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Featured Posts
Nov
1
2013
AUTHOR
scotts

The Countdown has Begun! Time to Get Your Warehouse Ready for the Rush.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 11.53.39 AMIt’s November 1st and the countdown has officially begun!

As an eCommerce store owner, it’s time to sweep the aisles, make sure your most popular items are well-stocked, and your warehouse is ready for the rush of orders that will soon start pouring in.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my team of hard-working distribution center employees would spend extra time making sure the warehouse was well organized so when the rush hit, they were well prepared to handle the increased order volume.

This organization involved relocating seasonal and fast-moving items, adjusting allocated bin space and overstock storage for items we were increasing stock levels on, and beefing up our supply of packing materials so we wouldn’t get caught short.

This was a ritual we conducted every year and one that we were able to fine-tune so well, that the warehouse was able to keep up even when order volume doubled from our average of 400 – 450 orders per day. Of course, everyone was working extra hours and we even recruited members of our customer service department to pitch in for a little overtime in order to meet our shipping deadlines.

Having a well organized warehouse is key year round, but with many holiday shoppers being first-time customers, it’s important that you get their order out quickly and accurately so they become repeat buyers once 2014 is here.

Several years ago I wrote an article for our print magazine, eBizInsider, where I shared my tips for organizing your warehouse to accommodate additional holiday order volume. The advice I shared is as timely today as it was then, so I feel compelled to share it with you once again.

Click here to download a PDF of the article and feel free to share it with other eCommerce store owners.

If you have a story to share about how your eCommerce business handles additional holiday volume and want to share it with our readers, drop me an email at scotts@solidcactus.com.

Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder and brand ambassador of Solid Cactus. In 1994, he co-founded TheFerretStore.com, a leading online pet supply retailer, which boasted $12M in annual revenue, 49 employees and a 20,000 square foot distribution which stocked 99% of the company’s 3,500 SKUs. The company was sold to Drs. Foster & Smith, the nation’s largest mail-order pet supply catalog company, in 2007.

Oct
21
2013
AUTHOR
JustinTroutman

Another Day Another Update: Say Hello to Google’s Hummingbird

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If you’re a savvy internet user, chances are you’ve heard the buzz surrounding Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update. Hummingbird is designed to now handle more complex search queries, enhancing Google’s ability to understand the meaning between complete phrases and word combinations, rather than just specific keywords.  The algorithm update focuses greatly on Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is an enormous encyclopedia that houses more than 570,000,000 concepts and relationships, allowing Google to associate with your search queries.  This change in Google’s algorithm is the largest since 2001, and affects 90% of all searches. Hummingbird is Google’s answer to the changing way people are using search engines.

Are Keywords Dead?

Absolutely not, keywords are still a relevant and useful metric when creating content, but marketers should consider optimizing for audiences and user experience rather than just keywords. The main goal of the algorithm update is to deliver the most relevant results, faster.

Hummingbird relies on a more advanced knowledge graph, which allows Google to do comparisons and add filters, resulting in more accurate search results.

It is important to keep in mind that Hummingbird is putting more emphasis on context, rather than individual keywords. With the ability to now understand entire phrases and questions, it’s not a bad idea to keep this in mind when producing content.

What Is A Knowledge Graph?

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The knowledge graph allows Google to search past simple keywords and links to determine what to show in search results.  Instead, Knowledge graph allows Google to understand the relationships between many things, which allows Google to answer complex queries, like the example shown in the graphic above. Knowledge Graphs is hands-down one of the biggest components found in Hummingbird, and just the beginning of more advanced search.

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User Intent

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Hummingbird is designed to understand conversational language better than it once previously did, and strive to understand the users’ intention and what exactly they are searching for. Hummingbird allows Google to understand full questions more quickly, in order to identify and rank answers to those questions from indexed content.  These types of conversational searches have become a huge driver in the type of searches people are commonly making, and Hummingbird provides much better results to accommodate these requests. As users’ are searching for more specific phrases and conversational sentences, Hummingbird focuses on users’ intent by answering these questions. In the past, rankings were generally decided around generic keywords, such as “Smartphone “, whereas now more people are searching for, “Where can I find the best priced Smartphone?”

Will This Change SEO?

In a way yes, but for the most part, Hummingbird should help sites that have a content strategy and high quality content. However, it is likely that SEO will evolve just as the way people search has evolved. Hummingbird is not the end of SEO as we know it! Instead, it’s vital to continue producing original, high quality content, and pursuing high quality back links. Guidance still remains the same, and the same signals that have been important still remain important. Hummingbird is just merely a new way for Google to process everything to produce better quality search results for you, the user. If you have original, high quality content, and you’re still pursuing relevant, high quality websites to link back to you, then Hummingbird should not impact your rankings in any negative way. Hummingbird should improve your rankings, just as they should have after Penguin and Panda rolled out of the Google Zoo.

What Do Brands and Online Businesses Need to Do?

