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Don’t Just Wait for Customers to Come to You, Go to Them!

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Obviously, the number one goal of your eCommerce site is to sell products, and this can only be done if your site has visitors. So we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how drive traffic to our sites. Sure, SEO is a very powerful tool when attracting customers to your business, but the web is a constantly changing place and you always need to be ready to embrace the next big thing.

A little while back we talked about attracting business by inserting your store in Facebook. Aside from the crazy amount of traffic that Facebook gets, one reason it is such a great tool for ecommerce is that you get to be proactive and go to your customer instead of just waiting for them to come to you. Well, now MiiDuu is giving you another way to do this. You can now embed your products anywhere on the web! That’s right! MiiDuu now provides you with a code that you can insert into your blog, your main website, your e-mail, your MySpace page… anywhere you can paste some HTML code (and javascript is enabled), you can insert your product.

Your embedded product will display an image of the product, the product title, the price, and a button that let’s users link straight to your shopping cart! Just click the Embed link next to Edit in your Dashboard’s Product page. You’ll be able to choose the size of the image, as well as decide whether you want your button to say Buy Now or Add to Cart. You can preview what it will look like in real time, so don’t worry about grabbing the wrong code!

What are you waiting for? Head over to MiiDuu.com today and get started!

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Time is Money: Helpful Hints for Better Time Management

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Today I happened upon an article over at eCommTips that talks about how to use time management to get the most results out of the least amount of time. Reading it reminded me of all of the things I already know about time management, but somehow seem to forget whenever it comes to actually managing my time. For those of use that work on the internet, adhering to time management guidelines is even more of a challenge. Luckily, the rules are simple and changing your time management habits tends to make things more quick and painless.

First I’d like to briefly touch on the main two concepts discussed in the eCommTips article. One is Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of results are caused by 20% of effects. In other words, 80% of the tasks you do won’t have much of an effect on your total revenue. This isn’t to say they aren’t important. If you stop doing them it will certainly have an adverse effect on your revenue, but when prioritizing tasks, these come last. The other 20%, however, are generating a huge amount of your revenue,  so it stands to reason the more time you spend on these tasks, the more your revenue will grow. The other main concept discussed is Parkinson’s Law, which basically states that a task will take as long as you give it. If you give yourself a week to do something, it will seem very important and end up taking the whole week. If you only give yourself a day, you’ll have it done by then. Obviously, you can’t set deadlines too short or work will get sloppy and you’ll get used to not meeting them. Still, be conscious of how long a task should take and don’t give yourself any extra time to finish it. By setting short, frequent deadlines you will get used to working quickly and efficiently, and really maximize the amount of work you get done.

This is all great and good, but if you don’t put these concepts into practice, they won’t do you much good. As the eCommTips article suggests, it’s a good idea to first write down all of the tasks you do on a daily or weekly basis. First, look at your list and make sure that everything you’re doing is actually useful. Next, select which tasks lead directly to revenue and which ones don’t. For example, if you get a lot of people visiting your site from links you post on Twitter, put that in the revenue column. Answering customers’ questions, while still very important, would go in the other column.

Now, look at the table you’ve created and think about how much time you spend every day/week on each task. Are you spending the appropriate amount of time on each task relative to how much revenue it generates? If not, adjust the amount of time you would like spend on each item and write it out. From there, create a schedule for your daily tasks. When making your schedule, take yourself into account. For example, I am a bit sluggish in the morning, so I start by catching up on relative news and blogs and answering easy customer questions. Then I delve into the more time intensive e-mails, which normally gets me ready to work. If you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed every morning and fade from there, you might want to save these tasks for the end of the day when you’re tired.

You also need to be sure and monitor your social media consumption. While Facebook and Twitter can do wonders for your business, they can kill your productivity for the day! Remember, when you are working you’re on Facebook to promote your business, not look at picture of Timmy’s new baby. For those of you who are easily distracted by social media, or who just don’t feel like sitting down and Tweeting everyday, I highly recommend you check out HootSuite. HootSuite allows you to manage your Twitter and Facebook page from the same site, but isn’t as easy to accidentally wander of task. You can also schedule your posts,  so you can type up all of your Tweets and Facebook posts for the day or week in one sitting and not have to worry about them again. Some added bonuses  include being able to allow more than one team member to manage an account and easy to use stats on how many people are clicking the links you post.

