Day eleven was a happy day. Google rankings kicked in, making it clear that Jagger was still a fan of CafePress sites and that you can work around the sandbox if you make use of someone else's domain. I also finally figured out what was going on with the DNS issues that were holding up the launch of www.thelactivist.com and ran into the first real reason to be unhappy with the CafePress system.
(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.)
Google Rankings Kick In
For the past few days of the project, I'd started enjoying traffic coming in from the MSN search engine, but hadn't seen much activity from Yahoo! or Google apart from clicks on my AdWords ads. That all changed on day eleven when I saw my first non-AdWords referral come in from Google. Quite honestly, the referral caught me by surprise. I had been working on the project thinking to myself that it was going to take anywhere from a month to a few months to see any Google rankings kick in because the site is so new and the Google aging delay/sandbox issue would likely come into play.
That's because I was thinking about getting rankings for the new Lactivist web site. What I hadn't thought through was the fact that CafePress is already very well established on the major search engines and that engines like Google would simply see my store as new content on an existing site, not as a brand new site. That meant that when Google updated their index of CafePress pages, my products were suddenly showing up. This was exciting, because building rankings off of an existing site is much easier than building rankings off of a brand new site. Now why it never dawned on me that this would happen is a whole other issue, because that's exactly what was happening on MSN and I should have put two and two together and expected to see my listings pop up on Google.
Now that I knew I was in the index and not just in the AdWords listing, I headed off to Google to see where I was ranking. The results were quite encouraging, especially since I still hadn't put a lot of effort toward organic optimization on the site. (I keep meaning to write product descriptions, but I just haven't had the time to do it yet.)
I had top ten rankings for a variety of good phrases like "breastfeeding children," "child led weaning," "breastfeeding humor" and "milk banks." I even ranked #4 for "extended breastfeeding" and was fluxing between #2 and #5 for the phrase "breastfeeding shirts." I was also pulling some great long tail traffic for niche phrases like "t-shirts for breastfeeding moms" for which I ranked #1.
The real surprise though, was the #2 ranking for the phrase "pumping" which has more than 25 million listings on Google. The lesson here though, is not to get excited about a good ranking for a phrase that isn't targeted. While "pumping" may have many results, it's not very targeted to my ideal customer, so it's unlikely that the ranking will do me much good.
Google also finally shared a little love in the AdWords department. After nearly a week of being completely locked out of my AdWords account, I finally heard back from the AdWords team with a note saying that they were looking into the problem.
Viral Marketing Still on the Move
The Lactivist project was still making the rounds in the search marketing and small business industry on day eleven as well. I noticed a referral from the Geeks on Steroids forum and found that they were discussing the small business article series side of things. I also found quite a few visitors coming in from a forum post that Jill Whalen made over at her HighRankings Search Engine Optimization forum.
The link from Jill's forum was a great help with viral marketing because it sparked off an email conversation with Lisa Stewart of Big Foot Web Marketing about setting up some affiliate links from some of her parenting sites. I'd been thinking about how to go about promoting the affiliate side of CafePress, but just hadn't had a chance to put things in place yet. Day eleven saw me doing a bit of brainstorming with Lisa to prepare for an affiliate launch a few days later.
New Product Time
Day eleven also saw me adding a few new products to the site. As I've written before, I'm working with the Director of the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio to try and get some fundraising efforts in place with milk bank awareness shirts. They'd asked me if I could try to come up with some options for non-donor moms to wear. This made sense as there is obviously a very limited number of women that can wear the shirts that say "these breasts save lives" or "modern day wet nurse."
I had already managed to come up with a one that says "with the breast of intentions" and decided it was worth posting, but the real gem came on day eleven from a Search Engine Guide reader that suggested "Express Yourself." That same reader came up with another great shirt idea for the "cute" breastfeeding shirt section that reads "nursing: nature's own breast enhancement."
The First Reason Not to Like CafePress
While adding the new shirts to the CafePress site I realized that when I'd added the URLs to the back of the shirts, CafePress had centered them by default. But, I wanted the domain name to run across the shoulders so that it would be a little less conspicuous. I headed into the product management area of CafePress to make the switch and found that there was no way to do a massive switch on all shirts at once. That meant that I had to visit every single product in the store and click through the edit options until I got to the page that let me set the "shoulders" option rather than the "centered" option.
Making these changes took me about four hours. Four hours that I could have spent promoting my site and selling more products. Four hours that could have taken five minutes if CafePress had offered an option to make a mass change to my store. That meant that day eleven became the first day that I found myself truly annoyed with the CafePress system.
DNS Issues Resolve and The Lactivist Site Comes to Life
Although I'd purchased a domain name and setup hosting in the first week of the project, I seemed to be having DNS problems that were keeping my site from showing up. On day eleven, I finally figured out that the email message that I'd received with instructions to setup my name servers had an error in it. So, after flogging Robert via IM for a few minutes, I managed to get the right information from him and made a change to the DNS at my registrar. Within a few hours, the DNS had already started propagating and I found myself happily viewing The Lactivist site before I headed to bed that night.
The point here that needs to be pounded home is that patience doesn't always pay off. Since I knew that it could take up to three days for DNS to propagate, I didn't worry about it until day four. Had I gotten suspicious a little sooner, I likely could have solved the whole thing and saved myself several days of not being able to point people to the domain.
Coming up on day twelve, I realize the traffic joys that can come with having other people think that your site is worth while and start to see a trickle of traffic from Yahoo!. You can also find out how CafePress and an online voting site racked up a ton of referrals for me and why Thanksgiving turkey is apparently a great way to get your creative juices flowing.
Jump to Day twelve.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
November 28, 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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