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Everything eCommerce

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Website Statistics - Software Solutions

One question that a lot of my customers has is whether I can recommend a website statistics package. Our hosting customers receive a couple different ways of analyzing their statistics, but as sites grow, there comes a need for a dedicated software package. These packages have the ability to analyze conversion rates on campaigns, abandoned carts and other information that goes beyond the display of hits and search engine keywords.

In addition to this need, while building my network of ecommerce, long tail marketing, and search engine sites I also have the need to gather statistical information. This information is not provided by Blogger, and counters provide a poor way of doing this. I have been using Reinvigorate to get this information, but recently their service has become unavailble as they move hosting companies. So because of the dual need of both recommendations for my clients as well as the need for information I have begun to review statistics software, and will post the results here within the next 2 - 3 weeks. I want to take the time to thoroughly try out and judge the software before giving recommendations.

Speakeasy Adds Fire to the Browser Wars.

It seems that almost daily there are reports of the Browser Wars heating up. One broadband ISP now bundles FireFox with it's setup software as a way of providing choice to its customers. Here's an excerpt from CNet.

Speakeasy, which sells high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) access, becomes the first Internet service provider to package Firefox, a free open-source browser, as part of its setup software for new customers. When people run Speakeasy's setup
disc, Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser will be downloaded onto
their PC desktop.

Mike Apgar, founder of Speakeasy, said he decided to include Firefox after playing around with it for a while on his own.

"It's a better browsing experience, so that makes it a better experience for our customers," Apgar said.

Read the entire story at CNET

More Evidence That the Browser Wars are Heating Up.

Continuing our discussion of the emergence of FireFox, Speakeasy a DSL provider will now be providing FireFox to its users. Speakeasy, which sells high-speed DSL (digital subscriber line) access, becomes the first Internet service provider to package Firefox, a free open-source browser, as part of its setup software for new customers. When people run Speakeasy's setup disc, Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser will be downloaded onto their PC desktop.

Mike Apgar, founder of Speakeasy, said he decided to include Firefox after playing around with it for a while on his own.

"It's a better browsing experience, so that makes it a better experience for our customers," Apgar said.

Read the entire storey at CNet.DSL provider thinks Firefox is foxy | CNET News.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The Browser Wars Continue to Heat Up.

Posts for the next two weeks will be sporadic. I am currently finishing up a bunch of client sites as well as writing the first two chapters of my book in my spare time. And now on with the show.

Something that effects all websites to various degrees is the website browser. Until recently Microsoft has thoroughly crushed the competition with its bundled Internet Exporer. Mozilla's FireFox project though has been gaining steady use and when I analyze my log files, I find that 35% of visitors to my network of sites are using FireFox. Note: This browser distribution is heavily skewed from what I see in general sites, which can be attributed to the large number of website developers that read these blogs.

For the last 6-9 months there has been speculation that Google is creating their own overcrowded. It started when they purchased the domain gbrowser.com

Mozilla Developer Day 2004 was recently held at the Google Campus. Google is investing heavily in JavaScript-powered desktop-like web apps like Gmail and Blogger (the posting interface is now WYSIWYG). Google could use their JavaScript expertise (in the form of Gmail ubercoder Chris Wetherell) to build Mozilla applications. Built-in blogging tools. Built-in Gmail tools. Built-in search tools. A search pane that watches what you're browsing and suggests related pages and search queries or watches what you're blogging and suggests related pages, news items, or emails you've written. Google Toolbar++.

Additionally, this NY Post article notes that Google is hiring folks formerly of Microsoft's IE team as well as other people that would be good bets to work on a browser. The idea of a Google browser was future strengthened on the news that Google hired the top FireFox programmer, Ben Goodger. Ben's title at Google will be software engineer and half of his time will be donated to the non-profit Mozilla foundation, which owns Firefox.

