Internet Entrepreneurship: first step, getting started: Article 2

I started my first business silk tie retailing using a ready made website template and shopping cart. This was because I did not want to spend a lot of money having a site built and did not know anything about web retailing so wouldn't be able to specify what I needed anyway. It seems to me that this was a good decision. It meant that I could concentrate my work on getting the product, merchandising, sales text and internet marketing right and not worry too much about the other stuff. As I have progressed I have wanted to change some things in the site design but it has been fairly easy and cheap to do so and I have changed only the things that really needed to change. I got my website from www.DPBUk.co.uk who have been good but there are many other companies out there selling ready made retailing websites.

The first step in getting the business up and running was to add my sales text. I decided to aim initially at the UK market only as that is the one I know and is less competitive than the us. My sales text for the front page aims to do a few things; show that I am UK based, show that people can trust and rely on the site (site looks professional, address is prominent, email and phone numbers are listed, money back guarantee and testimonials from customers) and encourage people to browse the ties knowing that prices are reasonable and shipping is free.

Next priority was to make finding the right tie easier. I did this by creating all sorts of categories; by colour, by style etc. Then was the grinding effort as going into every tie in the catalogue and adding it to various categories. This effort was well worth while however, if people can't quickly find what they are looking for then they will go elsewhere. It is so easy on the internet to pop into the next shop that you must make it very easy for people. Not only did I categorise every tie in to multiple categories, but I also tagged each tie with a basic description so that the Search box on my site would pull up relevant searches. Finally I selected what I thought were the nicest ties for the featured products on the front.

Final priority was pricing. I wanted the pricing to be competitive and to be easily changed, so that I could experiment and find the best pricing. I also wanted to make it clear to people that prices were much lower for the quality than you would get on the high street. I therefore decided to put high-street retail pricing in and then use a Sale to reduce the price to a competitive internet level. This has worked fairly well, although I think I under-priced initially. Now I am slowly increasing prices and it does not seem to be hurting sales. In pricing I wanted to have progressive quantity discounts to encourage people to buy more silk ties, however the cart system couldn't handle it. In the website administration it did have bands for price by quantity which I filled in for every product, only to find that it only worked if you bought multiples of the same silk tie. I haven't yet found a way of doing what I want with the cart, but am glad that I left the volume discounts bulk buying of the same tie in. I get lots of orders for multiples of the same tie from clubs, companies and weddings and having the discounts has definately paid off.

Have a look at the site at www.tiespecialist.com to see the design in action.After a week or so have work every evening and weekend the site was looking good enough to go. I placed a few trial orders for silk ties to make sure everything worked. It didn't. Test, test and test again until it works great. Finally the moment of truth, I was ready to go live and start getting customers.

Google AdWords has been the biggest expense in getting the business going. To have a successfull internet business you have to get people to come to your site. When you start a high-street shop you have passers by to sell to but when you start a new website you have no passers by. Google does not rank new websites highly so no one will find you by accident. The only way to get visitors quickly is to advertise. I figured that offline advertising wouldn't be very good, much better to sell to people when they are at their computers already. I also figured that banner ads and listing sites are poor value for money. I therefore focused all my advertising on AdWords first and then Overture.

AdWords is a very clever system. Completely automated, it allows you to advertise to people whoare searching for particular keywords in particular countries. For example for www.tiespecialist.com I want people in the UK who are searching for tie, ties, silk ties, woven silk ties, wedding ties, bow ties, polyester ties etc. The adverts appear on the right hand side of Google and you only pay when someone clicks through. In this way it is better than traditional advertising in that you know you get visitors to your site for your adspend.

How far your ad is from the top depends on how much you are willing to pay and your click through rate (CTR). In essence Google maximises the money making potential of each search by showing the ads people are most likely to click on and that pay the most. When I started my website I put in lots of keywords, wrote an ad and aimed it at the UK. I quickly found that I needed to pay 20p to 35p per click to be in the top 3 for the ads. In the first week of advertising I generated 150 clicks or so per day at 25p each on average and got no sales. After the 1st week sales started to come in at the rate of 1 or 2 per day. When I worked out the cost per conversion I was paying £40 per day for 1 to 2 sales, giving a cost per order of £20 to £40 pounds. The gross margin on an average order is only £10 so I am losing money with every order. This is to be expected at first and I was quite prepared to invest in marketing to get potential customers so that I could improve my website and then build a customer base which would give me long term profitability. However to make pay per click advertising work I needed to do a whole bunch of things:

Cut my cost per click dramatically Improve my conversion rate once people clicked through to my site Increase the average order size I have managed to get the cost per click down to less than 15p per click average by doing a number of things.

First of all I tested lots of keywords to find ones for which there was little competition. For example "how to tie a tie" has no one else advertising on it so I can get traffic for the minimum of 2 pence per click. However the keywords have to be relevant to your product and ultimately convert to sales. I have still found that the vast majority of searches are on the simple keywords; tie, ties so I have to find a way of getting in to that space if I want to get decent numbers of visitors.

Secondly, improve the ads. A great feature of AdWords is that you can run multiple ads simultaneously and track the click through rates of each. Then you get rid of the worst performing ads. The key here is to change one part of your ad at a time (so that you know which change causes the effect) and to wait until you have had least 50 clicks on an ad before making a judgement on it (at low numbers of clicks the performance can fluctuate dramatically with chance). As your ad gets better CTR you get more visitors and a higher ranking so you can reduce the amount per click and still get the same performance. I have improved my average click through from 0.75% when I started to 2.6% by running better ads.

Thirdly, remove poor performing words. You will find that there are some words which are not particularly relevant or have lots of competition, where your clickthrough is low and cost high. I have found it is best to delete them. I have also used negative keywords which allow you to exclude certain words. For example with "tie" I found that some people were searching for "tie fighter" so had "-fighter" in AdWords to exclude these searches. This improves CTR and position.

Fourthly, check out the competition and decide where you need to be in the ranking. For my art website www.artspecialist.co.uk selling oil painting reproductions of masterpieces, I have found that for many words the competition are selling painting courses or prints. Why pay high CTR's to rank above these companies when potential customers will be scanning past them anyway. I have found it really pays to type each keyword into Google and decide where you need to be to match your competitors. On some words I can be bottom and still be the first company selling oil painting reproductions .

I hope you have found this useful. Read more on my blog at http://specialist-paintings-ties.blogspot.com/. In the next article I will take about conversion rates

UK English woven silk tie business at http://www.tiespecialist.com UK reproduction oil painting business at http://www.artspecialist.co.uk Web marketing and internet entrepreneurship blog at http://specialist-paintings-ties.blogspot.com/

UK English woven silk tie business at http://www.tiespecialist.com UK reproduction oil painting business at http://www.artspecialist.co.uk Web marketing and internet entrepreneurship blog at http://specialist-paintings-ties.blogspot.com

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