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Ecommerce Intern Case Study – Month 4 – 76% Increase in Sales

Several months back I had the plan to hire someone with ZERO experience give them 2 of my ecommernce businesses to grow and have them document the entire journey.

The ECommerce Intern Case Study was born. Annie was hired and while attending school she worked part time to learn and grow a couple of projects. She did a great job and has documented everything in Weekly VLogs and Monthly Updates.

Previous Updates:

https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-case-study-1/
https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-case-study-2/
https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-intern-case-study-3/

You can view her entire playlist of VLog updates here

VLog 9

VLog 10

VLog 11

VLog 12

Hi guys and welcome to my final blog post!

My contract is coming to an end and so this will be my last post documenting my journey. I have learned so much over the past four months and it has been a really great journey. 

Personal Update: First of all Merry Christmas (if you celebrate Christmas) and happy new year, the last few weeks while I was at home I took some time off from work and spent most of my time with my family. I also had my first white Christmas in many years. I took advantage of the snow by learning how to cross country ski and by going snowshoeing. Unfortunately we were in lockdown in Ontario the whole time I was there so the downhill ski clubs had to close. I was really disappointed as I was really looking forward to downhill skiing.

I am now back in Birmingham, AL, after a nice break in Canada. We are back to full on training for volleyball and have two weeks before school starts to really focus on tuning our skills back up. It’s weird to be back in the United States again after being in Canada for awhile. When I left Collingwood most of the province was in Lockdown and here there are barely any restrictions. I am hoping that I will be able to receive the vaccine when I am down here and can continue to avoid getting Covid-19. Fingers crossed. 

This post will serve as a conclusion for the project; I’ll show you guys the sales results, my thoughts on the project and the grand successes and failures of the project. 

Business A: 

General Thoughts: 

The total sales for Business A over this time frame were just over $16 thousand. While some Ecommerce stores can do that in a few days I think it is a big win for Business A. When I first took over the business we hit a major lull but recently it has been doing a lot better. As I talk about in my vlog quite often this business does not exactly follow the Drop Ship Lifestyle model and it also has a very specific niche market. The niche that it’s in while they are typically loyal customers and interested in new products, as a group the customer demographic had an unpredictable response to sales. I ran a few 4 day only flash sales and some sales that were run were VERY successful whereas others that were basically the exact same sale but just at a different had a completely different reaction. So it was a challenge to put my finger on what exactly consumers would want when it came to marketing. 

Another Challenge: Paid Trafficking was not profitable!

Another issue that I ran across with this niche market and the online store was being able to use paid trafficking to the point where it was profitable. So far the best form of advertising for this niche market has been email marketing and nothing else. I tried Facebook Ads and Google Ads and neither were successful. Jon and I actually made the decision a few weeks ago to shut off paid trafficking for this business due to it just draining money from the store and not increasing any sales. 

Conversion Rate: 

This conversion rate is still really low. A goal for this site is to get it to 1% but a challenge with this site is figuring out which changes will actually make an impact since the usual improvements such as updating the look of the website to be cleaner and more modern might actually be counterintuitive. 

Ideas for future: 

  • Affiliate Linking: A big goal for the future will be increasing the ranking of the site and therefore that will lead to more people finding the site and making purchases. A big measure to improve the site that will be the next step for this website is affiliate linking. Which will involve sending out inquiries and getting other websites to link back to our product and blog pages. I have already done this a few times due to other sites reaching out to us and exchanging links with them. The idea behind this business affiliate linking plan would be to offer a link exchange or to provide them with a product that is relatively inexpensive in exchange for a link to our website and a review/testimonial that we could share on our site. 
  • Add to cart reminder: As you can see on the image the conversion rate for “Adding to Cart” is closer to our goal of a conversion rate of 1%. I think a big improvement to be made after seeing that is setting up a reminder email service for people who have products in their cart that way they will have another contact with us and be reminded to make a purchase if they simply got side tracked or just forgot. 

Business B: I’d say that Business B has been kind of like my baby for this time. In comparison to Business A it did not have a lot set up and was very unestablished as a business. I feel as if the work I’ve put in now has turned it from a good idea to an actual existing business. While the numbers for this Business are still not super impressive they are a grand improvement from how they were when I initially started. 

