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Ecommerce Blog - Fortune3

How to Hire Virtual Employees

The nice thing about running an e-commerce site is you have a nearly limitless talent pool to hire from. You don’t have to stick with just someone in your locality.

And who knows? Maybe your locality is so small that there’s really no one who’s ready to help you with your type of business!

Thank goodness for the internet, right?

Why would you want to hire virtual employees? They generally cost less than employees you hire locally. About $2,000 less, according to a study by Stanford.

1. Get Involved in LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn has the best close rate of any social media website. You can just do standard searches if you want. But also participate in groups. Ask groups outright for recommendations. Talk to people you trust.

It’s a long, involved process, but you generally get much better candidates out of it.

2. Research Them as Human Beings

Do a little “cyber-stalking” (not the creepy kind!), and see what these people are all about. Check out their Twitter and Facebook profiles. Don’t forget LinkedIn.

If they’re willing to put irresponsible or obscene stuff into the eye of the public, that’s a red flag for you.

3. Have a Phone Conversation, and Ideally a Skype or Video Conversation

Some websites talk about using one-way video interviews. The candidate answers your questions in a video they record and send.

Don’t do that – you’re just not going to get a good feel for the person like you would talking to them live.

4. Should You Go Global? 

This is a very tough one only you can decide. On the one hand, it’s cheaper and you can find very dedicated employees in other countries.

On the other, it’s a different culture and you may have a hard time getting along personally.

And then, you know how much some people hate the idea that the US outsources some of its work to foreign countries. Are you okay doing that?

It’s not necessarily wrong, but there are strong opinions on the subject.

5. Ask the Right Questions

This is a whole subject in and of itself. But you need to find employees who are self-motivated and driven to do work on their own. There’s no way you can supervise them and force them to be productive.

Whatever questions you ask, make sure you constantly listen for clues your candidate is 100% self-motivated to succeed.

It’s a Leap, But One You Have to Take

There’s nothing more to it – just do it. An employee pays for themselves in 6 months when you find the right one.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies, SEO for eCommerce

How to Write Content That Makes Google Happy Forever!

fortune3-google-penalty-forever-imageAs you may already know (or not), Google changes its algorithm up to 200 times per year. It actually tests around 500 changes or so annually.

Then, you hear about 5-7 of those updates!

With all the change that’s happened, it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s also easy to constantly research Google’s algorithms, learning what you need to do to make it happy next.

But here’s the thing: you can write good content now that never gets you penalized by Google – ever.

Yes, it is possible to do white-hat SEO that literally survives every possible Google algorithm update you could imagine.

You see, real SEO, the kind that really works is all about giving value and making for the best user experience.

So if you do it right the first time around, there’s no need to do it over again and again.

Here’s how to write truly awesome content:

1. Find out What Your Audience Likes

This is easy to do to start. All you do is go to your competitor’s blog and see which posts get the most social media shares. You have your topics right there.

But you don’t just copy the content. You write about the same idea providing your own insights and thoughts.

2. Use a Casual, Conversational Tone

Write exactly the way you talk. That’s literally all there is to writing well for your blog. The reason you write that way is that’s how people want to read.

They don’t want dense information. They don’t want to figure out what you’re trying to say. They don’t want to hear how smart you are.

Make your content simple and easy to digest. That keeps bounce rates low, time on page high, and you get more newsletter subscribers too.

3. Use Rich Media

With Panda 4.1, Google gave a slight edge to medium and small-size businesses in the search rankings. And there’s some evidence out there that content with rich media ranks higher than content with just the written word.

Use screenshots, images, videos, and self-made images to break up the text and keep things interesting.

4. Keep Reviewing Your Google Analytics

From here, you can learn which content works well and figure out ideas as to why. Then, you can deliver your audience more of what it wants. Over time, you’ll get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.

The more engagement you get, the better your search rankings and the more you will benefit from future Google updates.

It’s Not That Hard to Make Google Happy!

You may not get those explosive results  you see from superstar bloggers. But, you can build a legitimate, thriving business that does awfully well over the long haul.

Start working on your content now so you can reap its benefits later!

Posted in Blogging for Ecommerce, Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies, SEO for eCommerce

What’s the Latest on Google Quality Score?

fortune3-google-quality-score-imageHow hard have you been working on optimizing your Quality Score?

You have been doing this haven’t you?

According to ThinkWithGoogle.com:

Your Quality Score is like a warning light in a car’s engine that shows how healthy your ads and keywords are. It’s not meant to be a detailed metric that is the focus of account management.

