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January 2013

Why Do I Need a "Blog" for My Online Store?

 by zack on 30 Jan 2013 |
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  There are very few features that you can add to a website that will garner more traffic, interest, and appreciation from visitors than a simple blog. Adding this feature can, and often will, lead your online store into a rapid growth cycle the likes of which you might not expect, or be prepared for. So let’s preface the rest of this post by saying that the growth potential for your online store can expand exponentially after implementing a regularly updated blog. With that optimistic warning out of the way, let’s try to understand the power of blogging and what you can do to harness it for the successful expansion of your business. First of all, why is blogging such a popular and powerful method of exposure? The simple answer is that the most powerful element of blogging is its proclivity. By maintaining a consistently updated blog, you manage the creation of authentic content that’s completely unique to your web store. This is important for two reasons: Having fresh and authentic content attracts the attention of mainstream search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. These search giants work specifically to hunt for relevant new content that matches popular search queries entered in by users. This means that for every new post you publish, you increase the free and natural attention you get from search engines. There are specific ways to approach the process that will maximize the attention your blog receives. In general these techniques are called Keyword Optimization.  You'll capture more LTV (Long-Term-Value) from your customers. And this is very much the goal. It’s relatively easy to find hundreds of one-time customers that come and go like tumbleweeds in the wind. However, the acquisition of regular customers is far more challenging, though only because many ecommerce business owners don't understand the value of blogging and online engagement. Once the misunderstandings have been cleared up, it's easy to see that blogging is one of the most effective ways to encourage customers to subscribe to your content and return to your store again and again.   Building brand loyalty and setting your company up to be an educational resource within your niche is the best way to improve LTV. Maintaining a useful and informative blog is by far the most expedient method to do just that. Not only that, but keeping your site stocked with that fresh and highly readable content sends a clear message to search engines that you’re providing rich, intelligent, and effective content that will be highly sought by your visitors. It’s a two pronged attack designed to improve your profitability at every level of your sales funnel. So get a pen and start scratching out some ideas! It’s also worth noting that blog posts give you, your company, and your website a much needed infusion of personality. In the virtual world where everything boils down to a mathematical equation, it’s important to leave some room for actual thought and intelligent improvisation. You’ve got to clue your visitors in to the fact that they aren’t buying from mechanically thinking robots with no concept of human emotion, and only a cold steel hardened respect for the unblinking face of their logic-God, always marching forward in their pursuit of the almighty dollar, performing cost-benefit analyses on human lives, and devaluing them against the precious metals that they can harvest using our spines as picks and our skulls as shovels. FEAR THEM.  See what I just did there? Personality, imagination, improvisation, and the art of building interest. Put it into your work, and people are sure to respond. Perhaps not always positively, but you know what they say about bad press still being press. With a company blog in the spotlight, those dreary and foreboding online business pages suddenly seem to have their own expressive voice and humanity. These virtues are what will attract your ideal customers - the people who want, love, and will be able to afford everything you have to offer to them. That personality and carefully cultivated charisma is what builds a productive rapport with your store’s visitors. If you build trust with them, you can then confidently send them down your sales funnel, where you can help them meet their needs. There are other ways to craft this same sort of human expression within your website, and I do suggest you seek them out as well. Though for now it's important to focus on utilizing the power of blogging, as it is the most effective way to quickly build connections with your online community and turn those connections into conversations and sustainable momentum.