Wins

  1. New Product Line: During the course of my work on this project I looked into sourcing many different new products but nailed down two new products that are both selling pretty well. It’s been awesome to be a part of the whole journey of sourcing a product and then watching it getting a sale for the first time. 
  2. New Website: We completely redesigned the website for this Business and it has been a huge contributing factor to the increase in sales and increase in conversion rate
  3. Large Increase in Sales: As previously mentioned the sales have drastically increased. In the past two weeks we are having a sale every day which is a huge increase compared to barely getting a sale every two weeks before all the changes. 
  4. Launch of eBook: A big success of this project was a monster how to article finally being completed and then turning that monster article into an eBook. 

Conversion Rate: 

Sometimes looking at this number without any other context makes me feel a bit dejected but as you can see it is also a 66% improvement from the previous time period. The conversion rate is still quite low but due to our website ranking well and the Google Ads that are running we are still able to get good sales numbers. 

Future Ideas: 

  1. Improved Social Recognition: I think increasing the social media presence will be key to improving the conversion rate. Having real customers writing reviews and posts will increase customers’ desire to make purchases. 
  2. Improvements to website: While the website went through a great improvement process there is always room for more improvement. I think there should be ongoing research on what the top landing pages are with the highest conversion rates and to continue to model the site after those super successful sites. 
  3. Research on Competitors: During this process I have been mainly looking internally and figuring out the website in order to get it to a point where it could even be considered a competitor but now that it is making sales I think a good idea would be to start doing competitive research and figuring out what other similar companies are doing better or worse than our business and what changes we should make. 
  4. Expanding the product line: Any website with multiple products seems more legitimate and I think a good idea for the future for this product would be to source a few more high quality products that fit in with the current product line. 

In conclusion, it has been great to see both businesses improve over the time that I’ve been running them and putting a lot of work into them. I’m excited to see how big Business B can become and watch Business A grow more consistently and slowly over time. Overall I feel as if I am very well versed when it comes to Ecommerce and feel very competent handling all different types of situations. I hope that you guys enjoyed reading my blog. Until next time! 

Best Investment for an Entrepreneur in 2021

Don’t worry this isn’t a new years post about how the best investment in 2021 is in yourself. Although there may be some truth to that common answer I want to take a more objective view about where is the best place to deploy capital in 2021 for your business. 

  • Is it in the stock market… ARK ETFs are booming, TSLA, new SPACs?
  • Is it in cryptocurrency?
  • Is it in precious metals?
  • What about wine, art and trading cards?  

All of the above at/near all time highs in terms of their price.

What I would argue is the best place to look is in an asset class that has…

  1. Increased in quality in 2020
  2. Reduced in cost in 2020
  3. Is Low risk & has High probability of a return

My argument for the best investment in 2021 is people… 2021 the best investment opportunity is building your team. 

Currently, we have 30 team members on the payroll and many more working as freelancers with plans for growth in 2021. 

Why do I argue that the best investment opportunity is human capital?

Lets look in more detail at the dimensions that would make it a good investment… quality, cost and risk/reward. 

Increased in Quality in 2020

With the increase in the unemployment rate and significant movement of employees between sectors we have seen an improvement in the quality of available applicants to job postings. 

Compared to other possible investments I can think of few where their quality increased by the amount the available labor pool did. If the quality of the available candidates is correlated to the unemployment rate (obviously a massive simplification) then the quality of the available labour is up 75% compared to this time 1 year ago. 

Source

Reduced in Cost in 2020

As the unemployment rate went up AND people started looking at alternative lifestyle choices…. Working 70+ hour weeks in the city not seeing their family started to not make as much sense. 

People are re-evaluating their decision between money and lifestyle… if you can meet that need with a fliexible employment offer that values them then total compensation does not need to directly compete with their previous roles.

The labour statistics also point to falling wages… 

“In some countries where they are available, labour statistics point to falling wages. In Australia, nominal average wages of workers aged 50 to 59 years old declined by 3.2% between the week ending March 14, 2020 and the week ending June 13, 2020.”

Source

Low Risk and has a High Probability of a Return

This one becomes a little more debatable/unique to everyones situation…if you pay wages and nothing productive gets built then its a complete loss. 