Websites need to keep providing their users with quality, engaging, and shareable content. As SEO seems to become less about keyword data and more about engagement, high quality content that is helpful, relevant and conversational should help sites be successful with Hummingbird. The three most important tips to keep your website Hummingbird friendly aren’t too much different from current SEO best practices:

  • Create high quality, engaging, and 100% unique content.
  • Focus less on keyword volume, and more on conversational tone.
  • Have a well-rounded marketing strategy that delivers a clear message to your user.

Build a Loyal Facebook Fan Base with “Get Me Likes” from Solid Cactus

Get Me LIkes is a great way to build your Facebook fan base by offering your shoppers an incentive in exchange for a like.

Get Me LIkes is a great way to build your Facebook fan base by offering your shoppers an incentive in exchange for a like.

Building a base of loyal customers is something that every eCommerce store owner strives for. Repeat customers who spread the word about your business to their friends and family is a priceless form of advertising.

One way of building brand loyalists is to take advantage of the most popular social networking site today, Facebook. If you’re like me, you probably spend a great deal of time every day going through your news feed seeing what your friends are up to, “liking” Facebook pages for your favorite businesses and posting pictures of what you just had for lunch.

Facebook is a community, and it’s one that your business should be a part of. If you’ve been putting off creating a Facebook page for your eCommerce store, why not take a few moments and do it now. With the holidays just weeks away, it’s more important than ever to have a Facebook page for your customers to “like” so you can market to them for little or no cost.

Once you setup your Facebook page, you need to get your customers to “like” it. There are some simple things you can do to get the ball rolling:

  • Email Your Customers – It’s that simple! Send out an email blast to your customer list letting them know you’re now on Facebook and invite them to come over and “like” your page. Let them know that by being a part of your Facebook community they will be the first to know about special fan deals, Facebook only offers and other incentives reserved just for your followers.
  • Add an Icon – Add the Facebook icon to your website that clicks through to your Facebook page. I know I’m one of these guys who looks for the social media icons on stores and websites so I can click through and be one of their followers. Typically icons are placed either in your store’s header, footer or underneath your navigation bars. Don’t forget to include the link on your blog as well!
  • Email Signatures – You and your employees probably send out a good amount of email each day. Take advantage of that by adding a link to your store’s Facebook page in your email signature. These days, a link to your Facebook page is just as important as a link to your website.
  • Speak it! – If you have an auto attendant that greets callers when they dial in, consider adding a “be sure to visit us on Facebook” line to your script. Another way to get the word out it to ask your customer service representatives to remind customers on each call to head over to Facebook and give your page a “like.”

Once you’re Facebook fan base starts growing, it’s time to keep them engaged. I recommend businesses post to their company’s Facebook page at least once a day. If you don’t have the bandwidth to do that, post at least three times a week or talk to us about our managed Facebook service.

When it comes to posting, you want to create unique content that your visitors will find helpful, informational, and fun! You want your posts to grab your follower’s attention so they will engage, comment and hopefully share with their network of friends.

One word of caution with content… don’t oversell! Nobody likes to see every post from a business be a sales pitch. Sure you can announce new products, share a demo video and promote the big sale you’re having, but don’t over do it. Take time to post about the group of employees who went bowling last night, the pizza party you had for the warehouse team, a great review you got from a customer and fun things going on within your company.

It’s important that you continually keep growing your fan base so your reach spreads. The ideas I shared above are great for kicking off your new Facebook page, but you need to keep that momentum going year round, and I’ve got just the thing that can help.

Straight out of the Solid Cactus development lab is a new product designed to help grow your fan base, appropriately called “Get Me Likes.” This is a feature I’m really excited about, as it’s a cost-effective way to get current and potential customers to become one of your Facebook fans.

Here’s how it works. We install code on your store that teases visitors, in an unobtrusive way, to give your Facebook page a “like” in exchange for a coupon code they can use right away. They click on the little teaser window, it opens up, they click the “like” button and they’re given the code. Once they close the window, the widget disappears and it won’t prompt them again.

You get a fan, your fan gets a discount, and you get a sale!

What can be better than that?

If you’re running your store on Yahoo! Small Business, Network Solutions eCommerce, Monster Commerce or 1ShoppingCart Stores, we can install Get Me Likes for only $199. We have three different standard versions you can choose from, or for just $399, we can style Get Me Likes to match the unique look and feel of your store.

Like I said earlier, there’s no better time than now to start building your fan base so you can market to them during the holiday shopping season. Watch the demo video below, and contact us at 1.888.361.9814 to have Get Me Likes installed on your store.

See you on Facebook!


Scott Sanfilippo is co-founder of Solid Cactus and spends way more time on Facebook than he will admit. When he’s not posting pictures of what he had for lunch, you’ll find him sharing his decades of eCommerce experience with our top clients to help them become successful online.  Click here to become one of his Facebook friends.

Oct
18
2013
AUTHOR
Jeff Stolarcyk

The Creeping Doom of “Black Friday Deals Week”: How to Plan Your Holiday Marketing Calendar

Puppy Christmas present

Don’t let Black Friday scare you. Look at this little black Christmas puppy!

