Day fifteen saw me putting a lot of focus toward The Lactivist Blog. From adding new entries, to guest blogging on other sites to finally integrating the blog content as a live feed into The Lactivist web site, blogging was the focus of the day. I also ended up having another conversation with CafePress customer service, made some more changes to my AdWords campaign and decided to give eBay a shot.
(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)
Blogging Blogging Everywhere and Plenty of Links to...Click?
From early on in the project I realized that blogging was going to be an integral part of my business plan. The Lactivist sells a specialized product that appeals to the passions of people instead of their needs. I figured that the best way to not only attract those people, but to keep them coming back time and time again was to feed their passion. The best way to do that was with a blog that could be updated continually and that linked in to products only when it was appropriate.
The challenge of doing this for most businesses is that there is a fine line between using a blog to shill your product and using your blog to gently advertise your product. I needed to walk that line carefully. If my blog was nothing but post after post telling people how great my shirts were or how creative the slogans were, people would quickly tire of the blog and wouldn't come back. On top of that, I'd be bored out of my skull with the blog in a matter of weeks.
Since I had created a business based on my own passions, coming up with unique and original content that complemented my product line turned out to be relatively easy. I was already keeping up to date on the latest studies and information about breastfeeding and I was visiting several discussion forums and blogs on a regular basis that talked about the issues facing breastfeeding moms. Making an average of a post a day was pretty simple when I already had that much fodder to work with. (This is part of why it's far easier to start a business based on your passions than on what you think will make you the most money the fastest.)
On day fifteen I wrote two new blog posts. The first built on my own experiences working to wean myself off of the pump after more than a year of pumping four times a day. The second post discussed some of the studies that have been conducted over the past few years to see if there's any tie between extended breastfeeding and reduced risks of breast cancer. I had also been invited to write a guest blog for the Pink Bracelets blog, a breast cancer awareness blog. (Guest blogging, like guest article writing can be a great way to help spread the word about your own site and gain some incoming links in the process.)
All three of those blog posts covered topics of interest to breastfeeding moms and were optimized to show up should someone be searching for related topics. I knew that apart from the immediate traffic that I might draw from links and feed readers, Blogger posts are easily indexed in the search engines and could send long term traffic to each of the individual post pages once they had been indexed in Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
I also spent a decent part of my day working to format the feed that I was using to pull my blog content onto my home page at TheLactivist.com. I was using a free Feedburner account to create a code snippet that I could call from any page (or that other people could use to call my feed into their own sites), but I needed to format my CSS file to make the feed look the way I wanted it to. I had run into some problems with this earlier in the project, but on day 15, I finally figured it all out. Feedburner's help files offered up a link that let me know what the class name was for each field being pulled in on the feed. Once I knew the class name, I was able to add them to my own style sheet and adjust the styles accordingly. Finally, visitors to TheLactivist.com could easily read the first part of each blog post and link to the full post from my home page without my having to cut and paste the content onto the index page myself.
Blogs were working on the incoming link side of things as well. Jim Hedger had given me a nice write up over at the Stepforth SEO Blog. Since Jim's blog is syndicated on quite a few sites, that also created new incoming links from at least a dozen different web sites. Anita Campbell, who had linked to me from her own site earlier in the project added another link to the mix with a write up on the Facteon Blog. I was also glad to see that my experience of having to manually change the domain name image on the back of every single shirt in the store was serving as a good lesson for someone since The Best of CafePress blog pointed to my article as a warning to other shop owners that hadn't realized how the system worked. I also found a link coming in from an interesting blog called Alane by Day where a group of professionals are working to launch a new architecture business in ten weeks.
Finally, I took a few moments to add my blog to Loren Baker's Blog Search Engine.
More Changes to AdWords
At this point, I was more than two weeks into the project and I'd yet to see a single sale that I could attribute to AdWords. This was pretty disappointing as I was running ads on some highly targeted terms and was seeing some click thru rates of 3-5% on a few of them. Still, no one seemed to be buying. I've always been a strong advocate of the idea that when pay-per-click marketing "doesn't work", it's usually because you are doing it wrong. That made my lack of ROI a tough pill to swallow.
It had only been a day or so since I'd made some massive changes to my ad text, so it was still too early to tell if I'd see anything new come from the updated campaign. At the same time, I had to remind myself (or perhaps make an excuse?) that I was working with highly niche terms and still hadn't logged more than one hundred or so visitors. Still, it left me wondering if the ROI tracking option on Google was working right or if my campaign really was setup poorly.
To that end I added a few more phrases to my campaign based on some of the phrases that I'd noticed driving traffic from MSN. New ads went up for phrases like "breastfeeding children," "breastfeeding kids," "breast milk" and "breastmilk." None of these were nearly as targeted as my existing phrases, but I'd only spent $11 of my $100 coupon so far, so I figured I had room to play a little.
