*this entry was taken from our partner’s blog bigcommerce.com
About the Author: Soren Harner is the Vice President of Engineering here at BigCommerce. He works with our engineers, testers, designers, and systems administrators to build the tools, systems and features that power our eCommerce platform. Soren lives in Sydney with his wife and two girls and is a cycling and guitar fanatic.
Our engineering team has been working hard in the background for the last few months to launch our Content Delivery Network (CDN for short), and as of last week the rollout of the Bigcommerce CDN is complete.
What is a Content Delivery Network?
A CDN helps your store load at lightning-fast speeds for all of your shoppers, no matter where they are in the world. So if you’re located in California and sell to shoppers in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK for example, your store will load extremely fast for everyone.
Without getting too technical, here’s how it works. Our CDN basically copies all of the photos and other files (what we call static assets) from your Bigcommerce store to over 20 different data centres (these are known as CDN nodes) around the world. Then, instead of loading these files from our main data centres in Dallas and Seattle, they are loaded from the data centre that is closest to where your shoppers are.
Enough of the technical mumbo jumbo — let’s get to what you care about most: How will a CDN help you sell more?
Faster Page Loads = Better Conversion Rate
You don’t need to understand how it works, but a CDN is so important because page load times are critical to the conversion rate of your Bigcommerce store, which is the percentage of shoppers that turn into paying customers.
The longer a page takes to load, the higher the chance of a shopper “bouncing” — that is, visiting your store once, leaving and never coming back. This chart from our friends at KISSmetrics shows just how important page load times are in relation to bounce rate, or page abandonment:
KISSmetrics have put together an excellent infographic discussing page load times and the effect they have on bounce rate, which you can see here.
How Much Faster is My Store?
The biggest speed gains will be experienced by shoppers who are closer to one of our CDN nodes, which are located in London, Los Angeles, New York, Sydney, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and Singapore.
How Website Performance Affects Shopping Behavior
You can see from the chart above just how important page load speeds are in reducing page abandonment, and a CDN is one of the best ways to increase page load times; but how does a website’s performance actually affect a shopper’s behavior?
As you can see from the stats above, the performance of a website is absolutely critical in turning shoppers into buyers. The most important metric from the stats above is:
A 1 second delay decreases customer satisfaction by about 16%
Long story short — your online store needs to be lightning quick for shoppers, no matter where they are and a CDN makes that happen.
CDN = Better Search Rankings
Search engines are increasingly factoring page load times into their ranking algorithms, so the Bigcommerce CDN may also help your store rank better in search engines such as Google.
How to See Your Page Load Times
As of last week, you’ll have started to notice your store’s page load time trending down as a result of the Bigcommerce CDN rolling out. Remember, the measurements reported by Google Analytics are an average taken from the shopper’s browser, and the speed gains will heavily depend on where your shoppers are physically located and the quality of their broadband connection.
You need to have Google Analytics enabled on your Bigcommerce store in order to get the Site Speed report. If you haven’t already enabled Google Analytics, it’s easy to do. Just read this article in our knowledge base and follow the steps.
Do I Need to Enable the CDN?
No, there’s nothing you need to do to enable the CDN on your Bigcommerce store. It’s already enabled (as of last week) and is of course absolutely free for all clients on all plans. We hope you enjoy the decrease in page load times and increase in your conversion rate.
The CDN rollout is one of many things we’ll be announcing between now and the end of the year which have been designed to help you sell more, in line with our new tagline. A CDN isn’t something you can “use” per se, but as you can see, it can have a big impact on page load times and conversion rate.
In a recent post, I discussed basic Search Engine Optimization for Product Pages and wanted to follow up with SEO for images.
As discussed in the previous blog on Product Page SEO, image descriptions are one of the most important factors when dealing with SEO in the Big Commerce platform. What I didn’t discuss are some of the other nuances about images and some of the things you can do to make them appear more relevant to your site, niche and locality.
Many website owners fail to recognize the opportunity lost with a well thought out file name and image description. At left is a screenshot of the Google Text Cache for a popular florists wedding page. You can see that the file names are quite random in nature and don’t really describe the photo in any way. By adding some more descriptive text to the image filenames, we can further develop the relationship with the search engines, and let them know even more what our site is about using these keywords.
What’s more descriptive, “image007.jpg” or “Amanda-Wedding-flowers.jpg? As a good rule of thumb, you should always change the filenames for any images you post to your site.
When adding images to the pages of your site, you’ll see the image editor below. The appearance tab allows us to change a few things, including the size of the image displayed, how it is aligned in on the page, what amount of white space surrounds the image, border or none, and it gives us the opportunity to specify a description and a title.
You can see that I’ve added an image called “Amanda’s Wedding Flowers” to a wedding page, and given it a keyword rich description that includes a few of the target keywords for the page itself. Wedding, Flowers, Cityname. There are lots of different text variables you can use in your image descriptions and file names.
Just don’t overdo it. Don’t make your descriptions or file names too long, just include relevant information about the image itself and you’ll be just fine.
Update: For more advanced users, you might want to try Geocoding your images which you can find out more about here.
Update#2: Check out this great article on SEO for Images.