Do you remember where you were on Thanksgiving 2010? Maybe eating dinner and watching football with your family. Probably inside a Sears or Kmart, locked in combat over deals and doorbusters.  2010 is the genesis point of modern Black Friday Deal Creep, a marketing phenomenon that sees marketers desperate to ‘win’ the Black Friday weekend endless attempt to outgame and pre-empt their competition by walking back the start of their sales.  Over the past three years, other retailers – both brick and mortar and online – have followed Kmart’s lead and started launching their big, limited-quantity sales on Thursday. This year, even venerable Macy’s is considering it.

It should have been a slow, orderly erosion, but this summer saw several big box stores running successful ‘Black Friday in July’ or ‘Summer Black Friday’ email campaigns, and even, just recently, a ‘Cyber Monday in September’. Consumerist has evidence of ‘Black Friday’ sales dating back as far as February this year. No. Really.

The gradual inclusion of Saturday, Sunday, Cyber Monday and, most lately, Thanksgiving Day, into the savings behemoth that is Black Friday has transmogrified the shopping holiday into ‘Black Friday Deals Week’.

What does that mean for you, online small business retailer? As much as I might hate to admit it, it probably means an adjustment to your holiday marketing plans. Here are a few tactics you might want to consider:

  1. Thanksgiving Day Deals – While it’s still a good idea to save your best deals for Friday or Monday, having a sale up and running and visible on Thanksgiving Day is a good idea, especially if it’s something you can ‘set and forget’ the night before.
  2. Change It Up – Vary your deals to keep people coming back. Run the gamut of promotions – discounts, free shipping, BOGO, flash sales – variety will help attract shoppers back to you during the weekend.
  3. Make Deals Feel Like Deals – the longer a sale lasts, the less urgency shoppers feel about participating in it. Have a new sale or group of deal items every day (or at least on Thursday, Friday and Monday)
  4. Email Early, Email Often – Start launching your holiday email campaigns on Wednesday and send frequent reminders throughout the week. The volume of email sent during this weekend is huge and open rates go down because of the influx of messages. Sending daily during the ‘deals week’ is not too much, especially if you have varied promotions throughout the weekend.
  5. Don’t Forget Free Shipping Day – A few weeks after ‘Black Friday Deals Week’, Free Shipping Day is the final day for ground shipping before Christmas and if you can accommodate a free shipping promotion, it’s an easy marketing win for you that will get you increased visibility and attract shoppers with an enhanced sense of urgency.

How are you preparing for the ever-expanding holiday deals season?

Oct
15
2013
AUTHOR
scotts

Is Your Customer Service Department Ready for the Holiday Rush?

_thumb_126936My favorite time of the year is almost here!

In just a few short weeks we will be celebrating the arrival of Cyber Monday and the official start of the busy holiday shopping season.

While I’m not quite ready to hear Christmas music on the radio, I am ready for the rush of orders and the excitement that accompanies them. There’s something about a buzzing customer service department and a busy warehouse team that puts you in the holiday spirit!

Keeping those two departments running like a well-oiled machine is critical during this time of the year. Many of the shoppers who visit your eCommerce store during the holidays are probably going to be first-timers. If you give them great service, chances are you’re going to make them repeat buyers. If you don’t, well… your competitor thanks you.

In order to make sure you’re ready to “wow” your customers, I’m inviting you to join me as well as Katrina Domkowski and Donna Werts from our Call Center Services team for a free webinar on Wednesday, October 23rd at 2:00pm ET. Take an hour, pour yourself a cup of coffee and listen in as we discuss:

  • Important dates to consider when putting your holiday schedules together.
  • How to handle increased call volume.
  • The importance of writing customer friendly policies.
  • Tips on up-selling and cross-selling.
  • Information every customer service page should have on it.
  • Benefits of using Live Chat on your website.

Plus, if Katrina and Donna let me, I’ll chime in with some of my own “tales from the trenches” from the past 19 holiday seasons.

I guarantee you the hour will be well spent and by the time it’s over, you’ll have a checklist of what you need to do to make sure your customer service department is ready for the holidays.

 

When: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Time: 2:00 – 3:00pm Eastern Time
Where: GoToWebinar – Sign up

 

Webinar Host 
scott-sanfilippo-webinar3 Scott Sanfilippo
Co-Founder & Brand Ambassador, Solid Cactus

 

Panel of Customer Service Experts 
katrina-domkowski Katrina Domkowski
Manager, Call Center Operations
donna-werts Donna Werts
Senior Sales Consultant, Call Center

Sign up to attend this free webinar today, and I’ll see you soon!

Scott Sanfilippo is Co-Founder and Brand Ambassador for Solid Cactus and has spent the past 19 holiday seasons working with the warehouse and customer service teams at his own eCommerce business.  He’s a big fan of egg nog, the Yule Log on television and still believes in Santa Claus.  Follow him on Facebook and be sure to join him for this webinar.