Friday, October 31, 2008
On the web, visiting your store needs just a single mouse click. This also means that there is little investment and they can just as easily move to another site. So, in ECommerce you really have to work hard to ensure that your bounce, page exit and abandoned cart rates are as low as possible and your co-sale and up-sale rates as high as possible for the best possible average order value, return visit rate and account lifetime value.
ECommerce success needs to be judged on the total lifetime value of each account and the average of all accounts.
How to be successful The key management success factors in retail are:
- StoresOnline Customer Service and selling
- Demand planning and management
- Forecasting, allocation and replenishment
- Markdown management
- Merchandise and range planning
- Promotion planning and management
- Store operations
- Supply chain management
In addition all successful retailers understand:
- The competition
Retail is not just products, but an experience with customers selective but willing to pay for:
- simplifying life
Customer loyalty, relationships and awareness:
- promotional campaigns and marketing techniques
- merchandising visual impacts
It is not just about price: "Customers move to the lower cost provider when marketers stop giving them reasons not to." Tom Peters.
- Retail is detail
- hours, displays, point of sale, categories, isles, music, etc. etc. etc.
On the web you still need all these skills and approaches, but because it's so easy to "click away" you also have to understand a lot more. Firstly, understand how people behave on the web - and this applies to all sites not just ECommerce sites. They go to the web and they search, decide and then act. But, that final decision to act - the one that we want - is based on a whole gamut of emotional factors bound up in trust, ease and entertainment.
Secondly, understand the laws of ECommerce - Get visitors to the site - Search engine optimization - Pay-per-click - Email - Affiliates - Online public relations - Convert visitors into customers - Sales - Special offers - Coupons - Associated products - Recommendations - Site effectiveness - Build relationships - Make sure the site works – fast load times etc.
Sounds obvious but……- Think like a consumer – show you understand what they want - Be visually clean – clutter does not work.
If you use this checklist, you’ll be well on your way to creating an eCommerce StoresOnline Website that thinks of what is best for your customers and your business.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Frequently Asked Questions About StoresOnline Express
for StoresOnline Merchants?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer?
Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the show floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation - looking around to see to whom else we could be selling to.
Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don't buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.
On the show floor be sure that your body language conveys sincerity. Your words and actions should be congruent.
Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world's best systems for getting things done, but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don't reduce the human element of your organization.
Appreciate the power of "Yes". Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
- What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
- What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy?
- What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?
Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
- Listen carefully to what they say.
- Check back regularly to see how things are going.
- Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.
What are customer service activities that you as a StoresOnline Merchant have used to help create value?
2. What are visitors looking for? Your checkout page can tell you only where you've succeeded, not where you've missed an opportunity. Search keyword reports and internal site-search reports can reveal what people are seeking, not just what they've found. Another crucial metric is your cart abandonment rate: the percentage of customers who put items in the cart but left your site before checking out. Use it to find if something's amiss with your checkout process.
3. Where are visitors landing, bouncing and viewing? The assumption that user experience begins on the homepage drives many designers to waste hours of work in the wrong place: for customers entering your site through a search engine, you have multiple homepages -- not just a single entry point. Your Top Landing Pages or Top Entry Pages report will tell you where your real "homepages" reside, so you can focus your design work there. Analytics will also tell you which landing pages have the highest bounce rate – pages on which people landed, looked around and left. And through your Top Viewed Pages report, you can see what content interests your customers -- or doesn't.
4. What are your website's trends over time? Analytics can help you understand what drives your performance up or down. E-commerce tracking shows the number of orders placed and the value of those orders, and by segmenting your data over different timelines, you can see subtle buying habits that could have otherwise gone unnoticed.
If you'd like to read the full article, click here.
Do you currently pay attention to the data that you get with StoresOnlinePro or StoresOnlineExpress? Do you or have you used Google Analytics? What are some key insights that you've learned or want to learn as you study the analytics data?
Monday, October 27, 2008
The StoresOnline Merchant Help Forum offers help and ideas on the following subjects:
- StoresOnlinePro software
- Avail 24/7 Software
- StoresOnlineExpress software
There is also a section for free webinars for StoresOnline Merchants. The thing that we liked the most about this forum was how they described it: "StoresOnline's Help Forums are here to help you. Ask and answer. StoresOnline will monitor these forums for common problems and great suggestions! Please help us improve our product by taking part in the sharing of information. Click on the link to the right to sign up, then click on the discussion group you want top browse on the left. Click here to sign in and join the conversation. It's quick, easy and free!"
It looks like this is just another way that StoresOnline is working to support Merchants and Online Entrepreneurs. We encourage you to sign up today and let us know about your experience with the StoresOnline Merchant Help Forum.
The software is top of the line and very easy to use especially with the help of online chat or the phone support line. All of the marketing strategies that I have used were learned from reading through the amazing amount of material made available to StoresOnline merchants.
I recently launched another site selling wholesale hats and things seem a little easier the second time around since I feel like I really know what I am doing now. Sales have started to trickle in already on the hat site but I still have plenty of marketing that I need to do. I could not be happier about the way things have gone with my websites and my experiences with StoresOnline.
If you have a StoresOnline Merchant Success Story that you'd like to share, leave a post here and we'll get in touch with you to get your online business spotlighted!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Alexa - shows traffic trends for competing websites. Alexa has a heavy webmaster bias that is nowhere near as noticeable at Compete or Quantcast.
