eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Volusion, Magento, etc. can be a fantastic starting point for new and smaller eCommerce businesses, but as your business grows, each platform’s limitations can often become increasingly apparent. Unfortunately, no platform is perfect, but there are things that can be done to prevent a platform’s limitations from limiting your site’s performance.
The Client: TotalHomeSupply.com (THS)
TotalHomeSupply.com (THS) is an eCommerce website that sells products for homes and businesses, including air conditioners, heaters, fireplaces and appliances.
Their site was previously using Volusion as their eCommerce and shopping cart platform. Volusion is a great platform for small to medium-sized businesses, and THS was a perfect fit for a while. As their inventory grew and the site’s customization needs increased, they required more of an enterprise solution.
This was seemingly good timing because Volusion had recently launched Mozu:
“As the Volusion platform is designed to serve the needs of small and mid-size businesses, the Mozu platform was built to serve large enterprise businesses.”
To THS, this seemed like a no-brainer because Mozu is a beefed up version of the Volusion platform they were already on. The product database could be easily migrated, and the site migration was very straightforward. A decision was made by the business owner to migrate to Mozu. There was no turning back.
The new site went live on July 16, 2015. To compound the situation, Google started rolling out Panda 4.2 THE NEXT DAY on July 17. Immediately, there were noticeable issues. Historically, organic traffic has made up more than 65 percent of visits and more than 40 percent of all conversions. Post-migration, these numbers dropped significantly. While there is often an inherent drop expected as Google reindexes the site and locates all the new URLs, after being live on Mozu platform for more than a month, organic traffic had dropped nearly 35 percent. Transactions were down 21 percent. Luckily, the new site converted better – conversion rate went up 24 percent, so revenue was only down 7 percent.
Organic Traffic, Sessions, Revenue – 3 months post-launch vs. 3-months pre-launch
Analysis by Page Type
To further diagnose why the site’s traffic was so depressed, we looked at traffic pre- and post-migration by page type. In this case, the types we looked at were product pages, category pages and “other” pages (not a product or category).
Category Pages: Category page traffic was down roughly 25 percent post-migration. This was somewhat expected, as 100 out of 300 category pages were pruned as part of the migration.
Product Pages: Product page traffic was down >50 percent post-migration.
Other Pages: Blog traffic remained steady, and non-category or product page traffic as a whole was UP post-migration.
So, What Happened?
Technical Problems with Mozu
In short, we found there were a number of technical flaws within the Mozu platform that prevented the site from being (re)indexed as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. We contacted them directly and made sure they were aware of these issues, and we worked with them – over time – to get these issues resolved. However, this did not help us solve our immediate problem at hand.
Panda 4.2 / Thin and Low Quality Content
As previously mentioned, Panda 4.2 started rolling out the day after the site migration. Great timing! We already knew the site had an issue with thin and low quality content, and we had a plan in place to make ongoing improvements post-migration. For example, the old site had ~300 category pages. Roughly 100 of these did not have unique content and drove very little search traffic. In most cases, they were very similar to another existing category page. Thus, the new site was launched with 100 less category pages. The long-term strategy was to remove low-quality content for overall organic traffic increase by increasing the quality of the site as a whole.
Fix Technical Issues with Mozu
Given the limitations of Mozu, we needed to figure out how to get product pages crawled more easily and regularly. Luckily, we were able to work directly with Mozu’s team to implement a solution that – while not ideal – did help.
This allowed product pages to get crawled easier and has kept the paginated URLs out of the index. Although a less-common solution, it has been effective in this instance.
Remove the Cruft
As part of the migration we pruned (noindexed) more than 100 category pages (out of 300) and more than 1,000 product pages.
Improve Content Quality
Over a number of months, we improved the keyword targeting and content quality for the remaining category pages on the site. We also wrote or rewrote product page copy for most of the remaining product pages (more than 1,000 products).
Organic Traffic Above Pre-Launch Levels
In early 2016, the site was still reeling from the post-migration traffic decreases. Prior to launch, the site was receiving ~25,000 monthly visits from Organic Search traffic. In early 2016, that number was down to ~16,000 organic visits in March. Here’s what happened after the technical fixes were implemented and the product and category pages were updated:
In July, the site received >30,000 organic visits, almost double the amount from March, and >5,000 visits more than the average monthly traffic pre-launch!
Organic Revenue Doubled Year-Over-Year
Perhaps what is more impressive than the increase in Organic traffic is the increase in Revenue post-optimization. Revenue from Organic traffic in July 2016 was DOUBLE the revenue generated in July 2015.
Notice that the site’s revenue post-launch did decrease, but not as much as the traffic decreased. However, when the site’s traffic started bouncing back in Q2 of 2016, the revenue from Organic Search exploded. Revenue in July 2016 was more than DOUBLE that of July 2015 (or any other month in 2015).
The changes made not only resulted in increased quantity of traffic, it resulted in an increased quality of traffic. Combined with better conversion rates in general, our efforts allowed Total Home Supply to take a potentially devastating situation and turn it into a big win.
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