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A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that despite a slower economy (and traditional in-store retail sales being significantly down) eCommerce retail sales are still growing at a strong pace.

The chart below shows estimated quarterly U.S. retail eCommerce sales as a percent of total quarterly retail sales from the 4th Quarter of 1999 to the 2nd Quarter 2009.

onlines-ecommerce-sales-082709

If retail eCommerce can go against all of the current economic odds, just imagine how much more growth there will be as the economy improves.

 View Complete U.S. Census Bureau Report

Contact us to learn more about how eCommerce can help your business.

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If you’ve read any of our previous blog posts you’re probably starting to pick up on a theme; being successful online takes effort. As a matter of fact, building a thriving ecommerce business takes the same amount of hard work and discipline as building any other business, if not more so.

The following tips will help you to grow your ecommerce business into a success if you apply them on a constant basis.

  • Plan ahead for everything – It isn’t uncommon for a lot of ecommerce companies to miss significant selling opportunities due to not being ready ahead of time. This being the case, everything should be planned at least three months in advance. This includes seasonal promotions, product offerings, PPC and SEO campaigns, site design elements, etc.
  • Make continuous improvements to your site – Many online businesses start with an incredible amount of enthusiasm only to fizzle out due to unrealistic expectations. Once your online store is up and running this isn’t the time to sit back and see what happens. This approach is guaranteed for failure. In order to be successful online, you need to apply the same mentality of the major players of constantly improving and growing your website. Keep in mind that search engines as rule like larger sites and they thrive on quality content. With this said, make getting big fast and continually growing your content resources a top priority.
  • Keep it real – Some business people still view the internet as something different from their physical business locations. In other words, they think it’s OK to do things online that they wouldn’t do in the real world such as questionable marketing tactics to generate sales. Contrary to the “old school” way of thinking, your web presence is just as important, if not more important, than your physical business location. In today’s wired world, most potential customers will find you via the internet opposed to driving by your business or finding you in the yellow pages. If your online presence is not coming across as the most reputable and professional in your field, your competitors are only a click away.
  • Promote, promote, and promote some more – If you are not actively working on marketing your online business every day, the odds of success are not in your favor. Like any business, you don’t set up a store, load it with products, and wait for something to happen… This methodology does not work in the traditional retail world and it will not work online either. Any successful online business is constantly marketing their site 24 hours a day 365 days a year. In addition to online marketing methods such as SEO and PPC marketing, think about other things you can do such as sending out flyers and bumper stickers with your orders. Having strong email signatures that promote your business. Using signage on your physical locations and vehicles. The options are endless, and the more you market your business – the more successful it will be.
  • Don’t scare customers away – Have you ever visited a website, found their offers interesting, and then they got too nosy? You’ve seen these sites that want your zip code, your email address, etc. before providing any of the information you want. If you’re like most people you simply leave. With this said, if you apply such tactics, your potential customers will do the same. Don’t ask your customers to provide more information than necessary and by all means do not force them to set up an account to shop with you. This may have worked in the past, but today’s online shoppers aren’t going to do this as easily, which will result in lost sales for your business.
  • Be the expert in your industry – The quickest way to gain ground on your competition, online or off, is by being an expert. However, this is even more so the case online where people are seeking information on products and services before making a purchase. Now, if you were a consumer and a site attracted you with the informational content you were looking for, and they also offered the product for sale, this would be a double win since these folks know what they’re talking about and they sell exactly what you want or need. This comes back to what was said earlier about making continuous improvements and maximizing your content opportunities. Simply showing a little picture with a blurb of text about your offering is not going to put you in a competitive position with leaders in your industry that offer online instruction manuals, lists of complementing products and accessories, additional product views, detailed product specs, etc.
  • If you don’t know ask – If you feel your website isn’t living up to its potential, your marketing isn’t effective, or you aren’t applying strategic site development that works – by all means ask a professional for help. Sometimes all it takes is a minor change to make a website more successful and in other cases it may require setting up a new site that is up-to-date to compete in today’s online savvy world. Remember there’s no shame in asking for help, especially if doing so saves your business money and increases your online sales.

The above principles should be a major part of your core thought processes and actions on a daily basis. Again, you can’t win in ecommerce without commitment, planning and continuous effort. If you’re not sure where to begin let us know. We can help you get started in the right direction.