Everyone needs to make this decision on their own and it is outside the scope of this short article. 

My greatest investments have clearly been getting the right managers on the team. 

However, getting this wrong also leads to some serious pain that isn’t just financial. 

Summary and My Take Away:

As a result of this thought process we are ramping up hiring for a few roles (writers, editors and a business manager). These new team members will be tackling a couple new projects and putting some additional horsepower behind some projects that have gained great traction in Q4. 

How to Come Up With SAAS Ideas – Already Validated but Not Solved

Where do you go to look for new SAAS ideas where there is clearly a need that is not being served well?  

Tonight I was working on a complex automation solution to make the entire content marketing machine run much more smoothly with a single input for a couple of projects. 

While digging in and then in some discussions I started to see some consistent new opportunities connecting tools in more native ways then using automation tools like Zapier, Automote.io. 

My intent of sharing this is to scratch my bright shiny object syndrome but I won’t be executing on this exact idea. Feel free to run with it 🙂

10 years ago a post about companies being born out of each Craigslist category went viral. 

This post is now 10 years old! 

So what is the modern SAAS version of Craiglist…

Popular Automation Tool API Connectors…

What I mean is that where automation tools have been used heavily it shows there is a need not being easily solved with a native solution to the tools being connected.  

Popular Automation Tools:

By looking at the most popular use cases for these automation tools it reveals problems people have and are willing to pay to solve. 

Let’s do an example…

1. Go to a Popular Automation Tool

Automate.io

2. Select a Popular and Paid App 

I would think focusing on paid business app’s would be best since if the tool being used to solve a problem it means it is generating value. 

For this example, I will select Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce as they are businesses I am familiar with. 

3. Review the most popular integrations for that app 

All 3 have a few common use cases which can be summarized as…

  • Problem 1 – Add user to database (MailChimp, SalesForce, ActiveCampaign etc)
  • Problem 2 – Email user with a personalized email from GMail 
  • Problem 3 – Save order information to database (Google Sheets) – related to #1

The image above shows what people most commonly use Automate.io to connect Shopify to. 

4. Is there a better way with a native app to solve this problem?

Given that this reveals there is clearly a need where people are willing to pay Automate.io to connect between Shopify and their CRM / autoresponder why is it not being solved with a native Shopify app?

Automate.io makes it easy but it is not completely trivial the way an app can make it. 

Some quick research on the app store revealed a few solutions with weak reviews that try and work with multiple CRM’s and then the native solution made by each CRM. The reality might be that keeping current with the integration of each solution is incredibly time-consuming but tools like Automate.io can do it because that is what they are built to do. 

Might be a dead end but it looks like if it was solved well with a native app people would be interested. 

5. Analyze Reviews for Similar Solutions (Positive and Negative)

Use these reviews to identify WHY people are not using the app and are going to tools like Automate.io to solve their problem. 

Given that there are many native solutions for connecting CRMs/email lists and Shopify I am not clear on why people would use Automate.io… but in that answer lies the potential for a popular/profitable Shopify App. 

In fact there seems to be solid solution that does exactly this for WooCommerce – https://www.crmperks.com/

Summary:

I don’t know if this is a great idea or not, there are some outstanding questions I don’t understand the answer to. 

However, my hope in sharing this is it shows one way of going about systematically mining for ideas leveraging autoation/API connection tools. 

If there is a tool you have deep knowledge of Salesforce or similar that is commonly used then digging into how people are automating activities might reveal something you could get built or a service you could offer.

ECommerce Intern Case Study – Month 3 – Stamps.com Review Learnings and Growth

Continuing with the ECommerce Intern Case Study here is the 3rd update. 

Some really strong movement on the 1 project in particular. It will be great to see the next update that wraps up the November progress where a lot of work went into the second ecommerce site getting the conversion up. 

Update #1 – https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-case-study-1/

Update #2 – https://authoritywebsiteincome.com/ecommerce-case-study-2/

You can view her Weekly VLog here

So here is Annie’s update…

Personal Update:

This past month has been super busy for me. We have been practicing 3-4 hours a day and then I have been working 3-4 hours a day. At times it has been kind of stressful and especially lately we have only had one day off a week; Sunday. Staying super productive while having very little down time has been a little hard to manage. I’ve had to time manage really well and prioritize this job a lot more than sleep at times. 

