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Have you ever made a series of changes to your site and wondered why orders have suddenly stopped?
How do you catalogue the changes you make? What rollback facility do you have?What if there are multiple parties working on a site?
Let's say you have an SEO, a web developer and a site publisher all doing different things with the site? How would you then qualify whose work is having the positive effect? How would you qualify whose work is having a negative effect?
This is indeed a tricky element to negotiate; and remember the slightest change to a page/site may substantially affect your online orders. Even the movement of a single link may seriously affect your online orders.
How do I know this?
In the last quarter I have been working with nutritional supplement specialist Jane Thurnell-Read who owns Health and Goodness. There have been a whole series of changes made to the site, not only is there ongoing SEO taking place, we have also looked at online conversion and added a number of techniques to improve sales.
Site amends are being rolled out almost in real-time; there is no luxury of off-site development time; this site is literally work in constant progress.
So what happens when against all your best efforts (and beliefs) something goes wrong and online orders drop off the radar? This is exactly what happened with Health and Goodness. For many hours both Jane and I poured over site data in an effort to see what was going on.
Obvious questions included, Had positions been lost? Had search traffic died? Was the shopping cart not functioning?
The answer to all those three basic questions was a resounding no! So what had we done, what had anyone done?
At this time the team at Fresh Egg had just undertaken a huge site consolidation process. Health and Goodness was split into two very different looking sites. This was causing confusion to visitors; there was a lack of consistency with the two different looking sites jumping from one site to another and then often in a new browser window.
The consolidation took a lot of resource as the site that needed upgrading was non-dynamic and contained over 400 pages that required the same look as the shop site.
It was at the same time Fresh Egg uploaded the new look site that orders began to drop-off. Naturally the assumption was the article site which now carried the same look and feel as the shop site was affecting online orders, which in fairness defied logic. Typically when the various teams at Fresh Egg get working with a site it is fair to say a positive effect happens.
One of the principle reasons for insisting on such a colossal change was to ensure visitors coming onto the Health and Goodness site were offered consistency, for me consistency is an essential instrument in online sales.
I would be lying if I said we were not perturbed by this sudden down-turn in business; although not directly our site; it is our responsibility to increase the online business for our clients, not decrease it!
Much head scratching took place, then one morning I had an email from Jane with 'hands held high'. Jane had worked out what the problem had been - It was not indeed a major site upgrade, it was a change that had been made to one link.
The link to 'special offers' had been purposely moved; the link to 'special offers' had been given extra prominence in the main left-side navigation, the question still begged to be asked was, why this would affect online orders?
The answer was very simple - It was the special offers that were affecting online orders.
The special offers featured on the page were simply not turning people on!
As a result the visitors coming onto the site were clicking into the special offers in a quicker timeline simply because the link to the special offers page was in a more prominent location.
After viewing the special offers and deciding there was not a suitable product, the visitors were off again - end of story (well not quite).
This was a lesson to us all; from an SEO's perspective we had covered all angles, we were satisfied that our work was not having a detrimental effect on the site; we knew traffic levels were good, it was most frustrating to know orders had dropped so significantly knowing we had strengthened the site so much!
What we were unaware of was the other changes being applied to the site at the time we were making some big changes. This was the killer blow.
This is why it is critical to document all changes being made to a site, because as proved in the case with the Health and Goodness site, the wrong placement of a single link can be extremely damaging. What was more damaging was not knowing what other updates were being applied to the site; it these elements had of been documented the source of the problem would have been identified in a far quicker timeline.
Thankfully orders are on the up for the nutritional supplement specialist and the Health and Goodness site is continuing moving in the right direction.
Be warned though - moving a link can seriously damage the health of a site!