As more users move towards fully standards compliant browsers the development and testing time related to supporting multiple work-a-rounds and fixes should be significantly reduced.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Web Video Ads Seen Hot in '05, Pop-Ups Not -- Report

Another report has come out today predicting the death of popups. With the google toolbar, SP2 and other browser additions, it is no wonder this method of advertising is going away. With 0ver 50% of home Internet users now using broadband, ecommerce sites will be able to provide greater product detail, product commercials and other marketing methods to sell more online. Here's the report for your review

Thu Jan 20, 3:13 AM ET Technology - Reuters Internet Report
By Michele

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Online video will heat up as a U.S.
advertising format in 2005, fueled by the use of high-speed Internet
connections, while attention-grabbing pop-ups will wane, according to a report
released on Thursday.

In a research report on online ad trends, Internet
agency Avenue A/Razorfish predicted that advertisers will embrace Web video in
2005, building on the interest shown by consumers last year. Avenue A/Razorfish
is the largest independent U.S. online agency, part of aQuantive Inc.
(Nasdaq:AQNT - news).

"I would not be surprised if every one of the
Internet portals has video as one of their top two focuses in 2005," Jeff
Lanctot, vice president of media at Avenue A/Razorfish, told Reuters. "I think
they all see it long-term as a way to grow their business."

analysts expect total Internet ad spending to surge between 20 percent and 40
percent this year to more than $10 billion, including paid search listings and
visual "display" ads.

That growth is already cheering top Internet
companies who rely heavily on ad revenue. Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news)
reported this week a 67 percent jump in quarterly marketing services revenue.

Yahoo operates one of the largest Internet portals against rivals
MSN, part of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq:MSFT - news), and AOL, part of Time Warner
Inc. (NYSE:TWX - news). MSN launched a free online video service last year,
giving viewers access to short news and entertainment clips accompanied by

"There is a huge opportunity for video-based
programing on the Web," said Doug Knopper, senior vice president at marketing
company DoubleClick (Nasdaq:DCLK - news). "We haven't figured out as an industry
what the model is just yet...but the experimentation will be on the video side."

DoubleClick competes with aQuantive in serving up and tracking
online ads.

Advertisers devote only a fraction of marketing budgets
online, but they are accelerating that spending as consumers dedicate more time
to the Internet, particularly as they research purchases.

technology that creates ads and tracks consumer response has driven more
companies to the Web. Internet portals are also drawing millions of viewers,
traffic that is beginning to compete with traditional mass media such as

"Yahoo, AOL and MSN are like the old television networks
and the home page is their hit show," said Lanctot.

Portals are
commanding top prices for home page space, as much as $400,000 for a 24-hour ad
placement. Niche sites such as those catering to entertainment or travel have
been able to raise their prices by as much as 40 percent, he said.

At the same time, consumer backlash against pop-up ads, which appear
automatically when a Web site is opened, and increasing use of technology that
blocks those ads will diminish that format considerably, according to Avenue A.

"While (pop-ups) have been an effective low-cost, high-volume
vehicle, they are rapidly losing steam," the Avenue A report said. "Marketers
who have been dependent on pop ads should be testing alternative formats and

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Analyzing Traffic - Your Online Success is within Log Files - Part 3 Fixing Errors Revealed by Web Traffic Logs

We have covered ways that the web traffic logs can help tailor your marketing campaign and give better insight into the action of visitors. Another way to use traffic logs to benefit your online store is tracking down the cause of errors and correcting them. With any site of significant size, errors will always crop up and can be difficult to track down. By carefully analyzing your server's log files, you can pinpoint these errors and correct them.

404 - File Not Found Errors
These are the most common errors that you will see. Most of these errors are actually caused by web browsers and search engines looking for files that do not exist. Search engine spiders will look for a file called 'robots.txt'. This file instructs the search engine what folders it can crawl, and which ones are off limits. If you do not have a robots.txt file then the crawler will completely crawl your site. This will also lead to a 404 error being generated since the robots.txt file does not exist. The easiest way to correct this error is to create a robots.txt file in the root of your website.

This file should contain the following information:

User-agent: *

This file will tell the search engine crawlers they have full access to your entire site, and will stop their request for robots.txt from generating a 404 error.

Your visitor's web browser is another common cause of 404 errors. Many browsers including Internet Explorer try to retrieve a file called favicon.ico. This file is an icon the browser then uses when adding the site as a bookmark or in the address bar. The fix for this is pretty straightforward as well. Simply create an icon within the graphics program of your choice. Name this file favicon.ico and place it in the root of your site.

