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July Partner of the Month – Celebros Conversion Technologies

Each month we feature a partner company that has produced great results for our clients.  This month we’ll be discussing a leader in search and conversion technologies, Celebros.

Redstage clients have seen dramatic improvement in conversion rates, especially in conversions from search, with Celebros technologies.  We’re talking an increase on search users from 2.3% to over 20%.  Yes, that kind of increase.

Who is Celebros?

celebro_logo1Celebros, Inc. is the global leader in e-commerce site-search, merchandizing and conversion technologies for online retailers.

Founded in 2000, Celebros revolutionized e-commerce by creating intelligent, concept-based search for online stores. Since that time, Celebros has emerged as the industry leader in conversion technologies, developing a cutting edge search solution that employs the most advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology available.

Celebros customers include over 450 e-commerce retailers and merchants with over 1,200 websites in eleven countries. A number of these are among Internet Retailer’s Top 100/500 companies and represent a broad range of industry segments, revenue and catalog sizes.

The new Celebros ConversionPro V8 suite of Conversion Technologies is the ultimate solution for optimal site-search, navigation, dynamic merchandizing campaign building and management, LiveSight analytics including user action based reports, cross-sell and product finder tools, and many other action rich features specifically designed to provide e-commerce professionals the best tools for their daily conversion management.  Shattering the e-commerce industry’s status quo, Celebros’ Conversion Pro V8 includes 13 conversion enhancing tools, products and features designed for e-commerce professionals with the sole goal of dramatically increasing conversions.

Partner of the Month Webinar

This month’s webinar, currently scheduled for July 24th, will introduce you to some of the most effective technologies that Celebros has to offer.  They’re also going to throw in some advice on how to deal with the new Google Shopping changes.  See below for an overview, and look for a followup post with a full description.

Start Converting – Empower your customers with ConversionPro V8

Discussion topics

  • Empower your customers to search your site using their own unique language and terms
  • Is your site ready for Google shopping switch to paid service?
  • Add true merhcandizing, navigation and semantic site search to your Magento store

Date: Tuesday, July 24th

Time: 2:00PM Eastern Time

The Webinar is rescheduled due to a scheduling conflict.  We will be creating a new post with further details.  Sorry for the inconvenience!

Top SEO Myths Debunked

You’d be surprised how many conversations I have with top executives and e-commerce managers who have major misconceptions about SEO.  The biggest problem is that I often find these myths guiding both decisions and budgets.  Let’s look at some of the most common that I hear.

First, we need some SEO basics to set the stage.  SEO is broken into two parts:

1. On-Page SEO – all the stuff that you can do to your actual website (title tags, h1 tags, urls, content, site speed, etc etc)

2. Off-Page SEO – all the stuff you can do that is NOT part of your site (link building, link wheel, etc)

Here’s an important distinction to kick us off.  On-Page SEO can only make you ABLE to rank while, but does not mean you WILL rank well.  Off-Page SEO is what actually gives you more Google Juice.  Keep in mind, that if you’re sending the Juice to an un-optimized page, you won’t gain any traction either, since those pages aren’t able to rank well.

Now, to the myths!

Let’s start with a big one…

SEO is a one-time activity that happens during site development.

No no no!  This one really makes me pull my hair out.  On-Page SEO starts during site development.  Real SEO is done as an ongoing campaign for both on-page and off-page.  An SEO campaign actually starts with target keyword analysis.

Good Content / More Content leads to better rankings

Nope. It’s on-page SEO.  It just makes you better ABLE to rank for keywords.  It also helps allow you to rank more organically for long tail and natural keywords.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a hugely important part of your strategy, but it can’t do much alone.

Duplicate Content Penalty

There’s no “Penalty”.  It’s really just that Dupe content pages get dropped.  So, it kind of looks like a penalty.  But especially in e-commerce, stop being so scared of dupe content created by your filters.  You CAN get more value if google knows that they’re all the same page, so use Google appropriate tagging (pagination and canonical).

Meta keywords / meta description

Useless (almost).  No search engines use them anymore for rankings.  Power Tip: some SEs will pick up the Meta Description (sometimes!) as their description for the page, so you can use meta description to possibly help click through rate.  But definitely not rankings.

Tiny links at bottom of page

Google knows that links that are tiny or the same color as backgrounds are trying to fake them out.  Don’t use them.  I have successfully used footer links to boost pages on other sites and internal pages, but make sure it’s part of the actual site, not hidden at the bottom.