Remember, you’re the most of important part of your time management plan, so keep it tailored to your personality. If you are the kind of person who needs to take a break every hour, take it! If you respond to rewards, reward yourself upon completing a certain number of tasks. The point of a time management plan is to make yourself more productive, not miserable.

Questions or comments about time management? Leave a comment!

Is Your Online Store Ready for the Holidays?

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment

With Halloween just a week away, the holiday season is quickly approaching. It doesn’t take an MBA to know this is a very big deal for online retailers! For small retailers especially, this time of year is crucial. Is your store fully optimized for the holiday season? Let’s run through some quick tips and reminders on how to move your store up the search engine results and boost your holiday sales!

1) First you should make sure that you’ve done all you can to publicize your store. MiiDuu has a whole FAQ page about 5 ways to promote your store, so make sure to check it out. To summarize though, make sure that your social media campaign is fresh and exciting, write plenty of articles, be active on any forums or comment threads you participate in, and update your blog! The holidays make people want to reconnect, so odds are they’ll be on Facebook even more than usual around this time. Make sure to get your online store directly in your business’s Facebook page with MiiDuu’s Shop Builder application on Facebook! You can get started putting your store directly in your Facebook page here.

2) Make sure your site is visually optimized as well. You’ll hopefully be getting a ton of new customers, so you want them to stick around long enough to buy something! Make sure your site is as easy to navigate as possible, and that your categories and sub categories are well optimized. Run frequent mock purchases to make sure things are going smoothly and you aren’t loosing any customers to technical issues. You might also think of putting up some special seasonal banners to keep customers in a cheery holiday mood. If you have any seasonal products, make sure to list them as featured items!

3) CIO offers some great tips as well, which are worth repeating. The first is to remarket to existing customers. With the amount of time people spend on the internet and the number of webpages they view a day, even if an old customer had a great experience shopping your store it could easily slip his or her mind when writing up a gift list. Send out a newsletter reminding all of your old customers that you’re here! Even if they don’t go to your store immediately after reading the newsletter, you will have placed your store back in their consciousness and they’ll be more likely to remember you when it’s time to buy gifts.

4) The newsletter reminds me of another good point made in the CIO article: DISCOUNT! Everyone loves a discount, and this is especially true around the holidays! The days following Thanksgiving and Christmas are notoriously busy shopping days for brick and mortar stores. Customers love hunting for a better bargain, so why not participate? This will further incentivize customers to shop at your store over anyone else’s. Make sure to mention any sales in your newsletter so that all of your returning customers are in more of a hurry to get back! Be careful not to discount too much and making your profit margins dismal, but at the same time, the better the discount, the more likely someone is to not only participate, but spread the word to friends! Announce your discount through your social media outlets as well! MiiDuu News has more on how to utilize both newsletters and coupons!

5) Remember, time is of the essence! It takes the search engine spiders a while to find your site, so make sure to get all of these changes implemented as soon as possible! You want to be as high in the search results as possible when your customers start shopping, and updating the week before Thanksgiving isn’t going to cut it! If you haven’t already put these tips to work on your site, go do so now!

Can You Create a Great Website WITHOUT SEO?

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently came across an article that stood on an ant-SEO soapbox and suggested that you not only could, but should, create a great website with great web traffic without SEO. I have to admit, at first I was quite interested. Not having to worry about SEO would be great! The more I actually read the article, however, the more it avoided one glaring problem with it’s proposed SEO-less method of climbing the search engine rankings: it involves SEO.

The article slams SEO and those who offer  SEO services, even white hat SEO, stating that, “People who do White Hat SEO play by the rules. They don’t break any Google Terms of Service (mostly) and they stick to the techniques which are deemed to be legitimate. The problem is that they go over the top and they entirely miss the point.” This statement is based on the assumption that if you are practicing good SEO, you are ignoring the rest of your site and failing to produce quality content. What it fails to take into account, is that quality content is part of SEO. In fact, the author even touches on the similarities between optimizing a site and creating a quality site without acknowledging that they are similar because building a good site is a very large percentage of your SEO:

A remarkable amount “Pro SEO Strategies for better rankings” actually coincide with what a good web developer would tell you to do in order to have a good website. Using proper heading tags, creating simple and well structured links to navigate through your site, ensuring that relevant content is well presented and has related content easily available, creating content on your site which other people will want to link to and talk about.

