Amy is the co-founder of ZippyCart. She went to school for film in Cleveland, Ohio and ended up working in the field of viral video marketing, which eventually led her to her real profession: SEO. When she's not writing for ZippyCart, she can be found out and about Seattle, WA. Website:
Amy has written 218 articles so far, you can find them below.
Part 6 in a Series of SEO Tips for Ecommerce Success
Last week, I published part 5 in this series of SEO tips for merchants entitled 13 Ecommerce Link Building Tactics for Your Online Store. While link building is extremely important when it comes to optimizing your storefront to be found in search engines, there are some methods of getting links that shouldn’t be touched with a 10 foot pole. This is because some link building tactics are viewed as spam and can harm your brand credibility among your colleagues as well as with Google and other search engines. As such, some types of link building can do far more harm than good. Because of this, I’m concluding this series with 13 ecommerce link building tactics that you should avoid at all costs.
Very Bad Link Building Ideas:
1. Forum Spamming: There are hundreds of thousands of forums all over the Internet, and they exist so that members can get answers to questions, find help with problems, share their knowledge, and discuss topics they find interesting. Forums do not exist for you to build links to your website. That said, many people view forums as a great way to gain links, because almost all forums let you include a keyword rich anchor link in your signature line. This is all well and good if you are participating in the forum regularly. If, on the other hand, you join the forum simply for links, then you’ll give yourself away fast, as most people who join a forum just for links end up doing the following types of forum spam:
Adding tons of links in their signature line (really, 2 looks a little too much so why do more?)
Only commenting on posts where they can add a link
Commenting on posts with one or two words like “For Real!” or “I Agree,” just so that they can get a link
Commenting like crazy one day, then forgetting about the Forum going forward now that links have been gained
2. Blog Spamming: Blog spamming is very similar to forum spamming. This is when someone posts a comment on a blog just to get the link. These are the people that don’t read posts and just add a random comment in hopes that it will be approved and they will get links. On ZippyCart, we get about 5 of these a day (thanks to spam filters that keep most of these out). Here’s one I deleted this morning: “You highlight this controversial subject well, I do concur thank you.” This was in regards to a post that had absolutely no controversy entitled “Music Sites to Use While Operating Your Online Store.”
Another way to spam a blog is by reading through a post entirely, commenting on the post, but including a long link to a spam website in the comment URL field. When this happens on ZippyCart, we approve the comment, but delete the link. I don’t know why, but for some reason we just aren’t fans of linking to sites about Viagra [sarcasm intended].
Most bloggers will not approve spam comments, and even if they do, they will likely include the “nofollow” attribute in all comment links. So, if you want to get links from blogs, don’t waste your time spamming a bunch of blogs in hopes that 1 out of 10 will give you a link. Instead, find a few that you are willing to read loyally, comment only when a story is worth commenting on and share relevant information when you comment (don’t just post a few words). Get to know the blog author(s) by making your comments conversational and just maybe they’ll give you a blog roll link down the road or let you add a link in the context of the comment rather than just the comment URL field.
3. Email Spamming: This is probably one of the worst ways to get inbound links, especially if you are using software to automate the process. Email spamming is when you send hundreds of people emails saying “I have linked to you, now here is the code to link to me.” Or just “I saw your site and would like to request a link.” Anyone sending hundreds of these out at once will need to automate the process, and this is where it becomes spam. When hundreds are sent out at once, there is nothing personal about them and can be spotted as spam from a mile away. If you have found some websites that you want links from, then reach out to them in a way that is personal and not pushy. Send an email explaining what you like about their site and how you think that your site would be a good resource for their viewers. Be sure to call out specifics about their website so that they know that you are personally writing the email. Also, if you can find the name of a person to email, then include their name in the salutation rather than a simple “Hi.” Finally, if they don’t respond, follow up only once. Do not get pushy and do not harass them. The fact is, not too many people will respond, so this old school link building tactic might be best kept in the past.
4. Participating in Link Farms: A link farm is a website that has hundreds of links on every page and lets you buy your way in. Google has red flagged these sites, so just stay away from them. It’s as simple as that.
5. Link Exchanges: 2-way and 3-way link exchanges can be spotted from a mile away by any smart search engine, which means Google, Yahoo and Bing (or Binghoo since they now share results). In the infographic that I posted “Understanding Google PageRank” I show that link exchanges cancel each other out. Since then, I’ve received some comments asking if this was really true, because surely Google can’t ding you for linking to a reputable site that also links to you. This is true, Google won’t ding you if you’re a reputable site linking to another reputable site, but if you’re participating in a link exchange program, then they’ll notice. As you can see in the Google PageRank Infographic, the sites participating in link exchanges are not necessarily high quality.