Hyphenated domains are better

Nope.  Google can read words inside the url.  Google also thinks that too many dashes in your url is an indication of a spam domain

Adwords campaigns improve SEO

Most are convinced that this isn’t the case.  When you create an Adwords campaign, you usually do tweaks to improve your quality score.  Those tweaks are probably what is helping SEO, not the campaign itself.

XML Sitemaps boost rankings

Not true.  Again, on-page SEO only.  Yeah, they’ll help some of your pages get indexed faster, but will do nothing for rankings.

Title attributes are useful in img and href tags

They’re not, as far as we know.  Don’t waste your time.

Google can’t grab external CSS files

Yes, it can, and it’s looking through those too for hidden tricks.

Flash elements ruin SEO

I’m not really a fan of flash, and, as long as your site isn’t entirely flash, some flash elements are fine.  Google can even read text in flash nowadays if done properly.

H1 tags are the holy grail of on-page SEO

SEOMoz says differently (through an actual study).  But they can’t hurt, so use them both for your readers and for Google.  Just don’t rely on them.  Regular bold/larger text works just as well.

Validating your HTML will make Google read it better.

Google reads it just fine…

Buying Links

Google figures this out quickly now.  It’s a huge waste of money.

Inclusion of meta robots tag (index,follow)

Not useful.  Unless you tell an SE NOT to follow you, it will.

Google doesn’t follow JavaScript links

It’s not perfect at it, but it’s pretty good.  That’s not a good way to keep from bleeding Google Juice.

Your urls need to end in .html (or similar) to be friendly

I don’t think that’s ever mattered.  Keywords in urls are good.  End of url doesn’t matter.

Google can’t search or see search results

Not sure when it started, but it sure can see them now.  If you’re a Magento user, you’ll probably notice that the SE spiders have totally screwed up your “top searches.”

Using your keyword as anchor text for your “Home” links

Meaning, if you’re trying to rank your homepage for “cheapest widgets” then you would change all of your “Home” links to read “cheapest widgets.” I used to do this all the time, actually, especially in the footer.  That is until SEOMoz did a study and debunked it.

 

DOs And DON’Ts Of Online Marketing

No matter how big or small your business might be, as long as you have the right marketing strategy at hand, your success is almost guaranteed. With so many online marketing strategies, tips and advice constantly revolving around you, it might be hard to make your pick. This piece should help you come across some useful advice and guidelines on how to select the most effective online marketing strategies and avoid the extra hassle.

 

Online Marketing Strategies: DOs

It is recommended you fine tune your search engine optimization for your site, including a better management of your HTML, web design and architecture, content, linking and site customization. Create content that is well written, do not overlook grammar and spelling mistakes, and always back up everything you say using powerful arguments, research data and statistics, and plain facts. Throw the focus on creating excellent lists of features, advantages, or benefits and stop worrying about word count.

 

If you are familiar with the Hummingbird changes, topics are acting like keywords in result pages. It is therefore recommended to try to make each page stand as a topic on its own. Try to avoid creating several pages on the same topic just to obtain the optimization you are aiming for various keywords. Instead, you could be creating longer forms of content which could be covering all of your ideas and keywords all at once.

 

It is also recommended you use good title tags and headers that are fully optimized – Google could be soon rewriting title tags using more algorithms. Try to test some HMTL changes to the same text Google will show in the SERP. Look at all efficiency indicators and whenever you notice an improvement, use a title tag optimizer to help you out.

 

Social media is excellent for attracting new visitors and clients and direct interaction is the key to success. As a small business manager you can make full use of social media to discover your prospects and successfully initiate business talks on the spot, in real time. As a big business owner, you can better profile your potential customers and use social media networks as huge data sources. It is also recommended that you improve your online reputation by staying on top of those posts that are mentioning your business.  

 

Online Marketing Strategies: DON’Ts

It is recommended that you do not use a keyword strategy while relying on competitive information that is not fully accurate. Avoid using Google AdWords data in order to get a keyword competitive analysis, as you could be solely generating flawed conclusions. Do not sound too personal, critical, or aggressive when replying to social media posts. Also, try to not get stuck on the same obsolete web design no one (successful) uses anymore and constantly update, customize, and optimize everything. Do not lose the focus on mobile responsive sites and also do not forget to breathe from time to time! Play your favorite casino games online; download Cosmik Casino or use the instant play alternative, become a registered member and enjoy the current 5,555 welcome bonus.