Finally add the following line to your HTML pages in the section of the document.

Visit ScholarshipCoach.com to see an example of a site that I designed using a favorite icon.

Once these two most common causes of 404 errors are eliminated, tracking down the causes of other broken links and missing files becomes much easier.

403 - Forbidden
These errors are most commonly caused by visitors attempting to access a password protected directory. If they are denied access for not having the proper username/password then a 403 Error is generated

500 - Internal server error
This error represents a problem with the software on your webserver. These errors are serious since they are often errors that prevent orders from going through. Analyzing the server logs and the times of these errors can help your programmers fix these critical errors.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Further Analysis of Web Traffic Logs

In continuing our discussion of refferer traffic, I analyzed the 575+ addresses of sites sending traffic to Everything Ecommerce. The resulting graph shows that 2.5% of websites sending traffic to my site account for 50% of the referrer traffic.

You can view the graph and acompaning article at Long Tail Marketing.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Analyzing Traffic - Your Online Success is within Log Files - Part 2

In part 2 of the analysis of your ecommerce site's log files we will look at referrers and everything that we can gather from them.

A small sample of what we can find out includes the answers to these questions.
  • What search engines were used to find your ecommerce website?
  • What keywords used on those search engines ?
  • How many of your visitors bookmarked your website?
  • What affiliates are driving the most traffic to your site ?
  • What other sites are linking to your website?
  • What is the effectiveness of your offline marketing?

What search engines were used to find your ecommerce website and what keywords were used?

Within your webserver's log files is referrer information that looks like this:

This tells us that someone typed into the Google Toolbar (navclient) the phrase everything ecommerce. Most statistics programs will group this information together so that you can see that your site had 300 visits from Google using the keywords "widgit".

How many of your visitors bookmarked your website?

When someone clicks on a bookmark it can show up in the referrs a couple of different ways depending on how the visitor manages their bookmark. Some visitors choose to use an external bookmarking site like Del.Icio.us. Visitors using these bookmarks will show del.icio.us within the referrer area. Another common referer seen is My Bookmarks. This is seen when someone clicks on the bookmarks within their browser.

What affiliates are driving the most traffic to your site ?

If you list referrers in order of most visits, you will have then begin to see what affiliate sites are sending the most traffic to your site, and which ones are sending the least. This information is different then the number of sales that an affiliate is producing for you. You may have some sites that send lots of unquallified traffic to your site that results in very low conversion rates. You may also have an affiliate who sends only a small fraction of that traffic but because their audience are people interested in your product, those visitors are much more likely to become customers.

What other sites are linking to your website?

This is one of the most facinating things. You may discover people talking about your site in blogs, industry journals and other websites. Without analyzing your referrer information, you may never discover that these sites are sending traffic your way. Each one of these incoming links is a little piece of treasure that increases your site's prominence on search engines and expands your company's reach beyond your exisiting marketing. We'll discuss ways of fostering these relationships in future articles.

What is the effectiveness of your offline marketing?

If you are doing a lot of offline marketing you may choose to use a different domain or append a reference number to your URL. These are similar to offer codes that are mentioned on the radio when calling into a call center. For example when sending out a postcard mailer talking about Everything Ecommerce, I may choose to display the URL as http://everything-ecommerce.blogspot.com?id=1. Then I would just need to add up all of the referrers that have id=1 in them to know how many people visited my link from a particular campaign. This is something that you should also be doing with all online advertising so that you can guage the effectiveness of Overture ads versus Google ads and better track your ROI for particular keyword phrases.

I had originally planned to show you what my referrer traffic looks like for Everything Ecommerce. Unfortunatly ReInvigorate.net who I use for websites statistics, has been a little wonky over the last 2 days. I am currently not able to get the information I am looking for, but once it is available I will be posting it here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Analyzing Traffic - Your Online Success is within Log Files - Part 1


This is the first part of a 3 part series on how through the analysis of log files using statistical packages, you can improve your online business. This first part will cover the definitions of some key terms. Part 2 and 3 will then cover the meet of what you can learn.

