Answering the phone around here can really be a very disheartening task most times. Shop owners call in with the saddest stories, or worse they think they have a small problem and we discover a major issue. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what we’re here for…. But, it can be very disappointing and even tug away at my heart strings to hear these problems from store owners whose “small” investment will not be returned in even a year.
My goal when I started PRO-Webs, is still our primary directive. We want business owners to be educated and in full control of their business. Seems simple enough… But you would be quite surprised at the sad stories you would hear manning our help desk here for a day. Anyhow, I have some solid words of advice for ecommerce site owners to help you remain in control of your business and avoid common mistakes.
Ecommerce Words of Wisdom
- NEVER let a company manage your domain in their name…. Just don’t do it. You need full access to your online store’s administration section, hosting and FTP. We frequently get calls from shop owners whose “webmaster” is nowhere to be found and they haven’t even the ability to provide us access to help them.
- Use your head, common sense can help you avoid the worst of bad decisions. If it looks like a bad link… It is. If it looks like crap… It is. If they have promised you page 1 search rank in a month… Its a lie. When you have an SEO company or “webmaster” working on your site… This does NOT relieve you of your own responsibility. Ask questions, look at the work, ask more questions. Don’t let them talk circles around you or dodge questions… Ask for examples and reasoning…. Like grandma says “If they tell you to jump off a bridge, are you going to?”
- NEVER BUY OR SELL LINKS. This is no gray area, this is just one of the most dangerous things you can do or allow to hurt your site the worst. Google has very clear and specific rules about this…. and these rules apply to all links, whether you buy it or not. ANY LINK WHICH IS FOR ADVERTISING MUST BE PREVENTED FROM PASSING PAGERANK TO THE RESULTING PAGE. So have a look at your backlinks to see what your SEO company is building for you…. It’s really very important and requires your attention and dedication.
- Never put PPC Ads on your online store…. Again with the common sense thing, you can have a shot at a sale… Or send them elsewhere for a nickel. Pretty straight forward.
- Have a look at this handy guide to PCI and DSS compliance… You are not exempt in any way if you process credit cards and its great advise, even if you don’t. This one should perhaps be number 1, because most small online businesses could not absorb the penalties and fees for a breach… This one single thing can mean the end of your business and have deep reaching personal financial implications for small business owners.
- You absolutely need proper analytical data to have a successful online store. Google Analytics is free and very well suited for ecommerce… But getting it going isn’t the issue….. YOU MUST USE IT AND PLAN TIME TO STUDY IT. There are some excellent tutorials and articles to help you understand the data…. But you will learn the most by setting aside 15 minutes everyday to poke around in your stats. How else can you measure your SEO companies or your own results?
- Write great content, which is easy to follow and useful to your shoppers….. Not the search engines! If you are writing content for the search engines, concentrating on pumping pages full of keywords or adding spammy link lists to your site… You got it all wrong. You see, targeting content for specific keywords when you write creates more problems. You are finished writing and your targeted keyword is too dense, its spammy, its poorly written and worst of all you have inevitably screwed yourself out of a ton of long tail keyword phrases that generally perform better and will support the future rank of the related bigger box phrase as well.
- UNIQUE! Wrap your head around this word for every single metric of your site. Unique titles, unique content, unique pictures…. If you haven’t the time to write great unique information for your store, you are in the wrong business.
- Monitor vendors, their work and access to your site and hosting. Delete old FTP and admin accounts for vendors after they are finished. Would a department store owner give the furnace repair guy a key to fix something and never retrieve it?
- Last and most common…. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH! If you got in to this business because you think you will make wild cash for no work… You are sadly mistaken. You must publish new content regularly and often. You must monitor your stats and make improvements. You must update your software and install patches and bug fixes when necessary. Fact is many will find that what they need to do to have a successful online store is substantially more work than their old 9-5 job.
I am a retired restaurant manager. The restaurant business is tough, long hours, tough budgets and hard work to be successful. Many managers I have trained will leave their training and immediately head to “the dark side”… Call it lazy I guess. Fact is, if you really look at the things you have to do… Doing them right will take the same amount of time or less than the time spent cheating. Not to mention, when you take the easy way out it generally has longer term issues to create more work as well. So if you really want to be successful, roll your sleeves up and get to work… Decide and make a commitment to do things the right way. Work on your site often and with sustained regularity.
Or you can just copy the manufacturers descriptions, build spammy links and ignore your store… Then retire in a year as a failure. Really your choice.