Link exchanges generally include sites that have little, if anything, to do with each other, trading links for the purpose of optimization only. This is why it gets spammy, because the audience of either site won’t benefit from the link. Now, if you want to get a link from a site similar to yours and you also want to link to them, search engines will be able to tell the difference between that and spam. That said, you should still consider linking to different pages on their site than the pages that have links to you because this keeps PageRank flowing through your sites better. This is what the Infographic is intended to mean when it says that the “you vote for me and I’ll vote for you” method cancels out the votes.
Example: If my site has pages A,B,C and yours has pages 1,2,3 then consider doing the following when exchanging links (again, these links should be helpful to the users of each respective site): A links to 1 and 3 links to B. If A links to 1 and 1 links to A, and you both have similar PageRank, then the link juice exchanged will be similar as well, which (in a sense) cancels itself out. So for better flow of PageRank, consider the method described above.
6. Buying Links: While there are some in the SEO industry that say buying links is fine, all will admit that this is a gray hat tactic at best. The problem with buying links is simple: Big Brother Google knows who’s selling links for the most part, so they know your buying. While some companies have found a way to get around this, the fact remains that all of the easy and affordable ways to buy links are likely known by search engines already, so why waste your money?
7. Using the Wrong Directories: In my last post, I discussed using directories to gain inbound links, but stressed that you should only use the best directories out there. The fact is, there are thousands of directories that want you to pay to get listed. Avoid these directories because most of them (not all, but most), will bury your link on a page so deep in their website that search engines won’t crawl it and they will add links from any site that will pay them.
What are the best directories you ask? JoeAnt, DMOZ, Yahoo, Business.com, Best of the Web, Gimpsy, GoGuides, Skaffe, and WebSavvy are all great. Beyond that, if you find directories related to your niche (and your niche only), then these are great options for submitting your site to as well.
8. Award Programs Without Credibility: Award programs are a great way to get inbound links, but only if you are a site with a reputation that people would want a reward from you. An example of an award program is the SEMMYS, which give awards out to a variety of bloggers and website owners based on quality of their sites. Anyone who receives a SEMMY can post the SEMMY badge on their website, which includes a link back to the SEMMYS.org site.
So how did this award system gain credibility? Well, the SEMMYS have a committee of 8 people who provide awards in a non-bias way to start, they are not selling anything, and based on their nominees, it’s clear that their standards are quite high. While an award system is a great way to get links, it’s clear that there needs to be value behind any award given, which can only occur if you have the credibility and reputation to make it happen.
Two quick asides:
If you would like to create a credible awards program, talk to Larry Sivitz at SearchWrite, he has had much success in this arena and is a great SEO to work with.
9. Social Spamming: This involves social networks, social sharing sites, and social bookmarking sites. No matter what you do, do not create multiple accounts on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. just so that you can retweet, re-stumble, re-digg, or re-post your content multiple times. Besides the risk of getting banned from these sites, people will eventually figure out that you’re doing this and you and your brand will lose credibility.
10. Creating Controversy by Being a Jerk: The fact is, people love drama, which is why controversy gets a lot of attention and a lot of links online. There are funny and light-hearted ways to create controversy, like The Chive recently did with their Girl Quits Her Job hoax, or there are rude and mean-hearted ways to create controversy like Jason Gambert (notice that the link doesn’t go to him or anything he owns, as most SEOs have kept from sending him links).
While being a jerk may get you some links, in the end you have put your reputation on the line for a possible bump in Google, which won’t matter if your brand can’t be trusted.
11. Hiding Links in Text: This isn’t gray hat, this is simply old school black hat SEO. Don’t show one thing to a search engine and another to your users, because this is the first step in getting removed from a search engine’s index. In other words, don’t hide links and don’t allow someone to link to you that is hiding your links. Especially if they are hiding those links in text (links that look just like regular text), because they won’t get clicked on and if they do, the user will feel duped which deteriorates any trust he/she could have gained in your brand.
12. Buying Hundreds of Domains To Get Links From: This is an old tactic that does nothing but waste time. Every once in awhile, someone gets fed up with link building and has an “Aha” moment that should be avoided. This is the moment when that person thinks “I need 100 links, so I’ll just launch 100 sites and link to my one site from them.” Choosing to do this requires a great deal of time, because if you launch 100 sites, they better all be unique and have a good amount of unique content. Also, since they’ll be brand new, their links won’t hold much value. So, to grow value for the links, you’ll have to let the sites gain history in search engines and you’ll have to get inbound links to those sites so that they build PageRank. As you can see, this tactic takes your problem of finding links for 1 site and multiples it by 100.
13. Too Many Non-Related Sites: As mentioned in number 5, most link exchange campaigns give you links from sites not related to yours. This is a problem because these links don’t hold much value to you, especially if you get links from hundreds (if not thousands) of them at once. Search engines take into account who is linking to you and whether or not they are related to your industry. The more links you get from common sites the better, because it shows that websites in your industry find you to be a credible resource. If you can’t get websites in your industry to link to you, and instead have an abnormal amount of unrelated sites linking to you, then a red flag goes up for search engines. Don’t go out of your way to get a link from a site that doesn’t target your audience. If you have thousands of links and 5-10% are from non-related sites, then you should be find, but try not to go above that.
