Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Webmaster Wear T-Shirt Store

Today's title explains why I haven't posted anything here since the 6th. I've been working feverishly to open, populate, and market the Webmaster Wear t-shirt (and other merchandise) store. At the moment, I'm very excited about it and quite optimistic about the whole thing.

In the spirit of business transparency, I will give you the background of my store and how it works. The store is a Cafepress Premium Shop, which means that I have a fully automated and mostly customizable e-commerce system to start with. In fact, Cafepress handles the ordering, payment, production, and fulfillment (shipping, returns, etc.). All I had to do was make and upload my designs.

So I spent a day or two coming up with a hefty list of shirt ideas, and turning them into usable graphics with my really-old version of photoshop. I like to think that I'm pretty good at that sorta thing (i.e. coming up with funny phrases). The templates and tutorials made things pretty simple. I did run into some problems when I uploaded an image that was too thin to print (or something like that) and I didn't know why it wouldn't let me use it. It took me about half an hour of fiddling around to figure out what the problem was, but once I did I had no further trouble.

Cafepress says that your site could be ready in minutes, and I suppose that's possible, but mine took pretty much all day Monday to set up (and I'm still doing little tweaks). My problem was that I was setting up a full-on store, and not just a one-item shop that is fairly common on the site. Not only that, but I wasn't really sure about product organization, nor how I wanted the store to look (I ended up going with a somewhat ugly template which I still need to customize a bit more). However, I must say that the Cafepress system makes things very easy and it would have taken me a lot longer to do everything without it.

The coolest thing about Cafepress is that, like I mentioned before, they take care of all the backend stuff (the difficult for me to do stuff). They have printing processes that allow them to cheaply make products one at a time, and that means that my store holds no inventory. Everything is made to order. Accordingly, each item has a base price that Cafepress charges to cover its production and operating costs. Above that base price is my retail markup which will be the money I make off of any orders I get. (In case you're wondering, my markup is in the low-mid range.)

Essentially, Cafepress has contracted me out, on a commission basis, to do the creative work that sells their merchandise. That's fine with me because I get to play designer, and hopefully make some money if the web thinks I'm good enough.

Oh, and that reminds me of the other job that comes along with designer: internet marketer. That's the most difficult part of the whole thing. Though Cafepress offers a simple selling solution, don't expect instant profits. Fortunately, all of their shops can be listed within the shopping half of their site. That way, people who are looking for shirts there might stumble onto yours. But that's not going to get me the level of sales that I want, so I've got my work cut out for me. I will say more about this later.

In the mean time, go buy a shirt.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Don't Pass This Adwords Secret On

If you've ever advertised with Adwords, or even if you haven't, I'm sure that you have wondered about your competition. Perhaps you have tried to research them a bit and see what they're bidding on, etc. Such information would certainly be useful. What's working for them might work well for you too. Or maybe you've forgetten some important terms that your competition is picking up cheap.

There are a lot of reasons to know what your competition is up to and that information just became a lot easier to find. Yep, GoogSpy allows you to find out all about your Adwords competition.

For example, let's say you want to know about Netflix. Starting from the homepage, search for Netflix. The results show 'Companies:', under which you should see Netflix listed. Clicking that link brings you to an information page about Netflix. This page is based on Velocityscape's database compiled with their Web Scraper Plus+ software (it is not guarunteed to be 100% accurate or complete but they seem to be doing a very good job).

So, the infromation about Netflix includes the following: A list of terms for which Netflix ranks in the top 10 natural search results. A list of the terms Netflix bids on in Adwords. The page also shows a list of Netflix' top 25 competitors. This list seems to be based on the advertisers who compete for the terms Netflix bids on.

Now you know what is working for Netflix (since they are most likely monitering their campaign very carefully to make sure that it's paying off). You can also drill down a little bit to find out more. Netflix ranks number 1 for the term 'dvd rentals'. Clicking on that search term will show you who is bidding on that term and who else ranks well for it. The same thing can be done for the terms Netflix bids on.

All in all, I think it's the best Adwords research utility I've ever seen. There is some speculation that it won't be free for long, but I think it will. My take is that it's basically an advertisement for the power of Velocityscape's software. This is a tried and true marketing technique and represents the best of internet business models. A free offer of true value will get you traffic, backlinks, respect, and leads for your paying products. Plus, this free service has live Adsense Ads all over it...

So, enjoy the secret while it's still uncommon knowledge and don't tell your competition.

Monday, May 02, 2005

PPC Keyword List Building Help

I apologize for not having posted in so long. Things tend to get a bit hectic at the end of the school year. Anyway, on to the main event.

Our topic today is PPC advertising. A useful little program has recently come to my attention that can improve you ad campaign. This Free Keyword Research Marketing Tool is called Keyword Tumbler and it can save you some major time if you are trying to expand your keyword list. (As the title says, it's free. You will need to put in your e-mail though. That's what Hotmail is for...)

What the program does is simple. Let's say you're starting out with the keyword phrase "big ugly widgets". If you put that into Keyword Tumbler it would give you several new phrases:

ugly big widgets
ugly widgets big
widgets big ugly
widgets ugly big
big widgets ugly

So now you've got six phrases instead of one. The program outputs all possible order combinations of the words you give it, which can generate a really huge list of phrases very quickly (you can paste in a batch of keywords or import them from a text file, making things that much easier).

Perhaps you're thinking that nobody is going to search for "ugly widgets big". Maybe you're right. Most people search for the more common phrases. But what if someone does? Wouldn't you like your ad to be there? It doesn't cost anything to have that phrase in your list (at least, not with Adwords). Plus, since your competitors probably aren't doing this, you're going to get cheaper clicks. All in all, I'd say it's a good deal.