One of the questions I get asked the most during new Epic Flowers web store launches is “How do I set up the SEO for our product pages?” What I’ll focus on here is a few of the key factors for properly setting up your product pages for SEO using the Big Commerce product page interface. Product pages for flowers can be a little difficult to set up, as the focus of the page is really the image and the ability of the user to select that product and purchase it from your Florist Website.
The most important, and perhaps the most difficult thing you’ll have to do is come up with three unique and compelling product descriptions for each individual product.
Before beginning, you’ll want to consider keywords for the pages. For the example, I’ve chosen the florist’s staple of “One Dozen Premium Roses” as the product being added. Our chosen keyword for this product page will be “Roses”.
Another quick example might be a product called “Glitzy Gerberas”. In that case, we would optimize the page for the keywords, “Gerbera” and “Daisies”. It’s best to only try to optimize for 1-3 keywords per page as there are likely other products or categories you’ll want to show up for many of the other keywords you might be trying to rank for anyway.
The first thing to look at when you’re adding products is the product name. Most florists are using product and images that were created by others with standardized product images and names. Others may have developed their own product offerings that have unique names and images from their own shops. Either way the product names are entered in the product name field and when you click out of that field, a product URL is built at the bottom of the catalog information block.
For the most part, it’s best to leave the product URL as it’s constructed by the software. You’ll notice that if you enter any special characters, like apostrophe or exclamation mark, they will be removed in the URL, which is exactly what you want.
Entering a good and unique product description is essential to your SEO efforts. As the page is being optimized for the keyword “Roses”, you’ll want to try to include that word once or twice in the product description. Make sure the description is written for people who are looking at the page and will help them make the decision to buy their roses from you.
When writing product descriptions, it’s good to use variations of your keywords. Plurals or non-plurals are just fine. Rose, Roses, Gerbera, Gerberas. In the end write the copy for the person reading it and describe the product in as much detail as possible and it will be good for SEO.
Now that you’ve entered an awesome and creative product description on the Details Tab in Big Commerce, it’s time to put that creative hat on again, and start thinking about yet another unique description for your product. Big Commerce provides a text box next to the image on the Images Tab where you can easily enter an image description. The image description here can be a shorter and more to the point, but is used as the “Alt” or alternative text by your site and the search engines whenever the image may not be available for some reason. This is good news, because it allows you to enter another product description that will include more of your keywords.
The image above is from the text only version of what’s called the “Google Cache” of a florist website. Keeping in mind that the search engines will use the text on your site to determine exactly what your site is about, you can see that a good image description can provide them with more of this information and help your entire site rank better. it’s also important to note that this screenshot was taken from a Cache of the Home Page of the site, and not the product page. So what you are seeing is the “Alt” text of the image, and a link to the product page that the search engine will follow to that product page. The links below, with the product name and “Choose Options” also link to that page, but it’s been established that the search engines will only look at the first link to a site and use the information from that link to determine what the site and the page it’s linking to is about. With Big Commerce, you can see that it’s using that image description link to get to the product page.
Moving over to the Other Details tab, and buried about halfway down the page, you’ll find “Search Engine Optimization”.
If you do a quick Google Search for title tags, you’ll come across thousands of posts on the subject of writing title tags for SEO, for the user and for increased click through rate. A little while back I wrote a blog post on title tags on my local search website that you may want to check out as well. There are a few nuances to the Big Commerce system that we’ll quickly take a look at.
If you leave this field blank, Big Commerce will automatically use your product name and store name for the page title. So in this case, it would look like:
“One Dozen Premium Roses – Store Name”
For many products this is often just fine. For others, you may want to include some other descriptive keywords as I have above. (Red Roses)
These may just happen to be red roses, and if that was one of our target keywords, we might include it using the vertical slashes. For product pages, it’s always good to include your store name at the end, basically for users who find the product online and it distinguishes you from others who may have this product on their site as well for those using stock images.
Looking again at the “Glitzy Gerbera” example from before, I might chose to go with something like:
“Glitzy Gerberas | Stunning Pink Gerbera Daisies | Store Name”
Remember that in the case of Glitzy Gerberas, even though Daisies wasn’t in the product name, it was still one of our target keywords and should be included in the product page title as a keyword.
**Page titles should typically be kept under 60 characters to fit the search engines results – but, it’s not a game changing issue, and if your store name doesn’t show completely, it’s ok.
Keywords for web pages were used heavily in the past to provide the search engines an insight as to what the page was about. At this point, they’ve become somewhat irrelevant and I personally don’t use them on any of my sites anymore. The search engines will determine what your site is about through your page title, product and image descriptions. If you chose to use them, I suggest keeping it to 1-3 keywords per page.
Highlighted in red above is where the Meta Description will show up in search engine results. On all pages of your website, including product pages, this text should be written to entice the user to click on your link. You can include your target keywords here if they suit the text you are writing, but it’s not imperative as similarly to the Meta Keywords, the search engines don’t put much emphasis on what is written here. They are more concerned about the content of the page itself. Be creative with this 3rd and final description and make it (again) unique as possible and for the user.
**Meta Description should be kept to 160 characters max, or it will truncate as the one above has done.
Hopefully this will help you get started with your Product Page Search Engine Optimization. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them below.
Update: Read more about Image SEO in a new blog post here.