Luckily American thanksgiving is coming up so I will be getting a nice break from volleyball and having a good solid week to rest and focus on work and school. Initially, when I decided to come down and continue this job I justified it by saying that most other people would also be spending 4 hrs or more on classes everyday. This justification is still applicable however, I underestimated the difference between attending classes and schoolwork and working. 

When I’m working I am full on for 4 hrs but when attending classes or studying it can be more of a passive activity. But at the same time I am enjoying being busy and learning new things all the time. That is basically all that is new with me; COVID-19 has picked up basically everywhere but so far no new restrictions have been put in place here in Alabama. It seems as if there will be lots of developments within the next few weeks but we will just have to see. 

Some volleyball photos from a recent scrimmage: 

Business Updates: Here are the sales numbers from the two businesses over the past 90 days to give you guys a brief update: 

Business A: 

As you can see Business A has had a strong improvement over the last 90 days compared to the previous 90 day period. 

Business B: 

Business B has not been quite as successful as Business A but it has turned a corner recently in sales after a long time with no sales due to the poor landing page. 

My biggest win

The biggest high of this time period has been that the one website (Business B) has had some sales! That has been amazing and it feels great that all the hard work put into that site has finally paid off. The other high associated with that is that the website is now almost finished, it seems as if it has taken forever to get all the new photos and have it looking really nice. It finally does and sales are happening as a result of all the hard work done. 

Product Issues: 

On the one site we have had a big push on sourcing new products and then drop shipping them. This has led to a big increase in sales and figuring out which products will be successful and which will not, therefore gaining more insight into the motives and desires of our customers. Unfortunately with this newer drop shipping model for this business (up until now we’ve relied primarily on one supplier) there have been a few issues. One of the most recent weeks of work I got hit with all these issues and a very poor week for sales and it was quite overwhelming. 

  1. Products arriving damaged: I had a customer send me one of the scariest headlines: PRODUCT ARRIVED BROKEN. Luckily they sent a bunch of pictures but it was quite worrisome as a part of the product is made out of glass and it looked as if they shipped it barely wrapped up and with limited protection. Due to the customer sending images of the product I was able to file a complaint with the supplier and receive a refund from them but it seems as if the product could likely arrive broken other times due to the poor packaging for shipping. 
  2. Products arriving with the wrong outlet: I just had another scary headline from a customer: PRODUCT ARRIVED WITH THE WRONG OUTLET. A frustrating part about ordering products from around the world and then shipping them to different places in the world is that you have to pay close attention to what outlets they come with. I thought that I had done my due diligence with all of the drop shipping products I am currently supplying but it turns out I shipped a product to a customer in the United States with the wrong outlet. Luckily, I think we only sold one of these products so it shouldn’t be too big of a deal but overall frustrating when you make a sale and then once the product is actually delivered you have to make adjustments. Another time a customer contacted me about our most popular product right now and was complaining about the wrong outlet, luckily I had paid close attention to this product and the customer just didn’t realize that the product came with a USB plug-in but they gave me a mini heart attack because we had sold about 20 of these products and I was worried I was going to have to process 20 or more refunds. 
  3. Payment issues on AliExpress: I have been trying to fulfill an order for a customer through AliExpress and for some reason they have flagged the credit card but just with this specific customer. It is quite frustrating because in the meantime I have been able to order many other products with the exact same credit card. I even tried to use paypal to purchase this product for this specific customer and that payment also got denied. AliExpress’ only solution is that I must verify the card through AliPay, however, it seems very unnecessary to do this as the card is still working with every other purchase except this specific one. 

ECommerce Issues: 

Stamps.com

I had a huge battle with stamps.com. My warehouse manager recommended for us to set up stamps.com on Business B because we already had it set up on Business A and it was supposedly very easy to set up and leads to a lot of savings on shipping costs. To put it simply; it did not make things more simple for me, at least at the beginning. Now that it is set up and running it is working well and saving us lots of money but it seemed as if setting it up I hit a bump in the road at every crossroads. 