Clearly these ideas aren’t “bad” because they lack creativity (since they’re pretty darn creative), but they are worth avoiding so that you can maintain your credibility, gain trust from your customers, and build your brand with confidence.
Finding the right e-commerce solution to power your online store can be a daunting task, especially when there are so many affordable solutions with the same basic feature set. Because of this, we put together the infographic above, which details the minimum features that make the best e-commerce solutions stand out from the crowd. When reviewing e-commerce software, you should expect some bare necessities like an online admin panel, the ability to customize portions of your storefront, the ability to accommodate one currency, an email account, the ability to sell down-loadable products, etc.
While these bare necessities will help you start selling online fast, they will not lead you to success. Many e-commerce solution providers understand that merchants need to focus on selling and not spend their time setting up a clunky system. Because of this, additional tools are included to make the management of your online store a breeze. These features include marketing tools, product and inventory management, easy design tools, FedEx, UPS, and USPS integration (for real-time shipping rates), control over tax rules, and basic tech support.
While all of the features listed above are very helpful, some e-commerce solutions go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that you remain ahead of the competition. This is where the best e-commerce software solutions come in, and the features they offer make them great options for any merchant that wants to sell online full time. These unique and optimal features include the ability to add a blog to your online store, email marketing integration, affiliate management tools, full access to HTML and CSS for 100% customizable design, highly intuitive design tools for those that do not know code, Facebook integration and other social commerce tools, mobile commerce tools, shopping feed integration, PCI/PA-DSS compliance (or both), an included SSL, and superior customer support… to name a few.
Review the infographic above which details the bare minimum requirements you should expect from some of the best e-commerce software solutions. If you’re ready to start comparing solutions and looking for somewhere to start, then two great solutions with all of these features and very low monthly costs include 3dcart and CoreCommerce.
Amazon slowly exhausted their supply of their extremely popular second generation Kindle ereader in order to release the new third generation Kindle for pre-order at the end of July. However it did not take very long for Amazon to also sell out of the new Kindle, as by August 3 they were already sold out. Those early purchasers of the third generation Kindle ereader will be soon getting their hands on the device, as it is reported that Amazon will begin shipping both versions of the new Kindle this Friday. The new third-generation Kindle is much lighter than older models, and it also has double the storage capacity. It is being sold in a Wi-Fi + 3G version for $189 and a Wi-Fi only version for $139, and these attractive price points are driving consumers to upgrade their existing ereader or make the jump in the ebook world by purchasing their very first ereader.
Those consumers now interested in purchasing the new Kindle 3 will have to wait almost a month, as the shipment date for new orders has slipped to September 17 for those just now ordering the device. With the holiday shopping season approaching, it is unclear what is going on behind the scenes at Amazon that will allow them to meet potential high volumes of Kindle orders starting in November. Last year during the holiday shopping season, Amazon and Barnes and Noble both had inventory issues because of high demand, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the forth quarter this year.
Part 5 in an Series of SEO Tips for Ecommerce Success
Last week, in this SEO Series, I discussed and defined Google’s PageRank and explained its importance when it comes to gaining traffic to your online store. This post, entitled Understanding Google PageRank to Optimize Your Online Store, detailed the in’s and out’s of Google’s elusive 0-10 score in a PageRank Infographic followed by a guide to better understand this metric within the Google algorithm. The point of this post was simple: show why gaining inbound links to your website is an important step in ecommerce success. Inbound links are links pointing to your website from external websites throughout the web. Gaining inbound links is considered a priority in search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, some SEO’s believe that link building should be at least 60% of your overall SEO strategy. Beyond just affecting PageRank, inbound links can also give you relevancy in search engines for certain keywords, provided those keywords are in the anchor text of your link. Links also have the added benefit of driving traffic to your site from other websites, which means sending you more customers. Clearly, links hold a great deal of value, but how do you get them? The fact of the matter is, every industry is different, which makes the methods for getting links different as well. While the methods below may work across industries, the implementation will focus on the ecommerce industry only. So take some time to read through each tactic and then try to add them to your own campaign:
13 Linkbuilding Tactics for Ecommerce
1. Unique Products: Consider the products you sell in your online store. Are any of them unique? Maybe you have something that nobody else has? If so, consider putting this product(s) at the forefront of your online store for all to see. Funny and unique products get a user’s attention, so much so that they may want to link to your site to show your product to their friends, social connections, and readers. At ZippyCart, we write up a weekly blog post called The Product of The Week. Here we write up an entire review of unique and funny products that we find online. The review provides links back to the online store that sells the product, product pages, and more. We do this because it’s fun, not because anyone is asking us to write about them… let your unique products inspire people to link to you, because it’s fun and creativity deserves a link or two.