More New Shirts
Creativity was still coming in to play when it came to new t-shirt designs, but all of that creativity wasn't coming from me. I did come up with "that's my baby's lunch your staring at" to add to the site, but I also stumbled across a site that mentioned a group of doctors that referred to extended breastfeeders as "nipple nazis." Seemed like a good term to claim as our own, so I added a new "Nipple Nazi" shirt to the mix as well.
The Frustration with Bad Analytics
While eXTReMe Tracking was a serviceable solution when it came to "free" I was really feeling the frustration of not being able to use good analytics for my site. I had tried to sign up for Google Analytics on the day they launched their free service, but found that you couldn't sign up for it unless you had your own domain name. That was part of what prompted the rush job on getting TheLactivist.com online. Unfortunately, the day that I finally got the site up, Google shut down new applications for Google Analytics.
I must admit that there were quite a few times that I eyed the ClickTracks icon sitting on my desk with quite a bit of temptation. As any Search Engine Guide reader knows, I'm a big fan of the ClickTracks program and have used it for client work for several years. Unfortunately, using it would have broken the rules of my experiment (and I didn't own a hosted version anyway) so I had to continue to plunk through the limited results given to me by eXTReMe Tracking.
Not only was day fifteen leaving me frustrated with my inability to track my AdWords campaign on my own to see if it really was creating conversions, it also left me with about 30 visitors that I could see coming in via Yahoo!'s email program. That's right, 30 visitors, nearly twenty percent of the day's traffic was coming from an email and I had no idea what that email said. Maddening, simply maddening.
This experience definitely served as a highlight of just how important it is for small businesses to budget for analytics. One of the most important parts of online marketing is spending your money in the place that it will have the most impact. The problem is that without proper analytics, you have no way of knowing what has the most impact.
Another Experience with Customer Service
Earlier in the project I mentioned that I'd ordered one of my own shirts and that it had arrived misprinted. A friendly customer service operator had quickly apologized and promised to ship out a new product immediately. My second shipment arrived just two days later, leaving me pleasantly surprised. Until I opened the package. Unfortunately, in their haste to get the new product out quickly, they'd snagged the wrong size shirt off the shelf. Now I had a perfectly printed large that was unlikely to fit on my "extra-large" frame.
I made a second call to CafePress and ironically, got the exact same operator that I had spoken with the first time. He apologized and promised to give it another shot. When asked what to do with the shirt, he suggested that I simply donate it somewhere. That worked out well because I was actually headed down to the milk bank the next day. I figured that I could take it with me so that they could finally see a sample shirt and that I'd leave it behind for them to pass on to one of the other donors.
Giving it a Go on eBay
On day one of the project I mentioned that I'd considered an eBay shop as one of my business options. The problem with that was that eBay has start-up costs associated with it. However, by day fifteen, I had earned more than enough money to be able to afford the listing fee.
I headed over to eBay to look things over and ran a few sample searches to see if any similar products were being sold. I was able to find a few cute slogan shirts for babies, but didn't see any other pro breastfeeding shirts for adults. That made me a little leery as I would have thought someone else would have tried this type of product out by now. If they had and they weren't still selling, it might mean that there simply wasn't a market for it.
I decided that I could risk the $1.60 that my listing fee would cost me, so I went ahead and listed the Jr. Raglan version of the Eat at Mom's shirt. The "Eat at Mom's shirt" was my best seller, so I figured it was the most likely to attract a buyer on eBay. I went ahead and pulled a graphic and the product description from my CafePress store and put together a listing. I placed the item in Women's Clothing > Maternity > Nursing > Tops and gave it the title "Breastfeeding Clothes - Eat at Mom's Slogan Shirt. I used breastfeeding clothes because it was one of the phrases that received the most searches on traditional engines and I thought there was a good chance that that would carry over to eBay as well. I put my starting list price at $19.99 as that was the minimum amount that I could take and still turn a profit after the cost of my listing fees.
I made sure to include a note in my product description that listed the available colors and sizes and included the size chart from the CafePress store along with a note that said the sizes ran small. I also offered flat rate shipping costs based on what CafePress charges since I wouldn't have to handle the product myself. I set the listing for five days because I needed it to be short enough to be able to share the results in the series, but I also wanted it to be long enough to give people a chance to see it.
Coming up on day sixteen I learn that the fundamentals of search marketing are still important, even if you think you know what you are doing. I also set up a campaign with my free coupon for Yahoo! Search Marketing, debate over submitting myself to Fark and Slashdot, work on press releases, set up an account with Amazon's affiliate program, make a controversial blog post and remember that I actually have tracking on my blog as well. (Oh yes, then I collapse from exhaustion...)
Jump to Day sixteen.
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December 5, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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