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
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, waileavacation.com, 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
You commented that you were astounded that the domain name,
"waileavacation.com," 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
You'll find two of my favorite sites there, one that I'm
determined to try one day... rent-a-villa-in-tuscany.com
, 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
"anguilla-beaches.com" with their far bigger (and much more
expensive) site, "anguilla-vacation.com" at Alexa.com.
John, while travel sites are just one niche that SBI!
masters wonderfully, these two sites demonstrate well the
approach I would suggest for waileavacation.com. 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
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 (dmoz.org) and Zeal (zeal.com) could be fairly
considered to be true, quality, editor-reviewed, AND
important/free directories anymore.
And while it takes months to get in, anguilla-beaches.com
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
Great content and a non-commercial flavor will convince the
editors that you belong in the Open Directory Project and in
Zeal.com (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).
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 waileavacation.com.
All the best,