Compete.com - shows you traffic trends for competing websites. Allows you to compare sites head to head. Also offers a paid search analytics tool which is both exceptionally useful and affordably priced.
Quantcast - shows site traffic and demographic trends and details. Also allows you to download a list of their top 1,000,000 websites.
Google Trends for Websites - free tool from Google showing traffic estimates, visitor country location, top 10 related websites, and top 10 related keywords. Only returns data for fairly high traffic websites though.
Google Search Insights - shows keyword trends, hot keywords by cateogry, and top geographic regions for a keyword.
Archive.org - see how old a website is and what it looked like in the past
DomainTools - see Whois data and how many times a domain has changed hands
SearchStatus - highlights nofollow links, shows PageRank, shows Alexa rank, and provides links to some backlink information
Xinu - lists some SEO related data plus more general web related data points like Alexa ranking and Del.icio.us bookmarks.
Research the Competition's Keyword Strategy
View our keyword research tools section, or use some of the following free tools to get a view of their keyword strategy.
Keyword Density Analysis Tool - finds common words and phrases on your site, or competing websites.
Page Comparison Tool - tool compares the page titles, meta information, and most common two and three word phrases between different pages. grab the source code Page Text Rank Checker - tool allows you to check where your site ranks for each phrase or term occurring on the page. grab the source code
Common Terms Keyword Rankings Tool - shows where your page ranks for it's most common terms. grab the source code
Spider Test Tool - shows the page size, source code, meta tags, page title, textual copy of the page, keyword breakdown by density (including 2 and 3 word phrases), number of words, number of unique words, and outbound links on a page.
Research the Competition's Link Strategy
View our link analysis section, or use some of the following free tools to get a view of their link strategy.
SEO Book Competitive Research & Keyword Research Gadget - use almost every useful competitive research tool from our free gadget. You can place this gadget on your site or on iGoogle.
Back Link Analyzer - free Windows based downloadable software allowing you to deeply explore through a competitor's backlinks.
Link Harvester - web based tool that allows you to dig deeply through a competitor's backlinks
Link Popularity Comparison Tool - allows you to quickly and easily compare your link popularity scores to other websites.
Myriad Search - allows you to search all 4 major search engines at the same time.
Competition Finder - tool looks at how many competing pages there are in Google's index that have your desired keywords in their page title and anchor text. learn more about Competition Finder
SEO Link Analysis Script - extend Yahoo! Site Explorer and Google Webmaster Central using this free script from Joost De Valk. It verifies the link is still on the page, adds PageRank scores, displays anchor text, and highlights if the link uses nofollow.
Search Engine Saturation Tool - helps you compare how many pages you have in the search indexes compared against competing sites. grab the source code
From the Search Engines
Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool - allows you to plug in a URL and shows you what keywords Google thinks the page should be advertising for Google Traffic Estimator - estimates the number of Google AdWords ad clicks and bid prices for the top ad position.
Google AdWords - if you bid broad match on competing brands you can track your ad impressions to see how much traffic they get.
Google AdSense - if your competitor is running AdSense ads on their site you can run a site targeted ad to see how much traffic they are getting.
Yahoo Mindset - let Yahoo show you how they can change results for commercial and informational queries
Yahoo Term Extraction - delivers a list of most important keywords contained inside a piece of text.
MSN AdCenter Labs - offers many keyword tools, including a content classification tool and demographic prediction tools
These may be more advanced competitive research methods for some beginning online business owners, but try to get started with one or two aspects of competitive research. It could give you a whole new perspective on your target market and your marketing direction as well.
If you have other SEO tools that you'd like to suggest to other StoresOnline Merchants, leave us a message here :)
Friday, October 17, 2008
~ Patricia Neal
The weekend is upon us...the holidays are coming up faster than expected...it might be a good idea for StoresOnline Merchants to buckle down and make some holiday specific goals...now is the time to plan, if you haven't already. Here is an excerpt from the ThinkTQ.com - Daily Lessons In Intentional Excellence feed that talks about planning:
"A simple fact of life: The more you plan ahead, the more you accomplish in the time you have. Planning ahead is a skill that applies equally to your NEXT move, your NEXT task, your NEXT day and your NEXT year.
When you look ahead to where you want to go NEXT, you can determine in advance what you are going to do, what you're going to need to effectively do it—and identify the shortest route to get it done.
"It's simply a matter of doing what you do best and not worrying about what the other fellow is going to do."
~ John R. Amos
A high commitment to this area of your performance suggests you've mastered the basics of planning. You are the role model for efficiency and a master at reducing stress. You always know what you're going to do next and what you're going to need to do it. You know what your schedule holds for tomorrow and exactly where you're supposed to be.
By planning ahead, you ordinarily bypass the obstacles that trip up people who only look down at their feet as they rush by in a flurry of misbegotten activity.
However, a lack of commitment suggests you complete your tasks one at a time without thinking about your NEXT move. Your progress is rarely a straight line. Instead, it might be better described as a series of random actions in divergent directions. You are often forced to backtrack and redo what you just completed -- because you didn't foresee how it would affect your next move.
