Another fatal eCommerce fail.

by Jim June 12, 2020

I was testing out a national retailer’s site this week and was greeted with an embedded, mammoth video with a horrendous load time. Not the greatest user experience you’ll have. I try to convey the message that you need to treat your site like a physical store. If you wouldn’t subject a physical visitor to things, don’t expect your online visitors to tolerate it. Think about how to showcase your brand. (I’m finishing today with the SEMrush Summer Jam 2020 video – apologies in advance!)

What I learned

  • Auto-play homepage videos are bad UX
  • Treat online like a physical store
  • If it’s not needed, dump it!
  • Optimise your traffic channels
  • Shop on mobile


Hey. Welcome back Rankers. How’re you going? I’ve got a bit of a musical finish today. You get to see a bunch of SEOs singing, so stay tuned for that. It’s a lot of fun, actually. Now, I tweeted this out yesterday, “Hey, designers. Embedding a 10 meg MP4 as auto play on your homepage resulting in a 21 second load time is not an optimal experience for a user.”

Treat it like a store

The reason I tweeted that out was because I was just doing a search on … just a test on a particular retail site, large brand, national brand, national retailer, stores all over the country, and a lot of those would have been closed, so the website would have been their only store. You can see here, we’ve got a file here that takes 10 seconds to download, and the reason for that is it’s this video file, a giant video file on the home page of the website.

But that’s not all. I mean, when we go and have a look at here, we’re not doing any caching, we’re not using a CDM, we’re not compressing images, and we’re not doing simple things like compressing transfer from the web server to the web browser. So there’s a lot that can be done on this site, but probably because no one’s looking at it from this perspective, because quite often these large retailers are looking at the website as more or less of something to get people into the store. Whereas, this actually is a store website. The website is actually a store, so treat it like a store. It should be your biggest store because it’s national, right? Anyone can go to it.

So, but this is the mindset of some bricks and mortar retailers, and I got into this conversation with AJ, my old mate, AJ. G’day AJ. We were talking about, you know, he’s guilty of it, and we see a lot of people do it, right? He said something interesting, which is, “I’ll have to work out some other way of … to implement the desired psychology.” So the implication being that he was using the video to create a feeling.

My response to him was, well, first of all, does the user actually need the video? If they don’t need the video, get rid of it. If you’re trying to convey a feeling, or a brand impression, or anything like that, you wouldn’t make someone, if they came into your shop, sit through a video to get that feeling, right? So if you had a store down the street, you wouldn’t make everyone sit and watch a video and say, “Do you feel it now? Do you feel what we … ” You don’t do that. It’s got to be conveyed in other ways, right? We do that in other ways.

The same is true for your website. The problem is, is that we’ve got a lot of these preconceived … or these ideas that have come up over the last 20 years about what a website should do, and try to do, and behave and look like, and all these things, but when it comes to shopping, people are just used to buying stuff. They’re just used to going in, “I just want to get that thing,” and they’re sick of having two or three popups, hit the mobile, the popups cover the screen.

We’ve just completed monthly reports for May this week and everybody’s over budget, so it’s fantastic. But a couple of the clients, I said, “Yeah, you’re over budget, and yes, we’ve made double what we made last year. However, there’s some channels here that aren’t performing particularly well because of what you’re doing to the mobile users.” There’s always room for improvement and all of these things, all of this stuff that’s on the site, it affects paid, it affects organic, it affects direct traffic. It affects all the traffic that comes to the site, and that’s the most important thing.

Seamless user experience

So, quite often, and I’ve been doing some searches this morning, and quite often things that rank number one have huge reams of text at the top of the page. That’s not a great experience for the user if you’re trying to buy something, either, like I was this morning. I couldn’t because the sites that I went to, I had to scroll, scroll, scroll, scroll, so I hit the back button. Most of us do that. We just want the experience to be seamless quick, easy. I just want to be able to trust you.

As I’ve said for a couple of years now, SEO’s primary function for Google really is to make your ads work better. Because if you can make the sites work better, then people are going to spend more ad dollars with you, because they’re going to get more sales because their sites work better, and Google can surface better experiences for users because people are doing this SEO. Which, also, big news this week is that the head of Google Ads in Google has now become the head of organic search as well as paid. So there you go. It tells you something, doesn’t it?

So just remember, shop your site, use your site on a mobile device. Try it out. A lot of people do and they go, “Yeah, it’s fine.” If you think it’s absolutely fine because it really is, give it to someone else and get them to try to buy something off your site. Hopefully that’s helpful. Hopefully you enjoy the SEMrush Summer Jam 2020 edition. So for the last, I think it’s four or five years, we’ve been going to various places in Europe to catch up with pretty much the best people in search I’ve ever met, and this happened once a year. Of course, we can’t do it this year, so they did a virtual conference because it’s … for them, it’s about getting feedback on their product, how they can improve their product and get more people using it, all those sorts of things, which makes a lot of sense, right? Talk to your customers. Hello.

So what they did this year, apart from the sessions and getting feedback from users … and sorry for everyone who, I couldn’t be there because the sessions were taking place in the wee small hours of the morning, Australian time. But I hope you enjoy this. It was very, very nerve wrecking for all of us to do and a lot of us were scared. Certainly, I was. But what SEMrush has put together is just fantastic. It’s a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy it. Here it is.

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