Part 7 of 9 : Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is the granddaddy of them all.  This is the one internet marketing avenue everyone wishes and strives to achieve.  For those of you who don’t know what SEO is, basically, it is optimizing your web page so that when people search various search engines like Google and Yahoo, they get your site.

First thing you needs to understand is how a search engine finds your page and how it evaluates it.  There is nowhere near enough manpower for a human to come to every site Google lists and take a look to figure out what it is about.  So, a computer has to perform that task (the program is called a web crawler).

Now, contrary to popular belief, computers are stupid.  They are only as smart as the programming (or instructions) given to them.  So, they cannot take a look at your page and infer what it is about from the graphics or implications on the site.  Really the only way a computer program has to determine what is on your page is to collect links and text, figure out what appears most frequent and then display it when those words are entered in a search.

So, you can see that it is very important to have the correct words appearing on your web page in order to steer people to it when those words are typed into a search engine.  The truth is, all a search engine does is display pages that have words and phrases similar to the one you typed in.

Now, there are other criteria that a search site uses to determine which pages should be displayed first.  This includes the number of hits on your page (page rank or PR to Google), how many other sites are linked to your site and some other things.

The long and the short of it is that if you have an optimized page, that displays to people when they type in related keywords, you will start getting traffic to your site without working too hard (after the initial work to get it there) and without much cost (actually any cost).  That’s why this is the holy grail of internet marketing and why companies pay handsome sums to SEO professionals to get them to the top of search engine listings.

Part 6 of 9 : Social Media

The jury on the social media sites as a marketing tool is still up in the air.  Although I did talk about how well facebook allows you to target very specific demographics, when I refer to social media, I mean opening a ‘fan’ page and trying to get sales and exposure through it.  I am not talking about paying the social media network for exposure.

Although it is fun to post all of your newest creations, products or updates on what you are doing, I have found that few (if any) people that stop by my online shop care enough to like my page on facebook.  In addition, I have also found that very few of my followers on facebook take action when new items are posted for sale in the shop.

This may have to do with the fact that some people seem to ‘like’ just about anything on social media, it may stem from sites like facebook starting to filter the information that is presented to you based upon what you seem to have clicked on in the past and tossing the remainder away, or it could simply be that when asked, people will choose to like your page, but, aren’t really all that interested in the end.

For all the marketing I have done for my shop (which has a link to the facebook page) I can track 90% of the people who ‘like’ my shop back to less than 5 of my friends who encouraged them all to join.

Admittedly, I may not completely understand what to place on my social media page and therefore not be taking full advantage of it.  So, I reserve the right to change my opinion of social media and the benefits of having a business page.

Part 5 of 9 : Relentless Self Promotion

This method of advertising your site, I have found, is one of the cheapest and most effective, yet, extremely time consuming and you may not make friends with the sites you use to spread the word.

The world of the internet has many, many, many sites, blogs, message boards, social media sites and more.  Those sites have people viewing topics, posting and otherwise browsing.  If those people came across a comment, a blog, a posting or any mention of your web page, there is a chance that they may be compelled to visit.  If they like what they see, maybe they will turn into a customer.  So, if you continually contribute (by posting or commenting) to any of these sites that pertain (even remotely) to your business, it is likely that someone will eventually stop by and use your site.

As I mentioned, there are a couple of pitfalls to doing this.  The first one is that it takes a heroic effort (time wise) on your part to advertise this way.  I would estimate at least 4-5 hours per day just perusing blogs or message boards so that you can contribute something meaningful to the discussion and work in exposure to your web site.  The exposure part is the second pitfall.

Many site operators, bloggers, message forum moderators, etc., don’t like to see posts specifically designed to advertise a web site.  In fact, in most cases if you do something like that, the post will be deleted and your access to that place will be removed.  As mentioned, you will need to work your site name and URL into the conversation in a backhanded way that actually contributes to the conversation.  Including it in your signature (at the end of a post) or referencing it as part of the conversation (while on topic) are both great ways to insure that your web site appears to other people.  I would be very careful about including it in every post you make (if not in your signature file).

This method worked very well in the early days of the internet.  It has lost some of its effectiveness now because moderators have gotten wise to people hawking their site in the middle of their message forums.  People who come to the site to read postings don’t want to be accosted by ads every other message.  Please keep that in mind when trying to perfect this method of advertising your site.

Part 4 of 9 : Banner Exchange Networks

Banner exchange networks are networks of sites that display member site banners in exchange for having their banner displayed on other member sites.  These ‘networks’ are basically sites that say, ‘I will show yours if you show mine’.

Although these networks are typically free, they usually have ratios of 2:1 or worse.  That means that you have to show two banners on your site for every one of yours shown on another site.  That really isn’t all that big of a problem as long as you have traffic coming to your site.  If you don’t have any significant visits to your site, you aren’t going to save up enough credit to get your ads displayed on other sites.