 

Benefits of Magento

What are the benefits of Magento over other shopping cart solutions?

Magento has pretty much taken over the ecommerce technology space, and we get that question more than any other. So for everyone that stumbles on this article in your search for your ecommerce technology, I hope this provides a little help on your journey.

Is this real insight? Or just more marketing babble? Well, Redstage been in the ecommerce business for 7 years now, and we’ve worked on over 150 Magento sites over the past 3 years. So this list is a personal account of our experiences. Let’s start with the feature set…

#1) Out-of-the-box Features

Of all the e-commerce systems that I’ve worked with, Magento really has the most impressive set of features right out of the box. I was actually planning on spending a few paragraphs discussing them, but I ended up stumbling on Magento’s new features page: https://www.magentocommerce.com/product/features. It’s a pretty comprehensive listing, so go check it out before moving on to #2.

#2) Open Source

OK this is an obvious one, but I felt like I couldn’t write a benefits list without including it. The platform is not only free to download but you are free to build upon it for your specific business needs.

#3) Extensions

Magento Extensions and the Extension Community have really set the platform apart from the rest of the pack. One of the main goals of the Magento core development team was to create the most extensible ecommerce system on the planet. And they succeeded, in a big way.

It’s a little bit of a blessing and a curse, actually. Because developing a Magento site is actually much harder than other platforms before it. To properly develop any custom functionality for Magento, you must basically create an extension so you’re not touching any of Magento’s core. It’s a whole lot more complicated than just creating a custom hack. But with that extra initial investment, comes HUGE savings in the long run.

Back in the OSCommerce, Zen Cart, and CRE Loaded days, an ecommerce site was a big hack job of custom code and “addons” that were basically just instructions for additional hacks. The more complex your site got, the more of a hack job it would become. Random errors and stability problems were a frequent result. Many times, complex additions would mean a full redevelopment of the whole site.

Magento, on the other hand, is properly architected to be able to extend its functionality in an elegant and stable way. And it’s really a huge advantage for your business. For instance, I wonder how much it cost Amazon to develop their Frequently Bought Together or Who Viewed This Also Viewed up-selling interfaces? Well, with Magento, you can have either one of those for about 50 bucks as extensions, and about 3 minutes of installation. Shameless plug… you can actually pick up both of those extensions at our extension store: https://store.redstage.com.

Also, I think it’s safe to say that Magento now has the largest and fastest growing community of developers of any ecommerce system. Thanks to the community, Magento’s feature set is growing at the speed of light. Perfect example: When Google +1 came out, I think it was less than 24 hours before a Magento extension came out to place +1 buttons on all of your product pages.

#4) Admin Interface

Magento really has the best admin interface of any that we’ve ever seen in an open source system that came before it. It’s more of what you would expect from a hosted SaaS platform. Hosted solutions aren’t usually appropriate for anything other than very small business, though, since they are almost impossible to customize to your needs. So with Magento, you get the benefit of a much more customer friendly interface but the power of having your own flexible solution.

When I first started working with the platform, I was especially surprised by how complete the order and customer management sections were. The promotions manager is also very cool, but I guess that’s more of a core feature than just the interface. Oh, and category management is also great too.

#5) Regular Updates

For the incredible burst in popularity that Magento’s received over the past 3 years, I have to applaud the company for keeping up as well as they have. I’m sure that they’ve gotten 10’s of thousands of bug reports and feature requests in that time. With Magento, you can confidently expect a new release, packed with bug fixes and probably a few new features, every few months.

Alright, I think that about sums it up. I’m also putting together an article on the limitations of Magento, that I’ll link to as soon as its complete.

For more information on Magento, please call us at 888.335.2747.

Why Does Redstage have Magento Support Retainers?

Why Does Redstage have Magento Support Retainers?

We often get asked why we use a retainer based payment system for our Magento Support services.  First off, let me catch you up on what I mean by “Retainer Based Support”.  Our Magento support service works similarly to the way an attorney retainer works.  Basically, if you need ongoing assistance with your Magento site, the retainer is a pre-payment for a number of hours.  These hours can be applied to many different tasks.  Here’s some of the things we’ve done for retainer clients in the past:

  • Magento Upgrades
  • Plugin installation & Configuration
  • Bug fixes
  • Template / Theme Tweaks
  • Custom features or custom plugins and
  • Switching web hosts

We don’t limit the number of issues or fixes you can submit, it’s all based on how long it takes to fix everything.

