November 16, 2020 by Ben Chafetz

How to Prep Your Site for the Busiest Time of the Year

November marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, and this year many retailers are rolling out Black Friday style deals before Thanksgiving weekend.

With online sales expected to hit record highs, eCommerce merchants should make sure their site is prepared to handle high traffic volume.

Not sure if you’re ready?

Here are five tips to help improve your website in time for the influx of holiday shoppers.

1. Take a Deep Look at Cart Abandonment

Cart abandonment is a problem across all industries and platforms with the average rate coming in at just over 88%.

Customers abandon carts for a myriad of reasons including:

  • Difficulty understanding the checkout process
  • High shipping costs
  • Mandatory account creation
  • Not able to find the field to enter a coupon code
  • Concerns about payment security and legitimacy.

There are things you can do to address these issues.

A good place to start is to troubleshoot your checkout process. Make sure it’s intuitive, use an add-on to show the contents of a user’s cart throughout the entire checkout process, and use a clean, professional UI design to add legitimacy and increase user confidence in your website.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that customers can check out as a guest – with the option to sign up for an account later. You may also want to include some free shipping promotions on your website – at least, through December.

2. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Responsive

Mobile shopping continues to grow each year and is predicted to reach all-time highs for the holiday season.

So make sure your website is using a responsive design that displays seamlessly on any mobile device, including smartphones and tablets. If you don’t have a responsive, mobile-friendly website, you could miss out on quite a few sales – both in 2020 and beyond.

3. Check Your Page Loading Times

Page loading times are always an area where you can improve, and there’s no better time to do so than the holiday season.

Want proof?

Here are a few statistics from Hubspot and SEMrush that are sure to convince you that page loading time should be one of your primary areas of focus.

  • 79% of customers who are dissatisfied with a page’s loading times will never visit the website again.
  • A one-second delay in page loading, on average, results in an 11% loss of SEO page views.
  • A one-second delay can reduce conversion rates by up to 7%.

Your goal should be to reduce your page loading time to 3 seconds. Max. This means you’ll be faster than about half of all other websites. And if you can reduce your loading times to 1.7 seconds, you’ll beat about 75% of the competition. Google PageSpeed Insights is a great tool to use to assess the loading speeds of your website, and see how you can improve.

What are the best ways to speed up your loading times? Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a faster cloud hosting provider.
  • Reduce the complexity of your website and eliminate unnecessary code.
  • Compress and downsize large images.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to reduce page loading times
  • Optimize caching.
  • Try to avoid 301 redirects, which typically require multiple server queries.
  • Update and optimize any plugins you’re using, and consider removing plugins that you no longer use.

4. Consider Altering Your SEO Strategy

A fast website and a great shopping cart won’t do much for you unless you can bring in holiday traffic. So consider altering your SEO strategy, and trying to rank for holiday keywords that may help your website bring in traffic.

For example, if you run a car accessories or car parts website, you could:

  • Publish some gift guides targeting related holiday keywords, such as “best gifts for car guys 2020”, or related long-tail keywords.
  • Reach out to related blogs about promotional guest posts.
  • Send out an email newsletter or gift guide with special promotions to your current customers

You may also want to create some dedicated landing pages with special holiday promotions, which will help you bring in more customers and rank higher in search results. And don’t ignore your email newsletter, if you have one – a special holiday edition of your newsletter with special deals and discounts can be a powerful way to bring in more customers.

5. Add Extra Server Capacity

You don’t want your webserver to crash during the holiday rush. Not only will you miss out on sales, but your reputation among your customers will also suffer.

If you’re using a cloud hosting company, you may want to consider purchasing more storage and processing capacity, to ensure that you can handle the massive surges in traffic that may come alongside the holiday season.

You may also want to think about switching from a shared cloud server to a dedicated cloud server. Dedicated servers are not shared with other companies, so the only traffic on your server will be from your customers.

This means you won’t have to worry about your uptime being affected by others. Sure, it’s more expensive – but worth every penny, especially if you avoid a crash.

Follow These Tips – And Get Ready For The Holiday Rush!

Before holiday web traffic hits, follow these simple guidelines and tips to make sure you’re ready. If you do, you’ll be able to optimize your website’s UI and SEO, bring in more customers and provide a great, smooth customer experience all throughout the holidays.

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