When looking at websites statistics the following terms are usually thrown about: unique visitors, visits, pages, referrers, hits, paths, keywords, entrance pages, exit pages and error codes. The easiest way to examine these is to pretend we have a website and Renae and Lex both visit the site. Renae comes in, browses through 2 pages and then comes back later in the day to look at another page. Lex comes in looks at the homepage and leaves.

Unique Visitors.
The number of actual people who visited your site (sort of)Your web statistic software would then record that you had 2 unique visitors, Lex & Renae. It calculates unique visitors by looking at the address of the machine that is visiting the web page. Whenever a browser requests a page from the website, it passes along information that includes the computer's IP address, browser and the page that was visited before coming to the new one (referrer). Where this gets a little complicated is by all of the AOL users browsing the web. AOL has a set number of IP addresses, and it's users share the block. What this means is that your actual number of individuals coming to the site will be slightly higher than the unique visitors would suggest.

This is the number of times someone has come to your website. If we continue to use the example above, then your website would have received 3 visits. The number of visits will never be lower than the number of unique visitors, and often it will be 10-20% higher. This means that people are coming back to your website.

This represents the total number of web pages that were looked at in a day. If once again we review the example above, this number for us would be 4. Renae's 2 pages initially, +1 page later, + 1 page for Lex.

The completely useless number that sounds really impressive. A hit represents each request by a browser to the web server. This includes every graphic and document downloaded. On a typical web page you may have 20 or so graphics per page, so a single visit looking at a single page would record 21 hits. (20 hits for graphics +1 for the html page). People still like to use the term hits often because it sounds impressive. Oh we got a million hits last month, sounds much more impressive than 10,000 visitors.

This is the path that people take through your site. Typically paths will look something like this for an ecommerce site. Home Page > Catalog > Widget's Information Page > Checkout > Thankyou. A path like this represents a completed sale and is something that every online merchant wants to see.

These are the pages that the visitor was on before arriving at your page. If someone does a Google search, and then clicks on the link to your site, your log files will show Google.com as the referrer. Referrers are enormously important and we'll spend tomorrow focused on what you can learn from them.

In addition to finding out what search engine a visitor was on before coming to your site, the keywords that they used to find you is also contained within the referrer information. This will also be covered in greater detail in Part 2.

Entrance Pages
This is the list of pages that people come into your site on. If you have been growing a long tail for your site, these pages will not necessarily be your home page.

Exit Pages
This is the page that someone visits last before going to another website. Ideally for online stores you should only see the thank you page and nothing else. Every one of the pages in this list represents a lost sale as the potential customer left your site for another destination.

Error Codes
These are the codes that the webserver records when it is unable to perform an action. They include 404: Page Not Found, and 500: Server error. Each one of these represents a lost opportunity and should be addressed. We will examine corrections to these problems in Part 3.

Now that you have a basic guideline to the terms used by website statistics programs check back tomorrow for Part 2.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Credit Card Processing Explained

One question that comes up with my clients who are new to online selling is how to accept credit card transactions. The answer to this question depends on whether they have an existing swipe terminal at their business location or if this is an entirely new venture. Every merchant processing credit cards needs both a merchant account and a payment gateway. Some of the most popular payment gateways are Authorize.net and Verisign. The clients I work with use both of these two gateways successfully. The key in choosing a gateway is to find out what your merchant account offers, and what your ecommerce package supports. Don't worry if you're unfamiliar with these terms, I'll be going over each one of them at the bottom of this article.

Manual Credit Card Processing
For customers who are already taking credit cards offline, I tend to recommend processing their online orders manually using that swipe terminal. What this does is defray the cost of online processing fees which are typically higher than offline transactions, as well as the need for an additional payment gateway and merchant account. The advantages to the manual processing method is that it's extremely cost effective and does not rely on the merchant doing anything they haven't already been doing. The disadvantage is one of time. As the store grows in order volume the day to day processing of credit cards can become quite time consuming. I once had a customer in the nutritional supplements business who had an employee whose only job was to run credit card transactions, 8 hours a day! Once an online store gets to this level of order volume, the choice becomes clear - begin processing credit cards online.

Automatic Credit Card Processing
Processing credit cards online is also the solution recommended to merchants who are just establishing their business. Since these merchants do not have the existing infrastructure to processes credit cards manually, online processing becomes the least expensive way to start. Processing credit cards online also reduces potential credit card fraud, and the merchant never needs to worry about an order coming through that will be declined by the credit card company.