Originally when I made the account, I forgot to press save on the login information in our password storage application then when I phoned in and finally got a hold of them I could not remember which personal information for the account I had used so they were having a hard time giving me access to the account again. After that phone call I told them to just cancel that account, that I would just make a new one. Which I did, but then my account was locked and I could not load any funds on the account, after about a two and a half hour phone call most of which was spent on hold I finally had access to the account and was able get it fully functioning.

Throughout this whole process I was in communication with our warehouse manager and I think she must’ve thought I was quite stupid cause she was waiting on me to send a shipment out and I kept telling her I’m just having more issues. She kept emphasizing that for all her other customers it was very simple to set up, it was kind of frustrating but also kind of humorous at the same time but it just shows how trivial Ecommerce can be at times when you lose login information or have to involve a company’s customer service line. 

Google Shopping Ads (again) 

So naturally I had more issues with Google Shopping Ads again. Unbeknownst to me when I set it up the first time for the one business it had already been partially set up. The google shopping ads within the google account were ready to go for google shopping ads. I had skipped this step in my initial set up and was not even aware of it at all. 

I do not think most guides to Google shopping Ads even mention this step but my attention was drawn to it when my products remained pending by Google for more than two weeks. After those two weeks I knew that something was wrong and that they couldn’t be just pending for that long. Luckily on the Google Application within shopify they provided some help and mentioned that if your products were sitting in the verification stage it was likely because your account had not been optimized for running Google Shopping Ads. 

Luckily, this was a pretty easy fix but it just sucked because it took me almost two weeks to figure out this was the problem because I thought that the products were just taking a really long time to be approved. It really just sucked because I had so many issues with Google Shopping Advertisements the first time and going into it this time I was like “yes this will be so easy I’ve done it before, what could go wrong?” but alas I was wrong and still had issues. I am just now going to get them running, just confirming the trend that everything I want to do takes slightly longer than I think it will. 

Customer Service: 

While customer service can sometimes be quite taxing and exhausting I have had a few encounters like that but for the most part customers are kind of aggressive at the beginning but then they get really nice when you are polite to them. 

Lately, there have been a multitude of small customer service issues and I’ve found that if I use my name and be overly polite any customer will be really nice back. Another strong technique that works really well with disgruntled customers is that if you talk to them on the phone they will be much more understanding and appreciative. Both target demographics for my business are older (approxiamately 30-60) and appreciate and really desire to talk on the phone. 

I have had a few customers that have left messages for me to call them about some questions they have about products and when I call them I’m expecting them to have a lot of questions but it always turns out they just have one or two and they just want to chat and get a better idea of where they are going to be spending their money. 

Hiring expert supplier on Upwork:

A new experience that I have been tackling lately is using a supplier expert that we found on Upwork. I had been trying to tackle finding the cheapest supplier cost out there but based on my lack of expertise and zero connections I was having a hard time finding anything. We also knew that there had to be cheaper rates out there due to the fact that some of our competition are selling for much lower costs. So we had the idea to hire someone on Upwork. 

The process for this was that I had to write a description of the job we wanted to fulfill and then post it on Upwork, I had never posted a job before so I kind of winged it but it went pretty well. We had a bunch of applicants respond immediately, it was pretty hard to decide who to go with but the two products we are sourcing are predominantly made in China and only one of the strong candidates was located in China so we decided to trust his expertise and go with him because of his strong local connections. Once I sent him the products we are sourcing and at what price he very quickly was able to find a lot of good alternatives. This just goes to show that in some circumstances it is a big time saver to hire or outsource a specialist rather than just trying to do everything yourself. We are still in the negotiation process and haven’t yet put in an order to any of the suppliers he has found but are very excited about the chance to have a much lower product cost. 

Conclusion: 

I think that there should be a guide book written for all things Ecommerce with a step by step process but the problem is that everything changes in an instant so it’s very hard to keep up. I hope that by reading my blog posts people are able to gain a little bit of perspective into what Ecommerce can be like and also if you do Ecommerce and also have lots of issues you are not alone. No matter what when it comes to computers and a multitude of accounts there are always going to be some sort of issues but the best lesson learned is that while there will always be issues there can also always be some sort of solution it just might not be what you were originally hoping for. I hope you guys enjoyed this month’s update and stay tuned for December’s post. 