By failing to plan ahead, you are less efficient and prepared for what to do next. You run in circles... a lot! Advice: Think WIN WIN—Now!
If you get yourself into the mind-set of asking yourself What's Important NOW... What's Important NEXT—10 times each day—you will not only understand the art of planning... you will master it!
You CAN achieve your greatest GOALS.
You CAN attain financial FREEDOM.
You CAN enjoy a career that is BOTH emotionally and financially rewarding.
Simply unleash the WIN WIN WINNER within! -- E.R. Haas, CEO"
StoresOnline Merchant Success stories usually began with a plan that was followed up with dedication and fortitude. Create a plan. Get focused. Stay with it. We look forward to hearing about your personal StoresOnline Success story!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
"If you're spending money on SEM, it's highly likely that you're wasting some of your budget. Learn how to cut the fat.
Paid search advertising accounts for more than 45 percent of the global online ad spend and, according to a recent forecast by JP Morgan, search engine marketing will reach nearly $30 billion this year.
More than half of that will come from large advertisers, who spend upwards of $50,000 per month, managing tens of thousands of keywords in their search portfolios (at WebTrends, many of our clients are running campaigns using more than 1 million unique keyword combinations).
However, there is strong evidence that these heavily invested advertisers waste as much as 31 percent of their paid search dollars on sub-optimized search marketing campaigns. WebTrends estimates this waste will amount to $4.5 billion globally in 2008 and is due to an overreliance on bid management tools that are inherently inefficient because of the manual procedures they require.
The following are the seven deadly sins of search marketing, plus insight on how you can find redemption and achieve the most from your online advertising dollars.
1) Failing to establish campaign goals
A surprising number of marketers fail to set campaign goals or review prior performance. Just because you're spending on paid search and seeing conversion activity come through your website does not mean dollars are allocated in the most efficient and effective way.
The first step toward a successful paid search campaign is to establish a baseline and performance thresholds from past results data. Then you can safely set campaign goals (maximizing revenue, gross profit or return on advertising spend) and monitor your progress.
2) Not identifying all the different types of possible conversion activities
Actions users take on your site indicate their degree of interest. Besides monetary transactions, other valuable conversions can include mailing list or newsletter sign-ups, demo or whitepaper downloads, user account creations or samples ordered. Make a business decision about which types of non-monetary conversions are valuable to your business and assign them appropriate values in the context of your paid search campaign.
3) Not taking a "big picture" approach to paid search campaigns
Paid search campaigns should be evaluated in conjunction with SEO, display, email and other online marketing channels. Use analytics data to help you understand conversions by various channels, and keep in mind users frequently visit your site through various channels and can even click on multiple PPC ads before a conversion occurs.
The conversion latency your products experience and the methods you use to attribute conversions to specific campaigns can have a big impact on how you gauge performance. Also, a portfolio-based approach to managing keywords and bids helps ensure you don't overlook conversion volume from keyword combinations that are lower performers at an individual level but help maximize total conversion volume.
4) Misunderstanding the value of branded terms
Branded terms play an important role in paid search marketing campaigns, but are frequently misunderstood. The key is to understand branded terms' role in the conversion cycle, as well as your audience’s conversion cycle behavior. In addition, you need to understand the consequences of focusing on branded terms only. While the branded term may be the last keyword typed prior to conversion, it most likely did not create the initial brand or product/service awareness. Broad and general terms drive users to your site.
5) Failing to take advantage of multivariate testing
To remain competitive, search marketers must bid in the most efficient way possible and harvest the available, but untapped, volume. As search engines continue to add new and innovative segmentation and targeting options, marketers are faced with almost unlimited choices in the number and complexity of campaign variables for their paid search campaigns.
While marketers frequently test different keyword match types, many do not experiment with ad creative and landing page options. Even paid search campaigns that the marketer may consider to be finely tuned can benefit from additional expansion and testing. Small increases in conversion rates or small decreases in average cost-per-click can greatly benefit your overall campaign performance over time.
6) Taking it on all yourself
It is the quintessential rock-and-the hard place scenario of search marketing: while targeting and testing options abound, time and resources are limited. Optimizing paid search requires humans to do most of the heavy lifting, from a/b testing, reporting consolidation and results analysis to the seemingly never-ending bid rules creation and adjustments.
Newer automated SEM optimization solutions can help achieve an optimal balance between what machines do best -- handling the constant cycle of analysis, testing and updates across an organization’s paid search portfolio -- and the insight and perspective into external industry events and business drivers that humans bring. In a single day, these solutions can assess the performance of more than a million unique keyword combinations and make tens of thousands of bid changes. Try having even a roomful of SEM specialists do that!
7) Leaving it all to others (either agencies or automated solutions)
Just because an agency or automated system is handling your paid search bidding doesn't mean that your work is done. Nobody knows your business like you do. That's why it’s important to react to and plan around changes in the marketplace, whether it is new competitors entering your space or seasonal changes that impact your business. These insights are invaluable in determining whether campaign goals and performance levels are appropriate, as well as whether "specialized" promotional periods are called for to help your business take advantage of previously untapped volume.
Conclusion: The bar for search marketing is only going to get higher. Competition-driven keyword inflation will likely be affected by market forces, including the gargantuan share of searches Google holds, and, lest we forget, the likely sponsored search deal between Google and Yahoo. To survive, today's search marketers must be smarter, faster and more efficient than their competitors."
