So you’ve managed to cash in and do quite well with your e-commerce website. ¬†Congratulations!
If you’re the type who wants to sell and retire, or sell and move on to the next venture, then check out these tips and learn how to successfully sell your e-commerce site:
1. ¬†How hot is your niche? ¬†If you own a struggling business in a growing niche, it’s worth a heck of a lot more. ¬†Also, your site is worth more if you’re in a relatively small or unknown niche. ¬†If macroeconomic trends aren’t on your side, it will be harder to sell your site.
2. ¬†Website design. ¬†If your website has an exquisite design that’s been well cared for, it’s going to be easier to sell at a higher price. ¬†If you’ve been neglecting it for some time, you’ll have a harder time commanding top dollar.
3. ¬†Your site’s current financial health. ¬†This is a pretty easy one. ¬†The better your website’s finances, the more you’ll be able to sell it for. ¬†If you haven’t fine-tuned your expenses, maybe now that you are getting ready to sell, this could be that time.
4. ¬†Link profile. ¬†To sustain long-term growth of organic traffic, you must have a healthy link profile. ¬†If your link profile is littered with bad links, you could be in jeopardy of receiving a penalty from Google. ¬†Contact the webmasters of the websites with bad links and ask them to remove those links. ¬†If that doesn’t work, use Google’s disavow tool.
5. ¬†Traffic sources. ¬†Depending on how profitable your website is, you have to adjust your asking price based on your traffic sources. ¬†For example, if your website is barely profitable because much of the traffic comes from PPC campaigns, that’s not good news. ¬†If your website has high traffic levels and most of it is organic, that’s a good thing.
6. ¬†Calculate the asking price/profits multiplier. ¬†You should calculate this multiplier before considering to sell. Simply take what you would like to sell your store for and divide that by your profits. ¬†For small e-commerce stores who do well with all the factors above, a ratio of around 3.0 is a good asking price. ¬†1.0 is a good asking price if there are fairly noticeable concerns in some of the areas discussed.
Again, if you’re reading this article and it is of interest to you, congratulations and good luck in selling your business to a prospective buyer!
Your e-commerce website can succeed without these features, but we wouldn’t recommend trying to function without them. ¬†In fact, you could cause great harm to your customer, resulting in them never coming back.
What are some of the essential features you should have? ¬†Check them out below:
1. ¬†Multiple Layers of Security
The Heartbleed exploit has been around for more than two years – and it just came to the general public’s attention now! ¬†Who knows what else could be floating around out there that no one knows about?
So, it makes sense to have as tight of security as possible. ¬†Your network, or hosting service, should be protected by a firewall. ¬†Contact forms should be protected as well. ¬†Make sure you customers have to enter in secure passwords. ¬†And don’t store their credit card data any longer than you have to. ¬†Hold onto it for a standard amount of time, and then purge your records.
2. ¬†Have a Content Plan
Adding new products to your website does add content. ¬†However, that’s not the only type of content you should add. ¬†You need to have some sort of strategy for adding content that provides valuable information.
Whatever you do, make sure its consistent. ¬†Add a blog article monthly. ¬†Send out a monthly newsletter. ¬†Do it more often, if you can.
Google Analytics does the job, and best of all it’s free. ¬†There’s mountains of data you can find from GA. ¬†One of the most important things you can do is set up goals, so you know how well you’re converting.
The nice thing about setting up goals is that you can also assign a value to the goal. ¬†So, you can easily determine where you’re making the most profit.
4. ¬†A Trust-Building Home Page
Your website’s home page should have a logo, tagline, clear contact information, clear and easy-to-use navigation, product images, the latest offers, a method for subscribing to your newsletter, social media links, and the types of payment you accept.
Whew! ¬†That’s a lot. ¬†But, the work’s all worth it.
5. ¬†Make the Checkout Process as Simple as Possible
Ask for the minimum amount of information from the customer. ¬†You can offer them the chance to subscribe to your newsletter, but don’t force them to respond.
To test it out, find someone in your social network who has a limited amount of experience with computers. ¬†Make changes based on what they find unhelpful.
Yes, your site should have those features at a minimum. ¬†The trick though, is not going overboard with various features. ¬†It’s a tough balance, but this gets you on the right track.
It’s a nightmare to compete based on price, or to get most of your business from Amazon (the fees kill your profits). ¬†For small and startup e-commerce businesses, success lies in finding a profitable niche.