The process works like this. A customer coming on to your site places some items into their shopping cart. They then begin the process of checking out. After their billing and shipping information is entered into your shopping cart application, the customer's credit card is processed. What is normally done for sites that do not sell electronic goods is that the customer's card is authorized and a hold for the amount of the transaction is put on their card. The customer then receives a thank you page detailing their transaction, and the merchant is notified of the order. Once the merchant is ready to ship the item, they then go into their online store's administration area and bills the card for the order. This process is called settling. It is not until a credit card is both authorized and settled that the merchant actually receives the money for an order.

Sites that sell electronic goods like software, ebooks and website subscriptions generally perform the authorize and settle at the same time. This is because when the customer completes the order their items are automatically "shipped."

A word about authorizing and settling. It is against the law to charge a customer's credit card before the transaction is complete. Over the last 7 years or so, I know a number of merchants who began charging credit cards on orders that were not shipped in order to preserve cashflow as they had to stock larger and larger inventory amounts. One case involved a computer retailer who grew from 10k / month in sales to 1 million / month in sales over a 2 month period. In each case that I know of the justice department was involved and the company was shut down. In some cases the principles of the company were arrested. I cannot stress this point enough, you cannot charge until the order is going out the door.

Credit Card Fraud
Credit Card fraud is a huge problem for merchant's who are the ones that take the loss on a fraudulent order. Even though a credit card may make its way through a processor's fraud detection devices, if that order is found to be fraudulent the merchant is out for the entire amount of the order. Also if you have a high number for fraudulent cards come through, credit card processors will raise your merchant fees. What can a merchant do to protect himself?

Address Verification
Credit Card address verification is the first line of defense in preventing credit card fraud. It works by comparing the street number and zip code of the billing address to the information found on file. If for example a credit card's billing address is 123 Main Street, Anytown, PA 18902. A fraudulent order will still go through using 123 Wayward Avenue, Somewhere Else, PA 18902. Address verification also largely only works within the United States. Some things a merchant can do to increase their protection, is to have their ecommerce package automatically use the City that is assigned to a zip code. Also with this type of fraud the order is always shipped to a different address than the billing address. Merchants who require that items are shipped to the billing address, or that the shipping address be registered on file with the credit card company can significantly lessen their risk.

CVV2 stands for "Card Verification Value," and it is a 3- or 4-digit number that is printed on the back of Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards, usually in the signature box. On American Express cards, this information can be found on the front. A merchant can configure any their customers to provide the CVV2 number, which can enhance fraud protection. Most merchants employing CVV2 also add a link to information on where to find this number at to educate their customers.

Merchant Account
This is a bank account that is setup for accepting credit card transactions. Typically these accounts will charge a percentage of each transaction in addition to a setup fee and or per transaction charge. You get a merchant account at a bank.

Payment Gateway
This is the network that the bank uses to communicate between your shopping cart application and your merchant account. The biggest payment gateways are Verisign and Authorize.net. Typically you will also establish this account at your bank. The key thing is to make sure that the payment gateway that your bank uses is supported by your ecommerce package. If it is not you'll either have to change ecommerce software, or change banks.

This is the initial hold that is put onto a credit card. If you use online banking you'll often see these charges come up. When pumping gas, the gas station usually puts a $1.00 hold on the credit card being used. If the transaction isn't settled in 15-30 days the money is no longer held. Even though the funds are not withdrawn yet, and you are not paying interest on the transaction, an Authorize will reduce your available credit by the amount of the transaction.

This is when the money leaves the customer's account and goes into the merchant's account. A settle should only be performed when the transaction is complete, and the item is going out the door to the customer.

If you have any other questions about how online transactions work, and the steps involved in processing credit card transactions online, please drop me a line.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Long Tail Marketing - The key to long term success?

As I look around at the sites on the internet, I find it increasingly hard to find established sites that are not using some form of long tail marketing. I am beginning to think that long tail marketing is actually a discriminator between companies that will survive and companies that will fail.

I have posted a full article exploring my thoughts on this over at Long Tail Marketing

Read the full article:
Long Tail Marketing - The key to long term success?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Google Sandbox Mode Demythified - Revisited.