It is difficult to track actions through these networks.  Often times site owners would have a difficult time ascertaining if they are getting any sales or action through banner exchange networks.  Although the network stats will tell you how many ‘clicks’ there were on your banner and how many times it was displayed on the network, many of these exchange networks won’t specifically allow you to target a group of sites that perform well for you.  They also won’t tell you which sites those are.  A lot of that is probably due to the fact that they are free.  You get what you pay for.

All in all banner exchange networks are a way to toss some advertising for your site out on the internet, but, don’t expect too much activity in return.  Plus, your site will then need to be cluttered up with advertisements.  Those advertisements often look and feel cheap.

Part 3 of 9 : Advertising on a Specific Web Site

Most (if not all) web sites are more than happy to take your money in exchange for placing an advertisement on their page.  There is no hard and fast rule about how much a site should charge for advertising.  It is completely up to the site.  It is your responsibility to determine if the price you are paying is economical.

Part of what would determine ‘economical’ is if you are reaching your target audience.  If you are paying to reach a group of people that are not in your target audience, you may be wasting valuable advertising dollars.  Even if your target audience is a subset of the group you are reaching, you are still likely paying for exposures that are not helping you sell products or drive people to your site.

Sites with highly configurable controls on who your ads are exposed to and who can identify those people are in high demand for advertisers.  Keep in mind that for the most part a person can be anonymous online if they so choose.  Someone who doesn’t want people to know they are a male could take on a persona of a female.  This doesn’t just apply to chat room stalkers.  Many people are very concerned about their internet anonymity.

One site that has a pretty good idea of the demographics of their users is Facebook.  Facebook is actually a very good place to advertise.  Since the point of the site is to connect people with others that they know, much of the information is typically truthful.  As an advertiser you can therefore accurately target a subsection of the population.  In fact, since Facebook gathers information on people’s ‘likes’ you should even be able to target people who ‘like’ things similar to your site.  Of course the large population size on Facebook combined with the accurate and specific targeting methods is certain to cost money.  There are many sites that don’t have that kind of control or volume that may be much less expensive.

Advertising on specific web sites is something that will take some trial and error.  You will have to test out a site for a week or a month to see what kind of increased volume you get and how that translates into sales.

Part 2 of 9 : Target Audience

The most important thing when spending time or money on advertising your site is that you know who you want to advertise to.  Are you looking to reach women aged 18-35?  Are you trying to market to kids, aged 8-14?  Do you want to show ads to people who live in Atlanta, GA, own a home and make more than $100,000 per year?  The more specific you can be about your target audience, the more bang you can get for your advertising dollar (or your time).

So, the question is, how do you know who you want to reach?  There is no simple answer.  Much of the time you can get an idea by who has purchased things in the past, who stops by your booth at a craft fair or who you feel would benefit most from your product, page or service.  In addition, you can do research or even take survey’s.

Let’s say you are running a web site that evaluates restaurants in your area, posts a menu, reviews and offers a phone number or makes online reservations.  You are going to want to reach people that eat out.  That would likely mean fairly affluent individuals.  You also wouldn’t want to waste time with children as they don’t typically make buying decisions on what restaurant you are going to go to.  In doing some research, you find that 72% of the dining decisions are made by the female of the family.  So, now you can reduce the size of your target audience further.

Once you have determined what segment of a population you wish to reach, you can start to shop for places to advertise online.

Internet Advertising Part 1 of 9 : Introduction

Today begins a nine part blogricle (my own creation for a multi-part article posted on a blog) focusing on Internet Advertising.  After writing my article on Etsy vs. Artfire, I realized that there was a very large part of running a successful web site that I had really not touched on.  That is Internet Advertising.

When I say internet advertising, I am actually not talking about getting your products or site to pop up in a search on Etsy or a search on Artfire.  I am talking about getting your shop or site to popup when someone types ‘gold ring’ into Google.  I am also talking about showing a banner on someone’s site.  Basically, when I think of ‘internet advertising’ I think about driving someone to your shop or site who doesn’t know you exist and is just browsing the internet or doing a search for something they are looking for.

First, let me qualify my experience.  I opened a web site in 2001.  The site is a subscription site (basically people who like it and want to stay must pay a subscription fee to belong).  It is still open today.  In addition, I have a BBA in marketing, granted that was long before this ‘internet’ thing was around, however, many of the underlying concepts apply.  In 2010 I decided to start Berkshire Bowls.  This was a departure of sorts for me because I was selling a product rather than a service as I was with my first venture.

I have been marketing my site(s) for 10+ years with the least amount of expenditure.  Over that time I have found a number of outlets that have provided various levels of success.

