Igor Soshkin's Posts (52)

  • SEO FIGHT - Shopping Cart Elite vs. Competitors

    Can you trust your Shopping Cart’s technology to work hand in hand with your website to rank it on the search engines and benefit any SEO work that you are doing?

    The answer is HELL NO, unless of course, you are with Shopping Cart Elite. Let me tell you about the recent events. A customer who switched to Shopping Cart Elite from BigCommerce emailed me a surprising email.

    Shae switched to Shopping Cart Elite because he was getting no organic traffic from his website when it was on BigCommerce. Of course, it is no surprise that he had no chance of ever getting any kind of organic traffic because his webpages were NOT indexed in Google.

    After going live on Shopping Cart Elite, exactly two days later the website started indexing, and two weeks later the whole website was indexed by Google.

    How does this work and what did we do? I will explain all of this in just a minute, but first let me rant a little bit more about our competitors and how you have no chance of achieving organic SEO results with them.

    First let me address one thing in case you are wondering why you should care about organic results? According to a recent Wired magazine article, out of 72 million customers shopping on 86 retailer sites, 15.8% of the sales were directly accounted by organic search. Following 11% from PPC, and 6% from email marketing.

    So you can do all the affiliate and social media marketing that you want, but you are missing the boat on organic ranking, which is the biggest single source of traffic that can be truly responsible for your growth.

    In fact, if you are looking to perfect your Organic, PPC, and Email Marketing technology, then you don’t need to look any further than Shopping Cart Elite because we are experts in all three, and we have the technology, software and training systems to support it.

    If you are a 3Dcart customer, you will be sad to know that 3Dcart is delusional about your success. After announcing their new V6.0 release, they wrote – “The improvements mentioned above represent some of the largest in 3dcart’s history. And while we strive to make every new version the best one yet, we’re confident that v6.0 will revolutionize the ecommerce industry by providing a robust shopping-cart solution”

    So let me get this straight, they spent one year developing a set of features that would take our team three months. The executive team convinced everyone inside the company that the new set of features will somehow revolutionize ecommerce, and now the PR people drank the Kool-Aid and are trying to pass it on to their customers.   

    So instead of releasing features that will actually help their customers grow such as “Sitemap larger than 50,000 URLS and Rich Snippets” (both available in Shopping Cart Elite out of the box), they are releasing a way to accept payments for Bitcoins and Dwolla. Yes, both are cool features, but 99% of their customers do not need them and will not use them. How about releasing something uncool that will actually help ALL your customers make more money? Talk about a clueless executive team.

    And with Volusion, actually let’s not get me started on Volusion. If you are one of their current customers, you know what I am talking about.

    WHAT IS WEBSITE INDEXING

    First let me explain what everything means in case you are new to this.

    The Googlebot is simply the search bot software that Google sends out to collect information about documents on the web to add to Google’s searchable index.

    Crawling is the process where the Googlebot goes around from website to website, finding new and updated information to report back to Google. The Googlebot finds what to crawl using links.

    Indexing is the processing of the information gathered by the Googlebot from its crawling activities. Once documents are processed, they are added to Google’s searchable index if they are determined to be quality content. During indexing, the Googlebot processes the words on a page and where those words are located. Information such as title tags and ALT attributes is also analyzed during indexing.

    HOW DO WE DO IT TO GUARANTEE INDEXING

    We simply following the Google’s recommended guidelines

    1)      Add your URL to Index

    2)      Add Rich Snippets

    3)      Add your Sitemap to Google WebmasterTools

    ADD YOUR URL - It sounds simple enough but it’s not. Adding a URL to the index does not guarantee the complete website being index. What it will do is get Google to crawl your homepage and a few top level webpages. To ensure all the webpages get indexed you need a boost of authority domains to link to you all at the same time. Whenever a new client launches we make an announcement on PRWEB, which would normally cost five hundred, but we do it at no charge through our annual subscription with them.

    ADD RICH SNIPPETS – I wrote a blog post about Rich Snippets recently. Most Shopping Cart competitors do not offer this, and the few that do offer it make it impossible to implement. To implement rich snippets, you must code this on a template level, you will have to modify HTML and CSS code to make it look good, and finally you will encounter rich snippet validation problems along with wrong data being displayed. It will take you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to implement.

    ADD YOUR SITEMAP – Google does not have an API to submit your sitemap automatically. So what did we do? WE made an uncool feature which will do it without an API. Simply provide your Google Username and Pass inside Shopping Cart Elite, and it will go once every 30 days and submit it automatically through macros. In addition, we implemented Google Sitemap Index which will support an unlimited amount of URL submissions. If you do not have a Sitemap Index, then you can only submit 50000 URLs at a time.

    Finally, there is one more thing. We use a SINGLE proven template that works for SEO, Excellent Engagement from Visitor Behavior, Easy Navigation, and … you guessed it, Website Indexing. This template can be customized to any look and feel, but some elements have to be within our framework.

    For example, you are not allowed to have any kind of side menus on the product page. It is done for SEO purposes, as well as visitor engagement to have a single call to action.

    Now let me show you what happens, when you think you are smarter than everyone else, and do not take our advice about letting us handle the template for you.

    Here is a 3Dcart customer (as of 7/13/2013) - www.thebuilderssupply.com, and below are two URLs to two completely different products.

    URL: thebuilderssupply.com/World-Dryer-SMARTdri-Plus-K-973P-Automatic-Hand-Dryer_p_58011.html

    URL: thebuilderssupply.com/Palmer-Fixture-HD0903-17-Touchless-Hand-Dryer_p_28660.html

    Now if you go to Webconfs Similar Page Checker, and compare the two URLS you will get a 79% similarity.  If your similarity is above 70%, then you have little chance of indexing one of these webpages, and most likely most of your webpages will not be indexed or ranked high in the search engines.

    If you notice this website has unique content on both webpages, but because of the garbage content on the side menus, that is triggering the similarity which is hurting the website’s SEO. Thank your Shopping Cart for giving you the ability to get thousands of outdated JUNK vaporware templates so you can get off their back and pay them money, instead of putting up a fight for your interests by making a template that will make your business successful.

    CONCLUSION

    Sure you can go and start fixing everything I wrote about, but this is one of a thousand things wrong with your Shopping Cart. The other option is you can just switch to Shopping Cart Elite, and all of these problems will go away.

    If you want a real technology and software partner with REAL experience who’s got your back, and looks out for your interests, so you don’t have to know every little detail about the software and technology.

    If you want a real partner who proactively does research about issues facing your website and fixes them before you even learn about them.

    If you want a real partner who has already implemented thousands of tools and systems to maximize your conversions.

    Then Shopping Cart Elite is that partner that you are looking for, and you should partner with us today.

    Read more…
  • Getting a top ranking in Google is easier said than done. In a day and age where almost every business in every niche is investing in Search Engine Optimization, it is virtually impossible to achieve the desired results.

    Hiring a manager is not within everyone’s capabilities and outsourcing the tasks are not always effective.  While SEO is an essential part of an online business, you have more serious matters to attend.  You cannot afford to be your business’s SEO specialist because you are needed elsewhere. You need to devote time to run your business not reading about SEO.

    Even if you do save up and hire someone to do your SEO, there is no guarantee that the job will get done. Almost every business owner I speak to have an unpleasant experience of hiring someone for SEO.

    You are so invested in all of the daily grinds, that you soon forget why you even started your business in the first place.

    What you need is an automated solution that will take care of it all. A system designed to do all the heavy lifting for you, so that you do not have to worry about the daily grinds in your business, and actually enjoy running it for once.

    An automated system like Shopping Cart Elite is exactly what you need for quality SEO results.

    Watch the video below

    Article Marketing Tips - Shopping Cart Elite

    I show you how you can optimize all the content on your website, including articles and product descriptions so that you get keyword rich content that search engines will pick up in no time.

    As our system is automated, S E O tasks are cut down by half. The tasks that remain to be done can be easily outsourced. In this post, I talk about how to follow a bullet proof recruiting system to find a dedicated staff for operating the Shopping Cart Elite SEO apps.

    Since we offer an automated solution, you do not need a staff with specialized training. Simply outsource it, and just like that, one of your daily grinds is off the list.

    At the end of the day, Shopping Cart Elite promises and delivers SEO results using a proven system that works on autopilot, and leaves you free to pursue other tasks.

    Read more…
  • Shopping Cart Elite Rich Snippets

    Google wants you go beyond their webmaster guidelines. However, your Shopping Cart that claims to be S.E.O Ready has implemented only a handful of Google’s recommendations.

    One of the ways to boost your ranking and clicks is to use Rich Snippets.

    Google values rich snippet data more than keyword density on your webpage. For example, if a customer searches for a SKU number using Google, the customer will have a greater chance finding your website on Google if you have that SKU number in your rich snippets. Sometimes you might not even have the SKU number on your product webpage, so your website is likely will never show up in the search results if the rich snippet is missing.

    Rich snippet data contains key information to rank your product webpages higher. That includes image, price, reviews, available, descriptions, and more.

    Shopping Cart Elite automatically inserts rich snippets to every product webpage on your website. If you switch to Shopping Cart Elite, then all your product webpages will automatically rank higher than your competitors who are not using Rich Snippets.

    Most Shopping Cart competitors do not offer this, and the few that do offer it make it impossible to implement. To implement rich snippets, you must code this on a template level, you will have to modify HTML and CSS code to make it look good, and finally you will encounter rich snippet validation problems along with wrong data being displayed. It will take you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to implement.

    Shopping Cart Elite is not just S.E.O ready, but we are the only Shopping Cart in the industry that is Beyond S E O Ready. Not to mention that our cloud infrastructure hosts the fastest ecommerce websites in the world.

    Don't waste your time with cheap Shopping Carts, this is just one of a thousand reasons to try Shopping Cart Elite today.

    Read more…
  • Rank Better in Google with Rich Snippets

    NOTE: If you are using Shopping Cart Elite, the rich snippets are automatically added for you so their is no need to implement this.

    Google rich snippets. What the heck are those?

    They're these awesome things that can help you improve your SEO, and generate more site traffic from the SERPs, and I'm going to tell you how to set them up in this post.

    Bet I got your attention now, right?

    Well to answer your question, let me first pose another question to you. Have you noticed that when doing a Google search, certain listings just look sexier than others? For example, if you were doing a search for "apple pie," which of these listings when you rather click on?

    google-rich-snippet-example-1

    I bet you chose option #1. If you didn't, you must really not like apple pie.