2. Guest Blogging & Blogrolls: If you don’t have a blog as part of your online store yet, you should get one soon. Blogs are a great way to consistently add unique content and build rapport with customers. 3dcart saw this need, which is why they added blogs as a basic feature for their ecommerce solution. Those merchants utilizing a blog can add a blogroll to their site, which displays links to other blogs and sites. When you have a blogroll, you can request that other sites with a blogroll add a link to you on their blogroll and you can add a link to them. Try to request that they link to your home page over your blog, because this is where you want to build links initially. If you have already built out a great deal of links to your home page, then consider sending links to other important pages on your site first.
Beyond exchanging blogroll links, you can also exchange blog posts. Guest blogging is a great way to get inbound links to your site and build your brand. Reach out to blogs that are inline with your niche and ask them if you can submit a guest post. You will likely be able to add one link in your post, and definitely one link in your bio. On ZippyCart, we let people guest blog often, and the least we can do for their great content is provide them with a link. There was a great post written recently on MyBlogGuest.com called Successful Guest Blogging – Getting the Etiquette, which you should read if you want to start guest blogging.
3. Product Videos: Having product videos in your ecommerce store is good practice period, but did you know that you can also get links from this? The easiest way to get links from your product videos is to also post them on YouTube. In your video description, include your website URL complete with the http://. This will then become a link. Now, if you want a great deal of inbound links from your product videos, then that is a little bit harder because it requires some creativity. Making your product videos funny is a great way to get people linking to them. The best example of product videos driving links would be Blendtec and their “Will it Blend” campaign. Blendtec stands behind their blenders so much, that they’re willing to blend anything and film themselves doing it. It hurt to watch them blend an Apple iPad, but almost 9 million people have now watched that video, so they’re doing something right.
4. Contests & Promotions: If you host a contest or provide a unique promotion, then you are engaging your users, which will encourage some to link to you. For example, what if you decided to ask your customers to send in video product reviews and award a free gift card to the best videos? If the reward is good enough, you can probably get other blogs to cover it and link to you. Your customers might get excited and link to you as well. Next, you can let other customers vote on their favorite, which will encourage the video creators to send people to your site to vote for their video. They may email their friends, but they’ll also post something on Facebook, Twitter, and any blogs they can. If you want to do something like this, consider working with a company like Fliqz, as they are very affordable and have handled contests like this in the past.
Unique promotions can also get a similar viral response if done right. Look at Tom’s Shoes as an example. Every time someone buys a pair of shoes at Tom’s Shoes, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. This promotion is not only a great way to pay it forward, but also a great way to gain media attention and inbound links.
5. Press Releases: This one is an oldie but a goody. Most paid press release sites let you put up to 4 links on your release and then they syndicate it for you. Every time someone picks up the release and posts it to their site, you get links. Your press release also encourages people to write news posts about it, like we did with today’s Vendio post. They put out a press release and we wanted to make sure our users heard the news, so we wrote up a post and linked to them.
6. Top Product Lists: Top 10 Lists are great linkbait because they usually provide a mass amount of good information in an easy to digest way. At ZippyCart, we try to write a lot of Top X Lists simply because it helps provide useful information to our readers in a way that many can skim through. This post is one such Top X List. Merchants that want to capitalize off of the link love gained by top lists should consider making some unique lists related to thier products. For instance, you can write up the Top 9 Uses of Handerpants. You may also want to write the “Top Strangest Products in My Store.” If you make these lists unique, fun, and informative then you’re sure to get links. Just make sure that you aren’t writing them just for links, because people will see through that. Good content gets links, so make sure your content is good.
7. Article Syndication: Are you an expert in your industry? For instance, what if you sell tires and you know everything there is to know about these round wonders, so much so that you could have invented the wheel. Well, if this is you, then people will want your expertise added to their websites. This is where article syndication comes in. There are many sites out there like EZineArticles.com and GoArticles.com, that let you submit unique content to, which others can then add to their websites for free. The trick is that anyone adding the content to their site has to include the “About the Author” section when they publish the content. As long as you add a link to your author bio, you’ll get a link every time someone publishes your content.
8. Directories: Like press releases, directories are nothing new, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth your time. Submit your online store at least to the reputable directories like DMOZ and JoeAnt. There are hundreds of directories out there, and many cost money, so be picky about where you submit. To narrow down your options, after you have submitted to the well known directories, next search for directories related to online shopping, your products, or your niche. This will help you find about 20 good directories worth submitting to. Each submission equals a link back to your site, which is helpful as long as your submission isn’t buried deep in the directory.
9. Social Bookmarks, Tweets, and Facebook: Unique products, top 10 lists, and any important content that you have should be sent out to the world because that’s the best way to help your needle get found in the large haystack of online stores. When you Tweet your content, others may retweet it. The more tweets, the more likely someone is out there to also link to it. Similarly, when you share on Facebook, you reach many others willing to repost your link. While links from Facebook and Twitter are not followed (so they don’t effect PageRank), they still help show your interaction in social networks, which many SEO’s think will be a huge part of Google’s ranking algorithm in the future.
