Ecommerce Business Strategy: New Ideas and Traffic Engine of Success

Ecommerce Business Strategy

For those of you who know me, it will come as no surprise that one of my all-time favorite, "top 10 desert-island" e-publications is John Audette's I-Sales discussion list. It's a vibrant, active list, whose members comprise some of the world's greatest Internet pioneers and innovators. Each issue is packed with thought-provoking, inspiring material. If you're not a member, you are missing out BIG-time.

Subscribe to I-sales at...

My other "desert island" picks?...

Allan Gardyne's APn (AssociatePrograms Newsletter)

THE #1 affiliate newsletter, bar none. A unique, clear, honest, knowledgeable voice in the wilderness.

Ralph Wilson's Web Marketing Today

Web Marketing Today is free. Web Commerce Today is not. Together, you have Web marketing totally covered.

Danny Sullivan's SeachEngineWatch

Pick up Danny's paid e-zine and you'll have all you ever need on anything to do with "search."

Of course, these "desert island" picks would only do me some good on a desert island if I had solar power, a sat hookup, and my laptop... or if I was in Anguilla...

(Sheesh, what a dad won't do to get his daughter's site promoted!)

John Audette recently returned to I-sales after a brief respite as moderator. He had apparently grown tired of waxing his vintage Porsches, and his tan no longer need work at his Maui condo. So he is back in the saddle!

The epitomy of the successful Netrepreneuer, John has built and sold (for a *significant* dollar figure) not one, but two successful, highly profitable e-businesses. In a recent post, John mused about building a small Net-based "hobby" business around his condo in "Wailea," a beautiful and exclusive Hawaiian resort enclave.

John's post about his new site,, asked for advice from his I-sales constituency about how to best build traffic to it.

"What a perfect example of the sort of site that is perfect for SBI!... and the exact problem that most SSBs face," I thought. It got me thinking about the sad state of small, small businesses on the Net... no traffic, no business. No business, no profits. Site dies.

Over and over and over again, most small businesses are doomed, before they even start. As a group they are under-served and ignored- "thanks for your money, here's a corner of our server, knock yourself out."

One thing led to another, and I ended writing the following article for I-Sales, which John published in Issue #1746 as the "Featured Post," a rare honor.

I received some wonderful e-mail from that piece, the kind of comments that brings tears to my eyes. (Hey, I cry at movies, I can't help it!) It's particularly relevant to today's discussion, so I've included it below, along with additional commentary at the end. Think about this article - the key to your own success on the Net lies within.

Hi John (and all),

Regarding your comments about SEO and "Making a New Site Findable"...

You commented that you were astounded that the domain name, "," which *IS* a beauty, was available.

Of course, it's a beauty for a select number of people who have something to market on the Net... in other words, for a NICHE. And niches are where the small-small business person can still (and will always be able to) "succeed." Which brings up two definitions...

Small-small business (SSB) and ecommerce business strategy

We use this term to mean any 1-10 person small business. It's a subset of the "SME" space, which one tends to generally think of as "larger small businesses and up." Ecommerce business strategy sites include an infinite variety of niches, grouped into major categories...

Much like the universe itself, the "niche-space" is forever expanding, with the number and variety of services and products growing geometrically. And it is the small-small business, the REAL backbone of our economy, that is there to CREATE and FILL those niches. It's this same diversity that makes the Web so fascinating, and that provides the SSB with so many great opportunities on the Net.


While some SSBs merely want to augment an offline, local business with local clientele (ex., my landscaper), others want to create entirely new Net-based businesses. So each ecommerce business strategy site defines "success" in its own way. But THE underpinning engine of success, no matter how it is defined, is traffic.

If your site does not generate large amounts of warm, targeted, willing-to-buy traffic, it does not exist. Much like the proverbial faraway tree in the forest... if nobody hears that tree fall, did it make a noise? Well, if no one visits your ecommerce business strategy site, does it exist?

So, for SSBs, it is *ALL* about niches and traffic. How to combine those two?

Create content, FIRST. Instead, everyone jumps to "get the money." Then they wonder where the visitors are. Instead of putting the (shopping) cart before the (content) horse, build a site full of SEO'd topical pages- each topic should relate to the theme/niche that relates to your ecommerce business strategy. SEO'd topical content is the lynchpin for building free, targeted traffic AND then PREselling this traffic.

Of course, for most small-small businesses, that's easier said than done. The average small business person can't begin to cope with ecommerce business strategy and everything that is required to succeed online nowadays. And yet, it CAN be done.

Take a look at sites built by our flagship product, Site Build It! (51% of our sites end up in the top 6% of all sites on the Net). These are sites that are largely built by regular ecommerce business strategy people... with an absolutely amazing diversity (genuine small businesses, not money-making or get-rich-quick sites)...

