiday season, investing in PPC ads is a wise choice.

pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and Facebook

pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google and Facebook

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, social media, etc. are highly targeted toward your audience, pushing traffic toward your pages and driving sales there. 

For more tips on how you can optimize your online store for the holidays, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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Multiply Your Holiday Shopping Sales in Four Easy Ways

November 26th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

The holiday season is around the corner and everyone is rushing to finish their shopping on time. For a busy customer, the convenience of purchasing for everyone in one place and not having to wait in multiple checkout lines can mean the difference between choosing one store over another.

With online shopping being increasingly preferred by the busy shopper, it becomes important for an ecommerce merchant to ensure that he combines the best of online and offline shopping to give the shopper a truly satisfying shopping experience. Here are some tips to take the stress off festive shopping, and make the most of this holiday season for your customer and your business. 

Multi-store browsing

It wouldn’t be a leap of the imagination to assume that a diverse catalog that caters to a cross-section of shoppers would lead to greater sales. While that may be a sound argument to make, it can also be argued that crowding a single web store with divergent products can confuse the shopper and push him towards a niche web store. Not to mention that the design that suits, say, an apparel store might not gel well with a bookstore.

To help you deal with such a dilemma, Ignify eCommerce provides you the ability to operate multiple web stores via a single Manager Panel, and let your customers browse across them with a single integrated shopping cart at checkout. This means that if your catalog has apparel and electronic gadgets, books and tools, you can easily create a different web store for each one of them and link them together. Each of your web stores can be designed to best suit the products and the target audience you wish to attract. All of these web stores are then linked together and shoppers can travel from one store to another from the comfort of their chairs, and complete their festival shopping without having to wait in long checkout lines at the retail stores.

Multi-store browsing

Customers navigate across the multiple web stores by clicking on the different web store links.

Multi-store browsing

An integrated shopping cart makes checking out items from multiple stores a breeze.

Multi-device compatibility

This multi-store browsing facility can be made even more attractive by letting your shoppers shop using any device of their choice. For shoppers always on-the-go, being able to shop on their mobile phones and tablets just as easily as they would on their laptops or desktops is an attractive option.

Ignify eCommerce not only lets you provide your customer such multi-store, multi-device compatibility with responsive web design web stores, it also lets your customers carry over their shopping sessions seamlessly from one device to another. A social media integrated login process lets them login to any of the web stores quickly, where shopping carts can be saved and orders tracked as required. In case of multiple saved shopping carts, they can even be merged to create a new cart and an order placed conveniently; all this without discriminating between the shoppers’ choice of device.

Multi-device compatibility

Responsive Web Design web stores as rendered on a mobile phone and a tablet.

Multiple payment options

Once the shopper fills up his shopping cart with goodies for family and friends, the least of his worries should be a hiccup at checkout, where his preferred payment option is not available. This can force the shopper to abandon his shopping cart and move over to the competition’s web store.

Avoiding this scenario is easy, with Ignify eCommerce’s web stores allowing you to easily set up various payment options such as Credit Card, PayPal, Terms PO, Cash, Check, Reward Points, etc. The backend Manager Panel processes orders just as easily for online payment methods as for offline payment methods. Your customers can also make partial payments against invoices and use different payment options for each part of the payment. This means that no matter how big or small the billing amount, the customer can pay as per convenience and ability.  

Multiple shipping options

For festive shoppers, a major concern with online shopping is receiving their packages on time. Getting your Christmas gifts delivered after New Year is not an option. The uncertainty of delivery makes many shoppers opt for the more traditional retail stores to complete their shopping on time. You can capture these shoppers and even those last-minute shoppers by providing multiple shipping options ranging from 7 day delivery to overnight shipping.

Ignify eCommerce lets you set up various shipping carriers such as UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc. and make them available on your web store for the customer to choose from. Not only can you provide a choice of shipping carriers, the customers can also have different items in their order delivered to different addresses using different carriers. This ability to ship to multiple addresses can be particularly attractive to shoppers who do not want to miss out on the opportunity to send gifts to friends and relatives out of town. 

Multiple shipping options

Provide your shoppers multiple shipping options.

So this festive season make your customer feel like a king and let him shop across your multiple web stores using the device of his choice, place his order with the payment method and shipping carrier to his convenience, and then also have his gifts hand-delivered to different locations on his behalf, without ever having to leave the comfort of his chair!

For more information on how to optimize your web store for the holiday season, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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Simplifying Ignify eCommerce Web Store Installations with Microsoft Web Deploy

November 17th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

For merchants using on premise Ignify eCommerce, installing the Web Store application and the Manager Panel (the interface from which they manage their web stores) in a secure and hassle-free manner is facilitated using the Microsoft Web Deploy tool.