Hiring a Designer Vs. Designing My Own Website

 by brian on 23 Jan 2013 |
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When it comes to achieving the right design to capture the attention of your customers and keep it, you’ll need to decide whether you are going to design your own website, or if you will be hiring a professional to do it.    Now, before we get too far into this contemplation, I feel it's important to focus on your level of confidence at this point. If you have the background, the skills and the motivation to design and master your own store front design, then go for it!   Alternatively, if you find that you're not sure you have the patience or the motivation to create an attractive and effective layout, funnel and appearance, then you'll want to seriously consider hiring a professional to complete that process for you.   If you're still on the fence about this decision, we'd like to go through our own little comparison service, which will help you come to a conclusion about one of the most important steps you can take towards achieving a successful income with your digital business.   Hiring a Designer: The Benefits - Professionals offer satisfaction guarantees with their services, which means you won't have to pay a dime if you're not happy with their design. - Professionals are experts at web-design because they have taken the time to sit down and learn the ins and outs of the software and platforms they use. They know exactly where to go to create which effect and they know how to fix most bugs wouldn't completely stump a designer with less experience. - Most professional web-designers are also part-marketer and part-psychic, and they often already understand your niche and the customers you need to impress. - Often, and this depends on your designers fees, the time saved in getting it professionally done means you’re live faster and recovering costs. If you did it yourself, you might be fumbling around for weeks when you could be spending time growing your business.   The Pitfalls COST - From moderate to luxury designers, there will be a price and you will need to pay it when you choose a professional to design your website. If price is a pitfall for you, then you'll want to reconsider designing it yourself, however I suggest start by buying a template and adjusting it rather than starting from scratch.   DIY Web Design: The Benefits - Above all, the best benefit to designing your own website, is that you will know it like the back of your hand by the time you are done. There is no better way to break into the process and build first hand knowledge, than to build your own websites. - Price is another factor that plays into the DIY consideration, as definitely will not need to pay the rising costs of current designers, when you design your own website and store front.   The Pitfalls - TIME - The most common and inhibiting issue with the DIY approach to web design, is that you'll have to spend the time getting to know your designing platform, creating your layout and fixing any errors that can occur throughout the process. If time is an issue for you, this might be enough of a pitfall to suggest it would be more lucrative for you to choose a professional designer. - Troubleshooting is another common pitfall to DIY designs, as you often won't have complete support throughout the process. Even if you go with a company that provides great customer service, there's no guarantee that you will get immediate assistance from your hosting company or that they will be able to help you. It all depends on who you go through, how much you know to start with and how motivated you are to breakthrough any design or functionality challenges you run into along the way.