You'll find two of my favorite sites there, one that I'm determined to try one day... , and my 14 year-old daughter's site on Anguilla. Her site gets more traffic than the official Anguilla Tourist Board's... created by an expensive New York agency. Compare "" with their far bigger (and much more expensive) site, "" at

John, while travel sites are just one niche that SBI! masters wonderfully, these two sites demonstrate well the approach I would suggest for Create loads and loads of information about Wailea and Maui, starting with some intelligent keyword research as recommended by Christian Neilsen (I-sales, Issue 1744).

Build upon that with high-value, interesting, "I live there," personal, useful, credible content- let your personality shine through. In other words, PREsell. What is PREselling?

Basically, warm up your visitor by OVERdelivering what s/he came for... information. That visitor will start to like and trust you. Soon, whether you're renting a luxury condo in Wailea or golf tours in South Africa, selling juggling products or high-end audio equipment, providing screenwriting services or cookie recipes, you'll have a following... warm, willing-to-buy folks who will sign up for your e-zine and buy what you are offering (whether you are an affiliate, selling an e-book, or offering a service).

"Give, then take." Hmmm... where have I heard that before? Oh yes, right... :-)

SEs are in business. Their product? Delivering relevant, sharp search results

Help them do that. But if you trick them (and it's tempting to do so, since SEs are algorithm-based), no matter how smart you are, they WILL find and destroy you.

It's simple- you're hurting their business. Keep it real, but as you write, use your keywords to optimize each of your topic pages- all of which tie into your central theme, and which in turn ties into your ecommerce business strategy. "Think like a Search Engine" and you'll do fine.

SEO is beyond the ability of most SSBs, and even for Webmasters it's a constant, tedious grind. But we have proven that it can be done...

Directories- human editors review these

Of course, only the ODP ( and Zeal ( could be fairly considered to be true, quality, editor-reviewed, AND important/free directories anymore.

And while it takes months to get in, certainly did... and so will yours, John. But what does it take? Great content (yet again!)... and patience. Don't be too fast to commercialize your ecommerce business strategy. Create the content, let the traffic build, take e-zine subscriptions, and then...

Great content and a non-commercial flavor will convince the editors that you belong in the Open Directory Project and in (a great free backdoor into LookSmart, a directory that I love browsing through, and one that will deliver free traffic from portals such as MSN since it's LookSmart). The catch, of course, is patience... develop your theme-based content, lots of it (my daughter, Nori does just one page a week, due to all her other activities, but it adds up). And only THEN, submit the site to directories.

What about Yahoo!? Yahoo! delivers Google results now (and Inktomi soon- the Inktomi spiders have become incredibly active, so obviously they're gearing up). Their directory is hardly used anymore. Yahoo! does deliver great volumes of traffic, but since they basically arrive via Google, there's no point in paying to get into the Yahoo! directory unless you are not ranking well at Google (our research shows that a link from Yahoo! can help in this case).

The Pay-Per-Clicks?

Simple enough. As long as you have the research and submission tools to accelerate the work, it's a mere matter of measuring ROI (i.e., What does each word cost you? What kind of return are you getting?)

If you are selling an expensive, specialized service where the lifetime value of your customer is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, you'll find the PPCs are worth it. But at the other end of the spectrum... if you are an affiliate who makes $5 per commission for a product in a highly competitive (i.e., expensive bidding) space, you'll find that you've discovered the perfect money-losing machine.

If you're not sure where you fit on that spectrum, just give it a try. Let Overture or FindWhat or Kanoodle (et al) prove themselves up or down. At worst, you'll lose a few hundred dollars. Just do it right, which is where the proper homework and tools come into play. Otherwise, your test could lead you to the wrong conclusions.

Our product, has all the tools to make it do-able... brainstorming keywords, SEO, PPCs, e-zines, etc. Yet still, it is NOT for all SSBs.
Many are simply too busy to do it themselves. Others are not motivated to it.

Many lack the ability to turn on a computer! ;-) That's why we're launching an HTML Editor Compatibility module for Webmasters who serve the SSB market. Here's a sneak peek of a page that's "not quite ready for prime-time" for Webmasters that will go live at launch...

John, I could go on forever about the SSB space (and almost have!) and how this is a wonderful time for SSBs to be flourishing on the Net, no matter what the actual nature of the business may be. We're in a period of churn where most ecommerce business strategy follow this path...

1) build a site

2) wonder where everyone is

3) look for a better solution.

And hopefully, that's when they find us. :-)

There is no such thing as "passerby traffic" on the Net. You MUST build it- but, by following the above, it is just as possible today as it was five years ago.
Hope this helps with

All the best,
Ken Evoy

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