All you need to know about online shops

Much of what you need to know about online shops is not part of the shop. The first, very important question you have to ask yourself is how will people find my shop on the Internet? It's not as simple as you think. Do you really think you'll set up an online shop and lo and behold, when users search online for something related to your shop, you'll be on page one of the returned results on Google? Not by a long shot. Except if you deal in a niche product, like first edition 18th century books on Sanskrit. So, how does it work?

Internet searches

Google handles by far the most search traffic on the Internet. When a user searches for something, Google returns two types of results on the same page:

  • organic results
  • paid results

Organic results

These are the results on the left side of the page under the paid results. There are often three paid results at the top with a slightly different background colour and some not very obvious text indicating that they are paid advertisements.

You really want your site to come up on Google's first page of organic results. But that's easier said than done.

So, what gets a site on the first page of Google's organic results? Well, Google doesn't say. The algorithm they use is their secret. However, people have noticed some tendencies:

  • the number of links to your site from other relevant sites - not link farms
  • the age of your site - many sites come and go, they're not regarded as worthy of much attention
  • your domain name - if your domain name is exactly a search term and this search term accurately describes your site, it will only do you good.
  • the title of your page - try to get it as close to a search term as possible
  • the same goes for the most important heading on your page
  • using the search term the page is related to at least a certain number of times on that page - say seven times
  • the number of pages on your site - try to stick to one topic per page and have at least 15 pages
  • useful content on your site - people should come away knowing more about what your site is about when leaving your site
  • Google itself says one should have different relevant (not your business name) page titles for each page and use the description tag to clearly give an indication of the contents of the page
  • on page Search Engine Optimization - maximizing your chances to perform well on search engines

Obviously, some of these things are easier to do than others. Getting relevant links to your site is a long and often difficult process. You'll have to work tirelessly on that. Here is one thing you can do: go to directory critic and submit your site to as many directories, especially high ranking ones, as possible. Do ten or twenty per day. Submit different pages on your site and use a number of search terms, which you rotate, as the anchor (link) text. Vary your descriptions, as well.

Now find a page with directories for your country. You'll have to use Google. Submit your site to as many of those directories, as well.

You will notice some directories will take forever to look at your submission if you want a free submission. Then they may not add your site. Often you will get better treatment if you put up a reciprocal link to the directory. To be able to do that you must have one or more link pages, like on this site. These links on this site are in a database and it's easy to add, update and remove them.

Then there is using social sites, like Facebook to increase your visibility. That's a topic on its own about which I don't know much.

As far as your domain name is concerned, go to Google insights for search and see which search terms are popular for what you sell in the areas you market to. This domain name must be relevant to your site. At one stage Google decided to clamp down on domain names the same as search terms. Even though the search term database applications is very relevant to this site, this site featured only low down for this search term when searching from Australia. However, Google seems to have reversed this policy as this site is back on page one for searches on Google Australia for the search term database applications.

Next go to Crazy Domains and see which domain names are still available that match the popular search terms you need as closely as possible. You can be sure the closest ones will already be taken. Get a commercial domain name for your country, dot com dot au for Australia. Then register that name. It may also be possible to buy a domain name from its owner. Search for domain name auctions.

As far as the headings and text on your pages are concerned, keep them in mind when your page is being developed. Have at least about 200 words of content on your home page that impart something useful. Internet crawlers, as used by all the search engines to evaluate web pages, can only read text.

Paid advertisements

These are the advertisements returned with search results at the top, as mentioned before, as well as the advertisements on the right side. They are returned in response to search terms one bids on. These search terms one bids on are called adwords by Google. One can have an adword campaign up and running in a few days, or less. This form of advertising is also called pay per click advertising in that one only pays if someone clicks on the one's advertisement to go to one's site. The more they click, the more you pay. Hopefully, the more they click, the more you also sell.

Unfortunately the competition for popular adwords is fierce. By now you should know the search terms you are interested in. To see where you stand as far as a Google Adword Campaign is concerned, go to the Google Traffic Estimator and plug in your search terms and select the geographical location where you want to see your ads displayed, how much you are willing to pay per click and how much you are willing to pay per day. Google will then give you an estimation of how many times your ad will be displayed per day, in what position of the page it will most likely be and a ball-park figure of how many clicks a day they think you will get. If you change the amounts you are willing to spend per day and how much you are willing to pay per click, these figures will change.

Long tail key words

Unpopular search terms are cheap because they are not often used in searches. It may be worth your while to include many long tail key words in your Google Adwords Campaign. Say you are selling printers, if you bid on the search term Epson Stylus NX430 Multifunction Printer you will get it cheaply. Not many people will search for that, but if someone does, your ad will show cheaply in a prominent place. Include many such long tail key words in your Google Adwords Campaign.

Google Adwords is a topic on its own. It's not been dealt with in any depth on this page. But this should give you a clear idea what a Google Adwords Campaign is all about. You can read up about it and do it yourself or get someone to do it for you - the choice is yours.

A successful online shop

If the following is true, you will have a successful online shop:

  • there is a market for what you sell and your product is what people buy over the Internet
  • people can find your online shop
  • your online shop works well for your clients
  • people trust you - trust is more important with some products than others, but essential in all
  • you operate your business efficiently and give people what they pay for
  • your prices are the same or cheaper than your competitors - it's easy to search online and find the lowest price

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