Luckily, we’re (really) good at this.

If you ever paid for a legal retainer, it’s almost exactly the same. The lawyer will deduct the hourly fee from the pre-payment whenever you need them to look over a contract or advise in any legal situation.  Redstage Magento support works the same way.  If you need help with any aspect of your Magento store, you log a ticket and we get to work.

Ok, so back to the point.  Why a retainer based system?

Deducting hourly from a retainer allows us to provide the highest level of service to our support customers.  First, the retainer doesn’t expire.  You can use 2 hours one month, take one off with no issues or tickets, and then use 5 hours the next month.  It let’s us provide a level of safety and security to the a Magento user because we’re there when you need us, just by logging a ticket.  You can have 100 issues, and it doesn’t matter since it’s all based on the time it takes to complete the tasks.  If it’s easy for us, it’s cheap for you.

We time the retainer work to the second, so the client gets the most for their money.

I apologize if I sound sales-y, but as a marketer, Magento support is a fun sale… Magento users come to us all the time after having bad experiences with developers who weren’t ready for the complexity of the Magento platform and we need to step in and help out.  It took us a couple years to become Magento masters but we’re one of the best around, so it’s fun to talk about.  Our development team likes working with Magento!  If you’ve ever searched around on twitter for Magento, the average developer is frustrated but we’ve gotten over the learning curve and know the system inside and out.

Don’t just take my word for it; we have clients who tell us things like this:

“”THANK YOU!!! We all finally feel confident that we have found the right partner for our new business.

-Sharon, Founder, Charleston Naturally

That gives us a warm fuzzy feeling… and it proves that the retainer system works!

Now, I have to ask… If you need anything Magento related, call 1-888-335-2747 and we’ll set you up w/ a retainer, or a full project if you’re just starting out (full design & development).

I hope you understand a bit more about what we’re all about and if you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Thanks!

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Magento (Varien) Raises $22.5 Million In Equity Funding

Magento (Varien) Raises $22.5 Million In Equity Funding

media_logoGreat News! There’s a buzz around the open source community that there was regulatory filing that shows that Varien, the company that provides the Magento E-commerce Platform, raised $22.5 Million! I tracked the story back to socalTech.com (link) who first reported the news.

Here at Redstage, this is very exciting. We are huge fans of Magento, and to see their parent company get a huge investment is excellent. Now, there’s an important question… What is Varien going to do with all that cash?

Software Changes
They will most likely invest in the Enterprise version of Magento, creating new features and making it faster by hiring more developers, project managers, etc.. Hopefully, they don’t distance it too far from the free Community edition, or increase the already high price. Maybe they’ll make a new upgrade level, either in between or above the Enterprise version… It will be interesting to see how the actual software changes after an investment of this magnitude. I hope they don’t abandon the Community edition and focus solely on the Enterprise version.

Physical Expansion
They may open a new office or two… Magento is very popular in Europe where there might be a good spot for a sales/marketing office. We wouldn’t mind a new office over here on the East Coast either 😉 .

Marketing
We hope that they promote the Magento brand and do some high level marketing. This will attract more extension developers and build the Magento community. One of the main reasons that Magento has done so well over the past 2 years is because of the community of designers and developers that enhance the platform.

More marketing also attract more e-commerce businesses to use Magento, whether they’re switching to the platform, or starting up with it.

Partner Development
Something we would like to see are more partner resources. As a development firm specializing in Magento Development, it would be great if there were more sales and marketing resources available to sell the system, and to sell the enterprise edition when necessary. This is something that Microsoft is extremely good at. We are Microsoft Partners, and they provide a wealth of videos, marketing documents, trial software and other supporting documents to help partners sell their software. There are classes to learn programming, certifications to build trust, and a ton of other resources that aid their partners to sell more and develop better. It would be great if Varien created a similar system for the growing Magento community of designers, developers and resellers.

What do you think they’ll invest in? $22.5 Million is a powerful amount of money for any business, and when the product is already so good, and so popular, the investment is even more powerful.

What would you spend the $22.5 million on if you were running Varien? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Thanks!