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
"When reading a blog what is it people are looking for? Is it content? Is it the unique story a writer has to tell? Or, is it a combination of things?
Some people look for writing content. Others look for graphics and then some people like to go to blogs because, they can find their entertainment in video content.
For the most time, I look for combinations of things in a blog. Also this depends on the mood I am in. If the story is entertaining enough I will keep reading, if the video has a title I am attracted to I will finish watching it unless the content is just totally ugh. Graphics are great but graphics with a story to what I am looking at is even more fun.
Writers are in general unique by them self. Every writer has their own style when they write their own original content. Some writers make spelling mistakes, but do not let that keep you from reading their story. English might not be their first language but at least an attempt to give another person some entertainment was given.
On the end it is always the choice of the visitor. When they like your entertainment they will return. If a question is raised in a specific topic, more then likely visitors return just to see if there is an answer posted. So, no matter what is presented a great blog is great when the visitor likes it."
So a great blog is usually characterized by relevant, fresh, topic specific content. Another thing that might make your blog great is if you can monetize the traffic as well. Flixya.com - A Social Networking Platform that Pays Members 100% Ad Revenue - so not only do you get tips on how to write a great blog, but a new avenue to publicize your blog, and potentially benefit from ad revenue as well. If you haven't checked out Flixya.com, take a look today.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Web 2.0 is a term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and web design that aims to enhance creativity, secure information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and its hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies. The term became notable after the first O'Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference in 2004. Although the term suggests a new version of the World Wide Web, it does not refer to an update to any technical specifications, but to changes in the ways software developers and end-users utilize the Web. According to Tim O'Reilly:
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”
Some technology experts, notably Tim Berners-Lee, have questioned whether one can use the term in any meaningful way, since many of the technology components of "Web 2.0" have existed since the early days of the Web.
So, we at the StoresOnline Success Blog have recently suggested that you start a blog. If you've done this, then good for you! Another aspect of the creative world of web 2.0 is utilizing social media to drive traffic to your website. Now this doesn't mean that you just open up a MySpace.com page or a Facebook.com page for your site and that is all that needs to be done. There is a lot more to it. Be creative with the way that you use the web. It's time that you use social media as a way to create buzz and stay in touch with your target audience in the very places hat they frequent and socialize.
Here is a list and rating about social media sites from SEOmoz.org:
Their Pitch: "Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you). After you submit content, other digg users read your submission and digg what they like best."
Our Take: When a website, or any appliance, for that matter, becomes a verb, you know they have done something right. "To digg" has become an important addition to this noun-turned-verb crowd. Do you think it annoys Yahoo! that despite their best efforts, their name as a verb means something like "to make a fool of oneself?"
You can submit your own content to Digg; however, whether your content is dugg en masse has a lot to do with the status of the person who submits the article. Think of it as Washington DC. You want to get an influential lobbyist to work on your behalf, because even if your initiative is awesome, no one will listen if you have no reputation.
When someone else diggs your content without your knowledge, you'll probably not be ready for a huge increase in traffic. If your site is strong enough, an untimely digg isn't going to hurt you. If you have digg-worthy content, consider enabling a comments form, or some type of participation, whereby users have to register in order to participate. This way, your Digg referrals should result in more people registering and being more inclined to become regular visitors.
You cannot have everyone in your office digg what you've submitted. The site's editors will notice that a lot of diggs are coming from the same IP address, and their most likely course of action will be to ban you and your workmates' accounts. Trust me. Of course, having a bunch of different usernames will achieve the same result.
If you're dugg and your servers can stand the load, the traffic you gain from such an occurrance is priceless.
Their Pitch: "del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too."
Our take: This site is quite a lot like Digg, but it seems to emphasize the community aspect of social media more than Digg does.
The "network" feature of del.icio.us may well be its most useful tool. Users can identify other people whose content they respect and appreciate, thus becoming privy to the bookmarking actions of those users. It's also possible to view the people others have added, and those who have added them. Confused? All the network does is create a web of people who are linked to each other through common interests and mutual respect.
You can save links to content in the same way as you do on Digg, thus giving the content a boost in the del.icio.us / popular rankings. Hopefully, those people whom you add to your network will browse your content also, and things that you bookmark will become more visible. You can start to develop a community of people who share your interests.
This community is one of the main things you can get out of del.icio.us that differentiates it from similar sites.
Their pitch: "Reddit is a source for what's new and popular on the web -- personalized for you. Your votes train a filter, so let reddit know what you liked and disliked, because you'll begin to be recommended links filtered to your tastes. All of the content on reddit is submitted and voted on by users like you."
Our take: Another social bookmarking site, Reddit lets you save and comment on news stories that you or others submit to the site. Reddit will send you more traffic than you may think. It seems that Reddit's users are, on the whole, older and smarter than Digg's. This is not to say that Digg is full of idiots; however, the average comment at Digg seems to be less constructive than those on Reddit. Popularity probably plays a part here, as Digg is dealing with a bigger audience than is Reddit.
While Digg's how-to-get-on-the-homepage question is partly answered, the code to success on the Reddit homepage hasn't yet been cracked. There appears to be no bias amongst Reddit users towards technology, current events or anything else. The homepage can contain stories about any subject, as well as cool pictures, science news or anything else. This diversity means that all topics have a chance of being voted up, but your topic is just one amongst many.
