I sell online but I don’t know who my competitors are and I don’t know how I compare to them!

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

Who are my competitors and how do I compare? Every web site writes data to log files, these log files will tell you alot of informaiton about who your visitors are. Until you know your own site it will be hard to compare it to others. Get your logs from your hosting provider and get them analyzed by a free web analyzer such as webalizer.org or analog.cx. Most hosting providers will already have these reports for you, you may have to enable the log analysis feature before you can view the results.

Once you understand how many visitors are visiting your site, where they are from and what they are looking for you can then start asking how that compares to your competitors. Always optimize your HTML per standard SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, if you’re not a coder/designer then you may have to pay someone for this. It’s not too expensive to optimize a few pages and it shouldn’t cost more than $100 or so, if you have a good designer then they should already have optimized your site as a best practice for next to nothing. You should definitely get used to terms such as ‘Meta Tags’, ‘Keywords’, ‘Description’ and ‘Title’ for each of your pages.

To find some answers about your competitors traffic just google them. Google “<competitor.com>” and see how many results you find – how does that compare when you google “<mysite.com>”? Search for your keywords and see which sites come up – those are your competitors! Even if they’re not competing by selling the same products – they are your competitors for traffic. There are many sites out there that will rank sites that are general ideas of how your site may rank.

Remember, you may have a higher ranking in a search engine than your competitor for 1 keyword but they may be higher for 10 other keywords.

Always try to analyze your traffice and competitors yourself first, you need to learn the lingo before dealing with web designers or you risk getting ripped off. There are too many people over charging promises of making money to honest hard workers out there, the internet is filled with sharks so be aware.

I have an business plan to sell products but I don’t know how to execute on the internet!

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

If you have a business plan then you are likely way ahead of a beginner and may need at least a mid-level type storefront such as a hosted solution. You’re also likely to be ready to spend more than the average person to get your business up and running on the internet. We would be foolish to advise that you skip any steps in the assessment process so read the following recommended steps and serious consider each, it may help you uncover gaps in your business plan or it may reinforce the position that you believe you are at:

1. What is unique with my business plan that sets me apart from other companies?

2. How long have I been planning this business and how solid is my plan? Have I considered ever possible failure point and considered all recovery options?

3. What is my impact if this completely fails? Will I or my family end up on the street?

4. My business plan is foolproof, what do I do when Google offers the same solution?

If you already have a business and you are trying to get on to the internet then I’m going to assume that you have good business sense and that opening up storefront online is a small percentage of risk to your current business. If you don’t have a business but you are working full time then I’m going to assume that you’re not putting your entire salary into a storefront in desperation. I’m also going to assume that this is not an idea that you thought up at a bar 2 weeks ago and your now putting your life savings into.

With this said, it is very important to understand how business works on the internet before you just jump in. The lure of high profits on the internet is too easy to sucker in anyone looking to make a dime. You must research your industry and then e-commerce on the internet. You have to be able to speak Internet language to avoid getting ripped off.

If you want to test the waters then open up a free storefront from amazon.com. If you already have a web site then see if your hosting company provides free storefront software such as oscommerce.. If you’re beyond both of these options then you may need a custom storefront which can cost from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.. You have to put your business hat on and determine how much makes sense to spend on a custom storefront. There are many companies that will customize a framework for you such as a Drupal.org solution. This is an excellent scalable option for any new business idea online, small or big.

How do I know if my store is secure?

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

If you don’t know then read this closely!

There is a major difference understanding if your site is secure if you hired someone to build your site vs. coding your own site. I will assume that you hired someone that understands the basics of coding and security compliance. If you are more interested in technical concepts and risks then I will publish another article based on my personal experience with being hacked!

If you are taking credit card orders online and don’t know the technical details such as “am I saving credit card information in my database?” or “is my site safe?” then you may want to temporarily shutdown your web site until you feel comfortable with the details of how your site works.

First off, you should navigate to the page where your users enter their credit card information, look at the URL (Universal Resource Locator) at the top of your browser, if it does not show https:// (note the “s”) then your site may have major issues. If you have the ability to submit a test transaction then do so – if the results page still indicates http:// (instead of https://) then you have just confirmed serious security issues. If you see https:// in the browser then you can feel safe that the information such as your credit card and personal information has been encrypted (ie. cannot be stolen while in transit, within reason).

If you determine that your transation proces is secure (https://) then the next is to know whether or not if you are storing credit card information in your database.. You should be using an e-commerce solution hooked up to your bank which avoids you from having to save credit card information.. If you are actually saving credit card information to your database then get rid of your development company IMMEDIATELY. It is illegal to store credit card information and the chances of you doing it properly is close to NILL. If you need to perform recurring billing then start with paypal services, otherwise make sure that you and your developer completely understand and comply with all options for your bank!

How do I know who my visitors on to my site?