    So what are these sites doing to make their Google listings include all these extra details? The secret to these fancy pieces of information are rich snippets that these websites have coded onto their website pages.

    What are rich snippets?

    Google rich snippets extract information from your website to display on your site's listing in the search results, in addition to the typical page title, page URL, and meta description. This extra information can include photos, ratings, author information, and more.

    Rich snippets are often overlooked in businesses' SEO strategies because they are more difficult to implement that traditional on-page SEO strategies. But it would be well worth your while to spend a little time learning how to do this. Adding this content-rich information to your Google search listings draws the eye and can increase your listings' click-through rates by 30%, even when you're not in the #1 position. 

    How are rich snippets installed?

    Okay, so here's the tricky technical part. There are a few options for how to install rich snippets, but I'm going to show you the easiest method: using microdata. Since I don't want to confuse you, I'm only going to show you this approach -- and once you get the hang of it, it's really not too difficult!

    1) Learn what microdata is.

    Microdata is a way to label content to describe what the information is all about. For example, an event has all sorts of information associated with it, including the venue, starting time, name, and category. So you can use a bit of code to say, "Okay, here's my event, and here's all the information that Google needs to know about it to display a fancy listing.

    2) Start marking up your content.

    Review the different types of rich snippets below. Each rich snippet links to Google's instructions on how to set up each type of rich snippet -- when you load their page, always select the microdata approach to get the right instructions.

    3) Test your rich snippet.

    Google Webmaster Tools has a nifty feature that lets you test your rich snippet. Click here to use their Structured Data Testing Tool. This will confirm whether or not Google can read your markup data and whether your rich snippets are appearing in their search results.

    4) Be patient.

    If you don't see your rich snippets in Google's search results right away, don't freak out. It actually takes Google as long as a few weeks to crawl and index this new data. So go to the beach. Sip a margarita. Soak in some sun.

    Okay, it's more likely that you'll just keep working on other stuff in the meantime, but a girl can dream.

    What types of rich snippets are there?

    Let's run through some of the different types of rich snippets that are available to use on your website. Each section links to Google's instructions on how to actually install the rich snippets -- remember to select the microdata option for the easiest installation process!

    Author Snippets

    The author snippet includes the following elements:

    • The author's name
    • The author's picture as it appears on Google+
    • How many Google+ followers the author has
    • Links to more articles by that author

    google-search-authorship-example

    Learn how to create rich snippets for authors >

    Business and Organization Snippets

    A rich snippet about a business or organization can include location information, contact information, price ranges, hours, and customer reviews, if there are any available.

    business-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for organizations >

    Event Snippets

    Event snippets include the date, location, and time of the event. If there are more than one option for the events, up to three will be displayed.

    event-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for events >

    Music Album Snippets

    Using music album rich snippets will display links to individual songs in an album, or even lyrics to the song if available.

    music-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for music >

    People Snippets

    The people snippet displays information such as a person's job title, the company they work for (a.k.a. affiliation), and location. It can also display a photo, nickname, and more.

    People snippets are different than author snippets. Here is the difference, with an example of yours truly.

    people-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for people > 

    Product Snippets

    Product rich snippets include things like a picture of a product, ratings, and price range of the product.

    product-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for products > 

    Recipe Snippets

    Recipe rich snippets provide users with additional information about a specific cooking recipe, such as the ratings (1 to 5 stars), cook/prep time, and calorie information.

    In order to qualify as a recipe, you must have at least two of the following tags in place:

    • A photo of the dish
    • The tag: prepTime, cookTime, totalTime, or ingredients
    • Calories
    • Review
    recipe-rich-snippet
     

    Review Snippets

    You've already seen a bunch of examples of snippets that have 5-star ratings included. But you can also set up a snippet that is just the review portion. 

    review-google-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for reviews > 

    Video Snippets

    If you want a thumbnail of a video to display next to your search listing, the markup works a little different. Google recognizes the Facebook Share markup code, so you might as well kill two birds with one stone.

    video-google-rich-snippet

    Learn how to create rich snippets for videos >

    Read more…
  • As you know Google uses website speed in their web search ranking, Read Here.
    We are happy to announce that Shopping Cart Elite client websites have benchmarked to be the fastest ecommerce websites in the world. We have tested websites from BigCommerce, Volusion, and 3Dcart. We even tested against Amazon.com and Yahoo.com
    How did we do it? We own our hardware that we can tweak and we built the Shopping Cart Elite from the ground up. We literally built the code from scratch unlike our competitors who use outdated and unoptimized open source code and then code their vaporware garbage on top of it.
    And the result is fastest websites online. Proof below
    Shopping Cart Elite Benchmark vs Competitors
    Don't waste your time with cheap Shopping Carts, this is just one of a thousand reasons to try Shopping Cart Elite today.
    Info
    SignForm
    More Info
    Meet Tom Video - Shopping Cart Software Comparsion
    codie findthebest SCE
    Read more…
  • Jake works approximately 100 hours per week on his business. He wakes up at 7am, and his day ends at 10 pm. He doesn't actually end his day because he goes to sleep holding his iPhone while checking for new emails. His body is forced to dream about the daily grind that is about to start in just a few hours. Jake admits that he hates his business, he dreads it. He has no life, and he does not see the light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn't always like that. Jake remembers the day that he quit his job, and finally went to work for himself. He remembers feeling as though everything was going to be alright. He used to love working on his business, and putting in 15 hour daily shifts. He felt fulfilled and accomplished, working for himself.

    Unfortunately for Jake, he can’t stop now. He has too much time and money tied in his business, and he is committed to making it work. Besides, if he quits now, how is he going to pay his bills or address the newly developed OCD that his business forced him to undertake?

    Jake, came to us and said, “I’ve read about Shopping Cart Elite, and I have a great feeling that this is what I need to get my life back and to get my business growing again.” As much as I would have loved to close the sale on Jake, I knew that he needed something else before Shopping Cart Elite. Shopping Cart Elite is incredible software that can automate your business, but “automate” is a wildly overused word which most people don’t fully understand, and many have never experienced it.

    SOFTWARE AUTOMATION

    Automation is not just about software, it is about accountability. For example, Shopping Cart Elite has 14 different apps to automate your internal operations. The chart below shows how the work flow process would work.

    Shopping Cart Elite Apps Chart

    Each app includes dozens of different steps to use it efficiently. It is true that if you don’t use software to help you be more efficient, then you can’t automate anything. It is just as true that if you don’t have the right person at the right seat to use the software, then the software will not help you either.

    Shopping Cart Elite’s commitment to our clients is we will solve your labor intensive, sleep depriving daily grind in your business in 30 days or less. It would’ve been, against our commitment and core values to advise Jake to move forward with Shopping Cart Elite, because it wouldn’t solve his daily grind, it would just add more to his plate.

    So what did we recommend to jake?

    DAILY GRIND

    Jake was already overwhelmed. The last thing he needs was another software, with another learning curve, just to realize that he has no time to use it. In addition, Jake suggested that since he is a technician, he can do everything himself. He can do the graphic design, data migration, store setup, and learn the new system, all the while running his 100 hour per week business.

    It takes five people and a combined 200 hours for our team to complete the graphic design, data migration, store setup, and fine tune everything before launching the website. If Jake spent 2 hours per day, excluding weekends, to launch his website, it would take him five months to meet 200 hours. Now since, Jake is not an expert in graphic design and would need to go through the learning curve of our system, he would be lucky to launch the website in one year.

    Shopping Cart Elite includes full VIP migration with graphic design, data migration and store setup at no charge with our annual plan. In fact, our Pro Plan has unlimited everything. Unlimited orders, unlimited employees, unlimited products, unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth etc. We are the first hosted scalable Shopping Cart in the world that has a true fixed cost. Not only are we light years ahead of our competition on features, but we also end up costing 70% less, compared to any of our competitor solutions.

    Did you know that 50% of new businesses never launch their website due to this challenge? One of our competitor advertises that they have 35,000 clients. What they should advertise on their homepage is that 17,500 clients started with us one year ago and they never went live, while still paying their bills.

    Jake was thrilled that we could get his business up-and-running in 30 days or less, but he still had a problem. He was working 100 hours per week. So we advised him that he needs to do HUMAN AUTOMATION then SOFTWARE AUTOMATION.

    What is Human Automation?

    HUMAN AUTOMATION

    “Jake, why do you do all the work yourself?”, I asked. Jake replied, “Because I don’t trust anyone to do it. I’ve had so many unpleasant experiences where they just screwed up, and I can’t afford that.”

    Why do people screw up?, and is there a way to make a bullet proof system where they can’t screw up? If someone does end up screwing up on this bullet proof system, well then, the system is not bullet proof yet, and it needs to be fixed.

    What if instead of blaming your worker, you blame the system? Then you can go and fix it, so it doesn’t happen again. I’ve wrote a blog post recently, and I will just copy a few paragraphs out of it below:

     “First let me explain to you what I mean by system. Some people refer to it as a process, work manual, daily task list, workflow, work guide, etc. I simply call it a system because I try to take all of those terms and combine it into something that works, “a system”.

    McDonalds that sells Burgers is a great example of a system that works. If you open four locations right now, Los Angeles, New York, London, and New Delhi India, then you will need exactly three weeks to find low skilled, minimum wage workers from a “Now Hiring” window sign, and you will have a functional business that generates on average two million dollars per year per location, and produces the same exact food regardless of what location you will visit.

    How is it possible that McDonalds can go from nothing to two million dollars per year by hiring people off the street to produce results that satisfy their target customers, and work 9-5 shifts while you are putting in 14 hour days and can’t make ends meet?

    The reason this works for McDonalds because they have a system that works. McDonalds was also once a small struggling business with just a single store location. It took 20 years to perfect the system that can make a business go from zero to two million in three weeks with low skilled, and minimum wage workers. McDonalds employs 34,000 people worldwide and generates four billion dollars per year using this half a century old system. That is what I call a successful system. If we divide the numbers, McDonalds makes a gross of $117,000 per year for each employee, how much does your business make per employee?

    If you want to learn more about building your system, I recommend you listen to these books:

    This book

    And This book

    Most of us waste so much time during driving, watching TV, etc. Download the books and listen to them on your free time. Take a weekend off and listen to both of them. It will be one of your best decisions you will have ever made.”