Why Online Stores Fail

 by ryan on 17 Jan 2013 |
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  Why Online Stores Fail and 10 Steps to Keep You from Joining Them     It is all too often that a person will dive into the world of online commerce, with ambitions of becoming a coffee shop millionaire right after they get their store front up. They spend days, weeks, maybe even months putting together a nice store front with plenty of products, only to find out that they were doomed for failure from the beginning, because they forgot to take some important steps before they got started.   The steps these merchants didn't realize they needed to take, are so simple and effective, that we wanted to make sure that you have them now, so that you don't have to worry about following in the footsteps of failed businesses.   Step 1. Perform Regular Market Research   Market research empowers you with knowledge about the products you're going to sell and the people who will buy them. That research will tell you just about everything you need to know before you set up your digital store front. It will show you how much demand there really is for your product, and dispell any myths you might have about any products being infinitely popular because of their usefulness or a strong need for them.    Market research will also help you understand who your competitors and supporters are, what forms of advertising will be most effective for you and where you can find your ideal customers. These are all essential details that every business needs to have in order to succeed, and yet it is one of the most commonly ignored steps during the birth of an online business.   Step 2. Procure Popular Products   Along with everything above, and then some, market research will also help you quickly take care of another essential task: Making sure you you source products that are popular, but that are not over-sold in the market. Make sure you source products that are not over-saturated, that are high quality and do everything you say they are going to do. Needless to say, don’t try to sell products there’s virtually no demand for just because you think it’s sooo coool.   Step 3. Prepare for Long-Term Marketing Costs   In this step it's especially important that you plan ahead. Yes, you want to give special significance to your initial budget for marketing, though where many business fail is not in doing their initial budgeting preparation, it's actually in not preparing for consistently marketing through the life of their business.   Not preparing for regular marketing, means you'll be doing business in the dark and that is no way to achieve success. Make sure that you take the time to check out all the forms of marketing and advertising available to you and create a plan that covers your long term marketing costs every month.   Step 4. Create Authentic / Unique Content   Many business fail because they neglected to create unique content for their products or for their website in general. It's very easy to cut and paste a description from the manufacturer, onto your own website, especially in the beginning. Though doing this not only looks bad to your customers, it actually works against you in terms of SEO. Search engines look down their noses at webpages with inauthentic content and it will not take long for your digital store front to draw up those red flags, making it more difficult for you to create a better impression of your website on search engines later on.   Step 5. Use Clear and Relevant Images   Every image on your page should be attractive, crisp and relevant to your niche. Make sure that most of your pictures are actual pictures of the products you're selling, as many customers will turn away from doing business with you if they cannot find pictures that will help them see what they will be getting, even if you can offer them a more fantastic deal than anyone else can. Another biggie is to use real human models when selling apparel, NO DUMMIES.   Step 6. Design a Simple and Effective Website   Many online business fail because they either spend too much time working on their websites design, or because they spend too little time doing so. It's important to achieve the right balance, which you can do by learning more about what design elements are important.    Step 7. Prepare for Customer Service   It is not so simple any more, to jump on the internet and create an online business, especially when it comes to store fronts. There are templates, products and CRM systems that just about anyone can afford and understand how to set up. It's so simple, that many people jump online dreaming of being successful, that they actually do it. The only problem is that they did not expect as much success as they received, and that resulted in an unexpected cycle of rapid growth that crushed their business endeavors because they were not prepared to deal with all of their new and returning customers appropriately.   You too, are likely to experience several rapid cycles of growth, as all successful business do on a regular basis. Knowing this, it's important that you take the time to consider what sort of needs your customers might have as your company grows. And when a customer has a concern, foreseen or not, how will they reach you and how will you overcome those challenges? When your customers needs become more than you can handle alone, will you hire on a small customer service department or outsource your customer service needs to an online agency? Think about all this in detail and create 2-3 potential plans of action you can take as your customer service needs grow, so that you can avoid being pegged as yet another online business with bad customer service structures.   Step 8. Produce Clear Policies   Something that will help you with a majority of your customer service needs, is making sure that you have clear and easily accessible policies available on your website. You want to make sure that every customer who comes to your website, knows what your terms of service are, where they can go if they have a complaint or a question, and what they should do if they would like to return a product or receive a refund on a service they purchased.   Step 9. Price Your Products Competitively   With the internet at their fingertips, it's extremely easy for any customer who comes across your website, to do a quick price check through their favorite search engine and compare what you're offering to others who are offering just about the same thing. From there, they will make their final decision about who they will purchase from and if you want to be the business, make sure your products are neither the cheapest, nor the most expensive.    Use your market research to decide what that price should be specifically. Often a mid priced product from a more reputable provider will get the sale, not just the cheapest.   Step 10. Get Metrics Educated   Ecommerce Metrics and Insights are the gateway to understanding what happens on your online store everyday. They tell you what kind of people are visiting you, where they've come from, what it cost to aquire them, what they do when they get to your store, and how much revenue they bring on average. Using metrics will help you understand how much genuine traffic you're bringing in, how to convert more of that traffic and how you can adapt your store to the needs of it's visitors.     Most of all, keep in mind that 'traffic' is just one way of labeling your customers, the people who fund your income. They are and always will be the most important part of your business, as without them, your business will fail. Use the above steps to make sure they receive everything they expect from your online store and then some.   

Is Design the Most Important Factor in my E-commerce Store?