I’m sure you’ve read a number of detailed posts that tell you how to change every last bit of the PPC process to maximize your Quality Score.

But according to what Google just said, you shouldn’t be doing that anymore.

Instead, you should just look at it as a general guide.

So what should you be doing these days instead of micromanaging every little detail?

Follow this list:

1. Use Tight Keyword Groupings

In other words, they should all be roughly the same, or a very slight, variation of the primary keyword. If you try to stretch out your ads to include a wide variation of keywords, you get bad CTR rates because the copy isn’t relevant to the searcher.

2. Great Landing Page Experience

What is “great?” It always starts with speed. Now if you think you need a longer landing page, its okay if it loads slower (greater than 2 seconds) as long as visitors can see the initial text long enough.

In general, your landing pages should load in 2 seconds or less on a standard bandwidth internet connection. They also have to be clean, and the call-to-action button has to stand out and be above the fold.

That makes it easy for the user to take your desired action now.

3. Fine-Tune Your Copy Constantly

As your business evolves, you’ll learn what sells to your customers and what doesn’t. Communicate what does in your copy. Hint: very few businesses continue to fine-tune their copy over time (like less than 1%).

In fact, most use the generic copy you get from the manufacturer. In your copy, discuss benefits (solutions to problems) to overcome objections. Use active voice verbs – ones that happen in the now (not the past or future).

If your headline says, “Discount Blinds,” that’s a disinteresting headline to your readers. Use, “Need Discount Blinds?” and your conversions will increase because that’s an emotional headline that piques curiosity.

You could also say, “Discount Blinds – FREE Shipping!” or “Save Money with Discount Blinds.” You never know which approach converts the best, but you can find out through testing.

So that’s the latest on Google Quality score. Do these things, and you’ll be just fine regardless of what Google decides to do.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Pay-Per-Click

8 Awesome Facebook Marketing Secrets You Can Use Now

fortune3-facebook-marketing-secretsAhhh Facebook. What would life be like without it?

Maybe a better question is what would your company’s life be like without it?

Don’t you get a little envious when you see another company with 10,000 or more followers?

What did they do to make that happen?

They did much more than these things, but at least they’re something you can put to use today so you can start winning tomorrow:

1. Boost Posts about New Products

It doesn’t cost very much and can be one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses. Some experts advise not to do it, but for $10, $20, or $50 or so, what can it hurt to try if you already have a dedicated following?

2. Use Audience Insights

This tool allows you to see what your audience actually engages with and likes. You can learn whether you should be posting using photos, what topics work, and the results of your contests.

3. Establish a Brand Voice

You should do this with your website in the first place. But, make sure you do it with your Facebook posts too. Have an official document defining the voice, and train everyone who posts on your page on what they should and should not do.

4. Use Your Facebook Page as Your Business and Not Yourself 

Interact with other businesses that offer products and services similar to what you do. Make positive and helpful comments on highly active pages. Others on those pages may be inspired to visit yours and like it.

5. Promote Testimonials 

Not too many things make your business look better than testimonials – especially ones that discuss the concrete results your business offers. Don’t just write them down, though.

Instead, use photos. And if you really make someone happy, do a video testimonial. Anyway you can promote your business without talking about it yourself is a great way to market.

6. Share Exclusive Content Just for Facebook Fans

Make sure they know it’s just for them only. Appealing to exclusivity is one of the most powerful marketing tactics you can use.

7. Like/Share “Votes”

“Like” this post if you… and “Share” it if you… By using this method, you enhance engagement. After all, when was the last time you saw a Facebook business page do something like this?

8. Create an Offer 

Just go to the “ads create tool” and click “offer claims.” But make sure your offer stays in line with Facebook’s guidelines.

Those are some neat tricks for getting your Facebook marketing efforts off the ground. Give them a try and see what happens.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, Online Marketing Strategies, Social Media For eCommerce

How to Hire the Perfect Employee

fortune3-we-are-hiring-imageSo you just send out an application, do an interview, and then choose the person with the best qualifications, right?

If you use the standard process, you’ll find the standard employee.

And if you hire the wrong guy, that costs your company anywhere from $25,000 – $50,000, says a blog post at Forbes.

What should you look for in an employee? Here are some things to check:

1. Competence/credentials – These are still the most important factor notes that same Forbes blog post. And it makes sense. You gotta have someone who’s been there and done that before to handle the challenges at their new job.