    HUMAN AUTOMATION SECRET

    You ready for the secret? You have no chance whatsoever, ever, ever, ever, ever to become a truly successful company without a system. In fact, there is not a single company in the Fortune 500 that doesn’t use systems. You have no choice, by not using a system, you automatically put all the odds against you, and you might as well go back to your 9-5 job because you will never make more than $10/hr working your 100 hour weekly shift inside your business.

    I highly recommend reading the books I suggested above to build your system, but here are the two things I learned from each book that made a huge difference to our company.

    1)      How to Build a System – I love this layout, thanks to emyth.com. I document a proven system, I record a 15 minute video explaining the details of the chart, and then, all I have to do is hire a virtual assistant to follow it. THAT’S IT! No more trust issues, no more blaming staff, no more worrying about someone accountable not doing their job.

    Now, of course, building a system from scratch will take months to perfect. But in Jake’s case, he already knows his job inside out. He has been doing it for years, all he has to do is document it properly, and delegate it to another staff member.

    2)      How to Build a System Diagram – The software I use is Microsoft Visio 2013, and the chart is called Cross Functional Flow Chart. Each line in the chart is what I call a lane, similar to the Olympics Swimming Pool Lane. Each lane is an accountable task that needs to be handled by a single person. Sometimes you can have more than one person handling multiple lanes, and for new entrepreneurs you will be handling all the lanes in the beginning. The idea behind this chart is, if you ever drop a ball in your business, it means you didn’t address it in the chart. The goal is to start from the beginning, and get to the end. The more lanes that are involved, the harder the process, and the more chances of there being a mistake.

    Keep in mind that you can’t just draw this out and delegate it. You need to get your hands dirty and perfect the system yourself, before assigning people to their positions.

    The systems in Shopping Cart Elite are so huge that if we were to print out even one of them, it would be 15 pages wide. 

    I advised Jake to read the books I mentioned above, and to start designing his systems to delegate 100% of his current work to someone else. This way he can have more time to learn Shopping Cart Elite and do the new tasks.

    Shopping Cart Elite has a complete software system for retailers to automate their business in 30 days. Everything from migration to running your business will be automated. All of the tools inside Shopping Cart Elite are used by our own company.

    For example, the Shopping Cart Elite support desk is so tightly integrated with all the Shopping Cart Elite apps, that you can run your sales, support, returns, customer service and every department from it.

    If you are looking to automate your business, or start a new one the correct way, read the books, and join Shopping Cart Elite today so we can start building out your website. By the time you finish reading the books, your website will be ready, and you will be on the right path to a successful online business.

    Read more…
  • You might be wondering how you can increase the amount of orders you get daily. It is not your fault that you don’t know what I am about to tell you because the only way you would know is with experience. Every email that we send to you has a little piece of our personal experience that is rarely found on the internet.

    If you are reading it and take action on what we recommend, you will be on your way to having a successful online business. Do not let your work distract you from taking a ten minute break and learning this priceless knowledge that we share with you every week.

    WEBSITE PHONE SALES

    The purpose of a website is to work for you 24/7, and act as a sales agent for your company. But you know that your website is far from being a perfect salesman, after all it does not convert as well as you can in real life.

    Even though the website is available to do the transactions for you, it lacks the human touch. There is a very interesting video, about how we process information in our brains. They say that content is only responsible for seven percent of convincing the customer to buy from you, 38% is tonality which your website lacks, and 55% is the visual aspect that your website most likely lacks as well.

    Now if you take my advice about making beautiful visual product webpages, you might boost your conversions.  However, your website will never be you, and it will lack the human tonality, unless of course you invest a lot of money into video production and website design.

    Most businesses put together a bunch of UGLY product webpages, with no tonality, poor graphic design and one sentence of content, and they expect their website to convert 24/7. Get REAL!

    BUT HOW DO SOME SUCCEED?

    Well they answer the phone when the customer calls, and then they will answer any questions about the product (information that was supposed to be on the product webpage in the first place). If they are a great salesman they will use their tonality to try and close the sale, and finally a creative salesman will use a persuading emotional sales pitch to close even more sales.

    So assuming that you are in the position of doing a terrific job of closing sales over the phone, what happens when you stop answering the phone at the end of the day, and your live chat goes offline? Have you ever counted how many sales you lose?

    You need to calculate how many people try to call you after business hours. How many of them do not reach you, how many do not bother to call you, and finally how many do not get an answer to their questions. 

    MEASURING SALES AFTER BUSINESS HOURS

    Shopping Cart Elite uses TEA (Threat and Engagement Analytics) to measure how many people attempt to call you. Here is a screen shot of what that looks like.

    The screen shot shows 243 visitors attempting to contact the website owner over a month period. TEA confirmed all of them were real human visitors, which had excellent engagement. You will see the date underlined with visitors who tried contacting this website before and after business hours.

    It is not guaranteed that they were successful in contacting anyone, or if they sent in an email with their question. What we do know is that if someone was available during those hours, then those visitors would become customers.

    Here is how we track these visitors:

    1. If you are a real human visitor AND
    2. If you have browsed the search results for more than 40 seconds OR
    3. If you have browsed a product webpage for more than 30 seconds AND
    4. You visited the contact page for more than 10 seconds AND
    5. The  Contact webpage was the last page visited before leaving the website THEN
    6. Trigger the TEA Issue “Tried to Contact”

    You can try to track this using Google Analytics, but because Google Analytics doesn’t track real visitors vs. fake visitors you will have a hard time coming up with a conclusion on how many sales you are losing due to this problem.

    PURPOSE OF CUSTOMER SUPPORT

    Finally, let’s assume that some the visitors are not new customers, but existing customers who have a problem. You might make a decision that you unquestionably don’t care to provide them after hours customer support.

    However, you must understand the fundamental purpose of customer support, it is to change feelings, not the facts, but the way your customer feels. The facts might be the price, or a return, or how long someone had to wait for service. Sometimes changing the facts is a shortcut to changing feelings, but not always, and changing the facts alone is not always sufficient anyway.

    If a customer service process (your call center/complaints department/returns policy) is built around stalling, denying and begrudging the customer, and finally to the few customers who persist on calling you until you comply, then it might save money, but it is a total failure.

    The customer who seeks out your help isn’t often looking to deplete your bank account. He is usually seeking validation, support and a path to feeling the way he felt before you let him down.

    The best measurement of customer support is whether, after the interaction, the customer would recommend you to a friend. Time on the line, refunds given or the facts of the case are irrelevant. The feelings are all that matter, and changing feelings takes humanity and connection, not cash.

    So if you have a customer service problem that requires customers to call you at these hours, then you should

    1. Develop a system to address these issues before they happen
    2. Create or Optimize your company Core Values and make your customer support team embrace them

    MEASURING CUSTOMER SUPPORT AND SALES

    Shopping Cart Elite uses TEA to track phone sales. When a visitor enters your website, they are assigned a reference number on the footer of each webpage. When that visitor calls you, you can ask them to give you their reference number. You would then create an account inside Shopping Cart Elite and tag that reference number. Once that reference number is tagged TEA will know where that phone call originated from and if it results in sales, it will log that as well.

    Additionally you can log when the phone call started and ended, as well as what the call was in reference too. This way you can print a weekly or monthly report to see how many calls your company had, and how long on average the calls lasted.

    Stop using an amateur shopping cart system that you are using today, and start using Shopping Cart Elite. YOU WILL BE GLAD THAT YOU DID.

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  • Shopping Cart vs. Checkout Abandonment

    You finally start getting decent traffic to your website, as well as new customers registering every day. Then all of sudden you see this shocking metric in your BackOffice, fifty percent of your customers have abandoned your checkout process.

    You go to Google and search for “How to reduce checkout Abandoned Rate”, and then you get a bunch of bloggers (stupidvisors) writing the same c-r-a-p that has nothing to do with checkout abandonment.

    Seriously, what does adding beautiful product pictures have anything to do with checkout abandonment? They must be confused with product webpage abandonment. I literally went through 50 different blog posts, and the only advice I got that was valid for checkout abandonment is that you should send out emails with promocodes to visitors who abandoned your checkout.

    After spending three hours reading over 100,000 words, and only getting one paragraph of advice from all of them combined, felt like watching paint dry. I don’t blame the bloggers, they don’t know any better because they never ran an ecommerce website, but Google still ranks their irrelevant garbage on the first three pages in the search results and wasting not only my time, but also your time if you ever followed my footsteps.

    Now before we jump into this subject, I want to warn you that this mainly applies to you if you actually see abandoned orders in your BackOffice. If you do not see abandon orders on a daily basis, most likely you don’t have enough traffic or you have other problems such as High Bounce Rate, Window Shopping, and Product Webpage Abandonment. I just want to make sure that you don’t jump ahead of the horse and conclude that you have a checkout abandonment problem when you actually have other problems.

    If you are using Shopping Cart Elite it will clearly tell you how many abandon orders you get on a daily basis.

    SHOPPING CART vs. CHECKOUT ABANDONMENT

    So assuming that you do have a checkout abandonment problem, you should be aware of a metric called Exit Rate, Exit Rate in simple English is the total amount of visitors that left your website after browsing at least two webpages. Since it is unlikely for someone to enter your shopping cart or checkout page from outside of your website and bounce, the metric of your checkout abandonment is called an exit rate.

    Here are a few reasons why you may have a high exit rate on your shopping cart itself (you know the page where you see the subtotal and apply couponcodes):

    • Estimate shipping is too high
    • You are charging tax
    • Visitor realized how much money they are about to spend and got scared
    • Visitor is window shopping and will come back at another time because you did a poor job convincing them to make an impulsive buy
    • Teased the visitor with the idea that you have coupons and sent them on a hunt to find one that doesn’t exist
    • Didn’t reinforce the visitor of a price match guarantee, so they left to compare prices
    • Shopping cart has technical issues that are not allowing visitors to move forward
    • You don’t ship to the visitor’s country
    • You don’t ship fast enough
    • You don’t specify when exactly the item will arrive as the visitors needs it by a certain date

    It is human nature to convince ourselves out of a deal. If you do not give an incentive for your customer to move past the shopping cart in ten seconds, then half of those visitors may leave (unless you have a killer deal).

    I believe that most of the issues listed above can be addressed by giving your customer a limited time coupon code that is valid for the next 12 hours, and it should clearly show them on the checkout process that the coupon was applied to their cart.  The coupon should also indicate that it will expire today by midnight.

    If you are using Shopping Cart Elite, you have an option to assign a custom CSS theme to the shopping cart page when a discount is applied. This way a banner will show up that the coupon was applied in their cart, and it will expire at midnight.