Social Bookmarking sites offer you a great opportunity for inbound links. The best Social Bookmarking sites to target include Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. On these sites, others who like your content have the opportunity to give it a vote. The more votes you have, the more likely your content will be seen and linked to.
10. Local & Business Links: Many merchants with an online store are focusing on a local community of customers or come from a local brick and mortar storefront. Use this to your advantage. Reach out to local businesses in your neighborhood that also have a website and ask them to link to you. Participate on local community forums and include a link in your signature line. Reach out to local press and work together on a story that links to you. There are many ways to reach out to your community and get some link love in return.
11. Product Reviews: Do the products you sell also sell on big sites like Amazon.com? Or maybe Amazon has a similar product, but yours is better? If this is true, then find those products and review them on Amazon. In your review, include a link back to the product on your own site so that people can find it cheaper or find a better version. Not only do you get an inbound link, but you also get attention of someone who is ready to buy.
12. Sponsorships: This one works along the lines of number 10 above, in which you are working with the community around you. Consider reaching out to local organizations and offering to sponsor them. Sponsor a Little League team to get a link, sponsor non profit organizations and request links, reach out to local business organizations and make a donation for a link back. These are tried and true methods of getting high quality links that will stay around for life.
13. Widgets: Whenever I say the word “widget” I usually am met by a blank stare. So what is a Widget? Look at the sidebar of this website at the black and green box called “The Everyday Entrepreneur.” That is a widget in its simplest of forms: a daily quote widget. The Everyday Entrepreneur gets added to at least 1 website per day, which in turn usually gets us 1 link per day. We sought to create something that would keep online startups and entrepreneurs inspired, especially in this economy. We thought to ourselves “What do we need to keep going?” The answer was that daily push to keep us optimistic and working hard. So, as we gathered quotes from around the Internet and throughout our library of books, we decided to share them with others, which led to The Everyday Entrepreneur. Take some time to think about what will make your life easier, as well as your customers. If you have an idea, go to Widgetbox.com and create a widget from your idea (you can do this without any knowledge of code). Place that widget on your site and, if it’s helpful, others will click the “embed this widget” option and add it to their own websites.
This SEO series is almost at an end, so I hope all of the tips from this and previous posts have helped. Next week will be the last installment in this series, which will cover things not to do when link building. Until then, I wish you great success in your ecommerce link building endeavors!
Over the last year there has been substantial buzz on the Internet among merchants about the free shopping cart and online store offering from Alibaba owned Vendio Services. There are a variety of free ecommerce solutions online, but none of them are as easy to use and as feature rich as the free offering from Vendio. Vendio is one of the few places that truly gives you a free online store that includes a store builder and free hosting, whereas most of the other free shopping carts have some limitations, and just provide merchants with a partial free offering. Additionally, Vendio allows you to have an unlimited amount of products in your online store, and there are no transaction fees no matter how many sales you generate. All of the positive aspects have helped Vendio experience rapid growth, as they surpassed 50,000 online stores in just over one year.
In addition to their free online store, they also have a few other affordable options in the Vendio platform to let ecommerce merchants take things to the next level. One of the most popular upgrades that merchants make from their free online store is to tap into the Vendio marketplace so that they can sell their products on eBay and Amazon for only $10 per month. However there are small transaction fees for the sales which occur via your marketplaces accounts at Amazon and eBay. Overall the costs associated for Vendio Marketplaces are very minimal, for what they provide you in return. The other Vendio product which is popular among merchants using their platform, is their eBay research tool. Those merchants who sell on eBay, can pay $20 per month to tap into information that will provide insight on what products are hot sellers, what your competition is doing, and insight into how you can increase sales by listing at the proper times with the right keywords. Overall, Alibaba owned Vendio Services has a lot going for it, and if they continue to offer great free and low-cost tools to merchants, they should continue to succeed.
Since Mad Men debuted in 2007, the dramatic television show about fictional advertising agency, Sterling Cooper, based in New York during the 1960′s has captivated audiences. The number of people watching the show has slowly risen over the past couple years, as the buzz spreads and new people tune in to see what everyone is talking about. Recently the fourth season of Mad Men premiered, drawing in fans to see what would happen next on this T.V. drama. Now fans of Mad Men have a chance to get a little closer to the show, pending that they happen to be the highest bidder on one of the 116 items being auctioned off on eBay. This charity auction started on August 12, and is halfway over as it is set to end on August 22. 10% of the proceeds of each auction will go to benefit Los Angeles based City of Hope hospital.
There are a number of items in the Mad Men charity auction that fans are fighting over, as all of the 116 items listed on eBay have had multiple bids. This auction came as a result of the season three ending, which found the Sterling Cooper agency being taken over, at which point most of the main characters on the show joined a new ad agency offshoot called Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Since the Mad Men characters were now conducting business in a new office, the show had little need for the old props. Below are a few of the more popular and interesting items up sale in the Mad Man auction.