Because you’re most likely a smaller company, you’ll need someone who’s flexible and can handle a number of different workplace challenges.

2. Focus on concrete achievements – Ask your applicant, “Which achievements are you most proud of?” Here, you look for specific, concrete evidence of exactly what the candidate you’re considering has actually done in the past.

3. Culture fit – You’re going to have to spend a lot of time with this other person – do you seem to have a personal connection? A culture fit may be just between you and the other person, but it’s very important to have. You’ll be able to get through difficult work situations with much greater ease.

4. Know their market value and pay above it – With everything in a capitalistic society, you get what you pay for. Know the average salary range for the type of work your employee does, and offer a compensation package above that. The very best employees know their own market value and go after the best-paying jobs.

5. Hire on a probationary basis – This makes it much easier to part ways if things don’t work out. It’s a nice way to test each other out for a few months first.

6. Do a simple test before that – Are you hiring a new sales person? Go with them on a sales call. Hiring a programmer? Have them execute a routine task and see how they do.

7. Have them meet other employees – If you have others on your team, have them meet the new candidate. Instruct your employees to come prepared to pepper the new person with a few questions.

8. Fire quickly once you know you made a mistake – There’s no way to hire the perfect candidate every time. Some CEOs use the rule of “If they’re a good employee and don’t do well in their first position, try them somewhere else. If they don’t do well there, it’s time to part ways.”

Give your employee a fair chance at succeeding, and then let go of them once it’s clear things weren’t meant to be.

If you follow those 8 tips, you will over time build a highly successful team.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To

Consumer Psychology 101: Why People Buy

fortune3-consumer-psychology-imageEveryone buys based on their emotions…but how does the process work?

Professional copywriters know how to influence consumer’s buying decisions so they buy now and more frequently.

If you can learn how to market your website and write copy effectively, you can boost your sales over the competition’s significantly.

How do consumer emotions typically work?

Here are some pointers to get you going in the right direction:

1. What’s Their Personality? 

This is why you create a customer persona document. You need to have at least a basic understanding of who they are. Are they the impulsive type who likes to buy based on flash and glamour?

Or are they more conservative, weighing all their options and making the best decision when all factors have been considered? Maybe they want to find the best deal possible. Or, maybe they purchase long-term based on value.

Figure out who they are so you can learn how to sell to them.

2. What’s Their Motivation for Buying? 

Take a look at an easy one. If you sell flower arrangements, you might be selling to men who need to impress their wives on an anniversary or birthday.

Maybe their the type that likes to be recognized. So you have to sell them clothes and accessories designed especially for drawing attention.

3. Norms in Their Social Circles

In some workplaces, you must have an iPhone to even have a chance of fitting in. You have to also know the bigger picture of your customer’s social environment.

Once you know what everyone else in their social circles does, then you can also sell to them based on their desire to fit in with others.

4. A Few Different Tactics 

You can use the foot-in-the-door technique, which is where you get your customers to buy something very small. Then, as they get familiar with your business, you show them additional products at higher price ranges.

You can also use the opposite – the door-in-the-face technique. Here, you attempt to make a big sale to your customer right away. Once they react in horror at your request, you sell them something smaller.

You can also give them the freedom of choice so they can feel empowered.

5. Here’s A Really Slick Technique

And it’s completely honest. It’s actually on a blog for restaurant owners, but the tactic works anywhere. It’s so easy – anyone can do it. Research done at Cornell University showed prices without the dollar sign on them result in 8% more sales.

The believed reasoning is that when you see $99.99, you subconsciously get ready to pay. So you’re thinking,”Aw crap, I gotta shuck out $100.” By leaving the dollar sign off, your customers don’t do that.

Give it a try and A/B test your results to see what it does at your website.

Above All, Do Be Ethical 

When selling, you can do practically whatever you want and not face any legal consequences for it (depending on your product/service). But, it still comes back to bite you.

If you sell someone something they won’t find of value, they’ll think less of you when they find out they don’t need it. Or, they’ll just forget about you entirely.

Sell people what they want at a reasonable price, and you build a great reputation that spreads far and wide.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

Why You Need to Focus on Link Earning, Not Link Building

It’s pretty likely we’ll see Penguin 3.0 here in 2014, says Google’s John Mueller. That’s bad news for people who’ve been manipulating the search rankings. And it’s still kind of scary for you if you’ve been doing white-hat SEO because even a single link with optimized anchor text could get you in the penalty box.