    You can also try to engage the visitors using live chat by asking them about their concerns if they spend more than 40 seconds on the shopping cart webpage.  

    Finally, you can disable estimate shipping altogether (in Setting > Website Setting) and disable the coupon code from displaying so you can get visitors to the next step.

    So when you hear someone talking about Checkout Abandonment, they are most likely talking about shopping cart exit rate. Since there is very little information online about actual checkout abandonment, let me tell you many ways of resolving it.

    CHECKOUT ABANDONMENT

    TECHNICAL ISSUE: ONE STEP CHECKOUT - FAIL

    Did you realize that all the commodity shopping carts (BigCommerce, Volusion, 3Dcart, Magento) offer one step checkout, while the majority of the Fortune 500 companies do not? eBay doesn’t offer it, and neither does Amazon. Amazon has one click checkout not a one page checkout.

    It is true that the founders of the commodity shopping carts woke up one day and decided to build a shopping cart with no ecommerce experience whatsoever. None of the founders or the executives of the commodity shopping carts ever ran a successful ecommerce website. They simply don’t know what works and what doesn’t work for their customers. This is certainly a core problem because once you a develop the core of the software, it is not practical to change it in a few years later when you realize you have the whole thing wrong.

    One Step Checkout is as useful as a screen door on a submarine. Where is the proof that creating a form with 50 fields on it will increase sales? Why are customers requesting this non-sense? The commodity shopping carts have succeeded in brain washing you once again by making up facts without any proof that it will help your business, while these facts certainly hurt your business more than it helps.

    In Shopping Cart Elite, we broke up the steps into four steps (like all the fortune 500 companies).

    1. Guest Checkout / Register / Login
    2. Billing Information
    3. Shipping Information
    4. Confirmation

    Using a multi-step checkout process, you end up capturing a potential customer’s email address. This will allow you to contact the potential customer by email if they abandon their checkout. Only then, you ask for other billing and shipping information. This way if they do not complete the checkout process, you will have an email to contact the visitor and try to save the sale. Second, it is much less intimidating: instead of one long form, you have a short one at each stage.

    In addition if they leave on a certain step then we can use a process of elimination to figure out the reason why they abandoned the particular checkout step.

    Shopping Cart Elite has a four step checkout so can easily identify the reason for the checkout abandonment.

    STEP 1: LOGIN / REGISTER

    Offering guest checkout is a must have, creating a video ensuring the security of the customer information will also get them passed this step. Shopping Cart Elite allows you to add custom HTML to this page (setting > themes > external plugins), and it also supports guest checkout.

    STEP 2: BILLING CHECKOUT ABANDONMENT

    As I said earlier, customers love to talk themselves out of a deal the first chance they get. You need to eliminate all the obstacles and encourage the deal throughout the whole process.

    • Add Security badges, SSL certificates, lock icons, privacy policies and “shop with confidence” on the side of the menu. Do not make the banners linkable so the customer doesn’t leave your website, just leave them as images. Having such graphics can put the customer at ease because they may fear of sharing their personal information with you.
    • Add a nice graphic for your contact information, easy return statement, brand commitment promise, price guarantee, and any other guarantees.
    • You can add testimonials of recent sales and reviews as a scrolling top banner (available in Shopping Cart Elite plugins). Customers love being a part of something, and seeing that others are making purchases will allow them to proceed with the next step. Try to put their mind off at ease and get them into an emotional mood so they can focus on buying the products.
    • Add a 60 second video on each process from the CEO with auto play (once per session and only for new visitors using Wistia) that will encourage them and walk them through all the steps.
    • The customer might not have their credit card information with them, so offering other services such as PayPal might help. Shopping Cart Elite does leave the visitor session alive for six hours, so if they come back in an hour they can still checkout. Shopping Cart Elite also leaves the shopping cart alive forever so if they want to finish the checkout at home, they can.

    STEP 3: SHIPPING CHECKOUT ABANDONMENT

    The majority of abandon checkouts on this process is related to shipping.

    STEP 4: CONFIRMATION CHECKOUT ABANDONMENT

    80% of the customers abandon this step due to technical issues with your merchant account gateway. In most cases, an address verification rule fails to process the order which takes the customer back to the second step. Sometimes it is due to fraud, but in most cases, it is a false positive which frustrates the customer and they leave.

    • Shopping Cart Elite sends you an internal email every time your merchant gateway failed to process an order. You can also see every abandon order that you have on a daily basis from the order search screen. DO NOT IGNORE THESE MESSAGES, as you are losing sales over something that can easily be fixed.

     

    We recommend that you set your AVS (address verification system) on the gateway to the minimum requirements, so it would reject an order only if nothing matches. If at least something matches let it go through and then verify the order manually. To find out how you can confirm the order is not a fraud, read this tutorial we put together.

    • You may have additional fees applied that made the price a lot higher than the customer expected.
    • Make sure that the order was processed under another order number and that it is truly an abandoned order.
    • Cheer the customer to complete the step by pointing out the arrow to press for completing the checkout, or making a Thank you in advance video.

    ABANDONED CART SAVER

    BigCommerce – “When someone abandons the checkout process we will automatically send them a series of emails enticing them to complete their order in your online store, optionally including a coupon code. You can completely track the number of abandoned and recovered orders using the integrated analytics capability.

    Which @*^% &! decided this was a good feature? I can foresee the meeting taking place.

    …IT IS YEAR 2009…

    Executive Team Member A: Hey Mate, I saw a blog post recently on Google’s first page from all those smart (stupidvisor) bloggers talking about checkout abandonment. They are saying that this is a big industry issue. I mean after all it’s all over Google’s first page, it must be important, and we have to do something about it.

    Sales Team Member: Yes! Definitely and since our awesome app partners are charging like $200 for this feature per month, we can just include this into one of our packages and charge more money!

    Executive Team Member B: Yes Mate, this is an awesome idea, so anyone knows how this feature works?

    Sales Team Member: Yes! I know, I get emails from Amazon in the spam folder all the time. We just need to do what Amazon does, and make, like a simple auto responder that will spam the $hit! out of the customers who abandoned the checkout to an extent that they would have wished they never done business with that website, LOL hahahaha.

    Executive Team Member B: Haha, Great Idea Mate, we will put this on our schedule for 2012. What you think is three years long enough to develop this feature?

    Sales Team Member: Well I am not a developer, but considering we only have one developer who is actually working in our company, I think three years is more than enough time to roll this out.

    Ok, enough jokes.

    Spamming your visitors with promo codes after they’ve abandoned your checkout will not make them a customer. It is a stupid idea, that will only make sure that potential customer never does business with you again. Can you imagine if the customer left due to technical issues, or he checked out under another order, and next thing he knows is his getting spammed with promo codes? This is what I am talking about when I say commodity shopping cart like BigCommerce are developing vaporware. It sounds good on paper, but it is a useless feature.

    It may be even illegal according to the CAN SPAM ACT unless you put that in your terms and conditions and the customer agreed to it.

    SAVING AN ABANDON CHECKOUT ORDER

    If you do not have too many abandoned orders, just pick up the phone and call them, or create a few friendly emails for each different step, and send them out by hand. You don’t actually have to worry about checkout abandonment unless you feel that you are losing a large portion of your total company revenue that must be recovered at any cost.

    ADVANCED ABANDON CHECKOUT AUTO RESPONDER

    We developed an intelligent auto responder inside Shopping Cart Elite which will do three things.

    1)      You will manually review each abandon order, and schedule a specific email series to that customer. As you can imagine not everyone should be getting certain emails, and some customers shouldn’t get them at all. If you are going to train your loyal customers that by abandoning an order they get a coupon with a discount, then this will only encourage them to do that next time and it will ultimately backfire on you when you will be generating abandoned checkout orders instead of sales.

    By manually select the email series for each customer you can:

    1. Confirm that you are sending the right emails series to the right customer
    2. Confirm that the customer didn’t checkout with another order
    3. Confirm that there  were no technical problems
    4. Customize the email series with specials coupon codes for specific set of products instead of a universal coupon code
    5. Evaluate how the email series has been working thus far from previous customers

     

    2)      When the email is sent it will track open rate, click rate and engagement. Yes, we can actually tell how much of the email was read after it was open.

     

    3)      Using this engagement information the intelligent auto responder will delay sending too many emails to the customer. So if the customer engaged with an email, it will send the next one two days later, if the customer didn’t engage with it then it will send it out 1 day later. This way it will look like a human is actually emailing instead of commodity shopping cart automated spam system.

    Since this feature is not particularly simple to setup, you should only consider it if you have at least 5 or more abandon orders per day. If you do have at least 5 abandon orders per day, and would like to use this feature then email [email protected].

    RETARGETING CUSTOMERS

    When you visit a website, leave that website, and then notice ads from that website are showing up all over the internet, then that means you have been re-marketed. Remarketing is simple to setup, you install a JavaScript code on your website, and it will tag all your visitors for remarketing.

    Shopping Cart Elite has a better way, we can set up a remarketing tag to show up for clients who enter a specific checkout step, and you can have a specific remarketing campaign for those particular visitors. So for example, let’s say a visitor entered the Shipping Checkout step and left, we would have triggered the remarketing tag on that visitor, and that particular tag will carry a free shipping discount code with a free shipping banner.

    So when the visitor goes to browse CNN, YouTube, Facebook, etc. They will keep seeing the banner “Hey you didn’t finish your order, here is a FREE SHIPPING coupon so you can finish the checkout”.

    Shopping Cart Elite allows you to setup discount codes that will be triggered by a URL tag, so that specific URL with the tag will be linked from the remarketing banner. When the visitors enters your website, the free shipping coupon will automatically be applied to his order.

    We can get creative with how to handle re-marketing. If you are interested in setting up remarketing please email [email protected]

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  • Google Analytics bounce rate shows you that half of your visitors that come to your website leave immediately. Majority of eCommerce websites have an average of fifty percent bounce rate, and no one seems to have a definite answer on how to lower it. Bounce Rate in simple English is the percentage of visitors who enter your website and leave within five seconds.

    Could it be that you are not making the sales you hope to make because your nuking your traffic before it has a chance to even consider your products, or maybe it can be that your Facebook plugin is taking forever to load, or your inexpensive shopping cart is hosting your website on slow shared servers that are taking forever to render your website.

    In this post I will explain how to solve your bounce rate once and for all, so you can put one more obstacle behind you and have a successful online business.

