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All I want for Christmas is UX

Published: 27/11/2014 | AUTHOR: Tom Hunter

E-commerce

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday looming, retailers will have been pulling out all the stops to ensure their websites are king of the search results, and the first port of call for the imminent swathe of Christmas shoppers.

For savvy retailers keen to ensure the seasonal online traffic spike is fully exploited, SEO will have appeared somewhere near the top of their agenda – and rightly so. A strong SEO strategy helps ensure your site ranks as highly as possible, helping to increase site traffic and ensuring consumers quickly find the content they’re hunting.

However, retailers need to be careful to ensure they strike the right balance between attracting customers and providing a good user experience.

Something we’ve noticed is a growing trend amongst ecommerce websites to keep products listed on websites, regardless of whether they are in stock. The reasons behind this lie with the SEO benefits that these additional product pages provide. By listing as many products as possible, retailers maximise their chances of ranking against search terms and driving traffic to their site. For the products not in stock, it’s then left up to the website’s UX to upsell similar products or to recommend alternatives.

However, whilst this tactic can be highly effective for retailers – from a user’s point of view it can be very frustrating. This is especially true for those simply browsing a website, rather than searching for specific products.

Ultimately, the way retailers deal with out of stock products should depend on the size of the site. As a general rule: small e-commerce sites should recommend other similar products that are currently in stock, medium e-commerce sites should use ‘404 – page not found’ – unless able to specify the date a product will be back in stock, and large e-commerce sites (100,000 pages +) should set expiry pages to expire using the ‘unavailable_after’ meta tag. Retailers that consistently ignore this advice are likely to find themselves on the ‘naughty’ side of Google’s list this Christmas…

With Christmas on the horizon, are marketing stats impeding logic – with retailers overlooking what’s best for their customers in the hope of increasing website traffic?

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