There’s no doubt Penguin will cause some trouble here in the near future, and it’s hard to say whether or not it’ll affect you.

Most of those “built” links, the ones where either you or your SEO team manually created the link on someone else’s site, are no good anymore.

What you need to focus on is “link earning.”

But there’s more to earning links than just creating heroically useful content. In fact, if you just create the content and don’t promote it, you’ll get barely any links at all.

So how do you “earn” links so you have a 100% natural link profile that doesn’t irk Google?

First, Understanding Link Earning and SEO 

Too many businesses get caught up on the “technical stuff” that makes up SEO. Keywords, alt tags, anchor text, page load times – those are important.

But, the technical stuff isn’t as important as what SEO’s really all about: providing value.

The most valuable sites on the web get the most visitors, social shares, and business. They provide absolutely the best content you can possibly find…anywhere.

In an ideal internet world, people would stumble upon your website, read your content, think it’s awesome, and then link to it.

And that does happen. But if you don’t promote, it happens at a snail’s pace, which makes it so slow that your business never gets off the ground.

So, you have to accelerate that process somehow.

And here are some ways to do get word about your content out:

1. Find blog posts with lots of shares and write even better posts. People usually write posts that go something like “7 ways to…” You can easily top them by doing “57 ways to…” Then, you go to http://www.opensiteexplorer.org, type in the URL of that blog post, and see who’s linking to it. You contact the linking sites, tell them about your updated post, and ask for a link. You get a 5-10% response or so, but they’re all awesome-quality links.

2. Do an expert roundup. These are awesome link generators. Contact 100-150 people in your niche and ask for their opinion on a question. Tell them you’ll give them a link in return. You’ll get 30-40 responses or so. Many of those experts will link to your expert roundup.

The nice thing about link earning strategies is these links come about in the way Google intends. They’re 100% natural – and you’ll never get penalized because of them.

Google changes its algorithm 300-500 times per year, so having links that’ll never get you in trouble is huge for your long-term SEO health.

Enjoy your good (and safe) search rankings!

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

How to Accelerate Your E-Commerce Store’s Growth

It seems like all those big e-commerce stores grew up over night, didn’t they? You know that’s not the truth, but it sure appears like that’s the case.

So maybe the growth didn’t happen immediately, but they certainly did experience some rapid growth spurts.

What have other e-commerce stores done that you haven’t yet?

Try these tips:

1. Build Partnerships

Walmart is trying to accelerate its e-commerce growth through acquisitions. You may have the capital to do that at a smaller scale. But you definitely could build partnerships.

What products and services do you have the infrastructure to offer that could help someone else’s business out? How could they benefit you?

Find a match, and you may be able to accelerate the growth for both of your companies.

2. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

It’s still somewhat of an obscure term, but CRO will catch on more here in 2014. So rather than just sitting there and watching your web pages, start testing them to see what layouts convert the best.

Do pages with more videos convert better than those without? If you write your own copy (versus using the manufacturer’s), does that make a difference? What happens on pages optimized for specific keywords?

How should the call-to-action be implemented?

Test all your pages, and when you find a winning template, use it on your product pages. Make sure you keep testing too because your visitors can become “blind” to the new format after a few months.

3. Think about Adding Instagram as a Social Network to Get Active On

The Instagram of 2014 is much like Pinterest in 2013. It’s still largely undiscovered, but many companies have grown from relative obscurity into established multimillion dollar powerhouses.

Think about getting active on there too if you’re not already.

4. Build Relationships with 3PLs

If you’re really growing rapidly, you may need logistics help. However, finding a good vendor takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re anticipating serious growth, get to know different 3PLs. And if you are growing rapidly, it’s not too late to hire outside help.

5. Sell Goods Available Only Online

If you sell products also available offline, you encounter the problem of increased competition. That kills your margins. And then it’s difficult, if not almost impossible, to provide good service.

6. Use Email Marketing

You won’t see anyone on major tech blogs trumpeting how you should use email marketing. It’s an old, humble tool for growing your business. But even though that’s the case, it’s still one of the most effective digital marketing methods, and possibly the highest-ROI one of all.

Keep Trying Until You Find What Works!

Very simply stated, business is doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t. If your store isn’t growing at the rate you want, try these tips. You might just find it finally takes off after all your hard work up to this point.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, How To, Online Marketing Strategies

Would You Like to Cash in on M-Commerce?

fortune3-mcommerce-imageOkay, so it’s no secret that mobile e-commerce grows at an incredible rate. But just what is that rate?