    A high bounce rate can be due to a number of things, but usually falls into one of three categories:

    • Your technology is to blame or
    • You’re acquiring the wrong kind of traffic to your website or
    • You’re acquiring exactly the right kind of traffic to your website

    Did number three throw you for a loop? Most people forget about the third scenario since most websites tend to fall victim to the first and second.

    Think about this for a second, if you are truly getting the right visitors to your website and they are leaving than there must be something else that is causing them to leave.

    WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO REDUCE YOUR BOUNCE RATE

    Reducing the bounce rate on your webpages that have the highest volume of traffic from your highest converting sources means more engaged visitors and a greater chance of making more sales.

    We were extremely concerned about this metric, so we solved it with TEA (threat and engagement analytics available only in Shopping Cart Elite). Here are the results from our findings and best of all if you use TEA you don’t have to wonder what is causing your bounce rate because TEA will automatically tell you where you have a problem and how to fix it in the weekly performance report.

    UNDERSTANDING THE CORE PROBLEMS

    Real Visitors vs. Fake Visitors – Real Visitors are Real Humans, and Fake Visitors are botnets (software that visits your websites and acts like a human). Botnets enter your website for data mining, clickfraud, and hundreds of other reasons. Google Analytics combines both Real and Fake visitors into their bounce rate metric making it completely useless.

    Note: Since TEA can detect Real Visitors and Fake Visitors, we never consider fake visitors in the equation and from hereon I am assuming that you are using TEA, and 100% of your bounce rate is from real visitors.

    Homepage vs. Webpage Bounce Rate – Homepage bounce rate usually happens for technical reasons, while the product webpage or article webpage happens for poor user experience reasons.

    For example, the homepage might have a Facebook plugin that freezes the webpage and your visitors are leaving. It may not happen to all your visitors, but it happens enough times to have a high bounce rate.

    Another example is a product webpage might have a bounce rate because someone linked to you with a false advertisement such as “Fr-ee samples” because you offered it at one point, but when the visitor comes to your website they realize they have to pay for the product, there are no samples and they leave immediately. To fix this particular problem you can redirect traffic to another page when the traffic comes from that specific referrer (redirects are available in Shopping Cart Elite).

    TOP EIGHT BOUNCE RATE REASONS GATHERED FROM A DECADE OF EXPERIENCE

    TECHNICAL ISSUES

    Third Party Plugins

    Any Kind of Plugins on your website may become a potential bottleneck for loading your website. I’ve seen Facebook Plugins downloading six megabytes of data to each homepage visitor. I’ve seen a plugin called ShareThis take 35 seconds to load 50 percent of the time. I’ve seen Google Analytics taking ten seconds to load causing the website to freeze. Bottom line is JavaScript plugins create a risk that your visitors will be frustrated, and they will leave.

    To trouble shoot this, I recommend doing three things. First you must acknowledge you have a problem using TEA. If the real visitor bounce rate is more than five percent than you have a problem on your website.

    Second, go to webpagetest.org and run a test against your website for a week. You may end up noticing that a certain plugin always takes forever to load. Third, you may install Pingdom performance monitor which tracks the frustration of each user based on the website load time.

    Note: Get rid of all the plugins from your website, and only use third party plugins if necessary.

    External Links

    This is an incredibly simple concept that is still often overlooked, but if you're going to link out to a resource on your website, make sure you have it open in a new window instead of redirecting the user off your website. Even better copy the source content on to your own website and give them credit towards the bottom. Do not create banners or links that make your visitors leave your website. Do not post advertising on your website unless necessary. If you’re trying to show authority of your social profiles (such as how many Facebook likes you have), then use a headline to advertise it instead of making people leave your website to see that information on Facebook directly. Make sure the banners within your website open in the current window, and any external links open in a new window.

    Speed (or the lack of)

    If you are using Shopping Cart Elite you will not have a website speed problem. If you are using some cheap hosting, or a $40 package with a competitor shopping cart, well you get what you pay for, and slow load time and slow website speed is one of those things.

    Not Browser or Mobile Friendly

    If your website looks like a collage on certain browsers or it’s so tiny on a mobile browser that your visitor would need a microscope to see anything or you mobile page look like crap (if you are using a competitor Shopping Cart chances are their mobile template is crap), then you will experience a high bounce rate from those particular visitors.

    The best way to check is to use browserstack.com. Simply check every webpage of your website from every browser on Browserstack and make sure it looks great.

    Error Pages

    If you see that visitors are leaving your error pages, then you should either redirect them or turn a negative experience into a potentially positive one. Add a search box and a link to the homepage, add a bit of design and humor. Shopping Cart Elite can design a custom 404 page for your website.

    MARKETING & USER EXPERIENCE ISSUE

    Popups

    Pop-up ads annoy people. In some rare cases they offer something worth the roadblock, but usually they disrupt the user experience. Unless you value new email subscriber more than the engagement of your visitors on your website, don’t use them. If you do use them, make sure that the visitors who already subscribed to your list do not get the popups. This is something Shopping Cart Elite can track for you.

    Bad Traffic

    Bad traffic can be driven by keywords that are not targeted to your website, or when someone is driving traffic to your website for their own benefit. For example, if I refer you to a website to look at their trendy design, or impressive product webpage then you might visit the website and bounce from it within five seconds or trigger some other negative engagement metric.

    As a result this will confuse the owner of the website when he evaluates the analytics. If you notice certain keywords that are sending you free traffic, or certain bad referrers are driving traffic and ruining your analytics data, then you can exclude them from the analytics altogether, so they don’t confuse you.

    Using TEA we automatically exclude fake traffic, we segment good and bad traffic, and you can exclude certain referrer from showing up as good traffic.

    You must only be concerned about poor traffic if you are paying for it. If you are getting poor engagement traffic according to TEA and that traffic is coming from a paid referrer such as Google Adwords, then the goal is to eliminate the keywords and/or the referrers that are sending you that traffic.

    Bad Experience

    If you are 100% sure that none of the above applies to you, then the visitors are truly having an unpleasant experience on your website, and you should do something about it. Here is a list of things that you should consider modifying.

    1. Add Video (without Auto Play)
    2. No Poor Grammar
    3. Improve your Product Web Pages
    4. Improve your Product Selection
    5. Create a mega menu for quick browsing on your website top menu
    6. Make your search box stand out on the header of your website
    7. Eliminate Dead Ends by creating additional links within your own website
    8. Add Live Chat and indicate to talk to you if they can’t find what they need in 10 seconds
    9. Improve your Graphic Design to fit your target market

    We usually find that if you did everything right, and you implemented a pleasant user experience, then you should experience zero to five percent real visitor bounce rate.

    Achieving such a low bounce rate or no bounce rate on your website would be a true achievement, and you will definitely see an increase in sales.

    If you need a better Shopping Cart system to improve your bounce rate, conversions and overall experience we recommend you try Shopping Cart Elite today.

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  • You are so concerned about having one step checkout, and a way to monitor abandoned orders on your website. But you never ask about product page abandonment. Did you know that sixty percent of your potential customers abandon your website from the product page before they even reach the shopping cart or checkout? There is so much hype about trying to save 10 orders per month from abandon carts, but no action about saving the majority of your potential customers.

    Many online business owners just don’t understand the value of a product webpage. They believe it is just another product on their website, and the more products they add, the higher chance they’ll have of selling more.

    What they fail to realize after months and sometimes years of being in business is that most of their sales are usually for a handful of products, and the majority of their products either never sell or sell a few at best.

    REAL WORLD vs. PRODUCT WEBPAGE

    Imagine you’re in the market for a new laptop computer. You go to Best Buy and you start approaching the computer area with 30 different laptops on display. You are looking around for someone to help you, and you notice an employee in a uniform named Mike looking at you. Mike asks you, “Do you need some help?” He waits for you to reply. One glance at Mike and you notice that he’s not particularly presentable. He is sweaty, hairy, overweight, and smells like rotten eggs. You reply, No Thanks just looking, and you start looking at all the different laptops yourself. You walk by the aisles, and you are making your decision strictly on price, bullet points next to the price and the color of the laptop. Little did you know that the pretty, cheaper laptop is super slow, and the ugly black laptop is the one you need for your work.

    Mike would have given you terrific advice if you gave him a chance, but you didn’t. Now what do you do as you are comparing laptops? You are comparing prices online on your smart phone, you are convincing yourself why you shouldn’t buy that particular laptop, and why you shouldn’t buy it today. The typical consumer behavior when left alone to decide will always use emotion to make buying decisions, and unfortunately, 80% of the time we think about the negative facts versus of the positive.

    Usually you make poor buying decisions, by purchasing a cheaper, lower quality product or you make no decisions at all and leave the store.

    HOW THIS STORY IS RELATED TO YOU

    Your website is like Best Buy. You advertise and get customers into your door. Your featureless, unfriendly, content-less product webpages are the Dirty, Ugly, Sweaty Mike from Best Buy. In other words, you have little chance of making a sale on that product webpage.

    Why bother wasting your time and energy loading your website with products that will never sell? Now it is possible if you add a million products to your website, the odd products will sell, and random impulsive buyers will make random purchases as well, and maybe you will have a successful store. However, for the majority of us with fewer than a thousand products, you need to go back and look at your catalog.

    Treat your website like the giant chain stores. Every product webpage is something you have in inventory, and you have to do everything in your power to sell it. Just because, you might be drop shipping most of your products, treat every product webpage as if you are stocking this product and it must be sold.

    Once you understand and embrace the fact that your product webpage is your dedicated virtual salesman for your products, you will then understand what needs to be done to improve it. If you keep thinking of your product webpages as just more products and more webpages, then you will keep losing 60% of your potential customers, and that’s a FACT.

    DO YOU GET IT?

    Instead of over exaggerating on how to over design your website, you need to focus on making your product webpages look fantastic, content rich, and SEO optimized. It amazes me how very few understand what makes a great web design.

    NO, IT’S NOT THE PRETTY GRAPHICS ON YOUR HOMEPAGE, HEADER AND FOOTER THAT WILL MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE YOUR TOP COMPETITOR.

    It is the professional photos that you choose to use (and pay for), the videos you make (and pay for), the headlines you invent, and the sales copy you write is what will make all the difference between you and the competition.

    This does not mean that you should go to Google Images to find your photos, and get some clip art to make your videos. If you are not skilled at those tasks, then outsource it.

    If you can’t afford to outsource it, then learn how to do it yourself or find an inexpensive part time designer to do the work for a flat price (we can help find you one).