Their pitch: "Technorati is the recognized authority on what's going on in the world of weblogs. We help people search for, surface, and organize bloggers and their daily posts... Technorati. Who's saying what. Right now."
Our take: Without a coherent plan of what one expects to achieve on Technorati, this site seems a little daunting. The most useful tactic is obvious: you must add the blogs you like as favorites in order to take advantage of the site's huge database. Additionally, searching for keywords can be fun, but you will soon be cowering from the scores of MySpace and LiveJournal blogs who have mentioned said keyword in their rants.
Keep tabs on your online visibility using Technorati. Technorati will show you who's linking to your blog, which is a great service. Don't be deceived that all Technorati does is chronicle blog posts. The site indexes popular videos, linking to YouTube videos that are enjoying a lot of links.
The site has some cool features, such as the "Technorati Mini" window that you can display on your desk top, and which updates itself every minute, showing you what's happening on your favorite blogs. Technorati should be used in conjunction with other marketing tools. Although your potential for direct marketing on the site is limited, it will show you how much progress you're making, where you're being mentioned and how your competitors are doing.
Their pitch: "Squidoo's goal as a platform is to bring the power of recommendation to search. Squidoo's goal as a co-op is to pay as much money as we can to our lensmasters and to charity. And Squidoo's goal as a community is to have fun along the way, and meet new ideas and the people behind them."
Our take: While their attempt at wit and ingenuity in their pitch only confuses Squidoo's purpose, the website itself is a good resource. Letting people create "lenses" about any topic, Squidoo is different to LinkedIn in that people are not limited to promoting themselves. As well as individuals, businesses, services and hobbies are all popular Squidoo lens topics. To clarify, a lens is a page created by a user, and users can create as many lenses as they wish on as many different subjects.
Squidoo actually promotes the addition of external links to lenses. In fact, in their FAQs, they specifically show off their link lovability, stating that Squidoo lenses have "huge credibility" with search engines, and briefly explaining how this can help the sites you link to rise up Google searches. No nofollowing here, people!
Squidoo does not restrict you to one lens per topic. Instead, it uses an algorithm to rank lenses. You can make money from royalties on Squidoo, and either keep them using PayPal, or donate the money to charity. Do not get too excited, though. There are many thousands of people using Squidoo and you'll spend a lot of time trying to become visible enough to make any money.
Lenses that make it to the top of the rankings (#1 - 100) are invaribly text, link and picture rich, although because the rank is assigned by a computer, the lenses with the top rankings are not necessarily those with the most useful content. For exmaple, the premier lens when this article was being written was "Funky, Chic and Cool Laptop Bags." Cute, yes. Useful? Not really. You can include an RSS feed to your company's blog, as well as as many outbound links as you like.
Lenses can come with other neat features, such as Google Maps, feeds from sites like BCC News, and previews of your Flickr images. Include enough links to your actual website that people will see many opportunities to click through. After all, anyone who is interested enough in what you have to offer that they bother reading your lens is probably also interested enough to see your site.
The main thing you have to gain out of using Squidoo is increased online visibility from a nicely presented source that is not a wiki. This is not a wiki and thus, the content is entirely up to you. It is a good idea to have a Squidoo lens to you company's name. Done well, your lens will appear in search results.
These are the top five that SEOmoz.org talks about. There are 30 Social sites that they rank, so click here to read the rest of the article. As you learn more and more about Web 2.0, you'll see that the possibilities for you to get traffic to your StoresOnline website are vast, you just need to get started.
If you have a favorite social media site, tell us about it as well as how you think it might help other StoresOnline Merchants to do the same thing.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Choosing a product and building your website are important, however one thing that StoresOnline Merchants need to do is basic Search Engine Optimization of their websites.
What is basic SEO? Here is an article that lays out some basic SEO techniques.
These tips may be fairly common to the more experienced Webmaster but if you are not using them, you are losing traffic.
1. Implement unique META titles and descriptions for all of your pages. Many Webmasters begin their first web site without META description and title tags at all. Once they learn that, SEO wise, it is very important to do so, they add them but they are not unique. Each title and description should be unique to each individual page.
2. Add an HTML sitemap to your site. This is a single page that includes links to the main pages of your websites. If your site is small you may want to include every page while larger sites should just have links to the most important pages. Sitemaps are an import part of SEO optimization because they give the search engines a ‘hub’ where their spiders can find all of your pages through one single page.
3. Target ‘long tail’ keywords in your sub pages. Long tail keywords are those that are not as highly competitive as your main keyword. Target a fairly competitive keyword for your index page and less competitive keywords for all sub pages. Many Webmasters have a bad habit of targeting the same few keywords throughout their entire site; because of this they are losing valuable traffic to inner pages.
4. Use underline, bold, strong and italics tags on each pages keywords. This SEO tip is one that has proven to be very valuable. Search Engines give more weight to words that are using these tags. Do not over do it, implementing these tags at least two or three times would cut it.
