Just like traditional business, ecommerce sites need to build
a reputation, drive traffic and foster brand loyalty (if appropriate).
Here are some tactics that may prove useful as you pursue
your ecommerce success.
A basic that is often overlooked, is
to make sure your product (s) lend themselves to online ecommerce.
Although specialty products may have a smaller target audience
they are less likely to compete with deep discount pricing
and deep pocket advertising.
Where to place your Advertising
Appealing to the masses is best left
to the industry giants than can afford multi-million dollar
campaigns. Even a modest advertising budget can reap large
benefits if it is fine tuned and aimed at a specific target
market. Consider placing your ad campaign at various levels
of your vertical channel. For example in our industry of web
hosting, our vertical includes non-core items like web design,
domain name registration, search engine optimization, Internet
Access etc. A well placed ad in web design makes sense since
most new sites will also need hosting. Take some time to reflect
on your industry and look for relationships between products.
Some products also can do well in cross channel efforts, but
in that case they are most likely mass merchandise items.
Some of the advertising methods you may wish
to consider are: news releases, posters in brick and mortar
locations, industry websites, magazines, postcards, ad racks,
park benches, buses, radio, television etc. I would recommend
that for any radio, print or tv advertising, that you test
the waters first in a smaller and more measurable location
(ie . your home town or neighbourhood).
One of the things we learned early
on is that it is extremely difficult to determine your ROI
(return on investment) from ad campaigns. For example, we
ran an ad at a industry web site for close to a year. Although
we received some traffic from the ad, it was never really
clear that we closed many sales due to the ad. What did however
happen is that there was a branding and credibility effect,
because the customer saw our name on that site, and then later
looking through the search engines, when they came across
our name it was already familiar and took on a higher degree
of credibility. We aren't currently running the ad in order
to try and measure the effectiveness ( plus they wanted more
money). More on that in future newsletters.
Search Engines & Pay
Getting to the top is important as the
higher up you are the more clicks are likely, and so ranking
well can be achieved in a number of ways. Generally it is
a lot easier to rank well in the niche markets and niche search
terms. In some cases the main terms really don't provide the
results people expect especially in light of the effort required
to rank well on a popular term. Some quick tips are, make
sure your site has multiple content rich (at least 250 words)
pages with each page focused towards a single particular search
term. In case you might be thinking looking at some our stuff
that we haven't followed our own advice, you would be partially
correct. It is something we are evolving towards, but we need
to move slowly since our main pages are revenue producing
and drastic changes could lead to drastic revenue changes.
In future articles we will be getting
into the nitty gritty of both search engines and pay per click
providers. For now the two largest players in the pay per
click arena are Google and Overture. Chinook is currently
running a campaign on Google adwords for some niche terms
and also some branding. Last year we discontinued with Overture
as in our industry the cost per click is very high. I would
consider using them again for some niche terms.
"A person, organization, or establishment
associated with another as a subordinate, subsidiary, or member:
network affiliates." I wanted to start this section with
a definition as sometimes the term affiliates doesn't have
the best connotation. Affiliates can indeed be a great way
to do business, just ask any member firm of a real estate
conglomerate or even your local car dealer (they are most
likely an affiliate for one of the major auto makers).
Partnering with a big site that can deliver
volume traffic, will benefit you not only in sales but also
help you gain rank in the search engines.
Affiliate marketing is inexpensive as your
cost comes from profit only when an actual sale is made. On
a side note don't restrict your affiliate program just to
the web. A local store or business establishment may produce
surprising amounts of highly qualified traffic.
If you go the affiiliate route, take the
time to plan out every variable and twist and turn, you will
be glad you did later on. For some helpful hints, I would
study the affiliate plans in place with some of the web's
larger players. For example Amazon (.com) has been in the
affiliate game for a very long time and their affiliate programs
are highly developed. For the smaller sites, it would be best
to avoid the shotgun approach and instead focus on signing
affiliates that are in your industry or near industry. (ie
computer sales is a near industry to web hosting).
Maintaining the Buzz
In a sense every web site is a potential
partner and I strongly encourage you to seek out links from
as many sites as possible. Sites within your industry may
generate a more valuable link, or sites using specific words
to link to you (anchor text) may help your rank more but overall
each link contributes either in traffic or rankings or both.
How do we maintain the buzz? You have probably
heard the phrase "sticky website". This refers to
designing your site in such a way that people return time
and time again. Running a journal (the in crowd now call it
blogging), newsletter or even just continual updates of existing
content or adding new content, all contribute to making a
site sticky. There are other factors like useability, appeal,
etc that determine the level of stickiness a site has.
Maintaining the buzz also means taking every
opportunity to promote your site. I have a bumper sticker
on my car and every email I send out contains a signarture
line that includes our web address. Can you run a contest,
stage an event, write an article, get published in the paper?
These things may not always be appropriate for every site
or every person but an example here is worth a thousand words.
About two years ago I wrote a rather short article about the
difficulty of getting into certain search engines at that
time. This article has for the last two years brought me traffic
and opportunities, the most recent one being an interview
with a major business publication (more on that if they use
The essential truth about marketing your
ecommerce site is that on average the efforts you put into
it will directly impact your success. The best way to maintain
the buzz is for you the site owner to continue being excited
about it, and continue to promote it.
Wolf is one of the partners of Chinook Webs and is actively
involved in search engine topics.
copyright Chinook Webs A Canadian Company®