     ANATOMONY OF A PRODUCT WEBPAGE

    I don’t want to go too deep into how to do it, I just wanted to give you the idea that it must be done. Here is the product webpage that I like to reference because they took my recommendations to heart and did a pretty decent job themselves.

    Product Sample A

    Category Sample A

    More Advice can be found here

    Improve Conversions YouTube Playlist

    Improve Conversions with TEA

    Once you create beautiful HTML descriptions, great images, FAQ, Sales Copy, Videos, etc. on every product webpage, then you will immediately see better conversions. In addition, this content can then be multi channeled over to other websites such as eBay.

    MEASURING VISITOR BEHAVIOR ON THE PRODUCT WEBPAGES

    Once you are happy with your new product webpage, then it is time to monitor it. Using TEA in Shopping Cart Elite you can group all your high engaged visitors who abandoned the product webpages and start looking at the screen shots of what they did on that page.

    Here is an example of a screenshot generated by TEA. The screen shot shows you that the visitor engaged with

    • Thumbnail images
    • Bullets
    • Product Options
    • Price
    • Description (the screen shot is cut off but you can see a thicker line in that area indicated he was reading that area)
    • Live Chat
    • Reviews

    Now this website has a very good product webpage, however, it seems like the potential customer had more questions that were not addressed in the sales copy. He tried live help but it was past business hours (notice it was 9pm EST in the screenshot). So after spending two minutes on the website he left without making a sale. Maybe he will return another day, maybe not. Maybe the store owner should see how many sales he loses due to his limited business hours, and consider providing after business hours support. All of this needs to be implemented and tested, and best of all you can see all of this information in TEA (Google Analytics does not have this).

    If TEA tells you that you have “Poor Product Sales Copy” you must first start with optimizing your product webpages, there is no need to look for a magic formula or shortcuts if your product webpage looks like disgusting sweaty Mike from Best Buy. Once you have optimized your product webpage then you need to fine tune it until the “Poor Product Sales Copy” is eliminated from each product webpage.

    TEA is available in Shopping Cart Elite for all customers.

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  • Take a moment and agree that only a few of your visitors actually buy products from your website. Before eCommerce, I have never seen small businesses open their wallets to salesmen and not hold them accountable to deliver what they promise. In eCommerce, the salesman is Google of course.

    I want you to agree that Google is the only company that will charge you to deliver customers to your website, not deliver any sales, and you will not do a chargeback on them. Not only will you not do a chargeback, but you will continue to pay them with the false hopes that something will change one day. This reminds me of Vegas, as well as the taxes we pay every year to the government. It is shocking that Google was able to train all of us to behave like that.

    Google may send you visitors that look impressive. Google Analytics will show you that thousands of visitors are entering your website, spending five minutes on the website and browsing 10 page views on average. Ask yourself “why are so many visitors, not making a purchase?”

    Can you imagine 1000 visitors coming into your real physical store, and only one of them makes a purchase, wouldn’t you see something wrong with that?

    HOW TO QUALIFY WEBSITE VISITORS

    Based on our research we found that an average eCommerce has the following visitors:

    ·         10% - Potential customers, that we call Real High Engaged Visitors. Ex: If you only get 100 TOTAL visitors per day then you are working with only 10 high engaged visitors (potential customers)

    ·         20% - Botnets or Clickfraud (garbage visitors that should be ignored)

    ·         60% - Poor engagement visitors that were not interested in your website or products

    ·         10% - Real Visitors that bounced from the website

    In other words if you can stop paying for botnets and poor engagement visitors, and only buy High Engaged visitors traffic you would be truly successful. You can do that today, using the right analytics tools.

    Using TEA (Threat and Engagement Analytics) by Shopping Cart Elite we will be covering two negative visitor behavior trends that can occur with high engaged visitor traffic, “Poor Product Selection” and “Window Shopping”.

    Poor Product Selection is when a real high engaged visitor enters your website and starts browsing different webpages. Most professional marketers will tell you that this is exciting news, and the sales will come any minute now. Little do they know that the visitors are actually frustrated because they can’t find the products they want to purchase. They are frustrated because they were mainly browsing your search results page without ever finding the product.

    DETECTING POOR PRODUCT SELECTION

    When Real High Engaged visitors are browsing your search result pages for more than one minute and never visit a product page, this will trigger a negative trend inside TEA called “Poor Product Selection”.

    NOTE: This is impossible to detect with Google Analytics, or any other analytics because first you must confirm the visitor is a real human, otherwise, you will be optimizing for botnets. TEA is the only analytics in the world that can automatically detect real human visitors, and analyze them.

    ELIMINATING POOR PRODUCT SELECTION USING TEA

    1.       You have to see which keywords are sending you these visitors. Sometimes you will notice that 100% of the Poor Product Selection visitors is coming from a specific keyword or a specific referrer, and thus you should stop advertising or ranking for it.

    2.       We had a client who was spending 600 dollars per month for a keyword, and he was getting a few sales from it. He had A LOT of negative engagement trends including Poor Product Selection. Once he looked deeper he noticed that it wasn’t the keyword problem, it was a referrer problem. When you advertise with Google, they display your ads on hundreds of other websites. This client had many referrers such as Google Adwords, Price Grabber, Ask, Amazon Ads, etc. sending visitors, but only Amazon Ads was responsible for converting visitors into customers while all the others were causing negative trends and poor engagement. Eliminating all the referrers except Amazon Ads fixed the problem. Instead of spending 600 per month for one keyword, now he was only paying 30 per month, and getting the same amount of sales. Shopping Cart Elite and TEA helped this client go from 40k per month in ad spend to only 9k per month while keeping the same amount of sales in only 60 days. He was able to do it all HIMSELF.

    If you notice that ALL of your keywords trigger Poor Product Selection then you may be targeting to a broad market, and you do not have enough products on your website.

    Here is what you can do:

    a.       Add more products that your customers are looking to purchase from your website. You can figure that out by looking at the keywords they search on your website. Shopping Cart Elite gives a you a report to show you how many searches were done for each keyword, and how many relevant products were found.

    b.      Change your advertising to focus on specific products instead of general keyword terms.

    c.       Set up a live chat to pop-up a message when your visitors encounter the Poor Product Selection trend. If you have Shopping Cart Elite Live Chat, it will automatically pop-up the chat a few seconds before the visitor leaves. It predicts the time when a visitor will leave by comparing the past visitor history for each keyword and referrer.

    d.      If you notice that all your high engaged visitors are triggering poor product selection on specific categories of your website, this means that you don’t have ANY products that your customers want, or you don’t have the RIGHT products on your website.

    An example is a client who has a furniture website. I was personally browsing it because I needed a night stand. After browsing his night stand category, I realized I was actually looking for a white, affordable, modern looking night stand, but the website did not have a way for me to sort by that filter. I was unable to sort by night stand type, night stand color, and finally after browsing the whole category I did not find a nightstand I was looking for and then I left the website. You can create filters in Shopping Cart Elite, it just takes time to do it.

    There could be many reasons for Poor Product Selection to occur. It is crucial that you start investigating the keyword, then the referrers, then the product categories and finally the products themselves to fix this trend.

    This is extremely important to resolve because this is a serious problem.

    Take a moment and step into the customer shoes, and follow their trail to see what they experienced. TEA allows you to see each page view of each visitor in a trend, and you can render a screen shot of what they did on that page that day. Just by taking an hour to look through these screen shots, you will likely experience the same frustration that the customer had experienced when browsing your website.

    DETECTING POOR PRODUCT SELECTION AND WINDOW SHOPPING

    Real High Engaged Visitors that are browsing your search result pages for more than one minute and keep visiting random product webpages for under a minute will trigger this negative trend inside TEA.

    ELIMINATING POOR PRODUCT SELECTION AND WINDOW SHOPPING USING TEA

    1.       If both Poor Product Selection and Window Shopping are triggered together, then this is a confirmation that the customer is looking for something that you should have on your website, but they couldn’t find it. You should look at each page view of each visitor and try to understand why they browsed in that specific order before leaving. A lot of times you will notice they are searching for something that you have, but it is not clearly listed on your website.

    2.       Window Shopping can also occur when you have non-attractive images, poor headlines, or poor bullets.  Window shoppers are usually browsing your website on the defensive, so you must give them something (like a candy), to get them neutral so you can engage them with your sales copy.

    3.       If you find that you do have products that your customers are trying to purchase, but they simply can’t find them in the search results. Then you should start optimizing your search relevancy for your products. In Shopping Cart Elite,  you can do so by

    a.       Search Tags – You can insert keywords that customers use to find a specific product and this will increase the relevancy of products to show up higher in the results

    b.      Compare Search Tags – Enter competing brand names as well as part numbers of other brands that will help customers find the right product

    c.       Optimize Titles – Make your title more attractive and include catchy headlines with SEO related keywords

    d.      Using LSI keywords in Titles and Search Tags – LSI is another term for search engine synonyms. LSI will allow you to find and add slang keywords or abbreviation keywords to your titles

    If certain keywords or referrers are performing on your website, and others are sending you poor product selection and window shopping visitors, then chances are you should stop doing business with certain referrers because clearly they do not have the quality visitors that you need. You can put more funds towards referrers who are performing by eliminating those that are not.

    The end goal is to get more High Engaged Visitors to your website and get them to convert into customers. If all of your High Engaged Visitor traffic is window shopping or experiencing a poor product selection, then you either have a problem somewhere on your website or your traffic sources need to be heavily audited.

    WEBSITE PERFORMANCE REPORT

    TEA is built into Shopping Cart Elite, and it provides you with a weekly performance report on how you can improve your website just like what you’ve read above. It will tell you which keywords you should keep buying, optimizing and drop. It will also tell you exactly where your website needs improvement for conversion optimization based on TEA analytics. It will clearly tell you what your positive and negative engagement trends are on your website, so you can focus your attention toward the right place of your website and improve it.

    The performance report will also recommend marketing courses to address certain issues that are included at no charge with Shopping Cart Elite. If you want to optimize and experience the best possible conversions on your website, and the best possible return on your advertising spend, then sign up for Shopping Cart Elite today, you will glad you finally did it.

    Start Your Free Trial
    AUTOMATE YOUR BUSINESS ON
    SHOPPING CART ELITE


    Shopping Cart Elite is for online retailers and wholesalers who are dissatisfied with the limitation of their Shopping Cart, Shopping Cart Elite is an enterprise ecommerce solution at a small business price that will completely automate your online business. Unlike the majority of shopping carts in the market, we have created a system that doesn't require you to pay thousands of dollars each month to App partners to have automation, marketing and S E O tools for your business.