If you compete on a product that’s already established in the market and being sold, it’s difficult to turn a profit. ¬†Another larger, older company is most likely offering benefits and guarantees like free shipping that you cannot compete with.
You’ll end up working long hours for low wages, and you’ll wonder why you ever wanted to run an e-commerce store in the first place.
To succeed, either you provide a high-quality version of a common product, or an entirely new product people don’t already have.
But how do you find those ideas?
Here are some stories to draw inspiration from:
This website is an e-commerce store/hunting magazine hybrid. ¬†My friend’s dad started it and makes a very healthy income from it. ¬†I don’t think they plan to get too big, but a couple other family members work there. ¬†It’s a very nice small business.
They sell all sorts of hunting gear and products. ¬†He got the idea by talking with people in online forums. ¬†Once the site started, everything grew from there.
What really helped it take off was its focus on a very select hunting niche – hunting animals from long distances (1-2 miles away).
This website sells high-quality wedding linens, the likes of which you can’t find anywhere else. ¬†The owner of the store and her husband loved planning their wedding so much they got involved in every detail of it. ¬†They even embroidered presents for the bridal party themselves.
They tested the idea out on Ebay, expanded it into their own store, and everything took off from there.
The Point? ¬†Stay in Touch with Your Market!¬†
These are examples of niche business ideas that small business owners can identify and act on. ¬†If you don’t have a large personal network in the real world, or if it’s difficult to get in touch with them in person, there’s plenty of ways to interact with people online.
Find people with similar interests on internet forums, and begin listening and asking questions. ¬†They’ll happily discuss their real problems in life, and any issues they have with products they currently own.
If people’s eyes light up, or if they sound very passionate when discussing their problems, you’ve stumbled across a business idea. ¬†From there, it’s up to you to make it a reality.
So, you’re ready to take the exciting plunge into the world of becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur. ¬†As you do that, we want to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible for you.
You’re going to hit some bumps along the way, no doubt. ¬†But, by following these tips, you’ll hit fewer of them and they won’t be as big when you do encounter them.
Here are some big mistakes newbies make:
1. ¬†No Comprehensive Marketing Plan
You can build content, but people won’t just come to your website because it’s there. ¬†You have to promote it too. ¬†There’s a million different search marketing techniques you can use to promote your site.
If you need profits fast, use PPC. But be careful with your spending – it can spiral out of control quickly if you don’t keep a close eye on it.
You can also use search engine optimization, which is the process of optimizing your website for keywords, writing content, and then promoting it across the web in hopes of getting links and social shares. ¬†Slowly your rankings will rise for various key terms, but remember it can take months before you hit page one for any of them.
2. ¬†No Unique Selling Proposition¬†
It’s much easier to sell your products if you offer something unique (either a product or some guarantees). ¬†Free shipping is an awesome benefit, but it’s not unique. ¬†Many online stores offer it.
You can be unique by building and selling the product yourself. ¬†If you can secure contracts with manufacturers or buy the product from a wholesaler, you could compete on price. ¬†But that’s hard to do as a small company.
You could do something like offering e-mail response times of 1-hour or less and call waiting times of 5 minutes or less. ¬†You can be as creative as you want here, as long as your USP is attractive to your market.
3. ¬†Finding Product Vendors Online
The internet, handy as it can be, is an awful place to find product vendors. ¬†It’s loaded with scammers. ¬†Most legitimate distributors focus on businesses operating in the real world. ¬†The truth is that most online vendors are in fact middlemen who have already marked up their prices quite a bit.
4. ¬†Your Website Looks Amateurish
Everything has to appear in perfect operating order. ¬†Got typos or grammatical errors? ¬†Does your design look a little awkward in certain places?
You don’t have to use a perfect corporate look starting out, but you do need to look as professional as possible. ¬†Make sure everything in your website is in perfect working order, and hire a designer if you need to make the website look the way you want.
If you avoid those 4 big mistakes, you’ll save your business a ton of difficulty long-term. ¬†Try coming up with a USP after you’ve already listed hundreds of products!
Yes, all PPC ads are not created equal. ¬†In fact, writing PPC ads is something you should take just as seriously as writing an infomercial. ¬†It is its own science.
But, let’s say you don’t have a ton of experience writing ads that convert well. ¬†That’s cool – this guide will give you a few quick tips that will get you going on the right track from the start.