This posting is a little off topic since it doesn't directly cover ecommerce. I wanted to provide some additional information and feedback on the results since publishing my first article at WebProNews.

Since writing the original Google Sandbox mode article for WebProNews I have spent a lot of time monitoring the results. One of the first things to happen was my article actually mentioned Everything eCommerce more than my own website. The result: I knocked myself off of the number one spot for the keyword phrase.

Whether the site is number 1 or 100 for "everything ecommerce" really doesn't matter. I only used that keyword phrase as something that I could easily check against to find out if my site was successfully listed. During the last two weeks Google has also been updating their indexes which led to some weird situations where my site would be listed, then not, then listed again depending on the data center.

My Google Adwords have been steadily bringing in revenue, almost enough now to buy a Venti Chai Latte from Starbucks. This income is offset by the cost of my AdSense ad campaign. So far I have spent $1.35 on traffic and made $2.78 from advertising. Since my hosting on this account is free, this site is actually profitable.

To further test my theory that using a Google Adwords program is one way around the sandbox mode, I have setup two additional blogs. These blogs Search Engine Guru and Long Tail Marketing were indexed again within 4 hours as part of Google's need to deliver targeted advertising. I have also manually submitted these sites to the most popular search engines.

My Site on Long Tail Marketing is #1 for the search terms long tail marketing on Yahoo!. It actually displaces Chris Anderson's website. Chris Anderson is the Wired editor who coined the term. I was impressed with how rapidly Yahoo's search tool is indexing sites. These were done using the free url submission tool, and not the paid directory inclusion.

The growth of traffic to my website has been explosive and is much higher than I initially anticipated. Because of this, I will be devoting more time and effort to provide quality content and more frequent updates. If you have an ecommerce related question or have a topic that you would like to see covered on Everything Ecommerce, drop me a line.

Here is a copy of the original article featured on WebProNews.com on December 29th.

Google Sandbox Mode Demythified
Joshua Wood
Contributing Writer 2004-12-29

I have spent a lot of time reading search engine tricks and techniques. During this time one thing that kept reappearing is the idea of a sandbox mode. I wanted to experiment with driving traffic to a few sites through expert links so I decided to create a blog. I chose Google's Blogger tool hoping that somehow it would give me a boost to Google rankings or a higher PR from that link.

Google Sandbox Mode Demythified

I set up my blog Everything Ecommerce on December 17th. After setting up the site I then went around and submitted it to the major search engines, and began commenting on other blogs in order to increase the number of inbound links. I also noticed on the Blogger account tools a link to have ads by Google on your site. After completing the registration processes my site was approved for the Google ads in only 1 hour. That was something that really caught my eye. I had previously submitted sites that I wanted to run Google's ads on and the approval process took much longer.

Next I setup the Google Adwords code on my site and began seeing public service announcement ads. I expected this since Google's documentation stated that these ads are shown until GoogleBot is able to index the site and present relevant ads. In just a few hours of time from adding my first post my site began to show advertisements based on the content of my site.

I was stunned to have targeted ads showing up so soon so I did a search in the Google Tool bar for "everything ecommerce" without the quotes. My site came up #2 out of 1,840,000! Not too bad for a day's worth of work and no real site optimization, just relevant content related to my site title and address. Within 2 weeks from the site going live the site is now #1 for searches on everything ecommerce. I doubted that I will receive any traffic from such a bizarre key word phrase, but I used it to just test if my site was indexed or not.

This little experiment has taught me a couple of interesting things.

1. If there is a sandbox it can be circumvented by the use of google adwords on the site.

2. Content is king. Well written content optimized for your target audience will deliver search results. I try to stress this to my clients, it was nice to see it working in practice.

3. Google still loves blogs. With their continually updated content and relevant long tail text, they are a great resource for bringing targeted traffic to your site.

4. Traffic comes from the strangest places. Looking at my referrers, I found 6 entries for google searches of Everything Britney Spears.