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Many websites, especially those that only sell online, are not maximizing the potential that local search optimization offers. It isn’t uncommon for pure play online businesses to think that their geographical location is of little importance since they sell on a nationwide or worldwide basis. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In today’s online world where the web has become hyper-competitive, local search is a must for any online business that wants to maximize their sales opportunities. More and more, people are no longer simply searching by product or service related keyword phrases. They’re searching for product and service phrases followed by geo-targeted terms including their city or state.

So why would someone care about where you’re located if you only sell online anyway? Think of it this way, clearly stating who you are and where you’re located adds more credibility and trust to the decision of doing business with you. Also, the number of people looking to buy online from local companies is increasing due to various reasons such as supporting local businesses and a greater sense of security this provides in case service is needed after the sale.

Clearly stating your address throughout your website also benefits your customers on the other side of the country or even the other side of the world. For example, someone from New York sees that your business address is in Seattle, which immediately takes away the mystery of who they’re dealing with to a large degree, since you have established your business as being a real business with a real address, opposed to simply a mysterious website in cyberspace.

Your physical address followed by your phone number should be on a minimum of your home page and contact page. Although the best option is to have this information clearly posted on the bottom of every page of your site.

Keep in mind that simply having your address on every page of your site isn’t going to optimize your site for local search, since this may not provide enough keyword weight to raise your site in the search engine rankings. Therefore, your site must be specifically optimized for key local search terms along with your product or service offerings.

In addition to optimizing your website for local search, you should submit your site to local search services such as the following.

Every day, millions of people are searching for products and services online using geo-targeted search terms such as their neighborhood, city, state and even country. If you’re not actively optimizing your site for local search, you’re business is leaving a lot of money on the table for those that are. Is your site fully optimized for local search?

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As more businesses turn to social media marketing to grow their brands and increase sales, they’re quickly learning that real results require a significant investment of time. As a rule, those who commit the most time are the most likely to be successful.

According to the Social Media Marketing Industry Report published by Michael Stelzner, data shows that time invested in social media increases with experience. It has been found that new participants of social media spend about 2 hours a week, those that that have been involved for a few months 10 hours a week, and those that have been at it a long time 20 or more hours a week.

The data implies that after gaining experience with social media marketing, it was found to be effective and worth the investment of additional time. It also implies that new entrants into social media underestimated the amount of time required to develop and maintain a successful social media presence when they first started out.

According to the Social Media Marketing Report, experience with social media marketing leads to greater time allocated for development and participation. The report’s findings are as follows:

  • 64% of marketers are using social media for 5 hours or more each week
  • 39% for 10 or more hours weekly
  • 9.6% spend more than 20 hours each week with social media

Couple the above figures with the fact that 72% of Stelzner’s 900 respondents had only been using social media for a few months or less, which reinforces that more experience with the medium leads to greater time allocated.

Hopefully these findings will help businesses to better understand social media as a cost-effective marketing tool, and of the investment of time required to make it a success.

More information on the Social Media Marketing Industry Report
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So why would anyone want to take the time to participate in social bookmarking? If you’re not sure of the answer – reread the title of this blog post. Social bookmarking sites can introduce your online content to others seeking what you have to offer, increase your site traffic, and provide valuable backlinks to help increase your rankings in the search engines.

Social bookmarking sites help search engines to better understand how a site is perceived by others through the use of user generated tags and other classification systems. Also, social bookmarks can help both users and search engines find your online content as soon as it’s published.

Search engines regularly monitor social bookmarking sites such as StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Mixx, to help them with their job in numerous ways such as:

  • Faster Indexing of Fresh Content: Users of social bookmarking often bookmark web pages long before a search engine can find it on their own, which helps search engines to find and index fresh content quicker.
  • Deeper Indexing: Many web pages bookmarked via social bookmarks are pages deeper within sites that search engines may not be able to access as easily.
  • External Meta Data: Users who social bookmark web pages usually tag their bookmarks with keywords and descriptions, which help the search engines to better understand and rank content in the same way your own on-site Meta tags work.
  • Categorization: Like user tagging, social bookmarking categorization can better define the subject of a web page to help search engines categorize and rank content in their search results.
  • Measuring Content Quality: Ultimately, the more users that social bookmark a web page, the more quality and relevance the content is perceived to have. A web page that has been social bookmarked across multiple social bookmarking services by multiple users is considered to be more of an authority than a web page that only has a few bookmarks by the same user.
  • Number of Votes: Most social bookmarking sites have a form of voting for users to rate content. The more unique user votes a web page receives on StumbleUpon or Digg for example, the more useful the content is perceived to be by both users and search engines.