Using this tool, the application packages are securely and seamlessly transferred to the merchant’s IIS web server, after which the installation is activated. To import the application packages using Microsoft Web Deploy, the merchant first creates a website for the Manager Panel. The installation process is illustrated in the diagram below.

Ignify eCommerce Web Store application and Manager Panel

The installation process for the Ignify eCommerce Web Store application and Manager Panel.

Some benefits of using Microsoft Web Deploy:

  1. When compared to other technologies such as FTP, Microsoft Web Deploy imports the application packages faster to the merchant’s servers.
  2. The application package is transferred over HTTPS, making it a highly secure transfer.
  3. The automated process reduces chances of error during manual deployment and also speeds up the import and deployment process. It default compresses files, making deployments faster.
  4. Automated deployments using Microsoft Web Deploy can be enabled even across web farms, allowing you to import the application to multiple machines within a web farm if required.   
  5. Administrative privileges are not required to deploy the web application, and server administrators can delegate tasks to non-administrators as well. 
  6. Configuration values can be parameterized during deployment without requiring modifications to the packages themselves.
  7. Microsoft Web Deploy supports publishing databases. When getting started with the Manager Panel and the Web Store, the security and organization databases are required to be installed for proper functioning of the Manager Panel and Web Store.

After the application packages are securely in place on the merchant server, the process directs the merchant to a step-by-step guide to install the Manager Panel and create sample data that can be used to get an end-to-end experience of how the Manager Panel works. Various essential setups have to be in place, and the getting started user interface ensures that you do not miss out on any of them. It is possible to revisit the setup screen and verify the setups at a later stage as well. The merchant can create real-time data after completely removing the sample data.

Once the Manager Panel installation is complete, the getting started process guides the merchant through the installation of the Web Store including the various essential setups required to get your web store up and running. The first step in this process is to download the Web Store application package via the Manager Panel. Once the Web Store package is successfully downloaded, the merchant needs to create a website in the IIS for the Web Store. Using Web Deploy 3.5, the merchant would be able to import the Web Store application package and start the deployment wizard for the Web Store installation.

To learn more about on premise installations using Microsoft Web Deploy, please refer to the slide deck here.

If you have any questions about Ignify eCommerce installation, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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Making Online Shopping Fun with Social Media Integration

November 5th, 2014 Manasi Kulkarni No comments

In a previous post, we discussed how the Ignify eCommerce Manager Panel is equipped with various tools to help a merchant optimize his social media presence and boost his online marketing efforts. These tools enable merchants to directly share their products, discounts, promotions, etc. from the web store to Facebook and Twitter, lets customers ‘Like’ pages from the web store on Facebook, or ‘tweet’ about them on Twitter. Similarly, customers can share products, discounts, etc. directly from the web store to Google+.

Like and share buttons directly on the product page

Like and share buttons directly on the product page make sharing items simple and instant, giving your web store more social media presence.

Ignify eCommerce further uses social media avenues to make shopping an enjoyable and convenient experience for your customers. Customers can easily login to your web store using their social media credentials, saving them the effort to create new login credentials, while providing the merchant access to valuable profile information about his customers. This information can help the merchant better understand his customers and their needs, while providing customized services and products.

Login via social media

Login via social media makes online shopping simple and convenient, saving your customers the time of creating a separate login for your store.

The integration of social media tools on your web store comes in combination with other SEO tools and Google Analytics/Universal Analytics, making it a comprehensive package that boosts your brand’s online presence and impacts web store footfall.

With Google Analytics, you can keep a track of how many people are actually using your social media login and sharing buttons, which of the platforms receives a greater number of clicks, etc. This data can help you reorganize your social media optimization (SMO) efforts such that your social media presence converts into sales. However, it is advisable to use Google Analytics alongside social media reporting information as provided by Facebook, etc. to get a more comprehensive picture of how your social media tools are impacting your web store’s interaction with your customers.

Shareable content is another important factor to consider when making a presence on social media. It is important to generate content that lends itself to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. in order to build interest, which will lead to more likes and shares. For example, interesting videos, compelling articles, and high-quality product images are all crucial for building an image on social media and creating brand awareness.

The various social media integration tools combined with full support for shareable content provided by Ignify eCommerce thus help your make the most of your SEO and SMO efforts, and ensure a good shopping experience for your customers. For more information, please email us at eCommerce@ignify.com.

Manasi Kulkarni is a Product Marketer at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, eCommerce, and Point of Sale software solutions to organizations. Ignify is winner/finalist of the worldwide Microsoft Partner of the Year Award in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing businesses in North America for seven years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine from 2007 to 2013.

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