Selling Online — 14 Point Guide

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Carol Augustine jewelry

Thanks to Carol Augustine for today’s guest post. Visit her Ruby Lane shop, All Things Beautiful here.

I can share my experiences and my knowledge but you have to do the work, and work it is. This information is relevant no matter where you decide to hang up your online shingle. It is a lot of information but I am going to try to keep it simple – Reader’s Digest version.

1) Expectations.
Selling online or anywhere takes time, commitment and patience. There is a saying that goes something like: “ your serenity is in direct proportion to your expectations”. Have realistic expectations. Selling online is no different than selling anywhere else, you may operate in the red for the first two years, that is just the reality of the situation. Folks don’t just flock in and scoop up everything off the shelf. It takes time!! Lots of it. It is not about rejection, it is just normal, know that and move on.

2) DMOZ.
Submit your site to the open directory: Read the directions, follow them to the letter, submit your site, and make sure you choose a category with an editor (or at least try to). It may take months before you are added, so don’t think they forgot you and resubmit because that makes them cranky.

3) Keywords.
Learn about keywords and keyword phrases. A keyword is a significant or descriptive word used by Web surfers to find something on the Internet. Your title tag (name of your online shop), your site description, your item titles, and item descriptions should contain significant keywords. For example: ‘Ohh-la-la Chica-Chica’ may sound catchy for an item title to describe a pair of hoop earrings set with a variety of gemstones, but it doesn’t tell a prospective customer or a search engine anything about the item for sale. Use the item title to describe concisely what it is your selling. For example, ‘Carnelian, Jasper and Onyx Fine Silver Hoop Earrings,’ and further describe it in the item description including the measurements and other pertinent information.

4) Title tag.
The name of your site or title tag (in computer lingo) is the most important piece of information on your site. It is the first thing an Internet search engine looks at when deciding on whether or not to index your site, and indexing you want – it is what puts you out there on the Internet. Try to put one or two important keywords in your title. Your name is great – if lots of people know your name – your name plus a keyword or two is even better, i.e. Lulu’s Handcrafted Jewelry.

5) Site description.
In 200 characters or less, describe what you do, sell, etc., using lots of keywords. This should be a well-written, accurate statement describing your site. It can be the same descriptive text you submitted to the open directory. This should be placed on the first page of your site, right after the title tag.

6) Who are you?
Put something about yourself, what you do, how you got started, the materials you work with, etc. Let your customers or potential customers get to know you. Remember sales have everything to do with emotional responses. You want to connect with your audience. The web is all about information, thus the name the “information highway”, so the more info on your site the more relevant it is. You don’t have to have a massive amount of information on your site for your site to be considered relevant, but you do need to have something about yourself and your work.

7) Photos. Photos matter!
They should be in focus, easy to view, several different angles and quick to load. Remember potential customers can’t pick up the item, turn it around, place it against their skin…but they should feel like they did. Photos can be a challenge, just do your best and look forward to the day when you can afford a professional photographer.

8) Contact Info.
You can’t expect to sell stuff and be anonymous. Be safe but work it out. If you don’t want to put your home address – consider getting a post office box.

9) Links, links and more links.
Reciprocal links, something most site owners avoid like the plague but this is the one thing you can do to insure a respectable position on the Internet – a position where people will find you without trudging through page after page of returns on a search. Read about them. Reciprocal links are where I link to you and you link to me, and by doing so we help each other. It is kind of like a mall…how many department stores or shoe stores in a mall? One or ten? Yes, they are competitors but they know if they stick together they will have more customers than if they stood alone. The internet is similar, but it is about organizing information, so ‘like’ information is clustered together, the more sites in the cluster the greater the relevance of the individual and the whole group, thus the higher the placement in a search return.

10) Pay for Placement.
If you do steps 1-9 you won’t have to pay a thing to show up on the first few pages of an Internet search for the items or service you sell. Period.

11) Inventory.
Keep producing and adding inventory. Search engines like sites that are continually updating the content of their site. People like to see a shop with more than 10 items for sale. Imagine this, you walk by a little boutique in the mall and you peek inside and you see only 10 items on display. What would you do – go in or keep walking?

Unless it is something absolutely extraordinary you probably would keep walking. Also, keep some of the sold inventory listed in your shop. Just because you sold something doesn’t mean you need to remove it, people ask questions and place custom orders for items already sold, and if your short on items it is better to keep some sold items around so your online shop doesn’t look bare.

12) Google Toolbar.
Download the Google tool bar so you can keep track of your ‘Page Rank’, and to determine if a site has true, reciprocal links (homework for you).

13) The Economy.
Yes, the economy matters. If the rest of the country is in a down turn you may as well prepare yourself for slow days ahead. But keep in mind what goes down eventually goes up. Use the time to study, learn, make things, but most of all be positive and productive. This is also true even in a good healthy financial climate, everything is cyclical, and some times of the year are better than others. For me late spring and summer is dead. I know that and I find something else to do during that time. I don’t get depressed about it I just work with it.

14) Cost.
Expect to pay at least $75 - $100 a month to maintain a site with some bells and whistles. Plan ahead and it won’t come as a shock to you. That is a lot cheaper than opening up a brick and mortar store or going to a show. And remember what I said in the beginning, don’t expect to be rolling in the money at the outset, you have to build your site, your inventory, your reputation…all of which takes time, so plan accordingly.

(c) 2007 Carol Augustine All Rights Reserved

Image is (c) 2001-2007 Carol Augustine All Rights Reserved

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3 Responses to “Selling Online — 14 Point Guide”

  1. Vanessa on 14 Dec 2007 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve read a lot of articles about selling on the web, but I have to say this is the best concise and to-the-point article I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Tamra on 19 Dec 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Great information!

    However, I guess I wonder is it “normal” to not sell ANYTHING in the first year (aside from sales to family members–although, I guess those sales count too…)?

  3. Search Engine Optimization Direct » Selling Online — 14 Point Guide on 09 Jan 2008 at 5:09 am

    [...] (Sean S Sampson) article is brought to you using rss feeds.Here are some of the top articles on search engine optimization.Search engines like sites that are continually updating the content of their site. People like to see a shop with more than 10 items for sale. Imagine this, you walk by a little boutique in the mall and you peek inside and you see only … [...]

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