    TRY SCE
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  • SEO Software for eCommerce

    What if you can just stop worrying about SEO? What if you can spend $1,000 in Google Adwords and make $20,000 in gross sales. What if you can just make a system that works day in and day out? You would never have to worry about generating leads and sales again because it would be automated with consistent results. Let me tell you why I know that it is possible because we developed a system for ourselves that can give us as many leads as we want. We control the flow of new customers with our advertising, and we can increase and decrease the amount of leads at any given time at low cost with consistent results.

    If you are wondering why we don’t just explode our sales, the answer is we don’t want to do it yet. We want to grow slowly so we can scale our equipment and customer service as we get new customers. This way we can provide the level of service for new clients and existing clients based on our core values. If we were to increase the amount of sales without having the right equipment and customer service, we would quickly collapse.

    If I showed you how to develop a system that works for your business, and you can get as many sales you want on demand every single time, how would that change your business?

    First let me explain to you what I mean by system. Some people refer to it as a process, work manual, daily task list, workflow, work guide, etc. I simply call it a system because I try to take all of those terms and combine it into something that works, “a system”.

    McDonalds that sells Burgers is a great example of a system that works. If you open four locations right now, Los Angeles, New York, London, and New Delphi India, then you will need exactly three weeks to find low skilled, minimum wage workers from a “Now Hiring” window sign, and you will have a functional business that generates on average two million dollars per year per location, and produces the same exact food regardless of what location you will visit.

    How is it possible that McDonalds can go from nothing to two million dollars per year by hiring people off the street to produce results that satisfy their target customers, and work 9-5 shifts while you are putting in 14 hour days and can’t make ends meet?

    The reason this works for McDonalds because they have a system that works. McDonalds was also once a small struggling business with just a single store location. It took 20 years to perfect the system that can make a business go from zero to two million in three weeks with low skilled, and minimum wage workers. McDonalds employs 34,000 people worldwide and generates four billion dollars per year using this half a century old system. That is what I call a successful system. If we divide the numbers, McDonalds makes a gross of $117,000 per year for each employee, how much does your business make per employee?

    If you want to learn more about building your system, I recommend you listen to these books:

    Most of us waste so much time during driving, watching TV, etc. Download the books and listen to them on your free time. Take a weekend off and listen to both of them. It will be one of your best decisions you will have ever made.

    Once you understand that you need a system, let me tell you what software tools you need for your system.

    First you must have the new analytics tool called Threat and Engagement Analytics (TEA). There is a video below of Igor Soshkin’s presentation at SIIA explaining this new tool.

    TEA Threat and Engagement Analytics for Shopping Cart Elite

    Shopping Cart Elite developed TEA and they were nominated as finalist for two awards, Best SEO Solution and Next Generation Award.

    The reason you need TEA because there is no way you will be able to perfect your marketing system without the right tools. Here are a few examples that you must solve

    • Eliminate the bounce rate
    • Eliminate bad advertisers that are sending clickfraud and botnets
    • Eliminate the advertisers that are sending you traffic that will never convert
    • What visitors are doing on your website and improve their experience to maximize your conversions
    • Which advertisers are responsible for the sales? What if you the visitor came from Google Organic, Google Pay Per Click, Facebook and Email Marketing before the sale was closed, you need to know who is responsible.
    • And much more
    • Just a quick reminder again, TEA is not available ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD, and it is only available through Shopping Cart Elite

    All of the above bullets can be solved using Threat and Engagement analytics, and there is no other company in the world today that has this tool. That also includes crappy Google Analytics that cause more damage to your decision making than benefit, because it is full of rubbish and confusing information. You are better off not using any analytics at all if you are using Google Analytics.

    Speaking of Google, you need to review their history to truly understand their goals when it comes to online advertisers. Just recently they settled for half a billion dollars in a federal case, where Google was guilty of helping companies selling illegal drugs in the United States. If you read the case, even the founders and most of upper management knew what they were doing, and let it go through because of how much money was being made.

    How about Google Shopping going from free to paid after one decade. When Google went public in 2004, the Founders Letter that was part of its IPO filing specifically named paid inclusion as a practice that should be shunned, saying under the “Don’t Be Evil” section.

    The full IPO filing has other references against paid inclusion, such as (I’ve bolded the key parts):

    Objectivity. We believe it is very important that the results users get from Google are produced with only their interests in mind.

    We do not accept money for search result ranking or inclusion. We do accept fees for advertising, but it does not influence how we generate our search results. The advertising is clearly marked and separated. This is similar to a newspaper, where the articles are independent of the advertising.

    Some of our competitors charge web sites for inclusion in their indices or for more frequent updating of pages. Inclusion and frequent updating in our index are open to all sites free of charge.

    We apply these principles to each of our products and services. We believe it is important for users to have access to the best available information and research, not just the information that someone pays for them to see.

    And:

    Froogle [now called Google Shopping] enables people to easily find products for sale online….

    Most online merchants are also automatically included in Froogle’s index of shopping sites. Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle, our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.

    The free program was shut down in 2012. Now do not take my opinion about Google’s actions as if they do not have the traffic that you need. They have more traffic than your business can handle.

    However, looking at Google’s history and how you come into the picture, you should not BELIEVE GOOGLE, DO NOT RELY ON THEIR GOOGLE ANALYTICS or ANY OF THEIR AUTOMATED BIDDING. Google makes half-baked products on purpose to give you a taste of traffic but never to optimize it or see the whole picture.

    Can you imagine how much money Google would lose if they released Threat and Engagement analytics into Google Analytics, and showed all their customers that 80% of the traffic they get is garbage? They would LOSE BILLIONS overnight. How do you think they make so much money - By selling you garbage traffic. Why do you think your business suffers and you end up paying more money month after month?

    Google took the U.S. Education system approach, they trained all the experts to shove their Google Analytics down everyone’s throat so you will believe this is the only system that works to track your traffic. They even made it FREE so you can’t complain, and competitors like TEA can’t compete. But behind the scenes they took your bank account hostage with your permission. And you think it is OK for them to steal your money on a daily basis!

    When was the last time that you got something for FREE, that was actually valuable? You think Google Analytics is valuable to you? Wait until you run TEA, and realize how much money Google stole from you for making it free, and you will change your mind.

    Ignorance is Bliss, Don’t be Naive. You are smarter than that, and that is why you should look at all the available options on how to better track your traffic and sales.

    Now before, you can use Threat and Engagement Analytics, you need to make a decision. Do you learn Google Adwords by yourself, or will you outsource this to a trusted partner.

    Even though TEA is an awesome tool, you need to understand how to do marketing before you can use TEA to do tracking.

    Here are the resources below for both options:

    LEARN IT YOURSELF

    • Google Adwords Course (7 hours) - Learn Google Adwords from Google directly. You should do this course to understand the basics.
    • SpyFu University (5 hours) - If you want to learn all the tips and tricks for Google Adwords you should do learn SpyFu inside out, and their blog is an excellent way to start. You can cover all of them within one day
    • Shopping Cart Elite with TEA (Threat and Engagement Analytics - You need an ecommerce system that can automate your SEO, Marketing and Operations all in one suite.
    • TEA is only $199 per month if you use it with Shopping Cart Elite. It will pay for itself. We have several clients who are paying $200,000 - $500,000 per year for TEA for their external system (pricing for enterprises)
    • You can use TEA, a half a million dollar system for literally a few hundred dollars per month with Shopping Cart Elite - World’s Most Sophisticated eCommerce System.
    • You can get the whole Shopping Cart Elite system with all the tools including TEA, unlimited bandwidth and storage for several hundred dollars. This is a NO BRAINIER system once you make your marketing plan.

    TRUSTED ADWORDS PARTNER

    We recommend Word Watch, an automated bid management tool for Google Adwords & Google Shopping. 

     


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  • The Four Leadership Roles

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  • The reason they call it a browser

    By Seth Godin

    Over the last ten years, the amount that we buy online has gone up. So have the number of ads we click on every day. We're all clicking around, browsing and sometimes buying.

    But, while these interactions and transactions have been growing, the amount of time we spend online and the number of pages we visit have gone up dramatically faster.

    Mobile multiplies this.

    Do the math. More time, more pages, not nearly so much more in the way of transaction. A visit from a mobile user is almost certainly less likely to convert into a click, particularly a purchase. Your tweets are seen by ten times as many people, but only twice as likely to get clicked on as they used to be. All the attention we seem to get from the outside world is going up fast, but the amount of interaction it leads to is not.

    There's a whole lot of people spending a lot of time browsing, not taking action. Permission doesn't scale at the same rate browsing does, which is why permission is worth more than ever before. In fact, the easiest way for a post to not spread is for you to ask someone to actually do something.

    Call it attention inflation. More time spent looking, less time spent clicking. We're being conditioned to sit back and assume that action is the exception, not the rule. Sort of like the difference between the supermarket (where no one browses) and the windows of a fancy store (where everyone does).

    "I'm just looking" is the new definition of online behavior.

    Years ago, I was lucky enough to get a booth on the route of a political march. I had self-published a book directly related to the issue, and more than 450,000 people walked within twenty feet of my booth. I sold four of the 4,000 copies I brought with me. I lowered my price 90% and sold two more copies. 

    It took me a while but then I realized that people had come to march, not to shop.

    This thinking explains why good real estate sites are so mobile-friendly (and why mobile is so real-estate-friendly). If you're sitting in front of a house that's for sale and take the time to look up the information, you're exactly the right person in exactly the right place.

    When dealing with a community that browses, you'll need new math:

    • More pageviews to make a transaction is the norm, like it or not
    • Sharing is more important than ever before, because transactions require more views
    • Sponsorships and unclickable banners outperform measurable media (think about the signs on the boards at a hockey game--everyone sees them all night, but no one interacts with them)
    • The price paid for each advertising impression is going to go down

    Since the very beginning (I've been doing online media since 1991), clicks have been undervalued and measurable media has been at a disadvantage compared to traditional unmeasured ads (how many clicks does a TV ad get?). As the web/mobile gets closer to ubiquity, the behaviors of people consuming media get ever closer to the old model of passivity. Sponsorship and visibility will continue to matter, clicks and interactions will go way up in value and overall pageviews will continue to inflate.

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  • Step up your Game and Lead your Division

    What you were trained to do: wait for a good, generous, munificent, tasteful, smart boss or client to tell you what to do.