Here are the big things to watch:
1. ¬†What’s your value proposition? ¬†This is what differentiates you in the market from all other businesses who offer the same products. ¬†It takes a ton of research to find it, or at least extensive industry experience. ¬†Do you offer the best price, free shipping, or the biggest product of its kind?
Whatever you do or your products offer better than anyone else must be communicated in your ads.
2. ¬†Headline – 35 Characters
Your headline is the most important part of your ad because that’s what people notice first. ¬†Make sure ¬†your top keyword gets in the headline. ¬†Then, you have to include your value proposition too.
If you don’t put these important benefits in the headline and instead bury them later on in the description, most people never even read them.
3. ¬†Description – 70 Characters
In here, you want to talk about the additional benefits your product offers. ¬†Benefits always speak to feelings. ¬†They could be things like reduced cooking time, less energy used, or even cooking.
It’s hard to identify the difference between features and benefits. ¬†Features are properties of a product like the color, size, shape, age. ¬†Benefits are what it does for you. ¬†For a med spa, for example, you might say your products “Rejuvenate Your Mind, Body, and Soul.”
Consumers want the benefits, and the features are nice to have.
You’ll also want a call-to-action word to use like “Get, shop, buy, or save” to make the ad seem more urgent.
4. ¬†Display URL – 35 Characters
This URL should contain your primary keyword. ¬†That way, people know that if they click your ad, they’re going to be sent to the right place.
5. ¬†Research Your Competitor’s Ads¬†
If you don’t have any idea where to start, search your keywords and look at the competition’s ads. ¬†For small businesses, they often don’t have any professional copywriting on their ads at all. ¬†But, if you know you’re looking at a larger company’s ads, they’ve probably worked on and refined their ads to perfection. ¬†I’m talking about very big companies here, with $100 million+ in revenue.
If you can target keywords that other SMBs use, you can get more clicks because they don’t use professional copywriting. ¬†That’s quite a huge competitive advantage for you!
And a better CTR means lower advertising costs too.
Enjoy this new secret trick, and the resulting sales you get from it!
Is that product going to sell, or won’t it? ¬†Wouldn’t it be nice to know beforehand what would really happen?
You can never predict the future, but you can at least estimate what could happen before trying.
Here are some ways to at least get a ballpark idea of whether or not your product will sell before listing it on your website:
1. ¬†Google Trends
Simply go to http://www.google.com/trends/ and search on the product names you’d like to sell. ¬†You won’t know where the line on the graph is going to go next, but at least you’ll get an idea if demand right now seems to be growing or staying flat.
2. ¬†Google Keyword Planner
Go to http://www.google.com/adwords/ and then hit “Tools” and “keyword planner.” ¬†Then choose “search for new keyword and ad group ideas.” ¬†Then hit the “keyword ideas” tab. ¬†You’ll want to start with a very general and generic term, and then you’ll get a ton of ideas for related terms from Google.
While the data in here isn’t always the most accurate, it gives you a ballpark idea of what’s going on. ¬†If you see keywords with “low” competition and several hundred or more searches, those are generally good opportunities. ¬†If the entire page is saturated with “high” competition keywords, demand may very well be very high right now, and competing for business will be tough.
However, if there are many “low” competition keywords, you could be onto something big before demand matures.
3. ¬†Search the Keyword in Google
Now, actually go into Google and type your target keyword in. ¬†Notice the results that come up. ¬†Are they from many different companies?
If there appears to be no single particular company dominating the search results with multiple listings, you have a competitive advantage right now.
You should have an SEO tool installed, like Moz, that tells you the authority of the domains that are ranking. ¬†If it’s higher authority levels, like 40+ on the page, demand is very high.
4. ¬†Perform a Test Adwords Campaign
This gives you a ton of market research, and tells you which keywords your organic search strategy should target, in addition to gauging demand. ¬†Send people to a targeted landing page. ¬†But instead of listing the product, tell people it’s not yet for sale and ask them to enter their e-mail address to be notified when it is ready to sell.
Based on that conversion rate, you’ll get an idea of how badly people really want your product. ¬†You only need around $500 or so, which can be very valuable if you learn nobody really wants the product before bringing it to the market.
If you try these different tactics to test demand, you’ll save yourself time, stress, and money. ¬†Enjoy!
Gotta love it…Google has a 200-300 factor algorithm that no one has a precise understanding of. ¬†So, you’re always shooting at some sort of target that you can’t really see.