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

Nowadays just about every hosting company provides free web analytics. Web analytics is the easiest and most simplest way of determining who is visiting you site. They will tell you everything from the IP address of users to what country they are from to the actual pages requested. 

Each web analytics tool will tell you a different story when using default settings, it is important to understand the basic usage of you users when configuring default parameters in these tools. For example, someone researching stocks may typically click on a link once every few seconds, while someone reading a very long article may click on a link every few minutes. Defining a session as 1 minute or 10 minutes will yield significantly different results.

Most analytics tools will also show you which countries users came from, or with links they clicked on to get to your site (note: you have to enable referral info in your logs for this feature). Most tools will also tell you how many visitors per hour/day/month/year you are receiving.. Decent tools will also tell you the keywords that your users are searching for in search engines!

Last but not least, sign up for a google account and use their developer services. The quickest way to get there is to search for “site:<my_site.com>” and then you can click on the the first link provided by google.. They offer incredible details about the traffic to your site that you will be surprised to learn.

How to make money on the internet!

Web Articles
Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

Start small! Try selling an old pair of shoes on ebay, or trying giving something away for free on Craigslist.org. Try a variety of different products and determine what piques your interest. Find products that don’t require large inventory, Drop Shipping services are an ideal way of starting an online business. Be careful of Drop Shipping companies, you can’t trust all of them – especially the ones that require you to pay to open an account to sell their products, try dealing directly with manufacturers.

If you opt for  a company called Doba.com, their claim to fame is that they are the largest Drop Shipping company out there with the most products. I’ve made several hundred dollars with them however I found myself refunding more orders than fulfilling because they were always out of stock! They are simply too big without having the means to manage the inventory of the 1000’s of distributors that supply to them and they charge for any useful tools required to manage any aspect of inventory.

I’ve sold cars on craigslist.org, computers on ebay.com, domain names on auction sites and many products on various storefronts and custom e-commerce sites. I’ve also made good money designing websites by getting business off various consulting sites as well as good money off of affiliate marking (ads on my high traffic web sites). There’s no single piece of advise that can be given that will make you successful because there’s usually a new or different way of executing that can bring you more profits. Jump into as many profit generating opportunities as possible and enjoy the ride .. be careful not to get ripped off.

 

What storefront is best for me?

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

There is almost an unlimited number of storefronts available for you to make money off of. Be careful, there are plenty of sites that are looking for you to signup to sell a t-shirt to 10 of your bowling buddies fully knowing that you won’t be able to sell more. If you’re a beginner and are looking for a simple sale then sites such as cafepress.com might be ideal.

However, if you are beyond the hype and have a semi legit product that you want to sell online then you want to stay away from storefronts and hosted solutions. The choice now is “do I want to pay $1,000’s to my business?” or do I want to spend “$100’s or less for my idea?” .. Assuming that you care about an idea vs. a real business I will dig into the options as follows:

1. ebay.com is always a great starting point to sell products online initially

2. craigslist.org is a great resource to find local buyers, ideal for oversized products that are not cost effective for shipping purposes.

3 drop shipping companies (ie. doba.com) are ideal when setting up a free open source solution (such as oscommerce.com).

4. if you’re a legitimate local business with several $1,000’s profit per year then you probably fit somewhere in between open source and a paid solution. Unless you are looking to expand your product line in a niche way then you probably wan to stick with an open source type solution.

5. It’s very, very expensive to customize a storefront. Unless you have $1,000’s to pay for a custom site and the legitimate potential for growth the be aware.

How much are keywords worth?

Standard

By Brendan Fitzpatrick

Google

I’m going to intentionally keep this topic short for now, not because it’s a simple topic but because it’s one of the most complex and deserves an expanded conversation another time. In this publication I will touch on some key topics to get you thinking – and when I have extra time I will revisit and dig deep into each topic.

You’re probably thinking, “what kind of profit should I expect from my clicks?” or “is it worth it to pay $100 for 1000 clicks?” or “should I pay $50 for a banner ad that will receive 50,000 page views per month?”.. Before you can determine if it’s worth spending money for hits you have to figure out how much you can afford to spend and then find the highest click through solution for your situation. For example, if you are selling mortgage loans you can expect a profit in the $1000’s if not 100’s of $1000’s over several years, compared to selling office supplies where you earn $1.25 per stapler.. You can spend $10 per click and as long as you were getting 1 sale per 1,000 clicks it would be worth it if you were selling mortgage loans.. where if you were selling staples you would lose money starting with the first click..

You need to figure out “what do I have?”, “how much is it worth to spend on advertising per unit?” and “what advertising vehicle works best for me?”.  In the next publication on this topic I will dig into the various solutions to give you ideas on what options may work best for you. I will discuss everything from natural search results, natural hits to paid advertising using google adwords, affiliate ads, paid banner advertisements and more. I will also touch on why google adwords “won’t work for some products!”.