It’s no secret that Associate-O-Matic has a lot of options to choose from. And to new users (and even some more experienced hands), it can be a bit daunting to rock the boat. But as the Internet continues to become more crowded, it’s harder and harder to find ways to make your site stand out from all the rest. It’s an issue that many people struggle with; while it’s one thing to set up categories and organize the mechanics of a site, it’s another thing altogether to smooth out the finer details that can be crucial. So here, in no particular order, are ten things you can do right now to make a difference. Some of these you might already be doing. If so, that’s great. Now ask yourself why you’re not considering the rest.
1. Text/font – AOM allows you to select from several web-safe text fonts. It’s an obvious thing, but changing the font (and/or size & colour) can make a radical difference in the way your site looks. The font style can also compliment your target niche, such as Aerial for electronics, or Times New Roman for books, and so on.
2. Mod_rewrite – Sometimes its like beating a dead horse, but the advanced SEO functions that are built into the Full version of AOM can make your store more user- and search engine-friendly. Creating an .htaccess file (if you don’t have one already) and implementing one of the rulesets can provide great benefits to any site. Don’t let that word “advanced” scare you off; it’s not that difficult to set up if you take the time to read the instructions carefully. Plus there’s a detailed Users Guide on this site to help you get going on it.
3 The Shopping Cart – If you use the built-in shopping cart on your store, then one of the most important hurdles you face is getting customers to click that “Checkout” button and go to Amazon. While it’s true that many carts are abandoned before the purchase is finalized, at least if you can get them there, the odds will certainly improve. So anything that distracts shoppers from clicking on that button is a huge no-no. It’s amazing how many sites have banner ads or external links that can bleed users away from that all-important button. Many other sites waste the ability to use custom text here, and either have nothing, or too much information (usually with links!). Or they copy info from other sites. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same text I use on my own stores in other people’s.
The whole point of the shopping cart page is to reassure your visitors that clicking the checkout button will be a positive experience, and one they will want to do. You need to explain in your own words that clicking the button will enable them to complete their purchase in an efficient and enjoyable manner. It will be easy, and it will be fun! Don’t sidetrack them or offer them confusing alternatives. Warmly encourage them to click the button. Anything else is just going to drive down your completion ratios.
4. Custom Favions – When you look at the top of your web browser, you’ll notice on many sites there are little graphics by the URL:
These images are called Favicons. They are special images (always named favicon.ico) that are stored in your root directory (where your shop.php and admin.php files are located). They’re like a mini-logo for a website. When a site is bookmarked, often the favicon will be displayed alongside the site name:
There are many sites online, such as this one, that allow you to upload a graphic and turn it into a favicon. Having a favicon is a small, subtle reminder that your site is a real one, and it reinforces the site’s identity. Visitors to your site may be more likely to bookmark your site if it has a favicon.
5. Header Graphics – In much the same way as a favicon displays your site’s identity, a unique header image can also make an impression in the mind of a visitor. While AOM allows you to use a text header, studies always show that images create a stronger impression. Some sites don’t even have text; generally these sites do very poorly with sales. Most people have access to graphics software on their computers, or sites that will do some basic graphic work. There are many sites that offer royalty-free images you can use (generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to use copyrighted images). A good header can make an indelible statement about what your site is about at a glance.
6. Original Text – It’s advice that’s repeated so often, it’s become a mantra: the absolute best thing you can do for your site is to load it up with as much original text as is possible. Associate-O-Matic provides great latitude to insert custom boxes all over every page of your site. It’s a powerful resource to allow you to inject personality, warmth, advice, humour and information that’s vital to turn visitors into customers. For example, on your Home page, pick an item and do a detailed review of it, explaining the pros and cons, the likes and dislikes. Offer suggestions, and explain why. On your Category pages, do a paragraph about the product lines, offer insights, recommendations, explain features. It is a woefully under-utilized asset that virtually guarantees failure if not used.
7. Clean Easy to Read Buttons – With the introduction of being able to design your own CSS buttons from the AOM control panel, there has been a tendency to better-looking buttons (such as Add to Cart, Cart Checkout, etc.). But there’s still great potential for using poor choices to make buttons difficult to spot and/or read. And there are still many sites with custom button graphics that may look “great’, but put “art” ahead of “commerce”.
Buttons should be fairly ‘clean’, without much to distract the eye from their function. Graphics in a button are good if they quickly convey what the purpose of the button is. Not all do that. It’s best to use an easy-to-read font, and colors that have high contrast. One thing I try to avoid is using red for checkout buttons – green or gold sends a better psychological signal than red.
8. Uncluttered Information – When displaying item attributes, it’s easy to go overboard and turn everything on; after all, the more information the customer gets, the better, right? Wrong. Usually, visitors to your site don’t need some info, like ASIN numbers or Amazon rankings. While a video game site might want to display release dates, clothing sites generally don’t. Go through the display options and ask yourself, “Do shoppers on my site really need to know this?” If not, turn it off. Clearing away the clutter will make your product displays look cleaner and neater, allowing people to focus in on the information that’s really relevant to them.
9. Title: Short and Sweet – Setting up the Title tag for your store can be harder than it looks. All too often, users will try to cram too much information into every available opening, worried that if they don’t, people will miss vital information regarding their site! What happens is they end up throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, and it’s all for naught as most eyeballs will just glance over what is (rightly) perceived as a tangle of useless text.
You can throw in as many meta keywords as you want – most search engines happily ignore them now anyway. Your title should be as short as possible – three to five words is good. The slogan and descriptions should be 12-15 words, and no more. Plug in 30 (or 300!) words, and almost all of it will be truncated by the search engines. And don’t expect humans to read it – generally the shorter the better is the rule of thumb to follow.
10. Check Your Source Code! – All web browsers have ways to examine the source code of whatever website you’re looking at. Many will have fancy addons that will analyze the various sections, color-code them, etc. It’s always a good idea to take a look at this, and try to understand what you’re seeing. Often things like extra tags, missing tags, and other errors can be highlighted or otherwise spotted. This can help with tracking down problems, like side columns not displaying properly, or search engines not able to crawl your site correctly, etc. Older sites that may still have custom table codes will often benefit from a quick check as well.