SEO is tough, hard work. ¬†And yes, websites do sometimes get penalized by Google when they shouldn’t.
In general though, Google is pretty good at penalizing websites that deserve it. ¬†At the same time, you can accidentally put your website at risk for getting a penalty, even though it’s your intention to make it a good place for your visitors and Google.
It’s fun too, to look at things from a reverse angle of how to mess them up. ¬†So, if you want to get your site penalized by Google, follow these steps:
1. ¬†Use keyword-rich anchor text frequently. ¬†This applies to both internal links within your site and external links that link from other sites to yours. ¬†SEOs were saying around 20-30% of your anchor texts should feature your keywords or close variations.
Now, experts like Neil Patel (and some of my friends) are saying that should be around 5% or so. ¬†To avoid getting penalized for this, focus on using your brand name on external links, or use your URL. ¬†For internal links, just vary them as much as possible.
2. ¬†Load your content with keywords. ¬†Yes, you will always need to have keywords in your content. ¬†After all, people need some way to search for things on the web, right?
It’s okay to have around a 1.0% density, or less, for most keywords. But, the guiding rule for optimizing pages is to always focus on using natural language first.
To avoid overoptimizing your web pages, write them all the way through first, and then go back and optimize them. ¬†If you’re super-serious about doing this right, read the page out loud and see how it sounds. ¬†If it sounds awkward, that’s not good for your visitors or Google.
3. ¬†Put lots of stuff on your product pages so they load slowly. ¬†Okay, so you won’t receive an active penalty from Google for doing this. ¬†But, Google does factor page load time into its search rankings. ¬†The slower yours loads, the less authority you receive from Google.
4. ¬†Many URLs that 404. ¬†Again, you won’t get an active penalty for this. ¬†But, Google’s not going to like your website if you have dead URLs. ¬†If you change the URL structure, you should use a 301 redirect to send users to the appropriate page. ¬†If you go to Google Webmaster Tools, and then click “Crawl” and “Crawl Errors,” and then hit the “Not Found” tab, you can see all the URLs that 404 on your website. ¬†You can bet that if you have many URLs which 404 your rankings will take a hit.
If you want your search rankings to take a beating, this is exactly what you should do. ¬†And if you get a penalty, remember you can lose literally almost all of your traffic overnight.
The thing that’s awesome about the web is how creative you can be – the sky literally is the limit. ¬†At the same time, your focus on creativity can cause confusion for your web visitors.
You don’t want to do that because then your sales drop. ¬†So when it comes to your product pages, what should you do?
Here are a few recommendations:
1. ¬†Big Images with a 360-Degree View
Ever try to buy something on the web that you couldn’t really see? ¬†Well, your visitors don’t want to either! ¬†Give them huge images that are easy to see and let them completely rotate the view around the product so they can see it from all angles.
2. ¬†Use a Noticeable Call-to-Action
And make sure you play with the wording on it too. ¬†Past studies have found that “Add to Cart” generally works well because people don’t want to purchase something now – that much of a commitment scares them. ¬†The color on the button matters too.
But what matters most is not the type of color. ¬†Instead, it’s simply important the button stands out from the rest of the colors on your website. ¬†If your site uses lots of blue throughout, try red, orange, or yellow on the button, and see which gives you the most sales.
3. ¬†Show the Item Quantity Left in Stock
Consumers are more likely to make a purchase if there’s a limited quantity left in stock. ¬†Right below the product title, show the quantity left.
4. ¬†Make Discounts Clear
If the normal list price is $29.95, and your product goes on sale for $14.95, make the full discount amount clear. ¬†You could just say “sale” or “reduced price for a limited time,” which does increase the chances people will purchase. ¬†However, if you show the specifics – the actual discount amount and the length of the offer, consumers are for more likely to act.
5. ¬†Make Reviews Available
You can show the gold stars to communicate to people how well a product is liked. ¬†But, in addition to that, make sure people can go in and read the reviews to see what others do and do not like about the product.
6. ¬†Write Product Descriptions for Real People
This takes a keen understanding of your target consumer to pull off. ¬†Unfortunately, many websites use the bland, boring manufacturer descriptions, which also can get you in trouble with Google for duplicate content.
Want to know what good product descriptions look like? ¬†Check out Woot.
If you want your product pages to sell well, those are some best practices to use. ¬†And remember, make sure you test, test, and test to see what works on your website.
There’s about a million SEO mistakes you can make, if you really want to count them all. ¬†Fortunately, most don’t result in a Google penalty.
