January 2014 is over and for the next few days everyone in the jewelry industry will be focused on Valentine's Day related sales. And after that, you'll have only 8.5 months to get ready for the next holiday season.
Too soon to think about it?
I don't think so.
Back in September 2013, Google announced their new Hummingbird engine along with their new mobile centric focus. Now, a full 4 months later, I finally have some real data to help understand what effect Hummingbird has on the everyday average jewelry website.
As I look over my sample of data, I decided to group together all the websites that haven't been updated in more than a year, and who also don't have mobile websites. This grouping accounts for a few dozen of the sites I track.
In general, I found a noticeable drop in website traffic starting October 1, 2013, and a continued decline through the 2013 holiday season. I realize that there's a potential correlation here between this drop in website traffic and the reports that the holiday sales from 2013 were not very high, but that correlation only exists with the sites that are stagnant.
The websites that are updated regularly with new pages, new products, specials, and blog posts were, at least, able to maintain the level of visitor traffic as they had in 2012.
I find it very interesting that all of these websites dipped in traffic right after the Google announcement that Hummingbird was launched. I can only conclude that Hummingbird is to blame, and it's time to do something about it.
For those of you who haven't updated your website in the last 12 months, it's time to rethink what you're doing. As I said, Hummingbird is mobile centric. Many results are now based on whether or not your web page will correctly render on a desktop, tablet, and smartphone.
I've also noticed that websites are ranking better when several different areas around their website are updated, like adding a new newsletter, updating products, and changing the home page regularly.
Planning a new website is not an easy task, and despite your best efforts, it might still take 6 to 9 months to rush the planning and setup of one. Which means you would be just in time for the 2014 holiday season if you start today.
Why 9 months? Everything takes time... designing it, programming it, adding inventory, writing content, training your staff, phone calls with your programmer, more important tasks in your store, vacations, sick days, days when you just don't feel like working, photography, testing, bug fixing, last minute changes... It's a lot.
Of course, now that you need to plan a website around Hummingbird you'll not only need a responsive website, but a website that is genuinely intelligent about how it responds.
Imagine that you are using your smartphone to search Google and you see a product listed in the search results. Tapping on that result should bring you to the specific product page, but many responsive websites will redirect users to the home page of the mobile version of the site. From Google's point of view, they want your website to correctly redirect the user to the exact same page, but with mobile usability.
In this Nugget so far I've been very careful to refer to "responsive websites" rather than "responsive design." A "responsive design" is one that will reformat itself on the fly depending on the user's screen size, but the same information is sent down to the user's device. This is what most website programmers are pushing today.
However, Google has made some very careful announcements to the programming community with regard to how they read a website. Their current position is that every page of your website should be available, and usable on any type of device. Although they recommend "responsive design" as a solution they also have published another caveat with additional instruction that will tell Google that different information is available on the same page for mobile users.
Although they do not use the phrase, what they are referring to is the concept of "responsive content" that I mentioned a few weeks ago.
Subtleties like this are the types of early hints that indicate what Google is thinking, and where they are going.
As you plan and build your new website over the next 9 months, make sure you include functionality that allows users to easily flip back and forth between devices without confusion. Also, don't simply build a new website and transfer your content, you should seriously consider your future strategy for continual content building.