5. Use H1 and H2 tags with your main and secondary keywords. Most SE’s give a lot of weight to words that are wrapped in these tags. Each page on your web site should have one or two targeted keywords at the beginning of the page. Just add <>keyword< /h1 > to the main keyword and the same for your secondary keyword replacing h1 with h2 and deleting the spaces.
If you have not been using the above tips in your SEO strategy then you have been missing out on quality targeted traffic. Implement these tips as soon as possible and you will start to notice an increase in visitors.
What types of Search Engine Optimization tips do you have for other StoresOnline Merchants?
Thursday, October 9, 2008
“That speaker changed my life,” James says. “I have friends who have dreamed of being in business for 20 years. And they even laughed at me for trying what I’m doing. But there they are, all still drawing a paycheck, and I have three businesses online.”
James got a flyer inviting him to the StoresOnline preview in May 2003. He went to the presentation at Stamford, Connecticut because of the proposition of making money on the Internet. He had seen enough people making money that he thought he’d like to get a piece of that, too. He basically made up his mind at the preview that he wanted an Internet business and went to the workshop with his checkbook in hand. He looks back on that day and laughs because the person next to him had an established, growing business with a strong mail-order base. And he didn’t buy!
“That poor guy probably had more reason to sign up than anybody and he didn’t! Then you realize that many of the people who listen to the presentation and don’t sign up are just stupid,” James says laughingly. James bought his websites after listening to the many marketing techniques presented at the workshop.
“I realized there are many more ways to market on the Internet than with just search engines,” he says. “I was very impressed with the sound marketing principals taught by StoresOnline. They teach a strategy. And I haven’t even used a fraction of the possibility of the options yet.”
James learned so much from the presentation and was so inspired by it that some day he’d like to come back and speak as a guest merchant to show people all the possibilities on the Internet.
Using the advice StoresOnline offered about choosing a product, James chose one that he loves—watches.
“I did what they told me to,” says James. “I brainstormed a list and then used the reverse search to see what kind of interest there might be in those items. It was very sound teaching. And I love watches. I have so much information on that website that it has been linked to information .org sites.”
James chose to specialize in selling Bulova watches—although they weren’t the first product he looked at. With true Wall Street zeal, James started going through the yellow pages and making calls. He made several presentations to watch companies and eventually settled on Bulova. Once his product choice was made, he began voraciously researching Bulova watches.
“We have become a hub for information on the Internet for specific topics. I researched Bulova’s history and rerecorded it for them. I had to contact NASA to get the details of how they began. Their company reps had forgotten, or didn’t know, most of the details of their origins!” James says incredulously.
Then James published his site. It took about a month to make his first sale. But it was when he implemented one of the marketing techniques taught at the StoresOnline workshops—pay-per-click advertising—that traffic really began to flow. “If the first day I published, I had used [this technique] … I would have been selling from the first day. It’s beautiful the way it works.”
Since then, James has become quite adept at tailoring his marketing efforts. He has bid on over 600 terms with the pay-per-click engines. He has also spent quite a bit of time getting his web site to work correctly on the relativity search engines (his site ranks on over 450 search terms). James believes it is certainly worth his time to work with the relativity search engines because the number one place pulls even more than the number one spot on the sponsored listing.
During the whole process, StoresOnline was there.
“I received a lot of encouragement and help from StoresOnline to get the maximum benefit from the web site. It’s a new experience to learn how to promote a product,” James says. “I’m very impressed with the whole game.”
And the future looks bright for James Lane. “My goal is to find 2000 middle-American consumers to buy a watch from me once a year as a gift. Luckily I have a wife who works and pays our bills. Any money I have made from this is sitting in the bank, and I will plow it back into the business to help it grow.”
James wants multiple streams of income, and he hopes they will all be web-related.
“With the cost of stores at StoresOnline, you can afford to have several websites with dedicated brands,” says James, who recently looked into a solution from another provider that would cost him $20,000.
James admits, though, that the first storefront is probably the toughest to get going. “You have to be totally enthusiastic to make it work.” But overall, he calls launching an online business an easy endeavor.
“I’m not a very smart person,” he says modestly. “But I do work hard. The competition clearly doesn’t know what they are doing. There is no reason that 97 percent of Internet business shouldn’t at least cover their hosting fees. But I think there is a reason. Most people believe in the old ‘Field of Dreams’ approach; If you build a website, people will come to it. Then when they find it doesn’t get traffic, they don’t spend the time to make it work. I don’t think you have to be smart to do this. I just think you have to be focused and committed.”
Visit James’s Store Online at http://www.allamericanwatches.com/
Monday, October 6, 2008
StoresOnline website with your blog?
If you have a blog and you want to get the word out about your blog, below is a list of the submission urls, courtesy of http://www.toprankblog.com/, for RSS and blog directories that you can submit your blog or RSS feed to:
All-Blogs.net (fee or reciprocal)
Blogbib (fee or reciprocal)
BOTW (Blog Directory fee)
iBlog (Business Directory fee)
Portal.eaton (web fee)
Small Business (Blog Dir fee)
Don't Keep Your Blog A Secret!
Submit your blogs to these sites and get the traffic that your online store deserves.
If you have a blog about your StoresOnline Website, leave a comment so our visitors can learn more about your business. If you don't have a blog yet, visit http://www.blogger.com/ and follow the steps to setting up your own blog in a few minutes. Here's to your blogging success!