Mad Men Walk-On Role (Season 5) in Los Angeles - This is without a doubt the most expensive and most popular item up for auction. It is currently hovering around $16,000, but there is still time for the price to jump even higher. However there is another way to get onto Mad Men without winning this auction. Working with Banana Republic, Mad Men is having an open casting call, where people have until September 6 to submit their picture, and people can vote on their favorite until September 17.
Mad Men Betty Draper Dress – One of the most popular and expensive dresses in the auction, currently hovering around $860.
Mad Men Bar from Roger’s Office – A very unique piece of Mad Men history, that is currently hovering around $1,625.
Halo fans have been waiting for Halo Reach since they first got a sneak peak of it at E3 2009 in Las Vegas, where it was also announced that consumers who purchased Halo 3 ODST would be able to get a multiplayer beta access code to the new game. Over the past year, fans have slowly started to pre-order the game which is exclusively available on XBOX 360, and now with less than a month to go, Halo Reach is the #1 bestselling video game title on Amazon.com. The game does not officially release until September 14, but now that Madden 11 and StarCraft II are out, the next big video game which fans are awaiting is Halo Reach.
While it is the basic Halo Reach game for $59.99 that is driving video game sales on Amazon, there are also two other variations of the game for those die hard fans to purchase. The first alternative option to purchase is Halo Reach Limited Edition, which provides a number of extras like a custom case for the game disc, in-game Elite armor set for use in Reach multiplayer mode, Embroidered Spartan II Patch, Dr. Halsey’s ONI Security Badge, and an Artifact Bag containing a brand-new piece of the extended Halo universe. This Limited package will run consumers $79.99, but there is also another options for the biggest Halo fans. Priced at $149.99, Halo Reach Legendary Edition offers you everything in the Limited Edition, plus a Noble Team statue, UNSC-themed custom packaging, and an exclusive in-game Spartan armor effect. Once Halo Reach is finally released, it is expected that this game will be a big seller for Amazon for the remainder of the online shopping year.
I hate wallets. They are bulky, dull looking, and just plain annoying. I don’t carry a purse, despite my mother’s hopes to “girlify” me. So, given my hatred of wallets and purses, I chose a lifestyle that would ensure I just need the bare necessities with me at all times: my ID and my debit card. Unfortunately, even with just two items in my back pocket, I still tend to lose one or the other… which has led everyone in my life to say “Just get a wallet!” every time I complain about having to order yet another debit card. So, in search for a wallet, I took to the Internet and came across something to make me LOVE wallets: the Narwhal Company.
Besides having a great name, the Narwhal Company has a great and simple concept: stylish products that aren’t bulky. Court Godfrey, the owner, began the company after brainstorming things to do with some old ties. “We liked the patterns on the ties and tried to come up with something we could make out of very little fabric. I was never a fan of giant wallets and so I just created something that worked for me—a slim card holder that forces me to get rid of unwanted wallet baggage,” Godfrey states.
Products available at Godfrey’s ecommerce store include a Tie-Fold wallet, the Wheeler Dealer wallet, the Sattley Slim card holder, the Passport Cover, and Wrist Wear tie bracelets. All products are made from recycled ties and all are on their way to making me a wallet loving convert!
When one person creates a niche product like a tie wallet, one wouldn’t exactly think that enough sales would be made to pay a full-time salary, let alone grow a business, but the Narwhal Company has actually seen great success. When asked why Godfrey chose to create an online business, he said that “The online aspect seemed the way to go to test the waters on the viability of the product and avoid hassles of finding a storefront and selling to brick and mortar shops.” Customers initially visited the Narwhal website through word of mouth, but soon Narwhal was covered on a variety of media outlets like Real Simple Magazine, Daily Candy, Not Cot, and several others. This coverage helped to boost sales and build momentum for Godfrey and company. The Tie-Fold wallet quickly became the best seller, with the Sattley Slim and the Passport cover following. All in all, though, The Narwhal Company has done very little proactive marketing, but makes customer service a top priority. This helps cultivate their word of mouth roots and continue to drive sales.
The ecommerce store that drives sales for Godfrey uses Foxy Cart as its backend platform. This basic ecommerce solution is highly customizable and works well for a storefront like the Narwhal Company, which only has 5 main categories and about 8 featured products in each category (then many different variations of the products when you scroll below the fold). When asked about the platform that they chose, Godfrey responded “It’s basically awesome. Fully customizable and able to fit any application you’d like to plug into it. I’m not all that slick with programming and whatnot but my web designer/programmer was pretty excited when he found them and even more so as he’s tweeked and twisted everything to fit his parameters and design wants.”
