March 25, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week


Remember my Cloudflood experiment? It’s been about a week and a half and over 100 people have shared my download. Neat, huh? If you missed my post about Cloudflood, check it out.

Also, today is the LAST DAY to get my 10% off discount on co-op advertising for spring!  Our members have given the co-op rave reviews! Here are a few things people have said:

“I’ve had a lot of traffic, new people signing up for my email list and quite a few sales from the holiday promo, so thanks! Co-op advertising has been successful for me.”
Amber Coppings, Xmittens

“I’ve been very pleased with my participation in the I Shop Indie program so far. It’s been one of the biggest sources of traffic for my shop since I started and it’s led to some definite sales.
Mallory Whitfield, Miss Malaprop

“Thank you so much as I Shop Indie has gotten me press coverage with this journalist. Thank you so much. Much appreciated for everything!”
Charmaine Leung, Go Jewelry

If you want to see the kind of awesome results our members have been talking about, get signed up now while I’m still offering this discount.

Now on to some link love…


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February 1, 2011

Revenue Sources, Brand Strength and The Sales Cycle (And Why They Matter)

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 7:48 am

Today I wrote a guest post over on Crafting an MBA about 3 of the most important things you can study for your business. Pop over here to read the full article.


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January 27, 2011

21 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Online Retail Business

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 7:33 am

The key to succeeding in business is being a true expert on your business. You need to know everything there is to know about it. While many creative entrepreneurs are experts at their craft, when it comes to marketing and selling online, they’re still in the dark. Below are 21 questions you should be able to answer about your online retail business.

  1. How many orders do you receive each month?
  2. Where do the orders come from (SEO, ads, PR, branding, etc.)?
  3. What is your average order value?
  4. What referring sites are making you the most money?
  5. What keywords are making you the most money via SEO?
  6. What keywords could make you money via Adwords?
  7. What products are people trying to find on your website today, that you currently don’t offer?
  8. How strong is your brand and what percentage of your sales and site traffic come from people going directly to your site or searching for your brand name?
  9. What percentage of your visitors are return visitors and what percentage are new?
  10. Are you doing a good job of attracting return visits?
  11. Do you have a high bounce rate?
  12. Do people like your website? Is it user-friendly? Attractive? Loaded with great content?
  13. How does your site compare to other sites like it in terms of bouce rate, visits, page views, and return visitors?
  14. What pages on your site get the most views?
  15. What pages on your site get the least views and what should you do about them?
  16. How many people are downloading your PDFs, clicking your Facebook “like” button , Twitter links, etc? Do you know where visitors who take these actions came from (search, banner ads, etc.)?
  17. What percentage of people abandon their shopping cart on your site?
  18. What portion of the checkout process are people abandoning on? Do they bail on view cart or right before entering payment?
  19. How many visits does it take before customers buy?
  20. How many days pass before a customer places an order? Do they buy the first day they visit or come back weeks later to spend money?
  21. How much do you spend to earn $1.00?

So how’d you do? If you don’t know the answers to all of these, don’t worry. I just finished writing an ebook that can get you the answers to every single one of them! “Harnessing Google Analytics to Make More Money, Grow Your Brand and Be a Better Marketer (Even if Technology Scares The Pants Off of You)” was written for small business owners who need answers to these questions and don’t know how to use Google Analytics to get them.

The book was designed to help you market more effectively and make more money! It will help you:

  • Grow your brand.
  • Improve your SEO and Adwords campaigns.
  • Make better ad buying decisions.
  • Get new product ideas.
  • Improve your shopping cart and overall content and site design.
  • Measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Track everything that happens on your website.

Other benefits of the book:

  • Breaks down the “techie speak” into easy-to-understand plain English.
  • Helpful screen shots guide you along the way so you always know you’re looking at just the right thing and clicking in just the right place.
  • Real world examples of how to apply what you’re seeing to make more money and grow your brand.
  • The easy-to-digest, skimmable writing format you’ve come to know and love on Smaller Box. Each section of the book is broken out with headlines and bullet points, so making your way through the book is a breeze.
  • Instant delivery via email. Read the book on your computer, ipad, or other mobile device and start taking control of Google Analytics today!




IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER FOR ETSY, ARTFIRE, ETC.:
This book will be most effective for people who have their own websites. If you depend entirely on a service like Artfire or Etsy to sell online, many of the cool stuff this book can teach you to do won’t work for you. The reason is that in order to make Google Analytics work to it’s fullest potential, you need access to your website’s source code. If you sell on Artfire, Etsy, etc. you can’t access this so you won’t be able to implement some of Google Analytics’ most useful functionality. I have written many articles here about why you should have your own website; harnessing Google Analytics effectively is just one more reason. If you need others, check out my rants on reputation management, re-marketing, SEO, losing sales, secondary conversions, affiliate programs and my personal reasons for having my own website.


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November 10, 2010

Cool Tools: Website Grader

Filed under: Cool Tools — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 9:52 am

How does your website stack up? Does it have enough inbound links? How’s your SEO? Do you get any buzz on the social networks? You can see how your site is doing and even compare it to your competitors with Website Grader. This free and easy to use tool will give you valuable data that can help you determine how you need to improve your website and your marketing.

What you can expect Website Grader to analyze:

  • Pages indexed by Google
  • How hard your site is to read (i.e. is it written for someone with a secondary school education or a PhD?)
  • Meta Data
  • Images
  • Headings
  • Domain Info
  • Page Rank
  • Inbound links
  • Tweets
  • Traffic Rank
  • and more…

Try it out >>


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September 17, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


This content is copyrighted. See my content sharing policy here.

September 10, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


This content is copyrighted. See my content sharing policy here.

June 4, 2010

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , , , , , , — Meredith @ 10:08 am


Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:


This content is copyrighted. See my content sharing policy here.

May 6, 2010

How Do I Track the Value of My Marketing Efforts

Yesterday I wrote an article about the cumulative effects of marketing and a reader asked how I track my results. First and foremost, if you missed my article yesterday, let me repeat YOU CANNOT PERFECTLY TRACK EVERYTHING. You just can’t. Things happen indirectly as a result of your marketing, that’s where some of that cumulative magic comes in. (Read my article from yesterday for examples of this.)

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about what you can track using Google Analytics (because it’s free and pretty easy to use):

1. Bounce Rates
When you find a way of promoting your site be it advertising, guest blogging, cross-promoting, etc. You’ll want to pay attention to what the incoming traffic from these sources does. If your traffic has a high bounce rate from a source (meaning the vast majority of visitors leave after viewing one page) that source might not be very well-targeted for you and you may want to turn your attention elsewhere.

Important: View the bounce rate in the context of your site’s bounce rate. If your entire site has a high bounce rate, the problem may be your site, not your marketing venues.

2. CPC
CPC, or cost-per-click, is what you pay to get a person to come to your site. It’s easy calculate a CPC for an ad. If I pay $100 for an ad and I get 500 clicks then I paid 20 cents per click. The tricky thing is everything has a CPC, even “free” stuff. (Side rant: There is no such thing is as FREE marketing. I am so sick of hearing about FREE marketing. All marketing costs money unless you don’t subscribe to the thought that time is money. And if you don’t you should. Your time is valuable. If your FREE marketing costs 20 hours it is 20 hours x  your hourly rate. Sometimes FREE can be expensive.)

To calculate CPC on stuff you don’t pay for, such as blogging, SEO, etc. keep track of the hours you spend on those things. Then decide what you think your time is worth hourly. If you spend 2 hours per week blogging and you think your time is worth $25 per hour, you spend $50/week blogging. Now go into your site stats and see how much traffic your blog generates. If your blog gets 100 visitors per week you are paying 50 cents per click.

What is a good cost per click?
There is no general answer. Lower is better, but good depends very much on your business. It should be based on the average value of your orders and your conversion rate.

3. Conversions
This is the metric we look at most often. How much did a traffic source result in direct sales? I recommend that, if possible, you track other things than sales, such as Facebook fanning, Twitter following, newsletter sign ups, etc.

Tracking that stuff can be difficult because you either need to be pretty tech savvy or spend money on fancy technology. Google Analytics is free and it will track sales and newsletter sign ups (assuming you can install Google tracking code on your thank you pages for newsletter and sales). It won’t track your Facebook and Twitter sign ups at this time but it’s better than nothing.  (I am sure eventually you will be able to track that stuff with Google Analytics, but not today.)

Tech savvy types can use cookies or track IP addresses of their visitors and use that to track visitor activity in a database. They can use AJAX to track clicks on their Facebook and Twitter links. This technology allows the business owner to see a complete profile of a customer’s activity on their site.

