Almost two full weeks into the project and just after the Thanksgiving holiday, I finally gave myself a chance to relax a little bit with a slow day that focused mostly on search engine marketing. I also had a chance to contemplate where I wanted to start reinvesting the dollars that were finally starting to add up for The Lactivist project.
(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.)
The First Official Sale of a Human Milk Banks Awareness Shirt
Part of my morning routine these days involves clicking through the dozen or so sites stored in my Lactivist bookmarks folder to check on revenue sources, traffic stats and order status. I get a little thrill every time I see a new referrer show up, or a new sale get logged, but two sales that came in on the 13th day that just made my day. A lady from Ohio put in an order for two of the children's "I share!" shirts, marking the first day that I'd earned profit that was specifically ear-marked for the milk bank.
Turns out that she was a referral from the director of the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. She'd heard about the shirts from the staff and decided to purchase two of them for the children of a donor mother that she knew.
At the same time, I had put in an order of my own for a "These Breasts Save Lives" shirt and also for a "Milk Jugs" shirt so that I could see how the shirts print up and so that I could wear them around. After all, what's the point of selling breastfeeding advocacy products if I'm not going to make use of them myself?
Setting Up an Affiliate Program
In the day twelve article, I'd mentioned that I'd been exchanging some emails with Lisa Stewart about setting up some affiliate linking options for some of the sites that she runs. Since CafePress already has an excellent affiliate program that anyone can sign up for, I really only had to worry about putting together some images and text options for her so that she could use her own affiliate link to point directly to the Lactivist Store.
My first step was to put together a variety of text links that used different link text and different site descriptions so that she could have her choice of which ones to use. That's an important thing to remember when you are offering up linking options. If you're going to make suggestions to site owners on what text to use for your link, make sure that you are not suggesting the same text every time. It's a good idea to setup a list of dozens of variations on both your link text and your site description so that your incoming links look more natural to the search engines.
So, I offered up the following text based link options to Lisa:
Unique clothing for breastfeeding mothers
Breastfeeding Shirts - Show support for breastfeeding moms with these unique shirts.
Breastfeeding Advocacy - Show off your pro breastfeeding beliefs with unique shirts.
Breastfeeding Clothing - Show your lactivist tendencies with unique shirts and hoodies.
Breastfeeding Clothes - Shirts with an attitude designed to support breastfeeding moms.
Breastfeeding Tops - T-shirts and hoodies with unique pro-breastfeeding slogans.
Since many sites prefer to use graphical links and since the product line I'm pushing very much depends on visuals to attract potential buyers, I also offered Lisa a variety of image options that match up with some of the common sizes through vendors like AdSense so that they would fit in any spots she might already have set aside on her site.
I'm no graphical artist, but I did come up with four variations:
Now that I had the basics ready for my affiliate program, I knew that I'd have to start setting aside some time to actively seek out sites that might want to promote The Lactivist store on their own. (Look for more on this in an upcoming article.)
Search Engine Marketing Grabs My Attention Again
For someone as wrapped up in search engine marketing as me, you'd think that a greater portion of this project would have been devoted to it in the first two weeks. The reality though is that I'd been so busy working on other things that search engine marketing had sort of fallen by the way side. Granted, I'd actively worked to place keyword phrases in areas like category sections and product names, but I still hadn't written optimized page content and I'd yet to put any effort toward link building.
That lack of effort was showing in my referrals which told me that less than 8% of my site traffic was coming from search engines. In fact, at this point, more than half of my incoming traffic to the store was coming from Search Engine Guide. Another 8% was coming in from the Lactivist blog and the Lactivist web site and around 5% was coming in from links in search engine and marketing related blogs. That meant that around 30% of my traffic was coming from naturally gained links from my target audience. Those links were mostly made up of discussion forums links and CafePress referrals.
Since less than half of my traffic was coming from any place that was likely to send an actual customer, and since I'd discovered that Google was already ranking the Lactivist Store, I knew that I needed to put more time and effort toward making sure the store was a bit better optimized.
To that end, I headed back to Trellian's Keyword Discovery tool to do a bit more digging and to make sure that absolutely every product section was being used to my full advantage. My first stop was to run a search on "milk banks." I was ranking in the top ten on Google for it, but I wasn't sure if anyone was even searching for the term. As it turns out, people were, but they were also searching for the term "human milk banks" just as much. That meant that by tweaking my site to target "human milk banks" I could target both phrases and hope to pick up twice the traffic. I also discovered that five times more people search for "breast milk bank" than the plan "milk bank" option, so I also tweaked a section of the store to target that phrase as well.
Finally I headed over to Google AdWords to login and check and see how the campaign had been going during my lock-out. I'd only spent about $12 of my $100 credit so far and hadn't been able to trace a single sale to the campaign. This was disappointing as I'd always had good luck with AdWords campaigns in the past.
The image ads that I'd set to run via the content network still hadn't shown up on a single site, showing the downfall of this type of targeting for an industry that's highly specific. The performance of my "nursing" related phrases was dismal, with a click-thru rate of less than 1%. I was hoping that I could attribute this to the fact that my average position was 11.4, but I also couldn't deny that it was possible that my ads simply weren't compelling enough to attract clicks.
I went through the campaign and deleted the ad for "nursing bras" which had more than 90 other bidders running ads as well. I then increased my minimum bid for phrases like "nursing clothes" and "clothes for nursing mothers" to try and push my ad a little further up in the listings. Next I looked over the ads that I was running to see if I might be able to make any changes to them to help increase my relevancy and boost my AdWords position. Here's what the ads I was running looked like:
I'd added two new ads to the section a few days before, so there wasn't much to look at in terms of impressions or click-thrus on them, but I knew that I could make some updates to the first three that had been running for awhile.
The first thing I realized is that I'd basically used the ads that I had running for breastfeeding related keywords on my nursing phrases. That was going to be a ding against me in terms of CPC and ad placement because Google's AdWords algorithm takes relevancy into consideration. So, I made a few edits to the ads and added a few extra ones to the rotation so that I could track several variations. The new set of ads looked like this:
Whether or not the edits would make a difference in my click-thru rates remained to be seen, but I'll be sure to cover it in an upcoming article.
Coming up on day fourteen, I receive the shirts that I ordered from CafePress and get to experience the CafePress customer service response first hand. I also get a sharp influx of traffic from a slew of new links and work on getting the Lactivist site more properly built out.
Jump to Day fourteen.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
November 30, 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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