We asked Godfrey if he had any words of inspiration for someone running an online store, and here’s what he said:
“Just like all businesses, you’ve got to crunch the numbers. If it doesn’t add up, it’s not worth doing in the end. It’s a numbers game. Also, you’ve got to be passionate about it otherwise it will fall by the wayside. In the end, I always wanted to try and start a small business and would have regretted not giving it a go. I’ve learned a lot and it’s been a great experiences. So, if the numbers work out, I say go for it. Don’t get intimidated. Take it one step at a time. If you look at the big picture it starts to get overwhelming. Slow and steady wins the race. Also, there are great resources out there. Almost anybody is happy to talk to you and help you avoid problems they faced.”
Ultimately, customer service, a good ecommerce solution, and a unique idea have combined to drive a great deal of success for Godfrey and his company – which goes to show that there is no single way to reach success, instead there are many amazing and even fun avenues to choose.
Yesterday Delta announced on their blog and verified Twitter account that they have redesigned the homepage at Delta.com, and this looks to be the first step in what will be a complete makeover for the website over the next couple months. The airline industry has had some financial difficulties over the past couple years, and many have started to charge extra for things like checking luggage. This has resulted in a healthy competition between airline companies, as they fight to differentiate themselves from the pack and draw consumers into their website to purchase plane tickets. Many people enjoy using flight comparison search engines like Kayak, Priceline, and Travelocity, but often consumers prefer to go to the airline direct. This may be because they like dealing with the company direct, and not worrying about a third party, or because they feel they can get a better deal if they go direct. Often airlines highlight specials only on their website, so if a consumer does not visit direct, then they might not ever find out about the deals they can get.
There are not a lot of details about the new redesign, but Delta did call out some major areas which they feel are great features that consumers will enjoy. The first thing you will notice on Delta.com is that the navigation is much easier to use, everything from booking flights to online check-in is all present in the new design. Additionally there is a new SkyMiles dashboard so that you can easily see your air mileage balance, plus they have the top destinations highlighted on the homepage and let you scroll through all of the new and popular places. Hopefully the new design will translate into improved conversions for Delta, as they continue to battle other airlines for market share.
Earlier this year, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen debuted TheRow.com as the home to showcase their own fashion house, and now they have taken it to the next level with the addition on an ecommerce boutique selling their apparel and eyewear designs. The ecommerce shop opened on Friday last week, and up until noon (PST) on August 20th, online shoppers can enter code SHOPTHEROW when checking out of their shopping cart to receive 15% off. The Olsen twins have been into fashion for a number of years, however they mentioned to Style.com that they do not do much of their shopping online. Regardless, in preparation for the launch of the ecommerce store at TheRow.com, the Olsen twins did extensive marketing research at some of their favorite online shops, like Net-a-Porter.
The ecommerce site was created by Sweden Unlimited, who is known for working with major fashion designers like Diane von Furstenberg , Nicole Miller, and Alexander Wang. While the intent of the ecommerce store at TheRow.com is to be visually pleasing, it somehow distracts from the flow of the online shopping process. There are only seven product categories on the site, which include leather/fur, jackets/coats, skirts/pants, sweaters, dress, tops, and eyewear. When you click on any of the links you are sent to a transition page, which does look cool, but forces the user to click again to get to the actual products. Therefore it has nothing to do with the goal of getting the customer into the conversion funnel. The ecommerce shop has plans to expand into other categories, including menswear, but it is unclear how well this will scale with the current conversion funnel. They do have a one page checkout process and an off and on again onscreen cart, but overall the user experience is a bit too busy.
As of now many things are already out of stock, despite the ecommerce site going live last week. Online shoppers should note that the prices here are not cheap, as some of the cheaper items in the shop are $325 pairs of sunglasses. The success of this store is yet to be determined. The Olsen twins have a very loyal following that might find the style of this ecommerce site fun, but will fun lead to profits? Time will tell.
Part 4 in a Series of SEO Tips for Ecommerce Success.
When you run an online store, the most important thing you need is traffic. Traffic translates into customers, which translates into profit, it’s as simple as that. No matter how great your storefront looks, your ecommerce solution works, your deals are, or your products might be, if you don’t have anyone visiting your store, then you won’t be able to make any sales. The best ecommerce software solutions know how important this is, which is why they provide many great tools to optimize your online store. Beyond on-page optimization, though, you must also build inbound links to your storefront from other reputable websites. This is because part of Google’s algorithm considers inbound linking a differentiator between the sites that deserve high rankings and those that don’t. To understand why, you must first understand PageRank. We created the infographic below to explain PageRank in more depth:
Note: The content from this article has been moved to the page where the infographic above lives. We found that 90% of our traffic has been going to that page instead of this one, and wanted to fully explain the infographic there without duplicating our content. To view this full article, please checkout What is Google PageRank, an Infographic.