This is just the start of what I hope to accomplish with my blog. Over the next few months I will be actively trying to enhance it's PR and incoming links. I hope that this will then raise the commercial sites that I am really trying to promote. Whatever the results, I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Interest in Reading a Book About Successfully Selling Online

I am considering writing a book on many of the things that I cover within my blogs. It would detail case studies and give practical advice on ways that you/your clients can maximize online sales. If I wrote it, how interested would you be in reading it? Feedback on this is greatly appreciated.

Simple Things You Can Do to Maintain Your Site's Long Tail

There are a number of simple things that website owners can do to maximize and maintain their long tail. These techniques have been used by many of my most successful eCommerce customers and cost almost nothing.

  • Preserve your site architecture. Whenever a your online store is redesigned or moved to another server, care should be taken that the new move does not cause any broken links and that existing file names that were indexed by search engines will still work. There are a couple of different ways of doing this.

The easiest is to just make sure that the new filenames match the old ones, even if the technology powering them changes. For example I have a few customers who had completely static "HTML" pages which are now using JSP and PHP code within the pages. We simply reconfigured the webserver to run all HTML pages on the client's site as PHP or JSP pages. This allows the new pages to present their dynamic information, but maintained the exact page names as before.

The second way of accomplishing this which requires a little more work is to create a program that does an autoforward to the new pages and sends back to the search engines a status 301, page permanently moved code.

  • Do not prune old products from your site. A lot of ecommerce site owners have a tendency to automatically remove products which are no longer in stock or carried from their site. While this prevents the items from being accidentally ordered and solves problems in the short term, long term the ecommerce site is losing valuable sales leads. A better way of handling these products is to clearly mark these products as out of stock or discontinued and remove the add to cart button from these products. The merchant will also want to disable these products from being indexed by their website's internal search engine. Finally successful ecommerce sites will then list alternatives to the product that is no longer available. By putting something like customers who liked this product, LOVE our new product: This technique will do a number of things. It will preserve the deep links that search engines have to your products, and will steer potential customers coming in through these links from the products you do not have to the ones you do.
  • Create an Affiliate/Associate Program and promote it. Having an affiliate program gives website owners a commission on all traffic from their site that buys a product on yours. The result is that by paying a commission you can dramatically increase the number of incoming links to your site, and in turn increase your search engine relevance. The other thing this does is provide additional traffic to your site that does not come from search engines. These trickles of traffic from all over the web can add up to a significant increase in sales. I like to think of Long Tail Marketing as Reaganomics in reverse - The Trickle Up Principle

The methods I've outlined above will result in increased sales at very little cost. Try them out today and see what your results are in three months.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Increasing Sales by Adding a Wishlist to Your Online Store

Wishlists allow your potential customers to create pages of their favorite products to order from in the future. There are several advantages of using this feature within your online store. Over the last five years, I have seen my customers successfully use wishlists to increase sales across a wide spectrum of industries and target markes.

Wishlists allow customers whose target audience is under 18 to identify the products they want and forward this information to their parents. During the holiday season an analysis of one customer showed 15% of orders coming from wishlists.

Another important thing that having a wishlist does is turn a visitor into a customer. There are a lot of reasons why a visitor might not complete a purchase today. By having a wishlist, you allow that customer to save their favorite items conveniently for a quick future purchase. One way you can then further harness these potential customers is after a month or two, emailing them their wishlist along with some incentive like order today and receive free shipping. One customer used this method to make $3000 in incrimental sales in only 10 days.

Finally, if you allow your customers to comment on the products that they add to their wishlists this content will then be picked up by the major search engines. Not only do the search engines directly crawl your website's wishlists, but all of your customers who have blogs are likely to link to their wishlist or your website directly. This increase in incoming links helps to increase your site's Google Pagerank and push your site further up in the search engines.

With all of these advantages, adding a wishlist feature to your online store will produce a demonstratable return on your investment and an incrimental increase to sales.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Buying traffic Intelligently Using Long Tail Marketing Techniques

I just posted an article over at Search Engine Guru. It goes into the economics of sponsored listings and the importance of continual analysis of your results. Over the years I have watched a number of my clients spend large amounts of money on advertising that produced little to no results. Whether it's television, newspaper, radio or online advertising the single most important aspect of any campaign is not the collateral material, slick presentation or targetted demographics, it's the results.

Using Long Tail Marketing Techniques in Search Engine Buys

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