    If that doesn't happen, blame the system, blame the boss, blame the client. If the work is lousy, it's the client's fault. If the boss doesn't see or understand your insight, that's his fault. You are here to serve, and if they don't get it, well, that's too bad for all concerned.

    What you might consider: Lead up.

    A great designer gets great clients because she deserves them. One of the ways that she became a great designer was by leading her clients to make good decisions, to have better taste, to understand her insight and have the guts to back it. That doesn't happen randomly. It happens when someone leads up.

    A successful middle manager gets promoted when she takes the right amount of initiative, defers the right amount of credit and orchestrates success. That success might happen despite (not because) of who her bosses are, and that's just fine, because she's leading up.

    In many ways, we get the bosses and clients we deserve. If they're holding you back, change them.

    We have an astonishing amount of freedom at work. Not just the freedom to call meetings, make phone calls and pitch ideas, but yes, the freedom to quit, to find a new gig, to pick the clients we're going to take on and to decide how we're going to deal with a request from someone who seems to have far more power than we do. "Yes, sir" is one possible answer, but so is leading from below, creating a reputation and an environment where the people around you are transformed into the bosses you deserve.

    When you do this with intention, it gets easier and easier. From afar, it seems impossible, and it will be until you commit to it.

    • Do it on purpose
    • Tell stories that resonate with those in charge
    • Demand responsibility, don't worry about authority
    • Reflect credit, embrace blame
    • Earn the right by taking small steps
    • Convene, organize, learn, teach and lay the foundation
    • If they don't get it, go somewhere that does [slash] hire better clients, regardless of the fee
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  • How to fix miscommunication

    The challenge of communication isn't to never miscommunicate, it's to cut down the time between the interaction and the realization that the communication didn't get through. Because the sooner we know we're not connecting, the sooner we can fix it.

    Phone calls, for example, lead to less miscommunication than instructions sent by mail. A cycle of clarity is built into the medium. "Huh?" is a perfectly appropriate way to ask someone to refine a message. Conversations are more clear than marching orders, because conversations have built-in error detection and correction.

    Organizations that are good at flagging the misunderstood internal messages are far more likely to move quickly, in sync, than the ones that assume that messages from on high are never to be questioned. When in doubt, ask.

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  • Urgency vs. Accountability

    As organizations and individuals succeed, it gets more difficult to innovate. There are issues of coordination, sure, but mostly it's about fear. The fear of failing is greater, because it seems as though you've got more to lose. 

    So urgency disappears first. Why ship it today if you can ship it next week instead? There are a myriad of excuses, but ultimately it comes down to this: if every innovation is likely to fail, or at the very least, be criticized, why be in such a hurry? Go to some more meetings, socialize it, polish it and then, one day, you can ship it. 

    Part of the loss of urgency comes from a desire to avoid accountability. Many meetings are events in which an organization sits in a room until someone finally says, "okay, I'll take responsibility for this." If you're willing to own it, do you actually need a meeting, or can you just email a question or two to the people you need information from? 

    Thus, we see the two symptoms of the organization unable to move forward with alacrity, the two warning signs of the person in the grip of the resistance.  "I can take my time, and if I'm lucky, I can get you to wonder who to blame." 

    You don't need more time, you just need to decide. 

    Read the history of the original Mac and you'll be amazed at just how fast it got done. Willie Nelson wrote three hit songs in one day. To save the first brand I was responsible for, I redesigned five products in less than a day. It takes a team of six at Lays potato chips a year to do one. 

    The urgent dynamic is to ask for signoffs and to push forward, relentlessly. The accountable mantra is, "I've got this." You can feel this happening when you're around it. It's a special sort of teamwork, a confident desperation... not the desperation of hopelessness, but the desperate effort that comes from being hopeful. 

    What's happening at your shop?

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  • Revenue Models - Advertising

    Monetizing with ads
    It is true that the vast majority of consumer web apps have been and continue to be monetized with advertising. On mobile that is less true, but becoming more true every day.

    Mobile app revenue

    There are all sorts of ways to generate advertising revenue online. Here are the entries under the advertising category in our revenue model hackpad:

    Various ad models
    This list is most certainly not exhaustive but it does cover the most common advertising approaches and you can see how many there are on the Internet. There has been a lot of innovation in this sector in the past 18 years since the first banner ads were created and sold.

    The famous Luma Partners slide shows just how complex the online ad market has become over time.

    Luma partners slide

    And this market map is by no means exhaustive either. Online advertising is a big and complicated business.

    I would break up advertising into two big buckets; ads that are sold and ads that are bought. The first is a relationship business, requires a direct salesforce or a salesforce that you can tap into, and will bring a higher revenue per impression in most cases. The latter is a data business, automated by machines and software, is a volume game and will bring a lower revenue per impression in most cases. Much of the online advertising market is moving inexorably toward the latter category, for good and bad.

    The reaction to this move away from high value "brand" advertising to commoditized and programmatic advertising is native ad formats and advertising models. I have written about native advertising at AVC before and am a big fan of this approach. Examples of native advertising are promoted tweets on twitter and radar and spotlight on tumblr. In both examples, the ad unit is the same atomic unit of content as the users create in the service. I think we will see more and more of this as the value of the impression is driven lower and lower in the programmatic model.

    When you think about an advertising revenue model, you need to think about one of two things; scale or niche. Scale means hundreds of millions of impressions a month or more. Niche means a valuable audience that advertisers will pay a premium for. But even if you are going for the niche approach, you will still need to have a lot of impressions. Here is why:

    Advertising is sold many ways, including:

    CPM: Cost per thousand impressions

    CPE:  Cost per engagement

    CPA:  Cost per acquisition

    CPC:  Cost per click

    Sponsorship:  Fixed cost for a fixed program

    [thanks to Darren for that list. I took it directly from his email to me]

    With the possible exception of Sponsorship, all of these methods will converge to the same number. For example if you sell a click for $1/click, and one out of every hundred page views turns into a click then you are selling a page view for $1/100 (1 cent), and that turns into a $10 CPM (10/1000).

    CPMs have been in decline for years on the Internet. That's because the Internet keeps on creating more and more inventory. There is no scarcity. And as a result the supply/demand clearing price just keeps going lower and lower. Ten years ago, a $10 CPM was acheivable. Today, you will be lucky to get a $1 CPM. A $1 CPM means that 10 million impressions will generate $10,000. That's enough revenue to sustain a one or possibly two person business but not much more. You will need at least 100 million impressions and ideally more than 1bn impressions per month to have an interesting advertising supported business at scale. 1bn impressions is a lot of users using your service a lot.

    Niche will work at slightly less scale. If you have a unique and valuable audience, you might be able to get a $5 to $10 CPM. So you will need 100 million impressions per month instead of 1bn impressions. That's still a lot of super valuable users engaging a lot.

    If you are going with a scale model and you have a service that has that level of inventory to sell, then you have the choice of building a sales force inside your company or using a third party to sell your inventory. You don't need just one third party. You can use many of them. That's where the Luma slide (above) comes into effect. There is an entire industry built to take the inventory you give to a third party and put it through endless machines and algorithms before it is shown to an end user. I will not get into this in more detail here but Darren's slide deck, which I linked to above, has some good information on that. When you use a third party to sell your advertising you can give away anywhere from 50% of ad revenue to 20% of ad revenue. Most commonly it is somewhere in between.

    If you are going with the niche or native approach, you will need your own sales force and you will need to hire a leader for that sales force (a VP Sales or Chief Revenue Officer) who can build and lead that team. The sales leader is a critical hire. There are people who do this for a living, who really understand how to put a team together and generate advertising revenue predictably and reliably, and they are highly compensated and are worth every penny. Do not skimp on this if you are building your own sales force. You may choose to build your own sales force if you are going with a scale model, but you don't need to do that right away.

    In the interest of keeping this post a reasonable length, I will end here. I highly recommend diving into the comments where we will discuss and debate this post. I will conclude by saying that an advertising model is a viable revenue model option if you are building a service that has a lot of scale. But if you don't have millions of users a month, you should think hard before going in this direction. There is a limited amount of ad dollars out there (except CPA budgets which are in theory infinite) and more and more services trying to tap into them every day which is why advertising rates on the Internet seem to be in permanent and systemic decline.

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  • Life is Full of Holes

    Every scrutinized historical event fails to hold up to serious inspection.

    There's missing evidence. How did he get from point A to point B? Where's the document or the eyewitness or the proof?

    Your future opportunities are like this as well. Even at the hottest part of the 1998 Internet run up, skeptics wanted more proof that the internet wasn't merely a waste of time. They wanted all the dots connected, and were happy to keep collecting dots until they were.

    For a train to get from one city to another, it makes countless tiny leaps, crossing microscopic chasms that would easily show up if you looked closely enough. That doesn't keep you from getting there, though.

    I don't think the right question is, "is the path perfect?"

    It's probably, "Is this somewhere I'd like to go?"

    It's significantly easier to cross a gap when you have direction and momentum.

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  • Cheating to Innovation

    All geeks, nerds and puzzle folks are aware of the nine-dot problem, along with the lesson it is frequently used to present.

    Here's a pencil. Here's a piece of copy paper with nine dots on it. Without lifting the pencil or folding the paper, connect the nine dots using four straight lines.

    The narrator smiles as you try as hard as you can, unable to do it. Then he ends your frustration and points out you've been tricked by your own limits, because, of course, there's nothing in the rules that says you can't have the lines go beyond the edges of the nine dots.

    The thing is, this isn't the end. This is the beginning of the cheating, and anyone who stops here, satisfied at his breakthrough, is missing the point.

    Some innovators point out that because the dots and the pencil have width, it can actually be done with threelines. (Here's how). At this point, some people get uncomfortable because a lot of what we assumed (the edges of the nine dots, their magical zero width) is being challenged.

    I think we can go far beyond this, though.

    What revolutions do, though, is change more than a few common conceptions. If you roll the paper into a tube, with the dots on the outside, you can go round and round and round (like an Edison music cylinder) and do the entire thing with just one line. Without folding the paper.

    That's cheating! (You could also burn the paper and just call it a day at zero)...

    Wikipedia is that sort of solution. So, in fact, are just about all of the innovative successes of the last decade. They took an assumed rule and threw it out. People who have been online for awhile have seen this happen over and over, and yet hesitate to do it with their own problem. Not because it can't be done, but because it's not in the instructions. And the things we fear to initiate are always not in the instructions.

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