Private and flash sale sites have been rising in popularity over the past couple years, as sites like Gilt Group and RueLaLa become common household names among online fashionistas. Women have fallen in love with the concept of a flash sale, as it allows them to purchase various designer fashions at a fraction of the normal retail price. Typically these flash sale sites work direct with the brands they feature, in order to maintain authenticity and keep up solid relationships with the luxury designer fashion companies. However there seems to be a issue with the methods flash sale site HauteLook, as luxury watch and accessories brand, Cartier, filed a lawsuit against them for over $2 million. This lawsuit was first reported by SheFinds, and it details that Cartier is alleging that HauteLook sold secondhand and possibly inauthentic merchandise to their members.
HauteLook has always maintained that everything sold on their site is new, and procured through their direct relationships with brands that they feature. Although Cartier has a different take on the situation, as they claim that Hautelook had never partnered with Cartier and is not an authorized dealer of Cartier’s merchandise. In addition Cartier reported that they secretly purchased 5 Cartier brand watches from the site, and claims that some of the products were damaged, shipped in the wrong packaging, or they carried defaced authenticity certificates. They even stated that sometimes the watches included a Cartier warranty booklet though the warranty did not apply. This lawsuit is brand new, and HauteLook has not made any official comment on the allegations as of yet.
My Uncle is a hard core bike rider… I mean hard core. He’s always finding the newest long distance race to bike in or the latest challenge. A few years ago, he and a group of friends biked the entire Pacific Northwest, which added up to thousands of miles. Now he’s training for the STP (Seattle to Portland), which will be a cakewalk in comparison. To prep himself for training, his son got him a new pair of biking gloves: Handerpants. Now he can ride in style. The Handerpants were such a sight, that it made me wonder who could have envisioned such a product and how do I get my hands on in them?
After a quick search online, the Handerpants website was staring me in the face. For only $11.95, I could have a pair of these breathable cotton tighty whities that claim to do the following:
Fits Most Hands
Great For Jazz Hands
So why is this product so popular that an entire dedicated website was built for it? To unravel that mystery, all that I had to do was click on the “buy yours now” button. Instantly I was sent to the Archie McPhee website and the light bulb went on in my head. If your not from Seattle, you may not know the strange allure of Archie McPhee, but maybe this will help: They have cornered the entire bacon/meat category when it comes to weird things made of America’s favorite breakfast food. From bacon jellybeans to bacon belts and more, they literally have an entire category on their online store dedicated to bacon. In Seattle, Archie McPhee retail store sits a comfortable distance from the University of Washington and on the outskirts of Fremont and Ballard, but online, Archie McPhee can reach millions with a few clicks of a mouse which is why this store finds great success in the world of ecommerce.
Archie McPhee does not spend a dime on advertising.”our best advertisement is our unique products. We spend nothing on advertising, but try to be so amazing that people talk about us. Of course, we use Twitter, Facebook and any other forum that helps our customers to know what’s going on,” says David Wahl, spokesman for Accoutrements, Archie McPhee parent company. The company has many avenues to success offline, including an annual paper catalog that is sent out to thousands of customers, some of which have been shopping at Archie McPhee for over 20 years. According to Wahl, merchants should “never underestimate the value of an actual object. People save and collect our catalogs, sometimes they want to remember what they didn’t buy and the paper catalog is an excellent souvenir of their time spent with us.”
When it comes to driving success online, Archie McPhee has a variety of tactics, including their “Slightly Less Disappointing” blog, a social media presence, and free gift with purchase. The free gift with purchase is a great way for a unique store like Archie McPhee to keep customers engaged and encourage larger purchases, as “another better free gift” is given to those who spend more than $35 at their online store. Besides these tactics, Archie McPhee employs a very unique method of reaching their audience by creating multiple micro-sites that feature one specific product, like their Handerpants site. This is a great way for ecommerce merchants to draw attention to products they want to take off. “We love the idea of microsites for specific products. We have them for many of our products. If you Google them, you can find a virtual Yodelling Pickle, a Sarcastic Ball and even Squirrel Underpants. Customers love the extra content you can provide on the site and it’s an easy way for a customer to find the product,” Wahl concludes.
While I haven’t purchased the Handerpants yet (still need to become a better biker myself), I have attended a bacon-themed 30th birthday party… and now I know where all of the amazing decorations came from. If you’re looking for something fun to give as a gift this year, consider visiting Archie McPhee to see what unique items are available.
“Collect a group of products so amazing that people can’t help but talk
about them. If you can do that, half your job is done.”
Tomorrow, we will be launching a new section on ZippyCart entitled the Product of the Week. This section will feature a variety of quirky, unique, and fun products found online. We feel that ecommerce offers a world of opportunity for those willing to put in the time, commitment, and drive. Those with a passion to start an online store often have a unique product that is driving them into ecommerce, like Samy Liechti of Blacksocks.com. It is these unique products that we want to draw attention to. We have scoured the net for the funniest, quirkiest, most unique, and most creative products available, and will feature one product each week as well an online store selling it. We hope that this will help give merchants the attention they deserve while proving one simple point: there is no single way to reach success, instead there are many amazing and even fun avenues to choose.
If you have a unique product that you would like featured, contact us. We are happy to help you show off your creativity!