 by brian on 14 Jan 2013 |
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Design has a vital place in the structure of any online business or organisations store front, though most experts would certainly agree that it is not the most important element in the whole process. Craigslist.org is a fantastic example of this. Their design is one of the simplest you can find, and yet they are one of the most popular website browsed by global users today.   Wikipedia is another fantastic example, as they are only a few steps more complex than craigslist, which isn't saying much. in fact, the biggest noticeable difference seems to be an image based logo! The design is all about content, and getting it to people as easily and as quickly as possible.    There is a very good reason why simple sites like these, get so just as much or more traffic than websites with fancy cosmetic storefronts. It's a simple equation really:   Content = Traffic In July 2012, one of our clients (who wanted to remain anonymous) decided to do a content push for their online store after six months of trading. Their search related traffic was fairly steady until early August when a serious boost occured and never stopped. Their stats graph was more than impressive as shown below in actual numbers. Content came from biweekly blog posts about their products and popular related topics they found online, as well as an archive about how to use their products or how to get the best from them.   In the world of SEO, your graphics have very little to do with your ability to bring in traffic. You do want your website to look professional and to be easy to use, though it is much more important to focus on the basic fundamentals of a strong ecommerce store: - Providing detailed product descriptions - Using consistent font sizes and colors - Creating an attractive landing page - Encouraging genuine peer reviews (You can activate the built in reviews and questions feature for this) - Compiling engaging content (The blog is perfect for this. Don't forget to send out a weekly newsletter showcasing your latest blog posts) - Having a working website without broken links Having a beautiful, attractive and modern website is definitely important, as it can help you engage new visitors to your website. While many business owners understand this, a lack of experience with ecommerce websites can leave them without the knowledge that design will take you nowhere without the fundamentals in place first. Things like making sure your logo is aligned correctly, or having any cross-browser issues taken care of, are vital to the welfare of your storefront. Anyone can have a fancy website, but if firefox users are the only ones who can use your website, your business will be in trouble.   You're also looking at some extra challenges if your landing page doesn't give readers a reason to click through, as your visitors won't just give themselves a reason. The same can be said if some other simple thing isn't take care of, like having clear images throughout your website, with appropriate resolutions and sizes. One of our previously mentioned popular stores does a great job in showcasing their products. Note the thumbnails are all the same size, same style, clean and clear. http://lilysflorist.com.au/c/4291709/1/arrangements.html   All in all, one truth can be uttered when it comes to your design priorities: Content and Simplicity should always come first.   Once you've got your cornerstones in place, it will be easier to work on the cosmetic designs and improvements and you'll save yourself some money too, as many designers charge more if your website starts out as a mess.

3 SEO Myths Uncovered

 by brian on 08 Jan 2013 |
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In the world of Search Engine Optimisation, it's vital to understand the common myth's and assumptions that can sometimes lead businesses and marketers off track. By solving the mystery of SEO Myth's, you have an opportunity to put yourself ahead of most of your competition and give your customers a better chance to find you online. 1. Social Media Marketing (SMM) Will Bring More Traffic FALSE   This myth has many businesses up in arms because they are not seeing the ROI that they thought they would get from their social media marketing campaigns. Part of this is poor communication on the part of the social marketers, and the rest is a misunderstanding of how Social Media Marketing (SMM), can increase your profits and make your PPC campaigns more powerful.   The truth is that while SMM might increase your return rates from customers who already found your business through search engines, it will not increase your genuine traffic, which would be the new prospects finding your website.   What SMM will actually do for your business, is help you convert the traffic you are already attracting, into loyal customers and referrals. That's what social media networking and marketing is all about - Community Building, not traffic generation. 2. Directory Linking Doesn't Work (not true, only spammy automated submissions don't work) FALSE   Actually, submitting your business to directories, is one of the most powerful search engine optimisation methods available, and one of the longest running SEO tactics. Online directories are already using their own PPC campaigns and SEO methods, which can boost your rank in search engines and bring you more authentic traffic.   That being said, just as there is always some truth to every rumor, there is a little bit of truth to this myth. The truth in it, is that there are definitely ways to turn directory linking into an anti-seo tool. In fact, one of the most common mistakes that businesses and marketers make when it comes to directory listing, is that they set up automated submissions that are essentially just poorly written sales copies that get repeated every so often. If that is a method you're using, then it is definitely not working for you, and it is in fact working against you in terms of positive search engine traffic. 3. Meta Tags Matter (with exception) TRUE   There have been many myth's floating around throughout the years, about Meta Tags and whether or not they are a meaningful part of the SEO process.   The truth is that since Google Penguin, Meta Tags matter more than ever. That includes your Meta Description and Meta Title. Every search engine today uses those meta tags to help searcher's find you, and if you don't have them filled out at all, most popular search engines will place you lower than the people who just place a bunch of random spammy meta tags on their website. Apart from news websites, don’t bother with the keyword meta tags at all, See Matt Cutts Video on this topic below,  
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