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Archive for January, 2009

Despite a slowdown in the economy, leading research organizations including eMarketer are forecasting online shopping to grow at approximately 6% over the next year, while in-store retail sales continue to decline.

At a time when all businesses are trying to maximize every sales opportunity, it is amazing to find that nearly 40% of small businesses still do not have a website. However, for the other 60% that do have a website, most of them are planning to continue their online marketing efforts full speed ahead according to eMarketer. The main reasons cited where the costs of doing business online being significantly lower than traditional selling channels and greater sales opportunities.

If you happen to be one of 40% of small businesses without a website, here are some advantages to selling online for you to consider.

  • Cost savings. Websites do not require high overhead costs such as rent and staffing that a retail store location does.
  • Selling online reduces order processing costs – customer orders can be placed online without phone calls or in-store interactions with your sales staff.
  • Reaching a wider audience, thereby increasing sales opportunities. Even if you don’t have visions of selling nationwide, an effective web site can broaden your businesses reach throughout your geographical region.
  • Allowing your company to compete with larger businesses by being able to be found online and generating new business 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Attracting new customers who would not have found your business by using conventional methods such as the yellow pages for your city or driving by your business location.
  • Ability to use your website as an online catalog and marketing tool for your existing customers.

In today’s world, where the average consumer first begins the shopping process on the Internet to collect information or directly make a purchase, your business cannot afford not participating. If you’re seriously looking at growing your business and reducing costs, bringing your business into the Internet age isn’t only an option – it’s a necessity.

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While a professional SEO company can provide valuable services to their clients, unethical SEOs that use overly aggressive tactics or that violate the guidelines of the major search engines may actually harm your rankings – or even cause your site to removed from the search engines altogether.

Here are three things to consider before you hire a search engine optimization company:

  1. Be wary of any SEO firm that sends you an email out of the blue.
    In reality, good SEO companies don’t do this – spammers do this. Quality SEO firms are too busy doing actual SEO work to be sending out unsolicited emails to everyone and their brother.
  2. No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
    If an SEO company claims that they can guarantee rankings on Google, allege a special relationship with the search engines, or anything else that sounds too good to be true; walk away or hang up the phone immediately. Ethical SEO firms do not make unrealistic promises or false claims.
  3. Be careful if an SEO company is unclear about how they plan to optimize your site.
    SEO consists of two key factors, which are on-site optimization and off-site optimization. These elements include things such as keyword research, Meta tag and web copy optimization, and building inbound links to your site. If you hear terms such as ‘Cloaking’ or ‘Doorway’ pages stay away!

Although there are additional things to consider before hiring an SEO company, most all the unethical ones can be weeded out by keeping the above three factors in mind. As with any service, make sure you do your homework and ask a lot of questions before making a commitment.

Find more information about SEO.

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The web is like everything else in life; it constantly changes. This being the case, what may have worked for your business online a few years ago, may no longer be working today. This is why it is critical to choose an ecommerce platform that is highly scalable that can continue to grow with your business as your needs evolve.

If you’re thinking it’s time you made the move to a new ecommerce website, or if you’re unsure of whether you’ve reached that point. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Can my website be found in the major search engines?
  2. Do I have a high visitor-to-sales conversion rate?
  3. Is my website using the latest ecommerce technology?
  4. Is my website easy to manage and can I make immediate updates as needed?
  5. Can my website easily grow with my business overtime or is it already outdated?
  6. Is my website effectively competing against my major online competitors?

If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, you are most likely in need of a new ecommerce website for the following reasons:

If your website cannot be found in the major search engines this is often due to design and code issues, which can best be resolved with a new website. In today’s online consumer world, no business can afford not to be found in the search engines where potential customers are searching for your products and services. There is little point to having a website if no one can find it.

If your visitor-to-sales conversion rate is low, this can be due to many site related factors such as your site design, page load times, and shopping cart functionality.

If your website isn’t using the latest ecommerce technology, savvy online shoppers are aware of this and are likely to abandon making a purchase from a site that seems less than professional or outdated.

If your website isn’t easy to manage from anywhere, at anytime, you’re missing out on opportunity. Successful ecommerce companies are able to adapt and react to market changes and update site content on the fly. If your ecommerce platform doesn’t allow you to easily do this, you’re at a competitive disadvantage to your competitors that can.

If your ecommerce website cannot easily grow with your business as your needs evolve, you will either be in a position to stick with a website that is outdated, or change to a completely different platform each time you outgrow your existing website. If your current site isn’t highly scalable to grow as your needs change, it is a hindrance to your business.

If your website cannot effectively compete with your competitors, you’re doing your competitors a favor. Think of it this way, if you go to website “A” and are impressed, and then you go to website “B” which looks less than professional (and outdated), more than likely you will hit the back button on your browser and contact the company at website “A”. This being the case, if your website isn’t presenting your business in the best possible light, it is more than likely doing more harm to your business than good.

These six questions are just a small example of the many questions that should be asked in determining if it’s time for you to take action on establishing a new website. In today’s hyper-competitive world of the internet, and the state of the current economy, you cannot afford to have a website that isn’t reinforcing your brand and producing measurable bottom line results.

If you think it’s time to take your ecommerce site to next level let us know. You will be amazed by the capabilities of our ecommerce solutions and how they can help your business sell more both online and in-store.

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Found this Nike commercial on YouTube a while back and it’s a good example of overcoming excuses. Although this video is based on athletics, it can apply to anything including your success online. While watching this video, think about the excuses you may have made for not taking your web site to the next level. Whether you’ve made excuses or not – this video is definitely inspirational.

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Since the New Year is still young, it isn’t too late to add being more social to your list of New Year’s resolutions. Sure, you may not be able to devote endless hours a day to social media like the major players (or even an hour for that matter). However, even a little effort can pay off in the long-term with increased brand recognition and web site traffic.

The following Social Media Marketing checklist covers a minimum of what you should be doing if you’re serious about growing your online fame or web site traffic with social media.

Your  Social Media Marketing plan for 2009 should include:

  • Developing or improving your existing profiles on major social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
  • Working at improving the opt-in subscription rates for your RSS feeds, email newsletters, etc. What can you do differently to get people to take action on your valuable info and share it with others?
  • Social bookmark your content until you break your mouse. Take advantage of social bookmaking sites such as stumbleupon.com, delicious and reddit.
  • Add the creation of more user-generated content on your blogs and web sites. Whether people comment on your blog or leave product reviews on your site – it’s more content that can help you rank higher in the search engines.
  • Create video and graphic content. This can include how-to videos for using your products on YouTube or photo galleries of your featured work or products on flickr.
  • Use syndicated RSS feeds, whenever and wherever possible on your blogs, web sites, or other social media applications. Get viral.
  • Ping! Are you using pinging services such as pingomatic.com to notify important sites such as Google Blog Search and Technorati that you have new content for them to index and share with others?
  • Optimize your social media marketing efforts for the search engines. Keep in mind optimizing doesn’t have to be a major event – simply add keyword rich text content your blog posts, YouTube video titles, and tweets on Twitter.

By diligently applying the above checklist to your online marketing efforts, you’re sure to grow your web site traffic – and ultimately your brand over time.

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