I have always been willing to try something out that doesn’t sound like a total scam and just a way to get my contact information or other vital data.  So, there are some unique avenues to get the word out here.  I have found that many of these solutions boil down to one thing, the balance of time vs. money.  If you are willing to spend a lot of money to advertise your site, you will probably have some success.  If you have a lot of time and don’t get frustrated, you can also achieve success.

The Joys of Etsy vs. Artfire (Part II: Traffic)

Today, we have the second installment of my two part article on the comparison between Etsy and Artfire.  Enjoy! …and thank you for reading!

There is another aspect to the Etsy vs. Artfire debate.  That is exposure.  Truth be told, everything on the internet (as in a store front) is about how many people see your goods.  How many people walk through the door to your virtual shop and take a look at what you have.  On the internet, you want to insure that your shop comes up when someone searches for a product you are offering.  This is one of the places that Etsy and Artfire differ.

Etsy requires buyers and sellers to have accounts on the site and controls purchases quite different than Artfire.  In my experience, the majority of people stopping by your shop on Etsy are other sellers.  In fact, I would hazard a guess that more than 50% of the users on Etsy are store owners on the site (I would even guess higher, like 70%).  There is an art to getting your items to appear high on the results list when someone searches for something you have in your shop.  Etsy is much more keyword based.  Meaning, the description of your product matters very little.  It is all about what keywords you use to describe your product.

If you add the right keywords, your products should start showing up where you intend.  I have found that Etsy isn’t incredibly great at ranking your shop high on web search engines, however.  Since your description doesn’t matter that much (or at all) to Etsy and their search, you are passed over when Google or other engines search your item listings.  Search engines like Google pay attention to the content of the page and don’t care about keywords.  So, while you can have success when Etsy searches your shop, you will not have success unless you optimize your item descriptions with major search engines.

Artfire on the other hand searches as a web search engine would.  It will focus on the page text of each item, not keywords.  While this is a much more universally accepted way to search a web page, it takes a lot of work to phrase your item description correctly.  The payoff, however, should be exposure.  Not only will you rank high in Artfire searches, but, you will also rank higher in web search engine searches.  That should drive additional people to your page.

Since Artfire also does not require buyers to have an account with the site, you may pick up additional sales from people that would be turned off to the idea of signing up for an account.

So, while Etsy has a large community of users (mostly shop owners), Artfire seemingly has a wider range of buyers.  Everyone on the web is one.  That same community on Etsy offers some avenues for exposure, but, at the same time really only exposes your shop to the Etsy community and doesn’t work particularly hard at sending it out to the world at large.

If you have the time to spend learning the ins and outs of internet marketing and you feel your shop will do a significant volume of business, Artfire is the host for you.  If on the other hand you want to open up a shop, want to get quickly on your feet and don’t really expect huge volume (at least to start) then Etsy is probably more to your liking.

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Joys of Etsy vs. Artfire (Part I: Fees)

For those of you who don’t know, Etsy is a web site designed for crafters and collectors of vintage material to open a shop and sell their goods.  I would say that Etsy and another site called Artfire are your two major players in this market.  They both offer distinctly different seller experiences.

Etsy’s pay structure (and rules of conduct) are much more variable that Artfire.  On Etsy, you are not charged to open a shop.  If you are content to open a shop and never spend any money, you are perfectly welcome to leave your shop blank and not pay a dime.  Etsy starts to make its money when you start listing items for sale in your shop.  The site charges you $0.20 per item listed.  This includes if you list the quantity greater than 1.  In other words, if you list a wiget and have 3 listed in your quantity, you pay $0.60. While that doesn’t sound like much on the surface, consider that your listing only lasts 4 months, then it is removed and you must pay another $0.20 to list for another 4 months.  This can start to add up quickly.  That is especially true if you have trouble finding your market or your pricing is too high.  Items in your shop won’t sell, thereby simply causing your costs to rise and your revenue to remain 0.

In addition to the $0.20 listing free that Etsy charges, they also take 3.5% of the item’s sale price as well.  If you sell a $100 ring, you end up getting $96.50.  Again, not a sum that will break the bank by any means, but, it is something that needs to be considered when evaluating the site to host your shop.

Artfire on the other hand charges shops a flat fee of $12.95 per month.  You may have as many items in your shop as you would like and all the money that you make from a sale is yours to keep.

So, you can see that $12.95 is the break even point.  If you average $12.95 or more on Etsy in fees and charges, it is more beneficial to have your shop on Artfire.  Sort of.

Part II: Traffic later in the week

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 10:18 am  Comments (2)  
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Berkshire Bowls Web Site Up

The Berkshire Bowls web site has been launched! Although we are gradually filling in all the various sections, http://www.berkshirebowls.com is alive.

We have a links section, the gallery, and a link to our shop up and running. Keep checking for more additions!

Published in: on February 20, 2012 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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