Here is a list of social bookmarking services that we recommend using to bookmark your own online content:

Not only should you social bookmark your own content – you should encourage others to do the same. For example, if you think this post is of benefit and worth sharing with others, please use the social bookmarking button below. We would definitely appreciate it.

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Regardless of what we hear about the economy these days, the web is still hot. According to ComScore, online sales totaled $10.9 billion in January of this year. Among the categories that grew the most were sports and fitness, up 42% vs. a year ago; books and magazines, up 37%; and home, garden and furniture, up 14%. Yes, you read those numbers correct – sales increases of 14% to 42%!

The economy is driving record numbers of consumers online as opposed to in-store retailers. According to AdAge, web sales are growing at five times the rate of traditional brick and mortar stores, which is a trend that is expected to continue for years to come.

Ecommerce is proving to be better capable of handling a recession since more people are turning to comparison shopping sites now than in the past. Also, most of these comparison sites lead consumers directly to ecommerce websites. This being the case, it is critical for marketers to engage potential customers through online channels where people are actively researching and buying products and services.

If you want to grow your business in today’s price conscious world, you’ve got to be where your potential customers are most likely to be. What is your business doing to succeed and grow in these challenging times? Hopefully the Internet is at the very top of your list.

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Depending upon who you talk to, Google has anywhere from 100 to well over 200 factors that they use to rank pages in their search results. To add to the fun and excitement, the days of Google updating their algorithms on a monthly basis or so no longer exists.

In today’s world of search, Google now updates their index and rankings constantly (24 hours a day – AKA Everflux). This being the case, you have to really understand SEO in order to be successful in achieving high organic search results.

The days of simply adding some Meta tags to your website and getting found is history. Not only are those days gone – such practices can even be dangerous if you do not have a solid understanding of what you’re doing.

So here are some examples of positive and negative on-page and off-page factors that affect Google rankings. Keep in mind the details are much more complex than bulleted below. However, this will give you some idea of what expert SEO professionals are up against every day. Without further ado, here’s the basics.

Positive On-Page Google Ranking Factors
(Keep in mind that when the following factors are used incorrectly they can become negative factors.)

  • Keyword in URL file name
  • Keyword in domain name
  • Keyword in Title tag
  • Keyword in Meta Description tag
  • Keyword in Keyword Meta tag
  • Keyword density in page body text
  • Keyword font size (strong, bold, italic)
  • Keyword proximity (how close keywords are placed together)
  • Keyword phrase order
  • Keyword prominence (how early used in tags/page content)
  • Keyword in alt text
  • Keyword in links to other pages of site
  • Keyword in links to external pages
  • Internal and external links not broken
  • Efficient tree-like navigation structure
  • Intra-site linking
  • Less than 100 links out per page total
  • Top level URL extension, i.e., “.com” vs. “.tv”
  • Page file size
  • Freshness of new pages and content updates
  • Frequency of updates
  • Page theming
  • Keyword stemming, i.e., drove, drive, driven, driver
  • Use of synonyms
  • Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
  • URL length
  • Site size
  • Site age
  • Age of page vs. age of site

Negative On-Page Google Ranking Factors

  • Text in graphic form only
  • Over optimization
  • Linking to Free For All (FFA) sites and bad neighborhoods
  • Redirects via Meta refresh tags
  • Copyright violations
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Keyword dilution
  • Inappropriate use of Flash
  • Use of frames
  • Misuse of robots.txt tag
  • Single pixel links
  • Invisible text, i.e., white text on white background
  • Duplicate content

Positive Off-Page Google Ranking Factors

  • PageRank (based on the number and quality of links to your site)
  • Total incoming links
  • Anchor text (keywords in text links) of inbound links to your site
  • Age of inbound links
  • Relevant keywords on referring pages
  • Page titles of referring pages
  • Inbound links from pages of same theme
  • Categorization of links from other sites
  • Age of site linking to yours (older better)

Negative Off-Page Google Ranking Factors

  • Buying links
  • Traffic buying
  • No incoming links to your site
  • Cloaking (presenting one page to search spiders and a different one to your visitors)
  • Links from bad neighborhoods/link farms
  • Google Terms of Service violations

Remember, the above are just some basic examples of ranking factors that affect how well your site ranks in Google (and other search engines). This being the case, it is recommended that you seriously study SEO before trying to implement it on your own, or you hire a professional. If you think it’s time you hired a professional to do your SEO work give us a call toll free at 877-276-2402. We can help turn the world of search in your favor.

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