Expired Domains With Traffic – Case Study

Ranking content in Google and generating valuable traffic is hard…but it is my favorite way to grow almost any business. It just takes too long… unless you start with an “unfair” competitive advantage of an expired domain that already has traffic!

This post talks about a few experiments I have been running over the last year with expired domains, low competition keywords and efficiently produced content. 

TLDR

Buy an expired domain focusing more on the traffic the site used to get and less on the backlink metrics or name then target super low competition relevant keywords with efficiently produced content.

Video Showing How…

Results…

Here are the detailed steps and the metrics that were targeted along with a tutorial on how to find expired domains with traffic. 

ONE – Acquire Expired Domain – Focusing on Historical Traffic! 

There are lots of great articles online that talk about how to find a great SEO Domain. 

However, my preference (when building a money site) is not to look exclusively at backlinks but more importantly look at how the site was performing in Google. 

Backlink metrics are generally a proxy for estimating how much authority we think a site has in the eyes of Google. By looking at how much traffic a site was getting from Google it is a much better data point on understanding how Google will view the site. 

Why this makes sense… when you are buying a domain at auction you are competing with domainers and SEO’s. If you can value something that the people you are competing with don’t value (IE traffic) then you can find opportunities to pickup relatively inexpensive/less in-demand domains that will perform beautifully for your intent (getting traffic). 

Here is the domain that was picked up and the very low domain metrics it had…

Image:

But it showed that Google did give it love before the domain has been left for dead…

How to Find Expired Domains with Traffic

Use a tool like SpamZilla to search all domains available filtering for ahrefs metrics DR > 9 and SEMRush traffic > 10 (as just an initial filter). From these filters you will get a list of all domains that have at least some decent backlinks and traffic. From there do a deeper dive on any URLs that seem interesting in SEMRush, Ahrefs and Archive.org. 

  1. Open this tool I use
  2. Search for Domain
    • DR > 9
    • Traffic > 10
  3. Check SEMRush
    • Ideally looking for a stable traffic trend that may have only recently declined. Confirm the decline lines up with timing on when the domain was taken offline according to Archive.org
    • Make sure the traffic does not have a significant amount of branded traffic
  4. Check ahrefs
    • Looking for “real” and “relevant” backlinks
  5. Check Archive.org
    • Make sure the domain was not recently redirected
  6. Buy at Auction
    • I like to put in my best last final bid at 5:05 and walk away

Here is a video tutorial on how I like to search, find and buy expired domains that I know will get traffic…

TWO – Target Low Competition Keywords (don’t focus on volume)

Lately, my go-to Keyword Research tool has been SEMRush… it allows me to start with either a competitor’s site or my own site (in this case what was the site historically ranking for) and then pull on a thread to uncover a nice cluster of keywords. 

To measure competition I like to look at 2 main metrics… 

  1. Keyword Difficulty as shown by SEMRush (or any keyword research tool) – Ideally < 60
  2. The Keyword Golden Ratio popularized by Doug Cunnington used in conjunction with KD really helps identify some low hanging fruit

I did not care much about the search volume… as long as there is some then I was happy to target it.   

THREE – Efficiently Create Content

Longform very high-quality content is 100% required to compete for competitive keywords. However, if you are going after very low competition keywords then optimizing the length of the content to efficiently produce content that will rank is key. 

Tools like MarketMuse or SurferySEO are great for using data to identify the length of the content that you should be targeting. 

Here is a post I created looking at the various correlation SEO tools and determining which was the most effective. The table below shows the results from a case study last year looking at the improvements content upgrades had in search traffic improvements. 

Is this Repeatable?

This site was part of a larger test where I am building a network of ecommerce/affiliate sites using this methodology. 

Here is the results of one phase of that test (excluding this site)…

Each of these sites were purchased for somewhere under $200/domain and had a small initial set of articles published on them. 

Although this case study had a very low DR the larger test showed that 100% of the top 9 sites had a DR over 9 while only 1 of the bottom 6 had a DR greater than 9. As a result I am definitely focusing this strategy on domains that now meet the first filter criteria of…

  • Shows historical traffic
  • DR > 9

Overall I hope this case study showed the power of starting a site on an expired domain while targeting super low competition keywords. 

If you have any questions please drop them in the comments below…

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