However, what you don’t see is that your rankings suffer from them a little. ¬†So, instead of noticing a rankings dip, you never experience as much growth as you should in the first place.
SEO is so abstract that it doesn’t seem fair all the rules you have to follow in order to stay on Google’s good side.
However, we’ll help you identify a few of the more common SEO mistakes made on e-commerce sites with these tips:
1. ¬†Products are Optimized for the Product Name, Not the Search Query
People search on product names…sometimes. ¬†However, to get the organic traffic for the key phrase, you have to optimize for the phrase people are actually searching on.
So, you find that by typing the product name into Google Adwords “Keyword Planner” tool. ¬†Then, that will show you how many searches are made for that particular product, and related phrases people type in. ¬†Go for terms with a few hundred to a few thousand searches for the best results.
To optimize your page for the term, get it into the H1 tag, and then once or twice in the product description copy.
2. ¬†Duplicate Product Titles and META Descriptions
Yes, it’s time consuming to make these and the product description unique, but you have to do it. ¬†If these are not unique, Google puts in its own titles, which may appear awkward when searchers see them in the search results, or the product can receive lower rankings or even complete removal from the rankings entirely.
However, that’s different than a rankings penalty, which is not what you get when you use duplicate content. ¬†When you get the title, META description, and product description unique, the page will pop right back into the search results.
3. ¬†Messy URLs
1. ¬†Take a look at a messy, ugly URL: ¬†‚Äú/cat-13/product-65424?pants‚ÄĚ
2. ¬†Now compare it to a “clean” one: ¬†”/mens-pants/mens-white-pants/
“Clean” URLs, like the second example shown above, are not only more friendly to Google, but your web visitors like them better too. ¬†It appears neater, more professional, and your visitors know exactly where they are on your website.
Google likes those for SEO purposes too. ¬†It doesn’t care about the appearance of the URL, but if people are searching for “men’s white pants,” Google also looks to see if that keyword is in your URL. ¬†If it is, that gives the page a stronger chance of ranking for that keyword.
So, those are 3 common and simple ways you can check to ensure your e-commerce site is SEO-friendly. ¬†Are you making any of these mistakes? ¬†If so, are you planning on fixing them?
Press releases are an awesome way to get some exposure and nice SEO juice. ¬†But, don’t count on the links from the press releases themselves to boost your SEO. ¬†Rather, websites must stumble across your press release and then link directly to your website.
Google has publicly stated it’s reducing (eliminating?) the SEO value passed on by press releases themselves. ¬†So, it’s more important to focus on a good story. ¬†And if you tell a good story, you’re more likely to get good links from people who read the press release. ¬†Who knows? ¬†You might even luck out and score an interview from a journalist!
Sometimes, it seems like there’s nothing going on at your business that’s “newsworthy.” ¬†But, there’s always plenty going on – you just have to know where to look. ¬†Here are some press release ideas that may be happening at your company right now:
1. ¬†Whenever You Add a New Product
Okay, so this is the easy one. ¬†But, don’t do it every time you add a new product. ¬†Use it when you have a product you think will sell big, or if you know the product sells well at other websites. ¬†If you don’t know of much else going on, it can always be a filler idea too.
2. ¬†Hold a Sale
This is another easy one under your control. ¬†You can have a sale anytime you want. ¬†When you do, make sure to announce it via a press release.
3. ¬†You’re Acting as a Sponsor or Making a Charitable Donation
If there’s no news going on, you can always create some. ¬†A good way to do that is to make a donation to your favorite charity (or volunteer there). ¬†If there’s a local event, becoming a sponsor is a good thing – just make sure you let the public know about it.
4. ¬†Offer 10 People Free Samples
…Or whatever the number happens to be. ¬†”Free” is one of the most effective words in the sales world.
5. ¬†Receiving an Award or Joining an Organization
If you become a BBB member, that’s a great news story. ¬†Join contests and try to receive an award, and don’t forget to let everyone know when you do.
6. ¬†Making a Personnel Change
If you made a new addition or promoted someone to a high-ranking position, there’s another great news opportunity.
7. ¬†Customer Success Stories
Did you go above and beyond the call of duty for your customer? ¬†Were they able to achieve an extraordinary result because they bought your product? ¬†Let other customers know with a press release.
Those are just some examples to get your mind thinking. ¬†You may have these stories, or others bubbling at your small business right now.