The Post-launch Checklist: 6 Things Your E-store Needs After Launch
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The Post-launch Checklist
Starting an online store can be a full-time job by itself. Once your store goes live, it can be very tempting to sit back, sigh in relief, and think that your next step is to fulfill your orders as they begin pouring in. But wait! There’s more! You’re in it to win it, and to that end, we’ve collected our best advice for your post-launch checklist.
Enable User Reviews
The single best marketing method has always been word of mouth, aka personal referral. This is very unlikely to change. No matter how we’ve refined our marketing strategies, no matter how technology has evolved, nothing beats a personal recommendation.
While your store is new, you won’t have the luxury (yet) of relying upon your reputation as a trusted brand, nor will people specifically seek YOU out, rather than your competitors. You might have the best darn product on the market, and at a price that is universally affordable, but you’ll have little momentum in the market until you gain this one coveted thing: a good reputation.
To that end, User Reviews are the absolute best thing you can add to your website. You will need the functionality to do so (via an app or add-on), but you will also need to encourage (and possibly incentivize) your customers to leave feedback.
Positive reviews are worth far more than a sale. Negative reviews should be personally responded to as promptly as you can; let other users see for themselves that you worked to resolve any dissatisfaction. If you do this well, the user may just change their review. And even if they do not, their review will weigh less in the mind of the reader – new customers will sooner trust you, the helpful and level-headed merchant, rather than the irrationally irate customer.
Install Google Analytics
I, personally, am not a Google fan. In fact, I assiduously avoid the Googlesphere as much as possible. Having said that, I strongly urge you to install and make weekly use of Google Analytics. I hope that my personal commentary on Google makes my recommendation all the more poignant; Google Analytics is worth it.
Why? What does it do?
Google Analytics (GA) does several very beneficial things for you and your business.
- It’s free. It’s a huge asset, with absolutely nothing out of pocket. This alone is enormously in your favor: leverage this deal like crazy.
- It’s the best at what it does. Think of these two together: Free, and Best. Free Lamborghini? Yes please. Free iPad Pro? Welllll ok. Free stay at the Ritz-Carlton? Twist. My. Arm. Free web analytics? Do it.
- It makes your business omniscient. Okay, not exactly. But darn close. GA gives you insights into your customers that you can’t even get as a brick-and-mortar store owner. Want to see which parts of your website garner the most traffic? Want to see where your customers are, geographically? Want to see what else your customers are in the market to buy? How about customized, automatically generated reports to track the effectiveness of your last marketing campaign across its entire lifespan? All yes. GA might not know everything, but it tracks far more details than you thought was possible.
- It makes you proactive. There really aren’t any “set it and forget it” businesses out there. Your business relies on you to keep its edge honed, and GA helps you do just that.
- It plays well with others. GA is open to API calls, which means that developers can make plugins for it which extend its already impressive capabilities.
Create a sitemap.xml file (and robots.txt file)
If this sounds like web-geek speak, well, you’re right. The good news is that if you hired someone to make your website for you, they surely know what this step means, and can accomplish it in about five minutes (if they haven’t done it already).
The other good news is that if you were bold enough to do all of your own Webmastering, you’re tenacious enough to accomplish this step in a somewhat easy 15 minutes.
The other other good news is that most Website Builders like Wix will automatically do half of this work for you. They create sitemaps automatically and on the fly; while you’re fiddling around with new designs, new pages, and even new graphics, your preferred web builder is keeping pace with you and updating your sitemap as you go. (For more information on exactly which Web Builders offer this functionality, head over to our thorough Reviews section.)
If you need to create a sitemap.xml or robots.txt file, there are several free services which can do this for you. You’ll need to add this file to the root directory of your website (and be sure not to alter its title!) Many of these services are accompanied with step by step instructions for submitting them to Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines, which is just a few clicks away (below).
Once your sitemap and robots files are ready to roll, all you have to do is tell Google (and any other preferred search engines) that they exist. To accomplish this, head over to Google Webmasters, log in (or create an account if you don’t yet have one,) then select Crawl on the left sidebar. In that submenu, select Sitemaps. The search engine will crawl your site soon, if not immediately (which basically means that it will take a quick inventory of the relevant pages on your site, so that they can be included in search results.) If you do not see any sitemap data already, you can easily add your sitemap by clicking the big red Add/Test Sitemap button on the top right of the dashboard. All done! Your site can now be indexed and included in search results.
Just as you submitted your site to Google (and other search tools) in the previous section, you should keep this momentum going by getting other highly visible websites to link to yours. There are several ways to do this, the easiest of which is to submit your web address to relevant online directories.
Before search engines were so prevalent, there were directories – essentially glorified, digital Yellow Pages – where people could go to find sites by category. While these sites have fallen far out of favor, a very handy byproduct remains: outside link cultivation. The more websites that link to yours, the better. To a point, anyway. Just as overusing a keyword in your website can adversely affect your rankings, you should not merely gather as many links as you can. The quality of those links matter than their quantity. Two links from the Forbes website to yours are worth far more than a hundred on sketchy or outdated websites.
To that end, it should be an ongoing endeavor of yours to cultivate solid relationships with other trusted brands out there. If you can get a major publication to do a story on your brand, you’re golden. This is no easy task, but should be a continual aspiration. If this is the hardest (though most useful) and simple submission to niche directories is the easiest (though least effective,) then the majority of your time in this endeavor should be to create content on your own website that is worth linking to. Bloggers and online columnists of all kinds may simply quote you, adding a link to your website in the middle of their article.
Set up Google Alerts
Keeping a watchful eye on your Google Webmasters dashboard is essential, but so is your attention to Google Alerts. This tool will do a wonderful job of notifying you when other websites mention your business name or any trademarked or identifying phrases of your brand. If these mentions do not include direct links back to your site, it is well worth it to ask the referring website include that link. Most publications will oblige you.
Add Trust Seals
What are Trust Seals? You’ve undoubtedly seen them, though you may not have known that they had a name. When you go to a website to purchase something online and you see familiar logos like Visa or PayPal as you go through the checkout process, those are Trust Seals. They show the user which major brands you do business with, but more importantly, they piggyback on those brands’ trusted reputations to enhance your own reputation as as reliable merchant. These can boost consumer trust and help to minimize abandoned carts.
Trust Seals may also be called:
- Trust Marks
- Trust Badges
- Security Badges
Some web traffic may navigate to your store, load a product in the shopping cart, and go through most of the checkout process, only to chicken out at the last second. After all, no one wants to part with their hard-earned cash, especially when what they are buying is sight-unseen and the vendor is unknown. Seeing logos of more well-established brands can help the shopper to be more confident, and take the risk on the purchase.
Note: Many factors play a role in assuring the customer that you are reliable and worthy of their business. Trust Seals are one, but they should not be solely relied upon. The most effective factors, in order, are these:
- Well-established reputation
- Personal referral
- User reviews
- Good SSL certificate
- Site clearly displays contact information
- Trust Marks
- Site looks well-designed and professional
- Site offers trusted brands
In my opinion, you should add these (and only these) Trust Seals:
Adding too many Trust Seals will adversely affect your perceived trustworthiness. It comes across as “trying too hard” to show that you are legitimate. Whatever smattering of Trust Seals you choose, they should be placed on the checkout page, near where the customer inputs their payment information.
As you have developed your eCommerce business, you’ve probably discovered that there are always be a few more tidbits to consider, a few more boxes to check. Hopefully this post-launch checklist will help you on your way (until your next milestone)!
Good luck, and happy selling!