E-marketer estimated $262.3 billion in sales for 2013 (according to Forbes). By 2017, they expect that number to be around $440 billion. That equates to an annual growth rate of 13.8%!

So what should you do to make sure you maximize  your revenue during that time? A few tips:

1. Your Site Has to Look Good on Mobile, and Similar to Your Parent Site

In many cases, you can just use a responsive site. In others, and especially if you have a larger site, it makes sense to have an entirely separate mobile version. If you go that route, make sure all the sites are similar (if not exactly the same) in design so customers have a consistent brand experience.

2. Optimize Image Sizes

Cellular broadband connections still aren’t nearly as fast as their wired counterparts. You must have a beautiful design and you should have gorgeous product images. But, you also have to keep their file sizes as small as possible. A few tenths of a second do make a difference in the number of online sales you make.

3. You Should Have a Help/FAQ Section

Most websites have this, but many mobile e-commerce sites are guilty of leaving these sections out of their site. If you force them to go to a desktop version of your help/FAQ section, they’ll be less likely to actually browse through it because it won’t be as easy to use on a mobile device.

That’ll definitely cost you some sales.

4. Test Your Design on All Mobile Operating Systems 

This tip seems fairly common-sense, but designs and coding are unpredictable, if nothing else. For example, Android 2.1 doesn’t support the background-size CSS property. And that causes headaches when it comes to sizing images.

You never know what could go wrong, so make sure you test your design out on all major mobile phone operating systems.

5. Set Different Portrait and Landscape Text Sizes

Why does this make any sense to do? Well, when people turn their phones from portrait view to landscape view, what they really want is larger text – not longer lines. You generally want a size around 14 pixels.

6. Use Collapsible Navigation with a Single-Column Layout 

It’s almost imperative to use a single-column layout. People’s fingers are simply too large to navigate more than one column on a single smartphone screen. Collapsing your initial menus makes them all easy to see right away on the home screen.

Enjoy Your Profits!

Mobile commerce is all about user experience. If you follow these tips, you certainly will do all right as e-commerce grows in the future.

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips, mCommerce, Online Marketing Strategies

How (And Why) to Write Perfect Buyer Personas

How would you like to dramatically increase your sales?

Well, that’s what buyer persona documents help you do!

To understand why they work, consider this metaphor. So you’re throwing darts, trying to hit a target. While you have a vague sense of where the target is, you’re not sure of its exact location. Maybe it’s a little dark, or you don’t have your contacts on.

You’ll certainly score decently, but you’d score much higher if it was light outside or you had your contacts on, right?

Buyer personas are the target. What they are is documents that describe in intense detail who your buyer is. That way, when you market, you can create messaging that resonates with that particular kind of buyer.

If you don’t know who’s buying from you or why, you can still market, but it makes sense your efforts won’t be nearly as effective, right?

How to Create Personas

Large corporations have detailed buyer personas created that have come from years of marketing research. How do you, a much smaller business, create the same?

Here are some tips:

1. Start Broad

First, let’s say you sell athletic supplies like baseballs, gloves, and custom team jerseys. You have a few different buyers:

1. Schools
2. Kids and young adults
3. Private athletic clubs

2. Now, Get Further into the Detail

But what detail should you use? Well, fortunately, a ton of it is right in front you in Facebook. When you go to set up Facebook Ads, the more of those details you can enter, the better.

Here’s a brief list of some of those details – go to Facebook Ads for the rest:

• Location
• Age
• Gender
• Interests
• Income level
• Relationship status
• Buying motivation
• Buying concerns

You don’t need to fill in all of those details right away. And some of them may not apply to any of your customer segments at all. But, the more of that information you can get in exquisite detail, the better.

Tools to Use

If you already are active with your web store on the internet, you should have some good data available in:

• Facebook Insights
• Google Analytics Audience Reports
• Phone conversations with your customers
• Surveys

If you’re not already up and running, examine your competition. Look at the particularly big companies because they’ve probably already invested a fair amount of money in their marketing research.

Look at the type of products they sell, their price ranges, the messaging they use in their copy, and the comments they get on their Facebook pages.

There’s No Easy Answers Out There…

When it comes to business, it’s up to you to find solutions to your market’s problems. These steps help you identify buyer personas, and once you understand those, you can laser-target your marketing and supercharge your ROI.

 

Posted in Ecommerce Essentials & Tips