Friday, October 3, 2008
Content is by far one of the most important parts of a website. It can help a business gain traffic as well as increase sales and viewer interest. Ignoring your content is website suicide. This does not mean posting a ton of links instead of tangible articles on your resource page. Create or edit articles and information that is attention getting and newsworthy. Also, do not link every word on your article to an off- or on-page; it is distracting and unnecessary. When writing fresh content, leave the jokes to the comedians. People may not understand your humor and can even be offended by it. This will most certainly drive viewers away from your site.
Terrible Text and Bawdy Backgrounds
After you have some content, do not ruin it by making it unreadable. Avoid fancy scripts, centered text, flashing items and overuse of bold and italics. Pick a script that's easy to read and bold/italicize only what's important like subheads, keywords and focal points. Next pick a background that does not take away from the text. For example, white text on a black background, dark text on a dark background and light colored text on a white background is not appealing and sometimes difficult to read. You want to attract ever type of reader in every age group, therefore keep your text and backgrounds simple and neutral. Confusing text and background combinations highlights chaos and a lack of control. This is not the message you want to send to potential clients.
Keep it Simple
The last thing your business needs is for Internet users to run away from your site for good. Make it easy on yourself and on your viewers by keeping your web design simple with a branded look and salivating content. Solid web design can help your business keep customers searching your content. Remember to just keep it simple.
Find this and other helpful articles at http://www.ezinearticles.com/
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Q: What are the first things to consider when starting up an online business?
A: Find a niche product line that sells well online. Without a niche product, you will have a difficult time seeing success on the Internet- no matter how elegant your store designs and layouts are. Be sure that the products you choose to sell can be sold online. In other words, if you sell an item that costs $10.00 and weighs 80 pounds, the low-value-to-high-weight ratio makes this item more difficult to sell.
Quality online products should have a high value-to-weight ratio (ie. a $30.00 item that weighs only 5 pounds). Conduct product research to find out how many others potentially compete with you and who they are. If you can offer store customers a better price or have the ability to innovate the way in which it’s sold, then you have successfully found a niche product line for yourself and should consider adding those items to your catalog.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in starting up a successful online business?
A: The most challenging aspect of starting and opening an online store is getting customers to know who you are, what you offer and where to find you. It is difficult to get customers to your store if they don’t know about it, you or your products. In other words, marketing is the most challenging part and takes the most time to perfect.
Even if you manage to build a great web store and sell a terrific product, it doesn’t guarantee people will find you online or buy any products unless they know your company name or domain location. Making your store visible to potential buyers means employing tactics that are proven to increase online visitors and conversions. Typically, a well planned search engine optimization and online marketing strategy will be enough to get your store in front of many potential customers looking for what you sell.
Q: What are the most common misconceptions about owning an eBusiness?
A: Most people think that by opening an eBusiness it will make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. Although online commerce can certainly be a profitable venture and has the potential to make you a good amount of money, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen overnight or that certain traditional business and ethical rules don’t apply to online merchants or eRetailers.
Many online store owners have made an honest attempt to be successful at online commerce, yet have failed. Starting any new business, whether online or off, is a lot of work, and great success rarely happens overnight, but if you are patient, and hardworking, it is certainly possible to be a successful eBusiness owner.
Q: Should I buy inventory or use a drop ship supplier when first starting out?
A: When first starting out it is better to use a drop shipper or manufacturer who packages and ships the products for you. There are literally thousands of distributors who are eager for the opportunity to sell more of their products. Drop ship relationships have many advantages over stocking your own inventory. Stocking inventory and making it ready to ship is expensive. It requires upfront investments, a place to store shipments, inventory tracking, shipping labels and could even require extra employees that were not planned for in your eBusiness plan. Having a drop ship supplier take all these burdens and out-of-pocket costs out of your hands can save you time and money when first starting out. In addition, most good drop shippers will use your shipping labels or send the packages with no branding of their own so your customers will not know the difference.
The disadvantages of using a drop shipper are few, but there are some. With a drop ship supplier you can expect a lower profit margin and there may even be a small fee for each shipment. The other disadvantage is you are not running the customer service aspects all yourself and most small drop shippers do not have great customer service to provide. As you can imagine, stocking inventory would give you control over both of these disadvantages and may even provide a higher profit margin. Weigh out your options, look at the pros and cons of each and figure out which way works best for your eBusiness.
Q: Do I need a merchant account or can I just use Paypal and money orders?
A: Online shoppers today like to have choices when buying the things they like from web stores. Rather than limiting your customers to one choice when paying it is better to offer several ways for them to buy. For merchants who are just starting out it may be tempting to go with a free payment option like Paypal rather than investing to get a merchant credit card processing account. Before you decide, it’s best to consider what the fee structures of your options are like and how much per transaction they charge. It may cost more to get a merchant account up and running, but the process will be worth it in the long run as you will probably get more converting customers by offering options.
Having Paypal alone as a payment option has drawbacks that may be difficult to overcome. For instance, they reserve the right to freeze funds, so you may be without your money or unable to accept payments. Paypal doesn’t give you the ability to process orders off your web store. You may wish to manually collect payment information on some orders and you won’t be able to do that with Paypal. You may have to wait longer to get your funds deposited into your bank account. Although the process is easy, it may be a hassle for your customers to register with Paypal before ordering with you. It may also be difficult to setup recurring payments for your customers if that is a requirement with your eBusiness.
