By day twenty-five I was well on my way to sliding out of start-up mode and into maintenance and growth mode for the Lactivist project. I spent some more time digging around in ClickTracks and made a realization about why I seemed to be losing traffic at the CafePress Store. I also spent some more time finding out what bloggers were saying about the project and looked into MSN's new adCenter program.
(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.)
ClickTracks Helps Me Find Lost Traffic
As much as I was enjoying having ClickTracks to track the traffic to the Lactivist project, I was starting to get concerned that traffic to the CafePress shop seemed to be slowing down. Early on in the series I was seeing two and three hundred visitors a day to the shop. By day twenty-five that number was often closer to one hundred or one hundred and fifty visitors. Since incoming links were still being added on a regular basis and sales were still steady, I was at a loss for what might explain this conundrum.
That's when it dawned on me that about the same time I saw traffic to the CafePress store drop I saw an increase in traffic to TheLactivist.com site. That's because I'd finally integrated my CafePress content with TheLactivist.com and people could browse my products without ever linking into the CafePress store. In fact, unless someone added a product to their cart, they never even needed to leave TheLactivist.com web site. Suddenly all was well with the world again and I realized that I was still getting the same amount of traffic, it was just showing up in a different place.
Day twenty-five also saw me dropping an email to the ClickTracks team to see about getting the software setup to open up access to all Search Engine Guide readers. ClickTracks Pro Hosted, which is what I was using for the Lactivist program, allows site owners to open up their stats for third party viewing which makes it a great tool for marketing companies or even businesses that want to let the big bosses look, but not touch. Unfortunately, I needed to have ClickTracks Pro Processor running on a server that could be accessed by users. Since I currently had it running on my laptop, sharing my stats simply wasn't going to happen.
So, I fired off an email to a friend that does some hosting to see if he'd consider housing things for me so that readers could have a chance to dip into my stats. In the meantime, I tried to export some PDF files so that I could upload those and share access but the PDFs seemed to disappear in a void. Not quite sure what to make of that, I headed off to work on other things and hoped to be able to share some hard-core stats with readers before the project ended.
More Online Reputation Management
On day twenty-five I realized that I hadn't done any searching for new blog posts for a few days, so I headed off to Technorati and Google's Blog search to see what I could find. As it turns out, there was still quite a bit of chatter going on out there about the project. There was a nice write-up about the project at RedLobo and the overview of the project from the Dread Pirate Robert made me chuckle. (Not just because of the awesome name of his blog which made me say "no one would be afraid of the dread pirate Wesley" but also because he's clearly got some skill as a blogger.)
From there it was back to the Making it Up Blog which I seemed to be playing link-tag with. Blog owner Jax Blunt hit the nail on the head with her post titled "Watching You Watching Us." By now, The Lactivist project and the Making it Up Blog were doing a nice job of feeding traffic back and forth to each other and I'd exchanged some emails with Jax to talk her into becoming a member of the Small Business Ideas forum. (Once again demonstrating the importance of online reputation management and networking...you just never know where or when you'll make a new contact.)
Finally I stumbled across a thread at the Cre8asite Forums that had managed to escape my attention for several weeks. It turns out that there was quite an interesting discussion going on over there about the project with some compliments and some criticism for the project. It was excellent reading, even if one of my old forum buddies was giving me a hard time about the project.
Checking Out MSN's adCenter Interface
Happy to know that the project was still generating interest from readers, I shifted my focus back toward drawing in new visitors and new buyers through a third advertising source: MSN's adCenter.
A few days prior I'd received an email to let me know that I'd been accepted as part of the latest round of beta testers and that I could access the adCenter interface to setup my account. I clicked on the link in the email and ended up on a page with about half a dozen questions about who I was, what I wanted to advertise and so on. I filled those out and ended up with a note that said an adCenter Marketing Analyst would contact me shortly to see about setting up my campaign.
Not being the patient type, I headed back to the email, scrolled down and noticed a second link that allowed for quick access to getting an account up and running. I clicked on that link and was immediately taken to a sign-up page that asked for my contact and billing information. The problem with this was that they wanted my credit card number so that they could charge me the "sign-up fee." That wasn't so much the problem. The problem was that they didn't bother to tell me what the sign-up fee was. A little reluctant to give up my credit card info so that I could be charged a non-disclosed sum of money I went on a Google hunt for information about just how much adCenter's sign-up fee was.
It turns out it was only $5.00. Not bad, but it sure would have been nice for MSN to have let me know what the charge would have been without my having to dig for it. At this point, I decided to try a little keyword research to see how their interface worked, but the research tool threw an error and asked me to come back later. In fact, when I went in to try and setup a campaign the interface threw another error that asked me to come back later. Not looking for a third strike and still needing to get quite a bit of work done that day, I chalked it up for loss and figured I'd try again another day.
I was hoping to get a chance to play around in the system before the project ended however, because the MSN adCenter approach is supposed to allow you to adjust your bids based on who is doing the search. For instance, I could bid twenty cents on the phrase "breastfeeding clothes" but specify that I would pay an extra nickle if the searcher is a woman and maybe an extra ten cents if the searcher is a woman between the ages of 25 and 35. Basically, you can setup a sliding scale of bid prices based on the demographics of a searcher. That makes adCenter an attractive environment for businesses selling products that are highly skewed toward a certain type of buyer.
Coming up on day twenty-six I try to figure out how to come up with some information that we need for our media push, spend time exploring some parenting forums and land my first two affiliates for the Lactivist Store.
Jump to Day twenty-six.
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December 21, 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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