Of course they coincide! If you’re doing it correctly, creating a great website and an optimized site should be the same thing. The article does highlight a good point though: if you’re ignoring the content of your website, it doesn’t matter how good your Alexa rank is or how many keywords you’re optimized for. In the end, you want to get people on your site, staying on your site, buying from your site, and coming back to your site. So make sure that you are keeping your content fresh and relevant to your keywords, and that your site is user friendly and enjoyable. If you want to focus your attention on keeping your content up to date, interesting, and relevant instead of constantly reading up on SEO, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend what you’re doing isn’t in and of itself SEO.

To find the full article go to http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/09/create-great-websites-without-any-seo/ and make sure to check out the end of the article. They have a case study/interview that highlight the importance of content in any SEO campaign.

A Fun Way to Get Traffic to Your Site

September 19, 2010 1 comment

For some people, SEO is in and of itself, fun. It’s like a puzzle trying to figure out what does and doesn’t work. For others, SEO is tedious and often slips down the to-do list as a result. There might be a fun way that you haven’t yet thought of yet: Forums!

Finding a dofollow forum that relates to your business is a great way to drum up traffic and create links. This is an important distinction. While nofoloow forums can still lead to more traffic for your website, you will not get a backlink for them. In dofollow forums, just put your store or blog’s url in your signature, and then use the forum as usual. Don’t be spammy or self promoting, just be active. Your link will be there for those who are interested. You might also try using keywords in your posts, as forums often show up at the top of search pages. Most of the dofollow forums require you to make a certain number of posts before you attach links, so use that time to introduce yourself into the forum and build a rapport with the community. then, when you can introduce links, it will seem more organic and people will be more likely to click on them.

There are all kinds of forums out there, with topics covering almost every topic under the sun, so whatever you’re selling there is probably a related forum. If you are already active on forums unrelated to your product, you can still add a link in your signature. For help finding a forum, check out this list of 600 Dofollow Forums and explore a bit to find one that’s suited to your business/interests.

Forums don’t replace the rest of your SEO plan, so make sure to keep updating that blog and refining keywords, but if used correctly they can greatly enhance your web presence and be fun at the same time!

You Might Not Judge a Book by its Cover, But…

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Your customers will most definitely judge your online store by its homepage. Yes, it needs good SEO. Yes, it needs to be clearly organized and easy to navigate. When it comes down to it though, what’s really going to pop out at your customer in the first seconds they are on your site, is what it looks like. Your site needs to be professional and attractive. This will instantly make customers trust it more, as higher quality web design implies a more legitimate, successful company. Wikipedia might get by with plain white and black, but your online store won’t.

Brick and Mortar stores have three main advantages over an online store: customers can see and touch the actual product before deciding whether or not to buy, they get to take it home immediately, and they have salespeople. Have you ever been in a store where the sales people just sat at the register and didn’t say anything to any of the customers? How many customers were shopping in that store? Without the advantage of a good sales person to engage the customer you need to fill this void with an engaging website. There are many aspects to an engaging website. Personally, I love when I’m shopping for clothes online and it suggests what else I might wear to complete the outfit. If the website looks sloppy or like it was programmed by someone dabbling in HTML, however, there is no way I’m going to stay on the site long enough find out what other ways the site might engage me.

I make no claims to being any sort of graphic artist or designer of any sort, but one thing I DO do is shop online. So, from a customer’s perspective here are some tips on how to make a site look more visually engaging:

1) Color
The type of company you’re running will dictate the sorts of colors you might use (jewel tones versus earth tones for example), but your color scheme will be very important. It should be eye-catching, but not distracting from your product. Having a white background is fine, just make sure you use some well placed accent colors to make it pop. If you’re going to have a lot of text on your page (multiple long paragraphs) I suggest using a lighter background with dark text because it’s easier on the eyes, so customers are more likely to read through it.