The only major drawback to merchants who are starting out with a merchant account may be the initial setup fees along with the recurring monthly fee. Some merchant account providers also require you to buy virtual processing software or a processing machine for your office.
There may be an initial limit on the amount of orders you can process in a month of the amount of money you can accept per month. These limits are typically present until the merchant account provider gets to know you and your business trends.
Some people love Paypal, some people hate it. When it’s all said and done you have decide what works best for your eBusiness. You may also wish to research Google Checkout as a merchant account provider.
Q: How has selling online changed since the Web first began?
A: Electronic commerce first began in the early 1990’s when the Internet first opened to commercial use. The concepts of buying and selling and business combined with computers and the Internet all contributed to the possiblility of eCommerce. Since then much has changed or evolved including the many branches or different forms of online commerce. The biggest change since merchants first began selling online is there wasn’t as much market saturation or competition and it wasn’t as difficult to obtain an easy to online brand or company identity. Now, in addition to the many small online businesses selling online we have large fortune 500 companies like eBay and Amazon to compete with.
The world of eCommerce wouldn’t have been possible without the advances in technology that are now familiar to all online merchants. The expansion of credit card companies, electronic payment gateways, online shopping carts and the places to market your items have all contributed to the growth and evolution of eCommerce. The need to have a secure place to enter payment information has led to new innovations in storefront security and privacy measures. With the development of the Web came more ways to build an online store and more options for store owners who are looking to design a custom shopping environment. Now we have online store builders and complex programs to automate many of the tasks needed during the design, security, marketing and maintenance stages.
Shopping online has also changed from the customer standpoint. Not only has the amount of people shopping online steadily increased so have the ways they shop and buy items of interest. The are more places to choose from with a greater selection of hard to find item and more ways to pay for them. The advances in security also help customers feel more secure when entering their personal information over the Web and buying items electronically. New and innovative things are happening all the time online, it’s no different in the world of eCommerce.
Q: How will selling online change in the future and how can I stay current?
A: One of the best ways to ensure success selling online is to be able to spot trends in the industry and guess where the market you sell in is headed in the future. As shopping online becomes more common and popular among the public, we will see more competition and rivalry and it may get harder to find unique items to sell or unique ways to market those items. Each year we see online sales increase and the number of purchases made are quickly becoming comparable to traditional brick and mortar sales transactions.
Many people like shopping online because it is more convenient and allows them more time to shop around, compare prices and read product reviews. As these trends evolve, we will continue to see enormous amounts of growth within the eBusiness industry. It will be imperative for brick and mortar merchant sellers to keep up with current changes or they may face having to shut down their storefront due to stiff competition online. Not only will brick and mortar merchants have to keep up to stay competitive, but so will online merchants. Store owners can stay current by listening to feedback from their customers and by keeping up with current design, product and marketing trends to attract new ones.
If you are looking for a way to start off with an online business, we recommend that you learn more about StoresOnline Express. If you have other questions or insightful comments about your experience with online business or starting an eCommerce storefront, let us know.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Q: Are Flashy Graphics More Appealing or Quality Text and Descriptions?
A: Content is king, links are queen. Or at least that’s what they say in the world of search marketing. While graphics and flash or other multimedia can add aesthetic quality to your storefront, having well written text and descriptions is definitely more important. Without content, search engines will have a harder time finding and accessing your site.
Q: What are the costs associated with building an online store or site?
A: This greatly depends on whether you build the store yourself or hire a professional to build it for you. If you design the store yourself, building it will not cost as much. Designers may charge anywhere from a few hundred dollars all the way into the high thousands to build your store. Professional design can certainly help with conversions, but you do not necessarily need the best looking store to make money online (it’s where you show up, not how it looks). On the other hand, your potential market customers may not want to buy from a store that looks less than professional. The cost really does depend on your specific selling and platform needs and the needs of your target market or niche customers.
I have built online stores for less than $500.00 and I have built larger stores that sell for nearly $30,000.00. The one with less value was built on a free open source platform and had little to no built-in search engine friendliness. The higher end store had all the bells and whistles, was custom programmed with custom graphics and came built extremely search engine friendly.
Q: What do potential customers look for once they land on the homepage?
A: Online shoppers who regularly navigate the shoposphere are used to seeing certain elements or design layouts on eCommerce enabled shops. Users who buy Online often are typically more savvy, more aware and better informed about what to expect once they land on a Web store they are thinking of purchasing from. Once a new visitor enters an eCommerce store they automatically become a potential customer of that store. If merchants can provide their visitors with what they expect during their first visit to the homepage, that merchant has a greater chance of turning a potential customer into a new buyer.
Online retail shoppers are really no different than traditional brick and mortar retail shoppers in that they expect to see the same things upon entering a store for the first time, whether Online or not. Brick and mortar consumers want to see a safe and secure shopping environment, names or brands they use, a store that is accessible and easy to shop in, convenience, item displays, price tags, in-stock merchandise, flexible policies related to returns or exchanges and that their questions or concerns will be addressed quickly and efficiently. The same general rules will hold true for consumers who shop Online.
If you have any web design tips that you'd like to share, please leave a comment.