4. Overall Traffic
You should be seeing an overall increase in traffic as you spend more time and money on your marketing efforts.  I know that as we increased our advertising expenditures on our ecommerce website we saw a drastic increase in site traffic from all over the place. It’s because more people were coming to our site, sharing our links with friends, spreading our site around via word of mouth, etc.

If I get 1,000 people coming to my site each day and just 1% of them are sharing my site with others that means I have 10 people promoting for my brand EVERY SINGLE DAY! Now multiply that over the course of a year and I end up with thousands of people promoting my brand.

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January 5, 2010

Understanding the Cumulative Effects of Marketing on the Conversion Process

Most people don’t put out on a first date, that includes your customers. What I mean by this is that people rarely buy the first time they hear about a brand. Winning customers over is often a process, not a one shot deal. Sure, some people will happen upon your e-tail shop and buy immediately, and that’s great, but it’s probably not going to be most of your customers. That’s why it’s important to understand how the cumulative effects of your marketing efforts result in sales.

1. Price point affects time to convert
If you’re selling a more expensive product, it’s probably going to take longer to convert a customer. The more expensive the item, the more time customers need to get comfortable with your brand and decide to invest. If you’re selling a $2 item it’s probably pretty easy to get people to throw down cash for that, a $200 item or a $2,000 item is another story.

The more you expect customers to spend, the more time you’re going to need to build trust and affinity with your audience.

2. You need better analytics
Consider this scenario:
I see an ad for a jewelry shop on my favorite blog every day. Mother’s day is coming up and after seeing this same ad for a couple of months, I decide to take a gander at what they’ve got. Maybe their price point is too high for me right now, maybe it’s just not mom’s taste.

Now imagine another couple of months goes by and I realize I need to get a birthday gift for my sister. I know she likes robots and I do a search for robot gifts on Google. The same jewelry shop I saw on my favorite blog comes up in my search because they happen to have robot necklaces. I click and find just the right thing and place my order. I feel comfortable with this shop because I’ve heard of them, maybe I don’t remember where or how, but the name is familiar and they have the right thing at the right time.

To a not-so-hot analytics program, it would appear the sale came from organic search. To a more sophisticated program, you’d discover I’d been to this online shop a few times. Each visit helped familiarize me with the brand and increase my comfort level.

My point here is that building a relationship with a customer takes time. The analytics software you use should capture each exposure your customer has to your website to give you a better picture of where your sales come from, and how long it takes for customers to convert.  It’s also important to keep in mind that even that analytics software can’t account for the number of times your customer saw an ad for your brand or an editorial mention about your brand. The customer may also have been to your website from both work and home computers, thus appearing to be two different visitors. All of these different touch points contribute to a customer ultimately making a purchase.  Even if you can’t track every single one, it’s still a good idea to gather as much information as possible.

3. You need to build a relationship
So, we’ve just talked about how customers probably aren’t going to buy the first time they hear about your business, they might not even visit the first time they hear about you. When they ultimately do pay a visit, they still may not buy right away. What can you do about this? Going back to our first date analogy, you can pretty much ask the customer if they’d like to see you again (ask ’em on a second date).  You can do this with a number of tools. Some examples include:

  • Invite your website visitors to join your email list.
    Make this process as easy as possible. Have a field on EVERY page of your website in a prominent position that the customer can use to enter their email address to get on your mailing list. Don’t ask for name and birthday and all that other stuff. You’re being too forward and making it too difficult to connect, make the email list sign up as easy as possible for the customer.
  • Invite your customer to your social media hang outs.
    Make sure it’s easy to find you on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Youtube — whatever social media sites you hang out on, make sure the customer can connect with you there. Add links to all your social media pages throughout your website so customers who prefer to connect on social sites can do so.
  • Make your website stickier.
    A sticky website is a site that keeps people coming back. You can make your website sticky with a variety of tools including a good entertaining blog, a game, a useful widget, a message board. Pick something that’s most suitable for your brand and test different features to see what your site visitors seem to like.

Bottom line: Don’t expect instant results from every marketing effort and don’t expect a sale with every website visit.  Do be visible through multiple channels (editorial mentions, search engines, ads, etc) and do aim for that second date, a chance to win the customer over in time, everything else is gravy.

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