2) Pictures
People love pictures and people judge pictures. Make sure you have them, and make sure they’re good. Poorly chosen or low quality pictures make it look like you don’t care. And if you don’t care, why should your customer? If you customer thinks you don’t care, he or she is much less likely to trust you. High quality photos add a lot to a site (and I don’t mean high-resolution, I’m talking composition, lighting, color, etc.) and lend an air of credibility. If you have pictures of your products (and you better!), make sure they are GOOD pictures. If you have a bad camera, find someone with a nice one and borrow it. If you’re going to have to take pictures of new products all the time, a good camera is a good investment. You can type as much text as you want in the description, but that picture is selling (or not!) your product.

3) Layout
The layout of your site should be easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. I’m not going to dig through your site looking for anything that might interest me. I’m either looking for a specific product and want to get there quickly and easily, or I’m just casually clicking on things that strike my fancy. For the latter, you’ll want to make sure categories are clearly laid out in an obvious place. If I don’t see a link, I’m not going to click on it. It’s that simple.

4) Extra Touches
Details are key. Having nice little touches that tie everything together really add to the professionalism of your website and make it a more enjoyable shopping experience. I think having a site that is shaded to appear sort of 3D (this site, for example) looks 100 times better than a site that looks completely flat. As I mentioned earlier, related products are great. Most of these will be unique to your company so just think about it for a little while, I’m sure you’ll come up with a couple of great ideas!

Anyway, those are just some quick tips to get you started. This will be a major aspect of your online store, so take some time to really brainstorm and decide what you want it to look like. If you’re in a better financial position, you might consider hiring and expert to create something unique and professional for you. If you don’t have the money or time, MiiDuu.com has some great free themes that take care of this for you.

Now that you have some ideas brewing, why not head over to MiiDuu and give it a go? Already have a MiiDuu store? Get some how-to advice from our Design related FAQs!

A quick PS: Your online store may not have sales people, but it is still responsible for customer service. Make sure to respond to all customer e-mails in a timely fashion, and obviously, be as helpful as possible. If a customer has a problem, it is in your best interest to solve it as quickly as possible, even if that means taking a return or two. I, personally, will never buy BCBG clothing again due to an outdated return policy and poor customer service.  I also recently read a blog post dedicated just to discrediting a company for this same reason (Why you shouldn’t buy from Raveready.com OR Beatdropcloset.com). This will be especially hurtful to people with poor SEO as the blog post could show up in searches before your shop!

A Real Life Look at the Impact of SEO

September 15, 2010 1 comment

For those of you who are new to online marketing, it can often be hard to fully realize it’s importance. You hear all these SEO tips and keyword pointers, but when you don’t see immediate, easily identifiable results it’s easy to forget just how important it is. If you need a reminder, just think of the proposed mosque at Ground Zero. Do you know what I’m talking about? If you do, you also know the value of good SEO.

I stumbled up this article today and I think it does a great job of highlighting the importance of SEO without getting caught up in jargon or other boring stuff that non-SEO experts don’t feel like reading 🙂 It’s called SEO lessons from the ‘ground zero mosque’, and it theorizes that SEO is responsible for the ubiquitous usage of the terms “Ground Zero” and “Mosque” when neither was accurate. Because those that started the brouhaha were against the building, they picked a contentious turn of phrase that they knew would incite passionate, emotional responses from many Americans. As reporters started to look into claims of a mosque being built on Ground Zero, it became clear that it was actually a Muslim community center (similar to a JCC) and it was a couple blocks away from Ground Zero, not AT it or ON it. Still, even those reporters and bloggers (and anyone else posting content in hopes of getting views) who wanted to advocate religious freedom found themselves having to use the terms “mosque” and “ground zero” because “muslim community center” and “lower Manhattan” just didn’t get the same exposure. From there, things just continued to snowball.

Clearly there were other factors that contributed to the disproportionate usage of these terms on both sides of the argument. The news media itself would have been drawn to these more attention grabbing words as well. The impact of SEO, however, is still clearly visible in this example. This example is a news story, but just think of what harnessing some of this power for your business could do?

That being said, remember you are not writing for your keywords. You want to create genuinely interesting content, and then adapt it for your keywords. Even if useless posts full of great keywords (or worse, unrelated keywords) get people to your blog or website, it won’t take the average internet browser 10 seconds to get bored with your site and x out of the box without clicking on anything, and if you have an online shop, they certainly aren’t going to buy anything.

So just stick with the golden rules of SEO, quality content and quality keywords, and next time you need a little motivation to do your keyword research, just think about the ground zero mosque.

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